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The (insert your organization’s name here) Of The Year Award I’m Not Winning

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Department Of A Rhetorical Question Which Is Going To Be Answered

Dateline: Sunday morning, returning from walk, listening to The Go-Go’s album,  Talk Show.  It’s one of my faves, except for the chorus of the song, Forget That Day. The song’s narrator laments what seems to be a tryst at a no-tell motel, with a lover who is already involved with someone else.  In the chorus, she laments the consequences…over and over and over….

♫  Why’d you say you loved me
That day, that day
When you knew you wouldn’t have me on
This day, this day…

What do you mean *why?*

Because it worked. Because he wanted you to fuck him, and you did.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Best Kind Of Spam Call

MH called me into his work-at-home office. When I entered the room to find out what had put the impish lilt in his voice, he held up his cellphone for me to see the caller ID for the call he’d just received (but did not answer).  “I knew you’d like this,” he said, when moiself  raised my hands with gratitude to unknown cosmic pranksters when I beheld the call’s destination:

Unknown
Athol, Maine

Hopefully, fans of the romcom Made of Honor will also one day have the opportunity to say that you got a call from some anonymous athol.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Well, There Goes My Award

Dateline: Tuesday, noonish.  MH comes downstairs, holding his phone, with yet another bit o’ impishness about him – this time, in his expression.

“What?” I ask him.

“Did you hear that Richard Dawkins got his Humanist of the Year Award taken away?” he says.

I didn’t even know that Richard Dawkins – evolutionary biologist, author, professor, atheist activist, religion-and-supernatural-thinking debunker, and equal opportunity offender when it comes to towing *any* group’s party line – had even received a Humanist of the Year Award…but him being bestowed with that title wouldn’t surprise me. I knew Dawkins had received the prized, “The Emperor Has No Clothes” award from the FFRF (Freedom From Religion Foundation), as well as a variety of other accolades for his advocacy of science and critical thinking. 

“No, I didn’t,” I replied.  “Why was it taken away – wait; let me guess.  He said something ‘offensive’?”

“It was taken away for, ‘transphobia.’ ” MH scrolled through the news feed he was reading.  “Something he tweeted.”

“Oh dear,” I giggled.  “Did someone get their trannie panties in a knot?”

 

 

*   *   *

Department So Of Course I Got Curious

Moiself got to be wondering: when was the award given, and when and what did Dawkins tweet? The answers were just a google search away.

The award was given in – holy crap – 1996?  Twenty-five years ago?  Yeah, he’s gonna be missing that…certificate…trophy…framed plaque…engraved toaster, or whatever prize is bestowed upon a Humanist of The Year.

“Mr. Dawkins sparked a backlash on Twitter after he tweeted on April 10: ‘In 2015, Rachel Dolezal, a white chapter president of NAACP, was vilified for identifying as Black. Some men choose to identify as women, and some women choose to identify as men. You will be vilified if you deny that they literally are what they identify as. Discuss.’

Several hours later, Mr. Dawkins clarified he was asking the question for academic purposes and not stating his own opinion on the matter.

‘I do not intend to disparage trans people,’ he wrote. ‘I see that my academic ‘Discuss’ question has been misconstrued as such and I deplore this. It was also not my intent to ally in any way with Republican bigots in US now exploiting this issue.’ ”
( “Richard Dawkins loses ‘Humanist of the Year’ award after comparing trans people to Rachel Dolezal,”
The Washington Times, 4-20-21 )

Okey-dokey. So: Dawkins didn’t call anyone names; he didn’t call for anyone to be marginalized or vilified. He merely stated several verifiable historical, biological, cultural and social commentary data:

  1. In 2015, Rachel Dolezal, a white chapter president of NAACP, was vilified for identifying as Black.
  2. Some men choose to identify as women.
  3. Some women choose to identify as men.
  4. You will be vilified if you deny that they (the men and women in points B and C) literally are what they identify as.

Richard Dawkins is a scientist.  He views the world, even the “social constructs” of the culture wars, through the lens of scientific critique and investigation.  Here is another thing he said, in 2015 when the Rachel Dolezal brouhaha was going on:

Is trans woman a woman? Purely semantic.
If you define by chromosomes, no. If by self-identification, yes.
I call her “she” out of courtesy.
(Richard Dawkins, @RichardDawkins, Oct 26, 2015 )

I call her she” out of courtesy (my emphases).  Whether you are a scientist or a sociologist or a dinner party guest, you call people what they want to be called; it’s a simple courtesy.  Dawkins reinforces that, by using the preferred pronouns a trans woman would use.  Were any of his critics paying attention?

In terms of the reaction to Ms. Dolezal, Dawkins stated the facts that had many people on the many sides of that wild rumpus wondering, “Wait a minute – how is this is this different from that?” (including moiself , who, deep down inside, identifies as Scarlett Johanssen, no matter what moiself looks like from the outside).

 

“Yeah, right – don’t drag me into this dumpster fire of an issue, bitch.”

Ahem.

Such questions ( “Can we talk about how or why this is, or is not, different from that?”)  can lead to illuminating dialogs.    [1]   Dialogs; you know, as in talking about the issues.  As in, “discussions.” 

Nope.  “Discuss” translates into – Dis-and-react.  As in (attempt to) shame, shout down, demonize,   [2]   and “cancel.”

It often seems that, in the censorious here and now, we cannot merely discuss any hot button topics.  This, regrettably, gives ammunition to those on “The Right” who say that “The Left” is composed of thin-skinned, self-righteous, free-speech fascists/crybabies who cannot abide the examination of their sacred cows without hiding behind the skirts of The Rhetoric of the Oppressed (“You offended me!  WAAAH!”). 

Dawkins, of course, should’ve expected this reaction.  Or, perhaps he anticipated it? He seems to enjoy putting the proverbial burr under the saddle – any rider’s saddle, including those of his own cavalry.

 

“Tell her she can stop right now with the horseback-riding metaphors, okay?”

 

Also, after decades of being threatened with the torments of hell by the (Christian) religious right for his pro-evolution/anti-creationism campaigns (Dawkins has likened the teaching of creationism in schools – which can be found hiding behind the rhetorical skirts of “intelligent design” – as “educational debauchery”), I don’t think Dawkins is going to lose any sleep over the retracted prize.

And so it is that I dust out the Asshat Of The Week award.  [3]   It seems fitting to give the award to The American Humanist Association, to dishonor their sanctimonious revocation of their 1996 award to Dawkins.  [4]

 

American Humanist Association, this Ass Hat is for you.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Everything Is Going To Be All Right, Trust Me

You know how some people contact a famous person and request birthday or other greetings for their friend, their elderly mother, a child dying of cancer, etc.?  Apparently, not all such requests are on the up-and-up, as Former Member of Parliament Nigel Farage discovered when he fell for a prank on a video-sharing app wherein fans pay celebrities to record personalized messages.

Serves him right, sez moiself.  Farage, a Brexit party leader , anti-semitic conspiracy theorist, right wing German anti-immigrant party supporter , long-time #45 defender and all-around enema bag, participates on this greetings-for-hire site (and reportedly charges £75 for each recording).  But money can’t buy a petty thrill as delightful as the one that comes from knowing that Farage’s petty greed and/or ego led to him being seen and heard around the viral world, wishing a happy birthday to a “Hugh Janus.”

“Happy birthday Hugh Janus, I’ve heard you’re a massive fan,” Farage said.

 

They also think it’s hilarious….and they don’t even speak English.

 

You can see the video here.

*   *   *

Department Of 7 Am Reflections On The Meaning Of Life ®

On a walk, blissfully solitary except for the early risers   [5]  taking their canine companions for a morning piss stroll, I find moiself  thinking,

Dogs are amiable, furry, quadrupedal structures enclosing gallon-sized bladders.

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I keep asking wat LGBTQ stands for,
but I can never get a straight answer.    [6]

 

 

*   *   *

May Those Who Bestow Such Things ® have a helluva good reason before they take away your award;
May you refrain (sorry) from writing songs with stupid questions in their choruses;
May Mr. Hugh Janus record a birthday greeting for you;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] If cool heads reign.

[2] Which is a failing strategy, when applied to an atheist.

[3] Which actually has not been bestowed, by moiself, in several years.

[4] Who will likely lose little sleep over the issue.  “Dawkins, 80, claimed that the loss of the award would have little practical effect on him because he had never used it. ‘Apparently the honour hadn’t meant enough to me to be worth recording in my CV,’ he said.”  (The Times)

[5] Now, why would you think there would be a footnote here?

[6] And the answer is “Let’s Get Bubble Tea Quickly.”

The Songs I’m Not Re-Writing

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Department Of Actually, It *Was* You.
Atone and Move On, But Don’t Deny, Minimize, Or Forget.

Re: the recent Fresh Air interview with singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile.  I tuned in eagerly, as I’m a fan of both the show and Carlile’s music (and am currently reading her memoir).  I’m sure I must have previously heard the BC song “That Wasn’t Me,” but I’d never paid attention to the lyrics until FA host Terry Gross and BC began discussing it.

Carlile had a tumultuous childhood, with a myriad of family challenges, including poverty, coming out as gay as an adolescent (and being publicly refused a baptism because of it), and her father’s alcoholism.  Carlile spoke of being influenced by the mindset/jaron of Al-Anon and Alateen in terms of her composing  That Wasn’t Me, which is sung from the POV of an addict or “misbehaver” of some kind.

The song is written in sympathy, or at least that’s moiself’s  interpretation, as the addict/narrator is not called out for his self-deception which prevents him from full-on owning and/or apologizing for the pain he has caused.

♫  Tell me did I go on a tangent?
Did I lie through my teeth?
Did I cause you to stumble on your feet?
Did I bring shame on my family?
Did it show when I was weak?
Whatever you see, that wasn’t me
That wasn’t me, that wasn’t me  ♫
(excerpt from “That Wasn’t Me,” Brandi Carlile)

“That wasn’t me?” I disagree.  Ginormously.

A second listen to the lyrics and I was still clenching my jaw.

 

 

I assume the song is Carlile’s way of trying to show love/empathy/forgiveness for her father – all laudable emotions and goals. Still, I loathe the way she did it, as in, the lines she gave him.   [1]

Whatever you see, that wasn’t me.  Uh, actually, it *was.*

It was you, using drugs or whiskey or whatever, but it was still *you* on drugs or whiskey, not Mel Gibson or anyone else. Not all addicts do the particular, specific things you did; thus, the whatever-it-is-you-did-that-you-feel-the-need-to-mention,  it *was* you.  It may have been difficult, even-heart-breaking, for the little girl to see you, her daddy, do the things you did, but you did do those things and she saw you do them.  It was you; it wasn’t someone or something (“the needle” or “the bottle”)  else.

 

 

No matter how lyrically or artfully it is phrased, a statement which uses the format of a question for listing the consequences, for others, for your behavior (“did I go on a tangent/lie/cause you to stumble/bring shame on my family…?”) is not an *acknowledgment* of those consequences.  Sans acceptance of responsibility, such an anemic non-apology is arguably even more damaging (to the one being addressed) than a denial.  Especially, in moiself’s opinion, when such statements are aimed at a girl-childs.

From sexual harassment and abuse, to academic, political and workplace discrimination, to family dysfunction and every dynamic on the planet, girls and women are taught, socialized, and pressured to *not*  believe their own eyes and ears, nor to trust their own experiences. “It’s *your* interpretation of what happened that is wrong,” females are told, it’s not that what happened to you is wrong.    [2]

* You’re six years old, and just before another holiday gathering you tell your mother about how the behavior of a certain extended family member creeps you out.  But your mother pooh-poohs your request to stay far away from him.  “Oh no, that’s just your Uncle Buck!  He’s so friendly – Buck loves everybody, and he’s always been a big hugger.  Now, don’t be shy or hurt his feelings when he’s around, you know how special he thinks you are….”
Months or years later, Uncle Buck molests you/your sister/cousin/friend, and/or you find out he’s been arrested for child sexual abuse….

* Introverted, awkward, 7th grade you finally gets up the nerve to complain to your teacher and your parents about your classmate Billy.  Billy constantly looks for opportunities to tease you in the school hallways; he has “bumped into” you several times, jamming his elbow in your ribs (so hard that it once left a bruise); he even tried to push you/trip you down the stairs the other day.  Although you are annoyed by and even growing fearful of Billy, the adults tell you that you should “laugh it off,” and that Billy “…does this because he likes you…and you want boys to like you, right?”

* Your high school guidance counselor tries to discourage you (and another female A-student you know) from applying to a certain university because, he warns you, it is known for being “…a very competitive school, academically rigorous, with all the students vying for pre-professional majors.”  Two male friends of yours, who want to apply to the same university, are told by that same counselor that the school would be an excellent choice for them, as it is “…a very competitive school, academically rigorous, with all the students vying for pre-professional majors.”  This is despite the fact that both your and that other female student’s GPAs and SAT scores are higher than the same of those two boys.   [3]  When you bring this incongruity to the attention of a trusted teacher and/or your parents, you are told that there is no sexist bias, overt or subliminal.  “That’s not like him, no way! The counselor was just encouraging students to follow their natural interests….”

