As delighted as moiself was to see that Captain Kirk ( William Shatner ) finally  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.
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 ®?
Moiselfcan 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, 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  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. 
While listening to The Last Timemoiself 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.”
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  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. 
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. 
* * *
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.
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).
 Not quite daily. I’ve other meditation apps which also have timers, guided sessions, ambient music….
 Is that too dated of an analogy? Maybe I should use, “GPS”?
 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.
 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).
Sometimes it’s just easier to give them their own glass.
* * *
Department Of Profound Reflection After Being A Surgery Buddy 
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:
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?
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)  …. 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. 
Peshais a dear friend’s family slang for, “wet fart.” 
* * *
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 crosswordpuzzle) MH starts singing, “Blood on the Saddle,”a song from Disneyland’s Country Bear Jamboree show. With a heh-heh-hehtone 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  (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. 
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; 
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 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….
 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).
 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.
 ” 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.
 I think this is this blog’s longest “May you…” ever. Gee. Thanks for the opportunity, TexASS.
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. 
Also, the athletes know full well what they will be tested for. My advice to them  is, don’t act surprised and/or disappointed if you used a banned substance and then get caught. Take responsibility. Don’t play dumb when you’re not.
* * *
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 areaccidents, 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.  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…
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. 
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!
* * *
 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.
 Which they clamor for, night and day…it gets soooooo annoying.
 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”
 Even if you don’t recognize the trigger at the time.
 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.
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 TheRinehart Clinic. Because that’s their name. (Oops.  )
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.”  . 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. _____”  ) 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  they underestimated it. Most times by a decade or more.
Moiself thinks this is because I had my children relatively later in life.  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. 
Guess what shoes moiselfwore 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  ) 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?
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!
* * *
 Is that a violation of health care business HIPA?
 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.
 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.
 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….?”
 I birthed son K when I was 36 and daughter Belle when I was 39.
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,  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.” 
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. Moiselfcannot 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, 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…  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. 
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.  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 moiselfor 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 sosilly; 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  and the growing presence of gangs in Santa Ana schools. The administration faced accusations from Chicano-identified  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  ) 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. 
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
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 –  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,  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.” 
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” ) 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  ) 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!
* * *
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
 The couple are undergoing psychiatric evaluations, officials told Iranian media.
 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.”
 Their tag line for the credits list: “It takes this many people to produce such a lousy show? Who knew!”
 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.
 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.
 by the time I graduated the majority of the SAHS student body was Hispanic-surnamed.
 That was a term used by some – not all — Latino cultural activists at the time, as a political signifier.
 We never did find out who alerted the vice Principal, other that it was “an adult staff member.”
 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).
 We’d each taken copies home, to show our parents. I held on to the original stencils, and have them to this day.
 DB did little talking during this meeting. Apparently, her mother reading the riot act to the Principal the previous evening was enough for her.
 I think that got under LM’s skin more than anything.
 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.
 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.”
Department Of Food For Thought, And For The Planet Sub-Department Of It’s Just Too Damn Big A Problem For One Person…
…which is what keeps most of us, moiself included, from taking definitive actions regarding global warming/climate change. The problem is so big, so overwhelming, it’s easy to think we’ve gone too far already and nothing can save us so why drag out the inevitable – let’s all switch to coal-burning cars and get it over with….
However, “most of us,” as individuals, adds up to most of the planet, and if “most of us” made a concerted effort to change certain deleterious habits and adopt a more climate-friendly lifestyle, we could do the equivalent of sticking our fingers in the hole in the dike while our world leaders figure out a global energy strategy. 
The following excerpts are from the recent Curiosity Daily podcast: “The Climate Diet: 50 Simple Ways To Trim Your Carbon Footprint.”
The Climate Diet author Paul Greenberg: “A very simple one would be to switch from beef to chicken. A lot of your listeners are thinking, ‘Oh, no, we have to go vegan…’ but it turns out actually that if we could get the real solid meat eaters to not necessarily go for the bean burger but go to chicken they would cut their (contribution to carbon) emissions per pound by 75%….
That is pretty big and pretty significant, so if you’re going to start with anything, why not start with that?
CD Host: You also mentioned less cheese – what about that?
PG: “…when I was in college everybody loved this cookbook called The Moosewood Cookbook – it was the vegetarian cookbook that everybody embraced, but man, is there a lot of cheese in there! Is it turns out that cheese is actually worse from an emissions standpoint than chicken…. If you’re choosing your diet based on (carbon) emissions, eating vegetarian with a lot of cheese is really not the best choice – actually chicken or even fish is even better…. I don’t want to de-emphasize veganism – veganism is absolutely the best way to go if you want to be your very best, but if you can’t get there, then moving away from beef and cheese is a good start.
So let’s just put it in perspective: a vegan diet, it just blows doors off of everything: …a lentil, you’re talking about 0.9 kilos of carbon emissions per kilo of food; chicken is between 6 or 6, but beef is up at 27.”
* * *
Department Of There’s Always Something
“…Fetterman called for universal health care, marijuana legalization, and a much higher minimum wage well before it was popular. Now…Fetterman wants to convince his fellow Democrats that their party’s future depends less on fighting over fracking and more on embracing legal weed and embracing their populist roots. “This idea [of climate change] that every climate scientist in the world agrees [on] — we need to run on that,” he says. “We also can’t tell a bunch of workers, ‘Go work at Duolingo.’ That’s not fair. We still need to be a manufacturing powerhouse, too.”
…I actually don’t use marijuana. But I think you should be able to, or any adult should be able to, legally, safely, taxed, and not label them a criminal. We need to expunge all criminal convictions. If there is anybody serving jail time for a marijuana conviction, get them out immediately.
…You want to heal this country? Let’s start by acknowledging some universal truths. Health care is a basic human need and right. You can’t fucking live off $7.25 an hour.…Why are we imprisoning people in the failed war on drugs? These are things that transcend politics.
Run on the truth, and that’s what I’ll do. Run on the truth. And if you win, great. If you lose, great. But I will always run on the truth.”
( excerpts from “Big John Fetterman Can Save the Democratic Party —
if the Democrats Let Him,” Rolling Stone, 11-12-20 )
Recently on our family message group, son K alerted us (MH, his sister Belle, and moiself ) to the above article. John Fetterman is running for the Senate in what will be a key or battleground state; K thought we might want to send some support ($$) his way, as Fetterman seems to be ‘right on” on many issues we consider common sense. This led to a fun and thoughtful family IM-discussion, some of which is excerpted here.
I had heard of John Fetterman; the RS article was a better introduction than the vague, “I-think-he’s-this-guy” ideas I’d had, and I checked out his website as well. I liked most of what he said and was impressed with his background story.  I did send a donation…but there was something that gave me pause.
About the pause: Enter and-what-else-is-new? territory: No candidate is every going to be perfect, or check off on all your favorite issues.  I fully realize that, and strive not make the perfect the enemy of the good.
The RS reporter said that Fetterman has “…been out ahead on…issues that have since come into vogue: a higher minimum wage, marijuana legalization, same-sex marriage…” and Fetterman commented,
“I’ve never had to evolve on one of my positions on that because I’ve always said what I believe is true.”
“You’ll always know where I stand. I haven’t had to evolve on the issues, because I ‘ve always said what I believe is true and I’ve been championing the same core principles for the last 20 years.”
