Home

The Novel Characters I’m Not Liking

Comments Off on The Novel Characters I’m Not Liking

Department Of Things Are Never Going To Get Better
Until We Start Asking The Correct  Questions

 

 

Whether posed from a pro-choice supporter who encourages openness as being essential to  debates over reproductive freedom and (ironically) privacy, or from a rape hotline volunteer who is working to bring the statistics of sexual assault into the public consciousness, IMO people – well-meaning and otherwise – keep asking the wrong questions.

Question, posed to a woman:
Have you ever had an abortion?

Question which *should* be posed to a man – either preceding or following the previous question – but never rarely is:
Have you ever, even potentially,   [1]  been the cause of an abortion?
(Translation: have you ever had sexual relations with a woman, consensual or otherwise, in which your intent was not to father a wanted pregnancy? )

 

 

Question, posed to a woman:
Have you ever been sexually assaulted?

Question which *should* be posed to a man – either preceding or following the previous question – but never rarely is:
Have you – or any male friend/relative/acquaintance you know of –
ever sexually assaulted anyone?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Doing the Thing I Wasn’t Going To Do

Moiself  has started a book club.

Always the vanguard of creativity and novelty, I am calling it, Book Club.

 

 

The reason why I wasn’t going to do it: my experiences in the previous BCs I’ve been a part of.

The BCs dealing with nonfiction were fine, and more than that – highly enjoyable and educational.  But when it came to BCs that included – or were totally centered around – works of fiction…not so much.  What would happen: at least one of the other BC members would find out that I was a published author of fiction (something I tried to keep under wraps) and “out” me to the group.  This revelation tainted the BC experience for moiself, and also, it seemed, for many if not all of the other members.  I noted a deference, toward moiself, from the other members, which frustrated, saddened, and frankly nauseated me.

The other BC members would noticeably defer (sometimes downright obsequiously) to my opinions, or change theirs if they’d spoken first and then it was my turn to speak  [2]  and I offered a different perspective, or ask me to express my thoughts before they’d offer theirs. They’d even come right out and say something along the lines of:

“Well, as an author, you know more than I do about….”

Ick, ick, ick.

And no amount of encouragement on my part –  that their opinions and feelings as readers were equally valid (or even more so) than mine as a writer  [3]  – seemed to relieve that deferential dynamic.

The straw which broke my BC camel’s back…

 

“Ooh, thank you for that.”

 

…you’re welcome.

As I was saying typing, the straw which broke my BC camel’s back was when we members of BC #4 were discussing A Thousand Acres, author Jane Smiley’s contemporary retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear.

ATA was a book I did not care for.  As it turned out, not one person in the group did, although the other members were initially hesitant to express their distaste for ATA, seeing as how the literary critics were coming in their pants over their eagerness to heap praise upon it (in my opinion…which I managed not to express to the BC  in the words moiself  has used here).

So; none of us liked it.  But, whyMoiself  kept her mouth shut until everyone else had spoken, when I found out that everyone else in the group didn’t enjoy reading ATA because “There were no likeable characters in the book.”

Um, okay.  Moiself  didn’t partucularly “like” any of the book’s main characters. But, what about the story itself – the plot, the pacing, the way the story of those unlikeable characters unfolded?  I tried to present the idea that a story can be compelling without containing characters which you, the reader, find likeable or “identifiable-with-able.”  I mean, seriously, dudes: who is “likeable” in Macbeth?

Moiself  didn’t like the book because I didn’t like the story being told, in the way it was told.  I didn’t care for the plot content and trajectory, which never engaged my attention, and…oh, never mind.

I tried, very carefully and respectfully, to offer an alternative perspective to not-liking-something, which some of the other BC members took as me trying to talk them out of *not* liking the book – which, as I ‘d already stated, moiself  Also. Did. Not. Like.

 

 

Fast forward to at least two decades later. The first meeting of “my” BC was last Thursday, and seemed to be a rousing success. A nice mix of life backgrounds and opinions among the members;   [4]  moiself received good feedback; everyone seems looking forward to next month’s meeting.  The format, which is open to modification as per members’ suggestions and preferences,    [5]   is fairly simple:  Once a month; my place; all who are able to do so bring a plate of appetizer/canape/”finger food” type goodies to share (and/or conversation-stimulating beverages);  we nosh and sip and talk about the book.

 

 

At the end of the evening we offer suggestions for next month’s book, based on the month’s theme, which has been announced in advance.

I wanted this BC, instead of specializing in genres, to offer a wide variety of reading options.  I didn’t want to host (or participate in) an all fiction or all nonfiction group. In order to offer the widest variety of possibilities – and perhaps force moiself  to read at least one book a year in a category I don’t normally opt for (e.g., history), moiself  came up with a list of themes (and a clarification of them), which I shall ever-so-humbly share with y’all now, in case this idea is also appealing to you.    [6]

 

 

Book Club Monthly Themes

* January: Literary Classics You Should Have Read
I never made it through War and Peace (and have no desire to do so now), how about you?  But there are plenty of other classics I’d like to give a go (or would be willing to re-read, since I’ve probably forgotten most of, say, Moby Dick).  What constitutes a “classic”? Think of your high school/college literature class reading lists.

* February: Short story collections
“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”
This quote (variously attributed to everyone from Twain to Voltaire) is related to a category that never quite gets its due recognition, but in which (so-called) New World authors have excelled, from past practitioners like Mark Twain and Ray Bradbury (The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and other stories; The Illustrated Man) to relative newcomers Edwidge Dandicat and Tim O’Brien (Ghosts; The Things They Carried).

*  March: Feminism  “I Am Woman; Hear Me Roar (and see me read).”
Sisterhood is powerful, as we’ll see when we delve into/revisit the classics of first and second wave feminist thought (Mary Wollstonecraft’s The Vindication of the Rights of Women; Betty Freidan’s The Feminist Mystique; Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch; Gloria Steinem’s The Truth Will Set you Free But First It Will Piss You Off ) as well as the “Third Wave” feminists’ updates (Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist; Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me).

* April: Regional – “She flies with her own wings” (and reads with her own eyes).
Did you recognize Oregon’s state motto? Yeah, it’s somewhat…lame, but it’s a great state and region we are privileged to live in. In April we’ll affirm that by reading and discussing a book either written by an Oregon/Pacific NW author, or one that deals with Oregon/Pacific settings and/or subjects.  From Ursula LeGuin’s sci-fi novels to Stephen Ambrose’ history of the Lewis & Clark expedition, this theme could include almost any literary category.

* May:  Freethought  “Having faith is believing in something you just know ain’t true.”
This quote from Twain leads us to themes of humanism, skepticism, and freethought. We’ll be choosing from the writings of those who are-religion free, such as the provocative manifestos of Sam Harris (The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason) and Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything), the memoir of activist Dan Barker (Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists), and the historical works of Susan Jacoby (Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism).

* June: “Pride Month” writers
From the semi-autobiographical fiction of Rita Mae Brown  (Bingo; Six of One) to the essay collections of David Sedaris (Me Talk Pretty One Day) to the novels of James Baldwin (Giovanni’s Room) to the poetry of Justin Chin (Harmless Medicine)– this is yet another category which can encompass all genres.  From poetry to political manifestos, the only requirement for a June book is that the book’s author identifies as LGBTQ. 

 

 

 

 

* July: History and other Non-fiction
The broadest category of all, this could cover anything from self-help to ancient civilizations to true crime to WWII narratives….

* August: Memoir/Biography/Autobiography
From the thought-provoking, introspective life story of an esteemed philosopher to the behind-the-scenes memoir of a pivotal political figure to the how-it-all-happened tale of a groundbreaking scientist to the riotous recollections of a ribald rock musician, books in this non-fiction category must tell a story about someone’s life  (note: I reserve the right to have veto power when it comes to books about Kardashians and their ilk).

* September: International Literature. “The world is my country….” (Thomas Paine).
The timeless works of England’s Jane Austin; the complex novels of the Russian “masters”  (but please, no War and Peace); the contemporary stories of India’s Arundhati Roy;  the poetry of Chile’s Pablo Neruda; the essays of Nigeria’s Chinua Achebe – a September BC book can be fiction or nonfiction, as long as its author is/was a citizen of a country other than the USA.    [7]

* October:  Controversial Authors
This theme could (and hopefully will) spur conversations about how we separate artists’ work from their personal lives (and whether or not this should even be a goal). 

Charles Dickens critiqued the poverty and social stratification of Victorian England via his characters’ memorable stories.  Yet historians who’ve read Dicken’s personal letters tell us that the man known as a compassionate champion of family values – the man who wrote so sympathetically about the plight of Tiny Tim – was a SOB to his own family. [8]

Are the stories of Sherman Alexie still worthwhile, after the critically-acclaimed author was accused of (and admitted to) sexual harassment?  Will you read J.D. Vance’s best-selling memoir about poverty-stricken Appalachia (Hillbilly Elegy) now that Vance has embraced ultra conservative politics?  If a writer is unrepentant when confronted with a racist remark from his past but wrote a damn fine  [9]  novel, do you give yourself permission to read his work?

* November:  Books Made Into Movies. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”  [10]

When it comes to film adaptations of novels, avid readers often declare, The book is always better.  Here’s your chance to affirm that, or discover that, in some cases, the opposite may hold true.   From Jaws to Sense and Sensibility, from The Color Purple to The Maltese Falcon, from The Wizard of Oz  to The World According to Garp, this category is for cinephiles as well as literature lovers. Perhaps we’ll be introduced to books we didn’t even know were adapted into movies (I bet more of us have watched the movie Forrest Gump than have read the novel).

* December:  Embarrassing Or Guilty Pleasures.
Is That A Nora Roberts Novella In Your Pocket Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?”   We’ll end the year with books we may not so eager to admit we like, because they aren’t literary enough.  We know we’re supposed to read books which challenge us intellectually (that effin’ War and Peace again) – titles that would look impressive on our Goodreads resumes.  Still, there are times when we want to rest our brains with a “light” read, be it a murder mystery, romance, fantasy/sci-fi, action/adventure, western – whatever your favorite genre.   And sorry, although it provided a plot point for a cute movie (Book Club), as BC host and instigator I reserve my power to veto all shades of 50 Shades of….

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Books Clubs Edition

Our Book club is reading a novel about anti-gravity. It’s impossible to put down.

I finally got my book Club to read Jane Austen. They just needed a little Persuasion.

Our new Book Club member says she doesn’t like Lord of the Rings,
but she doesn’t know what she’s Tolkien about.

Our book Club bartender recommended we read his favorite book:
Tequila Mockingbird.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you like a book with unlikeable characters;
May you remember to ask the right questions;
May you enjoy the last week of summer;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Potentially, as in, you had unprotected intercourse with a woman, wherein the intention was not to get her pregnant, and she did not get pregnant (but could have).

[2] In one of the BCs the format was to go around the circle, each person speaking once so that everyone got a turn, and then it was open to everyone to take it from there.

[3] Although I wasn’t there, at those groups, as a writer, but as a fellow reader.

[4] Except where politics are concerned…which came into the conversation and it seems we’re all on the left side of the page, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

[5] Although for simplicity’s sake I offered to be permanent host (hoping that *not* having to host will make it easier on someone who is interested but hesitant if a rotating host schedule is required, which I’d seen in other groups), I made it clear that it is our, not *my* group, and we can change the meeting time/place/format as we see fit to do so.

[6] Steal borrow these if  you like.  I’d be flattered…with a bit of attribution.

[7] This month we read The Story of My Teeth, by Valeria Luiselli.  A book I really enjoyed, but probably never would have discovered, had I not created this themed list.

[8] Dickens hated his mother, was cruel to his wife and schemed (unsuccessfully) to have her institutionalized when he was having an adulterous affair. With his children he followed a pattern of initial enthusiasm followed by utter disillusionment and disparaged them to his friends (even hoping for the death of one son who’d disappointed him).

[9] Keeping in mind that “damn fine,” like any artistic judgment, us ultimately subjective, even though the “crimes” and deficiencies the author is being accused of may be more objectively defined.