* Your colleague keeps claiming credit for your ideas and work, and/or interrupting you during meetings and/or touching you and speaking provocatively/dismissively to you. He never shows such behavior with his male coworkers. When you bring this to your boss’s attention you are told, “That’s not what’s going on; that’s just Jake.  He doesn’t mean anything personal; that’s his M.O.  Why are you putting that interpretation on things, when no one else has a problem with him?”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of My Brain Just Does This
Number 949 In A Never-Ending Series

Speaking of Fresh Air, Terry Gross is one of the best interviewers ever. And she says something at least once during every FA interview which never fails to amuse me. After TG announces a pause for the obligatory station identification break, she continues with,

“For those of you just joining us, my guest is Brandi Carlile (or whomever.)”

Immediately, every damn time, my brain does a riff on taking that phrase literally, ala

“And for those of you *not*  just joining us, my guest is _______”    [4]

 

*   *   *

Department Of What Is The Sound Of Asparagus Screaming?

The Food Editor of the NY Times apparently knows, as per this recent headline:

16 Asparagus Recipes That Positively Scream Spring

I made one of the recipes (“Turmeric Black Pepper Chicken With Asparagus”), “trading”  [5]  crumbled tempeh for the chicken.

Moiself  heard no positive (or negative) screaming, nor vocalizing of any kind, from the asparagus stalks.  The asparagus tips, however, were another matter.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Perfect Shell

  1. The perfect shell does not exist.
  2. Even if it does exist, it is unlikely that I will find it.
  3. There is no third thing.

That said, something about the symmetry and simplicity of the lines and coloring made me think that this shell is close to perfect. 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Doing My Part For Public Health

What from I’m been seeing on social media, apparently, the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccination approaches 110% if you post a picture of your proof of vaccine card.  Not wanting to dis science or anything:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Nit-Picking Yet Another Podcast-Related Song

Don’t Ask Tig (“Comedian Tig Notaro doesn’t have all the answers, but that won’t stop her from giving advice on…”).  The podcast is bookended with Edie Brickell songs – new songs, apparently written for (and owned by?) the podcast.  The theme/opener seems to be “We Got a friend in Tig,” and the closing song, I’m calling, “That’s What Your Heart is For.”   [6]    The closing song reminds me of the podcast itself, in that I like a lot of things about it but there are parts of it I want to change.

♫  Ooooh, my sweet child/There’s so much I want you to know
Ooooh, my sweet child/There’s so much I want you to see
I wish that I could give you the answers
I wish that I could make you believe
I wish that I could put you on your path and set you free…

That’s what your heart is for
That’s what your heart is for
That’s what your heart is for
Listen to your heart….  ♫

It’s a sweet tune; a lovely melody, a song about a mother (the sentiments, of course, could be the same for a father) expressing her love and hopes for the life journey her child will be taking.  But, when it comes to the chorus I want Brickell to add another line

♫ …That’s what your heart is for
Listen to your heart….
Then check in with your brain.  ♫

Listen to your heart is considered by many folks to be classic advice. But unless tempered by your head, listening to your heart can be horrible counsel.  The latter because…

 

 

Step back and look at your own life and decisions, as well as those of your family and friends.  “Follow your heart” is a strategy which *never* leads us astray, does it?  We always, consistently, want and crave what is ultimately best for us, right?

It seems every week I run across a news story about how someone, from an average Joe to a Famous Person, needs to take out an order of protection (aka, restraining order) against some other person who is stalking them. this is because Stalker’s heart has told them that their primary mission in life is to be with average Joe/celebrity, even when the object of their obsession vehemently thinks otherwise.

In the case of the Famous Person, oft times the celebrity is being hounded by someone they have never even met. Yet that Someone is absolutely, 150% convinced, “in their heart,” that they and the famous Person are meant to be together.

Lovelorn fanatics aside, there’s also a small but significant number of people whose hearts (and heads) can never (or rarely) be trusted to give them reliable guidance or even feedback, due to mental illness and related disorders.

Perhaps I’m overthinking this.  I like the song; still, if you’re gonna listen to your heart, please remember to run whatever your heart is saying past your brain.

 

*   *   *

(Visually Assisted) Pun For The Day

From a day last month, actually. I’m just seeing it for the first time.

Backstory:  Infectious Disease Epidemiologist Julia Marcus tweeted a picture of a graph (a screenshot from a slide presentation on an FDA website) which showed how the efficacy of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine increased over time.  The image, a faint black line amid gray shading, resembled something that the good-humored doctor thought was worth celebrating, as per her caption,

J&J vaccine is rising to the occasion.”

 

*   *   *

 

May you rise to the occasion and get your COVID vaccination;
May you uncover the beauty and mystery of screaming asparagus;
May your heart always check in with your brain;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Or, perhaps those are the lines he gave himself?

[2] The following incidences I site as examples, each and every one of them unfortunately common to “the female experience” worldwide. These particular ones were all experienced by girls and women I know personally.

[3] Which you know because you asked them, after you found out that they were interested in applying to the same school and you asked about their conversation with the guidance counselor, mistakenly assuming that he (the counselor) also tried to discourage them, like he did with you and the other girl.

[4] Victor Lazlo, or, _____?  We who’ve listened from the beginning of the show get someone else.

[5] Their term, not mine, for substituting other protein sources for the chicken…which we plant-based folks are known to do.

[6] I’m having a hard time doing a search for the song titles.

The Subjects I’m Not Avoiding

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Department Of Are You Mortal?

Moiself, too.  So, why do we act as if we think are not?

I highly recommend the latest edition of the podcast Clear + Vivid. In a moving and candid conversation – frequently seasoned by laughter (which might be surprising to some, given the subject matter) – podcast host Alan Alda talks with his guest, author and Rabbi Steve Leder,  about the inevitability of death, and grief. These are subjects people usually avoid, which, Leder says, only adds to the losses people inevitably face in life.

At one point in their conversation, as Alda and Leder discussed the importance of acknowledging our mortality, Alda said,  “Talk some more about this. ‘Cause you still haven’t convinced me to die.”  Leder’s response, which prompted laughter from both men, was, “Well, I don’t have to.”

Leder has written a book (“The Beauty of What Remains: How Our Greatest Fear Becomes Our Greatest Gift”) which Alda describes as “…a moving, inspiring and often funny book about the loss of loved ones.”  Although Leder has officiated at more than 1,000 funerals, he found his own preconceived notions of grief – what it is and “how” to do it – challenged when his beloved father died.

I love it when Someone With Experience And Authority ® confirms a suspicion I’ve had for years.  Thus, thank gawd (sez the atheist) that Leder disagrees with the “Five  [1]   Stages of Grief” mythology.  Leder says we have “been done a terrible disservice” with this idea that there are stages or phases of grief, which implies that grief is a linear process (“First you will deal with Stage A, then you will feel Stage B…”).

Grief is non-liner; Leder declares. It is much more analogous to waves:

“They come very close together and are very large at first. They do spread out, and sometimes you even get beautiful, calm seas for a day, a week, a month, a year…. And then sometimes, when your back is turned, there can be a massive wave of grief that takes you down.  And that is not ‘stages.’

Before my father died, what I used to say to people is, ‘Look, the most honest and helpful think I can say to you right now is that it won’t always hurt so much.’ And I don’t say that anymore.  Now I say, ‘It won’t always hurt so *often.*’ Because when it hurts, it hurts every bit as much.”

 

 

*  It’s who we have, not what we have, that matters.

*The beauty of the flower is that it fades.

*The meaning of life is that it ends.

* Understanding the ephemeral nature of life – choosing to acknowledge that we don’t have forever – makes things great and small (our children and friends; a hot fudge sundae) more precious, not less.

These and other observations which Leder shares and expounds upon are no less profound for their relative simplicity.  Check out the entire interview:  “Make the End a Beginning” Clear + Vivid.

 

Alda and Leder also have an interesting chat about what is revealed by what people put on their gravestones.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Reality Checks

As in, my attempt to provide one.  No doubt I will need one as well, if moiself  thinks that my feedback will either get a response (I doubt it/am not expecting it) or make a difference (I hope it will).

The following feedback was sent by moiself , earlier this week, to Shankar Vedantam, the science journalist and host of one of my favorite podcasts, Hidden Brain.

Dear Mr. Vedantam,

Love your show; regular listener here.  As per your interview on “Useful Delusions,” re your upcoming book of the same name, I cringed to hear you give credence, even in the context of how people respond to stress, to that  “…old proverb, ‘There are no atheists in the foxhole’….”

Yes, it is an old proverb. Old, insulting, and lousy – as in, inaccurate.

I wish you’d do a story on that.

An atheist-themed festival drew hundreds of people to an Army post in North Carolina on Saturday for what was believed to be the first-ever event held on a U.S. military base for service members who do not have religious beliefs.
Signs in support of atheism are seen during the “Rock Beyond Belief” festival at Fort Bragg army base in North Carolina March 31, 2012. The atheist-themed festival drew hundreds of people to Fort Bragg on Saturday for what was believed to be the first-ever event held on a U.S. military base for service members who do not have religious beliefs.
Organizers said they hoped the “Rock Beyond Belief” event at Fort Bragg would spur equal treatment toward nonbelievers in the armed forces and help lift the stigma for approximately 295,000 active duty personnel who consider themselves atheist, agnostic or without a religious preference.
Defense Department policy holds that all service members have the right to believe in any or no religion. But those gathered at the event described being ostracized and harassed in the military community for not believing in God and worried about getting passed over for promotions if their secularist stances were widely known.
( “Military nonbelievers’ event shows there are atheists in foxholes.” (Reuters)

Not only have there *always* been atheists in foxholes, the FFRF   [2]  periodically bestows an award, “Atheists in Foxhole,” to commemorate that fact:

“This award was suggested by Vietnam War vet…Steve Trunk, to combat the ridiculous myth that there are no “atheists in foxholes,” and, in particular, to recognize activism to defend the constitutional principle of separation between state and church which every soldier takes an oath to uphold.”

To repeat: there are and have always been “atheists in foxholes;” however, they often have compelling reasons to remain in the foxhole/closet while they serve in the military. Religion-free soldiers can feel that they face an equal or greater danger from their fellow soldiers and commanding officers than from enemy fire, if their religious comrades discover that they are not religious believers.

“When Specialist Jeremy Hall held a meeting last July for atheists and freethinkers at Camp Speicher in Iraq, he was excited, he said, to see an officer attending.
But minutes into the talk, the officer…began to berate Specialist Hall and another soldier about atheism….
Major Welborn told the soldiers he might bar them from re-enlistment and bring charges against them….
Specialist Hall and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group, filed suit in federal court in Kansas, alleging that Specialist Hall’s right to be free from state endorsement of religion under the First Amendment had been violated and that he had faced retaliation for his views. (Specialist Hall) was sent home early from Iraq because of threats from fellow soldiers.
( “Soldier Sues Army, Saying His Atheism Led to Threats,” NY Times )

Staff Sgt. Richlin Chan, who served in Afghanistan, is an “Atheist in Foxhole” who was profiled in the FFRF’s newsletter, Freethought Today (June/July 2010). Chan told this story:

In 2007, a soldier named Jeremy Hall was threatened and persecuted by fellow soldiers and a higher-ranking officer for holding an atheist meeting in Iraq.  After a firefight in which a protective screen deflected enemy fire, his commander later asked him if he believed in god.  Jeremy responded, “No, but I believe in plexiglass.”

If you’re interested, other resources include the MAAF (Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers); “I was An Atheist in a Foxhole,” (American Humanist Association) ; “The US Military Has a Problem With Atheists,” (The Week);  “Military atheists seeking the rights and benefits offered to religious groups”(Stars and Stripes).

Yours in the never-ending battle to temper inaccurate proverbs with reality checks,

 

 

*   *   *

Lest you think my picking that certain nit   [3]  spoiled the podcast for me, it did not.  I found the (rest of the) episode (Hidden Brain: Useful Delusions) quite enjoyable.  Of particular interest to moiself  was Shankar’s exposition on the adaptive or “useful” effects that delusional thinking can have, as well as the phenomenon of “naive realism.”

Naive realism allows us to judge others for engaging in what we’d call delusional thinking, while we convince ourselves that we, even in the same position as a desperate person, would never, say, vote for a demagogue or buy a snake oil potion/miracle cure, etc.  Vedantam illustrates this with a personal story of his own.  Several months ago, while travelling several hours from his home, Vedantam suffered a retinal detachment.  He had to seek emergency medical care, without having time to check reviews or get recommendations for a doctor or weighs pros and cons of treatment options. He found a doctor who was willing to open his practice up at 9 pm and see him. The doctor said Vedantam had to have emergency surgery ASAP or he would lose his eyesight. And so, Vedantan did….

“…what all of us do, in positions of great vulnerability: I put all my faith and trust in this doctor. Now, as it turned out, he was a brilliant surgeon and he ended up saving my eye, for which I am profoundly grateful. But imagine for a moment that he had not been a brilliant doctor; let’s imagine if he had been a charlatan. Would it have been any less likely for me to put my faith in him? And I would argue the answer is no, because my faith in him did not arise because of what *he* did, my faith arose because of what *I* was going through.

I was going through a period of great vulnerability, a period of great fear. Trusting him made me feel better…. Expand this in all kinds of ways, and you can see why people sometimes gravitate to beliefs that are false, to demagogues and false prophets. It’s not so much because of the demagogues and false prophets, it’s because of their own vulnerabilities.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of My Favorite Euphemisms

Dateline: last weekend, listening to a podcast in which anthropologists discussed the DNA sequences found from human bodies in caves in Siberia, Spain, and Croatia.

