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The Aisle I’m Not Reaching Across

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This has been such a dismal year, in so many ways…and yet, yesterday, November 12, gave us something to rejoice about: it was the 50th anniversary of The Exploding Whale, Oregon’s legendary contribution to contemporary culture.   [1]  And in honor of that most sacred (to Oregonians) event, the infamous news video has been remastered, and I present it below for your viewing pleasure.  You’re welcome.

Turn up the volume and listen carefully:  in the background, just after the explosion, you can hear a woman advising her (I assume) husband, “All right, Fred, you can take your hands out of your ears…here comes pieces of – oh – uh – whale…”

 

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Department Of Nomination For Editorial Cartoon Of The Year

 

 

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Moiself  is still somewhat in shock. Is our nation’s battle with truth-telling and political constipation is finally over, now that we were able to take a giant tRump dump?

 

 

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Department Of I Am Happy/Relieved, But Should Be More Ecstatic-er…

As per the Biden-Harris victory. But I’m not.  For reasons I shall get into next week….

 

 

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Department Of For Those Still Wondering What The “Defund” Fuss Is About

“Defunding” the police means different things to different people; I think it’s a poorly chosen term for a complex problem.  But…consider this recent incident, in a small Oregon town, as yet another reason why So Many Of Us ®  have concerns (my emphases):

An off-duty Forest Grove police officer faces a criminal mischief allegation after a resident reported that he stumbled into the family’s driveway early Halloween morning, banged and kicked at their front door and yelled at them to fight.

Forest Grove police quickly caught the alleged intruder about 50 yards away and recognized him as one of their own, even giving Officer Steven Teets a ride to his nearby house, investigators confirmed Monday….

 Police also don’t have body camera video of Teets’ escort home because the officer who picked him up and gave him a ride home had a body camera that was not recording, a potential   [2]   violation of department policy that’s now under investigation, officials said.

“We feel violated by what he did to me and violated by the way this was handled,” said Mirella Castaneda, 39, who called 911 that night to report the scare.   … Castaneda said she and her husband were awakened when an alarm from her husband’s truck, parked in their driveway, was activated around 12:30 a.m. on Oct. 31.

It went off twice, and after the second time, she and her husband saw a man emerge from between their two trucks.

The stranger then banged on their Black Lives Matter flag hanging outside their garage door and a Halloween witch decoration on their front lawn, which activated their outside light.

As Castaneda opened the front door and peeked out, the man charged toward her, she said. She slammed the door and locked it.

“The guy is kicking the door, pounding on the door, trying to get in,” she recalled.

Her husband, Pablo Weimann, was looking out their dining room window, yelling at the man, “What the hell do you want?” Their four children had been asleep inside, but their 13-year-old son was awakened by the commotion.

The stranger, according to Castaneda, balled his fists and responded, “Come on! Come on!”

Castaneda called 911 and remained on the line with an emergency dispatcher for about 15 minutes, she said. During that time, the stranger left and the dispatcher told Castaneda that an officer had stopped someone.

When a Forest Grove officer arrived to the family’s home…the officer didn’t seem that concerned but asked if they could describe the stranger, Castaneda said….

Between 2 a.m. to 2:30 a.m., a Washington County sheriff’s deputy arrived at the home and said his office was taking over the case because Forest Grove police personally knew the suspect, according to Castaneda.

( excerpts from The Oregonian, ” Family says off-duty cop terrorized them on Halloween. Forest Grove officer faces criminal mischief allegation. ” )

 

 

Definition of mischief (lexico.com) :

NOUN
Playful misbehavior or troublemaking, especially in children.
(‘she’ll make sure Danny doesn’t get into mischief’)

1.1  Playfulness that is intended to tease, mock, or create trouble.
(‘her eyes twinkled with irrepressible mischief’)

1.2  Harm or trouble caused by someone or something.
(‘she was bent on making mischief’)

Mischief  is, apparently, used differently in a legal sense. Still, I find it…less than adequate, to put it mildly…to have the term applied to this situation, even with the modifier criminal preceding it.  A police officer, a person who, even when not on the job, carries the advantage of authority (read: a gun and a badge) and then – surprise! – is treated differently (read: leniently…read: fucking *escorted to his home* instead of arrested) by responding officers than how a civilian suspected of the same crime would be dealt with.…

Golly gee; this is not my idea of Little Officer Stevie gettin’ in some “mischief.”  For the family, I imagine it was more like, abject fear-inducing, a crazy man is trying to attack us/call-the-police terror…oh, it’s a cop who is terrifying us….

