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The Culture I’m Not Relativizing

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Content warning: content, much of it cranky. If you’re not cranky, you’re not paying attention.

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Here is the understated headline of the article MH alerted me to, in Tuesday’s NY Times:

Clash of Values Emerges After Afghan Child Bride Burns to Death

I find the passive voice repugnant – burns to death? The girl didn’t just spontaneously combust. She was beaten and set on fire, after being bartered away as a 6th grader to settle a family dispute – treated and discarded as the piece of dispensable property women ultimately are in such brutal and backward cultures.

Clash of values. What an obscenity it becomes, being put so mildly. And how many times have I read variations of this grotesque play out of cultural values?

* Afghan woman, whose genitalia was severed by her husband, fights for justice amid rising violence against women

* Banished or battered at home, Afghan women share stories of surviving abuse.

*  … the images show an Afghan woman beaten to death by a mob…savagely beaten not by bearded Taliban but by very young men, wielding sticks and carrying mobile phones.

Go ahead, do the search yourself. You can Google until you gag with this subject, and also with the knowledge that for every story of the barbarous treatment of women and girls that makes the news, thousands more are not headline grabbers; rather, it’s just Life Goes On in Afghanistan and other Islamist cultures.

Back to the shiny happy first story. In the final paragraphs of the NY Times article, the story tells of how a relative of the family suspected in the girl’s torture and murder was questioned, by a criminal investigator and local activists, as to whether the girl was even old enough to consent (to the bartered marriage) in the first place.

“Why are you asking me? Go ask the Prophet,” (the relative) said, explaining that they were merely following traditions from the Prophet Muhammad’s time.

 

 

warning

 

 

As I have no doubt noted before in this space, I am not a cultural relativist. I abhor the fact that there is even such a concept as cultural relativism. And if you support it or defend it and I find out about it, I am going to go all medieval judgmental on your ass. Because the idea that people’s backwards and bigoted beliefs and cruel behaviors should be understood in terms of their culture leads to backwards and bigoted beliefs and cruel behaviors being defended or even excused…because it’s their culture.

You bet your ecumenical ass I’m gonna judge that. Judging cultures – any and all cultures – is what we all should be doing.

Discerning differences and making choices are good and necessary practices. It is wise to judge a tree by the fruit it produces. If your pear tree consistently produces sour-tasting, parasitic-ridden pears that rot before they ripen despite your best horticultural and pest control efforts, you’d best leave it to the bees and get your Anjous elsewhere.

 

 

bees

 

 

Don’t let any mush-brained cultural apologist fool you into thinking there are not valid criteria for testing or judging beliefs, world-views or practices, whether religious or non-religious. There are criteria, and they focus on the centrality of that most humanist value, compassion.  Analyze a belief, worldview or practice – does it lead to compassion and loving kindness?  Or does it produce in its adherents certainty, self-righteousness, belligerence, and the domination of the powerful us over the vulnerable them? [1]  

A worldview that teaches humility, gratitude, love and compassion and fosters equal responsibility and equal justice for all, is “better” than one that justifies or permits slavery and/or inequality and/or values (or even demands) incuriosity and ignorance re the natural world and/or preaches fear and guilt or the domination of the majority by a plutocracy.

Way back in the ’60s and ’70s I heard the argument that the ideology of Apartheid was part of the Afrikaaner culture; thus, who are we, as non South Africans, to understand or judge South African society? When enough of us worldwide stopped accepting that excuse, Apartheid was ended.

As a brown-skinned person with a Muslim name, I can get away with a lot more than you’d think. I can publicly parade my wife or daughters around in head-to-toe burqas and be excused out of “respect” for my culture and/or religion, thanks to the racism of lowered expectations.
( Pakistani-Canadian writer and physician and self-described “Atheist Muslim” Ali A. Rizvi )

 

allah says

 

  

“Go ask the prophet.”

Fuck your prophet.  Fuck anyone’s prophet. Fuck your shitty prophet’s shitty, primitive, ignorant, Iron Age, intellectually dysenteric misogyny still practiced as “traditions” by the various prophets’ blinkered, small-minded, ignorant followers Find some kind of shield, place it over prophet-following countries, and remove it when there’s nothing left but the cockroaches. [2]

Some days, that’s how I feel. Which is one reason I so love Bruce Cockburn’s song,  If I Had a Rocket Launcher …because it reminds me why it is a good thing I don’t have a rocket launcher. [3]

So. On my good days, I try to remember the individual women living in such cultures. I try to think of the almost 500,000 women sponsored via an organization I’ve supported for many years, an international organization which works directly with “marginalized women in 8 countries  [4]  affected by war and conflict…to offer support, tools, and access to life-changing skills to move from crisis and poverty to stability and economic self-sufficiency,” via offering these women  “job training, business and life skills, access to opportunity and more.”

On my bad days, [5]  I consider the email I got from said organization informing me of the new “sponsored sister” I’ll be supporting for the next 18 months and think, What’s the point? I think about the fact that this woman lives in Afghanistan, and I am sponsoring her…for what? To “access opportunity” in a culture of this?

 

 

 

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Department Of I Tried, I Really Tried…

…to force myself to watch a live telecast of the Republican Convention.

 

 

REALLY

 

 

Yes, really. Civic Duty ®  and/or Informed Citizen ® , and all that.

Five minutes into it, I thought it would be more intellectual stimulating [6] to enjoy re-watching one of my favorite Star Trek TNG episodes, appropriately titled, Disaster.

 

 

Has there ever been a larger assemblage of metaphorical Number Twos, Number One?

Has there ever been a larger assemblage of metaphorical Number Twos, Number One?

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Speaking of disasters,

Department Of This Should Come As Little Surprise, But Still…

I’m shocked – shocked! – that anyone associated with the self-anointed Law and Order candidate would engage in such bald-face, bare-assed thievery.

Please tell me someone is planning to sue for plagiarism, after many journalists and bloggers pointed out that portions of Melania Trump’s convention speech contained “striking similarities” – i.e., word for word pilfering – of Michelle Obama’s address at the 2008 Democratic convention.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Oh – cynical moiself. Who am I to judge? [7] It was difficult for Melania, growing up as a black woman in Chicago. Just ask her daughters, Sasha and Malia.

