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The Date I’m Not Commemorating

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That would be yesterday, January 6. 

Why do I keep hearing Chopin’s Funeral March (Piano Sonata No 2) playing in my head, when I even think of the events of one year ago?

Department of Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum!

“The wheels of justice turn slowly but grind exceedingly fine.”

Or so the old saw says.  Moiself  can only hope the wheels will speed up when it comes to grinding the bones of the USA’s most recent, grievous traitor, whose name shall not sully this space, but which can be fittingly acronymed as Damn Turd Pol.

Speaking of acronyms for the names of treasonous snakes, Donald Be Cretin = Benedict Arnold.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of See You Next Year    [1]

Christmas cleanup.

 

Before.

 

After.

 

*    *   *

Department Of It Was The Best Of Times; It Was The Worst Of Times

Well, *that* was a bit hyperbolic.  Still, going through the file cabinets in my office – MH and I determined to whittle down the various stored documents from eight to four file drawers – proved to be more draining than I anticipated.

Dateline: Monday afternoon…which soon turned into Monday evening. Sorting through most of the files’ contents was surprisingly easy (decision-wise, when it came to what to keep and what to shred), if tedious.  It turns out we really don’t need the receipt and owner’s manual for a big ass TV we had 20 years ago… and given our own experiences of going through our respective parents’ files,  it is safe to assume we won’t have any interest in neither our offspring’s old report cards nor the seemingly 10,000 colored pen drawings they did of the same spaceship.   [2] 

 

But K’s early attempts at comics – definitely keepers.

 

It was also a somewhat educational experience.  Or, rather re-educational.  As in, re-learning the dangers of having too much storage space – yes, that’s a thing – which we did last year when we went through the attics.    [3]   If you’ve a big attic and lots of file cabinets, you can just throw stuff in there and say, I’ll deal with it later, instead of making the decision on the spot.  What with online access to almost everything these days, we don’t need to hang onto back copies of utility bills or checking account statements or maps from our various travels, or copies of every veterinary visit summary, or even user’s manuals for appliances.  With a few Important Financial Stuff ® exceptions,   [4]  most of what we kept are papers that have sentimental value.

We checked with our offspring; indeed, they’ve no interest in their K-12 report cards, projects, etc.  But perusing the kid’s folders, from old artwork, letters, school files (special projects; grades; awards; certificates; teacher’s conference notes; school pix and other memorabilia) – ay yi yi. 

 

This ominously labeled envelope contained a very young but determined Belle’s letter to MH and moiself, detailing the reasons why she should be allowed to have a pet tarantula.

 

Even the “fun stuff” was occasionally challenging to go through (read: emotionally sapping).  More than one letter or other document triggered moiself  into reliving times when one child or the other was being picked on (and in a couple of cases, outright bullied) and/or having a hard time socially. There were also a couple of hilarious-in-hindsight teacher evaluation reports, from our son K’s teachers, on K’s beneficial – and problematic– traits and tendencies, some of which MH and moiself  still see today, in how K approaches and reacts to certain situations.

The reminders of our offspring’s’ social dilemmas   [5]  were the most heart-tugging.  How did we all get through that? I found moiself  wondering.  And yet, we did.

On the plus side, moiself  got to relive the pride I’d had in my daughter’s tenacity, intelligence, and gumption, when I came across a letter Belle wrote in the sixth grade, to her teacher.  In the letter Belle stated her case on why she should be allowed to bring her cat to the class show-and-tell pets day. Tamping down her anger over the unfairness of a classmate’s (false, as it turned out) claims as to why Belle’s pet should be excluded, Belle managed to compose a calm, clear-eyed statement of the facts.  Using kick-ass deductive reasoning skills any district attorney would be proud of, Belle listed objective evidence to show that Belle’s classmate Cruella   [6]  was not in fact deathly (nor even mildly) allergic to cats, as Cruella had claimed.   [7]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Still Miss Siskel & Ebert

Movie theaters in Oregon began reopening on a limited basis in late April-early May 2021.  Starting in May, moiself  did my best to see a movie in a theater, at least once a week.  The following is a chronological list of these movies.  My favorites are starred.

Confession: the list includes three movies (marked with a zzz) which I did not watch all the way through. Translation: the movies I walked out of – not in disgust (that hasn’t happened in years), but in disappointment.  To bastardize a book title of long ago, those are movies which I put in the category,  *I’m Just Not That Into You.*   Yep, moiself  paid for the tickets, but my hours and even minutes are important, and if I’m disappointed and don’t feel like sitting through it to See If It Gets Better ®, I’m outta there.

Pig gets my vote for picture of the year.  Despite its WTF/why-is-this-in-here?  “fight club” scene, I found the movie remarkable, and kept thinking about it days later.   Will the critics remember to think of it, come awards time ( movies released early in the year always seem to be at a disadvantage)?  Plus, all the recognizable Portland area settings – delightful.

 

 

– Those Who Wish Me Dead

– A Quiet Place II

– Cruella

– Dream Horse

– In The Heights    ( zzz )    [8]

– Queen Bees

– Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard

– Black Widow

– Pig  ****

– Joe Bell

– Green Knight

– Stillwater

– Free Guy

– Chang Chi and…the very long title, something about rings.

– The Alpinist   ****

– Queenpins

– Dear Evan Hansen

– No Time To Die  ****

– The Last Duel

– Dune

– Spencer

– Belfast ****

– The French Dispatch

– Ghostbusters: Afterlife    ( zzz )     [9] 

– House of Gucci   ( zzz )   

– C’mon C’mon  ****

– West Side Story  ****

– Don’t Look Up  ****

– Licorice Pizza  ****   [10]

 

House of Gucci was one of the zzzs. Given the subject matter, and the dynamic actors – Lady Gaga and Adam Driver could hold my attention reading electric can opener instructions – it should’ve been more interesting.  But Jared Leto, playing whatever role he was playing (some Gucci brother)….eeeeeewwwww.  I’m not sure whether to hold him or the director responsible for Leto’s channeling of so many cringeworthy Italian stereotypes.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Because, Why Not?

There is a yoga pose   [11]  for, and named after, just about anything.  And, especially at the beginning of a new year, why wouldn’t you want to try “… a whimsical lateral bend that stretches and balances superficial and deep back muscles to simultaneously improve shoulder mobility and address one of the most common causes of lower back pain. “

Especially when it’s nicknamed, Banana Pose.

 

*   *   *

 

Punz For The Day
Banana Edition

Did you hear that a banana tried her first case as a district attorney?
She won the conviction but slipped up on the appeal.    [12]

Q.  Why do plantains never slip when they walk down the stairs?
A. 
They hold on to the bananaister.

My husband asked for a pair of slippers for Christmas,
so the kids and I tied banana peels around the soles of his feet.

Q.  Where do bananas go to learn about religion?
A. 
Sundae school.

Q.  What do you call a plantain who gets all the girls?
A.  A banana smoothie.

 

*   *   *

May you try to see a movie every week, in a theater;
May you feel liberated by a files purge;
May your heart be warmed by that which you find in the files
and decide to keep forever;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Eleven months, actually.

[2] If you are a well-adjusted adult, IMHO.

[3] Unfortunately, we have two.

[4] Taxes, insurance and mortgage vitals.

[5] Read; being picked on, snubbed and/or bullied by classmates.

[6] Not the classmate’s real name, however fitting it seems in retrospect.

[7]  Rather, Cruella, who disliked and was jealous of Belle,  was using that claim to have power over Belle.

[8] I was surprised at how…boring…I found this movie, despite (or maybe due to?) all of its frenetic song-and-dance routines. 

[9] The juvenile actors were appealing, but the nostalgia was not enough for me to excuse the retread, reed- thin story/plot.  The return of the same slime ghosts – wow!….NOT.  Been there.

[10] Tried to see it in a theatre, but not playing around here…until the day after MH and I found it on a streaming service. Loved the movie; still don’t get the title.

[11] That phrase could be followed by, “…for truckers who like to sing to hamsters.”  There is a yoga pose for everything.

[12] Moiself  thinks there should be thirteen footnotes, but I only made it to twelve.

The Heroes I’m Not Worshipping

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Department Of Holy Mother Of Romulus And Remus –
I Saw An Effin’ Wolf

Dateline: Wednesday, circa 12:45 pm, Oregon highway 26, headed west (toward the coast), at about milepost 15 or 16. The movement from the north (right) side of the road caught my eye; in the micro-mico-millisecond it took me to register the movement I took my foot off the accelerator and thought,

Oh, great, a deer is about to spring across the road.

There was no springing. That micro-micro movement morphed into an elegant running creature, crossing the two-lane highway, a mere 20-30 feet ahead of me.  The animal was the size of a deer but definitely not a deer; my mind immediately tried to register, “coyote,” except that I’ve seen plenty of coyotes running across roads (or fields) or loping on/crossing hiking trails ahead of me. This canid was the size of a deer and had long, thin legs and different body posture from a coyote (its long tail was horizontal to its spine, not tucked, as a coyote’s would be).  I’ve never seen a canid run like that, the way it held its large, majestic head, so very upright, like one of those carousel animals….

 

The wolf’s head was like this, vis-à-vis its posture…but nothing remotely zebra-ish otherwise

 

Yes, moiself  knows I am babbling right now, but holy fuck, this is the first wolf I’ve seen this close  [1]   and I am (still, two days later) gobsmacked.  Oh, but for a camera mounted on my car’s front bumper!

There are wolves in Oregon.  Many (but not all) of them are tagged (for tracking/ study purposes), and most live in the eastern part of the state, although wolves can and do roam…and a few of Oregon’s have roamed as far as So Cal .  The one which crossed the road in front of me appeared to be heading toward Tillamook county…looking for a cheese fix, perhaps?

*   *   *

Department Of Life Is So Unfair

Yet another of life’s inequities to ponder:

If you donate a kidney, everybody loves you and you’re a total hero.

But try donating five kidneys and suddenly everyone is yelling
and the police get involved….

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sunday In The Park With George

Tuesday In The Park With Robyn

 

 

Apologies to the late Stephen Sondheim.  I’m sure the opening to moiself’s  blog would have been better if Sondheim had composed it, given the complex polyphony which was his style.    [2]   May we all take a moment to pause to remember and appreciate he-who-was-arguably among the greatest of American lyricists and composers.

 

Bravo, Stephen.

 

 

And now, three vignettes of my Tuesday In The Park.

Dateline: Tuesday, circa 7: 15 am.  Which way shall I go this morning? I decide to do the to-and-from to a light rail station which, given my circuitous route, will be a 3-3.5 mile jaunt.  I take one of the trails leading through a neighborhood park, when what to my wondering eyes did appear

 

 

I pause to document the odd (to me) sight, then post the picture on my Facebook page, soliciting explanations:

“OK; what’s the story here? A fire extinguisher, about 25 yards from the nearest house, under a tree, in a bunch of wet leaves?”

There were some creative hypotheses.  I liked my daughter Belle’s offering best:

“They were deep frying a turkey and forgot to bring that back in.”

Vignette the Second

Department Of Appreciating A Form Of Reasoning Which
Is The Process Of Drawing A Conclusion
Based On Premises Generally Assumed To Be True;
As In, Using A Logical Premise To Reach A Logical Conclusion.

Same morning walk, 20 minutes later: now the sun is trying to rise above the cloudy horizon. I’m taking a winding road through a neighborhood adjacent to the park, a road I traverse at least once a week on my way to the walkway which leads to the afore-mentioned light rail station.  As moiself  rounds a corner I exchange good morning greetings with a couple I have come to know by sight.  They and their three canine companions are out for (what I assume is) the morning ritual of dog owners everywhere: that which moiself  thinks of as the “P Five” – the Puppy People’s Predawn Poop Perambulation. ®

It appears my presumptions are spot-on.  A the couple passes by on the other side of the street I notice that the (presumed) husband has two plastic bags of (presumed) doggie-doody swinging from a strap around his wrist.

Ain’t deductive reasoning grand?  Truly, ’tis a cognitive process we often take for granted… until we meet a #45 conspiracy theorist who wouldn’t know the concept of deductive reasoning from his ass if it were wrapped in a MAGA hat and sticking out of a hole in the ground.   [3]

 

 

Vinaigrette the Third

Department Of Later That Same Morning…

I have reached the station and am headed home.  I am walking on a pathway near the athletic fields west of the station. Yet another dog-walking couple with whom I have an I Hi-there-we-pass-each-other-at-least-once-a-week relationship    [4]   are walking toward me.  As we approach each other we all look skyward at the same time, toward the sounds of at least five different, low-flying, scraggly V formations of Canada geese, calling out to their comrades as they head southeast to…wherever.

The man points his finger upward and says,

“That’s a very nice sound, isn’t it?”

Moiself  points to my rain-or-shine hat, then at their respective visors, and replies:

“Yes, it is.
And it’s very nice – and very smart – of us to have hats on
when we’re walking underneath flying birds.”

The three of us chuckle as we pass one another, our mirth punctuated by the sound of…uh, plops… from overhead landing on the grass on either side of the walkway.

 

“I hate it when they wear protection.”  “Yeah; we’ll get ’em next time.”

