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The Religion(s) I’m Not Reforming

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“Where am I going to go, where patriarchy doesn’t exist? Where is this magic island, free of misogyny – I will go there; tell me where it is (laughter).
But it doesn’t exist – it doesn’t exist anywhere. So it makes the most sense to try to reform your own culture and your own place, and the space where you are most fluent in the language.”
(excerpt from Unladylike interview with Kate Kelly)

*   *   *

Department Of Tell Me This Is Not An Oxymoron

Which was one of my first (printable) thoughts upon hearing the title of episode 8 of the podcast Unladylike: How To Be a Mormon Feminist. BTW, the podcast’s website has one of the best logos ever: an image of stereotypically ladylike fingers, with one impeccably groomed fingernail raised in a defiant salute….

 

Back on topic, please.

 

Once again, I digress.

If you think you don’t have time to listen to the podcast but your curiosity is stoked by the episode’s title and you wonder, How does one be a Mormon feminist?, here’s my time-saving answer:

By leaving the Mormon church.

 

 

But seriously, ladies and germs, I recommend taking the time to listen to the entire episode, which is an interview with “Mormon feminist” and attorney, Kate Kelly.  In 2013 Kelly founded Ordain Women, an organization which…wait for it…advocates for the ordination of women to the Mormon priesthood.  That and other feminist/dissident activities got Ms. Kelly a don’t let the door hit you in your temple garments on your way out from LDS church leaders (translation: Kelly was excommunicated).

Ms. Kelly has quite a story to tell.  Despite her passionate interest in gender equality issues she loved her church – she was raised a devout Mormon, and admits during the interview that she might not have left the LDSchurch had she not been thrown out.   [1]  Listening to her astounding account, and despite her sincere and reasonable articulation (the quote which opens this blog post) about why she stayed in her church, I was once again amazed at our human tendency to beat our head against walls; i.e., not see the reality forest for the mythology trees.

During the interview Kelly felt compelled to explain (or was asked) why a 21st century, educated, intelligent woman concerned with justice could stay – or would even want to stay – in such a misogynist, repressive institution. IMHO she did a good job of trying to explain (to non-Mormons) how being in such a group – you’re raised to believe you are one of the chosen people, and you really have no close relationships outside of your family and friends, who are all Mormon –  is compelling, and confers a feeling of being special.

At the point where Kelly talked about how Mormonism had been her most intimate relationship, I had an immediate, visceral, click[2] insight:

It’s like how some battered women “love” – and thus are not able to leave – their abusers.

Kelly mentioned Mitt Romney’s campaign for the presidency, and how people both inside and outside the Mormon church found Romney’s campaign a watershed moment for Mormonism, in that the larger society saw a man who was presented as a nice/normal guy who wasn’t flaunting his own religious beliefs and who had promised to be a leader for all. Meanwhile, Kelly was disturbed that there was little to no media attention paid to/examining the fact that Romney was participating in an institution which discriminates against women at every level and which does not allow women to hold positions of power.

 

 

The battered women analogy kept coming back to me. Yo, Mormon women, and all you women involved in patriarchal religions,  [3] institutions, or worldviews: y’all are married to your abusers.  You are battered wives, intellectually and spiritually.   [4]   You have been emotionally and cognitively kidnapped; you suffer from Stockholm Syndrome :  like an abduction victim, you have developed a psychological alliance with your captors as a survival strategy.

Before I had listened to the interview in its entirety I wanted to ask Kelly, “And so what if you (Mormon feminist women) are able, in the near (ha!) or far future, to baptize people or perform any other of the Mormon priesthood rituals reserved only for men?  That’s not going to change the fact that the LDS church is an institution built on falsehoods and discrimination.”   …As are all religions, BTW, including (what was once) “my own,” which is why moiself has no problemo with critiquing yours.

*   *   *

Department Of As Long As We’re On The Subject Of Religion-Bashing Analysis

Faithful (ahem)  [5]  or even sporadic readers of this blog may know that I was raised in a Christian household/church-going family. However, as long as I can remember thinking about such things, I never really bought into the religion’s tenets and finally  [6] came out as a Humanist/Atheist/Freethinker many years ago.

 

 

Now that I am out as religion-free, whenever I have discussions with friends and family members who are religious believers – and it may interest you to know that these discussions are actually few and far between…in my experience, religious believers do not really want to engage a well-read and articulate person who has been on the inside and then left – we apostates know where the bodies are buried, so to speak (which is yet another subject worthy of a post of its own)….

Ahem. Yet again, please excuse the digression. 

 

Book ’em, Danno. Digression in the second degree.

 

When I have  discussions with a friend or family member who is a religious believer (about why they remain so and why I am not), I often hear some variation of the following statement, in which they try to assert what they think is my opinion about their beliefs:

You probably think I’m an idiot/ignorant
for remaining in the church/being a believer.

This is absolutely not true, and I say so.

Or sometimes I’ll say, “That’s not necessarily true,” and explain, provocatively but with good humor, that I really don’t know their innermost thought processes nor how their mind works; perhaps if I did, then yeah, idiot might apply.  But I never, ever assume that, nor even think it (until they brought it up).

Here’s the thing: despite how close or distant our relationship may be; despite what you claim to know about the origins/history/scriptures of your religion, I cannot know your level of intelligence, nor if you’ve objectively/rationally examined the evidence…etcetera and whatever.  With regard to your holding religious beliefs, here is the only thing I do know about you (and other believers):

Whether or you are intellectually gifted or blissfully ignorant, whether you are a snake-handling Holy Roller or a High Mass-attending electrical engineer, you are credulous.

*   *   *

What is needed is not the will to believe but the will to find out,
which is the exact opposite.
(Bertrand Russell )

 

 

This bears repeating: you are not stupid; you are credulous.

Yep; that’s it. And I dare to speak not only for moiself. Most of us who are religion-free do not think that you-who-are religious believers are stupid. We do think that you are wrong, and also, most importantly, that you are credulous.  Can you understand the difference?

You are credulous, the opposite of incredulous: you want to believe. And Religion with a capital R   [7]  gives you very compelling reasons to do so, to the point that otherwise discerning folk who are eager and able to point out the absurdities/errors/this-cannot-be-a-description-of-reality of other religions are able to set aside their analytical capability when it comes to their own tribe’s practices and beliefs.  I know some very smart and sincere people who are experts at such compartmentalization, and when I’ve pointed out that, for example, they do not practice Iron Age medicine, engineering, politics, etc. yet continue to maintain the alleged relevance of Iron Age spirituality and scriptures…they get…nervous (or incredulous!), to put it mildly.

This compartmentalization/cognitive dissonance is no surprise. Religion has done a very good job convincing people that they cannot ultimately:

* be “good”
* live a worthy life
*take comfort in unanswerable questions
*have the love and respect of family/friends/community…

without subscribing to religious beliefs.

A few religions/religious believers don’t even seem to mind so much if you aren’t a member of their church, just as long as you pick one deity to believe in (“Even though, of course, ours is the best /the One True Faith ® , if you can’t do that, at least pick something, okay?)

I’d recommend picking the one with the best hats.

 

Not only is religion is a main – and in many cases, the only – component of a believer’s social and/or peer group dynamic, there can be severe emotional, social and familial (and even business and professional) consequences for leaving your faith group, or even for remaining in the flock while denying or examining too closely /attempting to reform its traditions and tenets…as per the aforementioned excommunication of Ms. Kelly.

Back to Kelly: my favorite part (read: a jaw-dropping, NOT) of Unladylike‘s interview with her was when she spoke of the aftermath of being kicked out of the LDS church. (my emphasis):

“They can take everything away from you; they can take your family away from you. As soon as I was excommunicated my parents were asked to meet with their (church) leaders, and their leaders took away their callings,   [8]  took away their temple recommends – which means they can’t attend the temple – and really socially ostracized them, to the point that, in the meeting they said that, ‘you’re still permitted to love your daughter, even though you can’t associate with her.’ “    [9]

 

*   *   *

Department Of Can You Just Find One Nice Thing To Say?

 

Although at the end of the day (or the never-ending time period, if you subscribe to the concepts of reincarnation and nirvana   [10] ) the various strains of Buddhism are filled with as many superstitions as other religions. But Buddhism as a philosophy contains ideas/advice based on the observation of reality (as opposed to alleged supernatural revelation or decree).