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Department Of Who Was In Charge of Adjectives For This Article’s Headline?

” What the president of the United States did tonight wasn’t complicated but it was stunning, even after four long years of the politically extraordinary.
In his remarks tonight from the White House, Mr. Trump lied about the vote count, smeared his opponents and attempted to undermine the integrity of our electoral system.”
(NY Times, “Trump’s Stunning News Conference,” 11-5-20)

 

 

And this is *stunning* because…? And to whom – some nickel miner in New Caledonia ?

No one who has paid a mosquito’s ass worth of attention these past four years would find this stunning.  This is what The Tangerine Toddler does.

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Department Of Why Aren’t You Reading Leonard Pitts Jr.’s Column
On A Regular Basis?

Or, maybe you are.

…”If we don’t seek reconciliation, how can we go forward, together?”

The truth? Maybe we can’t…. All I do know is that if it depends on me to reach out to Trump supporters, it will never come to pass.

Please understand: I view this moment through the prism of an African-American man who is a student of history. And one thing that prism has impressed on me is how often this country has sold out Black people in the name of some supposedly greater good.

It happened at the founding, when a condemnation of slavery was removed from the Declaration of Independence to appease the Southern colonies. It happened in 1877 when Rutherford B. Hayes won the presidency in a disputed election after striking a backroom deal to withdraw from the South federal troops who had been protecting black rights — and lives. It happened in the early 20th century when the Senate refused to pass anti-lynching legislation for fear of angering the South. It happened in 1961 when Attorney General Robert Kennedy agreed to the illegal arrest of the Freedom Riders as Mississippi’s price for protecting them from white-supremacist mobs. It happened in 1964 when President Lyndon Johnson blocked a racially mixed delegation from being seated at the Democratic convention because that would offend the South.

Now in 2020, this great-grandson of slaves is expected, in the name of a supposedly greater good, to seek reconciliation with followers of one of the most flagrantly racist — not to mention misogynistic xenophobic and Islamophobic — presidents in history?….

At some point, this country has to… stop asking Black people to swallow insults to their dignity, their integrity, their very being, for the good of the country.

What about what’s good for us? When does that get addressed? At what point does America stand up for us the way it has always asked and expected us to stand up for it?

Trump and his supporters broke this country, and it will take years to repair, if we ever do. They didn’t care then, and as far as I can tell, they don’t care now. So as an African-American student of history — and frankly, just as an American who loves the ideal of America, the truths held self-evident and more perfect union of America — I ask you not to ask me what I will do to reconcile with those people. Here’s a better question:

What will they do to reconcile with me?

(“Blacks are supposed to reconcile with Trump supporters? Nah, not this time. You first.” By Leonard Pitts, Jr.  Miami Herald, 11-7-20 )

 

 

The many, many reasons I am not in favor of “reaching across the (proverbial, political) aisle”  have been and are being expressed by persons more articulate   [3]   than moiself .  Some of them were stated in the previous excerpts of Mr. Pitt’s op-ed.

Read, or even skim through these articles, if you have the stomach for it.

“The Victory of ‘No’ – The GOP’s unprecedented anti-Obama obstructionism….”
(Politico Magazine, 12-4-16)

“I can’t ever recall a newly elected president being faced with the leader of the other party’s caucus saying “Our No. 1 priority is to make this president a one-term president,”’ says (Ed   [4]  ) Rendell citing the remark made by Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, that exemplified the fierce partisanship that has attended Obama’s tenure. ‘That McConnell would say that in the first nine months of Barack Obama’s tenure is absolutely stunning, disgraceful, disgusting — you name the term.”