 

Department Of Belated Content Warnings

Moiself  just realized I missed the opportunity to apply a content warning to the previous segments: two of my three park vignettes involved a mention of shit “animal droppings.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Kill Your Heroes

Dateline: a week or so ago, MH and I were discussing a recent podcast we’d both (separately) listened to, in which one of the stories presented involved an immigrant Chinese worker exploited by a railroad baron.  We somehow segued to the subject of power, as in, having power over the lives of others, and how easy it is to draw lines and reach binary conclusions, particularly when we judge the wielding of power in the past.  Railroad tycoon = bad.  Chinese railroad worker = good.

It’s an interesting subject to ponder: how would the immigrant railroad worker have behaved if he’d been the one with the power?  Perhaps he was downtrodden at work; what about when he returned home where, as a man in a patriarchal society, he had power over others simply by virtue of his gender?  Would he have shared his power with his wife and daughters? Would he have encouraged their own dreams and aspirations, or subjected them to foot binding and/or denied them access to education as per the other cultural torture norms of his time and place?

 

 

No matter what our intentions, moiself  thinks it’s healthy to keep a certain supposition in mind:   [5]  that most if not all of us may be just a couple of rungs on the authority ladder away from being the despots our descendants might denigrate.

Moiself  remembers the less-than-positive reaction I have garnered over the years, when I’ve been asked the question, “Who are your heroes?” and I’ve replied, truthfully, “I have no heroes.”

There are historical figures whom I admire for specific things they did: causes they fought for, injustices they tried to right, etc.  That said, I do not believe in having “heroes” because it seems that we – and by “we” I mean, every human being but moiself  ( ahem, I mean of course, every human being *including* moiself  ) – do not know how to apply perspective – that is, how to consider so-called heroic people for the flawed human beings they are.

 

 

Some great scientist will – someday very soon, I hope – discover the key to fixing global warming.  But, years later when it is revealed that she was, say, consistently rude to waiters and others in the service industry and disparaged anyone whom she considered to be “beneath” her, our descendants will argue over whether or not such a practitioner of classism should have a high school named after her…and should the Nobel committee rescind the prize they bestowed upon her?

Early 20th century activist Margaret Sanger was inspired (in part by her own family history) to work to liberate women from early death and abject poverty due to their lack of bodily autonomy which consigned them to lives of serial breeding.  Sanger withstood withering criticism, ostracization, imprisonment, physical attacks and threats to her life, from individuals and powerful organizations (read: the Catholic church) alike, not only for advocating birth control, but also for simply teaching women about their own bodies and reproductive cycles – which was illegal!

Sanger strongly believed that the ability to control family size was crucial to ending the cycle of women’s poverty. But it was illegal to distribute birth control information. Working as a visiting nurse, she frequented the homes of poor immigrants, often with large families and wives whose health was impaired by too many pregnancies, miscarriages, or in desperation botched abortions. Often, too, immigrant wives would ask her to tell them “the secret,” presuming that educated white women like Sanger knew how to limit family size. Sanger made it her mission to 1) provide women with birth control information and 2) repeal the federal Comstock Law, which prohibited the distribution of obscene materials through the mails, and regarded birth control information as such.
( “Margaret Sanger,” womenshistory.org )

 

 

Margaret Sanger also made some comments which, taken out of time and context, are used as a cudgel – particularly during political campaigns by conservative, anti-abortion Republicans – to discredit Sanger and to brand her (and, by association, Planned Parenthood and any organization supporting birth control and women’s reproductive autonomy) –  as  “racist.” 

Sanger’s stated mission was to empower women to make their own reproductive choices. She did focus her efforts on minority communities, because that was where, due to poverty and limited access to health care, women were especially vulnerable to the effects of unplanned pregnancy. As she framed it, birth control was the fundamental women’s rights issue. “Enforced motherhood,” she wrote in 1914, “is the most complete denial of a woman’s right to life and liberty.”

That’s not to say that Sanger didn’t also make some deeply disturbing statements in support of eugenics, the now-discredited movement to improve the overall health and fitness of humankind through selective breeding…. She was, of course, not alone in this viewpoint: In the 1920s and 1930s, eugenics enjoyed widespread support from mainstream doctors, scientists and the general public.
( “What Margaret Sanger Really Said About Eugenics and Race,” Time, 10-14-16 )

What Margaret Sanger may or may not have thought about eugenics does not change her ground-breaking accomplishments in helping to unshackle generations of women from  lives of compulsory brood mare-ism.

 

 

Likewise, Nelson Mandela deserves high praise for his tenacious fight against the immorality of apartheid.  But if you elevate the man to a myth, you’ll be disappointed to find that your great moral hero sacrificed his family life to his causes (and expected them to do the same), did almost nothing to alleviate or even acknowledge the growing AIDS crisis in his country (he later admitted to being “shy” re talking about a sexually transmitted disease), and upheld and instituted economic policies which have kept poor South Africans living in much the same conditions as when they were under apartheid, while the country has had to live with “…growing insecurity, violence, and crime.”

The more you know about historical figures, the more material you will have for being disappointed in or by them.  They were creatures of their time, as we are, of ours.  Even the most prescient of us will be judged harshly by future generations.

So, admire the ideals and actions  [6]   of justice warriors – certainly!   But just as certainly, never worship the creatures behind the causes.  Don’t idolize *people;*  do venerate the high *principles* for which those flawed people have fought.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Blast From Christmas Past

Dateline: Southern California, in the late 1960s – early 1970s.  For some reason, for a few years in the Westchester area of Los Angeles the “in” holiday décor was having a giant (as in, eight to ten foot tall) red wooden candle in your front yard.  [7]   I’m 100% sure how the fad began; I seem to recall my Uncle Joe telling me that some guy had made one for his yard, his neighbors admired it and he made some more for them, and then other home carpenters/crafty-types figured it out, and it took off from there.

When visiting our LA relatives (my aunt and uncle, Gwen and Joe Baker, and their five children) during the Christmas season my family would drive around their neighborhood at night, just to see the big ass candles.  All of the yard candles had the same setup:  a lone red candle, with a spotlight illuminating the candle from base to the top.  At the base of the candle were wooden letters, painted white, spelling out the name of the family in whose yard the candle stood.  In two or three cases I can recall, the word at the base of the candle was, “Noel” or “Yule,” but for 99% of the candles it was the family name.

Uncle Joe was quite the carpenter hobbyist (one of my favorite creations of his was a motorized wooden Santa and elves display that he put out on the rooftop, every Christmas).  Joe constructed a Christmas yard candle for his family’s front yard, with their surname “Baker” prominently spotlighted.  A few days after my grandmother admired her daughter Gwen’s and SIL Joe’s yard candle, Joe drove down to Santa Ana and installed, in my grandmother’s front yard, the candle he had made for her.  Thus, Edna Gertrude Hole   [8]   became the only person in Santa Ana (as far as we knew) who had an eight-foot-tall red candle in her front yard with a spotlight illuminating her last name.

 

I haven’t been able to find any pictures of the Westchester yard candles.  Think of something like this, only made of wood, with a white top, eight feet tall, in someone’s front yard, with a sign at the base.

 

My grandmother left her yard candle up for that one holiday season.  The day after Christmas she telephoned Joe and asked him to come and fetch it.  The thrill wore off for her, the third or fourth night Edna Hole answered her doorbell – which had been rung by a person who’d been walking or driving by – and found herself listening to a total stranger sharing their concerns regarding her holiday décor:     [9]

“Excuse me, I don’t want to embarrass you, but I think you’ve misspelled, ‘Holy.’

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Heroes-Not-To-Be-Worshipped Edition

Q. Why did Wonder Woman stop checking her email?
A. Her inbox was loaded with Spamazons.   [10]

If Iron Man and Silver Surfer teamed up, would they would be alloys?

Q.  What does Peter Parker say when people ask him what he does for a living?
A.  Web designer.

Have you heard of The Incredible Hulk’s new fashion line?
It’s all the rage.

 

*   *   *

May you see a wolf before you die (but not see it and then…die);
May you applaud the deeds and have forbearance for the deed-doers;
May your holiday yard décor provide confusion and/or entertainment
to passing strangers;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] The wild ones I saw in Alaska were much farther away, and the ones in zoos don’t “count.”

[2] Yeah, but could you hum along to it?

[3] Yes and obviously, I can mangle mix those metaphors with the best of them.

[4] But this couple has only one dog between them…which seems kinda stingy.

[5] This space does not need a footnote.

[6] Should, of course, those ideals and actions be truly admirable, as opposed to ill-considered, rash, or merely attention-seeking.

[7] And then, just three or four years after the fad started, no one put up the candles anymore.  What happened?

[8] Yes, that was her real (married) name.  She was born Edna Gertrude Moran; Hole was her husband’s family surname – apparently, it was prestigious name in the tiny Norwegian town they came from, but in America?  No surprise it never occurred to my mother to keep her birth surname.

[9] I always wondered, why didn’t she just remove her family name, and keep the candle?

[10] That’s enough with the footnotes.

The Language I’m Not Unlearning

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Department Of The Day After

 

 

No – that *that* day.

Moiself  hopes you found a less-than-traditional way to celebrate yesterday.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of How Come I Never Thought Of This Before?

This is fascinating… At least to moiself.

A recent issue of the podcast Freakonomics (“What’s Wrong with Shortcuts?”)  featured podcast host Stephen Dubner interviewing mathematician Marcus du Sautoy about du Satoy’s book, Thinking Better: The Art of the Shortcut in Math and Life. The author argues that, despite what we’ve been taught, the secret to success is not in hard work, it’s in figuring out and applying shortcuts to solve one problem quickly so we can then move on to another.  Mathematics; music, psychotherapy, politics – du Sautoy claims that shortcuts can be found/applied to practically everything.  But, not everything:

“When you’re going on holiday, I don’t want to shortcut the holiday, because it’s about spending time. The point is, I don’t want you to use shortcuts for everything and spoil something you enjoy doing.”

 

Actually, Mr. Generic Handsome White Dude who is probably a CGI creation, in real life, there are both.

 

C.B.T. (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) has been hailed by many psychologists as being a true breakthrough in mental health therapeutic modes, due to C.B.T.’s pragmatic and short-term approach to handling problems.  Podcast host Dubner noted that Du Satoy’s book dealt briefly with the idea of using shortcuts in psychotherapy, but seemed skeptical of its efficacy, as per the fact that the human psyche is complex and dynamic enough to reject the type of shortcutting that might work in other realms.  Du Sautoy’s response indicated he was at least somewhat in agreement (my emphases):

“… I think that (applying shortcuts) depends on the problem you’re facing…. I talked to Susie Orbach, who’s a psychologist, and she had this nice way of describing some of the problems that people are facing:  it’s hard to learn a language. It’s even harder to unlearn a language. “

 

 

Imagine trying to unlearn English (or whatever your first language is).

Some people come to therapy with ingrained ways of thinking from experiences they’ve had in childhood – the family  “language” they learned does not serve them well, and they need to “unlearn” that language and learn another one.  Such resetting of thought patterns and behaviors will not likely respond to drastic shortcuts.  However, the C.B.T. modality (of learning how to be aware of what your thought processes are) is, in itself, “…enough to short-circuit the algorithm which was always sending you into depression. You’re sort of stuck inside the system of the way you’re thinking. What C.B.T. often helps you to do is to take a step up and look at the way that thought process is happening and understand the trigger which always sends you down….”

 

 

Moiself is a longtime fan of C.B.T.   [1]   But what keeps coming back to me from the podcast is the concept of trying to *unlearn* your first or native language.  I realize the concept is used metaphorically in du Sautoy’s argument; nevertheless, I’ve encountered something like it throughout my life, in the correlated cases of watching people deal with the cognitive dissonance of trying to embrace reality while trying to stay within certain religious traditions and/or worldviews.

A personal example: I was raised within the “language” – both via the wider culture and in my own family of origin – of the Christian religion.  During one of the few conversations with my father I had (when I was an adult) wherein he asked about why I was not/was no longer a Christian, I briefly laid out the fundamentals of the faith, along with why and how I know that those religious tenets are not true and/or are not valid explanations of reality.  I then asked him a question he could not answer:

“How can I pretend to *not* know what I know?”   [2] 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Grinch Does Thanksgiving

The headline had remained on the online Oregonian newspaper feed for several days. I would scroll past it on my phone news app…and finally decided to check it out.

Big mistake; what kind of story was moiself  expecting, given the headline?

With a little help, hunter with cerebral palsy gets his bull elk

I’ll start again.

Perhaps moiself  should title this segment, Department Of the Make A Wish Foundation Achievement I’m Not Celebrating.

Even though I was reminded of that M-A-W organization (the kind of charity which helps dying/cancer-stricken/handicapped kids achieve their “dreams”) when I read about this “achievement,” the hunter in this story is a grown-ass young man, not a child.  My lip is still curling after reading about how this significantly handicapped man – who was apparently raised to think that it is a high achievement to hunt (read: stalk and slaughter) a magnificent creature, not as a way of putting food on his starving family’s table, but for “sport”   [3]  – was able to kill an elk thanks to a group of abettors, referred to in the article as his “guardian angels.”