 

When’s the last – or first – time you heard a religious leader say that?

 

Besides the observation that life is tough and no one gets out alive (my pithy summary of the first of The Four Noble Truths ) —  one of the Buddhist ideas I find helpful and hopeful – not to mention merely and profoundly accurate – is the concept of impermanence.

With regards to human circumstances, impermanence, simply explained, is the acknowledgement that things change. This can be seen as both a caveat and a reassurance, as both warning and comfort.

* So, things are going very well:  you have stable and loving family, good health and close friendships, fulfilling work and hobbies, financial security – everything seems to be going your way and you feel on top of the world!  How wonderful for you! Enjoy this time, even as you keep in mind that things change… This will not always be the case.

* So, things are going very badly: your spouse has abandoned you; friends are absent or seemingly indifferent to your suffering; you have lost a loved one to death or estrangement; you are ill or injured; you were laid off at work and seem to be heading toward bankruptcy and you feel caught in a downward spiral of unbearable despair.  How truly awful for you…but remember, this too, will change.

 

Why do sloths remind me of Buddhist monks?

 

*   *   *

 

May you find the strength to leave your abusers, be they persons, thoughts, or institutions;
May you be both challenged and comforted by the reality of impermanence;
May you find simple pleasure in regarding a sloth’s monk-face;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Kelly claims no current religious affiliation.

[2] A term from the 1970s/second wave feminist, describing that moment wherein a woman, usually in listening to/reading about the experiences of other women, realizes she is a feminist and/or understands feminist principles and observations about living in a patriarchal society.

[3] All religions, basically, with arguably some Pagan/Wiccan strains outside the fold.

[4] As per the typical questions asked of battered women about why don’t they leave the relationship – look them up, and you’ll find the same reasoning/fears can apply to fleeing an abusive spouse and leaving such a life-dominating institution.

[5] How we Freethinkers looooove using that word.

[6] Almost 15 years ago.

[7] As in, all of them, and the societies where they dominate.

[8] “Callings” in the Mormon church are assignments or chores to make the church function. Callings can vary widely in capacity and responsibility, such as working on a committee, serving as a Bishop (a male-only calling), being a Sunday School teacher, making a monthly meal for your congregation….

[9] How many times have you heard, from non-Mormons trying to say something nice about the LDS: “Well, you gotta give ’em credit, they do so love the family….”

[10] And I hope you don’t.

The Letter (To The Editor) I’m Not Sending

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Praise Baubo   [1]  for the actions of negligent dim wits, who provided me a temporary, if only temporary, from obsessing re overwhelming recent events.

The letter I am not sending will not go to the Editor of the New York Times, which published an article in their Science section titled, “A Mother Learns the Identity of Her Child’s Grandmother. A Sperm Bank Threatens to Sue. The results of a consumer genetic test identified the mother of the man whose donated sperm was used to conceive Danielle Teuscher’s daughter. Legal warnings soon followed.” (by Jacqueline Mroz,  2-19-19 )

The article begins:

Danielle Teuscher decided to give DNA tests as presents last Christmas to her father, close friends and 5-year-old daughter…..

But the 23andMe test produced an unexpected result. Ms. Teuscher, 30, a nanny in Portland, Ore., said she unintentionally discovered the identity of the sperm donor she had used to conceive her young child.

The mother of the donor was identified on her daughter’s test results as her grandmother. Excited and curious, Ms. Teuscher decided to reach out.

“I wrote her and said, ‘Hi, I think your son may be my daughter’s donor. I don’t want to invade your privacy, but we’re open to contact with you or your son,’” she recalled. “I thought it was a cool thing.”

 

 

 

Only four paragraphs in and I’m already banging my forehead against the kitchen table.

The letter I am not sending might start out something like this:

Re the “A Mother Learns the Identity of Her Child’s….” article, I was embarrassed by regional association to read that the woman violating the agreement she signed with the sperm bank is from Portland.

Ms. Teuscher is patently too vapid and stupid to raise a child.

She may have “unintentionally” discovered private information, but are we supposed to believe she then “unintentionally” proceeded with an invasion of a stranger’s privacy – what, did her evil, meddlesome doppelganger forced her to write that letter?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fertility industry, like all businesses these days, is facing challenges in adapting, legally and ethically, to new technologies, including those involving genetics. The sperm bank business was founded on the premise that, as the article points out, “…sperm banks can guarantee anonymity to donors, and promised that there wouldn’t be any relationship with offspring unless the donors wanted.”

The sperm bank from which Teuscher purchased the sperm sent her a letter, threatening her with financial penalties for “…flagrantly violating the agreement she’d signed by seeking the identity of the donor and contacting his family,” and stated that they would “…seek a restraining order or injunction if you continue with this course of action in any manner.”

Ms. Teuscher’s reaction? She said she “didn’t remember reading that fine print” when she signed the sperm donation purchase contract, and that she was “devastated” to receive the letter.  “I thought, wow, I just messed this up for my daughter. The letter was awful. I was angry with the bank, and I was upset about the donor.”

 

 

SHE was angry?

 

 

We’re supposed to believe that Ms. Teuscher didn’t recall or understand the basic tenet of ANONYMOUS sperm donation –and that, golly gee, such “fine print” just escaped her memory?  She’s not talking about absent-mindedly checking the  I agree box re the terms of an iTunes update; she is referring to the legal document she signed relating to the circumstances of conceiving her child – of using genetic material from a donor, who as the article states, “…made a donation in reliance upon anonymity.”

The whole article reeks of WTF?!?!?-edness from the mother’s side. Another factor which doesn’t pass the smell test is the dis-ingenuousness of Teuscher’s claim that she doesn’t want to violate anyone’s privacy – which is exactly what she did when she contacted a stranger (the donor’s mother) without her permission!  [2]

What most frosts my butt is how Teuscher attempts to excuse her actions via having a benign intent  – as a “present” for her daughter.

 

 

Your five year old wants this….

 

…or this?

 

 

Ahem. I – along with most people, I’d wager – understand the very human emotion of curiosity.  So why can’t Mrs. Kravitz    [3]  – I mean of course, Ms. Teuscher –  simply admit that she wanted to snoop for information to which she had legally agreed she was not entitled to know?

 

 

 

 

An adult cannot sign away the rights of people who didn’t exist (i.e., a child conceived via donor sperm) when that adult entered a contract.   Thus, Teuscher’s daughter may, when she reaches legal age and if she is interested, search for her biological family information to the best of her ability and within legal bounds.

But, puuuuhleeeeeeeaze,  don’t think for a moment that it sounds reasonable, as the primary motive or as an introductory/aside remark, to imply that a five year old child would want Santa to bring her  a Lego set, a Winnie-the-Pooh book, a Little Pretender Kids Karaoke machine, oh please mamma, some “genetic testing.”

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things That Are Painful To Watch

Dateline: last week, Manzanita Oregon, having a late lunch at a Mexican restaurant. The restaurant is empty, save for moiself and a couple sitting at the table directly in front of mine.  They appear to be in their late 30s – early 40s; the man is seated with his back to me but turns from side to side frequently; I can clearly see the face of the women who is seated across the table from him. I don’t intend to eavesdrop but they are a mere three feet in front of me and, how you say, voices carry (in particular, the woman’s).

From their conversation I deduce that this is a first date,   [4]  arranged after several e-chats via an online dating site.  The man is being polite with his occasional comments, even as his shifting posture and body language betray his discomfort and disinterest when the woman goes on (and on) about her dating history.    [5]

The only time I see the man perk up is when the women talks about a recent rendezvous she had:  her date walked into the coffee shop where they’d agreed to meet, looked around the room, sat down at her table and, after they’d exchanged introductions he told her he wasn’t attracted to her, and left.

The man keeps looking around, as if wishing to signal the waiter for the check. I’ve already paid my tab; as I stand up to put on my coat I hear the woman announce what she tells herself when “things don’t work out” (which I take to mean, dates arranged online):

“I just tell myself, what the heck, you’ve got plenty of time,
there’s no hurry, you’re not that old yet…”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Reason To Be Amused In Tacoma

I was in that Fine City ® this past weekend, helping daughter Belle move into her first post-college apartment. While driving from my hotel through a neighborhood to meet Belle for dinner, I passed a white van with the logo, “Christ-based cleaning“ emblazoned on its side doors. I thought it might be a joke, so I did some searching. Apparently “Christ-based cleaning“ is an actual residential maid/cleaning service business, run by a devout – if grammar/spelling/syntax-challenged (as per her Facebook postings)–  Christian.