(Peter J. Boyer, writing in Newsweek, Sept. 10, 2012, quote from WaPo fact checker article “When did McConnell say he wanted to make Obama a ‘one-term president’?”)
“The Party of No: New Details on the GOP Plot to Obstruct Obama”
( Time magazine, 8-23-12 )

“The GOP’s no-compromise pledge”
( Politico, 10-28-2010 )

“Republicans Keep Admitting Everything
They Said About Obama Was a Lie”

(The New Yorker , 2-11-19)

 

 

The behavior of congressional Republicans during the past 12 years have made it plain as to the futility of across-the-aisle-reaching. Democrats can reach all they want; Republicans refuse to do so. They’ve even bragged about their obstructionism.

Joe Biden, the nation’s president-elect and Kindhearted Uncle In Chief, has spouting the rhetoric of working together, going forward, reaching across the aisle.  Biden is perhaps the best – and one of the only – politicians capable of such magnanimity…even so, I say, Yeah, good luck with that, Joe.  Given that across-the-aisle for the past twelve years perches that monstrous vulture,  obstructionist Mitch McConnell and his miserable minions, whose policy has been It-doesn’t-matter-what’s-best-for-the-country-we-have-to-be-sure-that-whatever-happens-THEY-LOSE. 

I feel a deep, simmering, hard-to-accurately-describe rage when I hear calls for “reaching across the aisle,” “not treating your opponents as enemies,” and other statements which imply that seeking justice is “looking backwards, not forwards.”  These calls are, of course, not coming from those on the Right who most need to beg for reconciliation with those whom they’ve wronged, but from Well-Meaning People ® on the Left.

“Swalwell calls for creation of presidential crimes commission to investigate Trump when he leaves office”
( The Hill, 8-14-20 )

I’ve been surprised by how many Well-Meaning People ® also seem hesitant to hold #45 et all responsible for their crimes, because, they say, they fear doing so may throw “gasoline on the fire” and be viewed by #45’s already volitile supporters as an act of vengeance.

Giving into the loudest/most unreasonable voices does not keep the peace, nor does it snuff the fire.  Stop tip-toeing around the feelings of people who would support such a disgraceful, delinquent, despotic politician as #45.  Such people Don’t. Care. What. You. Think. Or. Say. About. Them.

A thorough investigation of how #45 and his nepotistic nest of nincompoops and comrades abused and profited from the office of the presidency is not seeking vengeance, it is enacting justice.  Prosecuting lawbreakers is what prosecutors do.  In particular, a POTUS like #45, who appealed to tribalism via using the law-and-order tag, should be held accountable for breaking the law and fomenting disorder. To do otherwise is to uphold the fundamentally anti-American notion that a POTUS is above the law, and would help write the playbook as to how crimes and corruptions will be excused for the next would-be despot to occupy the Oval Office.    [5]

As my friend and political blogger Spocko put it,

When Biden wins I’m going to be a sore winner.
Sure Democrats can reach across the aisle–if they’re serving subpoenas.
I’ll “look backwards” at the crimes committed by Trump, his family, elected & appointed officials in the GOP.
What will I “look forward” to?
Convictions.

 

 

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But…I am trying to concentrate on some good, less stressful things.

 

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Department Of Nominee For Quote Of The Year

Dateline and context: Tuesday morning, breakfast.  MH is standing beside the table, looking over a jigsaw puzzle (“Rosie the Riveter”) which has been on our puzzle board for far too long.  He has done the majority of the work; our cats, over the weeks, have done some overnight “rearranging” of the pieces.

MH is talking about completing the puzzle, about how it would probably be best to do “the blue section” next, as there aren’t many pieces in that section, and he’s got them all organized according to color…. He’s not addressing me specifically (he almost sounds as if he’s thinking aloud)…oh, but of course he is – who else is there?  And he’s using a very gentle, encouraging voice, as if I’m a novice and/or special needs puzzle-doer.  It’s not patronizing, but for some reason his placid encouragement cracks me up.  I start giggling to moiself …but it doesn’t stay with moiself, and soon morphs into teary-eyed laughter. It is a full minute before I can collect moiself  and answer his “Okay; why are you laughing?” query.

I tell him why.    [6]   His mumbled comment, as he sorts through the blue puzzle pieces while feigning indignation:

“This is why people are quiet.”

 

 

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Pun For The Day

Why do grizzlies hate this part of my blog? They can’t bear puns.