[10] A quote from the movie “Jaws,” the memorable line was not in the novel but was adlibbed by actor Roy Scheider.

The Clinic Protocol I’m Not Following

Comments Off on The Clinic Protocol I’m Not Following

I had my second Covid booster vaccination yesterday, at the same clinic where I had my first booster.  My first two Covid vax (over a year ago, at the height of the campaign to get everyone vaxed) were given at a local school gym, in a group setting run by that same clinic.  After you’d had your shot, you sat along with others (all masked and seated at least 6 feet apart) who’d been vaccinated, with a post-it sticker on your shirt noting your time of vax. You waited until the Person Watching You ® let you know that your 15m was up and you could leave.  As y’all probably know, it is standard vax practice to wait at a vaccination site for 15m after receiving a vax to make sure you do not have a severe allergic reaction to the shot (which is very rare).   [1]

My first COVID booster shot was administered to me at the clinic itself, in an exam room, by a nurse practitioner. After the NP gave me my shot he said I should stay in the exam room and he’d be back in 15 minutes to release me.  I got in some e-book reading time…but after I left the clinic I thought, even though I’d never had an immediate/allergic reaction to any kind of vaccination, there could always be a first time, and what if moiself   passed out (or worse, began to have an anaphylactic reaction) and I were alone in the exam room?  I decided that this time, if the clinic did the same logistics, I would speak up about that.  They did, and so did I.

A quite genial nurse nurse gave me booster #2. She told me that although she “didn’t carry a pair of handcuffs” to enforce the protocol she highly recommended I stay put for 15 minutes, in case of a reaction.  I told her that during my previous booster, the NP told me I had to stay in the exam room. And the hijinks this exchange ensued:

Moiself:
How’s about if I return to the waiting area, where there are other people and the receptionists?
The point of waiting 15 minutes after having the vaccination is to make sure that I don’t have an immediate or allergic reaction to it, right?

Nurse:
Yes. Like I said about the handcuffs, I can’t force you to stay, but we highly recommend it.  You can stay in the room if you like.

Moiself:
Yes, I could…but then, how would you know if I’ve had a reaction, if I’m left alone in the exam room?  Are the rooms wired – will the sound of my body hitting the floor let the staff know I’ve had a bad reaction?

Nurse:
It’s a small clinic.  We’d *probably* hear the thump.

Moiself opted for the waiting area.

 

Just don’t thump too loudly; it’s my turn to calibrate the rectal thermometers and I need to concentrate.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Lie My Teachers Told Me

This particular lie, like most lies I was taught, was not conveyed on purpose. My teachers were lied to as well…perhaps, misinformed would be the more accurate term.  Think back to your elementary, junior high, high school, and even a few college classes. Very few of our teachers were doing original or first source document research; they taught what they themselves had been taught.

 

Yeah, well, that’s what they told me me, so suck it up.

 

The specific lie to which moiself  refers is the idea that a so-called agricultural revolution brought about a better society – that the transition from hunter-gatherers to farmers and ranchers brought nothing but positives, and was responsible for what we now call Civilization ® .

“The agricultural revolution is the name given to a number of cultural transformations that initially allowed humans to change from a hunting and gathering subsistence to one of agriculture and animal domestications.”
( The Agricultural Revolutions, sciencedirect.com  )

In a recent People I (Mostly) Admire podcast, “Yuval Noah Harari Thinks Life Is Meaningless and Amazing,” guest Harari   [2] and podcast host Steve Levitt discuss some of the ideas and observations Harari addresses in his latest book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.   [3] One of the ideas that struck me the most was that the agricultural revolution was ultimately better for germs than it was for people.  Moiself  has read other versions of this hypothesis, but Harari presented the most entertainingly succinct one I’ve come across (my emphases).  The entire interview is thoughtful and thought-provoking; moiself  hopes this excerpt piques your interest.

LEVITT (quoting from Harari’s book, Sapiens):
“ ‘The agricultural revolution was history’s biggest fraud.’
My hunch is that listeners, when they hear that sentence, they’d probably find it jarring because we’re taught to celebrate the agricultural revolution, not to think of it as being a fraud.”

HARARI:
“But if you look at it from the viewpoint of middle-class people in the West today, then agriculture is wonderful. We have all these apples and bread and pasta and steaks and eggs and whatever. And if you look at it from the viewpoint of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh or a Chinese emperor, wonderful. I have this huge palace and all these servants and whatever. But if you look at it from the viewpoint of the ordinary peasant in ancient Egypt or ancient China, their life was actually much worse than the life of the average hunter-gatherer before the agricultural revolution.

First of all, they had to work much harder. Our body and our mind evolved for millions of years to do things like climbing trees to pick fruits and going in the forest to sniff around for mushrooms and hunting rabbits and whatever. And suddenly you find yourself working in the field all day, just digging irrigation ditch, hour after hour, day after day, or taking out weeds or whatever, it’s much more difficult to the body. We see it in the skeletons, all the problems and ailments that these ancient farmers suffered from.  It’s also far more boring.

And then the farmers didn’t get a better diet in return. Pharaoh or the Chinese emperor, they got the reward. The ordinary peasant, they actually ate a far worse diet than hunter-gatherers. It was a much more limited diet. Hunter-gatherers, they ate dozens, hundreds of different species of fruits and vegetables and nuts and animals and fish and whatever. Most ancient farmers, if you live in Egypt, you eat wheat and wheat. If you live in China, you eat rice and rice.”

 

 

LEVITT:
“If you’re lucky. If the crop doesn’t fail, yeah.”

HARARI:
“If you’re lucky. If you have enough. And then, because this is monoculture, most fields are just rice. If suddenly there is a drought, there is a flood, there is a new plant disease, you have famine.

Farmers were actually more in danger of famine than hunter-gatherers because they relied on a much more narrow economic base. If you’re a hunter-gatherer, and there is a disease that kills all the rabbits, it’s not such a big deal. You can fish more. You can gather more nuts. But if you’re a herder, and your goat herd has been decimated by some plague, that’s the end of you and your family.

… in addition to that, you have many more diseases. In the days of Covid, it’s good to remember the fact that most infectious diseases started with the agricultural revolution because they came from domesticated animals, and they spread in large, permanent settlements. As a hunter-gatherer, you wander around the land with 50 people or so. You don’t have cows and chickens that live with you. So your chances of getting a virus from some wild chicken is much smaller. And even if you get it, you can infect only a few other people, and you move around all the time. So hygienic conditions are ideal.

Now, if you live in an ancient village or town, you’re in very close proximity to a lot of animals, so you get more diseases. And if you get a virus, you infect the whole town and the neighboring towns and villages through the trade networks, and you all live together in this permanent settlement with your sewage, with your garbage. People in the agricultural revolution, they tried to create paradise for humans. They actually created paradise for germs.”

Swine flu stew tonight! Invite the neighbors!

 

*   *   *

Department Of Celebrity Mythos

Moiself  recently watched the first two episodes of The Last Movie Stars, an HBO six part documentary which, as per its website description, aims to chronicle

“…Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward’s iconic careers and decades-long partnership. Director Ethan Hawke brings life and color to this definitive history of their dedication to their art, philanthropy, and each other.”

Newman’s and Woodward’s 50-year marriage is generally regarded as one of the most successful and truly happy show biz unions, and Newman was known for his devotion to his wife and family.  Over the years many reporters asked Newman about the temptations of show business for a handsome actor such as himself (read: Why do you remain faithful/stay with your wife when you’re surrounded by all the babes, in Hollywood and in fandom, who’d love to throw themselves at you?).  On one such occasion, when Newman was queried about his reputation for fidelity to Woodward, Newman famously quipped, “Why go out for a hamburger when you have steak at home?”

I’d heard this quote many times before the HBO documentary brought it up, but this time, watching The Last Movie Stars, I couldn’t help but think about how Newman‘s “devotion to his wife and family” – meaning Woodward and their three children – happened after he dumped his first wife Jackie Witte (and their three children), to marry Woodward, with whom Newman had been having an adulterous affair.

Apparently Newman also couldn’t help but think of that irony.  He reportedly agonized for years re the guilt he felt over ‘his shortcomings as a parent’ to the children from his failed first marriage, and he blamed that guilt in part for the drug overdose death of his son, Scott.    [4] 

I’ve only watched the first two of six episodes of the HBO series, and thus don’t know how much the series deals with Newman’s first marriage.  Hey, I’m glad Newman and Woodward had a happy alliance, despite their relationship’s less-than-honorable origins.  But whenever I hear that legendary quote from Newman – the quote so admired and applauded by many people as an exemplar of witty romanticism – I wonder what Jackie Witte felt when she first heard it?

“Why go out for a hamburger when you have steak at home?”

I can imagine it felt like a sledgehammer in the gut.  So, Witte was the (original)  hamburger Newman left in order to be with the steak?

BTW, re the hamburger-steak comparison:  as a plant-based eater, I find no hierarchy in that metaphor.  They’re both just dead meat to me.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department Of Thar She Blows

Two weekends ago MH and I, along with son K, visited daughter Belle in Tacoma.  Belle had arranged for the four of us to go on a whale-watching trip in the Puget Sound.  It was delightful afternoon, and not just because we spent the afternoon on a boat in the Sound during a heat wave.  Even the veteran crew of the boat got excited when we spotted and the transient orca pod T37, which approached our boat and (unintentionally) put on quite the show for us.   [5]    We got to observe hunting and feeding behavior of the majestic orcas, as the pod chased and caught a very unfortunate harbor seal who’d ventured too far from shore.  I heard another boat passenger make some comment about how fortunate we were to get to see “killer whales making a kill,” and I wanted to smack him upside his head with the pectoral fins I don’t have.

 

 

Moiself  objects to the use of the term killer whale when it is applied to orcas.  First of all, orcas are not actually whales; rather, they are the largest member of the dolphin family.  They, like Flipper and other dolphins, are carnivores.  Other animal’s names are not tied to such a pejorative suffix – lions and tigers and bears and weasels and eagles are not referred to as “Killer” lions/tigers/bears/weasels/eagles, despite the fact that, as carnivores, they must kill and eat other animals to survive.

“Paul Spong, a researcher who runs OrcaLab from Hanson Island in B.C., says he finds the name killer whale ‘rather unfair to a creature that deserves and lives a peaceful lifestyle.
Killer whales has that flavour that they’re somehow vicious animals that are a danger to humans,” he said. ‘I just happen to think that using a more neutral term is better.’.
Despite what the 1977 sea-monster film Orca: The Killer Whale might show, there have been no documented cases of orcas killing humans in the wild….
and they are highly social creatures that show almost human-like emotions, such as when southern resident J35 carried its dead calf for 17 days before finally letting go.

( “Why are orcas called killer whales?  They’re the apex predators of the sea, but many feel their long-used common name demonizes them.”  cba.ca )

Yeah, yeah, it’s word cop time.  Of course and ultimately, work for the orcas’ preservation and protection before arguing what nomenclature to use….  Still, words carry and impart meaning, and perhaps more people might be convinced to care about orcas and their vital role in their habitat – and their right to continue to exist – if the fear/revulsion-inducing *killer whale* moniker fell out of favor.

 

 

Once again, I digress.

We saw other wildlife as well on our whale– orca-watching trip, including harbor and elephant seals, herons and tufted puffins and bald eagles, on the shores of Protection Island Wildlife Refuge.  As our boat passed that island, I saw for the first time something I could only vaguely recall having heard about: a leucistic bald eagle.    [6]   “Lucy,” as I thought of her, had a very light, mottled pigmentation which made her blend in with the driftwood log upon which she’d perched, next to the standard issue bald eagle I was watching through binoculars.  Moiself  didn’t even notice Lucy until a part of the log suddenly took wing.  The boat photographer and staff and several avid birders aboard realized what they were seeing, and lost their proverbial shit.    [7]

 

 

 

 

One of the boat staff, the official photographer, was armed with a bazooka like camera-lens set up.  He took fantastic pictures of the whales, which he presented to the passengers in a slide show while our boat returned to port.  His shots had included dozens of rapid-fire close-ups of the orcas hunting the doomed seal – oh, the eyes of the hapless pinniped, when it realized it was toast!  That was painful to see, even as I acknowledged, hey, the seal is out in the water, hunting because it’s hungry, and so are the orcas.