The article is accompanied by a photograph of three masochistic killers “sportsmen” : the CP-stricken hunter in his ATV wheelchair, and two of his “angels,” one of which holds up the lifeless head of the elk by lifting its antlers.  Some choice excerpts from the article:

“On…the next-to-last day of his northeast Oregon elk season and despite severe impairment by cerebral palsy, DM (hunter’s name) pulled the trigger on the massive six-point Rocky Mountain bull he yearned for.

But not without the help of a flock of good Samaritans.    [4]

Guardian angel 1: DM’s father and one of his primary caregivers, who takes Drew fishing and hunting, has developed a system for Drew to shoot a well-aimed rifle….

Angel 2: The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which issued DM his disabled fishing and hunting permit after completion of a hunter safety course…..

Angel 3: Youth Outdoors Unlimited of Moses Lake, Washington, which hosted DM years ago on a bear hunt and loaned him the same track and mechanical rifle system he used then…..

Angel 4: Facebook. Yup, social media. Monsey has a large following on the platform….”

The article goes on to list at least three more “angels,” including the veterinarian/cattle rancher who owns the ranchland where the elk was shot.

The picture I mentioned is repulsive (to me…I realize I’m living in a very different world and mindset from those who enjoy hunting).  Here is the only picture of a giant bull elk moiself  finds acceptable. What in the world possesses people to think that the life of such a magnificent animal – which is what attracts a hunter to it in the first place, the fact that it is alive – is best served by becoming a trophy, or a testament to some short-sighted asshole’s twisted sense of accomplishment?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Message To The PR Department Of KenKen Publishing

…and any other KenKen puzzle books (which moiself  purchases on a regular basis).

 

 

Re your description on the cover of the books, “100 challenging logic puzzles that make you smarter.”  Not that you care what I think, but you have no objective evidence for that claim.

Q. In pop culture, it’s a popular notion that you can do puzzles to ‘train your brain.’ But, as an adult, can you actually do that? To improve memory and cognition?

A. “So, the answer to that is generally, ‘Yes,’ but doing puzzles improves your brain only in doing puzzles…. the way you think about that is like doing sports: If you do tennis, you’re not necessarily going to be good at doing football; you’ll just be good at doing tennis. But overall, doing tennis is helping your general physical abilities and making you sprier.”

(Ausim Azizi, chair of neurology at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine, interviewed in “Do Puzzles Really Train Your Brain,” The Philly Voice. )

Also, to make moiself  “smarter” is not why I buy KenKen books. I just like doing the puzzles.  But I suppose, from a marketing POV, “100 challenging logic puzzles that you just like to do” doesn’t quite cut it.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Phrases Which Spark Memories 

It was a phrase or sentiment I had neither thought about nor heard in some time, until it was used by a long-time friend recently.  This made me think back to…

Dateline: over twenty years ago, when my in-laws were out from Florida, visiting moiself, MH, and our offspring.  I was driving my late father-in-law somewhere.  And by late I do not mean to cast aspersions re his timeliness – he wasn’t a tardy man – but late as in, he is now deceased.  But he was (obviously to y’all, as per this story…I hope) alive when I was driving him somewhere; I mean, I’m not the kind of person to schlep a dead in-law around in my vehicle….

Once again, I’ll start again.

So: moiself and MH’s father are out. I was driving; he was in the passenger seat of my car; we came to a stoplight; the car in front of us had a quite noticeable bumper sticker.

 

My ordinarily even-tempered FIL told me that whenever he saw a car with a sticker like that he felt like getting a big shovel of shit, dumping it on the car’s windshield, and exclaiming to the driver, “Look, it’s happening!”

He used a somewhat humorous tone when he made that declaration, but I could tell that it (the bumper sticker) actually upset him.  I asked him why he found the phrase/sentiment so irksome.  He said he thought it to be indicative of a negative, passive attitude about life.

I chewed on that that for a while, then told him that I had a very different reaction.  To moiself, shit happens is merely an…uh, earthier…form of the expressions and adages found worldwide, in many languages and cultures; e.g.,  “C’est la vie;” “Que sera, sera.”

 

 

Translation: shit happens simply (if scatologically) expresses the understanding that there will be things, good and bad and neutral, which will happen to us and which will be out of our control. This doesn’t mean that you therefore go through life as flotsam, simply drifting with the currents and tides of fate – of course not.  You do what you can, but it is realistic – and mentally healthy – to recognize that, ultimately, you are *not*  in control of everything.  Shit happens/que sera, sera: things can and will happen to you – things which may seem as an insult from the universe but which, in fact, are random and have nothing to do with you personally.

I think I was able to successfully communicate my POV.  Or perhaps the genial comments of understanding my FIL made were to thwart me from breaking into the theme song of my patron saint, Doris Day.   [5]

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

Punz For The Day
Day-After-Thanksgiving Edition

Q: What smells the best at a Thanksgiving dinner?
A: Your nose.

Q: What do you get if you divide the circumference of a
classic Thanksgiving dessert by its diameter?

A: Pumpkin pi.

 

*   *   *

May you understand that shit happens;
May you do strive to ensure that you are not the shit happening to someone else;
May you do your best to ignore Black Friday;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] To the point that I think, by comparison, most other forms of therapy are basically a waste of time.

[2]  Even though * he* was the one who brought it up, my sweet father responded with his go-to, five-word phrase of circumvention, which he employed whenever we were getting into conversational territory which made him uncomfortable: “Well, that’s enough about that.”

[3] And unless or until the Bull Elk in question, or any other animal so stalked, is armed with the high-powered weaponry of the human hunters (who must also, as their prey is, be naked) and agrees to participate with the human, in the hunting, it is the ultimate in poor sportsmanship to call hunting a “sport.”

[4] Certainly, not a Good Samaritan from the elk’s POV. And in the original Good Samaritan story, the Samaritan did not help one creature by killing another one.

[5] Yes, atheists can have a patron saint, and for a while, Doris was mine.

The Temple I’m Not Joining

Comments Off on The Temple I’m Not Joining

Department Of First Things First

Fifty-one years ago today, the blast that was heard around the world.   [1]

Happy Exploding Whale Day, y’all.

 

 

*   *   *

In May 2014, The Satanic Temple scheduled a Black Mass to be held on the Harvard University campus, sponsored by the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club; the event was forced to relocate off campus due to significant opposition by Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and school administrators.
(Wikipedia, The Satanic Temple entry)

Department Of Arguably The Best Quote From A Documentary Filled With Zingers

“I think the participants felt discouraged after their permit  (to demonstrate) in Boston was denied.  And then it just occurred to me: this is the Catholic Church in Boston, which covered up decades of child rape, moved priests around, covered it up, let them continue their raping and child abuse… and then had the gall to say what *we’re* doing was sinful? I mean, fuck them.”
(a member of “The Satanic Temple” (TST), as quoted in, Hail, Satan?)

 

 

 

“The mission of The Satanic Temple, a religious organization, is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense, oppose injustice, and undertake noble pursuits.
The Satanic Temple has publicly confronted hate groups, fought for the abolition of corporal punishment in public schools, applied for equal representation when religious installations are placed on public property, provided religious exemption and legal protection against laws that unscientifically restrict women’s reproductive autonomy, exposed harmful pseudo-scientific practitioners in mental health care, organized clubs alongside other religious after-school clubs in schools besieged by proselytizing organizations, and engaged in other advocacy in accordance with our tenets.”
( mission statement, from The Satanic Temple website )

*   *   *

The Wiccan priest tried (unsuccessfully) to stifle rolling her eyes.  The man interviewing her had asked her to explain Wiccan beliefs but inserted a stereotypical inaccuracy before he gave her time to answer:

“So, you are devil worshippers?”

The Wiccan’s tone indicated that her patience was tried; obviously, this was not the first time she had been asked that question. She replied emphatically, and a bit wearily:

No, *we* don’t worship Satan.
*We* don’t believe in Satan, or devils or demons.
*Christians* are the ones who believe in the devil. Satan is a Christian god.”

 

 

 

The interview moiself  refers to happened many years ago, in a documentary I saw about the connections between Wicca and Paganism and Norse Mythology.  I thought of that interview last week when, thanks to daughter Belle’s recommendation, I watched Hail Satan?, the 2019 documentary which followed the rise of the grassroots activist organization, The Satanic Temple (TST).  Belle thought I would find the documentary entertaining and provocative – she was correct – and we had a fun back-and-forth texting about the subject matter.

Hail Satan?, as one reviewer put it, “puts the fun in satanic fundamentalism.”    [2]  In many places the film is downright hilarious…and also thought-provoking.

“For something that doesn’t move or talk, monuments have been the subject of much debate and deep feeling in recent years. And not just Confederate monuments, but also religious ones. And one of those debates played out in Arkansas, where State Senator Jason Rapert petitioned to erect a statue of the Ten Commandments outside the Capitol building in Little Rock. In response, a group called The Satanic Temple asked to have a monument of their choosing displayed on government property. It was of Baphomet, a goat-headed angel-winged icon. And let’s just say the offer wasn’t that well-received.

That fight and The Satanic Temple more broadly is the subject of a new documentary called “Hail Satan?” – that’s with a question mark. And it follows the founding of this group, which is bringing a puckish new voice to a very thoughtful and actually serious debate over religious freedom.”

( NPR, ” Filmmaker And Satanic Temple Leader Talk New Documentary,
 ‘Hail Satan?’  4-27-19)

 

 

Moiself  was chuckling throughout the film, especially at the moment whence the opening quote in this post is taken:  in Boston 2014, when The Satanic Temple had received permission to perform a Black Mass, and they were being picketed by Catholic priests and nuns and received so many threats they decided to call it off.    [3] A Satanic or Black Mass  [4]  is a grotesque mockery of the Catholic Mass, and is meant to be offensive to RC believers…but then, the Catholic Mass and other Christian churches’ communion rites – with their reenactments of ritualized cannibalism – can be offensive (or at least, bizarre and mystifying) to people of other beliefs.

So, there they were, in the middle ages twenty-first century, priests and nun in their robes, holding rosary beads, crucifixes,chalices, and other artifacts of “catholobelia”… [5]

 

 

and then you have the “Satanists,” in their robes and masks….

 

 

It was so funny, to see both sides in their respective, silly outfits.  Only the Satanists seemed to have any self-awareness about the whole thing – that this (religion) is all play acting/dress up.

Does moiself  think that any of those people involved with TST are, in fact Satanists – that they actually and sincerely “believe in” or “worship” Satan?

Hell no.

The impression I got was that TST organizers and the vast majority of members are part political/Constitutional/free speech activists, and part street theater/Merry Pranksters…with some Cosplay nerds devotees thrown in there as well.

Belle and I bantered with the question: Does TST do more harm than good, by using imagery and tactics that some people find sooooooooooooooooo offensive? Yes, and no.  And admittedly, there is a certain power to be had from disgusting, shocking, frightening, and angering your adversaries.  If you have personal, political, and/or ideological beefs with Christianity, what better way to get under a staunch Christian’s skin than to profess allegiance to that which they view as their polar opposite, whether or not you actually “believe in” your own silly deity (just as you don’t believe in their silly deity).

 

“Who you callin’ silly?”

 

And, analogous to how some rap stars often call themselves the N-word, many people believe that there is power in taking a pejorative which has been used against you and using it (on) yourself. As one of the TST members interviewed noted, for many Conservative and Evangelical Christians, any beliefs other than theirs are evil.  Thus, if you believe something other than their interpretation of their religion, you are under the influence of the devil – they are going to consider you evil or satanic anyway, so why not be proactive about it and claim the title yourself, under your terms, not theirs?

For moiself, one of the more uproarious moments documented in Hail Satan? occurred when TST took a page from the Mormon playbook of performing proxy baptisms (a ritual wherein a proxy for a deceased, non-Mormon person is baptized into the Mormon church   [6] ).  In order to incense and mock the notoriously homophobic Westborough Baptist Church founder, these antics ensued:

” A group of satanists say they’ve given the controversial Westboro Baptist Church a taste of its own medicine, performing a same-sex ritual at the grave of the mother of the church’s founder.
Members of the Satanist Temple performed on Sunday what its spokesman describes as a “pink mass,” an admittedly made-up ritual celebrating gay love, at the grave in Meridian, Miss.
Spokesman Lucien Greaves doffed a headdress made of horns as two male couples and a female couple recited scripture, lit candles, and made out over the grave.
Members then posthumously declared Catherine Johnston, the mother of Westboro’s founder Fred Phelps, a lesbian.”

(“Satanists Perform ‘Gay Ritual’ at Westboro Gravesite,” ABC news, 7-13)

Belle and I went back and forth re the tactics of TST, which we both found…the word “silly’ kept being used.   However seriously you do or don’t take TST, it seems to be a reaction to the abuse of power and religious discrimination promulgated by Christian culture and theology, rather than standing for something on its own.

However….