 

“It’s *your* turn to make her stop….”

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May you know that you can pursue justice *and* reach across the aisle;
May you understand what the fuss is all about;
May you remember why people are sometimes quiet;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

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[1] Well, that and Tonya Harding.

[2] Whaddya mean, “potential” violation? 

[3] And less prone to profanity, at least in print.

[4] Ed Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania.

[5] This should be footnote #5, don’t you think?

[6] Did you know that four out of three dentists recommend footnote reading instead of flossing?

The Post-Election Rant I’m Not Posting

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Because there is too much post-election uncertainty for moiself  to compose anything else, it’s time for the annual intro to the holiday season.  Brace y’all selves.

 

 

 

Department Of Life Is Tough But It’s Even Tougher If You’re Stupid
Chapter 22467 in a (never-ending) series

“The idea of a “War on Christmas” has turned things like holiday greetings and decorations into potentially divisive political statements. People who believe Christmas is under attack point to inclusive phrases like “Happy Holidays” as (liberal) insults to Christianity….
Christmas is a federal holiday celebrated widely by the country’s Christian majority. So where did the idea that it is threatened come from?…
The most organized attack on Christmas came from the Puritans, who banned celebrations of the holiday in the 17th century because it did not accord with their interpretation of the Bible….”
(“How the ‘War on Christmas’ Controversy Was Created,” NY Times, 12-19-16)

 

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Department Of If Something Seems Familiar, That’s Because It’s Time For
My Annual Holiday Traditions Explained ® Post

 

What do vegetarians, egans, non-meat and/or plant-based eaters do on Thanksgiving?
( Other than, according to your Aunt Erva, RUIN IT FOR EVERYONE ELSE.   [1]

The above question is an existential dilemma worthy of Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, who wrote eloquent discourses on the subjective and objective truths one must juggle when choosing between a cinnamon roll and a chocolate swirl    [2]

 

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Department Of I’ll Take Those Segues Where I Can Find Them

Three weeks from today will be the day after feasting, for many of us. Then, just when you’re recovering from the last leftover turkey sandwich/quiche/casserole/enchilada-induced salmonella crisis and really, really need to get outside for some fresh air, here comes the Yule season. You dare not even venture to the mall, lest your eardrums be assaulted from all sides by Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, Feliz Navidad, ad nauseum.

This observation provides a convenient segue to my annual, sincere, family-friendly,   [3]

Heathens Declare War on Christmas © post.

 

Department Of Did You Know…

…that the Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that, “the early Christians who  first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.”  [4]

Because of its known pagan origin, Christmas was banned by the Puritans, and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts until 1681.  [5]

 

 

“Do you celebrate Christmas?”

We Heretics/apostates non-Christians Happy Heathens often hear this question at this time of year.  The inquiry is sometimes presented in ways that imply our celebration (or even acknowledgement) of Christmas is hypocritical.  This implication is the epitome of cheek, when you consider the fact that it is the early Christians who stole a festival from our humanist (pagan) forebears, and not the other way around.

Who doesn’t like a party, for any reason? And we who are religion-free don’t mind sharing seasonal celebrations with religious folk– sans the superstition and government/church mumbo-jumbo — as long as they accept the fact that the ways we all celebrate this “festive season” predate Christianity by hundreds of years.

 

 

Early Roman Catholic missionaries tried to convert northern Europeans to the RC brand of Christianity, and part of the conversion process was to alter existing religious festivals. The indigenous folk, whom the RC church labeled “barbarians,” quickly discovered that when it came to dealing with  missionaries, resistance is futile. The pagans intuitively grasped the concept of natural selection and converted to Christianity to avoid the price (persecution, torture, execution) of staying true to their original beliefs.  But they refused to totally relinquish their old celebrations, and so the church, eventually and effectively, simply renamed most of them.    [6]

Pagan practices were given a Christian meaning to wipe out “heathen” revelry.  This was made official church policy in 601 A.D., when Pope Gregory the First issued the now infamous edict to his missionaries regarding the traditions of the peoples they wanted to convert. Rather than try to banish native customs and beliefs, missionaries were directed to assimilate them. You find a group of people decorating and/or worshiping a tree? Don’t chop it down or burn it; rather, bless it in the name of the Church.  Allow its continued worship, only tell the people that, instead of celebrating the return of the sun-god in the spring, they are now worshiping the rising from the dead of the Son of God.