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Department Of Yes It’s True I Live To Burst Your Bubble

In our over-stressed and under-thought society, we esteem the concept of taking time out from our busy lives to notice, admire and appreciate the simple pleasures in life. We even have an advisory adage for it:

Remember to stop and smell the roses.

I am someone who stops to smell the roses, whenever I’m out walking and come across a particularly alluring one. Thus, I feel entitled to add a cautionary addendum to that adage.

 

 

How quaint; she's going to bollix it up for us, isn't she?

How quaint; she’s going to bollix it up for the rest of us, isn’t she?

 

 

If we (claim to) appreciate taking the time to seek the beauty in the everyday world, I hope we also appreciate telling the truth about performing such acts. Because the thing about stopping to smell the roses is that if you do so you will, at times, feel sorely disappointed – even betrayed.

As MH can testify, many is the time I’ve paused on our walks or hikes to sniff a beautiful flower, only to indignantly exhale, What is this – they call this a rose!?

Not every rose smells like a rose, or like any blooming thing at all, for that matter.

Not every visually enticing flower has a fragrance worthy of its name. Some of the most visually stunning roses seem to have no scent at all, as if they’ve had their monoterpenes bred out of them. The beautiful grandiflora salmonie that caught your eye may not have a whiff of anything remotely floral  [8]  emanating from its delicate, salmon-colored petals.

 

 

 

Keep Calm and pretend you relish the aroma reminiscent of your grandmother's mothballed woolen stockings.

Keep Calm and pretend you relish the aroma of your grandmother’s mothballed woolen stockings.

 

 

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May you, like Trump Missus #3 in a series,
have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood and call bullshit (and plagiarism) when they hear it;
May you beware of trees producing rotten fruit;
May you take the risk and stop to sniff the blossoms anyway;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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[1] Be it men over women, true believers over infidels….

[2] I would like to find a shield that would let the innocent flora and fauna survive, but the people, I’m not so sure are worth preserving. Even the “victims” of such cultures go on to victimize others, as that is how they are raised.

[3] Ah, but if Trump were president, a rocket launcher in every garage!

[4] Afghanistan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Sudan.

[5] Or perhaps, realistically, those are also good days?

[6] And less psychologically disturbing.

[7] Oh, that’s right – I settled the judgy thing in the previous rant.

[8] Or remotely salmon…for which you may be grateful.

The Girl Power Link I’m Not Sharing

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“So flattered and honoured that our crazy song
is being used so beautifully for such a great cause.”

(Melanie C.)

The “crazy song” former Spice Girl Melanie is referring to is the Spice Girls’ hit song Wannabe; the great cause is “Girl Power,” as per the link to The Global Goals ‪#‎WhatIReallyReallyWant video. The video has been getting a lot of sharing and positive comments among my FB friends, but I can’t bring myself to click on share.

The Global Goals is (or seems to be) an internet organization which wants us all to “Make the noise” about inequality and investing in education and other opportunities for girls and women worldwide. In their own words:

Girls and women are disproportionately affected by (challenges of global challenges of poverty, climate change and inequalities) and are key to building resilient communities to withstand them. That’s why we need to ensure World Leaders and the Secretary General of the United Nations listen to the voices of girls and women and put them first in policies and plans.
2016 is our chance to use our collective power and tell world leaders what we really really want for girls and women….

 Truly laudable goals…but [1]

The tune is as catchy as ever; still, I had to sigh the same sigh (as in, not this, again) when I saw the video.

 

 

reallywant

 

 

I wanted to love the video’s two brief scenes featuring girls in Arabic/Middle Eastern and African Muslim classrooms [2] with a sign Quality Education For All Girls on the rooms’ chalkboards.  Wanted to love, but couldn’t, because I paid attention to the video as a whole, and thought that, however sincere the sentiments behind those who produced it, the people who most need to be reached by the message or ideas the video wants to send are not likely to look at the video or appreciate the ideas/ideals expressed in it, due to the clothing and pelvic gyration-dancing of the other girls/women in the video. The video will likely be seen as just one more piece of Western propaganda.

You see what they mean by “Quality Education?!”
What they really want is for our females to be corrupted by infidel Western immorality….

Content warning: cranky feminist rant ahead.

So I’ll tell you want I want/what I really really want: I want messages of Girl Power to stop playing along with the commercialization and sexualization of girl bodies; I want third wave feminists and their (supposed) supporters [3] to stop illustrating the idea that “girl power,” and the related idea of loving/accepting/celebrating your body means donning tit/ass/ab revealing clothing and using provocative, sexualized gyrations and dance moves to “sell” the idea of equality.

Harumpf.

I think I need some celebration of boy power to change the mood:

 

 

 

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The Book I’m Not Recommending

As in, not merely recommending; rather, urging you to read How Not To Die, by Michael Greger, M.D.

The author, Dr. Gregor, cheekily acknowledges his book’s intentionally provocative title – which really should be, How Not To Die Prematurely, he writes later on in the book. The book itself is provocative in that its message, that a plant-based diet is the healthiest way to eat and can prevent and even reverse chronic disease, has been scientifically established yet is almost unknown among medical doctors, who receive little to no training in nutrition but plenty of indoctrination (and free samples and steak dinners and other perks and incentives) by pharmaceutical companies – companies which, of course, have a strong disincentive in having people choosing nutritional and lifestyle changes over popping pills.

But, don’t just take moiself‘s word for it. Here’s my favorite review of the book: [4]

Stop whatever you’re doing and buy this book. Not only does Dr. Michael Greger drop a metric f*ckton of evidence that a plant-based diet will save your damn life, he lays out the blueprint to make it happen. Dr. Greger shows us how regular folks can eat well and not get taken down by some totally preventable bullsh*t. Thug Kitchen”

HNTD was recommended by a friend.[5] I was skeptical at first, given the book’s similarity, title-wise, to another book I’d read several years ago: The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead. But the two books could hardly be more dissimilar.