Many of TST‘s antics are actually well-informed public protests, and not just “giving the middle finger to the evangelical right.”  One high ranking TST organizer pointed out that “…we are really giving the state of Oklahoma a civics lesson,” referring to TST‘s fight to have their group’s goat-headed statue (“Baphomet“) displayed on public ground, after Oklahoma allowed Christian religious artifacts on the State Capitol lawn.   [7]

 

 

One lawyer quoted in the film said, “…from a constitutional law perspective I am really interested in the Satanic temple, because it is basically making these public bodies confront the real implications of their decisions to allow religion into the public square.”

 

 

The documentary gets into some very interesting, and serious and disturbing territory when it revisits the “Satanic panic” of the 1980s , a time when many innocent people’s lives were ruined via a series of bizarre, totally false and fabricated accusations of ritualized child rape. The founders of and teachers at the McMartin Preschool and so many others endured false charges of child abuse;    [8]   meanwhile, as records would later reveal, priests and other religious figures were actually abusing children, with impunity.

One TST member recalled how he, as a boy during the 1980s who loved to play Dungeons and Dragons,  was ostracized by his friends’ religious parents, who thought the D & D game had satanic connections:

“The ‘satanic panic,’ we now know, in an entirely verified and publicly known way, was projection.
*They* (Christian religious leaders) were doing it (abusing children).
I was playing D and D.”

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
The Devil Made Me Do It Edition

I’m writing a book about a guy who peddles shoe parts to Satan.
It’s your basic, “Sold My Sole To The Devil” novel.

Where does the devil do his dishes?
Helsinki.

Why couldn’t the Devil find any cheese?
There’s no whey in hell.

How do I know that Satan works at the DMV?
Because a priest said the devil takes many forms.

If the devil were to go bald…
I bet there would be hell toupee.

I want to get a job as a stunt devil who lights his butt on fire.
It’s just something I asspyre to.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you keep in mind that the things you take seriously
may be silly – or disturbing – to others;
May you never attribute human failings – or successes – to supernatural beings;
May you honor Exploding Whale Day ® in your own special way;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Well, if your world consists of proud Oregonians.  And it should.

[2]Hail Satan? puts the fun in Satanic fundamentalism.”  The Verge, 4-17-19

[3] Actually, they moved it to another location.

[4] Which TST was going to perform in private, as in, not open to the public.

[5] My term (I think) for such accoutrements.

[6] Yes, this batshit crazyass rite in the LDS church is a thing.

[7] The Satanists won that battle in court, as per a 2015 Oklahoma State Supreme Court decision.

[8]  And were ultimately acquitted of all charges…after a trial that lasted SEVEN YEARS and cost taxpayers 15 million dollars.

The Holiday War I’m (Still) Not Declaring

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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 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 and 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 2022 the Chinese (lunar) New Year begins on Feb. 1

 

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 and 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 Belle’s and K’s school, when they were in grade school (Belle, as the oldest 3rd grade girl, got to play St. Lucia).

* Bill of Rights Day (Dec 15) and Forefather’s Day (Dec 21)

* 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)

* Little Christmas Eve (Dec.  23) Celebrated by my family, supposedly 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).

That 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]

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 Certain Color Of Shirt I’m Not Wearing

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Department Of Jeff Bezo’s Minions Do Not Know Star Trek: TOS Lore

As delighted as moiself  was to see that Captain Kirk ( William Shatner ) finally  [1]   got to go into space (via Wednesday’s Blue Origin spacecraft ), I was gobsmacked to view the pictures being posted online, of Shatner and his fellow Blue Origin crew members.  Shatner was wearing a yellow green shirt; the others wore red shirts.

 

 

Yes, red shirts.   [2]

This is a bad omen, moiself  thought to moiself, before my second thought kicked in:

This *has* to be a photoshopped joke.  And a good one, at that.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Artistic License

Dateline: Saturday mid-morning, hiking in the trails in the hills around the Portland Audubon Sanctuary with MH.  ‘Twas a beautiful day, with that combination of the evergreen fir and leaf-dropping deciduous scenery that seems unique to the Pacific Northwest.  We were pleasantly surprised to have the trail to ourselves.

After our hike I decided to appreciate the port-o-potty in the Audubon parking lot.   Moiself  had left my phone at home; thus, I had to prevail upon MH to take a picture of the drawing someone had done on the inside of the p-o-p door.

The picture, which MH and I dubbed Pizza Man, illustrates the importance of punctuation, and how the lack of it can lead to misunderstandings…or just mysteries.

 

 

Whaddya think? What message was the honeypot vandal artist trying to convey, armed with only his imagination and a black Sharpie ®?

Moiself can think of several possibilities, including:

*  Pizza Man is speaking as a god, who is apologizing for…something.  In which case it should read, “Sorry,” god;

* The artist is apologizing to his god, for having drawn a human face so strangely that it resembles a slice of pizza with eyes and a mouth;

* Pizza Man is the speaker – he is apologizing to his deity for what he has done or is about to do (in the outhouse, or elsewhere)?

* Pizza Man not actually a pizza, but someone who has disfigured himself by consuming so much pepperoni that the little greasy sausage rounds are sprouting on his face, and thus is apologizing to his god for his gluttony;

* The artist is apologizing to anyone who views his drawing and mistakenly thinks it is of a Pizza god.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Last Time

“For everything you do, there will be a last time you do it. This is a direct consequence of your mortality.  Because you will someday die, there will be a last time you tie your shoes, pay your taxes, and eat chocolate….

Sometimes people know they’re doing something for the last time. This is the case with the condemned prisoner eating his last meal. More commonly though, people do something without realizing this is the last time they will do it. They instead act on the assumption that they will do the thing again in the future, perhaps hundred of more times.

Along these lines, consider the last time you played hopscotch, the last time you made a phone call with a rotary phone…
Did you realize at the time that it was the last time that you would do those things?  Realize too that’s it’s possible you have eaten chocolate for the last time – I sincerely hope that this isn’t the case, but only time will tell.”
( excerpt from “The Last Time Meditation” )

 

“Like, I’m supposed to take a selfie with *this*?”

 

Can you remember the last time you ____

* wore a diaper instead of “big boy/big girl” pants?
* rode a tricycle when you were a child, before graduating to a two-wheeler bike?
* played hopscotch or tetherball on an elementary school playground?
* aced (or flunked) a high school test?
* told a joke to your (now deceased) grandparent?
* used a rotary telephone to make a call?
* used a typewriter (manual or electric) to type a school paper, or office memo?
* rented a DVD from Blockbuster?
* went to a huge, arena-style concert by your favorite rock band, whose
drummer later died after he choked on his own vomit
members are now either deceased or retired?
* copied a document from your computer onto a floppy disc?

And if you can remember, do you recall thinking, “Hey, what if this is the last time I _____ (ride a tricycle; tell a joke to Grandma….)?”

For the last year or so I’ve been using a meditation app developed by neuroscientist, philosopher, author Sam Harris. The Waking Up  app has a variety of features, including

* a short daily guided meditation (11 – 13 minutes duration)
*  a series of guided meditations on different subjects (Contemplative Action; The Spectrum of Awareness;
Consolations; Meditation for Children….)
* Q & As with Jack Kornfield and other meditation/mindfulness teachers;
*
 lessons on the fundamentals of meditation
* a simple meditation timer, which you can set for any length

When I use the app,    [3]   moiself  typically either listens the daily meditation, or does my own meditation with the app’s timer.  Earlier this week I scrolled through the app’s practices, and one title caught my eye:  a series of twenty-two short talks – “The Stoic Path, by William B. Irvine – on the philosophy and practical applications of stoicism.

 

 

Philosophy professor and author Irvine offers a modern take on stoicism, which we philosophy laypersons often misunderstand as per our limited experience with the subject (15 minutes on Marcus Aurelius in our Intro to Philosophy class, and we’re all experts).  If asked to picture or define a stoic I bet your first thought (along with moiself’s ) would be of a person who is so even-keeled as to be almost detached – someone seemingly unaffected by the downs – and ups – of life.

However, In the philosophical realm, a Stoic is someone who cultivates a world view wherein one’s personal ethics are informed by stoic virtues, logic, and understandings on the natural world.

 

“Please tell me the segue to rotary phones is just around the corner….”

 

I’m at the very beginning (day four) of the series, and am enjoying Irvine’s expositions.  He includes stories from his own personal and family life to illustrate how techniques of stoicism offer a road map  [4]  toward equanimity – by minimizing worry and focusing our mental and emotional efforts on what we can control, by learning how to deal with the inevitable “insults” of grief and loss, and aging, by putting into perspective the temporal and ultimately ephemeral temptations of power, fame and fortune.

Moiself  finds it quite interesting, and also an expanded take on somewhat familiar territory.  The virtues (translate: sound Life advice) espoused by stoicism remind me of Buddhist and mindfulness tenets – from what I’ve listened to so far, there is a good deal of common ground between them.  Check it out, if you’re interested.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things For Somebody Else To Do

OK, calling all one-panel cartoonists…or anyone who can draw better than I can.  [5]

While listening to The Last Time  moiself  got a picture in my head, of a scenario I thought might make a good comic strip:

A prison guard enters a Death Row prison cell. He places a food tray containing a traditional last meal – grilled steak, fried chicken, a loaded baked potato, and a double hot fudge sundae – in front of a prisoner who is scheduled for execution later that evening.
The prisoner waves off the tray with, “No thanks; I’m watching my cholesterol.”

You’re welcome.

 

This is how my artist’s rendition would turn out.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Musings Apropos Of Nothing

Speaking of getting all philosophical on your ass, I have many questions dealing with the Mysteries of Life ®.  This one is for musician Dave Grohl:

What are Foos?
And why do you devote your exceptional musical talents to fighting them?

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Deep Thoughts Continued
Division Of The Existential Crises Of Aging

Why is it that when you’re over age fifty people stop asking you what your favorite dinosaur is?

It’s like they don’t even care anymore.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Sentence I Never Thought I’d Be So Happy To Hear

“And if we’re lucky, tomorrow there’ll be dead bodies!”

See footnote   [6] for context.  Or, better yet, use your imagination.

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day
Philosophy Edition

How can you make a philosophy student leave your porch?
Just pay them for the pizza.  [7]

Did you hear about the monk who got a Ph.D. in existential philosophy?
You might say he was a deep friar.

Why can’t kleptomaniacs understand sarcastic philosophical jokes about themselves?
Because they take things literally.

Why is it unwise to place philosophy textbooks in front of a stallion?
Because you shouldn’t put Descartes before the horse.    [8]

 

*   *   *

 

May you uncover the mystery of Port-o-Potty Pizza Man;
May someone ask you what’s your favorite dinosaur;
May you never board a spacecraft manned by a crew of all Redshirts;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] He’s 90.  Really.

[2] Redshirt is a term used by fans of Star Trek to refer to the ST characters who wear red Starfleet uniforms – typically, security guards or other characters who are expendable, and often killed, after having utterred only a line or two of dialogue (or sometimes none at all).

[3] Not quite daily. I’ve other meditation apps which also have timers, guided sessions, ambient music….

[4]  Is that too dated of an analogy?  Maybe I should use, “GPS”?

[5] Which would be anyone who can hold a pencil in their hands. Son K has drawn some good comic strips over the years; maybe I should ask him.

[6] Uttered by the exterminator, whom I affectionately think of as “Rat Man,” as he was explaining how he would be baiting and setting the traps he’d laid in our house’s crawlspace and then returning next day to retrieve the results.  (The traps had been laid down several days ago, baited but not set – this lets the rats [that have invaded our crawlspace] get used to the traps and think that they are a safe source of yummy peanut butter).

[7] No footnote necessary here.

[8] I certainly can’t end this with #6 being the last footnote.

The Towel I’m Not Throwing In

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Department Of Throwing In The Towel

Sometimes it’s just easier to give them their own glass.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Profound Reflection After Being A Surgery Buddy  [1]

The inventor(s) of the twist-‘n-seal vomit bags should win the Nobel Prizes for Peace, and Medicine.  As well as any other awards the Swedes have lying around.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Speaking Of Things Related To Nausea
Sub-Department Of Let’s Get This Out Of The Way

 

 

I have been trying to avoid writing about the TexASS’s draconian anti-abortion law, because what hose TexASS politicians have done leaves moiself  almost speechless.

 

 

Can someone build a barf containment bag for the entire state of TexASS?

I know there are good people there; it’s a state which, once upon a time and despite its history of self-mythologizing and macho posturing, managed to produce a triumvirate of some of my favorite feminist raconteurs:

* Governor Ann Richards

* Author, political commentator, humorist and columnist Molly Ivins

*  Journalist Linda Ellerbee

But that was then and this is now.

Meanwhile, in the here and now, TexASS political leaders seem determined to secede from the 21st century.

Speaking of which, there is a history of secession movements in TexASS which extends beyond the Civil War to the present day, producing headlines such as

“Texas Republicans endorse legislation to allow vote on secession from US”
(The Guardian, 2-5-21)

…as well as a quote only a reality-oblivious politician could spew:

“You cannot prevent the people from having a voice.”
(Allen West, Texas Republican party chairman,
quoted in the above article)

 

“I’d like to buy a U”

 

The TexASS GOP chairman was speaking about the voice of TexASS citizens, as per their being allowed to vote for their state to secede from the USA and become an independent nation. Meanwhile, TexASS political leaders are hellbent on preventing people – female people – from having the final voice when it comes to managing their own bodies.