( Easter is the one/odd exception, where the pagan celebration was adapted by Christians without a name change. Easter is a word found nowhere in the Bible. It comes from the many variants (Eostra, Ester, Eastra, Eastur….) of a Roman deity, goddess of the dawn “Eos” or “Easter,” whose festival was in the Spring.)

The fir boughs and wreaths, the Yule log, plum pudding, gift exchanges, the feasting, the holly and the ivy and the evergreen tree….It is hard to think of a “Christmas” tradition that does not originate from Teutonic (German),Viking, Celtic and Druid paganism.   [7]   A celebration in the depths of winter – at the time when, to those living in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun appears to stop its southerly descent before gradually ascending north – is a natural instinct. For thousands of years our Northern Hemisphere ancestors greeted the “reason for the season” – the winter solstice – with festivals of light and gift exchanges and parties.  The Winter Solstice was noted and celebrated long before the Roman Jesus groupies pinched the party.

 But, isn’t “Jesus is the reason for the season”?

The reason for the season?  Cool story, bro.  Since you asked; actually, axial tilt is the reason for the season.  For all seasons.

 

 

And Woden is the reason the middle of the week is named Wednesday.  [8]   My calling Wednesday “Wednesday” doesn’t mean I celebrate, worship or “believe in” Woden.  I don’t insist on renaming either Christmas, or Wednesday.

 

“Now, go fetch me the sheisskopf who took the Woden out of Woden’s Day!”

 

The Winter Solstice is the day with the shortest amount of sunlight, and the longest night. In the northern hemisphere it falls on what we now mark as December 21 or 22.  However, it took place on December 25th at the time when the Julian calendar was used.   [9]   The early Romans celebrated the Saturnalia on the Solstice, holding days of feasting and gift exchanges in honor of their god Saturn. (Other major deities whose birthdays were celebrated on or about the week of December 25  [10]   included Horis, Huitzilopochtli, Isis, Mithras, Marduk, Osiris, Serapis and Sol.)  The Celebration of the Saturnalia was too popular with the Roman pagans for the new Christian church to outlaw it, so the new church renamed the day and reassigned meanings to the traditions.   [11]

In other words, why are some folk concerned with keeping “the Christ in Christmas”  [12]  when we should be keeping the Saturn in Saturnalia?

 

 

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Whatever your favorite seasonal celebrations may be, I wish you all the best.

May you have the occasion to (with good humor) ruin it for everyone else;
May you find it within yourself to ignore the Black Friday mindset;
May you remember to keep the Saturn in Saturnalia;
…and may the fruitcake-free hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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[1]  You have an Aunt Erva, somewhere.  We all do.

[2]  Damn right I’m proud of that one.

[3]  Well, compared to the usual shit I write.

[4] “Increase Mather, A Testimony against Several Prophane and Superstitious Customs, Now Practiced by Some in New England (London, 1687).  See also Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday,” New York: Vintage Books, 1997.

[5] Stephen Nissenbaum, “The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday.”

[6] “Paganism in Christianity.”

[7] “Learn not the way of the heathen…their customs are vain, for one cuts a tree out of the forest…they deck it with silver and gold…” Jeremiah 10:2-5

[8] Wednesday comes from the Old English Wōdnesdæg, the day of the Germanic god Wodan (aka Odin, highest god in Norse mythology and a big cheese god of the Anglo-Saxons until the seventh century.)

[9] The Julian calendar, adopted by Julius Caesar ~ 46 B.C.E., was off by 11 min/year, and when the Gregorian calendar was established by Pope – wait for it – Gregory,  the solstice was established on 12/22.

[10] The Winter Solstice and the Origins of Christmas, Lee Carter.

[11] In 601 A.D., Pope Gregory I issued a now famous edict to his missionaries regarding wooing potential converts: don’t banish peoples’ customs, incorporate them. If the locals venerate a tree, don’t cut it down; rather, consecrate the tree to JC and allow its continued worship.

[12] And nothing in the various conflicting biblical references to the birth of JC has the nativity occurring in wintertime.