As my bumper sticker so eloquently and succinctly puts it:
The sticker pokes fun at the creationists’ anti-evolution/science, but I’ll apply it to politics as well. My opinions have evolved over time, as they should have, and as they will continue to do. The reasons moiself holds the opinions I do is because I try to engage with the facts, and update my viewpoints as thewhat-we-know-about-this-issue changes. No issues, no opinions, are – or should be, IMHO – static; it is unlikely that Fetterman or any candidate has been or will be on the right side of history when it comes to *every* issue. Our country – our world – needs political servants who understand that, and who have the self-awareness and strength of character to change their minds when necessary.
You can also admire someone for “spine,” which can be evident in, as K pointed out, their willingness not to compromise on “insane [ political]  demands.”
K: “I’ll take uncompromising but passionate at this point since we have too many lackluster moderate democrats who don’t do shit.”
MH: “I hope he’s willing to evolve his position even if it is one I currently agree with.”
Belle: “I appreciate the intent behind the statement, but I agree that I’d want a representative who is willing to change their views and isn’t ashamed of it or tries to hide it.”
Actor/dancer/choreographer Cheryl Gates McFadden is best known for playing Dr. Beverly Crusher on Star Trek: TNG. Her podcast is “…a series of conversations featuring close friends and former co-stars reminiscing on careers, personal life and more.”
Yesterday I listened to “more” – part II of McFadden’s interview with actor, dancer and fellow Star Trek alum, Nana Visitor, who played Major Kira Nerys on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  At the end of the podcast, McFadden and Visitor were sharing stories about their family members. The theme of the sudden realization that children – as well as adults – can have, wherein a familiar sight or regular activity suddenly, inexplicably, seems confounding or amazing (e.g., re brushing your teeth: “What am I doing? I am putting a stick in my mouth and moving it up and down and around my jaw and teeth – why do people do this, and who invented it?“) was fertile ground for McFadden’s “shower story.”
“When my son was three…we have a very open, big bathroom…and we have an open shower. I’m in the kitchen, and he runs in and says, ‘Mommy mommy, c’mere, c’mere, c’mere – mommy, mommy, come come come!‘ And we’re running, and he runs me right up to the shower, where his father is taking a shower. And he points to his…(father’s penis)…and he says, HAVE YOU SEEN THAT ?!?!’
And I said, ‘Yes, I have.’ “
* * *
Punz For The Day Global Warming Edition
Where did scientists get the idea that the ice caps are melting? They just thawed it up.
Global warming will kill every single person on this planet. It’s a good thing I’m married.
Did you know global warming is reducing terrorism? The ISIS melting.
What is it called when vermiforms take over the world? Global Worming.
* * *
May your positions on “the issues” be always evolving; May you compose your own virtue-signaling yard sign; May you hear stories (or see yard signs) that remind you why life is worth living; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Yes, there is a buttload of optimism in that last part.
 And not just because of all the legumes you’ll be eating! Sorry, but I’ve been suppressing fart jokes, with all the talk about diet and emissions, for a couple of paragraphs now, and I just need to let ’em rip….
 Three cheers for anyone running for office who is *not* a lawyer!
 And if you find one that does, you’d better look again, because it’s likely either you – or the candidate – are missing something.
 Be forewarned: if you listen to part one of the interview – and I think you should – it contains the story of Visitor’s near death experience (she was kidnapped and raped by two men, who followed her when she drove home after a late night on the ST:DS9 set and discussed with each other what to do with her body [they’d planned on killing her] after the attack). She suffered from trauma-induced PTSD for years afterward; her recovery plus her ongoing work in and advocacy for mental health issues is an amazing story of courage and resilience.
Because…yeah. I don’t know about you, but moiself would have no qualms trusting the person who extends my eyelashes to tend to my nervous system.
* * *
Department Of Adages Revisited
Sub Department OF Why I Don’t have My Own Marital Counseling Practice
Never go to bed angry.
Translation: Never go to bed when you are angry with your partner, lest a bad feeling hardens into resentment. Resolve the argument before going to bed.
But, that’s not always possible. Sometimes you’re too tired and/or cranky to resolve things diplomatically – that’s why you’re about to “go to bed angry” in the first place. So: go to bed; get some sleep; wake up, have a nice breakfast together…. Maybe, come the morning, whatever caused the argument won’t seem so serious.
Moiself’ssuggested classic advice addendum:
Never go to bed angry.
Oh, okay – go to bed angry if you must, but with someone else.
Actually, I’d say this advice is even crappier:
* * *
Department Of Sometimes The Best Intentions…
I drove past someone’s house recently, and saw a new sign in their front yard. The sign was similar in size, design and “composition” as the Black Lives Matter signs, only with a different message.
The message refers to  stopping the rise in hate crimes against Asian-Americans. However, its phrasing prompted moiself to picture the following scenario: moiself driving past the sign, a well-meaning-but-clueless, elderly relative with me in the car – e.g., my late mother – who reads the sign, then sincerely wonders aloud,
“I don’t understand – what do Asians hate?”
“They all seem so nice….”
* * *
Department Of Cults? – Schmultz! They’re All Cults
“…I remembered Toni Morrison’s statement that ‘the function of freedom is to free someone else.’ Utah wasn’t the Deep South, and we Mormon dissidents were hardly the Underground Railroad. But I did believe that our culture had trapped us, that many Latter-Day Saints lived in mental and social prisons that perpetuated precisely the kind of insanity with which I’d grown up. It wasn’t slavery, but it was a powerful form of bondage: the belief that God had ordained a pattern of secrets and silence, that religious authority always trumped one’s individual sense of right and wrong, that the evidence of the senses must bow to the demands of orthodoxy, no matter how insane. It was a kind of institutionalized madness….” ( “Leaving the Saints: How I lost the Mormons and Found My Faith,” By Martha Beck )
Dateline: circa 5 years ago; Tacoma WA. Son K and a few of his college buddies are sharing stories about their various experiences with Mormons/the LDS religion. K’s friend and housemate SP is from Utah; SP and his family were minorities, as non-Mormons living in Salt Lake City. After listening to the other’s stories about the Mormon beliefs and behaviors that the friends found odd, SP chimes in:
“You all have *no* idea…. Out here, you have Mormon LITE.” 
K shared SP’s remarks over a recent Sunday dinner, with MH and I and friend LAH, after I’d spoken about having just finished Tara Westover’s book, Educated: A Memoir. The book is gripping, disturbing, at times downright horrifying, and ultimately/eventually a wee bit encouraging. I found Westover’s beautiful prose to be an often-jarring contrast to that which the prose presents: the account of her childhood, raised in a family headed by a fanatical, fundamentalist LD, survivalist, paranoid father (a man who was also likely afflicted with bipolar disorder  ). There were inspiring segments of the book which depicted the author’s inexplicably indomitable spirit (where did it come from, given her environment?); still, I had a headache at the end of each reading day – moiself realized I’d been clenching my jaw when reading through passages depicting the physical, emotional, and intellectual neglect and abuse she lived with, and the narrow confines of her world.
Westover yearned to be “educated,” in a world where women and girls were to aspire to nothing more than marriage and motherhood – in a world where she was told that to want an education was sinful and that women and girls must obey men and boys, even to the point of enduring sickening abuse from her psychotic brother. She did manage to extricate herself (physically, if not completely emotionally) from that world, but at great cost to her psyche. Her portrayal of the cost of childhood suffering, of the power that abusers (and those who abet them) wield, is chillingly insightful. Although I highly recommend the book, it also (and literally) gave me nightmares.