TexASS wants to secede?  Oh, honey, stop being such a tease.  Really; this is the stuff dreams are made of.  Fine; let ’em leave.

 

 

“Texas is ranked first in the U.S. in the variety and frequency of natural disasters.  Flooding, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, hailstorms sinkholes, drought, all occur in the state. Sometimes, even utilization of the state’s natural reserves of oil gas, and water can lead to subsidence and earthquakes.”
(“Natural And Man-Made Hazards In The State Of Texas,”
NASA’s NISAR Mission report: Reliable Observations for Hazard Mitigation )

As for that “independent nation” nonsense, it would be delicious to watch TexASS politicians come crawling, 10-gallon caps in hand, the next time they need emergency funds for the natural disasters which strike TexASS with mind-numbing regularity, along with the totally Texan-made disasters ( the most recent being the 2021 power grid failure) their infrastructurally-ignorant leaders refuse to recognize or address.

I’m sorry (former) Gov. Abbot, but can you drop the faux genteel drawl and enunciate clearly?
You see, For a moment, the rest of us thought we heard you request Federal Emergency funds – you remember, funds that come the federal government of the USA, the one y’all flipped off just before the door hit you in the ass as you left?

This way, dude. The line for Foreign Aid applications starts at the rear of the building, near the Voting Rights Act Memorial and gender-inclusive restroom.

 

 

I urge the rest of us to help any TexASS refugees that you can.  Then, do your research as to businesses that are based in that state.  From Exxon/Mobil to Southwest Airlines; from 7-11 to Dell trechnologies; from Frito-Lay to J.C. Penny to Gold’s Gym; from Pier I to Pizza Hut; from The Container Store to Zales Jewelers; from Nieman Marcus to Whole Foods (what ?!? Whole Foods?  Aw, shit)  [2] …. As much as possible, boycott all things from TexASS, from sports and arts and entertainment to goods and services. 

 

*   *   *

We now return you to our regular programming.

*   *   *

Department Of the Price of Reminiscence

Dateline: Monday afternoon.  MH decides to spend a portion of his Labor Day in doing a labor of love Periodic Household Task ® – going through stuff in the attic.  He comes upon a Star Trek Concordance, and finds, tucked into its pages, a list of episodes Someone ® has made. This list contains the names of certain TOS episodes, sorted into three categories.  The first category is faves; the second is stinkers.

“Do you know anything about this?” MH says, waving the list in my face. When I see the third category I realize that the list-making Someone ® must have been moiself …although I have no memory of compiling the list.

Category #3 is pesha.  ‘Tis a word which, mercifully, will mean nothing to y’all, nor to anyone outside of a certain circle of moiself’s  friends and college roommates.   [3]

Pesha is a dear friend’s family slang for, “wet fart.”   [4]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Earlier That Same Day…
Sub-Department Of Other Things I Thought Were Long Forgotten

MH and I are discussing son K’s recent surgery (alluded to in the earlier mention of moiself  being a surgery buddy), and how it involved moiself  doing quite a bit of blood-cleaning up afterwards (K’s post-surgical bleeding was not fully under control for a while).  Suffice to say, K’s kitchen floor got a thorough cleaning.

We take a break from household tasks and decide to go out for lunch. As we are gathering critical lunch-out accoutrements (two copies of the days’ NYTimes crossword puzzle) MH starts singing, “Blood on the Saddle,” a song from Disneyland’s Country Bear Jamboree show.  With a heh-heh-heh tone to his voice, he teases me about how that song had to be one of my favorites.  He refers to the fact that, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I had a seasonal job at Disneyland’s Hungry Bear Restaurant   [5]  (which was adjacent to the Country Bear Jamboree theater).  I worked there summers and vacation times, after high school and my first year in college; that song was one I thought (hoped?) I’d never have to hear again.

Minutes later, in the car: MH fiddles with his phone and connects it to his car’s audio system.  For reasons only the gods I don’t believe in can understand, the Spotify music service has the Country Bear Jamboree soundtrack.  And MH proceeds to torture entertain me by playing the original Blood on the Saddle, which contains the immortal lyrics,

♫  There was….

Blood on the saddle/and b-blood on the ground

And a great…big…p-p-puddle…

Of blood all around.  ♫

 

This is followed by another ear-mangling cacophony  favorite I had also, for a few blessed decades, completely forgotten about:  Mama Don’t Whup Little Buford.

C’mon, everybody – y’all know the words.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Pandemic Lessons Learned

Dateline: Saturday afternoon. After enjoying lunch at a Pastaria with MH – NOT the aforementioned lunch outing, where my auditory sensibilities were assaulted by country bear “music” – we headed for a nearby movie theatre, to take in the latest Marvel Superhero flick.    [6]

My lunch of whole grain spaghetti aglio e olio (pasta with garlic and oil), plus a side of garlic lemon spinach, was a gustatory delight…which then haunted me during the movie.  For 2 ½ hours in a darkened theater, I received continual feedback via my mask.  Read: I was surrounded with – and sometimes felt as if moiself  would be suffocated by – my own robust garlic breath.

 

Only my ten rings of minty breath fresheners can save civilization from the deadly Dweller-in-Darkness’s dragon breath.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Italian Noodle Edition

The cook at our local Italian Restaurant has died.
I guess you could say he pastaway.

Noodles are part of my daily rotini.

What type of pasta do they serve at haunted houses?
Fettuccini afraido.

Why do Gen Xers take selfies when they’re eating spaghetti?
They want to record it for pastarity.

My friend sometimes pretends to be a lasagna noodle – she’s such an impasta.

The shy pasta chef was in a contemplative mood, so I offered him
a penne for his thoughts.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you urge your congressional representatives to support
the secession of TexASS;
May you accept the consequences of that which leads to garlic breath;
May you turn up the volume and sing along with,
“Mama Don’t Whup Little Buford,” imagining that Buford
represents Texas politicians;    [7]

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] You know what a surgery buddy is, even if you haven’t heard that term (and you may have been one, or needed one).  You provide a ride to and from the hospital or day surgery center with someone who is undergoing a surgery/procedure and given medications that prohibit them from driving.  Surgery buddy duties may also include pharmacy and drugstore runs, meal prep and other TLC, overnight stays, making sure the patient does not do any online shopping while under the influence….

[2] I shop at Whole Foods…but not anymore. I contacted them with an “I regret to inform you” letter notifying them that I will not shop there until there is demonstrable evidence that they have lobbied Texas political leaders to rescind the anti-abortion legislation (oh yeah, and fix your state’s racist voter suppression while you’re at it).

[3] I’m talkin’ you, LMW.

[4] There was only one TOS episode which I deemed worthy of the pesha appellation: “Turnabout Intruder.”

[5] Which, as many a hangry, tired, overheated and cranky customer (always male) pointed out to me, was not in fact a restaurant (haruumpf!) but was yet another one of Disneyland’s fast food eateries.

[6]Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. ”  Like most Marvel/Superhero movies, it is in serious need of editing for length, IMHO, and, of course, by now there aren’t many surprises.  Some good characters; you just need to get in the mood for such summer movie froth and it is entertaining.

[7] I think this is this blog’s longest “May you…” ever.  Gee. Thanks for the opportunity, TexASS.

The Drug Test I’m Not Failing

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

As always, besides the events themselves, I find interest (and sometimes, petty and/or snarky entertainment) in “the human drama of athletic competition;”  that is, the stories behind the stories.  Does anyone else remember the ABC Wild World of Sports intro?

 

 

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

Belle was peeved that Richardson would not be able to compete, due to what Belle sees as an unfair and archaic drug testing system.  I mentioned that Richardson’s competitors might also be disappointed in Richardson’s absence from the games.  As I understand it, when you’re at the top level of your sport you want to compete against the best.  Also, whatever your accomplishments, you don’t want an asterisk next to them (as in, ” * ___ won the gold medal for the 100-meter race, but the favorite ____ was disqualified”).

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

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

 

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

 

So, lobby to change the Olympics’ drug testing rules, if you think it would be worthwhile to do so.  Until then, it would be unfair to other athletes to make exceptions for some and not others, in terms of how existing drug rules are applied.  [1]

Also, the athletes know full well what they will be tested for.  My advice to them   [2]  is, don’t act surprised and/or disappointed if you used a banned substance and then get caught.  Take responsibility.  Don’t play dumb when you’re not.

*   *   *

Department Of Levar Burton, Please Reconsider And/Or Retract

We must believe in luck.
For how else can we explain the success of those we don’t like?
( Jean Cocteau, French novelist and director)

The acknowledgment of luck, circumstance, and “accidents” in our lives (and in the universe) is one of the hallmarks of wisdom, maturity, and humility.  Sure, sometimes the cream rises to the top all by itself; sometimes, someone achieves fame and fortune not because they were the most talented writer/actor/scientist in the room, but because they were the *only* writer/actor/scientist in a room that needed their skills At That Very Moment…or they just happened to be in the right room at the right time, with the Right People to notice and promote them.

To some degree we can choose how we respond to luck, happenstance, and accidents, but we can neither totally nor consistently control nor predict these accidents (which is why such things are called…all together now…accidents).

On the first bumper sticker (or, maybe it was a chariot sticker) known to humankind, an ancient philosopher wrote a vulgar yet tersely wise summary of the existential acknowledgement of the fact that life is filled with unpredictable events: 

 

Yet, some folks just don’t seem to get this.

Dateline: Wednesday 6:50-ish a.m., warming up my on elliptical exercise machine while listening to comedian Tig Notaro’s “advice” podcast, Don’t Ask Tig.  Tig’s guest was producer-actor-writer Levar Burton, best known for his role as Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and for being host of the beloved PBS children’s series, Reading Rainbow

Moiself  has always enjoyed Burton’s work.  Thus, my WTF ?!?!?  indignation when he said something in the capacity of advice-giver on the podcast, something which made me want to dust off my old Asshat Of The Week award and bestow it upon him.

 

Asshat Of The Week.  Just waiting for the right recipient….

 

Burton and Notaro were responding to a letter from an advice-seeker when he flung this:

“I have had to learn over time that there are no accidents in the universe – that everything has purpose.”

 

 

The rest of Burton’s advice, about being mindful of one’s patterns and intentions, etc., would have been fine.  But he had to insert that boner of a bogus bromide.

“There are no accidents in the universe – everything has purpose.”

No, Mr. Burton, that is not what you have “learned* over time” – that is what you inexplicably *believe.*  Not only do you have no evidence for that belief, I would think that, looking around the world – excuse me, the UNIVERSE (using Geordi LaForge’s electromagnetic scanning VISOR, if necessary) – with a truly open mind, you would have to admit that there is quite the evidence to the contrary.

 

 

There are accidents, or random incidents, in the universe.  All. The. Time.  Call them what you will; there is happenstance/luck/circumstance.  The “purpose” of the series of tornadoes which struck Tennessee on March 2-3 2020 was not to kill the 25 people that they did; the tornadoes were accidents/incidents which occurred due to the particular combination of topography and weather patterns which spawn any tornado.

That execrable “There are no accidents in the universe” statement to the contrary, you’ve always seemed to moiself  to be intelligent, curious, and kind. Thoughtful person that you seem to be, have you neglected to take under consideration the logical conclusions of such there-are-no-accidents beliefs?

Dude: the denial of accident/chance/luck/circumstance is Blaming The Victim 101.

What about that woman who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was attacked by a serial rapist? What purpose did it serve; what part did she play in it, or what lesson did she need to know – after all, if there truly are no accidents then everything happens “on purpose;” i.e., for a reason.

And the historical and ongoing oppression of people of color? You spoke briefly of experiencing racism in your life, but you also mentioned something indicating that you believe in “karma,” so then, there’s no accident there. You were born into an oppressed minority, through no choosing of your own…or….?  Did you, do you and other people who have experienced discrimination, somehow have something to do with it?  That’s what the philosophy of karma would say: that subconsciously or otherwise people choose their fates.  [3]   And since there are no accidents and everything has a purpose, what greater purpose (for those enslaved) did the enslavement of millions of people serve?

I’ve written about this before (most extensively, here) , and likely will again, as the “everything happens for a reason” horseshit philosophy is blithely held and repeated by too many otherwise non-rational well-meaning people.

 

Thank you for your attention. We now return to our regular programming.

 

*   *   *

Department Of a Memory Seemingly Apropos Of Nothing…

But it’s always *something,*   [4]  isn’t it?

Whatever the prompt (or whatever Levar Burton might say is its “purpose”), I am grateful to recall the incident.

Dateline: 7-24-2015. The memory is from the day when a friend and I made some hastily scrawled protest signs and did an impromptu picketing of the anti-choice protesters who themselves were picketing outside of Portland’s Lovejoy Surgicenter.