What the anthropologists found shows evidence of human-Neanderthal interbreeding as far back as 100,000 years ago. What I found was a delightful, heretofore-unknown-to-moiself, synonym…genteelism…rewording.

According to scientists, early humans and Neanderthals engaged in

“gene flow events.”

Aka, sex.

This substitute term should be a relief to teens everywhere. Despite their legendary taking of delight in shocking their elders by singing along to salacious pop song lyrics, teens are notoriously squeamish, to the point of disgust, when it comes to even thinking about the fact that their parents might have hooked up with one another in order to produce their offspring.  Chill, Ethan and Emma: your mother and father didn’t get it on. They merely engaged in a gene flow event.

 

 

*   *   *

Department of, Bingo!

But when Abby and I announced our relationship, the first article…said, “Abby Wambach in love with Christian mommy blogger.”…So the rest of the world picked up that one  — and now on my tombstone, no matter what else I do, it’ll say Christian mommy blogger…. I feel like it’s the most misogynistic, ridiculous title ever. Because no male activist or New York Times bestseller is described as a daddy…or by his religion.
( Glennon Doyle, from the podcast, Sway, 2-25-21)

I’m somewhat new to Sway, but after listening to a few episodes I’m impressed with the variety of guests and topics.  Hosted by Kara Swisher, “Silicon Valley’s most feared and well-liked journalist,” the podcast’s focus is “power: who has it, who’s been denied it, and who dares to defy it.” In the episode whence the above quote, Swisher interviews Glennon Doyle, best-selling author and activist previously best known – or rather, labeled – as a Christian-LGBTQ-friendly blogger and “confessional” writer, and most recently getting (unwanted) tabloid-type attention in the past few years for divorcing her (cheating) husband and marrying US soccer star Abby Wambach.

The reason for Doyle’s interview On Sway was Doyle having been named by many of Joe Biden’s campaign strategists as the person whose campaign endorsement, they believed, would influence women the most. The part of the interview that interested me the most was when Doyle shared her reactions to the male-values-dominated worlds of publishing and book reviews and publicity.   [4]   Doyle rejects the labels that have been put upon her, including “self-help expert” and “mommy blogger,” as reductive and misogynistic. 

Doyle:
“…I think that it’s very often the case that when a man puts work out into the world, the world looks at the work and says, ‘Is this work worthy?’ And I think that when a woman puts work out into the world, the world looks at the woman and says, ‘Is this woman worthy of putting out work?’
For example, the first big article that was put out about (her new memoir) in a big newspaper, the headline was, ‘Glennon Doyle writes third memoir?’ Question mark, question mark.”

Kara Swisher:
“As if you shouldn’t have many memoirs in you. That’s the suggestion.”

Doyle:
“Like, ‘Jesus Christ, this woman is going to say a *third* thing? We already let her say two things. She said two things, and then she’s going to come back and say a third thing. Who does this person think she is.’  Right?’
Sedaris came out with his new book, and it was like, ‘David Sedaris releases 158th memoir.’  Not, question mark, question mark.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Not My Fault; My Mind Just Goes To These Places

Apropos of nothing I can think of, while coming back from a walk the other day I mused about ways to get junior high school aged students interested in “classic” works of literature. I’ve heard many a teacher say that engaging that age group (particularly for the boys) will determine whether reluctant readers will show interest in, for example, the plays of William Shakespeare.

So, considering the age group, I humbly suggest this approach:

֍   Shakespearean Gas Theater   ֍

English, literature, and drama teachers can search the internet databases for well-known Shakespearean lines which can be altered and/or…uh, illustrated…as per the theme.

From Twelfth Night, the name of character Sir Toby Belch fits right in with those certain enhancements which tween actors could give to the delivery of Sir Toby’s classic lines:

”Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous,
there shall be no more cakes and….Baaaaaaaarrrrrrraaasaaaapppp…ale?

 

And, let’s face it, few 12-year-old boys want to play the lead male role of Romeo and Juliet‘s 14th century lovestruck Italian teen.  But when the line Romeo calls out to Juliet (in the famous balcony scene) is transformed, boys will be jostling for the opportunity to raise their arms in supplication and cut the cheese with romantic gusto while reciting,

“What wind thorough yonder window breaks.”

Then again, maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t pursue a career as an Arts in Education consultant.

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

When a road construction worker farts, don’t blame him – it’s his asphalt.

 

“I want no part of this juvenile humor.”

 

*   *   *

May you write as many memoirs as you have in you;    [5]

May you appreciate the beauty of that which will fade;

May you be lucky enough to have an atheist beside you in the foxhole;

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Or nine…or seven…or twelve.  Different self-appointed grief experts have different numbers, but most people are familiar with psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross‘s five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

[2] The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a non-profit founded in 1978, is the nation’s largest association of Atheists, Agnostic, Freethinkers, Humanists and Skeptics .

[3] This particular issue is more the size of a glacier than a nit, as the number of the non-religiously affiliated and atheists – and thus the number of people insulted and mischaracterized by such inaccurate adages – continues to grow/be revealed.

[4] A subject about which I have both opinions and experiences, as regular and/or long time readers of this blog may know.

[5] Well, maybe not 158.

The Temptations I’m Not Eliminating

Comments Off on The Temptations I’m Not Eliminating

Department Of This Should Not Come As A Surprise

“Recent polling shows that 39% of Americans believe that the election that just occurred was rigged…  You may not agree with that assessment, but it is nonetheless a reality for nearly half the country.”
(Senator Ted Cruz, 1-6-21)

“In other words, ‘We have no proof the election was stolen, and you may have verifiable evidence that it wasn’t, but that doesn’t matter. It only matters that we believe it.’

  And that’s when you’re at religion: that you have to respect something just because people believe it. Does that include professional wrestling?”
( Comedian Bill Maher on Real Time With Bill Maher, re the remarks of Senator Cruz )

The fact that many evangelical/conservative Christians believe and promote QAnon conspiracy theories seems to confuse and embarrass Other Christians ® .  Even some leaders of ultra conservative Christian churches and nationalist groups have wondered aloud about the fact that many of their followers are part of a “mass delusion.”

“Why is it our people are so vulnerable to this stuff?”
(Lance Wallnau, self-proclaimed prophet, Christian Nationalist, and
“7 Mountains Mandate” creator, The Washington Post, 1-14-21 )

 

 

The embarrassment of these Other Christians is itself an embarrassment – especially when I hear or read my mainstream/progressive Christian family and friends wondering:

“How can those QAnon Christians believe things that make no sense?”

Y’all ask this…seriously?

My religious friends, whose hearts and intentions I deeply respect, the answer is simple, and you’re not going to like it:

The reason those QAnon/Trump/Confederate Flag/Proud Boy Christians can believe things that make no sense is because they already believe things that make no sense. Your fellow Christians  [1]  believe such things in the first place *because* of their religious faith, not in spite of it.  Religion has already primed them to accept outlandish claims sans objective proof (other than the “proof” they say they find “in their own hearts”).

The January 6 insurrection was a faith-based initiative, and Trumpism/White Supremacy are Christian nationalist movements.

Freethinkers/Humanists/Agnostics/Atheists/Skeptics have long known this, and while we sometimes tiptoe around this subject with our more mainstream and progressive Christian friends and family…c’mon folks.  Why do you keep acting so shocked?

It’s not a giant leap from believing some major things that cannot be proven – aka, taking them on “faith” – to believing other things that cannot be proven.

During a recent New Rules segment of his show, comedian and magical-thinking eviscerator   [2]  Bill Maher used his incisive wit to point out the overlap between QAnon theorists and (white Christian) religionists.  He pointed out that Christians who roll their eyes at or mock QAnon and its baby-eating lizard people/pedophile pizza parlors scenarios seem not to have read their own Book of Revelation.  Right there, in the Christians’ “holy book,” are bizarre tales of “…stuff you see only after the guy in the park sells you bad mushrooms.”   [3]

It was evangelical Christians like Senators Ted Cruz and Paul Gosar who spouted the unjustifiable claims that the 2020 election was “stolen” from #45. Who is seriously surprised by the fact that most of the senators who objected to certifying the electoral college votes for Biden  – Cruz and Gosar and their frothing cronies, Senators Josh Hawley, Cindy Hyde-Smith, John Kennedy, Roger Marshall and Tommy Tuberville – were fundamentalist Christians?  Not only did each of those senators identify and campaign as fundamentalist Christians, Alabama Sen. Tuberville even filmed a campaign ad equating Trump to Jesus .

The January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol  “…looked like a revival meeting,” Maher quipped.  Watch the videos of the event, and you’ll see the signs that read, “Jesus is my god and Trump is my president,” and “Trump/Jesus 2020.”

 

 

“Magical religious thinking is a virus and QAnon is just its current mutation. That’s why megachurches play QAnon videos. We need to stop pretending there’s no way we’ll ever understand why the Trump mob believes in him.  It’s because they’re religious…they’ve already made space in their heads for shit that doesn’t make sense.

There’s a lot of talk now about how Republicans should tell their base who still believe the election was rigged that they need to grow up and move on and stop asking the rest of us to respect their mass delusion.  But the inconvenient truth here is that if you accord religious faith the kind of exalted respect we do here in America, you’ve already lost the argument that mass delusion is bad.

( Bill Maher, New Rules, 2-5-21, my emphases.
You can see the entire segment here. )

*   *   *

Department Of One More Thing
#379 In An Ongoing Series

In a recent blog post (3-12-21) , re my rant highly nuanced disagreement with the idea that Muslim women are “free” to “choose” whether or not to wear the hijab, moiself  forgot to mention one relevant, veil-related anecdote.

The 9/11 attacks took place on a Tuesday morning, which was the meeting time for a book group I’d been attending for years. The book group met at the church MH and I had attended for years.   [4]   The pastor of the church (which belongs to ” among the most liberal of the mainline Protestant denominations,”) was the book group’s leader.  She, like the rest of us “bookies” (book group members), was stunned by the news,   [5]  even more so because of personal reasons: she had a sister-in-law who was a flight attendant for American Airlines out of Boston,  [6]  and a brother-in-law who was from the Middle East, and she was concerned for his safety re the growing anti-Arab sentiment.

Moving right along….  One by one the group members staggered into our meeting room as our pastor put on a fresh pot of coffee to brew (she’d already downed one entire pot herself).  Glassy-eyed with “WTF just happened?” confusion, we babbled with one another about the attacks (although I’m not sure my opening remarks – “We’re all FUCKED – this is how wars start!” –  count as a babble).  The pastor was, eventually, able to steer us into a half-hearted discussion of the book we were reading.

The next week the pastor told us bookies about the latest news from the ecumenical group of ministers she belonged to. The group, which was mostly comprised of ministers from liberal Christian denominations but also with Jewish, Muslim and Bahá’í clergy,   [7]   had been brainstorming re how to be of support to local Muslims.  The news was filled with accounts of how, across the nation, Muslims (as well as people who were not Muslim but who were “suspected” of being Muslim) were being threatened and even physically attacked.  Because of the hijab, Muslim women’s religious affiliations were more visible than that of Muslim men, and many Muslim women and girls reported being harassed while riding public transportation or at the grocery store – or just out in public.

Another (female) pastor from the ecumenical group announced that, to express solidarity with Muslim women, she had started wearing a veil in public, and she was “inviting” other non-Muslim women to do so as well.  Moiself  expressed the same, immediate, visceral reaction that our pastor said she’d had when she heard Well-Meaning Veil Pastor’s suggestion. It was a reaction my pastor and I vowed to share with everyone we knew who might was supportive of the veil-solidarity gesture:

Solidarity; right on!
Yes indeedy, we’ll be happy to don a veil in support of Muslim women – providing Muslim men and boys first do the same, to show support for *their* mothers/sisters/wives/daughters/cousins/co-workers/neighbors….

Guess what? No takers.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of More Good Clean Fun Brought To You By That All-American Combo, Misogyny And Religion  [8]

Last week a 21-year old man attacked three spas in Atlanta, shooting nine people and killing eight of them, seven of them women (who were his targets; the men were in the wrong place at the wrong time). The alleged suspect told the police that he killed them because he needed to “eliminate the temptations” they presented to him, and that by doing so he would help other men by removing those same “temptations.”

I don’t get it. What could anyone possibly have against The Temptations?

 

 

Ahem. “Temptations,” as in, women.  You know – female human beings.

 

 

If you’ve been paying attention, it’s not the first time you’ve heart this kind of story. In California, Oregon; Toronto…you can Google more, about male killers who target one woman or all women, but it’s too damn depressing. Two years ago, in a refreshing change, a 27-year-old Denver man was arrested on a terrorism charge *before* he was able to carry out his intended rampage. This enabled the press to write “Here is why he said he was going to commit a mass murder” stories, instead of after-the-fact, “The killer said he killed all those women because…” stories:

A 27-year-old Colorado man…arrested on a terrorism charge…cited his virginity as the reason he said he was planning to carry out a mass shooting: “…its is why I’m planning on shooting up a public place soon and being the next mass shooter cause I’m ready to die and all the girls the (sic) turned me down is (sic) going to make it right by killing as many girls as I see.” (sick sick sick).
(“A man cited his virginity as reason he planned to kill ‘as many girls’ as he could, police say,” Washington Post, 1-22-19)

As shocking as most of us find these rampages, moiself  posits that they are also predictable and even inevitable outcomes in our society, due to the mixture of two poisonous cultural ingredients:

*online sexism and incel forums wherein young men commiserate and encourage one another to blame women for their sexual desires and frustrations;

* religious teachings (in particular, “Purity Culture”) which set the stage and fuel the fire for those frustrations by shaming and pathologizing sexual activity – including masturbation, and even the mere *desiring* of sex – outside of heterosexual marriage, and which hold females responsible for male thoughts and behavior.    [9]

 

“Her ankles have caused me to fall!”