MH recommended the book to me a couple of years ago, and I’d listened to the Fresh Air interview with the author (which aired in 2019). I immediately thought of that interview when I read the first paragraph of the “Author’s Note” at the end of Educated:
“This story is not about Mormonism.
Neither is it about any other form of religious belief.
In it there are many types of people, some believers, some not; some kind, some not. The author disputes any correlation, positive or negative, between the two.”
Well, that was…odd. Most such disclaimers are at the beginning of *novels,* or short fiction collections. (“This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.”). It made me somewhat disappointed in FA host Terry Gross’s otherwise excellent interview. Did Gross not read the Author’s Note? If she did, why didn’t she ask Westover about it – was that disclaimer something the publishing company’s lawyers insisted on?
Readers generally understand that, even in non-fiction, individuals and their actions are not meant to represent Everyone and Everything. The “Author’s Note” struck me as being so unnecessary – and also, so fearful, of possible litigation, perhaps…and the author’s personal safety.
As per the latter: The LDS church is not as prone to rabid-dog harassment techniques as Scientology (whose “fair game,” policy re critics stated that “An enemy of Scientology, referred to as a suppressive person (SP), may be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist…may be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.”  ). Still, the LDS church has been known to lawyer-up when they think they have been presented in a bad light (in particular, by those who have managed to leave the church). But their most effective defense has been the spiritual training – read: psychological torture – with which members have been inculcated.
When I read Martha Beck’s memoir Leaving the Saints, I remember a section of the book where Beck wrote about the rituals she and her husband  participated in during their temple wedding (aka, “sealing”  ). Beck was willing to detail charges of sexual abuse against a very powerful LDS icon – her father, Mormon apologist Hugh Nibley – yet stopped short of describing the vows of secrecy (re the temple rituals) she and her husband made “for time and all eternity.” I recall she used almost a joking tone in addressing any readers who might be Mormon enforcers, writing something along the lines of, “Hey guys, I promised not to reveal the exact content, and I didn’t, okay? So please don’t disembowel me.”
There was an implicit seriousnessy behind her joshing: fear. She’d written this supposed tell-all book, yet she still was afraid to tell all.
I’d known about the vows Mormons take in temple rituals (in which they acknowledge the penalties they might face for revealing such secrets), but “known about” as in, I only knew that such vows existed – their content remained a mystery. Even Ex-Mos who had openly renounced everything else LDS seemed uniformly silent on the matter. Then, along came Richard Packham, founder of The Exmormon Foundation.
During the 2012 Presidential election Packham was troubled by the fact that vast majority of American voters – the vast majority of *anyone* outside of Mormonism – had no knowledge of the secret oaths Romney had taken as a faithful Mormon. Packham wondered aloud (as, in an article he wrote for businessinsider.com ):
“The question for American voters is: Knowing that Romney has taken this secret oath,  and that he is a faithful Mormon, do you want him to answer the question, ‘Would you feel bound by your sacred oath to obey the law of consecration that you made in the endowment ceremony and use the power of the presidency to benefit the Mormon church?’ “
Packham noted that “In all the extensive media coverage of Mitt Romney, much of it discussing his religion, not a word have I seen about the secrets of Mormonism, the secrets of Romney’s life-long beliefs and practices.”
Growing up as a Mormon close in age to Mitt Romney, Packham was, like Romney, “initiated into those same secrets.” Unlike Romney, Packham left Mormonism and decided to talk and write about it, including describing LDS secrets such as the endowment ritual  and other rituals, wherein Mormons are instructed in the “signs” and “tokens” of the Mormon priesthood, are given special “names” (or “passwords”), and must make an oath to never reveal these, outside the temple.
“…when Romney and I first went through this ceremony, we were taught that each of the first three signs and tokens also had a ‘penalty’ associated with each one, and we had to mime various ways of taking life to represent the penalty to us if we were to reveal the secret signs and tokens: slitting one’s own throat, ripping open one’s chest, disemboweling oneself. Yes, folks, this was part of the most sacred ritual in Mormonism: pantomiming your own bloody death.
So Mitt Romney, and all other righteous Mormons, can be confident that they know the secret passwords and secret handshakes to get into heaven. Do you see why Romney and his church are reluctant for ‘unworthy’ people (the rest of us, including Mrs. Romney’s parents) to know about this?
As Deborah Laake  put it in her autobiographical book, “Secret Ceremonies”:
“The actions that were going to guarantee my entrance at the gates [of heaven] would have nothing to do with love or charity or the other teachings of Christ that I’d been raised to believe God valued. In fact, I hadn’t heard a single one of those words spoken today, the most primary day of religious instruction in my entire life. No, I was going to burst into heaven on the basis of mumbo-jumbo. … The mysteries of life were fraternity rituals. … Did all the white-suited glorifiers in the room unquestioningly accept a ritual of nutty gestures from the pseudo-occult as a sacrament? Those were the first moments when I viewed Mormonism with suspicion.”
Or, as summarized by a Mormon missionary: ‘If we told investigators [prospective converts to Mormonism] about that, they wouldn’t join, because it’s too weird!’ “
Lest you think I pick on the LDS too much  back to the dinner table discussion: when moiself described Westover’s book to K and LAH as the author’s story of growing up in a Mormon fundamentalist cult, MH offered his opinion, that “It was more of a cult of that father.” We all then spoke of the fundy cults/offshoots of Mormonism with which we were famililar, offshoots which, like all so-called cults, serve to make the mainstream or parent religion – in this case, Mormonism – look “better,” in a way, especially to non-believers.
Most religious believers deride (and even loathe and/or fear) people in “cults,” but don’t realize they are in one themselves. Mainstream Christians laugh at the gullibility of Mormons who can believe that a god gave a revelation to Joseph Smith through golden tablets (which Smith translated via a magic stone he placed in his hat), but believe their god gave one of their prophets a revelation through stone tablets. They sneer at snake-handling faith healers who babble nonsense (aka, speak in tongues) and believe in prophecy, even as they themselves pray for people to be healed and hurricanes to be halted, and talk about an apocalyptic End Times.
When does a cult become a religion?
* When it is granted a tax-free status by the Government. * When it progresses from killing its members to killing non-members.
All religions begin as cults. Christianity began as one of several competing messianic sects and became a religion when Paul and his followers began proselytizing outside Judea. Cults fade away when those who knew the founder die. Who remembers the Ranters, the Sandemanians or the Muggletonians now? (excerpts from “Notes and queries,” ethical conundrums, theguardian.com )
What is a religion, but a cult with more money and real estate, and better lawyers and PR? All religions began as cults – as offshoots of a mainstream religion. Once they achieve mainstream status, established religions benefit from the existence of cults, in that they can point religion skeptics toward the cult’s beliefs and practices and say, “At least we’re not like that.”
* * *
Department of Explanations
Dateline: Tuesday am, morning walk. Moiself is listening to the season 13 trailer for the Clear + Vivid podcast, in which host Alan Alda and the C+V producer preview the new season. One preview plays excerpts from Alda’s interview with theoretical physicist and author Michio Kaku, whose latest book is The God Equation: the quest for the theory of everything. Alda describes Kaku as “one of our culture’s leading communicators… about one of the most tantalizing and hard to understand questions ever raised: ‘Is there a theory of everything?’ – is there some formula that explains pretty much every phenomenon of the universe?” And what would the effects of such a theory mean to you and me?