The Future Vice President’s Campaign I’m Not Consulting On

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Department Of Yet Another Silver Lining

The Democratic convention’s pandemic-mindful/physical distancing states’ roll call (in its entirety, here ) – how delightful was that?   The usual political party convention roll call, with the delegates dressed basically the same (we can wear three colors – can you guess what they are?) and wearing those ridiculous straw boater hats, some of which look to be made of styrofoam….it’s beyond boring.

Well hellooooo, ladies.

 

Moiself  sez let’s do it this way from now on, pandemic or not. We got a brief glimpse into the states’ – and US territories’ – terrain as well as character,  [1]  with a few surprises, too.  Rhode Island calamari – that’s even a thing? Who knew?

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Department Of Which Is The More Accurate Adjective?

What the radio podcast host said:
” (name)…is a board-licensed professional counselor.”

What moiself  heard;
“(name) …is a bored, licensed professional counselor.”

 

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Department Of If Given My Druthers, I’d Like To
Leave The Civics Lesson To Someone Else

What, BTW, are druthers?  In the various idiomatic expressions which use the word, it does seem to be a positive thing. Do I have to wait to be given them, by someone else, or can I get or earn them on my own?   [2]

If it were in my power, I would give all of you your druthers. Wouldn’t it be great if druthers turned out to be something like this:

 

 

Once again, I digress.

Moiself  is thrilled with Joe Biden’s choice of a running mate.  During the Democratic debates, a California friend (MM) and I were exchanging ideas/compliments about the various candidates. In MM’s opinion Sen. Harris, besides being experienced and intelligent and a razor-sharp questioner during Senate hearings, was also not the kind to put up with crap or betrayal – “She’ll put a shiv in you,” MM wrote admiringly.  We both agreed that was a talent sorely needed when dealing with the petty viciousness and mendacity of the Republican congress.  [3]

One of the many, many other things I like about Senator and Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris is that I don’t know a thing about her religious/spiritual and/or worldview beliefs.  And I’d like to keep it that way.

Except of course, the Republicans will not stand for that. Even the (secretly) religion-free among them must grovel to the altar of right-wing Jayyy-suuuus  lovers.   #45 figured this out when he was laughing all the way to the bank (or golf course), passing church after church along the way, metaphorically thumbing his nose at them even as he was snickering about how easy it was to bamboozle the congregants.

 

 

The Republicans will look for every opportunity, during the election and debates,  [4]   to play their piety cards and jab Biden and Harris about their beliefs.  Biden has already fallen into that trap –of talking about his own faith rather than telling those who ask that it’s none of their business as the USA is not a theocracy, and let’s get back to the issues….

Thus, I humbly offer my advice to Ms. Harris – the advice she didn’t solicit from me   [5]  but which I hope she takes:

Don’t fall for Pence’s religious rhetoric claptrap, and make him sorry if he even asks. I know you’re capable of going all prosecutorial on his ass…even though that tactic, if you employed it, would make your advisors reach for the smelling salts as the white evangelicals would clutch their pearls and gasp in horror at The Angry Black Bitch Atheist (whether you are or are not the fourth, you’d definitely be pegged as the first three).  So, yes, I understand how you must go for discretion.

I also hope you don’t mumble platitudes about respecting everyone’s faith journey (although I understand there will be pressure to do so). When – not *if,* as religion will definitely be an issue – the subject of a paticular candidate’s religious beliefs are brought up, don’t ignore it.  Instead, candidly and assertively steer away from the subject, every time it happens, and every time reminding us of why you are doing so:

We are electing presidents and vice presidents here,
not popes and pastors and vicars and decans – or rabbis, imams or mullahs, Zen masters or Lamas, pujaris or gurus….

 

I know, this is important…I’ll ty to stay alert.

 

American citizens hold a diversity of religious opinions. The candidates elected will be the President and Vice President for all the people, including the growing percentage of atheists, agnostics, humanists, Freethinkers Brights – aka, to pollsters and scientists, as the “Nones,” as in, we Americans who are religion-free and/or claim no religious affiliation.