 

“It should come as no shock that purity culture is steeped in contradictions:
1) Women hold the sexual reigns and are wholly responsible for any sexual encounter that escalates to something sinful because men lack the ability and should not be expected to control themselves…but
2) somehow, women also hate sex and use it as a punishment/reward system for their husbands…yet
3) women are weak and need the protection
of these feeble-minded, animal-like men.”
(“Freedom From Purity Culture“)

“When Brad Onishi heard that the man accused of a rampage at three Atlanta-area spas told detectives that he had carried out the attacks as a way to eliminate his own temptations, the claim sounded painfully familiar.
Dr. Onishi…grew up in a strict evangelical community…that emphasized sexual purity….
The evangelical culture he was raised in, he said, “teaches women to hate their bodies, as the source of temptation, and it teaches men to hate their minds, which lead them into lust and sexual immorality.”
(“Atlanta Suspect’s Fixation on Sex Is Familiar Thorn for Evangelicals,” NY Times 3-20-21)

 

 

A former roommate of the alleged   [10]   Atlanta shooter told police that the shooter

* didn’t own a smartphone because he feared he’d use it to look at online pornography;
* was ashamed of masturbating;
* expressed suicidal thoughts as per his fear that he was “falling out of God’s grace” and “living in sin” because he had masturbated and visited sex workers.

“…the idea that men’s sexual issues are women’s responsibility isn’t new, nor is it a fringe ideology confined to the internet — it’s a mainstream belief held by many Americans…

These thoughts mirror traditional conservative evangelical Christian teachings about sex and the idea that it’s women’s responsibility to avoid leading men into sexual situations.

This kind of purity culture has a reach far beyond religion. Abstinence-only education classes taught in over half the states across the country tell young people that the onus is on girls not to tease or tempt boys, whose sexual compulsions, they say, are near uncontrollable.

But rather than curb sexual activity, these programs seem to normalize misogynist impulses. A 2017 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, for example, found abstinence-only programs often ‘reinforce gender stereotypes about female passivity and male aggressiveness.’

(“How Many Women Have to Die to End ‘Temptation’?
The Atlanta murders follow a terrible pattern of misogynist violence,” NY Times 3-22-21)

 

I really wish I was both making up this chart, and the organization it comes from.  But…no.

 

And let’s not forget another key ingredient in this toxic stew: the romanticized reporting of violence against women, which often frames murderers as reflexive sad sacks “at the end of their rope” or “having a bad day.”  Various media headlines, and even comments from law enforcement officials, reinforce the sexist idea that the men and boys who hurt women are themselves victims – casualties of their unrequited desires.

Horrific, brutal killings of women by men have been described as being committed by “a lovesick teen,” and the murderers as suffering from “unrequited love.” The lab tech who strangled a pharmacology grad student and stuffed her body behind a wall was referred to in the press as “lovelorn.”  And now, in Atlanta, the County Sheriff investigating the killings said the suspect may have been “lashing out,” and another member of the Sheriff’s office said that the subject had had “a really bad day” and “this is what he did.”

 

No, (real) love doesn’t kill. But when a notorious punk rocker stabbed a 20-year-old woman to death, some media presented it as a Romeo and Juliet story.

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department Of Apropos Of Nothing…
And I Know We Have Some Serious Issues Facing Our Country, And The Entire Planet, But This Is Something Which Might Unite Us – Yes, Even Across
Seemingly Insurmountable Borders Of Religious, Political, And Cultural Identity

 

Can we all agree to get rid of the first *r* in February?

 

*   *   *

Department Of Oops I Did It Again

What I did was a whole lotta yoga: 108 Sun salutations, in honor of the Vernal Equinox.

 

Now if only I could find a colorful toucan to join me next time.

 

In a less-honorable tribute to the arrival of Spring, once again, hearing the term *Vernal Equinox* made moiself  think of a Tennessee mother yelling across the fields for her son.

 “Vernal!  Vernal Equinox, you git yer butt back home this instant!”

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I changed my smart phone’s name to Titanic. It’s syncing now.

 

*   *   *

 

May you try to say February ten times, as fast as you can, pronouncing both rs
(and then agree with moiself  about getting rid of the first one);
May you not be deluded as to why *other* people believe crazy shit;
May you celebrate the arrival of Spring, no matter how you feel about a term like
“Vernal Equinox;”
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] And yes, they are Christians, whether or not you approve of them. You don’t own the term; they claim it too, and spout the theology.

[2] If Maher can have “New Rules” then I can have new words.

[3] Maher’s delightful recounting of one of Revelation’s major stories: “The book of Revelations will tell you exactly where the world ends – Megiddo, Israel. That’s where all of the armies of the world will gather and Jesus will come down to earth on a flying horse shooting swords out of his mouth (Jesus, not the horse), and have a 1000 year cosmic boss battle with Satan, The Beast, and The Anti-Christ. It’s like ten Avenger movies plus ten Hobbit movies plus a night out with Johnny Depp.”

[4] It was also the church I was on the cusp of leaving – not that church in particular, but any church, as in religion in general. I had known I was a non- believer for decades yet stayed “closeted” for complicated reasons.

[5] Our gathering time was 7 am, Pacific time, so we all knew at least something about the attacks on the East Coast.

[6] One of the four hijacked airplanes, the one which crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, was an American Airlines flight originating in Boston; the pastor’s SIL was not working that flight.

[7] Well, representatives, in the case of the Bahá’í, who do not have clergy.

[8] And very likely, racism. Although as of this writing the (alleged) perpetrator has denied a racial motive (he blamed his “sex addiction”),  six of the women were Asian. Others are addressing that issue, including here, here, and here, far better than I could.

[9] To cite just one of hundreds of disgusting examples, the federally funded Heritage Keepers curriculum teaches students that ‘girls have a responsibility to wear modest clothing that doesn’t invite lustful thoughts.”

[10] I’m not going to patronize either moiself  or y’all by continuing to use that modifier.

The *This* I’m Not Freely Choosing

1 Comment

Department Of Not Watching The “Royal” Interview

Even in these pandemic times of social isolation, you’d have to have been in a prison secure enough for Hannibal Lecter to *not* have heard that a certain royal couple was recently interviewed by Oprah she-who-needs-no-surname.

 

“Quid pro quo, Clarise. You let me watch Oprah’s interview with Harry and Meghan and I name the killer.”

 

I’ve been a lifelong anti-monarchist –  lifelong as in, when I was old enough to understand the concept of royalty, my five-year old self was like, “WTF is this classist, elitist, endemically racist, anachronistic institution doing in the 20th  (and now, 21st ) century?”  Thus, I had no interest in watching The Recent Royal Interview ®.  From what I saw on FB, the Average Person’s realizations, after watching the interview, were almost hilariously non-spectacular:

“After hearing about Harry’s and Meghan’s experiences, I’m convinced the monarchy is out-of-date and racist!”

 

 

Moiself  was delighted to see the interview produced in op-ed pieces from around the (western) world). I gravitated toward reading articles with titles like, Down With the British Monarchy, whence the following excerpt :

“The existence of a monarchy is an admission that a government can’t, or doesn’t care to, solve people’s problems. Instead, it offers spectacle. It has always been easier to elevate one family to a fairy-tale life of luxury than to do the dreary work of elevating every single family to a decent standard of living. The common people fund the lifestyle of a tiny, exalted and thoroughly unworthy elite, rather than the other way around. Any nation that still has a monarchy in 2021 is proving itself to have a mortifying lack of revolutionary gumption.

America is guilty of many crimes against humanity, but this is one thing we got right. Our presidents may be national embarrassments, but at least Americans are not required to scrape and bow before some utterly random rich wastrel whose claim to legitimacy is being the child of the child of the child of someone who was, centuries ago, the nation’s biggest gangster. Yes, we have our own hypnotic capitalist addiction to celebrity, but monarchy is something altogether more twisted — as if the Bush family, the Kardashians and the Falwells were all rolled into one bejeweled quasi-religious fame cult, topped off with a bracing dose of imperialism.”

I mean, how much right-on fun is that?

 

 

Leave it to the Irish to nail the situation in the most amusing (and snarky) manner:

“Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories.
More specifically, for the Irish, it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.
Beyond this, it’s the stuff of children’s stories. Having a queen as head of state is like having a pirate or a mermaid or Ewok as head of state. What’s the logic? Bees have queens, but the queen bee lays all of the eggs in the hive. The queen of the Britons has laid just four British eggs, and one of those is the sweatless creep Prince Andrew, so it’s hardly deserving of applause….
The contemporary royals have no real power. They serve entirely to enshrine classism in the British non-constitution. They live in high luxury and low autonomy, cosplaying as their ancestors, and are the subject of constant psychosocial projection from people mourning the loss of empire. They’re basically a Rorschach test that the tabloids hold up in order to gauge what level of hysterical batshittery their readers are capable of at any moment in time.”
(“Harry and Meghan: The union of two great houses, the Windsors and the Celebrities, is complete,” The Irish Times)

cosplaying as their ancestors.  I wish I’d thought of that line.

*   *   *

Speaking of anachronistic institutions still existing in the 21st century…

Department Of “Free To Be You And Me”    [1] … Or Not

Dateline: Tuesday; out for a walk; 7 am-ish (not amish); listening to the latest Clear + Vivid podcast: “Ash Sanders and Sarah Ventre – Life in a Cul‪t.” In this episode host Alan Alda interviews journalists Ventre and Sanders about their podcast series, Unfinished: Short Creek. The two journalists researched their story for four and a half *years,* including embedding themselves in a fundamentalist Mormon community, Short Creek (a town on the border between northern Arizona and southern Utah), and “…wove together the stories of both those in thrall to its all-powerful prophet and others seeking escape.”

Moiself  hasn’t yet decided whether I will listen to the Short Creek podcast. Given the subject matter, it sounds both compelling and repellant. The latter emotion arises in me from the simple/depressing fact of the continued existence of such abhorrent ideologies in the 21st century, and of hearing about how difficult it is for people born into such a life to escape it, and how reluctant too many outsiders are to confront it (“Hey, it’s their religion/their choice…”).  I do know, from the podcast interview, that there is at least one woman who got out, and her story is featured, so that may sway me. Something hopeful to look forward to.

 

 

Halfway through the C+V podcast I flashed back to a conversation I had years ago with an “Exmo” (former Mormon).  Exmo Man   [2]   talked about the “misunderstandings” he felt that outsiders had about his (former) faith. He said that even while he was growing up in a (mainstream, not fundy) Mormon family, with only other Mormon kids allowed to be his friends and playmates, he was told by both his family and church officials that he had “the freedom to choose this.” Emphasis on *this.*  He was assured (by the Mormon adults around him) that all Mormons had freely chosen their beliefs. And he did make his choice, eventually to leave the LDS religion.  He also chose to (well, he attempted to) redirect my questions, when I gently but persistently tried to discern whether or not his choice meant that he lost family and friends, or had such relationships compromised, by his decision to leave the church. His not-so-skillfully avoidant answers indicated to me that, due to his choice, he had been essentially shunned.

A week or so after that conversation I read an article by a Muslim-American Woman who wrote about her freedom to choose whether or not she wore the hijab   [3] (veil or scarf; niqua; burka; or any of the varieties of face or full body coverings prescribed for Muslim women).  Although she considered herself to be a liberal/feminist re many other aspects of her life, this MAW said she chose to wear a head scarf as a symbol of her culture and faith… and also, I gathered from what she wrote, to proclaim identity politics and give a defiant FU to her friends and colleagues (whether Muslim, of other faiths, or religion-free) who were anti-hijab. Within days of reading her essay I came across the social media posts of another MAW, this one in the entertainment industry, who supported Muslim women’s “right” to wear head coverings, even though she herself does not do so.

The Exmo man and the MAWs each spoke of how they had the freedom to choose their own  *this* ( for Exmo, life as a Mormon; for the MAWs, wearing a hijab).  In doing so, they missed the entire fucking point, in moiself’s  opinion, which is that there was only one *this* presented to them as the correct choice.  And a choice of one is no choice at all.

Exmo may have been told he was free to choose *this, * i.e. remaining in Mormonism, but of course his LDS family and church elders and officials seriously didn’t think he would make another choice.  And when he did choose to leave The One True Faith,  [4]  he paid for it with the estrangement from his family and support group.

“You are free to choose *this*” translates as, You are free to choose – and here is your (one) choice.”  I am reminded of the old joke about Russian elections; specifically, a Communist party official countering Western claims that his country’s elections are not open and fair and certainly not democratic:

“Of course our people get to choose their leaders!  They may vote for whomever they chose!” crows the election official, who hands a voter a ballot with pre-selected candidates. “And here is the list of whom you may choose, comrade!”