“The immediate, practical implication of finding the theory of everything is…nothing. It’s not going to effect you or me, I’ll be very blunt with you. However, it will answer some of the deepest philosophical, religious questions of all time….” (excerpt of C+V interview with Michio Kaku) 
I gotta wonder: should I save Dr. Kaku and his peers some time and energy, by submitting to them *my* concept? In a mere four words, my Theory Of Everything ® :
“Yep; there it is.”
* * *
Punz For The Day Theoretical Physics Edition
Q: Why should you go out wining and dining with neutrons? A: Wherever they go, there’s no charge.
A husband walks in on his wife, who is a string theorist, in bed with another man. She shouts, “I can explain everything!”
May you come up with your own Theory of Everything; May you be grateful toward those who encouraged you to be educated; May you realize that nobody, under any circumstances, ever needs to have their eyelashes extended; …and may the hijinks ensue.
 A diagnosis he would have rejected in favor of some explanation involving evil spirits and/or devils.
 “6 insane ways the Church of Scientology has tried to silence its critics,” salon 3-15-15
 Who is now also ex-Mormon, as well as her ex-husband.
 Mormons have two kinds of weddings: Temple weddings, and non-temple. Not all Mormons “qualify” for a temple wedding, even if they desire one. “If you don’t know much about Mormon weddings, there’s a good reason for it. The Mormons don’t want you to find out. Temple marriages are top-secret affairs — absolutely no non-Mormons are allowed to see these hidden events. Even some practicing Mormons, who aren’t deemed worthy of a ‘temple recommend,’ will be asked to wait outside. This can be downright heartbreaking for LDS couples with friends and family outside the faith, who find themselves without their loved ones by their side on their big day. (excerpt from “Mormon weddings “)
My sister’s (non-religious) freshman college roommate was aggressively courted by a senior boy who was a Mormon. When they married, she asked my sister to be her maid of honor. My sister, after months of warily watching her roommate being wooed, did not approve of the relationship, but wanted to support her roommate, and agreed. My sister, after buying and then of course wearing the dress, had to stand outside the temple – along with the bride’s parents (who paid for the wedding and the reception)! – during the ceremony, because they were not Mormons.
 Several oaths, actually, but the one Packham refers, “The Law of Consecration,” involves, if Romney won the election, thanking God for blessing him with the presidency and, as per that oath, promising to use that blessing for the benefit of the Mormon church.
 “a ritual reenactment of the creation, Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, mortal experience, and the return to God’s presence. At each stage of this progression, participants make covenants in the name of Jesus Christ.” (So What Happens in an LDS Temple? The Salt Lake Tribune. )
 Deborah Laake was a journalist and editor, raised and married in the LDS church, and was excommunicated by the church “…for apostasy because of her criticisms and also for her ‘detailed revelation of top-secret Mormon temple ceremonies’ ” shortly after the publication of her book, Secret Ceremonies, “a candid and critical account of her experiences growing up and marrying as a member of the LDS church.” ( Wikipedia entry for Laake. )
 Due to the book I read, LDS it was the primary topic, but longtime readers of this blog know I am a skeptic and debunker of all religions.
Department Of Quarantine Reflections Sub-Department of The Neurobiology Of Love
“Neuroscientists have studied madly-in-love folks, putting them in the fMRI machine…. The parts of the brain that ‘light up’ while looking at the lover are the same brain areas activated by cocaine—the reward centers. These researchers concluded that love is like a drug.
… The chemicals of early love: testosterone (the hormone fueling the sex drive in both men and women), dopamine (focusing on ‘that special someone’), and oxytocin (the bonding hormone/neurotransmitter)….in early love, the critical part of the brain goes quiet…
Crazy in love is a temporary state; the brain can’t stand the intensity forever. At some point the critical parts of the brain come back online, and we see our partners, warts and all. The jazzed-up chemicals settle down, and our drug high gives way to a calmer brain state. Romantic love, researchers find, yields to a tamer version, called companionate love….
Many couples are deeply disappointed when their romance fades into a more sedate version. They crave the high of early love, dopamine and all. Some have affairs, or divorce and remarry, seeking another hit of the drug. But eventually the new relationship will become old….
‘I still love my wife, but I’ve fallen out of love with her,’ a man said to me recently. He’s missing the hit of the drug, and is thinking of looking elsewhere for that love high again. To my mind, ‘falling out of love’ sounds so passive—like falling into a pothole! I propose a more proactive view of long-term love, in which both partners work to create a great relationship. Once the initial glow wears off, the real work of loving begins. The stakes are high; while happy relationships are associated with health and longevity, the stress of an unhappy marriage can result in illness and earlier death.”
“Frankly my dear, after the dopamine dips, I won’t give a damn.”
“That warm, fuzzy feeling…called limerence…refers to the intense, involuntary attraction we feel during the first stages of a romantic relationship. Limerence is often characterized by intrusive thoughts (we can’t stop thinking about someone) and a need for reciprocation (we can’t stand the thought of being rejected by someone).
Limerence has a biological basis. When we are first attracted to someone, our brains release chemicals like norepinephrine and dopamine, which make our hearts flutter and make us feel happy.
The feeling of limerence can last for weeks or decades, although most people start to feel its decline within a year or two of starting a romantic relationship. As we form a lasting romantic bond, dopamine and norepinephrine stop flowing. They’re replaced by hormones associated with social bonding, like oxytocin.”
“It’s just limerence, darling. We’ll live through it.”
Although more and more people are becoming vaccinated, the health care, social, psychological, and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will linger for some time. Perhaps it’s too early to be in “look back” mode, but since I have been fully vaccinated, moiself’s mind tends to go there. “There” includes bits of wisdom I attempted to impart to my offspring – when they were still in the nest, and then reminders  after they’d left – about the good which can come from hard times, including:
* realizing the value of resilience
* discovering, on more than a theoretical level, that you are (or can learn to be) more resilient and adaptable than you may have previously thought.
In the past year+ I have been reading about how people got on each other’s nerves during the pandemic. Fortunately, there were also stories about how some lucky folks found new things to admire in their partners and family members. A particularly pleasant side effect of the pandemic for moiself has been the reminder,
Oh yeah, I married the right guy. (Right for *me,* that is).
MH has simply been…easy to be with. I hope he found moiself as agreeable (or at least as tolerable) as I found him.
I don’t want to make light of what has been a trying time for all families, and very difficult for some. I also realize that, in this stage of our lives…well, things might have been way different if our offspring were not successfully fledged but were instead school age/living at home and we had to juggle both childcare and education responsibilities, and if our economic situation had been precarious and/or not amenable to working from home.
As fun (and also overwhelming) as the passion of the early times of a relationship can be, I have always and strongly believed that romantic love is overemphasized by our culture, and that relationships which prioritize that “romance” side of love above all else are doomed to fail, as the partners conflate the ebbing of romantic feelings with diminishment of the relationship. As per the research quoted in the above excerpts, romantic love by its very nature has a shelf life, determined in part by the sheer newness of getting to know someone as well as by the biological realities  which produce those over-hyped romantic emotions.