The photographer  offered to transfer his photos of the trip to a thumb drive, for $50 for anyone who was interested.  Seeing as how the professional’s pix were so much better than our family’s cell phone snaps, MH asked me if he should go for it.  I gave him the okay, although, when MH was chatting with the photographer as the thumb drive was downloading the trip’s pictures, I approached the photographer, thanked him for his skill and commentary during the trip    [8]   and said that while I was in awe of his photographs, when reviewing them later I would probably skip watching the “seal snuff film” sequence.

I cannot display the photographer’s copyrighted photos here.  [9]   Belle had several shots which good – they are like teasers as to the beauty of seeing the orcas in their natural environment.   Here is one of my favorites of hers– featuring the T37 pod’s leader, the matriarch researchers have named “Volker.”

 

 

The day after our boat cruise, I went for an early morning walk.  Moiself  could hardly believe the timing of the Radiolab podcast I listened to as I trod the path which winds along the periphery of that salty-air scented Puget Sound estuary/harbor area in Tacoma known as Commencement Bay.

Despite its annoyingly sensationalist title, Radiolab’s “The humpback and the killer” was an excellent listen.  It reports on the fascinating observations made by marine mammal biologists around the world – scientists who, in recent years, have documented astounding, classic-explanation-defying interactions between humpback whales and orcas. If after listening to descriptions of these interactions you (still) harbor doubts that species other than homo sapiens can feel and demonstrate emotions and motivations such as altruism, or even revenge…then I don’t know what to do with you.

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Cetacean Edition

What do a pod of dolphins use to wash themselves?|
A multi-porpoise cleaner.

What is the favorite constellation of star-gazing whales?
The Big Flipper.

What is the best way to listen to the sounds a group of orcas makes?
Tune in to their podcast.

Why do male humpbacks have little-to-no hair?
They suffer from whale-pattern balding.

 

“It’s okay, honey, she told me she’d stop after four.”

 

*   *   *

May you warily weigh the costs and benefits of history’s so-called revolutions;
May you banish the term “killer whale” from your vocabulary;
May you respect your longtime partner enough to never compare them to cuts of beef;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] And for 30m, if you’ve ever had a reaction to a vaccination.

[2] Yuval Noah Harari is an Israeli historian, philosopher, author, lecturer, and professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

[3] How’s that for a modest title?

[4] “ ‘I’m guilty as hell – and I’ll carry it with me for ever.’ Paul Newman’s marriage secrets”: Shawn Levy, dailymail.com ; Newman felt personally responsible for (his troubled son’s) tragic drink and drugs death… The son Paul Newman lost to drugs – and the guilt he could never escape,” Shawn Levy, part 2 )

[5] Unintentional, as in, the orcas were just doing what they were doing, and we happened by.

[6] Leucism, a condition that partially prevents pigments from being deposited in a bird’s feathers, hair or skin, is rare, and is the result of a recessive gene which reduces the color-producing pigment melanin. It is related to but different from albinism

[7] I can see why these “blonde” bald eagle can confuse even veteran bird watchers, as they (usually) still have the bald eagle’s defined white head and tail, but the rest of the feathers are a much lighter hue than normal and are mottled, creating a “What the heck am I seeing? reaction – is it a bald eagle or some other strange species?

[8] He gave a running commentary of the history of the T37 pod we saw.  One look through his lens and he could identify the different members of the pod by, among other features, the distinctive markings of their dorsal fins.

[9] He offered them for our own personal/home viewing, not to post on any social media platforms.

The Eyebrows I’m Not Combing

Comments Off on The Eyebrows I’m Not Combing

Department Of Why I Love Dicks

“Following the Supreme Court’s ruling that has overturned Roe v. Wade, Pittsburgh-based Dick’s Sporting Goods’ CEO has announced that the company will provide travel expense reimbursement for employees seeking abortion access.
Company President and CEO Lauren Hobart posted the announcement…
‘We recognize people feel passionately about this topic – and that there are teammates and athletes who will not agree with this decision. However, we also recognize that decisions involving health and families are deeply personal and made with thoughtful consideration. We are making this decision so our teammates can access the same health care options, regardless of where they live, and choose what is best for them,’ Hobart said.”
(“Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO announces travel expense reimbursement to employees seeking abortions in another state,” cbsnews.com )

 

And they love equal access to health care as well.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Good Intentions That Still Make Me Slightly Queasy

Regarding Dick’s Sporting Goods, Apple, and other companies are offering to reimburse employees for travel expenses related to abortion care access.  Moiself  has mixed feelings about this.   [1]  I am 90%  YEE HAW!!!  I mean, it’s the right-on thing to do.  But, that means the woman is going to have to request/arrange this with her company’s HR/benefits department, which means even more people in her personal business, which should be just between her and her doctors and (if she so chooses) her partner.     [2]

On the other hand, when it comes to healthcare at work, if you need time off for treatment for, say, cancer or the onset of what will turn out to be a chronic disease, there isn’t much privacy in that regard, either.…

 

 

BTW, these doing-the-right-thing companies (as of this date) are:

Starbucks, Tesla, Yelp, Airbnb, Microsoft, Netflix, Patagonia, DoorDash, JPMorgan Chase, Levi Strauss, PayPal, Amazon,
the Walt Disney Company, Meta, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Condé Nast.
( “These Companies Will Cover Travel Expenses for Employee Abortions,” NYtimes.com )

There are others; my apologies to any companies moiself  has omitted.  Give these businesses a shout-out and/or support their products and services,  [3]  and let them know why you are doing so.

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

 

Department Of Incredibly Dumb, Face Palm-Worthy Things I Have Done

I have rather unruly eyebrows, and their ruly-ness seems to be getting more “un” as moiself  ages. I’m not talking Andy Rooney level unruly, but, yeah.

 

 

Before leaving the house I sometimes wipe moiself’s  damp toothbrush bristles across each eyebrow. Here is something that has happened more than once – a thing which should only have happened once:  I have set my toothbrush out with a dab of toothpaste on it, intending to brush my teeth, got distracted, come back to the sink minutes (or hours) later, and used said toothbrush to comb my eyebrows, thus ending up with a tiny white streak of Sensodyne ProEnamel ® on my eyebrows.

On the plus side, I’ve never had an eyebrow cavity.  So, there’s that.   [4]

 

 

OK, your turn? Help me out here.  Certainly…please…there must be someone out there who has done something even dumber than toothpasting their brows.

*   *   *

Department Of Embarrassing My Offspring
Chapter 581 In The Never-Ending Series.

This memory came to me on a recent morning walk, apropos of…something, which moiself is currently unaware of.

Dateline:  A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  Daughter Belle is attending the University of Puget Sound, and has recently joined her school’s women’s rugby team.

 

 

( One of my favorite things about rugby culture – yep, that’s a thing – is
the annual Prom Dress game, for both men’s and women’s teams. )

 

MH and I are attending one of her rugby team’s away games; home team is a college about an hour’s drive south of where we live.

During halftime Belle grabs one of the team’s rugby balls, takes her parents aside, and teaches us some of the throwing warm-ups that the team does. Several of her teammates are clustered together by the side of the field, swigging from their water bottles and chatting.  One of them looks over at Belle and MH and I throwing the ball to each other, and I can see the proverbial light bulb switch on in her eyes.

Belle’s Rugby Teammate, calling out to MH and moiself:
“You are Belle’s parents?”

Moiself:
“Yep.”

BRT, standing up and flinging her arms wide:
“Oh, I *love* Belle!  Thank you for making her!”

Moiself, as I pass the ball to Belle:
“You’re welcome.  It was our pleasure…literally.”

Belle, dropping the ball and covering her eyes with her hands:
“Moooooooooooom!”

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Annoying and/or Embarrassing Parents Edition   [5]

When I was a kid, my parents said, “Excuse my French” after they cussed.
I’ll never forget that first day at junior high school, when we were discussing foreign language electives and the teacher asked if any student knew any French words…

My parents raised me as an only child.
This really annoyed my younger sister.

Do unfit parents have to exercise a lot to get their children back?

I told my parents I’m gray.
Dad said he didn’t like my tone.

How do parents lose their kids in the mall?
Seriously, any tips are welcome.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you support companies who support abortion rights;
May you have done something even dumber than toothpasting your brows;
May you continue to find novel and loving ways to embarrass your progeny;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] And not just due to the hideous fact that five SCOTUS justices can drag us back to the back alleys so that such announcements are necessary.

[2] Except in cases of unintended pregnancies resulting rape, incest, abuse etc. I know hearing the word “partner” is a bitter pill to swallow, for women in those circumstances.

[3] (if you deem them worthy).

[4] And so, there’s this – another footnote apropos of nothing.

[5] Why are there so few footnotes in this post?

The Hotel I’m Not Bonking

Comments Off on The Hotel I’m Not Bonking

Department Of The Fail-Safe Therapy Tool For Kids Of All Ages

 

 

Before I commence to deal with some Serious Subjects ® , I’m going to play for a few seconds with the farty putty (aka, “noise putty”) device MH got me as a Christmas stocking stuffer.  ‘Tis such a primal amusement, and also an effective stress reliever.  I think the American Psychological Association should recommend it to their counselors, to have on hand for sessions that get really intense:  “It’s time for a farty putty break.”  😉

Lest you think moiself  jests about its therapeutic applications, feast your eyes on this, from the National Autism Resources website (my emphases):

“Kids of all ages love to play with noise putty! It has an unusual squishy texture that you can squeeze between your fingers. Push it back into its jar and listen to it make funny, gastronomical sounds. Use it to work on fine motor skills….”

And not to worry, for y’all who consider yourselves to be technically-challenged.  It even has handy-dandy instructions:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Not Up To Their Previous Standards

Moiself  is referring to the latest installment of Serial, the Peabody award-winning investigative journalism podcast (developed by This American Life)  which made a name for itself in the past ten or so years with its episodic, documentary-style presentation of compelling non-fiction stories.  Past seasons included an investigation of the 1999 murder an 18-year-old student at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore, and an in-depth look at what happened to Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, an American Army soldier who was held for five years by the Taliban, then charged with desertion.

The Trojan Horse Affair, Serial’s latest installment, claims to take a closer look at the 2013 scandal in England which involved claims of a conspiracy to introduce Islamist tenets into several schools in Birmingham – claims which were set out in an anonymous letter  [1] sent to Birmingham City Council.  TTHF is hosted and reported by American veteran producer Brian Reed and a novice journalist, Hamza Syed, a British doctor-turned-reporter from Birmingham, England.

 

 

“This is my first story as a journalist. I don’t plan for it to be my last story as well, but given what’s happened in the years I’ve been working on this, it probably will be.”
( Hamza Syed, from his interview on NPR’s Fresh Air 2-15-22)

Syed’s provocative quote, and my enjoyment of Serial’s previous installments, got me interested in listening to the series. After having done so, I’ve concluded that if, indeed, TTHA turns out to be Syed’s last story as a journalist it won’t be because of his concerns, both overt and implied, of anti-Muslim prejudice against him.  It will be because he proved to be a lousy reporter.

Besides displaying a rather volatile temper, Syed made a major faux pas which cast doubt on the integrity of his methods and motives, and on his ability to distinguish between his personal identity and an investigation’s subject matter.

“Long story short” territory:  In a latter episode of the TTHA series (# five or six, I think, of eight total episodes) it was revealed that, at one point in Syed’s and Redd’s investigation, Syed, frustrated with being unable to get sources to confide in him, played the Muslim card:  [2]    Syed wrote a letter to a potential interviewee (a Muslim man), saying he has never believed the accepted narrative around the case, nor many of the people involved in the investigations around it, and that his (Syed’s) identity as a Muslim takes precedence for him in his investigation.