 

 

If you are a Muslim female who chooses not to don the veil and you are living in a culture/country which requires it,  [5]  you may be considered as immodest and immoral, labeled an apostate or heretic…or worse.

“Iranian Police released an official statement saying that any women found protesting Iran’s compulsory veiling code would be charged with “inciting corruption and prostitution,” which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.”
(“Dozens of women ill-treated and at risk of long jail terms for peacefully protesting compulsory veiling,” Amnesty International)

It’s your choice, you may be told, but know that Muslim men and boys – even members of your own family, and even if you are living in a non-Muslim country – can feel justified in attacking you, verbally and physically for not wearing a veil. You may even be assaulted if you are wearing it, but not “properly.”

“The devout Muslim father of a 16-year-old girl, whose friends say was killed for not wearing a hijab, has been charged with second-degree murder….
Aqsa Parvez died on Monday night in hospital after being attacked in her home in a suburb of Toronto….the girl’s friends said Parvez frequently clashed with her estranged family over her reluctance to wear a traditional Islamic headscarf, or hijab.”
(“Muslim Dad Murders daughter over hijab,” The Age)

“…a woman has been …assaulted by a vigilante for wearing a loose hijab.
(video footage) shows a woman crossing path with a man, who then follows her down the street and appears to threaten her. He then grabs her by the arm and kicks her in the stomach twice, propelling her onto the road….
the police refused to arrest the attacker as he claimed to be “voluntarily enforcing morality codes.”
(National News Opinion, 3-12-20)

“Ruqiya Farah Yarow was killed outside her hut near the southern Somali town of Hosingow….militants had ordered her to put on a veil, and then killed her after returning and finding she was still not wearing one….”
(“Somali woman killed for not wearing veil,” BBC News )

 

Cool story, bro.

 

Yes my dear, you are *free* to choose *this* (the veil).
If you choose *not this* you may be harassed, slandered, discriminated against, assaulted,  even killed.
But hey – don’t listen to  critics and cynics – you are free!  The choice is entirely yours!

If a “choice” I am “free” to make carries with it the very real threat of physical and emotional harm, I am not truly free to make it.  If you are told you are free to choose *this,* but then by not choosing *this* you may be emotionally or literally and physically isolated or estranged or kicked out of your family and/or community (which also affects your ability to earn a living)…well,  a person using those terms in those circumstances has very different ideas from moiself  as to what constitutes freedom, and choice.

It is understandable (although abhorrent) to moiself , to see how someone raised in those kinds of intellectual thought-silos can misunderstand and misuse words and concepts like freedom and choice. And if you would seriously attempt to engage moiself about whether or not, say, most Muslim women are free to wear or not wear the hijab, I’m not even sure we could have a conversation lest we first get out our dictionaries (would you even be allowed to look at all available dictionaries, or would there be one you would be steered toward?) to first establish the vital, common references at issue: namely, the definitions of the words freedom and choice.

*   *   *

Department Of The Take Away Of The Week…Month…Year

This excerpt from the Clear + Vivid podcast applies not only to trying to understand and communicate with someone in a fundamentalist religious life, but also to bridging our current/fractured political divide.  The journalists were speaking about the main challenges they faced in doing their interviews – which are also the challenges when entering into a dialogue with anyone:

How do you balance empathy and accountability?

“…In order to have a conversation with someone, especially someone who you want to come to some kind of understanding with, if you can’t start on the solid ground of accepting the most basic facts with one another then…it’s really hard to get to that point.

How do you listen to somebody, and understand why they believe what they believe, but hold them accountable to facts, hold them accountable to maybe what they’ve done, or to what their beliefs are and the impact of their beliefs – how do we do that?…

What role does forgiveness play; what role does justice play?  How do we do that in America? 

We can tend to go from one extreme to the other, and tend to say, “Oh let’s just empathize,” and not admit the injustices that have happened, or “Let’s only talk about justice,” and not the repair that needs to be done. “

I don’t know about y’all, but I was reminded of a certain issue our country needs to deal with….

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Question That Might Take You Years To Answer

At the end of every Clear + Vivid podcast, host Alda asks the guest(s) “Seven quick questions,” all of which relate, on some level, to the subject of interpersonal communication. Question #3 is,

“What is the strangest question anyone has asked you?”

One of the journalists, herself an ExMo (mainstream, not fundy) chose a question she was asked when she was in college, while she was leaving Mormonism. It was not the typical question people considering leaving their religion in general and Mormonism in particular might expect to field (“Why do you believe what you believe?” or “Do you believe in the Prophet“). Rather, this person asked her a question that has “stuck with’ her, one she is still working out.  It was a question I think is relevant for everyone, whether or not we believe in any kind of patriarchal or hierarchical worldview,   [6]  or structure, or monarchies….

This one query, composed of a mere eight words, packs a novel’s worth of existential introspection potential:

Why do you believe in leaders at all?

 

Fascinating.

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Last Three Stanzas I Can’t Stop Thinking About

I’d like to think that someone will read them at my wake, even if I’m not sure that moiself  is worthy of such stirring imagery.  The stanzas are from a Syrian-American poet, Mohja Kahf, whose collection of poetry (Emails from Scheherazade )   [7]   was recommended by journalist, teacher, and fellow blogger George Rede.  Check out Rede’s blog here.  It’s always thought-provoking, personal, and finely written (and as compared to mine, free of those juvenile fart-jokes which far too often sneak past my editor  [8]  ).

The stanzas to which I refer are the closing verses of  Kahf’s The Marvelous Women

Come with me, come with poetry
Jump on this wild chariot, hurry–

Help me with these wayward snorting horses
Together we will pull across the sky
the sun that will make the earth radiant—

or burn in its terrible brilliance,
and that is a good way to die.

 

*   *   *

Puns For The Day – Monarchist’s Edition

My dentist told me that I am a royal descendant. I get my crown next week.

If Harry decided to take up painting now that he’s stepped back from the royal family,
he would be the artist formerly known as Prince.

 

*   *   *

 

May you never be deemed worthy of an Oprah interview;
May you know that if you burn in life’s terrible brilliance, that is a good way to die;
May you learn to balance empathy with accountability;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Apologies to the popular and ground-breaking children’s entertainment of the early 1970s, Free To Be You And Me, by “Marlo Thomas and Friends.” The book and record series (and later, tv specials) were an effort to counteract the gender stereotypes in the children’s books of the times.

[2] Pun almost intentional.

[3] Hijab is both a specific and broad-spectrum term, referring to both a particular style of covering and the general principal or religious code behind wearing it.

[4] Of course this is not exclusive to Mormons – many non-Catholic Christians kiddies first heard that phrase (that we were not part of “The One True Church”)  from their Catholics friends or neighbors, and 99.99% of religions proclaim exclusivity of some kind as to why they are the only, or the only “right’ way, to find ___ (god; the afterlife, truth, nirvana, your car keys….).

[5] Head and body coverings for Muslim females vary according to country and culture, in some cases being required by law. Meanwhile, some modern Muslims believe that the Qur’an itself does not mandate that women wear any form of hijab.

[6] Sorry; no footnote here.

[7] After reading that poem, I bought the book…and so should you.  Please always remember to support the author if you read something you enjoy – she receives no financial compensation from her work being shared on the internet.

[8] Which would be moiself.

The Moral Concerns I’m Not Having

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Department Of They Still Won’t Ordain Women
Yet Still Keep Dressing Like Them

 

And one more thing.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops is speaking out against the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine because it was developed using cells from an aborted fetus.
“Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines raised concerns because an abortion-derived cell line was used for testing them, but not in their production,” a statement from the conference said.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, however, was “developed, tested, and is produced with abortion-derived cell lines raising additional moral concerns,” it continued.
( Bishops urge Catholics to avoid the Johnson & Johnson vaccine if possible because it was developed using cells from an aborted fetus   3-2-21 )

 

“Do they hear themselves when they speak?”

 

Excuse me, Catholic bishops: how are y’all able to take time out of your busy schedule –  of continuing to cover up priest child rape and discriminating against women and the LGBTQ community while shuffling parishioner funds to pay off sexual abuse lawsuits – to stick your pointy hats and noses into the public health arena?

Here’s an idea: STFU and go diddle yourself into oblivion with your rosary beads. Y’all have no business proclaiming anything about “moral concerns” ever ever ever EVER. 

*   *   *

Department Of Men are Verbs; Women Are Nouns

Did you ever wonder why the documentary about entertainer Britney Spears – who lives under a court-sanctioned conservatorship established when she was age 26 and who now, at age 39, is in a court battle with her father over who should control the fortune *she* has earned – relates to society’s the policing of women’s bodies, our achievements, and our mere existence?

Moiself  neither.

Until I read Kasia Urbaniak’s right-on essay, Britney Spears and The Good Girl Double Bind.  A distillation of the frustrating reality Urbaniak describes and analyzes:

“We’re so used to talking about who women are being
than about what they achieve.

And we’re so accustomed to putting attention on what men can achieve (or are perceived to achieve) versus who they are being.

We take this state of affairs so much for granted, that it’s almost invisible. Just think how much a woman running for office is scrutinized for how she speaks and dresses versus what she’s achieved in her decades-long career.

Meanwhile, a man can be a genuine predator, yet what he has done and what he’s perceived to be able to get done comes first and foremost
in how he’s evaluated.

We are obsessed with what men *do* and how women *are*.

Men are verbs; women are nouns.”

( “Britney Spears and The Good Girl Double Bind,”
Kasia Urbaniak, author and founder of The Academy — The School of Power for Women )

*   *   *

Department of Ick…just…Ick.

Here is how the afore-mentioned essay opens: 

Britney Spears is 10 years old, Ed McMahon is 69.
She has just given a jaw-dropping performance in a TV singing competition. He approaches her.
He comments on the 10-year old prodigy’s “pretty eyes,” rather than her powerful voice, and then asks: “Do you have a boyfriend?”
“No, sir” she retorts politely. “Why not?” presses Ed.  “Because they’re mean,” insists little Britney.
He leans over her.  “But what about me?”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Dressing Up At Home

Dateline: Last Sunday eve, watching the Golden Globe Awards.  ‘Tis our family tradition (previously mentioned in this venue, including here and here) of having a movie awards watching party (not any old awards show – just the “biggies,” as in the Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, and Tonys…and two of those don’t involve movies, but you get the idea) whilst consuming “movie food,” which is defined as hot dogs,   [1]  popcorn, chips & guac,  Skittles and Junior Mints and Red Vines licorice and/or your favorite movie theatre candies and snacks, washed down with liberal amounts of a sparkling beverage.

Due to the you-know-what-19 pandemic, this year the party was toned down, both on our viewing end and on the GG presenting end.  Friend LAH has been part of our tradition for years, and she joined MH and I for our distanced and masked celebration, along with our son, K (who is full vaccinated – we are all jealous, but that’s what working in medical research gets you).

The GG’s toned-down format was regretful. Part of the fun of watching the GGs is that the nominees are seated at tables, drinking and eating and drinking and chatting and drinking, and did I mention drinking? Thus, the atmosphere – and the acceptance speeches – tend to be looser (read: funnier and drunker) than the staid-by-comparison Oscars.

One bonus of this year’s show was getting to see many of the nominees in their homes (in some case, with their kids,who were so excited about Mom or Dad winning an award, which was adorable). Their attire ranged from Jason Sudeikis’ excessively casual, I’ll-never-win-so-I’m-going-to-be-comfy sweatsuit hoodie, to others who dressed as if they were headed for the red carpet interview (when we know they are in fact home, alone, counting the minutes until they can cover their Zoom screen and dash to the kitchen to scarf a fistful of Doritos during the commercial breaks).

In the latter category was Rosamund Pike, winner for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for I Care A Lot.  Pike unexpectedly supplied us with a great GG moment – not as great as the likely-never-to-be-equaled Best Acceptance Speech Ever ®  (given by Sacha Baron Cohen, 2007 winner for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, which can be seen in its glorious entirety here), but we still appreciated it.

 

 

This picture doesn’t do justice to the delightfully bizarre, horizontally expansive dress worn by Pike.  I’m wondering if she would have worn it had the GG’s been in their usual venue – she would have had to sit at a table by herself, as there would be no room on the sides for anyone else.  MH and I were reminded of  The Nutcracker Ballet’s Mother Ginger, the character who…well, for a moment we expected a bunch of polichinelles  [2]  to come scurrying out from under Pike’s voluminous hoopskirts….

 

 

Although I enjoyed the comic relief supplied by Pike’s dress, moiself  didn’t want it to distract from why she won the award.  So MH and I watched “I Care A  Lot.”  And you should, too. A perfect performance by Pike in a perfectly peculiar and entertaining film.

*   *   *

Department Of Dialog Which Causes Me To Spit Out What I Was Chewing
And Guffaw Aloud, Alone, At The TV

Dateline: a weekend ago, having dinner by moiself, watching the streaming show, Resident Alien.” As per the show’s website, RA is about an alien who

“…crash lands on Earth and must pass himself off as small-town human doctor Harry Vanderspeigle. Arriving with a secret mission to kill all humans, Harry starts off living a simple life…but things get a bit rocky when he’s roped into solving a local murder and realizes he needs to assimilate into his new world.”