Our adventures were recounted more extensively by moiself  in this blog post; the specific remembrance I’m referring to was when my friend and I entered the clinic after the protestors had left, and chatted with a few members of the (all-female) clinic staff. This blurb still deserves the title I gave it six years ago:

Department of Possibly The Best Answer to a Question, Ever

We stayed until the Antis left, then entered the clinic. The Ladies of Lovejoy got quite the kick out of our signs and expressed their gratitude for our support. We chatted with them for several minutes, trading protester stories and shop talk.   [5]

As per the latter, one of the clinicians mentioned that the clinic had expanded services to include male healthcare, and that she “really enjoys” doing vasectomies.  I, of course, had to ask her why she found vasectomies so enjoyable.  After working with women’s health all day, she said,
“It’s a nice change of scenery.”

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day
Vasectomy Edition

What do a Christmas tree and a vasectomy have in common?
The balls are only ornamental.

What do you call an artist who had a vasectomy?
Seriously, does anyone know?  I’m drawing a blank here.

Is there much difference between a man who’s had a vasectomy and a man who hasn’t?
Yes, there’s a vas deference.

Most men can take having a sore arm or leg.
But a vasectomy? That’s a whole different ball game.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you enjoy the human drama of athletic competition ®;
May you understand and accept the reality of luck and circumstance;
May you always appreciate a change of scenery;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

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

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

[3] The karmic premises of cause and effect: “each action  (as well as a person’s thoughts and words) a person takes will affect him or her at some time in the future,” and “like causes produce like effects”

[4] Even if you don’t recognize the trigger at the time.

[5] A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I worked in women’s reproductive health care, both in a public clinic setting (Planned  Parenthood) and in a private OB/GYN practice.

 

The Town Ordinance I’m Not Violating

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Department Of the Peeviest of Pet Peeves,;
Aka, Most Unhelpful Phone Message Ever

“The person at extension 4-0-0 is on the phone.”

That’s it. Followed by dead silence.

Gee, that’s…uh…great to know.  The person at extension 4-0-0 is on the phone; I’m so happy for them.

No person’s name; no options to remain on the line, or return to the main menu, or to leave a message…no indication if the clinic is still “on the line”….

In order to protect the privacy of this business with the significantly inferior telephone answering/routing system, I’ll call them The Rinehart Clinic.  Because that’s their name. (Oops.   [1]    )

The ten-plus phone calls I made to the clinic were regarding a message left on my cell phone Monday morning, in which The Person at Extension 4-0-0- ®  asked me to call the clinic to “verify some information regarding your insurance.”   [2] .  As is the case with many businesses, when you call the number they leave on their message to you, there is no actual person with whom to speak.

 

“And If I cannot assist you, another White Man in A Blue Suit will be with you shortly.”

 

First, you must navigate through the answering messages (starting with, “Press 1 on your keyboard for English and 2 for Spanish…”) and go through the various options.  No problem with that; moiself  does it all the time…except that this time (these ten plus times I called over the next two days) I am left hanging with a “huh?” after I go through all of their menu options,  none of which is the “for all other questions/options, press zero (and or stay on the line) and a person will assist you.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of All of #45’s “Die Hard Supporters” Deserve This Surname

A woman (“a die-hard supporter of former President D_____ J. _____”   [3]  ) living in a New Jersey Town has been ordered by a local judge to take down three of the ten anti-Biden signs she has put up outside her home, after she refused requests from the town mayor and code-enforcement officer to do so.  Neighbors complained that three of the signs use the f-word and/or other obscenities, in violation of the town’s anti-obscenity ordinance. 

” ‘There are alternative methods for the defendant to express her pleasure or displeasure with certain political figures in the United States,’ (a local judge) said in his ruling… noting the proximity of (the house) to a school.
The use of vulgarity, he continued, ‘exposes elementary-age children to that word, every day, as they pass by the residence.’…
‘Freedom of speech is not simply an absolute right,’ he added, noting later that ‘the case is not a case about politics. It is a case, pure and simple, about language.’ “

( “She Hates Biden. Some of Her Neighbors Hate the Way She Shows It.”
NY Times 7-20-21 )

The die-hard woman’s name?  Andrea Dick.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Age Of Aquarius…Not

For many years, when people asked for and/or estimated  my age   [4]    they underestimated it. Most times by a decade or more.

Moiself  thinks this is because I had my children relatively later in life.  [5]  Thus, I was older than most of my kids’ peers’ parents…and, if you hang in that group, everyone curves you down. That, plus basic immaturity and wearing Chuck Taylor Hightops as my formal footwear of choice got most people to shave ten years off my actual age.  [6]

 

Guess what shoes moiself wore to her wedding?

 

Just in case y’all think I’m bragging:  that underestimation of my age?  Doesn’t happen anymore.

I haven’t thought about that for a long time.  Then, earlier this week, moiself  was listening to the most recent Clear + Vivid podcast (“Paul Rudd: In The Moment With Antman”), and heard an exchange between host and guest which made me guffaw aloud, startling the woman who was across the street from me, walking her German Shepherd (neither the woman nor her dog noticed my earbuds; they just saw me as someone who seemingly made snorting laugh sounds, apropos of nothing).

What caught my attention was at the end of the podcast, where host Alan Alda asked his guest, actor Paul Rudd, several questions that have some connection with the topic of communication.  The question of note was, “What is the strangest question anyone has ever asked you?”

Rudd:
“I have one question that I never really know how to answer…in that people always want to know, they say, “You don’t age – what to do you do…”
like they want to know, uh,  my skin care routine, or what is it?  They don’t think I am aging as quickly as I should.…
I never know what to say…it’s nice…I go, ‘Thank you,’ but I always struggle with that one.”

Alda:
“I have a funny version of that.  I seemed to have looked younger to people, for a long time, than I really was. And when I was sixty, people would say, ‘How old are you?’ and I’d say, ‘I’m sixty,’ and they’d say, “Oh, no, no, c’mon…” and now they say, ‘How old are you?’ and I say, ‘I’m eighty-five,’  and they say, ‘Uh huh.’
There’s an age everybody reaches where it’s, ‘Uh huh.’ “

Rudd:
“I know what you mean…I’m starting to get that – they ask, I say, ‘I’m fifty-two,’
and it’s, ‘Okay; yeah, that makes sense.’ “

 

*   *   *

Dateline: Thursday morning, returning from a walk.  I see a small metallic object on the sidewalk, glistening in the morning sunlight. I stride past it, then turn around and take its picture, when I realize that it appears to be the basket from a deep fat fryer.

What is it doing there, alone, on the sidewalk, no other cullinary implements in sight? Obviously, this is proof of extra-terrestrial visitation.  What other rational explanation could there be, other than an alien life form left a tracking device, cleverly disguised as an innocuous, commonly seen, fast food appliance part?

But seriously,  ladies and germs… if moiself  were to apply some classic deductive reasoning here, what is the context of this seemingly random item?

* I saw it on the sidewalk, between the light rail stop parking lot and the Washington County Fairgrounds complexes.
* the sidewalk was about 500 yards away from where the Washington County Fair will be held, starting today.

You may have had the misfortune occasion to visit a county fair once or twice in your life, and in doing so it is likely you noticed how such events are infested with “food” booths that serve almost anything deep-fried, from corndogs to pickles to ice cream to Oreos to green tomatoes to macaroni-and-cheese…. Thus, it is possible that a food booth vendor or employee took the light rail (or drove there and parked their car in the light rail lot   [7]  ) and was on their way to the Fairground, toting some of the equipment for their food booth, and one smaller component – the fryer basket in question – fell out of their arms, or box, or bag…

Now, how could they drop such an object, without noticing? The basket was metal; it would have made a clattering sound when it hit the sidewalk. A possible explanation is that the Fryer Basket Dropper, ®  ala 90% of the people I see each day, was walking with headphones or earbuds in their ears, listening to music (or a podcast!) or whatever, which effectively made that clattering sound just another a bit of background noise. And the basket wasn’t heavy enough to make the person notice its absence, as in, “Hey, my load has suddenly gotten really light – I all I must’ve dropped something…”

 

 

On the other hand, the ET object story is much more fun.

When trying to account for something which you find surprising, it is often more entertaining to take the religious point of view: don’t even question that which you do not understand, or for which you have no logical explanation.  Instead, embrace it as one of the great Mysteries Of Life  ® .

 

Perhaps a shrine to it will be erected soon. And is that an image of the Virgin Mary I see in the basket’s corner?

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Old(er) Age Edition   [8]

 

 

What does a Sith Lord use to immobilize his enemies in their old age,
instead of killing them?
Darth Ritis.

An eight-year-old weasel walks into a bar.
The bartender says, “You’re under-aged; I can’t serve you any alcohol.
But I have bottled water, energy drinks, and pop.”
“Pop!” goes the weasel.

As I get older and remember all the people I’ve lost along the way, I think to myself,
“Maybe a career as a tour guide wasn’t for me.”

 

Husband: “You tell me several men had proposed marriage to you?”
Wife: “‘Yes, several.”
Husband: “Well, I wish you’d have married the first fool who proposed.”
Wife: “I did.”

*   *   *

May you practice your freedom of political expression without being a Dick;
May you enjoy the ages of “Uh-huh” and “Okay; that makes sense;”
May you provide a really good explanation for a random object sighting;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Is that a violation of health care business HIPA?

[2] I received my COVID-19 vaccinations at a site run by the Rinehart Clinic; my only contact with them, so it must be re those visits.

[3] As long-time readers of This Blog ® know, that festering turd of an excuse for DNA shall not be dignified here by usage of his full, faux-human name.

[4] And 99% of the times people asked that question, the information was not relevant and my kneejerk, if unspoken, reaction was, “And you want to know this because….?”

[5] I birthed son K when I was 36 and daughter Belle when I was 39.

[6] And fifteen points off of your estimated IQ.

[7] Which they are not supposed to do, ahem, as the lot is for commuters only, not Fairground parking.

[8] How come I rarely insert footnotes in this section of the blog?

The Obscene Election Signs I’m Not Posting

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Department Of Marital Bliss, Lowered Expectations Division

Earlier in the week I read a New York Times article about a crime that has scandalized Iran: an elderly couple was arrested for drugging, suffocating, stabbing, then dismembering three people.  The couple expressed no remorse, even though the murder victims were their son and their daughter and her husband.

“I have no guilty conscience for any of the murders,” (the husband) said in a TV interview from detention. “I killed people who were very morally corrupt.”

“We decided together, the two of us,” (the wife said)….My husband suggested it and I agreed. I have a great relationship with my husband. He doesn’t beat me or curse at me.”

( “They Were the Nice, Older Couple Next Door. Then the First Body Turned Up,”
NY Times 7-5-21 )

As bizarre/disturbing as the murders are,  [1]  that is not what lingered in my mind after reading this story.  Rather, I was drawn to the WTF?!?!? criteria of the wife’s “great relationship” with her husband.

Moiself  may be slogging into the “cultural differences” swamp, so grap your hip waders.  The thing is, this is not the first time I’ve come across such an anemic description of the qualities of a good husband.  Many is the time I have read a quote, from a woman living in a highly conservative/patriarchal and (often, but not exclusively) Islamic society, as to what a good husband is.  And most of the time, it is a list of “non-negatives.”    [2]

My husband and I have a good relationship because he DOESN’T
* beat me
* curse at me
* force me to have sex
* pull out chunks of my hair if he sees it peeking from behind my head scarf
*forbid me from leaving the house without a male escort
* burn my books and prevent me from obtaining an education
* steal my food
* lock me outside in the cold because he said I made lumpy hummus
* siphon from our children’s sons’ college fund to pay his sports gambling debts

 

“Before my husband murders our adult children, he tells me about it. We have a good relationship.”

 

*   *   *

Department of Back To School Daze

“Ultimately life is disease, death and oblivion.
It’s still better than high school.”
( Dan Savage )

Dateline: last Sunday. MH was out of town; son K came to dinner.  Moiself cannot remember the exact prompt or context for the story K shared with me (and neither can he; I checked), but it was about a play on words he’d recently heard, which he thought was clever and funny, but which someone else said was insulting. K and I talked about the “that’s funny – no, that’s insulting” controversy which sometimes arises when a person takes words or sounds from different languages (or even your “own” language) and uses the sounds to form puns and/or humorous words.  “Remember the Car Talk credits list – their Russian chauffer?” K asked.  How could I forget? That show was one of our family faves.  K and I began sharing “the best” titles and names that we could remember, from the show’s infamous credits list.