A “litany of decay and decrepitude,” as one reviewer described it, TTALITODYBE takes a supposedly humorous and fact-filled examination of the medical and philosophical issues re aging and death…and it just got to be too much for me. Chapter after chapter delineating the cognitive and physiological indignities that await you, the majority of which you have little or no control over.  Even the ones that didn’t apply to me…it added up to an impacted bowel-ful of dismal TMI. Did I really need to know, for example, about the inevitability of scrotal sagging?  Although I must admit it is a lot of fun to type scrotal sagging.

 

 

Thanks, mister, but I've no interest in seeing if the carpet matches the drapes.

Thanks, mister, but I’ve no interest in seeing if the carpet matches the drapes.

 

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The Cheese I’m Not Making

But I will be, soon. The following picture is of what will become a batch of rejuvelac, a non-alcoholic fermented liquid made from sprouted grains (quinoa, in this case), which I will use to (attempt to) make non-dairy cheese.  The good, the bad, and the ugly shall be reported herein. Eventually.

 

rejuvelac

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Department of With Apologies to Nike, Just Do It

Feeling frisky recently, I wanted to go to a Dollar Tree store, fill a handcart with a miscellany of the store’s wares, get in line at the checkout counter and ask the clerk for a price check on every item.

Sometimes, I am amazed by my self-restraint.

 

 

Oh, thank you – because this job doesn't suck enough already.

Oh, thank you – because this job doesn’t suck enough already.

 

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May you restrain yourself when necessary;
May you just do it when just doing it is called for;
May you appreciate the good, the bad, the ugly, and the cheesy;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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[1] You knew a but was coming, didn’t you?

[2] I assume Muslim, as the girls are clothed in identical school uniforms and all wear hijab or headscarves.

[3] Many if not most of whom, I’d wager, are first wave misogynists, clothing marketeers, or just plain lechers.

[4] And you know you gotta trust the opinion of someone who works in the Thug Kitchen.

[5] A friend who has made and maintained the changes recommended in the book for several years now, changes which caused me to literally gasp when I saw her, she looked so %$&* healthy and happy was back to her normal high school weight (and if that subjective evidence isn’t impressive – and BTW health, not weight loss, was her objective – her cholesterol, BP and other “disease indicator” numbers have significantly dropped).

The Parents I’m Not Blaming

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Or, am I?

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Department Of Not Ignoring The 800 Lb Gorilla In The Room

That would be the 450 lb gorilla named Harambe, an endangered silverback who is no longer in the room (at the Cincinnati Zoo). As you’ve probably heard by now, Harambe was shot and killed last week by zookeepers to protect a three-four year old [1] boy who had somehow climbed under a rail, through wires and over a moat wall to get into the gorilla’s enclosure.

Visitors. Guests. The Public  whatever you call them (that is, us), zoological parks, National and State Parks and wilderness preserves and  animal conservancies couldn’t exist without them.  And, as any park employee [2] can tell you, the most dangerous animals to be found at such preserves are the humans.

 

 

zoo1

 

 

MH and I have been members of the Oregon Zoo for a long time. Both our son K and daughter Belle were active in the ZooTeens program and other zoo internships, service and educational programs for 5+ years. Through our membership level, our own years of attending the zoo, and our kids’ involvement with some amazing mentors, we’ve been privy to behind-the-scenes info and stories from zoo staff and volunteers…which is leading up to this: you wouldn’t believe the crazy, stupid, irresponsible (and sometimes just plain malicious) shit some people will pull.

Take this story, of the Very Tall Dad who, holding his infant daughter in his arms, pushed through shrubbery to get as close as he could to the railing guarding the concrete moat surrounding the tiger enclosure. While his wife aimed her camera at him, VTD stretched his very long arms out as far as he could to make it appear as if he were dangling his baby above the tiger enclosure.

I heard about this from zoo employee ZE, a much-loved mentor to many ZooTeens. The afternoon this debacle-in-the-making unfolded, ZE happened to be walking by the tiger enclosure on her way another area of the zoo. She quickly approached the parents and pointed out that they were endangering both the tigers and their child. The parents were shocked out of their astonishing act of idiocy by the reality check from ZE, and thanked her accordingly:

Oh my goodness, you are so right, and we are so sorry! We were thoughtless and acted rashly, and set a bad example for other parents and children, and put you in an awkward situation. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

 

 

REALLY

 

 

Of course they didn’t. Snap out of it!

The actual reaction: the father glared at ZE and snarled, Fuck you as he and his equally white trash negligent immature partner wife scurried away.

Over my two decades plus of zoo-going, I’ve received similar responses from The General Public ®  when I’ve kindly yet firmly pointed out to people that their children were climbing over/under barriers (not into animal enclosures, but barriers meant to keep people on the trail and not trample plant habitats) or tossing their litter into animal habitats or pounding their hands against terrarium walls or shrieking in front of enclosures (in defiance of signs clearly pointing out that the animal inhabitants were sensitive to loud noises) or otherwise yelling/roaring at/taunting the animals [3]….

 

 

zoo2

 

So. We have the template, of both intentional and unintentional negligence and even willful harm, that is part of what happens when you have people at zoos.  [4] And then, there are the accidents. A kid got away from his mom, somehow got into an animal enclosure, and a beloved, valuable member of a highly endangered species is dead.

Social media is doing what social media does: casting blame, seemingly without pausing for a moment’s reflection, and abetting what has become our new national pastime. Why pay $ for tickets to a baseball game when you can, for free and in the comfort of your own living room, shame/vilify/judge the parenting skills of other people? The parents should be brought up on child endangerment charges/shot and skinned and their hides sold and the money donated to endangered gorilla/wildlife  reserves….

 

 

Yet another thoughtful rumination.

Yet another thoughtful rumination.

 

 

My Unofficial Survey On The Matter ®  indicates that most people commenting online on the matter are blaming the parents (read: mother), while a smaller percentage fault the zoo for not having a foolproof enclosure: …it could be argued that she (the boy’s mother) surely trusted the zoo to have an enclosure that was childproof.”

And I surely trusted that most people who have the slightest familiarity with children doubled over with thigh-slapping laughter after reading that statement.