 

 

Anyway….

Moiself couldn’t help but wonder exactly how a “Christ-based” cleaning service works:

Y’all just sit back and relax and let Jesus take the wheel mop handle!

 

 

Your floors will shine like the divine with my under-the-appliances hook sweeper service!

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Reason To Smile

Despite the title Nobody Listens To Paula Poundstone, I tune in regularly to comedian PPs’ weekly podcast.   [6]  One of my favorite episodes was a recent one (Episode 31) in which PP and her cohost Adam Felber followed up on a previous podcast (Episode 27Putting Your Best Face Forward). One of Episode 37’s featured guests was a plastic surgeon who specializes in tattoo removal (“how do you get that anchor removed from your bulging forearm before you apply for that job at the spinach factory?”).

The surgeon said that one of the more common tattoos he is requested to remove is the kind situated on a woman’s lower back. Colloquially referred to as a tramp stamp, that tattoo typically features a design of wings and/or spiky objects spiraling out and up from the point just above the woman’s sacrum and/or lower lumbar vertebrae.

 

 

 

 

Apparently, at least one Sensitive Person ® objected to PP and Felber using the term tramp stamp.  I am every-so-grateful for that objection, because it led to the brief yet amusing discussion between the two hosts re alternative nicknames for that particular tattoo, including Whore Mark  (a nice play on the Hallmark image, methinks), and my favorite, which moiself finds deserving of a special intro:

 

 

 

Ass antlers.

 

*   *   *

 

 

May you understand the difference between your right to curiosity and another person’s right to privacy;
May you never be the impetus for another person’s worst first date story;
May you enjoy imagining every scenario under the sun that comes from hearing the phrase,
ass antlers;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

 

[1] Greek goddess of mirth.

[2] A person who apparently left skidmarks contacting the sperm bank regarding the violation.

[3] Gladys Kravitz, a character from the Bewitched TV show, was the quintessential busybody – a nosy neighbor, peeking through her curtains, convinced that there was something strange going on in the neighborhood….

[4] And my intuition tells me it is also a last date.

[5] She also includes dating stories about her adult daughter, who recently met someone by chance and is now engaged “…so you see there are good people out there even if it seems like you’re the only one….”

[6] And, as Jesse Jackson might assure me, I am somebody!

The Reefer I’m Not Mad At

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Department Of This Is Not Reefer Madness…

But obfuscation is always maddening. I refer to those organizations and individuals who seem determined to obscure or conceal…well, moiself can’t put it better than NY Times reporter Alex Berenson, in this excerpt from his recent op/ed piece (my emphases):

Those groups (marijuana legalization advocates and for-profit cannabis companies) have shrewdly recast marijuana as a medicine rather than an intoxicant. Some have even claimed that marijuana can help slow the opioid epidemic, though studies show that people who use cannabis are more likely to start using opioids later….

legalization advocates have squelched discussion of the serious mental health risks of marijuana and THC…. With large studies in peer-reviewed journals showing that marijuana increases the risk of psychosis and schizophrenia, the scientific literature around the drug is far more negative than it was 20 years ago. …The  National Academy of Medicine report released in 2017 concluded that : “Cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of schizophrenia and other psychoses; the higher the use, the greater the risk.”

(excerpts from “What Advocates of Legalizing Pot Don’t Want You to Know – the wave toward legalization ignores the serious health risks of marijuana,” NY Times, 1-4-19)

 

 

 

 

It seems that anyone who points this out (the health risks of marijuana) runs the risk of being labeled as a Reefer Madness hysteric.  [1]     If you’re one those kneejerk labelers, stop reading this blog right now and get yourself one toke over the line, or whatever floats your boat (just don’t toke and boat at the same time, okay?).

While I have long favored the legalization/decriminalization of marijuana, that doesn’t mean I think recreational use of hallucinogens is a good thing.  [2]   Related, salient point: today’s weed is not your grandmama’s maryjane.  Like any human-cultivated “crop,” marijuana has been bred over the years to enhance certain qualities; thus, the THC level of recreational marijuana a user may purchase at a legal dispensary (or from a dealer, legal or otherwise) is as much as five times higher than that of the cannabis produced in the late 1970’s, when I was in college – which was also when I came to the opinion…how can I put this delicately?   [3]

When I observed the effects of weed useage – whether by people I liked and respected, or people I disliked and/or just basically ignored, or those folks in between – it seemed to me that smoking/ingesting weed made otherwise disparate people have one significant thing in common:

it made them stupid.

It was the dumbing down of humor that bothered me the most.   [4]  People who were otherwise quick and clever, articulate, intelligent, motivated and capable of flinging topical  [5]  witticisms at lightning speed turned into boring slackers while high, capable of producing only in-jokes with fellow stoners, with whom they would self-segregate off in a corner and giggle about the graphics on the cover of a matchbox or whatever.

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Am So Not Making This Up…

Oh, but I wish that I had.

In case you’re too young to remember (or don’t listen to Oldies stations), the song moiself previously referred to, One Toke Over the Line, was folk rock duo Brewer & Shipleys’ greatest hit. The 1971 song was banned by more than one radio station due to its obvious drug references – references which apparently weren’t so obvious to the producers of The Lawrence Welk Show.  The show’s so-wholesome-you-could-puke-pure-sugar-after-merely-looking-at-them singing duo, Gail and Dale, performed it straight (so to speak).  The song was described, sans any indication of irony by the eponymous host himself, Lawrence Welk, as a “modern spiritual.”

 

 

 

 

 

Songwriter/performer Michael Brewer’s comment re the incident:

The Vice President of the United States, Spiro Agnew, named us personally as a subversive to American youth, but at exactly the same time Lawrence Welk performed the crazy thing and introduced it as a gospel song. That shows how absurd it really is. Of course, we got more publicity than we could have paid for.

My parents were diehard Lawrence Welk fans and never missed a show, which means their children were exposed to it as well. I would sometimes sit with them and watch it, which made Mamma and Papa Parnell feel those Family Moment Warm Fuzzies ®…until they realized that I was “enjoying” it on an entirely different level than they were (read: a teenager’s barely disguised mockery).

I don’t remember the particular LW episode featuring Gail and Dale’s dubious rendition of the ode to doobies, but I would *not* have forgotten witnessing such a spectacle, trust moiself. Still, I get a kick surpassing any chemically-induced high just thinking of my parents, in all of their enthusiastic cluelessness, watching that performance.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Calling Anonymous

Whatever happened to that hactivist group, Anonymous? Perhaps it’s just moiself not Keeping Up With Things ®, but it seems like we haven’t heard from them recently.

Depending on your POV, Anonymous is composed of “freedom fighters” and “digital Robin Hoods,” or they are “a cyber lynch-mob.”  This could be yet another case of Perhaps it’s just moiself not Keeping Up With Things ®, but it seems to me that the power Anonymous wielded was used – I’m sorry, but I have to say it – for good rather than evil. That is, their pranks and hacks targeted notorious bad actors such as Scientology, ISIS, child porn sites, and hate groups like the Westboro Baptist Church.

 

 

 

 

So I’m wondering, where is Anonymous when it comes to saving western civilization (hell, the effin’ world, at this point) from ourselves? In other words –  HINT HINT HINT, ANONYMOUS –   why aren’t they doing something to…uh…”neutralize” The Current Occupant   [6]  of the White House?   [7]  He was threatened by the group via tweets on his inauguration day, but since then…?

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Don’t Quote “That Part”
Unless You Also Quote “Those Other Parts”

Happy New Year, and….

 

 

 

A Well-Meaning Person ® posted the following on her Facebook page, obviously meant as a dig to #45 and his Christian conservative followers, re building his “wall.”

 

 

 

The thing is, a Well-Meaning Person ®  who would appeal to scriptures of Iron Age mythologies to address 21st century issues needs to take the lot.  Note, in the picture of the passage posted from Leviticus Chapter 19, verse 37:  “Keep all my decrees and all my laws and follow them. I am the Lord.”