Although the following Life Advice ® of mine is unlikely to inspire cinematic tales of inspirational star-crossed lovers, it is, IMHO, essential:
Marry someone whose essential qualities and temperament make you think, “This is someone I could stand to be quarantined with.”
To put it in terms of my own ongoing realization:
“More important than ‘being in love’ with this person
is the fact that I *like* him.”
How could I not love a man who lets me take a picture of him with his hair in a “granny knot” (courtesy of daughter Belle’s styling skills)?
* * *
Department Of Back In The Saddle
Those who know me, and/or who have been reading this blog since before the pandemic, know that I am a fan of seeing movies in a movie theatre. While I am grateful for the many streaming services that kept us all entertained during the times of social/physical isolation, I am now Making Up For Lost Time. ® In the past five days moiself has seen three movies, in a movie theatre:
* A Quiet Place Part II
* Dream Horse
Abby the Emotional Support Avocado gives two thumbs up to each. 
* * *
Department Of Things Unlikely To Happen In My Lifetime
As part of my coming-out-of-pandemic mindset, I still like to think of such things, even if they are unlikely to happen. “Things” as in, solving the world’s pressing problems. “Things” along the lines of, what would happen If I Ran The World ® ? And by ‘running the world’ I do not mean moiself would be doing so as a queen or any kind of monarchist, ’cause y’all know how I feel about that.
Rather, If I Ran The World ® things would be like this:
* All nations would agree upon a “Marshall Plan” (or series of plans), to stop the damage we are doing to our home planet and for cleaning up the messes we’ve already made. Those coming up with workable solutions would be compensated (and celebrated) to the highest financial and “celebrity” degree.  Instead of being hailed for designing an app for more convenient shopping or food delivery or online gaming, the creative young (and older) engineering, artistic and scientific minds would be encouraged to pool resources and take up the various challenges (“Ok, our group will solve ground water storage and pollution; yours will do topsoil rejuvenation…”).
Components of this plan include coming up with solutions for
– renewable/sustainable non-polluting energy sources
– cleaning/filtering pollutants from our land skies and seas
– halting and reversing global warming
For example, in this if-I-ran-the-worldscenario in no one would be using or manufacturing plastics anymore, but what about the bazillion tons of plastic refuse that already exist? Somewhere out there is an idealistic student, in the suburbs of Portland or the streets of New Delhi, who is eager to put her brilliant but unappreciated mind to work inventing or discovering a bacteria or other organism that eats plastics and excretes something useful – or at least non-toxic – in return (read: that doesn’t turn into the sci-fi movie bogeyman which is going to take revenge on us all).
Unless of course, the organism turns out to be the inspiration for a classic monster movie, ala “The Blob.” Then I say, bring it on!
* National boundaries as such would become an anachronism; nations and governments would be organized according to Bioregions. 
* Daylight savings or standard time – we’d pick one of those for our clocks to be set to, year-round, and we’d adjust our work and school schedules accordingly.  The choice would be in agreement with what medical science tell us is optimal for the human mind and body.
* High Schools would eliminate the teaching of trigonometry and/or Algebra 2, and a mandatory math class for all students would be statistics and data analysis (aka Data Science). 
Religious believers may still cling to their creation mythologies and other dogmas: practitioners of the three major Abrahamic religions ( Christians and Jews and Muslims ) will be free to believe that the earth as it currently exists was created in six days 6000 years ago by their god, which then fashioned a man from dust/clay and a woman from a man’s rib; Hindus may believe in their various origins mythos, including that Brahma created the cosmos from a lotus flower which grew from Lord Vishnu’s navel with Brahma sitting on it, or that life in the universe came from the cracking of an enormous egg; Wiccans can hold that “the Goddess” birthed a race of spirits that filled the world and became humans, animals, plants, and all living beings; Scientologists may assure one another that Tom Cruise is the heir to Xenu’s galactic confederacy ….
Religious believers will be free to practice their beliefs as long as their doing so does not negatively impact their neighbors. For example, in the privacy of their own homes and churches, Christians will still be able to appease their deities through reenacting their Jesus-as-the-ultimate-animal-sacrifice ritual via the symbolic cannibalism of communion. However, there will be no governmental respecting of any religion’s theology, nor integration of such in public policy. Religious believers will still be able to vote however they please but will not be able to influence other people’s healthcare options, nor demand that public education incorporate their folklore about the origins of the cosmos as if those myths held equal weight to the geologic, biologic, and astronomical evidence.
* * *
Punz For The Day Cinephile Edition
French movie fanatics want to open a floating cinema in Paris, with drive-in boats! I just think that’s in Seine.
Have you seen the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie? It’s rated aRRRRRRRRRRRRR.
Why did Bruce Willis try to commit suicide with an overdose of Viagra? He wanted to Die Hard.
What is the internal temperature of a Tauntaun? Lukewarm.
* * *
May you appreciate those people you could stand to be quarantined with; May you make plans *right now* to go to the movie theater; May you start your own “If I Ran The World” list; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 “Reminders” sounds better than unsolicited life advice.
 Those romance hormones, like opiates and other “highs,” lose their potency as we develop tolerances to them.
 Well…Abby was a bit generous with Cruella, which needed at least 30 minutes of edits.
 Although I’d like to think the minds capable of solving our problems would not care about fame, it only seems fair that they’d be celebrated – and rewarded for their contribution to humanity – more than, say, the actor with the most Academy Awards or the basketball player with the highest field goal percentage.
 A bioregion is an ecologically and geographically defined area. Bioregionalism, as a governing philosophy, advocates that political, cultural, and economic systems to be organized around bioregions (which are defined through environmental features such as watershed boundaries, soil and topographical characteristics), rather than via the arbitrary and often unjust national boundaries established over the centuries via wars, immigration and expansionist policies, and desire for land acquisition and resource exploitation.
 Once every month or so, in order to maximize our productive times with the times of the most daylight, we would adjust our schedules to start or end an hour earlier or later, and such changes would be implemented with a week’s warning time: “Remember, next week/in six days School/work class begins at 9 AM not 10 AM.” We don’t change our clocks; we change our schedules. 9 AM is still 9 AM.
 The reality is that few of us will go on to use trigonometry, but all of us need to know how to sort out the overwhelming amount of data to which we are subjected in our daily lives, and how to determine what are valid stats verses what is being used to manipulate us (i.e., make us afraid).
Yesterday marked the second week after my second (Moderna) COVID vaccination. I feel…not quite invincible, but superb, nonetheless.
* * *
Dept Of Shame On The Shamers
I have a…how shall I describe it?…not, love-hate, but more, mostly like/sometimes WTF relationship with certain podcasts. The obsequiousness with which podcast hosts and their guests begin their show ranges from mildly annoying to barely tolerable. No matter the subject, from arts and entertainment to politics and science and comedy, it’s as if the podcast hosts and/or producers all received the same Podcast Handbook which decreed that each show must start with a mutual gushing session.
“I *love* your work!” “Oh, and *I* love *your* work!”
This week, on standup comic/actor Tig Notaro’s Don’t Ask Tig podcast (one of my regular, mostly like/sometimes WTF listens), her guest was “outspoken journalist/author/activist” Jane Velez-Mitchell. As soon as Velez-Mitchell described herself as a “fellow lesbian/sober/vegan,” moiselfgirded my aural loins for some particularly self-righteous gushing between Notaro and her guest.. After it subsided, I thought they would get on to the supposed raison d’etre for the show – reading listener’s letters.  It should have come as no surprise to moiselfthat their mutual dietary sanctimony took center stage, prompted by Notaro, who asked V-M when she became “plant-based.”