 

 

 

CAMEL

 

 

 

An enclosure that was childproof.  I made no such assumption when I took my kids to the zoo, or anywhere, for that matter – even to another family’s home. [5] There is not an enclosure in the world that is childproof, or (adult) human willful stupidity-proof.

It seems there is the opportunity every day, skimming through the news, for us read about the consequences of the human propensity for doing stupid things/not paying attention/thinking “it won’t happen to me.”  Yet, like most blowholes concerned citizens ruminating over this tragic affair, I wasn’t there. Thus, I can only imagine how the tragedy unfolded…and, of course, cast hindsight judgments about what zoo officials should or shouldn’t have done, and what the gorilla would or wouldn’t do, after viewing the one video that has surfaced.

What with our Selfie Society, wherein everyone is seemingly documenting every minute of their noteworthy lives, there’s got to be another shaky cellphone  recording of the incident (or a zoo security videocam) that might shed more light on the situation. Until that or other accounts surface, we’ve only a few bystander reports, including the story of A woman who witnessed the boy’s fall said she heard the youngster say he wanted to get in the water with the gorillas. She said the boy’s mother was with several other young children and told him no.

There will continue to be a crap-ton of second, third, and twentieth guessings: the mother will be blamed (perhaps, rightfully) for not noticing the boy signaling his intent to get into the enclosure and/or for her negligent parenting skills (who is responsible for the fact that her son obviously didn’t take her “no” seriously?!?!!?), while others will point out the naiveté and willfulness of a three year old.  And, seriously folks, what parents reasonably suspect that toddlers will follow through on every desire they express? “Mommy, I wanna play with the gorilla” does not immediately translate into the almost unthinkable, Uh oh, this means my kid is going to run away from me and find a way to get into that gorilla enclosure.

The parents of the boy aren’t talking (as of this writing), except for releasing a statement through a public relations firm – a statement that froze my butt, almost as much as the whole incident itself:

“We are so thankful to the Lord that our child is safe. He is home and doing just fine. We extend our heartfelt thanks for the quick action by the Cincinnati Zoo staff…”

 

Typical.

 

 

epicurious

 

 

The parents thanked their imaginary friend – for what? For apparently picking his holy nose while their child scrambled away from his mother and somehow got up/over/under barriers and fell into the gorilla enclosure? They thanked their “lord” for their boy’s safety, a “lord” who did nothing while the gorilla alternately (arguably) protected the boy and dragged him around the enclosure [6]?  What, pray tell,  [7] exactly, did that lord do to deserve thanks? Did their deity magically/invisibly aim the gun that the heartbroken keepers used to kill the gorilla – a beloved creature mourned by his caretakers as “a gentle giant” and “like a member of the family” –  in order to protect the errant toddler from his own folly and/or parental negligence?

Once again, I digress.

Look. The parenting thing: I’ve been “there,” and it is truly amazing, even frightening, how quickly a child can apparently vanish when you do the proverbial turn your head just for a moment to check on something.

But – you knew there was going to be a but, didn’t you? – I’ve also been to and witnessed the other “there.” I’ve seen the there where parents turn their heads for way more than for a moment –the there where parents carelessly and sometimes seemingly deliberately focus their attention elsewhere, and/or expect others to pick up their slack.

;

As animal expert Jeff Corwin put it, “the zoo is not your babysitter.” And, I would add, also not your babysitter is the candy aisle of the grocery store, the video and electronics section of Costco, the furniture section of the department store…nor any of the other public places and/or employees I’ve seen parents use as virtual/free childcare. Including the doctor’s office. [8]  [9]

 

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May we all be accountable for our actions;
May we also be understanding of lapses in judgment and other human frailties;
May we work to ensure that empathetic humans are not an endangered species;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] I have read conflicting reports as to the boy’sage.

[2] If you know them well enough and can get them alone/willing to speak off the record.

[3] This seems to be, in my experience, largely the territory of late adolescent/early adult young males who, when they get near the larger felines, bears and or other predator species, are trying to prove…what are they trying to prove?

[4] Or at the DMV, for that matter.

[5] I was One Of Those Parents © who asked other parents, when my kids were going to their house for the first time, if they had firearms in the house (and if so, how/where are they stored) and if there were cigarette smokers in the house (smokers tend to leave matches and lighters around, and every small child is an inherent firebug).

[6] Depending on which animal behavior expert’s interpretation you read.

[7] On second thought, ignore the expression. Don’t pray, just tell.

[8] “Oh, I can bring him in the room with me and you can just watch him for a bit, can’t you?” Sure, lady, it’ll be no problem for me to use my other four hands to restrain your child while I’m prepping the pap smear slide for the doctor who is PERFORMING YOUR PELVIC EXAM.

[9] Yes, that scenario has happened to me, and more than once, during my former reincarnation as a women’s reproductive health care assistant.

The Troops I’m Not Supporting

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Would you like to support our troops?

It’s that same woman outside the same grocery store, sitting at the same folding table covered with the same pile of camouflage pens and toys and ribbons and bracelets, and flag pins and bumper stickers and decals.  “Would you like to support our troops?” she says – a statement more than a question – and she waves her hand over the pile of schocky military-themed shit allegedly patriotic crap.

 

*  Is this a private charity, and if so, what is its name?

* Will I find your organization listed on Charity Navigator and/or give well and/or GiveWell and/or CharityWatch and/or other independent organizations that vet charities for cost effectiveness and transparency and efficiency and efficacy of donation usage?

* Do you have a statement on your administrative overhead/costs? If not, can you tell me where does the money go? How much do you make on each plastic brimmed camouflage hat, and what percentage of the sale of this…merchandise…goes to “the troops,” and by “the troops” what do you mean….?

Those are the questions I thought to ask, but didn’t. Instead, mindful that I had things to do/places to be, I responded tersely, but truthfully. I paused at the table, looked at the WTF? collection of items, then favored her with what I hoped was an expression of genuine regret at the ignorant naiveté of her request, and not the disgust I felt welling up.