So, you WMPs want us to pay attention to one particular scripture passage (“that part,” about treating foreigners well), but despite the decree from your deity to keep all of its decrees, moiself never sees you posting/hears you quoting those other of your god’s decrees and laws from the very same book in your very same scriptures, including:

* Men must not have sexual relations with other men (Leviticus 18:22)

* Anyone who says “God dammit!” or the like shall be put to death by the entire town. (Leviticus 24: 15-16)

* You mustn’t eat shellfish (Leviticus 11:10)

* You may possess slaves from neighboring nations, including those trying to immigrate (so much for *that part* about treating foreigners well).  (Leviticus 25: 44-45)

* Do not eat – or even touch the carcass of – an animal which walks on all fours and has paws (aka I Leviticus 11: 27)

* Don’t Wear Clothes Made of a Linen and Wool Blend (Leviticus 19:19)

* Don’t sit where a menstruating woman has sat, or even touch her, because you will be “unclean,” as she is (Leviticus 15:19-21)

* Don’t eat owls (or swans or pelicans) (Leviticus 11:13-19)

 

 

Praaaaaise de Lawd for this wise proscription!

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Partridge [8]  Of The Week

As per an earlier warning post, we will be hosting a different Partridge, every week, in our front yard’s festively lit pear tree. Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

Excuse moiself; make that,

Department Of Elvis Has Left The Building

Which means that, at our building house, the Partridges have left our pear tree.

 

 

The kids and I will be back next holiday season!

 

 

*   *   *

May you apply 21st century solutions to 21st century problems;
May you use your powers for good;
May you find the fortitude to watch Lawrence Welk reruns while sober;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] BTW, I have seen the movie, have you? It’s an unintentionally funny 1930s propaganda/morality tale film, wherein drug dealers lure innocent teenagers into using marijuana, which leads to the teens into madness and instant addiction, manslaughter and (attempted) sexual assault and suicide…. 

[2] Unless of course we’re talking about using it in survival situations, such as being forced to listen to Grateful Dead records and/or Republican State of the Union speeches.

[3] Or why should I even try?

[4] Yes, this from someone who has (almost) never heard a fart joke she didn’t like.

[5] Or tropical humor – nothing like a good Hawaiian pun.

[6] Aka The Cheetos Hitler, Mandarin Mussolini, #45…he who is not deserving of proper name status in this or any other civilized forum.

[7] Perhaps they are working on it, and if that is the case I thank them, but hope they do something soon….

[8] In our pear tree.

The Virtue I’m Not Signaling

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By next Tuesday – Election Day – we’ll find out if all this talk, outrage, Facebook posting and parade attending has translated into voting action. If all the hoopla turns out to be so much virtue signaling, moiself is going to be looking for asses to kick.

Y’all likely have encountered someone who practices virtue signaling, even if the term is unfamiliar to you. One example of a virtue signaler is the guy who wants to be seen as “an environmentalist” more than he actually wants to consider the impact of his lifestyle on his environment:

His image:
“You know how I admire my co-worker, Mr. Forrest Greene –  he’s always advocating for sustainability and environmental issues! And now he’s selling his downtown condo and buying land upon which he will build a tiny house – he’s downsizing to live in the country!”

His reality:
If Mr. Green was truly advocating for sustainability he wouldn’t change his lifestyle to leave a much larger carbon footprint than that which he currently produces as an urbanite. He is developing previously undeveloped land, for one. And he’s neither quitting his job nor getting rid of his car, but by moving “to the country® ” he’s tripled his commute time and distance.  Is he, somehow, on his land, going to be able to raise/produce all of his food and clothing material (and toilet paper and other household goods?). Of course not, so he’s going to have to drive much farther and more often to get the essentials. When he lived in the city he mostly used public transportation to commute to work, and also for work, errands, and entertainment…and he could walk to many stores, cafes, theaters and nightclubs and…

 

 

virtue

 

 

After the nightmarish 2016 election, Portland had several nights of demonstrations.  [1]  I remember my shock-quickly-morphing-into-disgust when some of the demonstrators, many of whom were seemingly passionate and articulate people, were interviewed by TV news crews: when these demonstrators were asked re whom/what they supported in the election, they said that they had not voted.

 

KHAN

 

 

The streets of downtown Portland have swelled with protesters each night since Donald Trump won the presidential election on Tuesday, and on occasion the protests have turned violent….a review of state election records by a local news station shows that more than a third of those arrested didn’t even vote.
(
A Third of Anti-Trump Protestors Arrested
in Portland Didn’t Vote,” NY magazine, 11-15-16 )

If I hear you complain about the state of our government, then find out you didn’t vote….

 

 

slap

 

 

*   *   *

 

                                           Department Of It Pays To Get Distracted                 

Dateline: last week, during the previously mentioned trip to Arkansas. MH and moiself are hiking the Devil’s Den State Park cave trail, which takes hikers past really cool caves you can no longer explore. [2]   I am in the lead, about 50 feet ahead of MH, who has stopped for a photo op. I think I see something off of a side trail leading to a creek, and decide to investigate…and am very glad I did.  I call out to MH and he joins me in admiring (and adding to) The Mysterious Land O’ Cairns ®.  

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of You Can’t Make Up This Shit   [3]

Helpful Background Information ® :

haram (adjective) ha·​ram | \hä-ˈräm:
forbidden by Islamic law

News flash: as you may have heard, a notorious Islamist country took a teensiest baby step a bold leap into the 15th century by granting its female citizen a modicum of independence . Even so, the decision by Saudi Arabia to allow women to drive was apparently too much for at least one slavering fanatic  pious Saudi cleric, who tweeted  [4]  this helpful explanation of why it is sinful for women to drive:

“When a woman is driving, she’s exposed to vibrations, this shakes her vagina, she will feel sexual euphoria and this is haram.”

 

vibrator

Hip Hip Hooray for haram!

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Honeymoon Never Ends

Content warning: sex and violence.  [5]

 

 

content

 

 

During our previously mentioned trip to Arkansas MH and I stayed I overnight in a cabin in the also previously mentioned Devil’s Den State Park. After enjoying some adult snuggle time during the evening, MH felt compelled to share the following tender sentiment with me the next morning:

“So, in a horror movie, when the two teenagers have sex in the cabin in the woods, that’s when the slasher/killer gets them.”

 

 

 

cabin

Now where did those two lovebirds go?

 

 

*   *   *

The Halloween Costumes I’m Not Wearing

Halloween, what was once one of my childhood favorite holidays, has fallen by the wayside, so to cliché-speak, in my adult years. I still enjoy thinking up costume ideas but often go no further than the brainstorm, because, Life.  [6]

This week the Trick or Treat day fell on my yoga class day; I wanted to do something to celebrate both, but after having just returned from the (previously to the nth degree mentioned) Arkansas trip I’d neither the time nor the energy to put in much effort.

I considered hitting the streets as Hell’s Yoga Teacher: wearing an uber yoga outfit, accessorized by a devil’s tail and pointy ears and carrying a rolled up yoga mat and wielding a pitchfork, I would accost strangers on the street and correct their posture:

 (“Tuck your pelvis; shoulders back; lift the crown of your head; remember to breathe…now, give me 160 Sun Salutations….)

Instead, I made a last minute trip to a Halloween Costume shop, where I purchased a couple of “props” for my yoga teacher:

 

 

catcow

 

 

Keeping in mind the forbearance and good humor of both the teacher and my classmates, I also purchased a lame bear mask, which I wore to class. I appreciated that most of my fellow students—who are old enough (ahem) to get the reference, eventually guessed that I was Yogi Bear   [7].  

 

 

 

beartreepose

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

May you vote as if your country depended on it (and not make moiself want to slap you);
May you savor forbidden vibrations;
May you enjoy what magical sights may be found by going off the main trail;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] A couple of which turned into near-riots.

[2] To protect the wildlife – read: bats – humans may no longer enter the caves, although once upon a time you and our trusty flashlight could do so.

[3] Except, of course,  when it comes to religion, all the shit is made up.

[4] Posting talking-out-of-your-ass statement on social media, however, is expressly praised in the Islamic scriptures.

[5] As in, your now adult children are still in fact your children and even the slightest allusion to the fact that their parents may be having marital relations is embarrassing…

[6] What a lame, adult excuse, right?

[7] A yogi is the term for anyone who practices yoga.