MH and I each (separately) listened to the podcast, and each of us had similar, jaw-dropping reactions to what Syed had done.  Given the opportunity to provide feedback to Syed, I’d have phrased my reaction thusly:

Why should I take *anything* from you seriously, when you’ve just admitted that you do *not* have journalistic integrity at heart, in a story that especially demands it?

Like the evangelical creationist who admits he views science through the lens of how he interprets Christian scriptures, you have told a person – from whom you are trying to get information – that, like him, you are ultimately and firstly a Muslim.

Now, were you lying to get him to trust you? Or were you telling the truth?  Either way, I can take nothing you say or do as if it were coming from a serious journalist striving for truth, integrity, and objectivity.

Despite our respective shock and disgust at what the reporter had done, both MH and I found the TTHA story intriguing, and continued to listen to the rest of the series. But we weren’t the only ones to have an issue with it, and with more matters than its rookie journalist’s whopping boner of a tactic. There was also the assumption the series seemed to take, from the beginning of the podcast: that anti-Islamic sentiment was behind and/or ultimately responsible for  *everything* in the scandal.  Accusations (including incidents of verifiable and disturbing behaviors   [3]  )  about sexism, anti-LGBTQ teachings, and child abuse on the part of some Muslim men – alarms raised by Muslim women – were mentioned in several TTHA episodes, in marginal ways, then dropped.

We weren’t the only ones who were disturbed by this. To quote only one critique:

“The Trojan Horse Affair presents a one-sided account that minimizes child protection concerns, misogyny and homophobia in order to exonerate the podcast’s hero…  In doing so, it breaches the standards the public have the right to expect of journalists, with cruel consequences for those it uses and abuses along the way.”

( “The Trojan Horse Affair: How Serial Podcast Got It So Wrong,”
Sonia Sohad, The Guardian 2-20-22

 

Shaka Ssali is a (recently retired) Uganda-born journalist.

 

*   *   *

Department Of How Other Journalists Are Getting It So Right

What comes to mind when you read the words of a critic and writer at The Washington Post, who called an Academy Award-nominated film “…the most inspiring journalism movie — maybe ever”?

Are you thinking of the award-winning  All The President’s Men, or Spotlight?  Or The Post, or The Killing Fields, or….?

Nope.  The WAPO writer refers to a documentary (among five nominees for this year’s Academy Award for best documentary feature) which takes place in India.

 

 

Indian politicians would have you believe that their country is a major power in the modern, 21st century world, yet they do the bare minimum to change aspects of their culture which hark back to 1500 BCE, when the caste system was established.

 

 

The good news:  in India, one of the most dangerous countries in which to practice journalism,   [4]   there is an astoundingly brave and persistent group of reporters committed to the ultimate tenet of good journalism: holding the powerful to account.  What’s amazing about this group is that is it composed of people with inarguably the least amount of power in their country:  Dalit (the lowest caste, aka “untouchables”) women.

Writing With Fire is the documentary which tells the story of these reporters and their newspaper/news outlet, Khabar Lahariya (translation: “News wave”).  Moiself   urges you to see it (streaming on Amazon, and available via other venues).

 

 

” In India’s millennia-old caste system, Dalits fall entirely outside the structure. Once pejoratively referred to as ‘untouchables’…over centuries Dalits have remained oppressed by tradition and the rest of Indian society.

‘I tell my daughters, their caste identity will always follow them. This is how our society is structured, but it’s important to keep challenging the system,’ says Meera Devi, the outlet’s chief reporter who is the main protagonist of the film.

But day after day, the women defiantly expose sexual violence against women and the corruption of illegal mining operations in rural India.

‘We don’t trust anyone except you. Khabar Lahariya is our only hope,’ the husband of a woman who has been repeatedly raped by a group of men in their village tells Devi in one of the rare moments in the film in which a man acknowledges the organization’s value and impact.”

(“Opinion: The most inspiring journalism movie — maybe ever”
Jason Rezian, The Washington Post, 2-1-22 )

Writing With Fire has a bajillion   [5]   story levels to it (other than that of the newspaper itself and the stories it covers), including the reporters’ uphill battle against centuries of patriarchy, and gender and caste prejudice.  It’s also an excellent briefing on what makes a good journalist, in any culture.

Some standout moments of the film, for moiself , include:

* Two of the reporters, while preparing a meal, are discussing questions they will be asking of participants in an upcoming election. One reporter asks the other,“Tell me something honestly, why do we call our country ‘mother India?’ Why celebrate the country as a mother?…. I get very irritated watching the celebrations on TV glorifying our democracy. But where is the democracy? Neither are we a democracy, nor are the women free.”

* Later in the documentary one of the more the most promising young journalists of Khabar Lahariya is interviewed about her having to leave the newspaper. She’d spoken earlier about not wanting to succumb to the pressure to get married, and about what happens to women in her society.  And then…

“What can I say? At one point I thought of not getting married at all. Many things were on my mind. So I thought, why get married? But I’m under a lot of pressure. I need to protect my parents, because being a single woman is not an option here.

People are questioning my integrity as well as my family’s. They were saying that they (her family) want to live off my earnings, ‘…and at night your daughter…’
 It tortures the family and creates a lot of tension. So I realize marriage is inevitable. I don’t want to be the cause of my family suffering.
Let’s think that whatever will happen will be for the best. Things have a way of working out, and that’s what I’m hoping for….”
  (She pauses, shakes her head, holds back tears)
“I’m finding it difficult to speak anymore.”    [6]

 

 

The film depicted scenarios both horrendous, and uplifting, depressing and emboldening, What affected me the most? It wasn’t…

* the husbands and families of these brave journalists showing lackluster (if any) support for their work;

*  the frustrations of the reporters trying to learn and use digital technologies when most of them have never been able to afford a cell phone, and then, when they are issued smart phones and/or touchscreen tablets by the newspaper, they can’t charge the equipment because their homes lack electricity;

* the rising influence of the Anti-Muslim bigot Hindu nationalist, Prime Minister Modi, and the prevalence of his inflammatory rhetoric using that most unholy of alliances – politics and religion;

* the danger and threats (physical, emotional, and sexual) the women face; nor the way way sexual slurs are used to try to cow and humiliate them and their families…  

One small, domestic scene really got to me, probably because I took it to be illustrative of what these reporters, as women in a seemingly women-denigrating culture, have to deal with: with the should and should not limitations all women face, in a world still dominated by patriarchal attitudes.

The scene took place early in the morning.  Meera Devi, who like her Khabar Lahariya peers has worked all the previous day (and well into the night), is braiding her daughter’s long hair before school.  Like all of her married reporter peers, the vast majority (if not all) of household tasks fall upon Devi, even as she works full-time out of the home.  Her daughter is insisting on two braids (“plaits”), as Devi wearily (if good-humoredly) grumbles about not having time for that…one plait should be enough.  But the daughter pleads, telling her mother that she will be (and has been) scolded at school if her mother doesn’t do her hair in two plaits, “…because teacher says all girls should have two plaits.”

All girls should….
All girls are ….
All girls must…
All girls should never….

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of International Relations

MH and moiself  are doing some much anticipated traveling overseas this summer.  For some of the travel we’ll be in a Scandinavian tour group.  The tour begins in Stockholm; following savvy traveler advice, I booked us rooms in a Stockholm hotel two days ahead of when the tour begins, so that we can adjust to the time difference and all that pickled herring and Swedish chefs, etc.

Moiself  got an English translation while booking online, but the confirmation the hotel emailed to us was in Swedish.  It began with a cheery greeting which I was mostly able to figure out, except that I transposed two letters in the fourth word, which made for an interesting impression/translation: “Tak För Din Bokning!”

Me, to Moiself:
” ‘Thanks for the bonking ?!?!? ‘
Wow – this really is an all-service hotel!”

Moiself:
Ahem, that’s, bokning.  [7]

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Swedish Edition

Swedish inventors have created cyborgs which are hard to distinguish from real humans.
Critics are concerned about the use of artificial Swedeners.

Why does the Swedish military put barcodes on their ships?
So when the ships return to port they can scan da navy in.

My neighbor drones on and on about his notoriously unreliable Swedish sports car…
It seems like a great big Saab story to me.

Did you hear about a new Broadway show that combines magic with Swedish pop songs?
It’s called ABBA-Cadabra.

 

Mamma Mia, there she goes again.

 

*   *   *

May you enjoy the therapeutic applications of “funny, gastronomic sounds;”
May you watch Writing With Fire (then maybe Spotlight and other journalism-themed movies) and appreciate the absolute necessity of a free press to a vital democracy;
May you put on ABBA’s “Waterloo” and dance around your living room
(you know you want to);
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] Which was later deemed to be a hoax.

[2] About which he was confronted, and chastised, by Reed.

[3] Including sexual abuse of a 14 year old girl by one of her male teachers.

[4] Over forty journalists in India have been killed since 2014.

[5] Fortunately, the reporters of Khabar Lahariya, constrained as they are by sound journalistic principles, would never stoop to using such sensationalistic exaggerations as those employed by moiself.

[6] Later still there is footage of her at her wedding, in her wedding finery.  Moiself wanted to cry; I’ve never seen a more downhearted looking bride…or woman in almost any situation, for that matter.  But, in the documentary postscript, it was reported that she had rejoined the newspaper several months after her marriage.

[7] Uh, that would be, booking, as in, booking a room with them.  Nudge Nudge wink wink.

The Parties I’m Not Yet Hosting

Comments Off on The Parties I’m Not Yet Hosting

Department Of Getting This Out Of The Way

Since it would likely cause too much political turmoil for a legitimate government to engage in “regime change,” is it too much to suggest that some Russian patriots lay down their lives for A Greater Cause ® and take out their rapacious, rampaging, rat-faced ruler?

And while they’re at it, maybe they could do something about our own Tangerine Traitor?

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Just Can’t Help It

If the aforementioned Russian patriots found a way to grind their leader into a pâté and spread him atop a cracker, would that be Putin on the Ritz?

 

The preferred final resting place of despots worldwide.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Well You Didn’t Have To Agree So Damn Quickly

It happened.  Again.

Dateline: last week; later afternoon; grocery store;  picking up soy milk, olive oil, apples, avocadoes, lemons, garnet yams, and other items for dinner.  It is a blustery day; I have a coat and scarf, my usual wide brimmed rain-or-shine hat, and a mask of course, all of which left little of my face exposed.  The checkout cashier gives me a careful look as she picks up the bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from my basket.

Cashier (holding the bottle above the scanner, but not scanning it):
“May I see your ID?”

Moiself (pulling my mask up and my scarf down):
“Is this the neck of someone under 21 years old?”

Cashier (takes a look, scans my wine):
“Ha!”

 

 

*   *   *

 

Everyone take a deep breath. The frivolity will return after this important message.

 

*   *   *

 

Department Of If You’re Human, Please Read This

“In the throes of loss, people reach for certainty and control. My patient’s wife asked me what percentage of people as sick as her husband had survived and whether a risky therapy could promise life. I couldn’t offer her easy answers, only a willingness to stay and listen. Together, we wrestled with the burn of uncertainty. She shared photos of her husband over Zoom. They had sailed and cooked and taken selfies on the beach. Her photos said what words couldn’t. This is the person I have lost.

Earlier in my career, looking closely at this particular kind of pain was as blinding as looking at the sun. I distracted myself afterward with S.N.L. marathons and slabs of chocolate cake. Eventually, I realized that it wasn’t my job to protect people from their grief or to solve it.

I have learned to look when I want to look away.
I have chosen to stay when I’d prefer to run out of the room and cry. The prelude to compassion is the willingness to see.”

(Dr. Sunita Puri; my emphases)

 

 

If you’re over age twenty and live alone on a desert island, perhaps you have not yet had that choice – to stay, or run out of the room and cry.  Perhaps you have not yet had to grieve that inevitable, most human of losses: the death of a loved one.  For the rest of us, I recommend this essay:

We Must Learn to Look at Grief, Even When We Want to Run Away.