Engineersscientist/car repair enthusiasts Tommy and Ray Magliozzi (aka “Click and Clack – the Tappett brothers”) hosted the NPR show Car Talk from 1977 – 2012. They ended each broadcast by reading select entries from their ever-expanding list of recently acquired staff,   [3]  a mere sample of which follows:

– Accounts Payable Administrator                                          Imelda Czechs
– Accounts Receivable Supervisor, Mumbai Office               Vishnu Payup
– Bad Joke Interpreter                                                             Nadia Geddit
– Book Critic                                                                           Odessa Paige Turner
– Child Transportation Specialist                                            Minnie Van Driver
– Coordinator, 12-Step Recovery Program                             Cody Pendant
– Director of Gender Studies                                                  Amanda B. Reckondwyth
– Director of Japanese Cooling Systems                                 Emperor Overhito
– Director of Pavlovian Research                                            Isabelle Ringing
– Elvis Impersonator                                                               Amal Shookup
– French Dogwalker                                                                Poupon Degrasse
– Gastroenterologist                                                                Cameron Diaz
– Gum Surgeon                                                                        Perry O’ Dontal
– Head of Working Mother Support Group                            Erasmus B. Dragon
– Latin American Bullfighting Specialist                                Gordon Diaz
– Liaison to the British Isles                                                    Isaiah Oldchap
– Marine Biologist                                                                   Frieda Wales
– Plumber’s Crack Apologist                                                   Lucy Lastik
– President, Disgruntled Hatchback Owners Club                  Ivana Trunk
– Restroom Attendants                                                           Trudy Door & Donna Hall
– Russian chauffer                                                                   Pikov Andropoff
– Staff Meteorologist from the Seattle Office                        Wayne Goaway
– Swedish Attorney                                                                 Bjorn Liar
– Teenage Valet                                                                      Lao Tse Parker
– Tom’s Personal Matchmaker                                                Robin D’Craydell
– Undergarment Inspector                                                       I.C. London
– Visually Impaired Parking Lot Attendant                           Dale Neverknow
– Wine Taster from the Abu Dhabi Office                             Hassen Ben Sober
– Women’s Hockey Team Manager                                        Miss Inga Tooth

 

 

K brought up his favorite incident involving phonetic names mashup/entendres: the notorious “pilot name scandal” which arose after the crash of a Korean Jetliner.  In July 2013 Asiana flight 214 crashed on its final approach to San Francisco International Airport. Later that day, while reporting on the incident, a San Francisco TV news anchor was pranked by her staff, which led to her reading, with a straight face, straight from the teleprompter…    [4]  I’ll let the Wikipedia entry of the incident take it from here:

San Francisco television station KTVU fell victim to a prank which led news anchor Tori Campbell to report the names of the (flight 214) pilots as “Captain Sum Ting Wong,” “Wi Tu Lo,” “Ho Lee Fuk,” and “Bang Ding Ow” in the immediate aftermath of the crash. Viewers quickly realized that these “names” were in fact phonetic double entendres for “something’s wrong,” “we’re too low,” “holy fuck,” and the sounds of a crash. The prank was described as racist and unprofessional, and led to the firing of three veteran KTVU producers.  While the source of these joke names remains unclear, the NTSB admitted in a statement that one of its summer interns had confirmed the erroneous names when they were stated by the news station.

 

 

Moiself , after I recovered from a severe case of ROTFLMAO when I watched the video of the prank newscast, was offended by those who were offended.  Now, *of course* a plane crash is no laughing matter, but that wasn’t the point of the prank.  See the above Car Talk credits list. The pilots’ names stunt was unprofessional…and, c’mon, admit it, fucking hilarious…but racist?  As in, per the adjective form of the overused pejorative,

“based on racial intolerance” or
“discriminatory especially on the basis of race or religion”

 

 

The pilot-name-joke used the phenomenon of phonetic double entendres to imagine the conversation among the pilots as they realized their landing was going wrong; the joke was not disparaging of nor discriminatory against Korean airplanes, Korean pilots, or Korean people.  I’ve little doubt that, had it been an American or French plane which had crashed at a Korean airport, some Korean smartass could’ve fashion a similar joke, using phonetic double entendres, from the English or French languages – names or phrases which would mean nothing to French or English speakers (and which we wouldn’t even recognize) but which would be hilarious to people fluent in Korean.

The pilot joke names were no more “racist” against Koreans than the Car Talk guy’s faux staff credit names were racist against Russians (“Russian chauffer, Pikov Andropoff”) or the French (“French Dogwalker, Poupon Degrasse”) or Indians (“Accounts Receivable Supervisor Mumbai Office, Vishnu Payup”) or Japanese (“Director of Japanese Cooling Systems, Emperor Overhito”) or Latinos (“Latin American Bullfighting Specialist, Gordon Diaz “) or Scandinavians (“Swedish Attorney, Bjorn Liar”) or Arabs (“Wine Taster from the Abu Dhabi Office, Hassen Ben Sober”), or members of the UK (“Liaison to the British Isles, Isaiah Oldchap”)….

If you don’t get understand why, or if you think you need to convince people who aren’t offended by this prank that they *should* be, please stop reading this blog, right now.

It was a classic, brazen, guerilla humor stunt; I hoped that the fired KTVU staff took their dismissal with equanimity – surely, they understood the risk they were taking.  (I also hoped that they later found jobs as comedy writers for late night TV.)

K and I had fun re-living (and re-laughing at) our favorite Car Talk credits names…

 

 

…and I was struck by a memory of an incident which, although primal, was one I hadn’t thought of in years.  I prefaced the sharing of this incident by telling K about a time, when I was in high school, when the phonetic double entendre thing was all the rage amongst a certain group of friends. We’d trade off fictious book titles and their authors’ names, ala,

“Under the Grandstand”
By Seymour Butz

“One Hundred Yards To The Finish Line”
By Willie Makeit
Illustrated by Betty Wont

Yuk yuk. Yes, that passed for rapier-like wit in the tenth grade (and apparently also to K, who periodically shook his head and snickered, “Seymour Butz,” for the remainder of the evening).  Then I asked him, “Did I ever tell you about what happened to me in high school, when the use of phonetic double entendres proved…troublesome?”  K said no.  Thus, what follows, my longest blog post to date, is kinda/sorta his fault.   [5]

Dateline: Moiself’s senior year, SAHS (Santa Ana High School); ~five-six weeks before graduation.

 

 

It was election time for next year’s SAHS student government officers.  Moiself, my sophomore buddy, SG, and fellow senior DB, while eating our lunch in the Student Activities Office, lamented the election posters we’d seen posted – we were aghast at how BOOORRRRIIIINNG the signs were.  No creativity or originality; most didn’t even give a reason why you should vote for this person for this particular office.

We decide to remedy the situation. Within minutes we’d designed election signs of our own, with fictitious candidate names for actual student body offices.  SG and I were the main text composers; SG and DB, due to their superior artistic skills, did most of the graphics.  The signs can be found at the end of this blog, before the footnotes. 

We printed out several copies of each sign.  And by printed out I mean mimeographed, boys and girls, because there were no photocopiers in public schools at that time.

 

 

All three of us were involved in a variety of student activities, including being teacher’s assistants.  That, plus SG’s being a photographer for the school yearbook, DB’s being a cheerleader and former student body officer, and moiself  holding various student government offices for three years straight, had given us familiarity with and access to the mimeograph machine located in the teacher’s lounge.  Not one teacher batted an eye when SG and I entered the lounge, removed a stencil from the mimeograph machine (teachers were always leaving/forgetting to remove their stencils – a detail crucial to this story, later on), and ran our sign copies.

We taped the signs on our and our friends’ lockers and on a few of the halls around campus, next to or underneath the other (“real”) election signs.  Constrained by the 8 ½ ” x 11″ paper capacity of the mimeograph machine, our signs were smaller and in black and white, unlike the larger, colorful (if boring) signs and banners put up by legit candidates. Thus, we weren’t expecting many people to even notice them (other than our friends and fellow student body officers, whom we planned on alerting to the prank).  The lunch period ended, and we returned to our respective classrooms.

Our school had six classroom periods per day.  Fifth period for me was Journalism (I wrote for the school newspaper). I left the class early on to run an errand for Mr. Clucas, the class teacher and school newspaper advisor.   [6]   The errand took a mere 5 minutes;  when I returned to class Mr. Clucas told me that I’d just missed a school security guard (!!!), who had come to class, looking for me.  The guard told Clucas that one of the school’s Vice Principals, “LM,” wanted to see me in the Student Activities’ office.  It seems a teacher had alerted LM to “…something about ‘illegal election signs,’ ” Clucas said, his eyebrows raised in an And what are you up to now? manner.  I grabbed a textbook I’d brought to class and, with Mr. Clucas’ blessing, left to go find and warn my fellow “illegal sign” cohorts.

 

 

I found SG in his advanced Spanish class – where español only was spoken.  In my very unadvanced español I managed to convey to La Señora (the class teacher) that I needed to speak with Señor SG in private. As SG and I stood in the hallway outside SG’s class, exchanging what is going on?!?! speculations, a security guard approached us, and asked for our names.  I can’t remember the exact name I gave – Al Capone, or some other gangster.  SG immediately, brilliantly, gave another fugitive-from-justice moniker: Patty Hearst.  After waiting an appropriate comic beat, I flashed the guard my best, oh-aren’t-we-silly smile. I told him my real name, said that I understood he’d been looking for me, and that SG and I were going to get our other friend who was involved “in this” and then we’d all go to the activities office.

SG and I turned toward the doorway which led outside, to where DB’s cheerleading class met.  The guard said he was going to take us to the Activities Office, “right now.” He grabbed my arm and pulled me toward him; “You’re not going anywhere,” he said.

I yanked my arm from his grasp, flung my textbook to the ground, turned to face the wall, and assumed the classic perp spread: palms on the wall, legs apart, prepared for a pat-down.  SG tried his best not to giggle at the guard’s obvious embarrassment/confusion at my reaction, as I called out, “You gonna search me for weapons?”

 

“Book ‘er, Danno.”

 

The guard made no further attempt to touch either moiself or SG as he escorted us to the Activities Office, where we were joined by DB. The kangaroo court “meeting” consisted of five people: The Gang Of Three (“TGOT”: SG, moiself , DB), Vice Principal LM, and the Student Activities Director, “MTT.”

What followed was…confusing…infuriating… and saddening.  We, TGOT, were in big trouble, the adults told us (LM did most of the talking).  LM held up a handful of our election signs.  How dare we put up fake, obscene, off-color, and racist election signs/? How dare we mock students running for office….

Wait a minute, TGOT protested, in indignation and legitimate confusion.  Our signs (we were not told how TM figured out they were “ours”) mocked no actual person.  And, “obscene,” “off-color,” “racist”? We made no obscene or racist signs – what signs are you talking about?

LM flipped through the signs he held, and pulled out the allegedly “racist” sign:  “Vote for a true worker: Manuel Labor, Commissioner of Publicity.”  TGOT’s reaction:

 

 

The pun on the name Manuel makes it racist? SG, who was Jewish, pointed to the Ben Dover for ASB President sign, noting that Ben, short for Benjamin, is a Jewish name.  Using the name Manuel as a phonetic pun was no more racist than using Ben was anti-Semitic, SG declared.

Seeing as he was going to get no admission of malintent from us, LM moved on to the “obscene/off-color” sign.  “Told ya,” I cracked at SG, when LM held up the sign for the Student Relations  (“Want to relate? Well then vote for E.Z.!  E.Z. Lay for Comissioner of Student Relations!“)  (That was the one sign that I’d thought, if any adult paid any attention, might be considered a little iffy…but it was so silly; who would take it seriously? It was SG’s idea and he had drawn it).

I looked straight into LM’s beady, petty eyes and haughtily informed him, in (what I hoped was) my best journalistic, I-have-a-larger-vocabulary-than-you, you-power-mad-ignorant-bureaucrat tone of voice, that the text of the sign employed juvenile sexual innuendo, not obscenity, and I proceeded to wonder aloud how any supposed adult did not understand the difference.

The meeting went even further downhill from there (surprise!). It became obvious that LM was determined to find malice where there was none, and that TGOT were getting no support from MTT…and why was MTT even there?  What hurt us most was the lack of support from MTT, the Activities Director.  MTT said he was being blamed “for this”…. As it turned out, there were other things going on, things between MTT and the administration, which we were not privy to.

MTT was in some kind of trouble with someone higher up; there were also other “issues” involving both the Vice Principal and the Activities Office.  SAHS was facing external, staff, and parental pressures, including changing demographics  [7]  and the growing presence of gangs in Santa Ana schools. The administration faced accusations from Chicano-identified  [8]  students and their adult supporters, accusations of, as LM put it, “Mexicans get picked on and Whites get away with everything.”  LM began to give examples, such as students getting in trouble for writing or painting gang symbols and signals on their lockers, “…but here are the three of you, putting up “illegal’ election signs and thinking you can get away with it….”

LM was comparing violent gang symbols with bad puns? 

 

TGOT exchanged knowing looks.  We were being sacrificed on the altar of a term we couldn’t have used at the time because it didn’t yet exist. LM (who happened to be SAHS’s first Latino Vice Principal) had essentially clued us in as to what was going on:  he felt it politically expedient to make examples of us, as in, we gotta get some white kids, for something.

TTM, alluding to the trouble he was in, told us that “when word got out” the “heat” would fall on him for our antics.  I noticed his usage of the future tense – “when” and “would”…and I wondered what was going on.  Did anyone else in the administration, other than LM and MTT (and the teacher who reported the signs  [9]  ) know about this?  My response to MTT was tersely unsympathetic: “Well, you know what they say – if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.”