The Superhero Unmentionables I’m Not Wearing

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Department Of Theme Songs Previously Unheard…

Until now, that is.

Thanks to a radio station I frequently listen to when I’m driving – a station which treats the ears with old advertising jingles and televisions theme songs as well as “oldies – I recently heard part of the “Wonder Woman” theme song for the first time.

That show was on during the no-TV years for me. I never watched it, nor even knew it had a theme song with lyrics.  As soon as I returned home I had to search the web and check the lyrics, to make sure I was hearing what I thought I was hearing:

Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman/All the world’s waiting for you,
and the power you possess.
In your satin tights/Fighting for your rights….

 

 

REALLY

 

 

 

Really.

In your satin tights/Fighting for your rights….

Ahhhhhh, yes. Perhaps I have inadvertently stumbled upon an explanation for just one of the many, many reasons why both my lifelong quest for superhero status and civil rights have fallen short of my dreams:

no satin tights.

Now I can’t help but think of alternative verses commending the magical underwear of superheroes:

☼  In your lingerie/Showing us the way….

☼  In your undergarments/Chasing evil varmints….

☼  In your silken thong/Righting all that’s wrong….

In your tighty whitey/Looking fierce and mighty….

☼  In your boxer shorts/ Rescuing cohorts….

☼  In your granny pants/Evil has no chance….

☼  In your woolen bloomers/Saving Baby Boomers….

☼  In your BVDs/Fighting Killer Bees….

☼  In your magic drawers/cleansing zit-clogged pores….

☼  In your skanky skivvies/.…

Feel free to stop me anytime.

*   *   *

Content warning:

SOAPBOX

 

Department Of How To Do More Than Just Gripe

…. meat production funnels far more resources through animals than it gets out of them…. even the most efficient sources of meat convert only ~ 11% of feed energy into human food.
And to grow all that animal feed, the industry is constantly converting more native lands to agricultural operations—burning and clear-cutting the Amazon and other forests to make way for feed fields. Today, a whopping 30% of Earth’s landmass goes to meat, dairy, and egg production, according to the United Nations. As the UN also reports, livestock production causes “an even larger contribution” to climate change “than the transportation sector worldwide.” That’s right: Factory farmed animals contribute more to climate change than all the world’s cars, trucks, planes, trains and ships combined.
(Fortune, “How Your Diet Can Save the Planet,” )

Governments of the Most Powerful and Influential Nations ® , especially ours, are doing little to nothing when it comes to initiating effective solutions to combat climate change. We need a global Marshall Plan devoted to such. Absent that, it is easy for individuals to become cynical and think that our ordinary, Best Efforts ®  (I wash and reuse my plastic ziplock bags!) mean diddly-squat.  But… and this is a big but…

 

 

bigbutt

Even bigger than this, if you can imagine.

 

 

…. there is something every individual can do that will make a difference:

Switch to a plant-based diet.

The human population has reached 7.6 billion and could number 9 billion or 10 billion by midcentury. All those people will need to eat. A sobering report published in the journal Nature argues that a sustainable food system that doesn’t ravage the environment is going to require dramatic reforms, including a radical change in dietary habits.
To be specific: Cheeseburgers are out, and fruits and veggies are in.
The 23 authors of the report, hailing from Europe, the United States, Australia and Lebanon, reviewed the many moving parts of the global food system and how they interact with the environment. The authors concluded that the current methods of producing, distributing and consuming food aren’t environmentally sustainable and that damage to the planet could make it less hospitable for human existence.
A core message from the researchers is that efforts to keep climate change at an acceptable level won’t be successful without a huge reduction in meat consumption.
(“Earth’s population is skyrocketing. How do you feed 10 billion people sustainably?” Washington Post)

uncle sam

…to eat your veggies!

 

Despite your best intentions, a weekly Meatless Monday or Steak-less Saturday ain’t gonna cut it. The numbers have been crunched: our patterns of producing, distributing and consuming foods – specifically, animals and animal products – are not sustainable.

New research shows moving away from animal protein towards legumes makes sense nutritionally and environmentally.
… A substantial amount of (greenhouse gas emissions, which exacerbate climate change emissions) comes from livestock farming with the production of the gas, methane….
switching diets towards plants as sources of protein as opposed to meat, is much more sustainable….plant protein sources (have) the lowest environmental production cost, while at the same time demonstrate the highest density of nutrients. “Peas have a nutrient density to environmental footprint ratio approximately five times higher than equivalent amounts of lamb, pork, beef or chicken.”
(“A switch to plant-based protein could help tackle climate change and hunger,”
Science X Network”)

You care about climate change and environmental degradation, don’t you?  [1]  You can do something. Not only about The Planet ®, but about yourself, as well.  If this concept (plant-based nutrition) is new to you, you’re in for a treat. You’ll discover a tasty, healthier way of fueling your body, as opposed to the SAD (Standard American Diet) you’ve likely been following.   [2] And despite the food-as-entertainment and eating-as-sport mindset our industrialized food culture has spawned, our intake of food is ultimately and primarily to provide fuel for our bodies.

If physicians know of a treatment that could prevent and reverse disease, then it seems like that treatment should be the first-line method of care prescribed to patients. Researchers at Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest managed care organizations in the country, found that there is, in fact, such a treatment. In their official materials, they now advise the 17,000+ physicians in their network to recommend the most powerful, yet least-used prescription to their patients: a healthy, plant-based diet and active lifestyle.
(“Why the Nation’s Largest Health Plan Wants Its Doctors
to Recommend a Plant-Based Diet”, Wellness)

Talk to someone who’s made the switch.  Yeah, you’ve fallen for all the advertising that makes it seem cool to brag about adding bacon to every meal, but your body and mind….

 

 

wilbur

…and Wilbur….

 

 

will thank you for wising up.  [3]  

You’ll also, hopefully, derive some satisfaction for not personally contributing to the myriad of environmental degradations caused by industrial meat production, which includes the lagoons of pig shit which overflow after hurricanes and other natural disasters…

 

 

lagoon

No palm trees to decorate these festering lagoons…are your Jimmy Dean sausage patties really worth it?

 

 

   [4] …and the totally preventable/unnatural disaster of the contamination of rural communities’ water supplies from manure and nitrates, which are the “natural” and unavoidable by-products of industrialized meat farming.

And no, if you change your eating habits and go plant-based, you don’t have to go around tossing buckets of blood on people who wear fur,  [5] or call yourself a vegan – or anything special, for that matter. Treat it like any other issue you care about and may, for example, disagree with a family member about. Your Uncle Anus takes every opportunity to crow about why he doesn’t “believe” in global warming; to keep the peace at Thanksgiving you might not counter his beliefs with the facts right there at the table, but you encourage him to do the research  [6]  and get back to you. Ditto, here.  Do the research. Then, be a responsible person and make the changes you can make,  [7]  rather than literally or figuratively sitting on your (expanding, animal products-fed) ass and pissing and moaning about why your government doesn’t ban all coal production or whatever.

 

 

 

turkeys

*   *   *

Department Of Ouch

Dateline: one week ago. I am on the phone with a Very Helpful Young Woman ® who is setting up an account for a new utility billing for MH and moiself. In order to establish credit and bill us, as opposed to requiring payment at time of service, she needs to run a brief credit check on moiself. The only info required is my name, last four digits of my SSN, my mother’s birthname, my date of birth, and occupation.  She goes down the list of questions, and when it gets to occupation, she says, “I assume you’re retired.”

Now, then. Ahem. We’re communicating by phone, so I’m guessing the VHYW made the assumption based on my birth date (which still, IMHO and experience, is a young date to retire). No one’s ever told me my voice sounds old, but maybe to her I sounded like this?

 

 

OLD

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Touchy Issues  [8]

I remember, at the beginning of the modern gay rights movement, how there were some vocal, disgruntled black Americans who complained, in a my-experience-of-prejudice-is-greater-than-yours kind of way, that with regards to discrimination (I’m paraphrasing here), “It’s harder to be black than gay, because you can’t hide that you’re black.”As in, people look at you and know your “race,” while homosexuals can “pass” or get by and no one will know unless you want them to.

 

 

flaming

Of course, it’s harder for some folks to pass than others.