“No, sorry, but buying plastic crap made in China does nothing to ‘help the troops.’ ” [1]

Her eyes glazed over; she did not engage me further but didn’t miss a beat calling out to the next person exiting the store. So when I saw her last Wednesday night, doing her same shtick, it was good thing she didn’t catch me because I’d vowed if she ever solicited me again I would waste a precious ten seconds telling her that what our troops really need is our help in electing leaders who will not send our soldiers to fight senseless, strategy-less, endless, oil-dependency fueled wars.

 

 

Feeling guilty about sending young Americans to fight overseas while you stay at home enjoying the comforts of your LazyBoy ® ? Not to worry, saying "Thank you for your service," to a soldier in uniform, plus sticking any of these decals on your vehicles is the equivalent of serving one tour of duty in Dumbfuckistan and crafting a rational foreign policy.

Feeling guilty about sending young Americans to fight overseas while you stay home enjoying the comforts of a LazyBoy ® ? Not to worry, saying “Thank you for your service,” to a soldier in uniform, plus sticking any of these decals on your vehicles, is the equivalent of serving one tour of duty in Dumbfuckistan and crafting a rational foreign policy.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of That Which Defies Description  [1]

When Mariya Karimjee was little, members of her family made a decision that would affect her entire life. Years later, she wants to know why.

Such a down-to-earth introduction to a mind-blowing, heart-rending and yet ultimately, I’d argue, triumphant story – a story that (surprise!) is not about the Holocaust.  [2]

If you are up for a dose of humanity, please listen  [3]  to  Whose Great Idea Was This?”, from the most recent edition of This American Life: Who Do We Think We Are.

 

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A Somewhat Happier Dose of Humanity; aka,
Department Of Making The Best Of Things Via Fun With Eggcorns

 

One of the few upsides of having an elderly, cognitively sketchy, memory-impaired parent, who is also hard of hearing, is having an exchange like that which I recently had with my mother  [4].

Context: phone call with my mom, updating her re various family members.  [5]   She asked about my son, K, who is, I assured her, in a happy place. He’s working at a job he likes, renting a house with friends, and – bonus for us! – he took one of the cats with him.  [6]

Moiself: “You may recall that MH and I have three indoor cats. The one named Tootsie – she’s with K, now.”

Mom: “I remember her. She’s the one with many toes. K took her? How nice.”

Moiself: “Yes, she’s living with him.”

Mom: “Oh, that’s a shame.”

Moiself: “Uh…what’s a shame?”

Mom: “That she’s an invalid.”

It took me a beat to realize, “She’s living with him” got translated as, “She’s an invalid.”

 

*   *   *

Department of And One More Thing

It can – and indeed has – been argued that living with any cat is like living with an invalid. A fussy, demanding, hard-to-please invalid.

 

"No, I said I wanted the mice purée served at room temp and my footbath steaming hot. It's so hard to find good help these days...."

“No, I said I want my mice purée served at room temp and my footbath steaming hot. It’s so hard to find good help these days….”

*   *   *

May you be inspired to help – troops, or anybody – in ways that truly do;
May you appreciate the whimsy of eggcorns, no matter the source;
May you enjoy kind of pleasure that comes from foisting off a yet another household responsibility onto sharing a beloved pet with your adult child;
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] And yet, someone finds the strength to do so.

[2] Although it could be argued it is about another kind of Holocaust, wherein a group of people are abused solely because they belong to a certain category as defined by those in power.

[3] You could get the transcript, but I think there is more power in hearing the voices of those in the story.

[4] Assurances for the easily concerned: my mother has no computer access, doesn’t read my blog, doesn’t know that I write a blog, doesn’t know what a blog is….

[5] That is, repeating the same information during every phone call (and often more than once during the same call).

[6] Now, if only he would take one or both of the snakes….

The List I’m Not Making

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Haiku for Walking
While Listening to Nothing
Yet Hearing So Much

Early evening,
heading downtown, I greet the
others who walk past.

They nod, adjust their
earbuds, and return their gaze
downward, at their phones.
They have their iTunes,
podcasts, or conversations,
but miss the street songs:

Backyard wind chimes;
breeze rustling the birch leaves;
a child’s distant laugh.

Cars unseen but heard;
cheers from the nearby sports field;
crows rebuking jays.

Walking to downtown
to meet MH for dinner
cellphone in stasis.

downtownb

*   *   *

Department Of Pissing In The Wind
Aka, Will It Do Any Good?

Briefly: I experienced buyer’s remorse after purchasing something online and, when the product arrived, was horrified by the excessive, totally unnecessary, wasteful, non-recyclable packaging. I sent an email to the company [1], with this picture, and advised/implored them to do better. [2]

 

olay

*   *   *

Department of Even More Essential Than a Bucket List

 

Last Friday MH surprised us [3] by procuring dinner reservations at an mahhhvelous vegetarian restaurant, Natural Selection. The dining atmosphere was at once intimate and welcoming, and not at all twee or intimidating, despite the restaurant having the all-too-Portland description rustic chic applied to it by critic.

We spent over two hours enjoying a prix fixe, four course (with wine pairings for each course) dinner. We enjoyed the kind of meal that makes you feel ebullient and comrade-ic with your fellow diners, and you turn to those seated to your left and right and find an excuse to make conversation – the kind of meal that turns strangers into friends (“What did you choose for the second course?”).

It was the kind of meal that should have had me posting a picture of each course to a certain friend, but I was so into the repast I neglected to do so. By the way, if you have the good fortune to know Scott Duke Harris, intrepid Santa Ana, CA – Hanoi journalist, do send him pictures of your favorite meals. He’ll love it.

 

NS

 

 

Once again, I digress.

As per the afore-mentioned, strangers-begin-talking-when-inspired-by-good-food impulse, I struck up a conversation with the gentleman seated at the table to my right. He and his Lovely and Talented Wife © were, like MH and I, first-timers at the restaurant. They were celebrating her retirement from 25 years with one job and moving on to the third act. He preceded her in retirement, and we began chatting about how he was filling his time, including trying new things – like a gourmet vegetarian restaurant – and yet not falling into the I-only-have-so-much-time-left-and-must-do-all-the-things-I-missed-doing-when-I-was-younger trap. We commiserated about the ever-increasing swiftness of the passage of time, and about avoiding the well-meaning advice of those people who have compiled their own bucket list and pressure you to do the same.