This brief, down-to-earth yet stunningly profound guest essay appeared last week in the NY Times.  Written by Dr. Sunita Puri, the essay begins with the story of a patient dying from COVID-19, and Dr. Puri’s relationship with the patient’s wife. The insights imparted by Dr. Puri, who is a palliative medicine physician, go beyond any particular diagnosis.

“I don’t believe in ‘moving on’ and ‘finding closure.’ This language distills the messy complexity of grief into tidy sound bites and asks people to leave something behind, bury it or lock it away. The challenge for my patients and their families is the challenge for all of us: Can we instead move forward with grief?
Can we find a way to integrate loss into life, to carry it with us? Can we feel tragedy together, without an artificial line between those who are ready to move on and those who can’t see a way out?”

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

 

Department Of The Ghost Of Potlucks Past

As we near the end of mandatory indoor masking regulations, moiself  is thinking of the gradual return of social gatherings.  For our family such events will be small, at first…which has got me to daydreaming about our parties of yore.

We (MH and I, and offspring K and Belle, when they were still in the nest) used to host potluck dinners for family/neighbors/friends.  On a semi-regular basis (every 6 months to a year) we could host twenty to thirty people to feast and frolic.

The potlucks were themed; guests were asked to bring a dish having something to do with the theme.  There are some parties whose themes moiself  can’t recall and whose invitations I didn’t save (DAMN!); others, I will never forget.

Here is a sample of the themes, plus a brief description of what kind of foods/dishes guests were asked to bring. 

 

 

 

* Cusina Obscura
(foods of the “minor” or lesser known countries and/or cuisines, instead of the usual dining out suspects {Italian; French, Thai; Mexican. For example, find/make something Burmese instead of Chinese; Finnish instead of Swedish; Samoan instead of Hawaiian;) Uruguyan instead of Brazilian….)   [1]

* White Trash Food
(food you at one time liked and ate but now might be ashamed to admit it; e.g., a Wonder Bread mayo potato chip sandwich.  Basically, this gathering was a haute cuisine nightmare…and judging from the guests’ feedback, one of our most popular themes.
Our party’s centerpiece was a bottle of Pepto Bismol.   [2]  )

* The Dung Beetle Café
(food items must be round, or “rollable”)  [3]

*  All Things “P” Party
(all foods/dishes must have a word/ingredient beginning with the letter P)

* Better Red Than Dead
(food must be…wait for it…red. In some capacity.    [4])

 * Halfway to the Holidays
(party held in June; bring a dish which, to you, fairly screams fal-la-la-la-la/ yule/Christmas/Solstice whatever winter holiday you celebrate)

* PuPu Potluck
(as in the Hawaiian pupu platters – an all appetizer foods potluck )

* The Next Party
(inspired by a regular potluck party guest, who, when he encountered me at the grocery store or some public arena, asked,
“Isn’t it time for your next party?”   [5] )

 

 

Our friend BW, a regular potluck guest and gourmet chef with quite the cookbook collection, “gifted” us with this cookbook – along with a platter of the adore-mentioned potato chip sandwiches – when he attended our WT Foods party.

 

 

Here is a variant of our “standard” potluck party invitation (All Things “P” Party):

Potluck; Parsnips; Pickled peppers; Pasta; Peanuts; Pizza; Pesto
Pomegranate; Party; Porcini; Pirates; Parmigiano….

Do you pick up a pattern?  Perceptive person (or plural) that you are, you are invited to help us celebrate the glorious 16th letter of the alphabet by attending our
All Things “P” Potluck Party
Saturday October 7, 6:30 pm

Celebrate your culinary P-osity by bringing a dish to share with fellow potluck partakers.  This may be just the occasion you were looking for to dust off that recipe for Paprika Plum Pudding or Peruvian Pork Patties, or Papa’s favorite Purée of Prunes & Peas.

Your lovely and talented hosts will provide their usual combination of:
* joi de vivre and schadenfreude;
* plates, napkins, and tableware;
* restrooms sanitized for your protection;
* a motley assortment of leaded and unleaded beverages
(including Pepto Bismol for the prunes & peas partakers).

And yes, there will be Prizes awarded.  For…something.    [6]  

Here are just a few of the fabulous people who will  (not)  be attending the potluck:

-Monty Python’s Michael Palin
-Pancho Villa
-Dolly Parton
-Regis Philbin
-Sydney Poitier
-Plato
-Pandora
-Jean Luc Picard, Captain, USS Enterprise
-Emily Post
-Pocahontas
-Pongo the wonder chimp (Cheetah’s stunt double from the original “Tarzan” movies)

RSVP to _______.  Directions to our house, potluck suggestions, and personal hygiene tips will be provided upon request.

 

Actually, we were relieved Ms. Post could not attend the gathering, as we’d heard she was somewhat of a party pooper.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Dinner Party Edition

Where does a baseball catcher sit at a dinner party?
Behind the plate.

I was so happy when son stopped chewing on his boogers at dinnertime.
He’s no longer a picky eater.

I invited a couple of Vikings to dinner, and they kept tapping on the table and laughing.
When I finally asked what was so funny, they said,
“You wouldn’t get it; it’s Norse code.”

My husband was mortified when I mentioned his underwear at a dinner party.
It was a brief conversation.

My cannibal neighbor showed up two hours late to my dinner party.
I gave him the cold shoulder.

 

Can we please extend cancel culture to cannibal jokes?

 

*   *   *

 

May you enjoy a gradual return to social gatherings;
May you learn to look at grief, even when you’d rather run away;
May being the subject of bad puns someday be enough
to depose Russian war criminals;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] Our friend’s young adult son brought live meal worms to this event, which he sautéed, on a pan on our stove, in garlic and olive oil.  Not every guest was game;  I tried them  (after my third glass of champagne).

[2] This theme was inspired by a “white trash dinner” contest a group of fellow dormies and I had in college, one night when we were bored and looking for an excuse not to do homework.  (the one Native American, one Black, and one Philipino dormies in attendance asked for special dispensation for their contest entries to be considered White Trash ® ).  We shared stories of foods our respective families served, a dish which we’d grown up eating, but which embarrassed and/or horrified us to think of it now.  Then we all voted on which was “best” (read: worst).  My entry was my family’s fried Spam slices topped with Velveeta.  Guess who won that contest?

[3] Motivation for this theme came via a dinner I made which my offspring thought was too challenging to their palates (think of Thai curry when they wanted pizza), which led me into a good humored tirade about how, when I was a kid, I loved the opportunity to try new foods…and that they were lucky to have me for a mom:  “If I were a mother wolf I would be regurgitating your dinner for you…or, what if we were a family of dung beetles, and night after night it was the same thing:  ‘Hey mom what’s for dinner?  Oh, boy, dung balls again!’  “

[4] Surprisingly, we did *not* get 15 dishes featuring tomato sauce.  People used their imagination: red beans & rice; beet juice risotto; Red Hot Chili Pepper layer cake…. and our fear that we might end up dining on nothing but cabernet and ketchup was for naught.

[5] But I can’t remember what the food theme was.

[6] We usually had potluck party guests take a quiz, which I prepared, containing multiple choice questions having something (widely interpreted) to do with the party’s theme.  Prizes were given out for the high (and low) scorers.

The Luge I’m Not Watching

Comments Off on The Luge I’m Not Watching

Department Of Olympic Reflections

 

 

I’m going through my every-two years (pandemic-influenced schedule changes notwithstanding), post-Olympic blues, where after dinner I sit down in one of our way-too-comfy chairs and expect instant access to televised, Holy ACL tear, how do they *do* that? feats of athleticism.  Despite my enjoyment of the spectacle, my attention feels somewhat squirm-worthy….  Moiself doesn’t even try to justify my interest in The Games ®  with my abhorrence of the host country’s abysmal human rights record.

The USA engaged in a “diplomatic boycott” of these Beijing-hosted games.  Remember the lackluster response to that announcement?

Few if any sports fans tune in to watch the participating countries’ political envoys compete in the Ambassadorial Mixed Team Relay Luge, what’s the point?  When it comes to action strategies, a diplomatic boycott reminds me of prayer – it’s a way of trying to provide the illusion that you’re doing something when in fact you’ve done nothing of consequence.

“We’re doing a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics.”

“We’re praying for the victims of human rights violations.”

Can or should sports (or any human endeavor) be politics-free?  And if the answer is yes, what kind of human rights violations and atrocities are allowed to eclipse those leave-politics-out-of-these-games declarations?

Other minds far keener than moiself’s  frequently debate this issue, and come to contradictory conclusions (“The Olympics *are* political and the IOC is delusional” ;  “Olympics ‘Are Not About Politics,’ Athletes Should Be Politically Neutral At Games”) and everything in between.  I do remember reading a couple of op-ed pieces about the importance of viewers – and journalists – at the Olympics, as in, acting as witnesses to hold the China government accountable for the image they intended to portray vs. the reality of what they do.  If no one’s watching, Chinese officials can say whatever they like about…anything.

When the USA boycotted the Russian-hosted 1980 Summer Olympic to protest Russia’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, 64 other countries joined the boycott.  Sound like a lot?  Think again – 80 countries did not, and sent representative athletes to the games.  What was accomplished?  Oh, that’s right; how quickly I forget.  Shamed as bullies before the free world, Russia renounced its oppressive ways and turned into a beacon of liberty and civil rights for the downtrodden masses across the globe.

 

 

Back to the actual games.  The big-liest story involved the 15-year-old Russian figure skater, Kamila Valieva.  Valieva tested positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance but was still was allowed to compete (and then fell apart during a key performance).   [1] 

Moiself  would wager that many teenaged Olympic athletes are “older” than their non-athletic team member peers in many ways, after years of single-minded devotion and adherence to a grueling practice schedule that would break most adults.  There is a second part to my wager: at the same time, these teen athletes’ pursuit to excel at their sport makes them more naïve than other teens. Young Olympics-bound athletes often little experience of the maturation that comes from encountering “real life,” having been shielded from the day-by-day mundane decisions and activities – by both their coaches and parents – so that they can concentrate on mastering the backside quad cork 180˚ or whatever.

So, who’s responsible for Valieva’s doping?  Was it the athlete, or her coach(es)?  Given how coaches control influence their athlete’s lives, and the age of the skater in question, it’s not that difficult for me to imagine Valieva’s unquestioning compliance to a command recommendation.

“Here comrade, take pill/shot, and don’t worry, it’s …uh…
vitamin B-12!  Da, that is what it is.”

Still, there is the argument that if she’s old enough to be on the Olympics team she’s old enough to take responsibility for following the Olympics’ rules. If a substance is banned, you don’t take it, and you don’t let anyone give it to you. 

No matter who’s at fault, I hated to see/think of a 15 year old getting ripped a new one by her coaches…which is what happened. Whosever decision it was to dope – hers, or her “support” team’s – maybe it doesn’t matter in long run.  And maybe someone should check on Valieva, after she’s returned to Russia and the hoopla dies down, to make sure she hasn’t been carted off to the All-Gulag Tour of Ice Dancing With The Russian Stars. 

My interest in watching any of the figure skating dropped after the Valieva doping-but-excused revelation.  It left a bad taste in my mouth, particularly when I compared the skater’s outcome with what happened to a Summer Olympics track star.  Why wasn’t there a huge outcry about the difference in treatment – USA sprinter Sha’ Carri Richardson was kicked off the Summer Olympics team for failing *her* drug test.  A few people commented, including, succinctly, Richardson herself:

“The only difference I see is I’m a black young lady.”
( “Double Standard, Racism? Sha’Carri Richardson Booted From Olympics For Cannabis, Russian Skater No Problem For Doping.”  Benzinga 2-14-22)

 

 

Moiself  does recall that someone else commented about the brouhaha, at the time when Richardson got the boot….