 

 

I’ve been thinking about this issue – that of coming out, to family, friends, neighbors, co-workers – for many years now. On last week’s National Coming Out Day, I wondered if it would be appropriate to, say, on a Facebook post, encourage those of us who are religion-free (but unknown as such, to family and friends) to do the same, on that day?

I decided not to steal the fire, so to speak, from LGBTQ issues. Still, many of us who are religion-free (we People Of The Many Monikers ®, including, atheists, humanists, Freethinkers, Brights, Skeptics, et al) have long realized that we need to take a page from the LGBTQ’s civil rights playbook.  It is far too easy for us to “hide’ or to have our worldviews remain unknown, especially in the USA where prejudice against non-religious believers is common.

A 2013 Harris Poll…found that 23 percent of all Americans have forsaken religion altogether. A 2015 Pew Research Center poll reported that 34 to 36 percent of millennials (those born after 1980) are” nones” and corroborated the 23 percent figure, adding that this was a dramatic increase from 2007, when only 16 percent of Americans said they were affiliated with no religion...(The Rise of the Atheists,” Scientific American)

Despite the fact that there’s been a dramatic increase in the percentage of Americans who claim no religious affiliation, unless you are “out” the default assumption is that you hold (some kind of) religious beliefs.

It was only when LGBTQ people began to come out that the myths surrounding them began to be destroyed. It is easier to express or hold hateful (or just well-meaning but ignorant) opinions and beliefs about what “those people” think or do when those people remain unknown to you – you never have to confront your mutual humanity.

When you find out those homos or those godless commies include the person in the cubicle next to yours, your next door neighbor, your cousin, your mom’s favorite auntie, the man sitting across the dinner table or the woman who sits beside you in the pew every Sunday,   [9]   your opinions almost have to become enlightened…or at least, a bit more in touch with reality.

Wait a minute, I’ve always thought that gays are __ (insert favorite stereotype), but now I found out that cousin Andy is gay, and so is Susie in accounting and my best friend’s brother, and these people are all nice, intelligent, decent, hard-working and principled citizens — not the kind of people at all to cause tornadoes to hit Midwestern trailer parks….hmmm…maybew the 700 Club was wrong about that, and other things….

 

 

Ateed

 

*   *   *

 

May you come out, come out, wherever you are;
May you fight the cynicism and make the changes you can;
May you send me your list of superhero undergarment rhymes;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] If not, stop reading this blog right now, slit your arteries open and dive heart-first into a vat of suet.

[2] Not that you’re a bad person, but we’ve all mostly been raised that way.

[3]  And if for whatever selfish personal reasons you continue to eat meat, climate concerns aside, you do know why you should not eat processed meats…don’t you?

[4] “Lagoons of Pig Waste Are Overflowing After Florence. Yes, That’s as Nasty as It Sounds,” NY Times.

[5] As fun as that might be…I mean, you can still do that, if you want (but I hope you don’t).

[6] This is an easy one to start with: (“Hidden Costs of Industrialized Agriculture“,
Union of Concerned Scientists)

[7] while you can still do so voluntarily and proactively, before all your “numbers” (BP, blood sugar, cholesterol & triglycerides, etc. ) skyrocket and you get your doctor’s ultimatum to go veggie.

[8] As if the whole “go plant-based!” screed wasn’t touchy enough.

[9] Yep, many religious non-believers (including MH, son K, daughter Belle, and moiself) continued to be active church members, for a variety of reasons and for various periods of time, after personally acknowledging that they do not hold religious beliefs.

The Boat I’m Not Floating

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Halloween; The Nun;  Predator;  Hereditary; The First Purge….. There have been a lot of horror movies released in 2018, and also two Stephen King books.  But arguably one of the scariest stories of the year comes from the real life experiences of Linda Kay Klein’s book, Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free.  

This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. We’re going to talk about the evangelical sexual purity movement, its insistence on sexual abstinence before marriage and the impact the movement has had on women who were brought up in it, women like my guest, Linda Kay Klein. She says the movement has traumatized many girls and maturing women who are haunted by sexual and gender-based anxiety, fear and shame. Her new book, “Pure,” is part memoir, including the story of how she left the movement. The book also draws on the interviews she did with other women in their 20s, 30s and 40s,…about how the evangelical purity movement has affected their sense of identity and their sex lives.

The purity movement grew in the 1980s during the Reagan administration, which funded abstinence-only programs for community organizations, schools and health departments. A whole industry of purity-related products developed around the movement, including purity rings, T-shirts, mugs, even a purity Bible. Klein describes the purity movement as conveying the expectation that all unmarried girls and women must maintain a sexless body, mind and heart to be pure. Klein is also the founder of Break Free Together, which tries to help people escape the sexual shame they were raised with.

 

 

fear

 

 

 

Listen, if you dare, to the rest Fresh Air interview about Klein being raised in and breaking free from the Evangelical “Purity Movement“, but keep the lights – this is scary shit.

Like many if not most horror stories, there is somewhat of a happy ending.  However, like many horror stories, the monster is not ultimately killed – it just, IMHO, assumes a different, more benign-seeming form.

Translation: the author still calls herself a Christian.  At least now she (thinks) she is practicing her faith on her own terms. Still, her answer to the host’s question about her relationship with her parents – it just about broke my heart, listening to that.  [1]

GROSS: It was your mother who brought you into evangelical Christianity. When you left the evangelical church, was your mother upset? And if she was, did you feel guilty about making her upset by following your new thinking and leaving the church?

KLEIN: My mom was heartbroken when I left and moreover, I think, scared. You know, for my mom, the fact that I was a Christian was her very favorite thing about me. She literally told me that, as did my father. On separate occasions, they both told me their favorite thing about me was my Christianity when I was younger. And so, you know, when I left, I lost my parents’ favorite thing about me.

If you haven’t heard of the Christian Purity Movement and you have a strong stomach and are curious, put on your sterile gloves – nitrile, for those of you with a latex allergy – and Google away.

It is unlikely I will be reading Klein’s book, for same reason I do not watch the Hulu series, The Handmaid’s Tale.  Although I “enjoyed”   [2]   the Margaret Atwood book upon which the series is based, I rarely find depictions of misogynistic, joy-sucking dystopias to be sufficient diversionary or amusing forms of entertainment.

 

 

puritygif

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Crimes I Don’t Understand

On March 18, 1990, 13 works of art valued at a combined total of $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston…. Despite efforts by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and multiple probes around the world, no arrests have been made and no works have been recovered.
(Wikipedia entry on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft)

I just don’t “get’ art heist – the theft of famous works of art. What good is it, to the thief, to steal a painting valued at $25 million? It’s not like you can take it to the local pawn shop, fence it at the flea market, or put a notice on Craig’s List:

 

thescream

Moving sale, Scandinavian picture, good condition, only two previous owners, $20 million OBO

 

 

The point of most thievery, as moiself understands it, is to sell (or barter) what you steal. You can’t turn around and sell a famous painting – anyone who would be interested in it or who would or who would be able to afford to buy it would know it’s stolen.

The second, less common motivation for theft is a desire to acquire that which you want but do not have and are unable and/or unwilling to acquire honestly and/or legally (for example, when a grade school friend of mine swiped my mini spy camera). [3]   Simply put, you take something because you want it for yourself.

So, you’re a passionate art lover, and you somehow are able to filch the Mona Lisa. The work of genius is yours, at last! And now you have…a masterpiece millstone, around your neck. What can you do with it? Hang it on your wall and admire it…all by yourself…forever? You can’t ever have guests or family over because, once again, anyone who sees it will  eventually figure out that it’s stolen.   [4]

Perhaps the real crime I’m thinking of is one of mislabeling: art theft really isn’t theft, it’s essentially kidnapping. The permanent acquisition of the object is not the point; the ransom is what the Renior robber is after. The thief negotiates via intermediary to return the art to the museum for a payment, with both parties grudgingly agreeing to a charade of sorts (“Look what fell off the back of my cousin’s girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend’s truck!”). If investigations by The Proper Authorities ® are going nowhere the museum agrees to this; the board of directors and curators just want their “priceless” object returned and are willing to pay a pittance of its estimated value to do so (which will still likely be a pretty penny for the thief).

 

 

steal

I wonder, did Hoffman receive any royalties (or ransom?) for this?