I told him how, while continuing to seek meaningful ways to contribute to society, I also seek to minimize time spent in activities I loathe. [4] For example, I know I will never be able to reclaim those hours, attending a “morale raising/teamwork-building” business workshop, or sitting in a committee, listening to someone ask a question that needn’t have be asked (or that had already been answered) but was put out there so that the asker could be seen as insightful or perceptive by his colleagues….

The gentleman concurred, and offered this sentiment: the older he gets, the more he realizes the importance of not doing certain things. That is, he recognizes what, for him, is the primacy of not the bucket list, but the fuck-it list.

Exactly! I resisted the urge to pound my fist on the (artisanal, hand- crafted) table in enthusiastic recognition of a kindred spirit.  And I told him I was going to steal his description.

No matter our age, we are all bound by the limits of lifespan. You may be compiling an inspiring bucket list, and if so, good for you!  I hope you are also keeping track of what you do not need to do anymore – including things you’ve never done, things that may be #1 on someone else’s bucket list but which you just don’t see as effort- or time- or money- or risk-worthy  [5]  .  As in, fuck it, I’m not going to squander my time on that.

 

 

buycket

*   *   *

Skepticism is hard.  How do you convince someone they’re not thinking clearly when they’re not thinking clearly?
Our brains are not “wired” for skeptical thinking; studies have shown that people who lose their “faith” tend to replace it with something else, with a different type of belief – with some other non-evidence-based reasoning.

(Phil Platt, astronomer, writer and science blogger, from his “Don’t be a Dick” talk at the TAM Conference , 2010)

Acartoon

 

 

Last week I came across a link to an article titled, Transgenderism: A Pathogenic Meme. The article was written by Paul McHugh, MD, a Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School, and published via the conservative thinktank, The Witherspoon Institute. The link to the article was posted by a FB friend who is a conservative Christian and who recently obtained an (on-line) degree in counseling from Liberty University.

Yep. That Liberty University – the one founded by Jerry Falwell. [6] Liberty is the kind of conservative religious institution that purports to offer an “education” and “the pursuit of knowledge in every discipline” – as long as said knowledge can be cherry-picked to conform to their frighteningly, medieval superstition relic doctrinal statement…in which Iron Age mythological beings are treated as serious 21st century driving forces.

So. FBF posted this intro to the link: “Very good article. If a person wants help, evidence-based intervention is always the best way to go.”

One of the article’s assertions about transgenderism –  that facts are more determinative than feelings –  is one I happen to agree with…about any subject. And so I couldn’t help but chuckle Oy vey, if only after reading FBF’s intro.

“For those who want to be helped, evidence based-reasoning….” Indeed. That would be a nice change and a pleasant surprise.

If only y’all religious believers would apply evidence-based reasoning across the entire spectrum of your lives, and not only when you (think you) can find or fashion evidence to suit a particular doctrinal tenet.

Facts are (or should be) more determinative than feelings, including the fact that religious/supernatural claims about the world are ultimately based on feelings – believers [7] live and walk by faith, as their own holy books tell them . The only fact-based thing about religion is the fact that all religions tells different stories as to how the world works and/or how and why their god(s) operate, and competing faiths use similar arguments to stake why theirs is the only true faith.

 

faith

 

 

Meanwhile, Humanists, Brights, Freethinkers, atheists, agnostics, and others who hold a reason-based worldview shake our heads and smile our holy shit?! smiles and say, Cool story, bro.

And for those religious believers who want to be helped, evidence-based reasoning can be found at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Recovering From Religion organization and hotline, and many, many other organizations which provide support for those who recognize they need to overcome religious indoctrination.

 

*   *   *

May you carefully and joyously compile your bucket and fuck-it lists;
May you remember to pull the plugs and listen to the nothing;
May you enjoy many a meal that Scott Harris would envy;
.. .and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] whose product line name rhymes with Soil of NoWay.

[2] The same advice I gave to myself, re checking out a product’s packaging before looking for a good price.

[3] Yes, both us; as in, I think he surprised himself by the awesomeness of his choice.

[4] Read: committees and meetings.

[5] Sky diving, anyone?

[6] Yep, that Jerry Falwell, the one who said, among numerous batshit crazy claims for Jesus, “Good Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions.”

[7] Notice they are called, and call themselves, believers.

The Titles I’m Not Choosing

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This week I renewed MH’s and my membership with the Portland Art Museum. On the online renewal form, I decided to check out a category – the one for “title” – I usually skip unless it is mandatory. I was richly rewarded for following that whim.

When I clicked on the box for title, Instead of the usual three to six possibilities (Mr. Mrs. Miss Ms. Dr., etc.), I was offered an awe-inspiring, forty-plus choices of honorifics:  [1]

– Acting Counsel General
– Ambassador
– Baron
– Bishop
– Brother
– Captain
– Chair
– Chairman
– Chief
– Col.
– Commissioner
– Consul General
– Councilor
– Cpt.
– Dr.
– Drs.
– Father
– First Lady
– General (Ret.)
– Governor
– Judge
– Lady
– Lt.
– Madam
– Mayor

 

But you've left out "His Excellency, Supreme Leader, Shining Star of Paektu Mountain, Ever-Victorious, Iron-Willed Commander, Glorious General, Who Descended From Heaven..."

But you’ve left out “His Excellency, Supreme Leader, Shining Star of Paektu Mountain, Ever-Victorious, Iron-Willed Commander, Glorious General, Who Descended From Heaven…”

– M.D.
– Miss
– Miss.
– Monsieur et Madame
– Mr.
– Mr. and Mrs.
– Mrs.
– Ms
– Ms.
– PhD.
– President and Chief Executive Officer
– Prof.
– Rabbi
– Representative
– Rev.
– Rev. Dr.
– Reverend
– Senator
– Sir
– Sister
– The
– The Honorary
– The Rev. Hon.
– The Rev.Honorary

How could I leave the space blank after all that?  I was tempted by several titles (will life offer me any other opportunities to be addressed as Ambassador ?), but settled for one. My choice has, IMHO,  a deceptive simplicity that implies so much more – truly, a title of unlimited possibility. I’m not just (a) Robyn Parnell, I’m The Robyn Parnell.