V-M told story of the “advice” she personally received from, Howard Lyman, the “Mad Cowboy” rancher-turned vegetarian-then-vegan. Background info: Lyman got his 15 minutes of fame in 1996 on The Oprah Winfrey show, when the former rancher’s comments on the practices of the American beef industry caused Oprah to declare on the air that she was done with hamburgers. (Oprah, and Lyman, later got more than their 15 minutes of famous lawsuits from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association).
V-M said she’d met Lyman when she had her own news/opinion/interview show, and she interviewed him. After the interview…
V-M: Lyman and his publicist walked up to my cubicle and said, “We hear you’re a vegetarian.” At that time I was a vegetarian. And I said yes, and they said, “Do you eat dairy?” And I kind of hung my head and because he had just talked about ——– (various horrors of the dairy industry) and I had said ‘yes’ and then he stuck his finger right at my nose and said, ‘Liquid meat!’ and that was the moment I went vegan.”
So. Lyman was able to shame V-M into doing something she probably was headed toward doing anyway. But is that a tactic she would endorse across the board? Subtle hints brazen evidence surfaced in her comments when she and Notaro got to reading letters, the first from a self-described, “time-strapped single mom” who wanted to know how to prepare healthy meals for her nine-year-old son, who recently declared himself vegan “…oh and did I mention that I am also cooking for his ninety- and eighty-eight-year-old grandparents?”
V-M began her advice with,
“But see there’s the inherent carnus bias in the question – that somehow it’s going to take longer to make something that’s vegan, so we always come from that carnistic bias that it’s going to be more expensive, it’s going to take longer …”
Not one complete sentence into her advice and she’s already invented two words: “carnus” and “carnistic.” 
V-M did have some actual advice for the advice-seeker advice re recipes, and getting the child involved re the cooking process, but she had to go further:
“…So, get your child involved in the cooking process, and then you can feed that vegan food to your elderly grandparents so that they live longer, because the best way to ensure longevity is to go plant-based.
So it’s a win-win for everybody; you son is clearly smarter than everybody else in the family….”
The letter writer had said nothing about the grandparents wanting to live longer or that they were seeking a change in *their* dietary habits. Nor had she mentioned her son’s intelligence vis-à-vis that of the other family members. But, because he wants to eat vegan, a vegan evangelist just *knows* that he’s “smarter than everyone else.”
As is the way of vegan proselytizers, V-M took (or made) an opening and ran with it. Reacting to another letter, from a man who wanted to tell his friend that opening a bakery is a terrible idea (the friend is not the best cook and her baked goods are atrocious), here’s how V-M dove in:
“First of all, I hope that if she does create this business that’s it’s a vegan bakery, because you don’t need eggs to make cake, or milk…”
Fellow Vegan Notaro could not suppress herself: “Or milk! You do not need it! You do not need it!”
V-M: “But the bigger thing is, people are on their journey, and it’s very hard for us to steer people on their journey.”
Except of course when it comes to steering them toward vegan land, when it is not hard at all for her to offer unsolicited advice, bordering on shame.
I used the term evangelists and proselytizers, because for hardcore vegans, their philosophy is truly a religion. Notaro and V-M obviously and sincerely believe that their veganism is saving the planet.  There are people who believe – just as passionately as Notaro and V-M believe in the benefits of plant-based nutrition – that all people have an eternal soul, and that a certain god has a plan for that soul, and that nothingis more important than that. How receptive would V-M be toward a conservative Christian who “stuck his finger right at your nose” and told her that being lesbian (even a sober, vegan one) is damning her to hellfire, harming heself and the planet, ad nauseum?
And yes, it’s the fucking same thing.
* * *
Department Of Random Thoughts At The Stop Light
I love my Subaru, and am impressed with Subaru’s’ reputation for quality and reliability. But when it comes time to get a new car I know I will not be going with their latest (and largest) SUV, due to my gut reaction when I became aware of the model’s name.
Dateline: Wednesday afternoon; running errands. Moiself was in my Outback, at a stop light, behind a model of Subaru I’ve never heard of. I looked to the right of the six-star Subaru logo on the car’s trunk to see the model’s name: Ascent. My kneejerk reaction/comment, which moiself uttered aloud to moiself:
“I guess that name must have market-tested better than Buttsmell.”
* * *
Department Of The Downside Of Unmasking
Dateline: last week speaking with an acquaintance who works in the personal services industry.  We talked about nearing the end of social/physical distancing, and about getting – or having – to see people without masks again. Moiself listed a few of the advantages of mask wearing, including the fact that I’d gotten used to running errands without feeling guilty for not having washed my face that morning or having showered in three days (distancing + mask…who’s gonna notice?). Acquaintance laughed heartily, even more so when I added, “No, I’m serious.”
I started to mention the return of something else which *wasn’t* missed by millions of women…then thought better of it, and chided moiself for being so cynical. Turns out, others have been thinking along same lines:
So in less than an hour out of the new CDC mask guidance, I just went outside and pulled mine down. A nearby construction worker immediately told me to “Smile.” I will miss masks for some reasons that are not pandemic-related. (tweet from @ Sarah_boxer, quoted in the article mentioned below).
For M. ___, the pandemic marked the first time in decades she hadn’t felt any pressure to adopt an obsequious, apologetic smile when asking for help at the grocery or the hardware store or the car dealership. For women, “the smile sort of neutralizes you. It implies that you’re more pliable, you’re not going to give them trouble,” she says. With the smile suddenly out of the equation…“it made me go a step further. I decided to not be the type of person who asks for something. Instead I would tell them what I wanted. I would say, ‘I need this.’ ” She plans to keep doing so even when she quits wearing a mask. (“Masks are off — which means men will start telling women to ‘Smile!’ again.” Washington Post, 5-22-21 )
* * *
Department Of Next Time I’m Going To Shout It To The Cosmos
Dateline: a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. Moiself, taking a bus to a job interview….
Oh lawwwdy, those were the days. Out of college, interviewing, no car, dependent upon a sketchy public transportation system. I became convinced that there were signs posted on my forehead and back of my head. These signs, invisible to moiself and normal  bus riders, apparently flashed neon clarion calls to every loud and loony and delusional and horny street person: “Talk to this one – she’ll listen to anything and she lovesunsolicited advice.”
Yet again, I digress.
I was riding the bus, passing the time by reading a magazine article. The bus slowed as it approached my stop; I looked up from my magazine and saw a man seated across the aisle, who was staring at me. I stood up and moved to the front of the bus; Staring Man said, loud enough for the other passengers seated at the front of the bus to hear:
“You’d look prettier if you’d smile.”
I muttered as I exited the bus, “And you’d sound smarter if you’d never open your mouth.”
♫ Ridin’ in the bus down the boulevard And the place was pretty packed, Couldn’t find a seat so I had to stand With the perverts in the back It was smellin’ like a locker room There was junk all over the floor We’re already packed in like sardines But we’re stoppin’ to pick up more, look out
Another one rides the bus, another one rides the bus And another comes on and another comes on Another one rides the bus Hey, he’s gonna sit by YOU, another one rides the bus… ♫
I write and mail two letters every Friday, one to son K and one to daughter Belle. Just because. They don’t get much in the way of snail mail these days (who does?); I thought it would be a nice for them to get something other than advertising flyers, and a fun discipline for moiself, and that it would give them the opportunity to say holy crap, not another one” and reach for the recycling bin lovingly tuck away these personal missives and review them later with fond nostalgia.