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Just Wondering

Dateline: Wednesday morning, 8 am. I am walking around the grounds of the Kaiser Permanente Medical center in Hillsboro, where I have taken a friend for an appointment. It is a brisk-cool-melting into sunny, gorgeous autumn day, and so naturally I start wondering about the medical center’s name.

Kaiser Permanente.  I know – or assume – where the Kaiser part of the moniker comes from: a doctor and/or founder/benefactor of the HMO.   [5]   But, whence Permanente, and what does it mean?   Were the Kaiser founders unsure, all those years ago when the idea of managed care was rather unique, that their institution would survive, and thus they named it optimistically: “It’s not Kaiser Temporaria or Kaiser What-the-hell-it-just-might-work-out, it’s Kaiser Permanente!

 

 

confusedspock

I find that explanation highly unlikely…but whatever floats your boat.

 

 

 

I decided to ask the staff people I was encountering on the footpaths around the center’s grounds –friendly, smiling employees on their way to and from the various clinic buildings, who sported Kaiser name badges.  I gave up after three tries; I’d begun to feel  rather guilty to be the cause of the seemingly perpetually beaming faces slumping into confused, Why are you asking/is this a trick question? expressions.

Never mind. I suppose I could Google it….  But…sometimes…I just like to wonder. After all, knowing the answer to everything would, as the Monty Python sketch put it, “take all the mystery out of life.”

 

 

NehalemAug2012

It’s my boat, and it’s floating. Now what?

 

*   *   *

May you never stop walking and wondering;
May your boat always float;
May you bitch-slap-until-they-soil-themselves those cretins who try to teach children
that “purity” has anything to do with sexuality;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] What a monstrous worldview, that causes a mother to fear that, as Klein later states in the interview, her child “…would no longer be with her in heaven, that she would have to spend eternity without me and that she would look down and see me in eternal damnation and know that there was nothing she could do to save me.”  Yikes.

[2] Wrong word…but don’t know how to describe my reaction. It was excellent, well done, but depressing/ chilling.

[3] Which I had purchased – “redeemed” was the term, I believe – from the makers of Bazooka bubble gum, for fifty cents and a whole bunch of Bazooka gum wrappers. My friend had admired the teeny camera and tried to pressure me into trading for it, but I refused. One day she came home with me after school to play at my house, and after she left I noticed my camera was missing. The next day I went to her house to play, and when she was called to the kitchen by her mother for some reason, I snooped in her room and found my camera in a box on her dresser. She had peeled off some of the decorative paper on the camera’s body, no doubt in an effort to “disguise” it.  I quickly pocketed the camera and made up some excuse why I had to go home. I never confronted her about it; she had a sad family situation, and I felt sorry for her.

[4] The “Oh, it’s just a print” cover story will only work so long.

[5] “Kaiser Permanente is an American integrated managed care consortium, based in Oakland, California, United States, founded in 1945 by industrialist Henry J. Kaiser and physician Sidney Garfield.” – from Wikipedia entry.

The Lot I’m Not Accepting

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Department Of At Last, An Honest Answering Device

Last week I was gob smacked by the picture MH sent me of our answering machine’s display of a caller ID (for the phone call he missed):

 

 

ID

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Just Where My Mind Goes

My first thought upon reading the following review  [1] excerpt: The film isn’t circumcised?

New York Times Critics’ Pick!
An uncut gem of a movie…..

*   *   *
Department Of No, I Can’t Just Leave It Alone

Whaddya mean, I’ve never told you my favorite circumcision jokes?

Q. What did the receptionist say to the patient waiting in the circumcisionist’s office?
A. “It won’t be long now.”

Q. How much does a circumcisionist earn?
A. One hundred dollars an hour, plus tips.

 

CAMEL

 

 

 

Speaking of unkind cuts…what a convenient segue to

 

 

Department Of Name Dropping And Saint Shaming

Mother Teresa’s work was part of a global enterprise for the alleviation of bourgeois guilt, rather than a genuine challenge to those forces that produce and maintain poverty.
(“Mother Teresa as the Mirror of Bourgeois Guilt,”
Indian journalist/historian Vijay Prashad )

The following rant thoughtful explication was prompted by a recent comment I overheard, which I list in the paragraph after the warning.

(Consider yourself warned.)

Should you ever attempted to deflect a commendation (within earshot of moiself ) regarding an act of generosity or kindness on your part  by using the intended-to-be humble qualifier, “Well, I’m no Mother Teresa…”, brace yourself for my rejoinder:

“Yes, but Mother Teresa was, in fact, ‘no Mother Teresa.’ ”   [2]

The first time I recall doing this was at least fifteen years ago, during the book study group I attended at a UCC church (where we the still-closeted atheists – MH and I – were active members). I cannot recall the book under discussion nor the particular comment which elicited a fellow book group member’s poorly-timed, Well, I’m no Mother Teresa….

“Poorly-timed” translation:  I’d been reading up on Mother Teresa, having come across criticism from liberal Catholics regarding MT’s entry into what amounted to the RC church’s “Ten Items or Fewer” saint checkout line.  [3]  In doing so I’d encountered a surprising number of informed and rational voices – from British journalist Christopher Hitchens to Australian academic and social critic Germaine Greer [4] to Indian physicians and activists and others. These voices had dared to question –  and more importantly, to examine – MT’s previously unexamined reputation as a humble, selfless humanitarian devoted to the poor.  And I began to share some of my “encounters” with the book group.

Pity that unfortunate I’m-no-Mother-Teresa comment-dude…. I did later apologize to him   [5]  for getting the group “off track.” (And the always tolerant and circumspect book group leader practically left skidmarks getting us “back to the subject at hand.”)

 

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As per the name-dropping: In October 2007 I attended the Freedom From Religion Foundation‘s annual convention, held that year in Madison, WI. Christopher Hitchens, one of the featured speakers, gave a rousing speech for his acceptance of the FFRF’s The Emperor Has No Clothes Award   [6].  Later that evening, a New Friend I Met At The Convention ® and I went to the hotel bar/cafe, to discuss the day’s events over wine and a tasty hummus platter.   [7]  There were no tables available, so NFIMATV and I took a seat at the bar.  NFIMATV noticed that Mr. Hitchens was seated at the end of the bar, a mere six barstools down from us, and decided we should commend him re his speech.

Although never averse to chatting up strangers, I was reluctant to “pester” someone who was…well, a celebrity of sorts.  I reminded NFIMATV of Hitchens’ reputation for not suffering fools;  [8]  also, he’d just spoken in front of hundreds of people and might want to simply unwind and sip his drink….

NFIMATV would have none of my protestations. “He came to a crowded, public place! If he wanted to be left alone he’d have gone up to his suite and ordered room service.” She grabbed my arm and literally dragged me down to the end of the bar.

NFIMATV briefly introduced herself and I to Hitch, and complimented him on his speech. Moiself said WTF to moiself, and then aloud to Hitch: “I thought you might appreciate knowing that you’ve been quoted…uh, by me…in a church book study group, when someone said the usual obsequious nonsense about Mother Teresa.”

Hitch winked at me, replied, “Indeed,” and raised his whiskey glass in a toast. Then it was my turn to be the arm-grabber as I led NFIMATV back to our end of the bar.

This ends the name-dropping portion of our programming.

 

 

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“I just thought that this myth [re Mother Teresa and the Catholic charities providing compassionate care in the slums of India] had to be challenged”….
Over hundreds of hours of research, much of it cataloged in a book he published in 2003, Dr. Chatterjee said he found a “cult of suffering” in homes run by Mother Teresa’s organization, the Missionaries of Charity, with children tied to beds and little to comfort dying patients but aspirin.
He and others said that Mother Teresa took her adherence to frugality and simplicity in her work to extremes, allowing practices like the reuse of hypodermic needles and tolerating primitive facilities that required patients to defecate in front of one another.
(from “A Critic’s Lonely Quest: Revealing the Whole Truth About Mother Teresa,
NY Times profile of Dr. Aroup Chaterjee )

It is highly likely that what you “know,” and what most people think they know, about MT comes from a book about her  [9] – and the media coverage about the celebrity visits to MT’s clinics, which followed publication of the book – written by Malcolm Muggeridge.  Muggeridge, a zealous Roman Catholic convert and conservative British social commenter, was derided by  Christopher Hitchens as “that old fraud and mountebank.” Hitchens largely credited Muggeridge for providing the propaganda tool which spawned MT’s becoming “the focus of a fawning cult who used the suffering of the poor for her own political and ideological ends.”