*   *   *

She Doesn’t Call; She Doesn’t Text; She Doesn’t Write,
She Never Likes My Posts Anymore…

The notice from Facebook reminded me to wish CM a Happy Birthday. Trouble is, CM died over a year ago. And now I’m wondering, who gets to report those things?

I received the notification while standing at the mailing/copy center desk at Office Depot. The Nice Young Woman ® who always helps me mail my care packages to daughter Belle set me up on OD’s shipping entry monitor, then began to assist Another Customer who stood next to me. I checked my phone, and wondered aloud re yet another social media dilemma: did either of them know what to do? I assume there’s a way to alert Facebook (but if so, nobody’s done it yet, re CM), but do you have to be a family member to do so? How can you (or do you even need to) prove [2] that someone has died so that FB can retire the page of the deceased?

Another Customer (thoughtfully furrowing her brow): “Wow, that’s a good question. There’s so much going on…you just don’t think of taking your page down when that happens.”

Moiself: “Well…yeah. When you’re dead, that’s not the first thing on your mind.”

 

tombstone

 

*   *   *

Department Of Stupid Religious Rituals [3]

This week I’ll take a break from pointing out the idiocy of my own ancestors’ holy beliefs and customs and pick on another religious tradition. The pickings are far from slim, lemme tellya.

Well-being (wĕl′bē′ĭng) n. The state of being healthy, happy, or prosperous; welfare.

The following caption accompanied the following picture in Wednesday’s world news section of The Oregonian:

Hindu devotees perform a ritual balancing fire pots on their heads and hands on Sitala Puja, dedicated to the Hindu goddess of pox, in Kolkata, India, on Tuesday. Devotees participate in various rituals during this event to make a wish for the well-being of their families.

 

ritual1

 

Because nothing bodes well for the health, happiness success and of your family like having your mother, draped in flammable garments, hold pots of barely contained fire.

 

*   *   *

 

 

Yes indeed, it’s alive. One of many reasons I love looking at my sourdough culture.

 

sourdough

*   *   *

Department Of You Know It’s Spring…

 

…at our house, when it is time for that most anticipated of rituals, [4] The Harvesting Of The Asparagus. Which, in the case of our garden, is literally the ( as in, one) asparagus.

 

asp

*   *   *

Department Of WTF Is Wrong With People

There is a new kind of piercing…oh, no, there isn’t. Rather, there is a body site for piercing that is new to my hitherto unsullied eyes.

An employee has been notified to assist you, read the message on the register screen at the self-checkout stand I was using at the grocery store.  When I heard the footsteps presumably belonging to The Employee Who Had Been Notified To Assist Me approached me, I looked up from unloading items from my cart, and it took all of my composure to stile my intuitive gasp.

 

cheek

 

Where another person might have dimples, The Employee Who Had Been Notified To Assist Me had symmetrical piercings. It looked as if someone had pounded  two flathead nails in her cheeks.

The indented skin around each of the clerk’s cheek piercings was reddish, as if infected or inflamed. It . Looked. So. Wrong. And painful. I instinctively/sympathetically clenched my jaw, as if anticipating painful dental work, when I beheld her face.

I can’t figure out how such a piercing would be done, except by going through the upper inside of the mouth. Thus, just looking at her cheeks made me think, festering infection. Which is just what you want running through your mind as you prepare to scan your carton of yogurt.

The average person’s mouth is a bacteria rodeo; the Germy McMouth Germs are fine if they stay put, but if they enter the bloodstream through a cut or wound – which is what a piercing is – yikes. And what would happen if the parotid ducts (the cheek’s saliva glands) were pierced? [5]

Dentists are as a rule opposed to any kind oral piercings, and will happily recite (yes, I asked mine, once) the risks, from deadly serious endocarditis  to the may-not-kill-but-will-seriously-annoy complications including nerve damage and increased saliva/drooling….

Yeah, Old Person Rant Alert© . I am more or less tolerant (even admiring) of certain piercings, depending on where they located. [6]  But this clerk’s self-mutilation choice of body adornment had to be one of the stupidest I’d ever seen.

Ah, but the century is young.

 

 

Yes, please, put me in a position of customer contact and service.

Yes, please, put me in a position of customer contact and service.

*   *   *

Department Of Pretend I Wrote Something Witty About Tax Day

Such as, Am I the only person who wishes she were paying more in taxes, because that would mean I’m actually making money?

Such as, schmuchas. That’s not witty. Just pathetic.

 

cryboy

*   *   *

May you delight in the title of your choice;
May your tax burden be a reminder of economic plenitude;
May your body adornments not induce people to vomit in public;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 


*   *   *

 

[1] Many are, to me, amusingly redundant – are people really picky about having the abbreviation vs. the spelled out title (Captain and Cpt.), or are there some women who want their Miss to have punctuation vs. standing alone?

[2] I assume some kind of proof is needed, else people would be pranking one another other by having their frenemies declared dead.

[3] Pardon the redundancy.

[4] And quite reasonable, when compared with balancing firepots on your head.

[5] Can you say, “You’d be drooling from your dimples holes?” I knew you could, boys and girls.

[6] Ears, yay. Other parts…??? And, apparently, cheek or “dimple piercing” has been around for some time, but is not one of the more common body parts to pierce, for several reasons, including the dangers/side effects (read here for a lovely story on a piercing artist who had to remove her own dimple piercings after they…well…yuck).

The Instinct I’m Not Obeying

1 Comment

Department Of Fun With Student Drivers

Dateline: Tuesday, early a.m., out for my morning walk, waiting to cross a street. As I watched the cross traffic’s stoplight and saw the green-changing-to-yellow light – the pedestrian’s rewarding indicator that it will soon be your turn to cross the street – I noticed a white sedan slowing down much more deliberately than is usual yet still not managing to come to a complete stop until the car’s front bumper was just a tad into the crosswalk.