Harry is played by the marvelous Alan Tudyk,   [3]  who gives Harry hard-to-describe verbal and physical mannerisms which are, IMHO, totally believable and consistent with what you might expect from a character who is the equivalent of the offspring of the proverbial fish-out-of-water and a precocious adolescent with Asperger’s syndrome…in other words, an ET who gets his ideas of human behavior – and a doctor’s “expertise” – from binge-watching episodes of Law and Order and consulting his cellphone for medical information.

 

 

The dialog to which I refer comes from episode two, during Harry’s first day at the town’s medical clinic.  Standing outside the clinic’s exam room, reading the chart of a patient he is scheduled to see, Harry thinks, “I was a scientist on my planet so this is easy for me,” referring to his conception of human doctors spending years in medical school to learn a procedure as simple as burning off a wart.  “All I need is the internet and I can graduate in five minutes.”

Harry enters the clinic’s exam room, staring at the chart in his hands. A woman is lying on the exam table, her feet in the stirrups.  He doesn’t even look at he as he sits down at the exam stool at the end of the table, by her feet. “Okay, let’s take a look at that nasty thing,” he says, as he lifts the paper sheet covering her from the waist down.  He drops the sheet, stands up, and blurts out, “You’re not a 12-year boy with a wart.”

The patient, a sardonic woman (who how you say, probably gets around), chuckles, “Well, I’m not a 12-year-old boy…”

The clinic’s nurse quickly apologizes, grabs the chart from Harry’s hand, and replaces it with the female patient’s chart, whom, the nurse tacitly explains to Harry, is in urgent need of a pelvic exam  (“We had to move her up from tomorrow.”).

Harry had googled wart removal, not pelvic exam. “Pelvic exam…”  Harry repeats, stalling for time.  Both the nurse and the patient urge him to hurry things up; we see his head disappear beneath the sheet; he takes a look and triumphantly announces,

“Oh, okay, I see your problem – you sat on an earring!”

The patient flinches as Harry tugs at (what we assume is) her labial piercing.  “No – ah, no!” she gasps, “That’s – that’s supposed to be there.”

 

 

You sat on an earring.  I’m still dying, a week later.  [4]

*   *   *

Pun For The Day, Alien Doctor Edition

I heard a joke about amnesia, but I forgot how it goes.

*   *   *

 

May you never have cause for a doctor, or anyone, to think you sat on an earring;
May you disregard the unsolicited advice – about anything – from men wearing medieval cassocks and quoting Iron Age scriptures;
May you fantasize delivering an acceptance speech to rival Sacha Baron Cohen’s;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Yes, that doesn’t qualify as “food,” and I have the plant-based version.

[2] Little children/clowns, depending on the production of the ballet.

[3] Any Firefly fans out there?

[4] The perfect reaction from an alien, as in, it’s not like anyone in their right mind would purposefully do that to themselves, so how else would you explain it?

The Rovers I’m Not Naming

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Department Of This Is Why I’m Not In Charge Of Such Things

Dateline: Thursday (yesterday), 2-18-21, 12 noonish; watching coverage of the Perseverance rover landing on Mars.  [1]  There was plenty of time to consider the ground-breaking implications of space exploration for humanity while all the TV talking heads filled the time until the actual landing.  Thus, I got to wondering: what is it about the names of these planetary probes – who gets to choose them, and what are the guidelines?

Spirit; Opportunity; Curiosity; Pathfinder; Perseverance

It seems NASA’s Mars program is partial to names denoting desirable/adventurous personality traits.  The launch and landing stages of the probes are certainly WOW events. But I’m thinking of the decades of the less glamorous work behind the scenes to get these devices to those stages.  What about honoring the less flashy but essential characteristics necessary for progress and harmony, when you’re working for years with a team of people, sometimes under stressful circumstances?

I humbly submit my nominations for the names of future Mars (or, Jupiter or…?) rovers:

Diligence

Reliability

Punctuality

Maturity

Tolerance

Composure

Sufficiently Caffeinated

Respectful Personal Hygiene

 

Introducing NASA’s next Mars Rover, “Fiscal Responsibility”

 

*   *   *

Department Of More Lists

I overheard a conversation in a grocery store between two employees, something about “…best inventions of the century.” We’re only one fift  into the 21st century, but of course (as moiself  discovered when I returned home and Googled the concept) individuals, news organizations and other companies have already started compiling lists.

Most of them overlap; “best” is of course a subjective rating; some of the entries, it could be argued, span both centuries (do you count an invention as being of this century on the date it became available to the public/was put into use, or the date when someone first started working on it?) .  [2]   All that considered, the more common entries include

*  Smart phones
*  Online banking
*  3-d printing
*  CRISPR  gene editor
*  The contraceptive patch
*  Augmented reality
*  Blockchain platforms
*  High density battery packs
*  Online streaming

After scanning the fifth such list, I noted a glaring omission common to all of them:

Where was the inclusion of Poo-Pourri ?!?!?!?     [3]

Not only it is a great product, the makers of Poo-Pourri are responsible for arguably The. Funniest. Product. Commercial. Ever.   [4]   If you have never seen this commercial, then you obviously have a more fulfilling and important life than I do need to inform yourself as to this cultural milestone of marketing:

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Bill Gates Please Save The World

“Gates isn’t just looking to cut future carbon emissions, he is also investing in direct air capture, an experimental process to remove existing CO2 from the atmosphere. Some companies are  now using these giant fans to capture CO2 directly out of the air, Gates has become one of the world’s largest funders of this kind of technology.”
( “Bill Gates: How the world can avoid a climate disaster,” 60 Minutes 2-15-21 )

Three times in the past three weeks I’ve encountered the term direct air capture, used in relation to our global warming crisis. Each time, the part of my heart that is still 12-years-old jumps for joy.

Direct air capture (as per Wikipedia):
Direct air capture (DAC) is a process of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) directly from the ambient air (as opposed to capturing from point sources, such as a cement factory or biomass power plant) and generating a concentrated stream of CO 2 for sequestration or utilization or production of carbon-neutral fuel and windgas. ….DAC was suggested in 1999 and is still in development….

Actually, a form of DAC was suggested by moiself, over two decades earlier than 1999.  I, like, invented DAC.  In your dreams, you may say. Well, literally, yes.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (Southern California, early 1970s) we had smog alerts several times during my 7th grade year, when the air quality got so bad it hurt to breathe, and PE classes were cancelled.

 

You’re not supposed to “see” the air, right?

 

During that PE downtime I would think about why we weren’t doing our 800 yard run trials.  Air pollution – not only do we have to stop adding to it, we need to get that existing gunk out of the air.  What about some kind of sieve or filter – which work for liquids, so why not tweak the concept to strain the air?  I would dream about it at night; I had dreams about enormous fan-type devices which would suck in air, filtering out the pollutants and spewing out clean air while compressing the particulate matter into bricks and other building materials which could be used for housing, road surfaces, bridges….

Yes, dreams, as in plural. It was weighing heavily upon my mind. For a period of several weeks I thought about it a lot, even confiding in my math teacher after class one day.  I asked him if he knew some science teachers, maybe in high school,   [5]  with whom I could talk to about my idea. He laughed at me – not cruelly, but certainly patronizingly, and said that I had no concept about the complicated technology which would have to be involved – which would have to be invented – for such an undertaking.  [6]

My school stopped having smog alerts and I stopped having those dreams.  Moiself  looks forward to not having to dream about such things, ever again, in the very near future.

 

How complicated could such an invention be?

 

*   *   *

The Commercial I’m Not Filming

Yours truly came across the following ad recently.

 

 

Imnagine that, an ad for yet another product or regimen to stop/reverse “the aging process.”   [7]

Moiself  fantasized about shooting a commercial for *my* secret tips to stop the aging process.  Seven seems an excessive number, so I’ll cut it down to five.  The commercial will open with scenes of people sending me money for my secret/sure-fire tips to stop the you-know-what process, followed by scenes of my anti-aging goon squad who show up at said people’s houses or surprise them on the streets, and stop their aging process via:

  1. pushing them in front of a bus
  2. running them over with a bus
  3. dropping a bus on top of them as they stand at a bus stop
  4. lacing their morning coffee with arsenic
  5. slipping a sedative in their dinner wine and setting fire to their house while they sleep

The final scene shows friends at the deceased’s open casket funeral, murmuring enviously to one another, “She doesn’t look a day older than yesterday.”

 

“Did you see her – she’s actually dead!”
“Yes, but at least she’s not getting any more wrinkles.”

 

 

*   *   *

“One of the things that Teller and I are obsessed with, one of the reasons that we’re in magic, is the difference between fantasy and reality.”
(Penn Jillette, of the magic duo Penn and Teller)

“It isn’t automatic that if you learn magic you’ll become a skeptic of the supernatural,” said D.J. Grothe, president of the Virginia-based James Randi Educational Foundation, which debunks supernatural claims and was founded by Randi.
    “But knowing magic does give you a leg up on how the mind works and how easy it is to be deceived. And from there, skepticism can be a fortunate result.”
(“Magicians say their craft makes them see faith as just hocus-pocus,”
The Christian Century, 10-27-11 )

I have long been drawn to the philosophy of modern-day magicians, even though the what-they-do part – the actual “magic” –  doesn’t particularly hold my interest.  It has been years since I’ve been to a magic show, and although I avoid Las Vegas like the proverbial plague (I think moiself  is allergic to neon), if I were there, The Penn and Teller show is the one show I’d try to get tickets to.

 

Well, that and a show featuring Amazonian-stature women dressed as roosters.  Because, you know, culture.

What interests me is (something which magicians themselves have pointed out) the similarity of “tricks” used by magicians and politicians and religions.  Magic acts, religious leaders and texts, and extreme political ideologies are similar in that they employ physical and psychological methods to fool people into believing something that they otherwise would have/should have known is patently untrue ( The man did not pull a quarter from your nose…but gosh darn it, it sure looked like he did).  Ultimately, magicians and demagogues and priests don’t have to fool people, because by using a combination of visual, oral, and intellectual illusions, they get people to fool themselves.

 

 

I recently tuned into my favorite podcast on communication and science, Clear + Vivid , and was pleased to hear that C+V host Alan Alda’s guest was Penn Jillette (aka “the talking half “of Penn and Teller).  In Magic, Tricks, and Us, Penn explored this question:


When we see a magic trick, is the magician fooling us,
or are we fooling ourselves?

 

 

Jillette’s thesis is that “magic tricks” are a test of how we process reality:

“If you’re lying to somebody, they’ll catch you. But if you get someone to lie to themselves, you’ve got ’em.  And that is what we’re (magicians) always trying to do: get people to make assumptions…because they’ll put up a wall around me, but if I can come around the edge, we can fool ’em that way.

He talks about illusions v. tricks, and how he prefers the latter:

“Tricks are ideas that you get someone to…to lie to themselves. Because the trick, instantly, deals with one of the most important subjects we can deal with, which is how we establish what’s real; how we agree on a reality.  For me, doing magic is a playful epistemological experience. We are playing around, in a safe zone, with how we establish what’s true.  We’ve seen what happens when truth is played with on a real stage, in the real world…and it’s horrific.   If you come to see a Penn & Teller show and you say, if these two guys can make me think something that’s patently not true, what can people with a real budget, and a lack of morals, do?”

Penn, an atheist and advocate science and of reality-based thinking, briefly addressed criticism that atheists don’t accept or appreciate “mystery” in the world.

“Atheists are often accused of ‘not accepting the mystery,’ and it’s exactly the opposite. Atheists are very happy going, ‘Hmm, I don’t know.’
Reality-based thinking is actually more in love with mystery than magical thinking.  When scientists said, ‘I don’t know,’ they had more love of the mystery than someone who said, ‘I do know, and it’s god.’
The three most important words of the scientific method are, ‘I don’t know.’ Those were not said until 500 years ago. Priests and rulers and kings, they always knew. Scientists came along and went, ‘I don’t know.’  Those three words are to me the scientific method.”

What spurs scientific investigation in the first place is recognizing and admitting what we don’t know, followed by harnessing the curiosity and freedom to investigate. We all benefit from the science that springs from admitting what we don’t know about a natural phenomenon, rather than being “given” incomplete, incorrect, or simply nonsensical non-answers (“Allah willed it;” “Jehovah did it,” “Pele/Isis/Jesus sent the plague/rains/tornado/volcanic eruption to punish/reward/bless/remind us….”)

 

 

“I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.”
“I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.”
( Richard Feynman, theoretical physicist, professor, and avid bongo player )

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Harry Houdini used to use lots of trap doors in his magic act.
He’s stopped that now; he was just going through a stage.

 

*   *   *

 

May you appreciate the difference between questions that can’t be answered
and answers that can’t be questioned;
May you be careful what you wish for when it comes to “the aging process;”
May we all realize how truly cool it is that we have another rover on Mars;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Did you see it?  The announcers did a great job of transmitting the NASA/JPL team members’ “Seven Minutes of Terror,” as you think about how butt-frostingly complicated such a mission is, and how many things can go wrong….

[2] Foer example, the contraceptive patch was first available to the public in 2002 but had been in development and testing long before then.

[3] Aka, “The before-you-go toilet spray.”

[4] Yes, of course, that’s in my opinion. This is my blog; whose opinion were you expecting?

[5] Solving the world’s air pollution problems might be too ambitious for junior high, I reckoned.

[6] Neither did he, of course.  I often wonder if I’d been a 13-year-old boy instead of a girl, and come to him with the same idea, would he have encouraged me to study engineering and solve that problem?