 

 

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Christopher Hitchens was MT’s most vocal – but by no means only –  detractor.  He described her as a “thieving, fanatical Albanian dwarf,” and charged that the missions she ran in Calcutta were humanitarian humbugs serving as a masquerade for her “cult of death and suffering.”  What Hitch did by investigating MT and her work is what any good journalist – and citizen – should do, and yet because he was one of the first to do so he was considered radical and contrarian when he was in fact being sensible and straightforward: he judged Mother Theresa‘s reputation by her words and actions.  What was being promoted by the myth makers, saint manufacturers was the opposite – they wanted you to judge MT’s words and actions by her reputation.

Okay, perspective timeout. If you’re interested in this subject, or just perplexed because this is the first time you’ve heard about the MT controversy, you can find much more information than the crumbs I offer in this space.  There have been books, articles, even a documentary  [10] on the subject, by writers and investigators far more experienced and eloquent then moiself.  If you find your defensive hackles rising at the mere thought of criticizine a “saint”–  if you prefer the PR to reality – it’s likely you won’t be convinced by the evidence, no matter the source.

Evidence – and her own words – show that Mother Teresa was not so much a “champion of the poor” but a religious fanatic who took pleasure in their suffering. Not only did she refuse to alleviate the pain of her patients but she gloried in it. As she herself said: “I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people.”
(“Mother Teresa ‘a friend of poverty, not of the poor,” Carol Hunt, independent.ie)

Here’s the main point, which I think cannot be overemphasized:  Mother Teresa did not love the poor and the afflicted; she was in love with poverty and affliction. The difference is astronomically crucial, particularly in understanding her motivation – which is most adamantly not an excuse – for the way she treated her patients and ran her organization.

Did she see the Calcutta slum dwellers for who and what they were, and respect them as (non-Catholic) individuals? Or did she see them as mere objects sharing a “lot” she considered to be some kind of blessed condition bestowed by her deity?

People who are in fact poor and genuinely suffering do not idealize their misery. The destitute want to rise out of poverty, and the afflicted want to get well. To think (and act) otherwise about their situations is patronizing, not compassionate.

 

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Is it time for some kind of cute picture to relieve the tension?

 

A summary of the reality behind the Mother Teresa mythos:

* Critics have pointed out a host of ways in which MT’s mission of mercy was not all that it seemed, including but not limited to her shady ways of caring for the sick, her problematic political contacts, her irregular management of the vast sums of money she received, and her harsh, dogmatic views on social and cultural issues.  Examples include:

* Doctors and journalists who visited MT’s clinics accused her of perpetuating the suffering of destitute patients by not giving them easily obtainable painkillers and by having the dying spend their final weeks on wooden pallets in communal dormitories, fed only on boiled rice and water;

* Families who took their loved ones to MT’s clinics to receive care for, e.g., a broken leg, complained that their loved ones were treated as if they were dying (i.e., given only hospice-type care and not transferred or referred to another, actual medical clinic) and thus did die, from lack of treatment of totally non-lethal, treatable ailments.  [11]  Meanwhile, MT herself traveled out of the country to California clinics when she got sick and required treatment.

* Several visitors who traveled to see MT’s Calcutta clinic, impressed by the mission to help the poor but appalled by the clinic’s primitive conditions and lack of supplies, made substantial donations to MT’s order (“The Sisters of Charity”) for the express purpose of updating and supplying the clinic. When these donors returned months or years later to see what their monies had wrought, they were shocked to find the clinic was as rundown as it had always been (and MT’s order refused to publish any audit of its funds).  Meanwhile, MT’s order was opening religious schools around the world – by MT’s own claim she opened 500 convents in more than one hundred countries – most of them bearing her name.  [12]

* Germaine Greer called MT a “religious imperialist” bent on evangelism,” and Indian human rights activists accused MT of a covert agenda – trying to convert the poor to Christianity, under the guise of treating the sick. Witnesses observed MT and her staff performing the Catholic rite of baptism upon dying and delusional non-Christian patients while pretending to cool the patients’ heads with wet cloths.

* MT accepted donations from – and provided photo ops for – sleazy public figures who gave her donations –  including the brutal Haitian dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier (whom she praised in return), the disgraced British publisher Robert Maxwell, and the thieving American banker, Charles Keating (remember the S & Loan crisis?) – while refusing to comment upon (or claiming ignorance about) their atrocious human rights violations.

This last * is particularly galling to me, because if you can for some reason excuse the other criticisms of MT, how can you justify, other than for brazen $$ interests, her cozying up to such horrible people and regimes? Do you know about her astonishing personal involvement in the prosecution of Charles Keating?

MT wrote a letter, on behalf of Keating to the judge who tried Keating’s case, asking for mercy and leniency in Keaton’s sentencing…despite claiming in the letter to know nothing about his business nor the criminal charges levied against him. The Deputy DA who worked on the prosecution of Keating wrote an eloquent letter back to MT, detailing the charges against Keating and the sources of the money that Keating had donated to MT, thus providing, as Hitchens put it, the “clearest and best-documented proof against the customary apologies about (MT’s supposed) innocence and unworldliness.”

The DA was so appalled by MT’s efforts on behalf of her benefactor  – and her seeming lack of concern for those Keating had swindled – that he allowed Hitchens to print his response to MT in its entirety, in Hitchen’s MT expose, The Missionary Position.  An excerpt from his letter:

“The victims of Mr. Keating’s fraud come from a wide spectrum of society. Some were wealthy and well-educated. Most were people of modest means and unfamiliar with high finance. One was, indeed, a poor carpenter who did not speak English and had his life saving’s stolen by Mr. Keating’s fraud….

You urged (the judge) to look into his heart – as he sentences Charles Keating – and do what Jesus would do. I submit the same challenge to you. Ask yourself what Jesus would do if he were given the fruits of a crime; what Jesus would do if he were in possession of money that had been stolen; what Jesus would do if he were being exploited by a thief to ease his conscience?

I submit that Jesus would promptly and unhesitatingly return the stolen property to its rightful owners. You should do the same. You have been given money by Keating that he has been convicted of stealing by fraud. Do not permit him the “indulgence”  [13]  he desires. Do not keep the money. Return it to those who worked for it and earned it.

If you contact me I will put you indirect contact with the rightful owners of the property now in your possession.”

Mother Teresa neither replied to the letter nor returned the money.

*   *   *

May you always judge the reputation by the deeds, and not vice-versa;
May you always be able to provide an accounting;
May you know (at least as per circumcision jokes) when to leave it alone;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

 

[1] for the movie, We the Animals.

[2] And be relieved if I stop at the mere rejoinder and do not go into full lecture mode. 

[3] Bypassing traditional procedures for canonization, a move by Pope John Paul II which bothered many Catholics.

[4] Greer was once on the same airplane flight as MT, and noted that while she (Greer) rode in economy class, MT, who had taken a vow of poverty, rode in first class.  Greer had critiqued  MT and the Catholic charitable orders and their policies and politics before and after that plane ride, and infamously referred to MT as the “glamour girl of poverty” and MT’s Missionary order as an “order of clones.”

[5] And he later thanked me for bringing up a hitherto unknown (to him) perspective.

[6] An award bestowed by the FFRF, for public figures who use “plain speaking” on the shortcomings of religion.

[7]  We had to settle for stale pretzels. But the wine was nice.

[8] Which had been fully on display that evening during a Q & A session after his speech, when “Hitch” calmly, wittily, and effectively verbally eviscerated those who were less than prepared/articulate in framing their questions.

[9] Something Beautiful For God.

[10] “Hell’s Angel,” produced by Hitchens and journalist Tariq Ali. Hitchen’s research for this film, which first ran as a BBC television program in 1994, spurred him to write the book, The Missionary Position.

[11] And these poor families (who later spoke with journalists) told of how when they complained to the local  authorities, they were either disbelieved or hushed up, due to MT’s reputation.

[12] So much for her claims of modesty and humility.

[13] The purchase of “indulgences” (i.e.. buying one’s way to forgiveness)  was once an acceptable method of seeking forgiveness in the Catholic church. It was one of the theological abominations cited by Martin Luther which led to The Protestant reformation.

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