Polls and studies reveal that 23 to 26 % of the US population – approaching one out of every four people – claim “none” for their religion, despite facing open hostility and discrimination from religious believers (and incurring a political liability as well, if they run for office).  And scientists note that these 23-26% figures are conservative estimates.

“…psychologists…contend that there may be far more atheists than pollsters report because “social pressures favoring religiosity, coupled with stigma against religious disbelief…, might cause people who privately disbelieve in (god[s])  to nonetheless self-present as believers, even in anonymous questionnaires.”


To work around this problem of self-reported data, the psychologists employed what is called an unmatched count technique, which has been previously validated for estimating the size of other underreported cohorts…. (Using a) Bayesian probability estimation to compare their results with similar Gallup and Pew polls of 2,000 American adults each…they estimated, with 93 percent certainty, that somewhere between 17 and 35 percent of Americans are atheists, with a “most credible indirect estimate” of 26 percent.


(“The number of Americans with no religious affiliation is rising,”
Scientific American, 4-1-18 )

As a former prosecutor you, Senator Harris, are aware of the average person’s cognitive capacities, so I’ll trust you to condense those statistics into something debate-attention-span appropriate.

After doing so, please give a brief reminder – more like a civics lesson, considering how many Americans know next to nothing about the history of our country’s secular roots – that the USA was the first country to have a totally god-free constitution.  “God” – anyone’s god  – is not mentioned in the US Constitution (nor is Jesus, nor Christianity), not even once.  Religion is only mentioned twice, and then in exclusionary terms: in the First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”), and in Article VI, which declares that “…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

And do this – remind folks of the facts – Every. Time.

 

 

There will be some ignoramuses (most likely your debate opponent), even among otherwise seemingly articulate members of the press, who will confuse the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution, and will quote the former:

“But wait, what about the part where it says,
‘”We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights’….”

Here is, yet again, another opportunity for education. Remind the populace of the difference between the two: The Declaration of Independence (an “apology” and call to arms for the American revolution);  and the Constitution of the United States (the new nation’s governing document).

You may also want to be prepared for when some idiot sputters about how his dollar bills say, “In God We Trust”…which he probably doesn’t know was not added to our currency until 1957, during the Commie/Red Scare era:

 

 

…and then he may continue on as how the Pledge of Allegiance contains the phrase, “Under God”…except that until relatively recently, it didn’t:

The Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy… (who) had hoped that the pledge would be used by citizens in any country.  In its original form it read:
“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands,
one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
In 1923, the words, “the Flag of the United States of America” were added:
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America
and to the Republic for which it stands,
one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
In 1954, in response to the Communist threat of the times, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words “under God,” creating the 31-word pledge we say today.
Bellamy’s daughter objected to this alteration.
(“The Pledge of Allegiance,” Historic Documents, usdocuments.org)

You will likely also encounter shade from the historical yahoos who will crow about how the USA was formed as a “Christian nation.” Not only does Constitution make no such claims, we have the confirmation to the opposite, declared and signed by the very founding fathers of our country and the framers of the constitution, in the 1797 Treaty of Tripoly – which was sent to the Senate (by President John Adams).  The entire treaty was read aloud on the Senate floor (including the (in)famous words in Article 11; copies were printed for every Senator; the treaty was ratified by a unanimous vote of all 23 Senators. They knew what they were doing:

Treaty of Tripoli, article 11

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”   [6]

All this history should be enough.  Of course, it won’t be.

So, please, get the message across…in your own astute, succinct way.  Perhaps, a more prime time-palatable version of the following?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Fun With Nature’s Wacky Reproductive Scenarios


“Some sharks give live birth from two uteruses — and that’s not the weirdest part.”

Dateline: earlier this week, listening to a Curiosity Daily podcast. CD is one of my favorite podcasts.  As per their website:

The award-winning Curiosity Daily podcast will help you get smarter about the world around you — every day.
In less than 10 minutes, you’ll get a unique mix of research-based life hacks, the latest science and technology news, and more.

I’m not sure how much smarter CD has helped moiself  to get, but I’m certainly entertained, and armed with interesting trivia facts, by each episode.