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

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

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

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

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


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

So, lobby to change the Olympics’ drug testing rules, if you think it would be worthwhile to do so.  Until then, it would be unfair to other athletes to make exceptions for some and not others, in terms of how existing drug rules are applied.    [2]

Also, the athletes know full well what they will be tested for.  My advice    [3]   to them  is, don’t act surprised and/or disappointed if you used a banned substance and then get caught.  Take responsibility.  Don’t play dumb when you’re not.
(Excerpts from 8-6-21 blog post, The Drug Test I’m Not Failing, full text here)

 

 

Once again, I digress.  Time to finish with the Winter Olympics.

As always, moiself  thrilled to watch  the ariel snowboarding and skiing and ski jumping events, marveled at the WTF?!? stamina and skill required by the XC skiers and Biathlon-ers,     [4]   and yawned through (read: ignored) the curling/bobsled/luge/skeleton events.   [5]   Although it was great to see pioneering USA snowboarding champ Shaun White in Olympic action again/for the last time, it was also awe-inspiring to see the younger snowboarders – many if not most of whom were inspired by White – perform their gravity-defying new stunts…and then it was poignant to realize, as White seemed to do so graciously, that his time at that level of competition had passed.  Most of all, it was great fun, for moiself  at least, to see a smaller country, Norway (population 5 million, led the medal count with thirty-seven.  Yes; 37), dominate the competition.   [6]

But, my enjoyment was dampened by the skating scandal.  And also, the host.  Fucking People’s Republic of Human Rights Bullies China.

 

 

My gradually-souring mood was saved by son K, who steered me toward an old video clip of Shaun White as a bright-eyed 19 year old, being interviewed by CNN after his first Olympics.  Refreshingly unjaded and enthusiastic, gushing as if amazed by his own success, White described how, during his plane flight back to the USA, the flight attendants   [7]   fawned over his Olympic medal.  White’s charmingly disarming, duuuuude, totally rad persona, seemingly endemic to surfers and snowboarders, surfaced when the CNN interviewer interrupted White with an attempted “gotcha” moment.  It reminded me why I’m gonna miss the red-haired dude and his ‘tude:

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

 

Department Of Things I Sometimes Forget

 

 

 

Such as, sometimes I forget how much I like a simple veggie chili, which can be made rather quickly with Staples I Almost Always Have Handy ® . As for the simple part, you can complexify     [8]  it up, as much as you want, with different beans and pepper combos, and get jiggy with the toppings.

Lotta Beans Chili (makes ~ 6 servings)

– ½ T EVOO
– 8 large garlic cloves, chopped   [9]

– 2 cans no salt added chopped tomatoes
-1 can each (~15 oz) of the following (no salt added) cooked beans, rinsed & drained:
  Black, kidney, garbanzo, lima
– 1 c white frozen corn, thawed
– 3 T chili powder
– 1 T ground cumin seed (toasted first – optional, but delish)
– ½ t each kosher salt & freshly ground black peppercorns; cayenne pepper to taste

– 1 t (or more) red wine vinegar
– 3T rinsed pickled jalapeno slices (more or less to taste)   [10]

– lime slices

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1m. Add beans through cumin seeds, mix well, and bring to simmer over med-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until flavors are blended, ~ 30m.

Season w/salt, pepper and cayenne, and jalapenos. Add vinegar to taste. Serve with lime slices to squeeze over.

Additional toppings:
Avocado chunks or slices or guacamole; chopped fresh cilantro; chopped scallions; plant-based or regular sour cream or plain yogurt; shredded veg or other cheeses; crushed tortilla chips; red or green chili salsa; a mother’s bitter tears….

 

Your final product should look nothing like this.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Chili Edition

I got a miniature fresh habañero pepper at the farmer’s market. When I returned home
I put a tiny blanket on it, because it was a little chili.

We are thinking about making Five Alarm Bean and Cabbage Chili for Christmas Eve.
We’re starting a new tradition called, ‘Silent But Deadly Night.’

How do you make a good vegan chili?
Stick her in the freezer.

What do dead Norseman like in their chili?
Vallhallapeños.

 


You can see yourself out.

 

*   *   *

May you never be subjected to an Olympic-sized double standard;
May you never engage in a diplomatic boycott (of anything);
May you join your loved ones in a rousing chorus of,
“I’m talkin’ ’bout Mountain Dews, baby!”    [11]

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] As in, she fell, several times, during her last performance, where, favored to take first place in the Women’s Singles competition, she did not medal.

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

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

[4] Only Norwegians could come up with such a body-punishing, seemingly disparate skills-requiring event as biathlon.

[5] The nuances of the sledding events evades me (“He tilted his body one degree to the right to steer the sled higher on the turn”…uh huh).  No doubt fun to do yourself, but a snoozefest to watch someone else do it.

[6] Second place Germany, population 83 million , 27 medals…summer Olympics powerhouse USA (population 330 million) got 25 winter Olympic medals.

[7] Although he refers to them using the antediluvian term, “stewardesses.”  DUDE ?!?!?

[8] My word.  You’re welcome.

[9] I don’t need to specify peeled, right?  Who chops fully clothed garlic cloves?

[10] Obviously more, if you like the taste.

[11] You have to watch the Shaun White video to get this one.

The Department I’m Not Defunding

Comments Off on The Department I’m Not Defunding

Department Of First Things First

Hard to imagine that, in this picture, my father was younger than I am now and I was younger than my daughter Belle is now

Gone from this earth; always present in our hearts and minds. Chester (“Chet the Jet”) Bryan Parnell died this evening, thirteen years ago.

 

Moiself was home from college for a Christmas visit.  I remember how proud Chet was that he could still lift me in his arms (and that I would consent to him showing off by doing so).

 

*   *   *

Department Of One Solution To A Seemingly Unsolvable Problem?

“The rift between police and Black Americans can feel impossible to bridge.  But in his work with police departments across the U.S., Yale psychologist Phillip Atiba Goff has found novel ways to address the problem.”
(Hidden Brain website)

Okay; everybody drop what you’re doing right now – unless you’re doing something really important, like making me dinner. Whether you have ever (or never) had any encounters with police officers, or you y’all’s own self are a police officer, please listen to this podcast episode:  Hidden Brain: Changing Behavior, Not Beliefs

HB host Shankar Vedantam:
“I find it fascinating that you’re effectively addressing problems related to racial disparities in policing, without accusing police officers of being bigots.  There’s very little finger-pointing in your work, right? “

Goff:
“In my day to day when I’m talking with law enforcement, when I’m talking with communities, when I’m talking to my team, we talk about racism a *whole lot.*  What we *don’t* talk about is whether or not you meant to (a cop acting in a way that promotes racial disparity), or are ‘a good person.’

We don’t talk about ‘character,’ almost ever.  But everybody who can answer the question, ‘Would you like to kill fewer people – would you like to be engaged in less racial disparity?” with a ‘Yes, I would like to do that morally obvious thing,’ there are things that can be done.  But we don’t have to talk about racism the way most people talk about racism, because the way most people talk about racism is what kind of person you are, and I have found that to be almost entirely irrelevant to making the problem get better.”      [1]

 

 

Psychologist Goff says the key to changing policing disparity and lowering incidences of police using unnecessary force is focusing on the *behavior* of officers, not on their *character.*  Whether or not a person holds entrenched/racist beliefs is subjective, difficult if not impossible to assess – how do we really know what is in a person’s mind?   [2] –  and ultimately impossible to screen for (truly racist applicants would learn how to “lie”, on both tests and in interviews, if they were determined to join the police force).

And whether or not an officer aspires to be a card-carrying Klansman or considers himself to be the reincarnation of Mr. Rogers is not the issue – his behavior is. And his behavior is directly influenced by his training, which colors his perceptions (even when the officer is a POC    [3]  ) of what kind of persons and situations are inherently dangerous.

Goff and others studying the situation point to the fact that it is the police officer’s behaviors, not indiscernible attitudes or “character,” which cause problems.  Goff argues for DE-escalation, not defunding, for police. He calls for changing the training for officers and for those who deploy them, including recognizing situations where employing officers with badges and guns should only be a last resort and not a first response (i.e. most traffic infractions and mental health calls and neighborhood disputes).

 

We should all be so lucky as to de-escalate by partaking in a relaxing foot soak with Mr. Rogers.

 

The character of police officers involved in, for example, the shooting of an unarmed Black man, is impugned or assumed: “The officers must be racist!  That may or may not be the case, but Goff argues that we should focus our attention on what we can measure and alter, rather than what the officer’s “character” might be, which we can only presume.  We should look at the behavior involved, including:

* how officers are trained to react a certain situations

* knowledge of the fact that certain situations predispose the officers to respond more violently and/or fearfully: such as, the foot chase and high speed auto chases.  And even – especially, as it turns out – the lowly, “routine” traffic stop.

“Thanks to police culture and training, many officers have been conditioned to believe — *wrongly* — that traffic stops are high-risk, the report explains. (Research has indicated that the chances of a police officer being killed during a traffic stop are actually less than 1 in 3.6 million.) The high-risk mindset leads to overreaction and hyper-violence against people who are not a threat.

‘All [officers have] heard are horror stories about what could happen,’ Sarah Mooney, assistant police chief in West Palm Beach, told the Times. ‘It is very difficult to try to train that out of somebody.’  ”
( “New Report Details How and Why Routine Traffic Stops Turn Deadly,”
NYmag.com  )

 

The first time moiself  heard or read about the call to, “defund the police” I expressed my concern that the term was *extremely* poorly chosen.  It is fear-inducing for many if not the majority of citizens, and likely to put police officers on the defensive and refuse to listen to rational calls for reform.

One acquaintance shared her opinion that “…it doesn’t actually matter (what phrase you use) because they (police departments) are going to disagree no matter what you call it.”

Maybe…?  With a large, mmmmmmmm.

Second thought:  No; it does matter what you call it.  Because, words and phrases both carry and impart meaning – that’s the whole point of arguing about them.

And the meaning of “defund the police” is different from the desired outcome for police reform, which is not slashing essential police budgets, but reassigning and re-delegating certain tasks police have had to handle. These specific tasks are those which police officers and departments across the nation have complained about for decades – tasks that have been defaulted to police to handle, despite police lacking the training or mandate to handle them, e.g., the post deinstitutionalization mental health crises.

“When a person has a mental-health crisis in America, it is almost always law enforcement—not a therapist, social worker, or psychiatrist—who responds to the 911 call. But most officers aren’t adequately trained to deal with mental-health emergencies. And while laws intended to protect civil liberties make it exceedingly difficult to hospitalize people against their will, it is remarkably easy to arrest them.

As a result, policing and incarceration have effectively replaced emergency mental-health care, especially in low-income communities of color. In many jails, the percentage of people with mental illness has continued to go up even as the jail population has dropped. Today, nearly half the people in U.S. jails and more than a third of those in U.S. prisons have been diagnosed with a mental illness, compared to about a fifth in the general population.”

(“The Truth About Deinstitutionalization,” The Atlantic )

 

 

The mental health issue is arguable the most complex, with almost all sides involved in the discussion admitting that there is a huge problem, but offering no doable solutions…other than agreeing on the fact that the vast majority of mental-health related calls to emergency services should not involve or be handled by police.  But there are several less complicated fixes to other issues that could make a big difference in racial disparities in policing.  One of these fixes involves simply reducing the amount of unnecessary citizen-police encounters in non-life-threatening situations.

There’s no reason for badges-and-guns officers to be involved in citing minor traffic infractions, non-violent mental health crises “checks,” or policing petty neighborhood disputes, when community resources – e.g. trained mediators, mental health professionals, road cameras or even 1920s-style “traffic vigilantes” [see below] – could be used.

Some cities and police departments recognize this, and are advising their police officers to “no longer pursue drivers for low-level traffic infractions — including expired plates and broken headlights — unless related to an immediate safety threat.”    [4]  These recommendations are due in part to studies showing wide racial disparities in traffic stops, including one massive study cited by Kelsey Shoub, a professor of political science at the University of South Carolina, which analyzed data from twenty *million* traffic stops. The study’s data provided “…few big takeaways,” Professor Shoub said, “…and the first two are probably not surprising.”