Each letter begins with either a haiku or a limerick I have composed, themes varying from personal to political to the weather or a new month/the passage of time…whatever. Usually I personalize the compositions, but last week they both got the same:
A Haiku For Those Counties Who Want To Leave “Liberal” Oregon Begone, ingrates, and
take your tR**p-licking mindset
With you when you go.
You diss Portland, yet
have no qualms about taking
disbursed by the state,
from higher earning/urban
cities, to your schools.
Wave bye-bye, and don’t
let the door hit your Proud Boy
asses when you leave.
That purple prose was inspired by a recent event in Oregon politics: the majority of voters who cast ballots in advisory special elections in seven eastern/southern Oregon counties approved measures for their counties to leave Oregon and join Idaho.
I should turn in my Scout’s current events badge; I had *no idea* that this issue was A Thing ® . My Not Paying Attention ® may be an example of one of the reasons why the people voting to “secede” did so: they think they play second fiddle to urbanized Oregon (i.e., the Portland and Eugene metro areas ), and that urbanites, such as moiself, don’t know (or care) about their concerns. And, in a democracy, that’s kind of true – the “second fiddle” analogy, that is.
The seven counties that voted to leave, Jefferson, Union, Baker, Grant, Lake, Malheur and Sherman, constitute almost 75% of Oregon’s landmass.
BUT – and it’s a big but here –
And also here.
BUT…all that land is meagerly populated, as in, only ~ 114, 000 total residents. The state’s entire population is ~ 4,238,000…so those leaving constitute ~ 3% of the total population. Those seven counties poll and vote “red.” And there is, of course, a conservative advocacy group behind this: ” Citizens for Greater Idaho.”
In all the excitement to thumb their noses at those damn liberals, it is likely that the people who voted to leave have not fully considered several factors in joining “Greater Idaho.” Two prime factors are:
* A good percentage of the jobs in those counties are minimum wage. Translation: those counties who want to leave are essentially agreeing to a pay cut for hourly workers, as the minimum wage in Oregon ($11.25) is a whopping four dollars higher than in Idaho.
* Speaking of higher, weed is illegal in Idaho. Are those disgruntled voters trading Oregon buds for Idaho spuds? Those (wanna-be) seceding Oregon counties have made a lot of money from legal marijuana sales (and, in the opinion of some of us, are obviously heavy users of the stuff themselves, as an Oregonian who would vote to join Idaho must be stoned).
Another reason not to miss those who want to go involves something Oregon’s urbanites have grumbled about for years when they hear criticism from the smaller eastern/southern counties:
Oregon is a state that disproportionately gets tax money from its most economically productive citizens — and regions — and which disproportionately spends its resources in economically struggling communities. (Oregon’s Fiscal Flow)
When it comes to contributing to state coffers and these smaller counties have usually received more, percentage wise, than they give. The much-despised liberal urban areas pay more than their share for the educational and other social services consumed by the smaller/rural areas.
Here is what Citizen’s For Greater Idaho Envision:
Here is moiself’s equally probable pipe dream, of redoing the borders of our entire nation, ever since the re-election of GWB:
Moiself’s personal take on all of this: I’ve no problem with those counties leaving (assuming Idaho is willing to take them). I actually think it would be a good thing, for our country, to see how it turns out. If it is a success (however that would be measured), I hope that California would then consider a split, or four, of its own. 
From what I’m reading, the secession of these seven counties is unlikely to happen, as per the layers of bureaucracy that have to be dealt with. Despite what the citizens of those counties voted for, they are dependent upon the approval of other government bodies: both the Oregon and Idaho state legislatures would have to agree to redefine their respective boundaries and redistrict their legislatures. And then the US Congress has final approval. 
Gee, does this dilemma sound so familiar? The majority voted a certain way; now, the will of the people being thwarted…. Hey y’all in the by-bye Oregon movement, do you now understand why so your fellow Americans want to get rid of the Electoral College?
* * *
Punz For The Day COVID Pundemic Edition
Why do they call it the novel coronavirus? It’s a long story….
Ran out of toilet paper and started using lettuce leaves.
Today was just the tip of the iceberg, tomorrow romaines to be seen.
We had a run on toilet paper in the USA,
but in Germany there was panic-buying of sausage and cheese – the wurst-kase scenario.
The World Health Organization announced that dogs cannot contract COVID-19; thus, dogs previously held in quarantine can be released.
Yep: WHO let the dogs out.
* * *
May you enjoy the new-car smell, no matter what your new car model’s name; May you soon (if you haven’t already) celebrate your vaccine victory day; May you hold the door open for anyone you know who wants to secede to Idaho; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 The podcast is an “advice column” in podcast form, although I wonder how many of the advice seekers are legit, or are just making up letters to get some airtime.
 I’m not sure re the spellings…but does it matter with a made-up terms?
 And as a 99% plant-based eater moiself, I’m in agreement with that idea…but not with how she’s promoting it. And yep, I manage to bake without (dairy) milk and eggs.
 And shame on you for immediately going to Euphemism Land. Think more along the lines of hair salon.
 “normal” as in polite, discreet, keeping their opinions and personal hygiene to themselves.
 It’s ridiculous that the 39+ MILLION Californians have less say in their lives than the 580 THOUSANDWyomingites as per Senate representation. Such incredible power-skewing is not what the framers of the US Constitution envisioned.
 The U.S. Constitution (Article IV, section 3) allows for states to be subdivided if the affected states’ legislatures consent and U.S. Congress approves,
Department Of The Importance Of Looking At The Warning Sign Head-On
Dateline: Wednesday. Moiself is visiting a Tillamook County campground, to purchase day use passes for the county’s parks and boat launches. While waiting at the campground’s registry building I see a bright yellow sign posted to the right of the registry’s service window. As the camp registry clerk prepares my day use passes, I turn my head to look at the sign, which warns campers of coyote sightings in the vicinity. From where I am standing I can only see the sign from an angle. This slight but significant limit to my field of vision means that I miss two key words in the warning. The clerk looks up from her paperwork and eyes me questioningly when I begin laughing. I point to the sign, and say,
“I don’t know about that requirement – from what I understand, most coyotes are very resistant to leash training.” 
* * *
Department Of All We Religion-Free Folks Ask For Is A Little Perspective
MH’s chuckles as he looked at his phone prepped me for the why-haven’t-I-ever-thought-of-that? moment that was to come. I was not disappointed, as he read me a social media rumination from a prominent atheist activist:
Christians claim Jesus “died for their sin” ( whatever that means  ). However, they also claim that he rose from the dead after three days – crucified on a Friday, alive again on Sunday. So, essentially, Jesus gave up a long weekend for their sins.
“Goddammit! Sooner or later, someone was bound to notice….”