My light changed to green, I began to cross the street, and saw the telltale red and yellow logo for a local driving academy on the car’s driver’s door.  A student driver?

Excellent.

I looked inside the car: the student in the driver’s seat sat ramrod straight, an expression of nervous anticipation drenching her face. Her white-knuckled hands gripped the steering wheel and her gaze was fixed ahead. Her instructor was looking down at a clipboard he held; neither of them seemed aware of my approaching presence.

My instinctive reaction was to throw myself onto the hood of the car and scare the living pee-pee out of both of them.

How I managed to restrain myself, I’ll never know.

But, I did. Okay?

 

student

*   *   *

 

Pity the afore-mentioned scenario happened Tuesday, and not today. Had I gone through with my whimsical notion, ‘twould have made a good – dare I say, even legendary? – April Fool’s Day prank.

 

aparil

 

You gotta love a day that is devoted to honoring and encouraging practical jokes, hoaxes, and pranks both well- and feebly-played. 

The origins of April Fools Day’s are not completely agreed upon by historians, and have been variously attributed. What is agreed upon is that many cultures, going back to the ancient Romans and Egyptians, have set aside days for celebrating jokes and pranksters. Perhaps, as some people have speculated, there’s just something about the day’s timing – the fading of winter and the blooming of spring, which lends itself to the observance of light-hearted frivolity.

 

dipstick

 

 

I can recall only a few of the pranks I’ve played on friends, family and co-workers over the years. The memories are silly but fond, and include:

* Sneaking a package of Hydrox cookies [1] from the family snack drawer and replacing all the cream fillings in the second row of cookies with toothpaste.

* Showing two positive pregnancy test dipsticks to a newbie Planned Parenthood co-worker and telling her I was pregnant with twins.

* Adding just a couple of drops of blue food coloring to the carton of nonfat milk in my parent’s refrigerator.

* Calling my father at his office and convincing him (if only temporarily) that someone had bought a raffle ticket in his name for the local animal shelter’s fundraising event, he’d won the raffle, and could he please let the shelter know when he was coming to claim his prize: an English Mastiff and a week’s supply – a 100 lb. bag of kibble – of the dog’s food.  [2]

 

I don't get it – why would that be funny?

I don’t get it – why would that be funny?

 

 

* Swapping my and my siblings’ framed high school graduation pictures, which hung in my parent’s hallway, with pictures of the members of Led Zeppelin.

* Replacing the hard-boiled egg in my sister’s school lunch bag with a raw egg.

* Cutting my finger, smearing my blood on the scissors in co-worker Roger’s cubicle, leaving a note on my computer saying I had been threatened by Roger and feared for my life, then faking my own death and leaving town.

 

Oops, that’s right – I never got around to implementing the last one.  

As pleasurable as it is to pull off an epic prank, it can be equally fun, IMHO, to have a great prank played on your own self. I hope y’all have a Happy April Fools’ Day…and I hope that I do not regret having made that previous declaration.

 

*   *   *

Speaking of foolery…

Department Of Uh, Since You’ve Asked, That Would Be, “No”

Last Sunday a FB friend began her post thusly:

Happy Easter, everyone! Can I share what it means to me?

FBF went on to – surprise! – offer her testimony for Jesus, without waiting for an answer to her question.

 

raptor jesus

*   *   *

Department Of So What Am I Supposed To Use, A Q-Tip?

The following non-instruction was printed on the top of a large, thick, sturdy cardboard shipping container, which was filled with non-delicate items (cans of cat food).

 

sharp

*   *   *

different

*   *   *

“My hunter buddy tells me, ‘Don’t worry, when I hunt I use every part of the animal.’
You know who also uses every part of the animal? THE  ANIMAL.”
Deepak Sethi, writer/comedian

 

 

huntsport

 

*   *   *

Department Of Asking The Same Question, But For Different Reasons

“What is wrong with people?”

That question was posed on the FB page of an outdoor archery range which is located ~ 15 miles from my little house on the prairie home in Hillsboro. I was researching archery practice ranges, and remembered there is one up in the hills that is open to the public, as per a man I’d met at the Washington Park range. The range he recommended caters primarily to bow hunters,[3] or so I guessed after finding its website.

There wasn’t much current info on the website. I followed a link to the range’s Facebook page, where I encountered a post with the above question accompanied by a photo – a photo that caused me to ask the same question, but for very different reasons.

The photo, which you can see here (9-15-15 post) if you are so perverse inclined, was of the decapitated head of an enormous bull elk. The head rested atop a bloodied blanket in the bed of a pickup truck. The post asked for help in returning this pathetic souvenir of macho death lust trophy to the hunter who’d killed the elk:

“These antlers were stolen from a man in his 70’s who has never killed a bull this big with a bow. It was taken from his property….”

These antlers.

No mention of the rest of the animal; no mention of the head to which those antlers were attached – the head which showed the elk’s tongue protruding from its mouth, a mute testimony to the elk’s agonizing death throes; [4]  no mention of concern for the remaining 600 lbs of the animal. A magnificent creature was slaughtered, not for sustenance or in self-defense, but so that some old dude could hang a part of that creature’s body on his wall as a testimony to the fact that he’d previously “never killed a bull this big.”

huntpenis

 

What is wrong with people?

As posed by the FB poster(s), the question speculates as to what kind of person would steal an elderly hunter’s booty. As posed by moiself, the question wonders what kind of person of any age enjoys killing any creature for “sport.”

 

*   *   *

And One More Thing

If you consider trophy hunting to be a legitimate sport, I obviously disagree with your assessment, although I respect our difference of opinion on this matter.

And by I respect our difference of opinion on this matter I sincerely mean,

Go fuck yourself.

 

 

fair

*   *   *

May you always respect my difference of opinion, on any matter;
May you have unending patience with apprentice drivers;
May your day be filled with April foolery…
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Anyone else remember the precursor (and competitor) to Oreos?

[2] My sisters making muffled barking sounds to approximate background animal shelter noise was a great help in pulling off this prank.

[3] Rather than wimpy anti-hunting target shooters like moiself.

[4] Death by arrow is not instantaneous, not matter how expert the marksman.

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