“The first is that DWB (‘driving while black’) is very much a thing; it’s everywhere and it’s not just a North Carolina or a Southern problem but across the United States.  ….The second thing is that it appears to be more systemic than a few ‘bad apple’ officers engaged in racial profiling.”

Significant findings from Shoub’s and her colleagues’ analysis of the study’s dataset include:

* Blacks were 63 percent more likely to be stopped even though, as a whole, they drive 16 percent less. Taking into account less time on the road, blacks were about 95 percent more likely to be stopped.

* Blacks were 115 percent more likely than whites to be searched in a traffic stop (5.05 percent for blacks, 2.35 percent for whites).

* Contraband was more likely to be found in searches of white drivers.

“So, black drivers were stopped disproportionately more than white drivers compared to the local population and were at least twice as likely to be searched, but they were slightly less likely to get a ticket,” Shoub says. “That correlates with the idea that black drivers were stopped on the pretext of having done something wrong, and when the officer doesn’t see in the car what he thought he might, he tells them to go on their way.”

(“Racial disparities revealed in massive traffic stop dataset.”
U of SC post, 6-12-20 )

 

 

A driver speeding 100 mph through red light after red light? That person is a danger to everyone – go get him, asolutely. But having and guns-and-badges officers pull someone over for expired registration tags or for failing to properly signal a right-hand turn or exceeding the speed limit by 5 mph? Use capture camera footage or whatever – send them a ticket in the mail, but only escalate when absolutely necessary.

“Traffic stops are the most common form of police-citizen interaction, but for many citizens, they are also the most dangerous.

Although many people view traffic enforcement as a basic aspect of policing, this has not always been the case….

How traffic enforcement evolved over time
Traffic enforcement has been a responsibility of policing since the invention and wide use of automobiles and other vehicles. Cars were seen as dangerous, and originally, there were no rules or regulations governing their use. Outraged over accidents and other safety concerns, civilians demanded public safety support, despite law enforcement’s own lack of automobile use.

Traffic enforcement started in the 1920s with ‘traffic vigilantes’ who regulated driving by handing out tickets, keeping track of license plates, and following high-speed drivers. As police gained access to more technology, this role increasingly fell to them. Since then, police have used traffic stops to stop, detain, and search people they believe are engaging in criminal activity.

Traffic stops are now one of the most common acts of policing. Officers engaged in traffic enforcement have the discretion to decide whether to stop a driver based on a long list of potential violations, including not using a turn signal early enough, not using headlights on a cloudy day.… Officers have further discretion in how the stop is handled, including whether they will conduct a search of vehicle, issue a citation, arrest the driver, or let them go.

The deeply entrenched racial disparities in traffic enforcement and the continued killing of Black drivers show that regardless of intentions, the harms of traffic stops far outweigh any potential public safety benefits. Traffic stops result in neither increased trust in the police nor increased perceptions of safety among community members, and they often have the opposite effect.”

( “Police Traffic Stops Have Little to Do with Public Safety,”
Urban Wire: Crime Justice and Safety )

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Cops Edition

Yesterday I saw a police officer wearing a pilot’s uniform.
I thought it was odd; then I realized he was one of those plane clothes cops.

There’s a mysterious crime spree going on at our local IKEA.
The cops are having a hard time putting the pieces together.

Police officer: “I’m arresting you for downloading all of Wikipedia.”
Suspect: “No, wait! I can explain everything!”

I got pulled over by a cop who asked me if I had a police record.
I said, “No, but I’ve got a Sting CD.

 

What’s all this about Police brutality?

*   *   *

May you remember that what you call something matters;
May you find another term for “defunding the police;”
May you get out that old Police album – or picture of a departed loved one – and appreciate
how the gifts of the past can enrich the present;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] The first footnote is not actually a footnote.  This does not bode well for the completion of my Ph.D.

[2] We may have legal standards for proof of “intent,”  but such standards are legal – not scientific – constructions.

[3] “Racial bias isn’t necessarily about how a person views himself in terms of race, but how he views others in terms of race…. In the case of police, all cops are dealing with enormous cultural and systemic forces that build racial bias against minority groups. Even if a black cop doesn’t view himself as racist, the way policing is done in the US is racially skewed — by, for example, targeting high-crime neighborhoods that are predominantly black.  These policing tactics can also create and accentuate personal, subconscious bias by increasing the likelihood that officers will relate blackness with criminality or danger — leading to what psychologists call “implicit bias” against black Americans.  Combined, this means the system as a whole — as well as individual officers, even black ones — by and large act in ways that are deeply racially skewed and, potentially, racist.  ( excerpts from ” How systemic racism entangles all police officers — even black cops,” Vox  )

[4] “Portland police halt minor traffic stops, citing disparity.”  Abc news.

The Date I’m Not Commemorating

Comments Off on The Date I’m Not Commemorating

That would be yesterday, January 6. 

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

Department of Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum!

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of See You Next Year    [1]

Christmas cleanup.

 

Before.

 

After.

 

*    *   *

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Still Miss Siskel & Ebert

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

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

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

 

 

– Those Who Wish Me Dead

– A Quiet Place II

– Cruella

– Dream Horse

– In The Heights    ( zzz )    [8]

– Queen Bees

– Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard

– Black Widow

– Pig  ****

– Joe Bell

– Green Knight

– Stillwater

– Free Guy

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

– The Alpinist   ****

– Queenpins

– Dear Evan Hansen

– No Time To Die  ****

– The Last Duel

– Dune

– Spencer

– Belfast ****

– The French Dispatch

– Ghostbusters: Afterlife    ( zzz )     [9] 

– House of Gucci   ( zzz )   

– C’mon C’mon  ****

– West Side Story  ****

– Don’t Look Up  ****

– Licorice Pizza  ****   [10]

 

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Because, Why Not?

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

Especially when it’s nicknamed, Banana Pose.

 

*   *   *

 

Punz For The Day
Banana Edition

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

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

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

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

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

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Eleven months, actually.

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

[3] Unfortunately, we have two.

[4] Taxes, insurance and mortgage vitals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ID I’m Not Showing

4 Comments

Department Of I Am Going To Wear A Mask!
Everywhere!  Forever!

Dateline: Monday, circa 5 pm.  After seeing a movie I stopped in at a grocery store near home.  It was raining; I had on my ever-present rain hat (OR’s “Seattle sombrero“), and, of course, a mask .

I unloaded my items onto the checkout belt. When the clerk rang up the bottle of Pinot I intended to purchase she paused, then said, “I’m going to have to ask to see your ID.”

I thought she must be joking, and said so.  But she leaned across her checkout counter for a closer look.

“Seriously?Moiself  leaned toward her, pulled down the corners of my mask and pointed at the corners of my eyes, then pulled up on the mask and pointed at my neck.  “Is that ID enough for you?”

She seemed momentarily flustered, then laughed when she realized I was neither upset nor insulted.  “I’m sorry,” she said, “but with the mask and your hat… .”

“Please, don’t apologize,” I reassured her.  “You have just made my day.”

 

Toss those wrinkle creams – a hat and a mask and you look 21 again.

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

It’s that time of the year again. As has become a tradition much maligned anticipated in our neighborhood, moiself  will be hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.    [1]

Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Let’s Get The Complaining Out Of The Way

Dateline: Sunday 6 am.  In the meditation app I was using, moiself  picked a “waves of breathing” guided meditation to listen to.  After the session, I checked the app and saw that the teacher for that session was listed as, “The Venerable (Billybocephus, or whatever his name).”

Venerable – adjective
Definition of venerable
1a: calling forth respect through age, character, and attainments
broadly : conveying an impression of aged goodness and benevolence
b: impressive by reason of age

2: deserving to be venerated — used as a title for an Anglican archdeacon or for a Roman Catholic
who has been accorded the lowest of three degrees of recognition for sanctity

3: made sacred especially by religious or historical association
(definitions from Merriam-Webster)

 

Welcome to the venerable hat society.

 

The Venerable…
The Reverend…
The Right Reverend… (who is, uh, I presume, more correct than a mere Reverend?)
The Most Reverend… (self explanatory?)
His Holiness…
Your Eminence…

I’ve always wanted to ask someone who uses one of the above titles:  What is the purpose of being addressed as such?  Is it for you – to remind you of your own status –  or is it for we peons mere mortals, the non-venerable masses?

Moiself  assumes, what with being venerable and all, the meditation teacher – or any of y’all  –  is fully capable of saying, “Yeah, that’s my title, but you can just attribute this to (Billybocephus).”

If a person is truly venerable – as in, worthy of respect via their character and attainments – moiself  thinks that their ego would be secure (and humble) enough that they would *not* want to be addressed with adjectives and/or titles touting their supposed superior qualities.

 

 

*   *   *

Remember my post, a mere two weeks ago, re Hallmark Movie Syndrome? (“The Swedes I’m Not Chasing“).  In my first ever foray into the wonders of The Hallmark Channel, I marveled at the ads for the seemingly interchangeable movies the channel produces and broadcasts, without end, during the holiday season:

Meet The Plucky Protagonist,®  an attractive white woman estranged from/bored with her family and/or disillusioned with/burnt out by her High Stress Job In The Big City ®, who returns to flyover country her home town where she meets the simple-minded mild-mannered incredibly handsome dude who shows her the holiday sausage fest she’s been missing all her life real meaning of Christmas.

THC’s moldy cheese Christmas romcoms are likely the same basic plot, recycled with variations in ages of the participants and locales.  I don’t know why THC’s programming executives even bother to give them different names.  Why not just run night after night of,

Hallmark presents:
“A (Heterosexual) Hunk for Christmas.”

Thanks to my astute and alert friend, EK,  moiself discovered that greater minds than mine have come up with a Scientifically Validated ® chart, to help us navigate the world of Hallmark Holiday romcoms. Should you, for whatever reason, decide to give your neurons a rest, or just want to dissolve into an intellectual and emotional puddle in front of the TV, here’s your guide:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yoga Holiday Fun

Dateline: Wednesday, 9 am. Moiself was already somewhat sore from doing 108 Sun salutations on Tuesday to celebrate the Winter Solstice, then my yoga teacher had a surprise for her class.  She led us yogis, those in the studio and those streaming the class at home, in  “The Twelve Days of Yoga Christmas,” a series of poses, each chosen for a verse of the classic song.

Apparently, there *is* a partridge pose in yoga, but it is quite difficult,   [2]  so, we settled for Tree Pose, sans partridge, for verse one.

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Holiday Reruns
(as in, this one, from three years ago)

The Department of Feasting

My family – the one MH and I created – has several holiday season traditions, some of our own making and some adopted/adapted from our respective families of origin.  The elves that hide in every downstairs room to watch you from atop the curtain rod, hanging from the bathroom lights or peeking out from a potted plant  – that’s from my family.  The every-piece-of-art-with-a-face-wears-a-Santa-hat mandate, that’s from the weirdo festive mind of moiself.

 

A clock may not be art, but it has a face.

 

Many of our traditions involve (surprise!) dining.  There is a menu which, according to the *other* family members, magically (hah!) is posted, sometime in mid-December, on the refrigerator door.  Depending on when the Solstice falls, there are several days in a row of special meals.  Solstice Soup & Salad Supper; Little Christmas Eve (to be mentioned later);  and of course, Christmas Eve.    [3] 

 

Mmmmmm….lefse.

 

On Christmas Day we go out for lunch to a fancy-schmancy restaurant, then for dinner it’s homemade pizza…or a leftovers coma.  Come Boxing Day, I swear I’m never going to cook/eat again…a vow that I am most happy to break in the New Year.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of About Those Elves….

“Oh, yeah, so you all liked that Elf on a Shelf thing?”
(Misinformed persons who feel compelled to ask about all the elves

in our house during this time of year)

Much of moiself’s holiday décor, in all its tacky seasonal glory, is in homage to my mother, who died five years ago today, on Christmas Eve.