* * *
Department Of The Literary Biography I Definitely Won’t Be Reading
“I have a terrible confession to make—I have nothing to say about any of the talented women who write today…. I do not seem able to read them. Indeed I doubt if there will be a really exciting woman writer until the first whore becomes a call girl and tells her tale.” ( Norman Mailer, Advertisements for Myself )
I was introduced to the “Beat Generation Writers,” in junior high and high school, via recommendations from both teachers and several classmates. The Beats (e.g., Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg) influenced the 20th century writers who followed them, practitioners of the aggrieved-male-viewpoint-dominated school of fiction. Exemplars of the latter, who came to prominence in the 1950s and 60s, included Norman Mailer (credited for spawning the creative non-fiction movement, aka, “New Journalism”) , Philip Roth, John Updikead nauseum et al. These were the writers, I was told, who were influential, and “happening.” And, you know, cool. Because they wrote about the anger and angst of contemporary life (read: sex) and weren’t afraid to tackle controversial issues (more sex).
When I first started reading their works, I thought I must be missing something.  Not wanting to be thought uncool, I mostly kept those thoughts to moiself…then I just stopped pretending I was interested. Other than an amusing passage about his father’s constipation that I remember from Portnoy’s Complaint, I loathed Philip Roth, and Mailer as well. Fairly soon after being introduced to their works (after reading one or two novels, essays, short stories from the authors) I stopped reading them altogether.
I loathed the fact that their alleged “hip contemporary” outlook was a thin veil for their raging misogyny. Yes, they could string together some impressive sentences, but…ick. And I didn’t need to know the biographical facts of those writers – for example,  that Mailer had stabbed his wife (# two in a series that would eventually total six wives) – to figure out that their raging hetero-masculinity  hid – or fed – a simmering hatred and fear of women, and of anything they deemed feminine (including homosexuality  ).
I didn’t have the vocabulary to express it at the time, but I knew what those writers’ works reeked of. The Beats and “New Literature” works were presented to me – to the world – with the implication that to be “literary” (read: not a prude) you have to appreciate them. Yet I found little either neither new nor literary in those men’s work. It was the same old, age old sexism, repackaged in more contemporary (i.e., profane and sexual) language.
Those male authors simply and profoundly didn’t like women. To them, women were a class (or perhaps, caste?), and were lower than men on the intellectual, moral, and consequential totem pole of humanity. If you were a female you were in one of two of their thematic camps. You were either their mothers, whom they resented and blamed, or a girl they wanted to fuck (and, later/eventually, resent and blame). If you didn’t fit into either of those categories you had no use to them.
Thus, my appreciation of a recent essay in The Washington Post, about the controversy behind the release of the latest Philip Roth biography (the biography’s author is accused of sexual assault). The following excerpt is from that article, which is titled, “Philip Roth and the sympathetic biographer: This is how misogyny gets cemented in our culture. Roth’s issues with women are well-documented. One of the prime documenters has been accused of rape.” The essay is by Monica Hesse, and can be read in its entirety here.
“I can’t help thinking about how readers and viewers have been repeatedly presented narratives as the factual observations of great minds rather than as the ax-grinding of men whose judgment on gender relations might be questionable.
Roth, who died in 2018, was not so much a male writer as an archaeologist of maleness, excavating his own concepts of what men desired, needed and hated….’There is in him a dark distaste for women,’ book critic Linda Grant wrote. ‘A repugnance that can only be described by the word misogyny.’ In her essay, a review of his 2001 work, “The Dying Animal,” Grant describes a particular passage, in which a cancer-stricken woman uses her last day before a mastectomy to visit her former professor/lover so that he may fondle her chest and say goodbye. Grant notes that every woman she discussed this passage with burst out laughing at the preposterousness of this idea.”
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Department Of And While We’re On The Subject
If women write about their inner lives it is considered “confessional.” When men do the same it is called “literary.” When men write about their lives and feelings, they are said to be writing for and about the human condition, while women doing the same are accused of navel-gazing.
A recent example of this age-old literary hypocrisy can be found in the New York Times article about the writer Kate Baer, aka “The Mommy Poems author.” The article deals in part with the criticism that because much (not all) of Baer’s subject matter involves motherhood, her work is not considered serious enough…at least, to some (envious, in my opinion ) literary critics.
A subject that all of humanity experiences is not universal or relevant or serious enough (to the entrenched bastion of male-lens literary criticism) to write about? Almost half of the human race will be mothers, at some point in our lives, and *all * of us, no matter our class, nationality, religion, ethnicity, political viewpoints, or gender, have mothers. But how dare a poet write about it – and, even worse, be successful (my emphases)!
“Since the pandemic, the 35-year-old mother of four (Kate Baer) has been working from the Panera parking lot, sitting in her Honda minivan with her laptop propped against the steering wheel, attempting to catch a Wi-Fi signal….
It was there that she wrote “What Kind of Woman,” a poetry collection that topped the New York Times best-seller list for paperback trade fiction….
( “Kate Baer Is Speaking Truth. From Her Minivan. Who says motherhood can’t be literary, even poetic?” NY Times 3-13-21 )
The title of Baer’s collection came from the last line of an Instagram message she received from a (male) freelance book reviewer:
“Hi, my name is ___ …and I’d love to pick your brain about being a mommy writer. …my questions are on content. I find your work well written, but the subject matter was not necessarily what I want to read about. Not unbearable, but also not universal. I’m wondering if studying some of the classic writers (Poe, Hardy, Thoreau) would help hone in (sic) your work to be more relatable. Also the way we have allowed poetry in any space concerns me. How can we determine what is good from otherwise? I’d love to take at least an hour on the interview…. Afterward we can shape the piece to include excerpts of your work and perhaps explain what kind of woman you are! ”
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Department Of Getting COVID Vaccination #2
Which moiself did, yesterday. Oh, I feel like dancing. 
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Puns For The Day
(male) Authors’ Edition
The author of Webster’s dictionary committed suicide with the book he wrote. At least he died on his own terms.
Why did the author suffer writers’ block after rectal surgery? He was left with only a semicolon.
“I’m begging you, make it stop.”
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May you rejoice in getting completely vaccinated; May you trust your own judgement in deciding what kind of literature is truly cool; May you beware of unleashed coyotes; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
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 The words I could not see were “All pets” (preceding ” MUST be kept on leash….”).
 Yeah, I know what it’s supposed to mean, but it’s so bizarre and primitive – an appeasement of an angry deity through blood sacrifice…it’s nice to watch believers squirm when they try to explain such antiquated theology in 21st century terms.
 And for those writers, I was. I was missing male anatomy, which to them, was everything.
 I did not know this at the time I first read anything by Mailer. Mailer stabbed wife #2 at a party wherein he’d intended to announce his candidacy for New York City Mayor. “Mailer appeared the next day (after the stabbing) in a scheduled interview on The Mike Wallace Show, where he spoke of the knife as a symbol of manhood and continued to plug his mayoral bid.” (Wikipedia, quoting the article, “Norman Mailer: Stabbing Your Wife as an Existential Experiment.” )
 In the case of Roth and Mailer. Updike’s sexism was a more laid-back, suburbanite version.
Mailer and Updike were particularly known for their homophobic sentiments and comments, even book reviews.
 I mean, a best-selling book of poetry? That just doesn’t happen.
 Even if I am having the not-uncommon reaction of feeling a bit punkish afterwards. My immune system is working; good to know.
Active, reliable, sarcastic, affectionate, bipedal, cynical optimist, writer, freethinker, parent, spouse and friend, I am generous with my handy supply of ADA-approved spearmint gum and sometimes refrain from humming in public.