[7] As in, wrinkled skin.

The Mental Note I’m Not Making

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Dateline: Thursday, returning from my morning walk. A black van slowly drives by my house, then pulls up in my driveway just as moiself  punches in the code to open the garage door.  The car is unmarked; I figure it for a delivery vehicle, and indeed, the driver leaves the motor running as he exits the vehicle and approaches me, carrying a white, pizza-delivery-shaped box and three other items in his arms. He likely cannot discern my confused expression that slowly crosses my face (I am masked) when I see that the “packages” he’s toting all bear the Krispy Kreme logo.

“Excuse me,” I say, “I think you have the wrong address.” His eyes and forehead denote that he is smiling beneath his mask, but I’m not sure he understands me. “Do you have the correct house number?” I ask again.  “We didn’t order….uh, we don’t eat…” I gesture toward his armful. “…any of that.”

He says MH’s name, in heavily accented (Russian?) English, and points to the top of the box, where MH’s first name and last initial are written in black ink. Seeing that I have my hands full (hat and gloves in one hand and walking poles in the other) he leaves the items on the front porch and waves to me as he scampers back to his van.

I enter the house via the garage and tell MH, who is in the kitchen, about the delivery.  He fetches the items from the porch, and tells me that yesterday afternoon someone from work messaged him with the news that there would be a “sweet treat” delivered to him tomorrow, in honor of his 30 years with the company.

“I was hoping,” MH shakes his head, “for chocolates.”

Here is what MH got:  a donut assortment and a bucket of coffee and eight cups and enough creamer to drown a possum (*eight* coffee cups?  Whom do they think he’ll be having over during these COVID social isolation times?).

 

 

MH does not drink coffee (thirty years, and they don’t know this?), and doesn’t eat donuts.

Yeah, team!  Way to know and value your employees!

Even as I type this MH is receiving “very nice” calls and messages from people he works with, regarding his 30 years with the company, and I can tell he is touched by their individual expressions of congratulations.  “The company” as such does have an interesting history of less-than-stellar acknowledgements of significant anniversaries, as moiself  noted in this space, five years ago. What the heck; it all makes for a better story than a gold watch.

*   *   *

Department Of What Have I Ever Done To Deserve This?

Thursday was quite the day.  I awoke Thursday morning at 3:30 AM – a good five hours before the surprise KK delivery – and, as always when I awaken in mid-eve/early am, an earworm was infecting my brain.

This time, the song was a particularly odious one.  I’m not talking Osmond Family odious, but almost.

 

“Oh, did you say something insulting? We’re too busy urging agents of the Mormon church to buy controlling percentages of Proctor & Gamble stock – the makers of the Crest Whitening Strips ® we heartily endorse! – to pay attention to your gentile gibes. ”  [1]

 

It was a Bobby Goldsboro song: The Straight Life.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Stranger’s Post I’m Responding To.
Sub Department Of Why. Do. I. Do. This.

A friend posted the following on Facebook (passing it on, I’m guessing, from someone else’s’ post).  Underneath a faded photo of a baby girl and her adorable sisters (all of whom appeared to be under age three), was this entreaty (I removed the names; other than that, the post is as originally written and punctuated.):

PLEASE HELP!!
51 years ago our mother _ _ ___ (nee ____).     Walked out of these 3 little girls lives ___ &  ___ & ___ (last name) Castle . For what reason were really not sure, we have had several failed attempts to find her this is now our last chance of any hope of finding her.  she could have moved abroad Australia or Canada. She will be 74 now born 9th December 1942. Social media seems to help with good things, life can never be  complete when you  don’t know who or where your mother is. We need this to go WORLD WIDE….. PLEASE HELP ….

I kept second guessing moiself  as I typed my comment.  I don’t know these people; they aren’t asking for my advice….except that they *are,* in that internet way.  By asking for their post to go WORLD WIDE they are seeking a worldwide reaction.

As a citizen of this world, I still feel a keen loyalty to a part of the world with which I have a significant history: working in women’s reproductive health care clinics.  Some of the women and girls I served were mired in the myriad of situations which might cause a woman to “walk out” of her children’s lives and resist any attempts to be found.  Also, I cringed to read the post’s – unintentional, I assume, yet inherently presumptuous  – dis of the lives of adoptees and orphans, and others who may not know their biological mothers but who nonetheless live lives filled with love, fulfillment, and purpose.

So yeah, moiself  had to dive in:

“For what reason were really not sure, we have had several failed attempts to find her….” Do you really think it is wise to pursue this? There are probably reasons your “failed attempts to find her” have in fact failed….can you accept that there are likely reasons she may have, that have to do with her not wanting to be found, reasons that might be painful for you to know and impossible (in her mind, at least) for you to truly understand?
I worked in women’s reproductive health care for years, and the stories I heard and was witness to….would take years to describe. Are you prepared for where this might lead?
I’m sorry for your pain; even as I can’t let a statement like “life can never be complete when you don’t know who or where your mother is…” stand uncontradicted, as it is patently false, given the fact that people all over the world have lived fulfilling lives, having to deal with far more in terms of pain and uncertainty.
I wish you and your sisters – and your biological mother, be she alive or dead – all the best, including peace in this matter.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Calling All Math Nerds

Help me out on this one. Dateline: Tuesday, circa 7 am, listening to a podcast while doing The Morning Walk Thing ® .  The podcast (the name of which escapes me now)  [2]  featured an interview with a guest who was a mathematician.  Mr. Math Man was talking about the “perfect number,” a mathematics concept wherein the divisors of said number add up to the number itself.  For example, 6 is a perfect number because 3 + 2 + 1 = 6.

But wait one darn minute.  Just prior to revealing this Perfect Number equation, Math Man said that the divisors of 6 are the numbers 3 and 2 (3 x 2 = 6), *AND* 6 and 1 (6 x 1 =6).  If you add all of those together you get 12, not 6.  Why was he leaving out 6 when he’d just said it was a divisor – as is 1, and he included the 1 in the “perfect number” equation?

 

 

No doubt there is some, because-we-define-it-this-way-that’s-why explanation that makes the less-than-perfect (IMO) definition of the perfect number more perfect – an explanation that would have to involve the divisors of the number but not the number itself being included in the “perfect” addition equation.

But wait, there’s more!

 

Too late.

 

Since every whole number is divisible by itself and one, that leaves the number one as a partnerless divisor in those perfect number equations…and you could never have a perfect number, using the definition of perfect number which the guest presented, unless the number itself was excluded from its divisors addition – again, which leaves the number one missing its divisor partner.  Which seems kinda lonely, to me. Can any number even be considered a divisor without the action of another number?

Yeah, I could google this.  I’d just rather throw out to the universe this silly rumination of arcane concepts question of burning importance to the very nature of our existence.

 

Make that, the divisor stands alone.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Momentarily Missing The Point

Moiself  has been using a new meditation app. One recent morning in a guided meditation, the narrator instructed me to “…make a mental note in my mind…”

Well…yeah…that is where I would make a *mental* note.

The note I was advised to make had to do about breathing, but instead and immediately moiself  started making mental notes about the delightful redundancy of the suggestion.

Yes, my mind is where I make my mental notes,
as opposed to my elbow or my spleen…
Wow! Am I so ahead of the practice, or what?!?!?

That went on for…way longer than it should have.

Although my investigation of the phenomenon assures me that it is common to all humanity, I’ve always thought that the dictionary definition of monkey mind should include a picture of moiself .

*   *   *

Department Of Silver Linings

The Presidential Inauguration.

As much as I was thrilled for the new Prez and Veep to be sworn in, moiself  girded my loins for the inevitable yet no-less-offensive-just-because-they-all-do-it invocation.  Of all the things that should *not* be heard in a secular democracy’s inauguration ceremony, religious rhetoric of any kind tops my list.  It turned my stomach for a variety of reasons.

I don’t care about Biden’s personal religion – that’s the point, it should be *his* personal business.  A nation based on a deliberately crafted, god-free constitution does not need to hear anything resembling advice or entreaties from a minister when we are installing our head of state – in particular, we don’t need the nonsense from a priest who quotes  the head of state of the worldwide cabal of celibate (ha!) sexists and altar boy buggerers.   [3]  

I was saved from my disgust when I realized what was to follow the putrid  proselytizing invocation.  The Inauguration announcer, who used his Solemn And Important ® voice to announce the Supreme Court Justices, and Harris and Biden, and then the invocation speaker, was also going to use that same voice to introduce she-who-was-to-sing-our-national-anthem.

Mere words cannot describe the petty thrill that tickled moiself  from eyebrows to tootsie-toes when I heard those stentorian tones used for the words I never expected would be part of an inaugural ceremony:

“Please welcome Lady Gaga.”

If only Her Ladyship could have worn her meat dress….

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of If I Had My Life To Live Over Again…

…I just might choose a multidisciplinary field of study which would have qualified me to be an “expert” on the recent  Freakonomics podcast I found so entertaining.  “The Downside of Disgust” (Ep. 448, 1-20-21) dealt with the human biological response and reflex known as disgust.

I imagine teaching an undergraduate course in the science and sociology of disgust. I would call moiself , Professor Eeeeeewwwwwwwwww.   [4]

*   *   *

Department Of Blast From The Past

Typing the previous section about disgust led me to trip down the Memory Lane staircase, where I landed spread-eagle on the floor of a recollection I posted about, way back on 10-19-12 (yikes – moiself  has been blogging for that many years?):

October 19, 1945, is the birthdate of Harris Glenn Milstead.  Better known as his stage name, “Divine,” the flamboyant transvestite starred in ten John Waters films,     [5]  and would have been 67 today had he not died 25 years ago from an enlarged heart.

Divine holds a special place in my normal-sized heart ever since we shared an elevator ride in our nation’s capital.  I was in town on a business trip, installing a computer system at WWDC.   [6]  The groundbreaking radio station    [7]   was located in a high-rise office building in downtown D.C. One morning after returning from our daily get-away-from-these-crazy-radio-people fresh air break, my installation partner R and I boarded an empty elevator in the building’s lobby. The elevator stopped at the next floor, and Divine and his PR agent (or so I guessed, from what I heard of their conversation) got on.

Although he lacked his customary stage attire and fright wig, the bald, 300 lb, self-proclaimed “Drag Queen of the Century” was (for me, at least) immediately recognizable. He was in full, eyebrow-elevating makeup, and looked petty much like the picture (below), despite his oddly conservative attire of a Hawaiian shirt, khaki pants and brown loafers.

R and I observed proper Elevator Etiquette and rode in silence, me using the elevator doors as a focal point as I tried to suppress my shit-eating grin.  R stole several furtive/suspicious, OMG glances at Divine, who chatted with his agent about an upcoming promo appearance.

The men exited the elevator two floors before our stop. As soon as the elevator doors closed I turned to R and gushed,
“That was Divine!

R’s cheeks nearly exploded with the force of her sputtered retort:
“That was disgusting!”

Turns out R had no idea who Divine was.

I explained. It didn’t help.

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

With great flourish, the Spanish magician exclaimed,
“On the count of three, I shall make myself disappear!
Uno!  Dos!” …and then he vanished, without a tres.

 

*   *   *

May you discover the cheap thrill of using your lowest, most somber voice to say, over and over again, “Lady Gaga;”
May you honor longtime colleagues with appropriate gifts – better yet, just tell them something you like about them;
May your favorite memories be Divine (or at least never disgusting);
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Mormons (usually privately) use the term “gentiles” to refer to anyone – yes, even Jews – outside of their LDS faith.

[2] Gasp – ’tis a podcast host’s worst nightmare, to have the name of their show less memorable than a listener’s random memory of it!

[3] Yes, that would be The Pope.  A fucking pope, the most anti-democratic kind of  “leader” there is…

[4] And on the first day of class, I’d ask Lady Gaga if I could borrow her meat dress….

[5] Most notably in “Pink Flamingoes,” as Babs Johnson, the film’s “Filthiest Person Alive,” dog-excrement eating heroine (just imagine what the film’s villains had to do).

[6] A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I worked for a company that designed computerized “traffic” systems for radio and television stations.

[7] “DC-101” was the first American radio station to play a Beatles song: “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” in December 1963.  DC-101 was where DJ Howard Stern was paired with news anchor Robin Quivers and honed his “shock jock” persona.

The Blog Post I Wasn’t Planning On

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Noteworthy science podcast anecdotes; musings on how we understand, use (and misuse) the term “educated;” wondering how and why some people can believe in the efficacy of intercessory prayer; a bad pun or two; the last Partridge of the Week, etc.  I don’t know if the subjects I had planned to address in today’s post were more profound, but they were certainly more fun, than…this.

As in, What. Happened. On. Wednesday.

“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”
(Vice President Mike Pence, 1-6-21, in a letter to members of Congress.  From “Pence defies Trump, says he can’t reject electoral votes,” apnews.com )

“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done….”
( #45‘s tweet, after Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged he does not have the power to throw out electoral votes )

*   *   *

Someone needs to be shot for insurrection. 

If #45 had the cojones he accused Pence of lacking, he‘d call a press conference, resign, then blow his brains out   [1] on live television.  He‘d get the “biggliest ratings, ever!” which is and always has been his ultimate concern.

*   *   *

 

Prevoskhodno! This is all going according to plan.”