Marion Parnell loved Christmas and especially her Christmas decorations, which included the tradition (which her family started and mine continues) of placing certain kind of elves – the kind with small plastic, doll-like faces and bendable, felt costume-clothed bodies,  [4]  all around the house.  

 

Like this one, a rare, yellow-green costumed variant.

 

The idea was that from any vantage point, whether you are sitting in the living room or getting a drink from the kitchen sink, an elf is casting a friendly eye upon you.  Some of our elves indeed are on a shelf, but most perch atop curtains, peek out from bookcases, lurk behind candlesticks, nestle behind dishes and clocks and art and….

But, this “Elf on a Shelf” thing? Never heard of it, until recently.  EOAS is, apparently, a picture book about…honestly, I don’t know or care what it’s about. I looked it up:  the book has a 2005 publication date.  Neither I nor MH knew about it, nor had our two children (DOBs 1993 and 1996) grown up with EOAS as part of their kiddie lit repertoire.  My extended family on my mother’s side has been putting up elves since the early 1920s, so none of these EOAS shit fruitcake feces references applies to elves on MY shelves, okay?

Y’all must excuse moiself  if (read: when) I respond with a yuletide-inappropriate profanity should you mention that book to me. Actually, moiself finds it funny how much it irritates me  when someone, after seeing or hearing about our houses elves, makes a reference to the book – such as the antique store owner two years ago who, when I asked if her store had any elves and began to describe what I was looking for, said, “Oh, you mean, like that book?”   My customary cheerful/holiday visage darkened, and I answered her with utmost solemnity.

No.
Nothing.
Like. That. Book.

Which might not be entirely accurate, seeing as how I’ve never read nor even seen the book…which may indeed be about something akin to *our* family tradition.  I just want…oh, I don’t know…attribution, I suppose.  WE THOUGHT OF IT FIRST, OKAY?  So, stick that Elf-on-a-shelf in your Santa Hat and….

 

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Now Later
(re: …”to be mentioned later”)

Little Christmas Eve: LCE is the Eve before Christmas Eve, an obscure – to everyone but my family – holiday supposedly celebrated by my paternal grandfather’s ancestral, tiny Norwegian village.  The LCE dinner was a special meal, but, unlike Christmas Eve dinner, which always featured lefse, the LCE menu varied year to year, and after dinner, each child got to open one of their Christmas presents. The most memorable aspect about LCE, to moiself  as a child, was the “rule” that our house was lit only by candlelight, during the dinner meal and thereafter, until bedtime.

I was fascinated by candles; thus, it was a magical night for moiself.  Candles everywhere no electric lights allowed!  If you went to the bathroom, you carried a candle.

How we never managed to burn the house down, I don’t know.  Guess those elves were watching over us.

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Santa’s Helpers Edition

Q.  Why can’t you borrow money from an elf?
A.  Because they’re always a little short.

An elf tried to organize a strike at the North pole, then quit Santa’s workshop.
He was a rebel without a Claus.

Q.  What’s the difference between a dwarf and an elf?
A.  Very little.

I just drew a totally cool picture of a creature that’s half-mouse, half-elf.
I know I shouldn’t brag, but I’m really proud of mouse-elf.

Q.  What’s an animal that never forgets Christmas?
A.  An elfant.

 

“I’m trying to forget I ever read this blog.”

*   *   *

May you never merit being addressed as, “Your Holiness;”
May you be braver than moiself, and watch a Hallmark holiday movie;
May someone ID you in a way that makes your day;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

[2] Partridge Pose (Kapinjalasana) is also called “the Side Plank Variation Hand To Toe Knee Bend…a challenging arm balance pose….”  Yeah.  Let’s stick to tree pose, with maybe a pigeon roosting in one of its branches.

[3] CE menu never varies: Norwegian lefse and meatcakes (of some kind) are front and center.

[4] Many of the oldest ones have a tiny Made in Japan sticker on them and date from the 1950s, or so I was told by one antique shop dealer.

The Swedes I’m Not Chasing

1 Comment

Department Of Shameless Self-Promotion- NOT

Not as in, moiself  be promoting the work of someone else.   [1]

 

 

Life coach and business consultant Suzanne Mathis McQueen, author of Four Seasons in Four Weeks, has a new series of children’s books out: The Seasons in Me; The Sun in Me, and The Moon in Me .  Delightfully illustrated by Pumudi Gardiyawasam, the books are a fun and heartwarming introduction for kids as to the concepts the rhythms (“seasons”) of nature, and those of their own bodies…while also sneaking in a bit of age-appropriate  [2] science about the seasons,   [3]  the solstices, and circadian rhythms.

Check ’em out, for the children (or parents of children) in your life and on your holiday shopping list.

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

 

One of my yoga teachers, Jill Baker, wore this shirt to class two years ago…back when I was attending class in the studio  (I am now streaming classes from the studio).  Moiself  had to have it.  Wearing it puts me in the yule mood.  So does hearing one of my favorite pieces of holiday music – while I was making sandbakkels for my annual lefse-making party dessert, I had to play it   (“…over and over and over…” as MH noted).

 

 

For the non-Norskis, sandbakkels (“sand tarts”) are a traditional Norwegian holiday cookie.  Its dough, a somewhat crumbly  texture due to the proportions of sugars and almond flour, resembles “sand,” (if, like a good Norwegian, you use your imagination, or plenty of Aquavit); thus, the name.  Moiself  does a plant-based version, as I do when making lefse.

 

You can – and I will – place a dollop of fruit jam in the center depression of the sandbakkels just before serving them. My younger sister claims Nutella is also yummy in that capacity; however, she’s well known as the family culinary lunatic, so there’s that.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Variation On A Theme

Dateline: Wednesday, this one (December 8). After the pandemic cancellation of last year, my annual Ladies Lefse Party returned this year…in a somewhat limited and altered format.  The “ladies” – always a questionable modifier, considering the attendees   [4] – were mostly not in attendance.  I kept the number of invitees limited to the two friends nearby who were part of our COVID safe circle, then one had to cancel, so I opened up the party to The Menfolk.  After the last-minute cancellation of our son K, it was just MH and moiself, friend L, and a newbie to the festivities, L’s friend, G.  Somehow, we managed to have enough fun that we sat down at 7p, then all of a sudden it was 10p.

A nuclear fallout of flour still is circulating in the kitchen.  That means we did it right.

 

No children were harmed in the making of this lefse.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Will Someone Please Explain This To Me Before I Die?     [5]

First time lefse party attendee G was an affable addition to the dinner.  As a fellow American with a Norwegian background, it was inevitable that, at some point during the dinner,    [6]   we shared some of the aspects about our family heritage which, as children, we found nonsensical.  In particular, it was hard for us young-uns to understand the fierce rivalry we’d heard about – particularly in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and other hotspots    [7] of Norwegian-to-USA migration – between Americans of Norwegian and Swedish heritage.  For example, a marriage between a first generation Norwegian and a first gen Swede was considered a “mixed marriage.”

 

 

Also inevitable was our descent into recollections of the astronomically lame, “Ole and Sven and Lena” jokes, and then G said, “Remember this one?” He repeated a saying that I hadn’t heard in years, but which caused me to stamp size 9 feet with excitement:

“One hundred Swedes
ran through the weeds
chased by one Norwegian.”

 

Remind me again, why are we laughing?

 

Yes yes yes  – and WHY?   My mother told me that her (full blooded Norski) father would occasionally recite that lame “verse,” then chuckle softly to himself.  Okay; Mom, but why did he do that – where did it come from, and why did he think it was funny?  She said he never explained it, and she didn’t want to ask, because that would reveal to her father that she didn’t get it, and she wanted him to think that she did.  [8]  Sure, that’s understandable, Mom, but do you now, today, as an adult, get what you didn’t get at the time?  I never got an answer from her.

Is it just the rhyming of Swedes with weeds ? Why not then,

One hundred Swedes
dressed in their tweeds
tailored by one Norwegian.

To this day, I have never received an explanation (make that, a satisfactory explanation) as to why this Swedes-weeds thang was supposed to be funny. Any takers?

 

You wouldn’t think it was so funny if there were a hundred of us.

 

*   *   *

Department Of I’m Not Naïve But…

I mean, I get around the block, depending on your definition of block. So why was I caught offguard…when I was?

Dateline: last week.  Several days in a row.  After dinner we turn on our Roku feature to see what is on TV, and the clever device lists several ongoing shows it thinks moiself  might like.  I followed its suggestion to an episode of The Waltons, not realizing, until the commercial break, something that came as no surprise to MH – The Waltons reruns were being played on The Hallmark Channel, where it is apparently their “Countdown to Christmas.”

Believe it or not…

 

 

…I had never previously visited that channel.  But for three evenings in a row, I tuned in to see parts of one The Waltons episode, and was tortured by treated to previews of upcoming Hallmark Channel produced “movies.”

I’d been vaguely aware of THC’s schmaltzy reputation; even so, moiself  lacks the family-friendly vocabulary to describe how eye-gouging dreadful the previews were.  And although the commercials were promoting (supposedly) different features with different titles, it seemed to me that THC was going to be airing eight versions of the same movie, repackaged.

 

“You look familiar – weren’t we in this movie last year?”

 

Meet The Plucky Protagonist,®  an attractive white woman estranged from/bored with her family and/or disillusioned with/burnt out by her High Stress Job In The Big City ®, who returns to flyover country her home town where she meets the simple-minded mild-mannered incredibly handsome dude who shows her the holiday sausage fest she’s been missing all her life the real meaning of Christmas.

THC’s moldy cheese Christmas romcoms are likely the same basic plot, recycled with variations in ages of the participants and locales.  I don’t know why THC’s programming executives even bother to give them different names.  Why not just run night after night of,

Hallmark presents:
“A (Heterosexual) Hunk for Christmas.”

In the spirit of it-might-be-so-bad-it-could-be-a-teeny-bit-good, or at least morbidly entertaining, moiself  be considered parking it on the couch with an emergency bottle of insulin and/or a jug of Pepto-Bismol handy, and trying to watch one of those movies. I’m still considering it.

 

*   *   *

Department of Thanks For The Imagery…ooooommmmm….

Dateline: Thursday, circa 6:15 am. I hear the best ever – as in, most evocative – focal point (aka mantra) offered by one of the three meditation apps I regularly use.

I am a thunderbolt of good vibes.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Promise Not To Do This At Your House.
Sub Department Of Am I The Only One Who Ever Gets This Feeling?

Sometimes, when I pick up or am holding a large, heavy, porcelain or china or glass or ceramic plate or bowl, I have the urge to fling it across the room like a frisbee. For just a (so far) resistible instant, it seems to moiself  that to see and hear the plate shatter against the wall would be very satisfying.  It’s not a catharsis issue – I don’t get this feeling when I am angry at or irritated by something. Rather, just when I’m feeling… musical?

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Norski Heritage Edition

I want to visit Norway soon, but I can’t a fjord it.

How was the Mr. Ed Show theme song adapted for Norwegian television?
♫  A Norse is a Norse of course, of course….♫

I always appreciate a good pun, but never geographical ones.
There’s Norway I’d sink Oslo as that.

Did you hear about the bike race that goes all the way across Norway and Sweden?
It ends at the Finnish line.

 

 

*   *   *

May you never recite deeds of chasing Swedes through the weeds in their tweeds;
May you be a thunderbolt of good vibes;
May you one day just let loose and fling that #@!&%!% plate against the wall;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Disclosure: I do know this person, and like her. So I may be biased…y’all can handle that.

[2]  ages 3-8.  Accessible info for older bipeds as well.  No boring quantum mechanics or string theory.

[3] Remember: axial tilt is the reason for the season – for *all* seasons.

[4] Yeah, I’m talking *you*, JR and JWW.

[5] But I don’t want you to explain it to me, and then I die.

[6] After the first glass of champagne, which followed the gin and tonics.

[7] or should it be cold spots? What is the proper term here, re a country where half of its land lies north of the Arctic Circle?

[8] Which would be blamed on her mother’s contribution – 100% Irish – to her genes.

Older Entries