I immediately regretted my response, and to this day, I cringe to think of it.  I’d lashed out in anger, but also, mostly, in pain.  Of all the adults in the school, I’d thought MTT would have stuck up for us.  The Activities Director was the advisor of the Student Government; SG, DB and I had all known and worked with MTT for years and were quite fond of him, and he of us.  Earlier in the year, another student government officer and I used the Activities Office PA system –  which we had permission to use for announcing pep rallies, school dances and fundaisers, etc. –  for a prank.  Over the PA, which was broadcast in every classroom, we announced, “Attention, all students and teachers: There is a change in today’s school schedule.  Please note that the fifth period bell will ring at ten minutes to two, instead of at 1:50.”  We did this at noon, and when MTT heard the announcement, he thought it was so funny that *he* got on the PA an hour later, and reread the announcement.  He received one objection, from a flustered teacher who harumphed about why he hadn’t been informed earlier as to the change in his class’s schedule.    [10]

Back to the meeting, which was going to the proverbial nowhere:  LM informed TGOT that the security guard would escort us as we removed every sign we’d posted, then we were to return to our respective homes immediately. Our parents were being contacted by telephone, and we would find out later this evening the consequences of our actions, which could likely result in multi-day suspensions for each of us, and possible marks on/withholding of our school transcripts (a vague threat to DB and I, who had already been accepted to our respective colleges).

 

 

When I got home my mother was awaiting me, all aflutter in concern and confusion.  She’d been telephoned by a secretary from the school office, who told her I’d gotten in trouble for…I can’t remember her exact description.  My mother told me that when the secretary told her that “Robyn and two other students had been involved in an incident with school staff members,” and that the Vice Principal would be calling later that evening to explain things, her first thought was, “Oh, no – did Robyn punch a teacher?”

That revelation led to her hearing a well-deserved, Moooootttthhhhhher – how could you even think that?!?! from me.  But then, the kicker, which made my mother realize that something funny was going on: Mom said that when she asked the secretary for details re the “incident,” the secretary lowered her voice to a whisper, barely suppressed a giggle, and said, “Well, actually, some people might think is’s kind of funny….”

DB’s and SG’s mothers had also received phone calls.  DB’s mother, after speaking with DB about what had happened, went on the proverbial warpath. She made calls of her own to the school, speaking first with LM and finally reaching the Principal.  After the initial, late afternoon phone calls, each of TGOT’s households received calls later that evening, but not from the Vice Principal, as had been promised. Our parents were contacted by an assistant to the Principal, who told them that SG, DB and I should return to school as usual the next day, and that after school we would all meet in the Principal’s office, with the Principal, LM, TMM, and any of our parents who wanted to attend.

 

You might want to take a bathroom break; there’s still more to come.

 

The Day After: Meet “The Butt Out” Gang

The Summary

What SG, DB and I suspected turned out to be true.  LM had overreacted, had gotten MTT involved, and attempted to turn a molehill prank into a mountain. He’d threatened draconian disciplinary action against three students who had spotless disciplinary records (and each of us members of/involved in the school’s gifted program/Honor Roll, sports/arts/activities/student government) *without* running any of it by the Principal.

The Gory Details ®

At 4 pm SG, DB, moiself, and my friend RR – whom I’d brought along and introduced as “my attorney” –  sat down across a rectangular table from LM and MTT.  Principal “JW” sat at the head of the table.  None of the TGOT parental units were there. After DB’s mother had contacted the principal, gotten the situation “straightened out,” and then phoned SG’s and my parents, our folks didn’t think their presence was necessary.

 

” Hairstyles change, and skirt lengths, and slang, but high school administrations? Never.”
( Stephen King )

Principal JW informed TGOT – to the obvious discomfort of LM and MTT – that there would be no suspensions or other disciplinary actions taken against us.  However, we students did need to understand the seriousness of “the concerns” re our actions:

(1) “Some people” felt our signs had mocked student government and student activities, and thus by extension, students involved in such;

(2) the sensitive nature (“obscene/off-color”; “racist”) of some of our signs;

(3) the administration’s main concern: our unauthorized use of school property (the mimeograph) for personal purposes when that machine was strictly for “school business only.”

RR, like any good advocate, brought a yellow legal notepad with her, and wrote down the concerns as they were listed by the Principal. TGOT referred to her list as we proceeded to dismiss and/or refute address each of the stated excuses for adult hysteria concerns.

(1) You’ve got to be fucking kidding (we did not phrase it thusly).  Hello; look at us?!  We, each of us, have been involved in student government and activities for the entirety of our high school years. Whom would we be mocking – ourselves?  Not only have we not disparaged student government, we’ve encouraged others to run for office.  Holy post-Watergate lack of cynicism  – Robyn (as my “attorney” noted), as voted in by her peers, is the Senior Class Vice President!

And, by the way, who exactly, allegedly, expressed “concerns” about the signs?  Why couldn’t we face our accusers?   (We never received names of anyone who was offended by the signs. Since we’d had to take down all the signs the previous day, after our meeting with LM and MTT, they’d only been posted for a couple of hours, and few people had actually seen them).

(2) The two signs in question (“Manual” and “E.Z.”) were neither “obscene,” “off-color” nor “racist.” Other than admitting to mild/harmless vulgarity on the E Z. sign, we did not concede to those pejoratives.  We were certain that, had students had the opportunity to actually see the signs, they would have found them at least mildly amusing (if they paid any attention to them at all). And if our respective parents – all politically and socially conservative, and all of whom had been informed of the content of the signs –  [11]  had not been shocked or even bothered by them, what was the administration’s problem?

C’mon– “obscene” signs? The “E.Z.” sign is mild compared to the sexual innuendo contained in the cheers which the school-sanctioned pep squad *leads* the audience – students, and parents alike – in reciting during football and basketball games:

Get it  up/put it in/do it, do it !

Grab a piece – Grab a piece…(of yardage; of yardage!)

It’s all sniggering, adolescent, nudge-nudge-wink-wink. Why make a big deal out of it?

 

Nothing we chant is off-color if we shake our pompoms and smile.

 

(3) Interesting, that this “main concern” had not been mentioned, by either LM or MTT, when they read us the riot act the previous day.  I thought – but did not say aloud – that it had been added last minute, by either the Principal or LM, so that they’d have at least one accusation that stood a chance of sticking.  The other two charges were subjective, and slowly evaporating, fading away due to their inherent flaccidity (there I go again, with the juvenile innuendo).

TGOT admitted we’d used school equipment to make copies of the signs, and we were prepared to reimburse the school for the cost of paper and mimeo printer fluid. I removed a five-dollar bill from my jeans pocket, at which point Principal JW told me to “Butt out,” even though we (TGOT) were the ones speaking, and hadn’t interrupted any adults in the room.  SG came to my rescue, and posed a question to the principal: if the main issue of concern was the use of the school mimeograph for personal, as in, non-school/academic matters, did that also apply to the teaching staff?  And if not, why?

The three adults/administrators exchanged wary looks, and SG and I began to share our stories,   [12]   of having both first and second-hand knowledge of teachers using the mimeograph not only to run off copies of their math and grammar tests, but to print party invitations, baby announcements, and other personal papers.  One student we knew had been sent by his teacher to use the mimeograph to make a class vocabulary list. Before the student could do so he had to remove the stencil left by a previous user of the machine – a paper which appeared to be a teacher’s annual family Christmas letter.

SG gave two more examples; I related one of the many examples I was prepared to cite.  Earlier in the year I’d been given flyers to mimeo (from TMM) and post around campus, for a student activity.  When I went to the teacher’s lounge to use the mimeograph I had to remove a stencil the previous user had left in the machine – a stencil of an invitation to a housewarming party given by a teacher (I’d recognized the teacher’s name).  “We could give you more examples,” I said, “but we’ve made our point, that…”

LM interrupted me, which gave my “attorney” the moment she’d been waiting for:  she actually said, “Objection! My client is testifying.”   [13]

I rephrased SG’s query/statement: since item (3) is supposedly the administration’s “main concern,” what are the consequences for teachers – these adults and authority figures, who supposedly set the examples for students – who violate the school’s policy against using school equipment for personal use?

 

Hard to believe, but my question was not well-received. Principal JW once again told me to “Butt out.”  (And for the brief remainder of the school year, SG, DB and I referred to ourselves as, The Butt Out Gang.)

Principle JW addressed TGOT, restating the “concerns” she’d hoped we’d taken to heart. She then looked pointedly at me and said, “You’re not going to write about this, are you?”

Although it was a question, JW’s tone and facial expression said, “You’d better *not* write about this in that #!$? smartass column of yours.”  Which of course, made me want to…if only for a moment.

It was the butt (out?) end of the school year. The school newspaper was published every two weeks, with one issue slated in the coming days, which left only two or three issues to go, and I’d already given the outlines for my columns to the editorial page editor.  I knew Mr. Clucas would have granted me the editorial freedom he’d insisted upon all year – not only for my op-ed column (which was titled, “Parnal Knowledge”  [14] ) but for other articles I’d written. It’s likely he would have given me space in the news section or in another part of the editorial page, had I requested it, to write about the election signs incident.  But I was sick of it all: sick of Those People ® in particular and the petty machinations of high school in general.  I’d been accepted to my first-choice university; mentally and emotionally, I had nothing left for SAHS – I was outta there.  The last thing I wanted to do was to waste my time and creative energy dignifying the Obscene Election Sign Non-Scandal by writing about it.

 

 

The meeting was concluded in less than 45 minutes, with no admissions of guilt from TGOT, little input from LM and MTT, and no apologies from anyone.  JW’s closing remarks were that the election sign incident had been “overdramatized by everyone,” and things would return to normal if we’d all let it, forget it, and move on.

We three accused did not gloat, but could barely suppress our righteous indignation. Overdramatized, by everyone?

It was clear to us that JW had called the meeting to do damage control.  She was shrewd enough to realize that her VEEP and Activities Director had overreacted (read: lost their shit) over a minor prank, but she would not undermine their authority by declaring so in front of students.  She tried to help her administrative staff save face; JW was in damage control mode – in large part (I’d bet) due to her having been contacted by two parents (DB’s and SG’s mothers  [15] ) who raised holy hell and threatened to go public (i.e., to the school board and The Register, the local, editorially libertarian rag newspaper which was anti-public schools) if LM’s threats against TGOT were enacted.

 

Of course, that’s not *all.*  But hasn’t this been enough?

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day
Marital Bliss (“We have a great relationship”) Edition

Two antennas got married. The wedding was a bit disappointing,
but the reception was great.

My husband tells me I’m a skeptic,
But I don’t believe a word he says.

Two melons tried to get married in Las Vegas, but they didn’t have the right documents.
It’s a shame they cantaloupe.

My husband is my favorite aquatic mammal.
That’s right – he’s my significant otter.

 

“I otter punch your lights out for that one.”

 

*   *   *

May you look back with equanimity upon the petty pains
(and pleasures) of high school;
May you have a truly “great relationship” with your spouse;
May you listen to rebroadcasts of Car Talk, if only to hear the credits;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

THE SIGNS

Sit down, fix yourself a stiff drink, and be prepared to clutch your pearls in horror at the foul content to be found within.

(time and mimeograph fluid has taken its toll on the original stencils)

 

*   *   *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(“Can she do the
job?….
Shirley U. Jest” )

 

*   *   *

Finally, the footnotes

[1] The couple are undergoing psychiatric evaluations, officials told Iranian media.

[2] From which you can derive her likely point of reference, as in, “Oh, crap, this is the norm she sees, all around her, so comparatively, she things ‘great’ equals not getting beaten.”

[3] Their tag line for the credits list:  “It takes this many people to produce such a lousy show? Who knew!”

[4] KTVU’s Managing Editor said she thought the names sounded suspicious but approved the list, as she was told that an official at the NTSB confirmed their authenticity.  The NTSB “official” turned out to be  a summer intern at the news station.  The station fired several staffers but spared the newscaster.

[5] Or his credit, depending on your POV.

[6] I have written previously in this space about the late great Theodore “Teddy” Clucas,  a much-adored (and tolerant!) teacher, journalism mentor and 1st amendment advocate – for many students, including moiself.

[7] by the time I graduated the majority of the SAHS student body was Hispanic-surnamed.

[8] That was a term used by some – not all — Latino cultural activists at the time, as a political signifier.

[9] We never did find out who alerted the vice Principal, other that it was “an adult staff member.”

[10] Sadly, this was not an isolated incident, in terms of the great academic minds of SAHS demonstrating that they were…sometimes not paying attention, shall we say (and we just did).

[11] We’d each taken copies home, to show our parents. I held on to the original stencils, and have them to this day.

[12] DB did little talking during this meeting.  Apparently, her mother reading the riot act to the Principal the previous evening was enough for her.

[13] I think that got under LM’s skin more than anything.

[14] Speaking of innuendo…yeah, I know. But, guess who gave me that nickname, and suggested it be the title of my column?  Twas the highly respected, squeaky clean, universally liked and respected, daughter of a school board member and winner of our school’s highest honor (“The Coterian Award”), the Editor-in-chief of the newspaper.

[15] Other than the phone calls they received from the school, I asked my parents to stay out of it.  I did not, however, tell them to “butt out.”

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