 

*   *   *

 

How many times did I read or hear, during the last four years,

“Yeah, I know he (#45) is a dick a horrible person as a person, but I’m voting for him because of ______ (conservative policy).”

As friend MM so succinctly put it,

“Everyone who voted for Trump for tax cuts and judges, you own this.”

 

*   *   *

What was it that the anti-Vietnam war protestors chanted as they were beaten by Chicago police in 1968?

“The whole world is watching.”

 

 

And they were.  And we are.

*   *   *

Department Of Get Him Out, Now.  How Can You Not?

Congress: Impeach. Invoke the 25th amendment#45 is clearly “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”    [2]   Get the SCOTUS to lead a squad of Capitol Police to arrest him.  Whatever it takes.

Please, no cries of, “But we only have to hang on another two weeks, for the good of the country…”

No.

For the good of the country,
he
needs to go. Would *anyone else* who had fomented a riot – committed sedition – *not* be held accountable?

For the good of the country,
his
legacy, as MH put it, “needs to be appropriate.”

For the good of the country,
we cannot let strongman hooliganism subvert or even delay our democratic processes.

For the good of the country,
we need to show the world – we need to show ourselves – that we have not become another anarchic banana republic our laws and ideals have actual meaning.

And, if he is allowed to just…leave, do you really want any portion of your tax dollars to go to his presidential pension?  $219,000 a year, for the rest of his deplorable life, living among whatever other deplorables can stand to abide with him?   [3]

 

“A Russian dacha or a North Korean apartment – your choice, Comrade.”

*   *   *

May we get the kind of honest, decent, compassionate leadership we need;
May you-know-who finally get what he deserves;
May circumstances allow moiself  to return to “regular programming” next week;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Not to worry; it’d be a small splatter, considering the target.

[2] Section 4, 25th Amendment to the US Constitution.

[3] There need to be more footnotes, but the only appropriate footnote regarding this deranged disaster of democracy is an unending torrent of FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK !!!

The Home Health Tests I’m Not Administering

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Department Of There’s Always A Silver Lining
(But Sometimes It Smells Like Rotten Eggs)

For long-married couples, the hardships of this year have given us an opportunity to reframe some…uh, activities.  For example, a certain husband has been known to try to “sneak one” past his wife, and when she catches him   [1]   he tells her that in his ever-vigilant concern for her well-being he is merely giving her a daily hearing test, since it is a well-known fact that high frequency hearing loss accelerates with age.

Thanks to the viral vagaries of the past nine months. loving spouses can now also “test” one another for a more important concern.  When your sweet baboo wrinkles his or her nose and grumblingly wonders aloud why you didn’t at least have the decency to leave the room to let one rip after your two-can Trader Joe’s limburger chili lunch, you can reply,

“My darling, I was merely administering to you, within the privacy and comfort of our home, a vital health test: the experts tell us that, in a person without any other symptoms, a sudden appearance of asomnia – loss of the sense of smell – is one of the earliest signs of COVID-19.”

 

“I heard that….”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Thing I Was Told I Would Like…
And Looked Forward To Liking…
But Then I Didn’t

That would be the much-acclaimed HBO series, Big Little Lies. MH and I made it to episode four of the first season, and… Sorry.  Moiself  simply doesn’t wanna spend any more time around those characters.

If you are a fan of the BLL series, kindly restrain your knee-jerk reaction to channel your Literature Appreciation 101 professor in my direction.  Yep, I totally get that unpleasant characters – in protagonist, antagonist, and supporting roles alike – can be vital components of compelling storylines.  Duh, *fiction writer* here!  For example: who is a sympathetic and/or likeable character in Macbeth?

But, sorry – BLL is no Macbeth.

And, the sex scenes…

“Like, I *know*….

 

BLL uses what I call the “movie sex” presentation, which I find  ridiculous/boring:

* candle- or otherwise gauzily-lit locales

*nothing resembling safe sex being practiced

* unrealistic body presentation  (read: the men can be flabsters but the women always look like models )

* smoldering looks passing for foreplay, yet both the men and women reach wall-pounding orgasms within two minutes

* and what’s with all the up-against-the-wall-pounding?

But my main objection to BLL’s sex scenes is the violence.  Having worked in my past life   [2]   with victims of sexual violence, I don’t find violent, aggressive, “rough” and/or “merely coercive” sex to be entertaining, even when it’s excused justified as “necessary to portray the dysfunctional dynamic of the relationship.”

Sure, there’s great acting from all cast members, but so far,  BLL is not moiself’s  cup of strychnine tea.  In time I may return to finish the series, but at this point not even the curiosity of finding out which character gets murdered   [3]  can compel me to stay with it. 

*   *   *

Department Of Will There Ever Be A Vaccine For Flagrant Asininity?

“Coronavirus could be ‘under control’ in weeks if everyone wore masks,
CDC director says.”

(Washington Post, 7-14-20 )

“…the near-universal scientific consensus that, more than any of single action short of everyone entering solitary confinement, face coverings can prevent the transmission of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19….
The benefits of masking in reducing viral transmission are clear…. In an analysis of 194 countries, those that did not recommend face masks saw Covid-19 mortality increase 54% every week after the first case appeared; in countries with masking policies, the weekly increase was only 8%.”
(“If everyone wore a mask, Covid-19 could be brought under control,
CDC director urges,”   statnews.com 7-14-20 )

Dateline: earlier this week. MH directed my attention to a Facebook post:  a kinfolk of ours posted a “group selfie” picture with three other people, all smiling into the cellphone camera, their unmasked faces close together. As reported in the post, these folks were in a bar, celebrating a friend’s birthday with, among other activities, “karaoke singing.”

 

 

Yep.  All that, plus karaoke singing.

“…singers…generate respiratory aerosols at high rates. In other words, they spew a lot of droplets into the air when they warble or blow.….
A professor  explains the physics:  ‘You have the air that’s coming out on your respiratory tube, your mouth, and your nose, and there’s liquid lining all of your respiratory system. …And when the air is going very quickly,  (the force with which singers expel air) it can basically grab a little bit of that material and put it in a particle, and then you expel it out into the air….
anything that makes the air go faster or more strongly or produce more air is putting out more respiratory particles.

If you’re singing, you’re breathing in a lot of air, you’re breathing out very forcefully, and you’re also moving your vocal cords. The vocal cords are wet, they’re covered in this fluid, they’re vibrating, and that can also produce more particles.”
As a result…group singing remains “extremely dangerous and irresponsible,” (the professor stated), pointing out numerous other super-spreading incidents among choruses worldwide.”
( ” Singers Can Be Coronavirus Superspreaders, Say Experts …”  npr.org, 8-16-20 )

 

 

“…the more responsibly you’d choose to behave…ya think?

Yeah, right.  Welcome to the USA.

“For months, public health officials have been warning about the dangers of going to bars: They’re indoor spaces, they frequently have poor air circulation, and after a few drinks, people tend to lean in close during conversations or put their arms around their besties, all while forgetting to wear their masks….


But if bars are dangerous during a pandemic, karaoke is even worse, regardless of what form it takes…. A fun way to spend a night on the town has become a raging cocktail of everything epidemiologists tell us to avoid: Gathering in groups, passing around a microphone that’s potentially covered in virus-covered respiratory droplets, and most of all, singing.


The dangers of singing in public were laid bare in March at a church choir practice in Skagit, Wash. Only one of the 61 attendees at the two-hour rehearsal was known to be symptomatic, but 53 would end up testing positive for the coronavirus, and two members died. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the act of singing “might have contributed to transmission through emission of aerosols, which is affected by loudness of vocalization.”
( “Karaoke is a health risk during a pandemic.”  Washington Post, 8-17-20

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Damn Damn Damn Damn Damn!

Don’t you hate it when someone whom you otherwise admire –

say, a writer known for her empathetic take on complicated cultural and political topics (e.g., sexual violence, family relationships, race, privilege) using both a broad and personal lens, who is capable of recognizing the opinions of others while persuasively articulating her own –

says something which makes you realize that there is at least one    [4]  part of her brain wherein her subconscious spends way too much time staring at a frozen orange juice container because it says, “concentrate”?

Dateline:  Wednesday am, beginning to listen to Tig Notaro’s “Don’t Ask Tig” podcast.  Notaro’s guest is writer Roxanne Gay, and I’m excited to hear that…until I hear the following exchange, and have to press the what the fuck – seriously? stop button on my podcast app.

Host TN was asking RG how RG feels about being someone whose opinions people value and respect. RG responded that it feels great, if challenging, considering the kind of  stressful  [5]  topics she is asked to speak about, but most of the time it’s fine….

Host TN:
And where did you – where did that come from, in you?

Guest  RG:
I don’t know.  I’m very quiet and very shy…I think it’s because, I tend to – I’m a Libra, and so I’m able to acknowledge multiple points of view.….

Host TN:
Well, I’m an Aries, I don’t know what that means.

Guest  RG:
I don’t know either; I only know my own sign….I don’t fully understand astrology, but I have seen enough to believe in it, and take it seriously….

 

 

Damn damn damn damn damn.

I will, most likely, continue to read Ms. Gay’s essays and op-eds.  Still, grrrrrrrr.  I know that all idols have feet of clay, and that it’s good to be reminded of this, but do the idol’s clay feet have to be seemingly, blissfully, unaware that she’s stomping in horseshit?

Santa, please put Ms. Gay on your Christmas list, and sent her a special present this year: Carl Sagan’s baloney detection kit.

Moiself  gets some of the reasons why people “believe in” astrology, or just like to read their horoscopes. For some folk it’s like a game, and astrology allows you to do the humble brag (or humble rag) thing:  you can list your strengths or weaknesses without taking personal responsibility for either boasting or knocking yourself, because the credit (or blame) is in your stars.

 

 

I’ve met people who admit to “checking” their horoscope but say that they do so only for amusement purposes and don’t really think the predictions are valid.  However, many scientists argue that even the “entertainment only” aspects of things like astrology are misleading and even harmful, in that they promote the idea that it is possible to interpret or explain reality of the natural world via the supernatural.

“Astrology can be tested by the lives of twins. There are many real cases like this: one twin is killed in childhood in, say, a riding accident or struck by lightning, while the other one lives to a prosperous old age. Supposed that had happened to me. My twin and I would have been born in exactly the same place and within minutes of each other, exactly the same planets would be rising at our births. If astrology were valid, how would we have such profoundly different fates?”
( Carl Sagan, as quoted in culturacolectiva.com )

The late great astronomer Carl Sagan was proficient in taking down astronomy and other pseudosciences.  His life’s work involved encouraging people to

*  learn critical and skeptical thinking skills
* understand that science is not just a body of knowledge, but a way of thinking.

If you haven’t read Sagan’s book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, what are you waiting for? Even if you already know why, say, astronomy (or divination, fortune-telling, witchcraft, ad nauseum) is hokum, the book is an excellent explication of the scientific method to laypeople.  Also, Sagan was a highly entertaining writer who was “incapable of composing a dull sentence,” as one admirer put it.

 

 

*   *   *

2020: a year which started with murder hornets and descended into COVID-19, civil unrest (e.g., the BLM movement and police brutality protests), wildfires, hurricanes, and the myriad of unnatural disasters emanating from the White House….

When it comes to using bowling metaphors to describe the events of this year,   [6]  it was like our society just kept throwing a series of gutter balls.

So, the regular/festive tree will wait until next year. For 2020, this is all I can muster.

 

 

Lest you think moiself  has totally Scrooged-out on the festivities this year, I found another “tree” at an antique store.  This one has room for a mere nine hanging ornaments. It wasn’t as difficult a task as you might think – whittling down the 100+ ornaments we have to only nine. Most of our ornaments are way too big for this kind of display, so, an assortment of my favorite smaller ones will do, for now. 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Get A Load Of This Pair

Moiself  was compelled to adopt these from the grocery store.  But, what to do with them?

 

 

I thought, maybe something Thai-flavored.  Thailand is The Country Formerly Known as Siam, ® and the first thing that came to my mind when I saw these orange beauties was, “Cool – Siamese squash.”

That thought was almost immediately followed by Well-Meaning Liberal’s Unnecessary Self-Flagellation ® : “Ooh, that might be taken as insulting, or culturally-appropriating.  I should probably say, “Conjoined Squash.”

Call ’em whatever, but what to do with them? I asked for suggestions from my family, who were as helpful as always.  Son K declined to comment. Daughter Belle’s response:  “Boobies!”  Thank you, daughter dearest, but I was thinking more along culinary lines.   [7]

MH suggested that I could hang them from my car’s trailer hitch.  Yeah, but then I’d have to paint them blue….    [8]

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I left my husband because he kept making astrology puns –
it finally Taurus apart.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Partridge Of The Week

This week’s Partridge in our pear tree:

 

 

*   *   *

 

May you be judicious in choosing which home health tests you give to your loved ones;
May you remember that the best way to treat your “besties”
is to wear a mask in their presence;
May you realize that if you seriously want to know what the moon is in Aries,
then you need to know that your head is seriously up your ass;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] As in, “I heard that!”

[2] Private OB/GYN practice; Planned Parenthood; domestic violence and child abuse training.

[3] Unless I am promised that the answer is, “They all do.”

[4] Hopefully, teeny.

[5] I believe the term she used was, “fucked up.”

[6] And you know you want to.

[7] I ended up making a Thai coconut curry with them.

[8] If you do not get this cultural reference, be thankful, and refrain from googling the image.

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