A recent segment on sharks which have dual uteri caught my eye (ear?).  The takeaway: many shark species have multiple uteri and give birth to live baby sharks, which hatch from eggs in the uteri.  Before being expelled, the baby sharks which hatch first swim between the uteri, and eat the eggs of their un-hatched siblings, so they can grow faster. In one species, multiple free-swimming baby sharks hatch at the same time and fight to the death inside their shark mom’s uterus.

 

“Congrats, Mom, it’s a boy…I mean, a girl…uh, make that, a cannibal.”

 

For some petty reason, I enjoy the idea of anti-choicers – most of whom hold a conservative religious dogma which says that their god creates and directs all life (so guess who’s responsible for this preborn carnage?) –  cringing at these facts…even though sibling predation – “siblicide” –  is not unknown in other animals (e.g. the newly hatched chicks of some bird species will attack and eat their smaller siblings, or push them or any unhatched eggs out of the nest).

As with every CD episode, at the end of this one the two hosts recapped what they’d learned.  The male host, whose wife is pregnant, said that he’s been feeling his wife’s belly when the fetus kicks her, and now he’s thinking how “…that is really mild, compared to what sharks do.” He then declared, “I’m glad I didn’t marry a shark.”

 

“Oh, honey, can you feel them fighting to the death?”

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Presidential candidate Scissors was forced to withdraw from the race
after failing to find anyone who would run with him.

 

“Do you see what humor they have to put up with, in a so-called ‘free’ society?”

 

*   *   *

May you support politicians in remembering and upholding our country’s secular foundation/roots;
May you have yet another reason to detest that insipid “Baby Sharks” song;
May someone surprise you with the gift of druthers;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] But California should have had a surfer boy standing between those two women.

[2] I could Google this, I know, but sometimes, it’s just more fun to wonder.

[3] Then added that, as much as he admired President Obama, “that was a talent Obama lacked.”  (moiself  ageed).

[4] Are we even going to have debates, this year?

[5] Or, maybe she *did* and her email got caught in the spam folder.

[6] At the time of the Treat, Mediterranean Sea traffic was largely controlled by pirates from the North African Muslim states of the Barbary Coast.  Many European seafaring countries paid a tribute to the Barbary Sultans in exchange for safe passage through the Mediterranean. After the American Revolution, the US was no longer covered by British tribute treaties. The U.S. decided to form tribute treaties with the Barbary States, and given the history of The Crusades, assure the sultans that the US was not going to use the excuse of Christianity vs. Islam to go to war with them.

The Reality Show I’m Not Watching

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Department Of Peculiar State Mottos

 

 

I love my state, despite its having these three flaws:

(1) the 46th ugliest  [1]  state flag in the USA (it violates at least one of the Five Basic Principles of Flag Design, as per the North American Vexillological Association,  [2]

(2) as well as one of the more perplexing state mottos.

(3) There is no third flaw.

Who was the person who first decreed, “States must have slogans – oh, wait, let’s call them, ‘mottoes!’ ” ? Who convinced others in the government that, with all the to-dos which come with qualifying for statehood,  motto-composing is a good use of time?  That person is lost to history.

Moiself  (motto: “It’s my blog, so there.”) decrees that there are four states vying for Worst State Motto award.  Besides Oregon, they are:

* Connecticut (“He who transplanted sustains.”)

Oh, yeah. That goes without saying.

* New Mexico (“It grows as it goes.”)

Imagine what the NM motto committee was smoking when they thought up that one.

* Maryland (“Manly deeds, womanly words.”)

 

 

Oregon’s state motto is in Latin, because the same doofus who sent out the, “Every state must have a motto” memo also apparently added, “…and if you can’t think of anything profound or at least plausible to say, say it in Latin.”

Thus, Oregon’s motto: Alis volat propriis. Which translates as…

She flies with her own wings.

 

 

Many Oregonians do not know what our state’s motto is. And when they find out, their reaction is not what moiself  imagines was the goal of the motto committee:

WTF does that even MEAN ?!?!?

The general consensus of historians and People Who Try To Care About Such Things ® is that the motto is meant to convey a sense of Oregon’s “tradition of independence and innovation” (e.g., the nation’s first bottle bill, the public beach access bill).  [3]  So yeah; there’s that. But, couldn’t it have been phrased in a more accessible way (“Oregon: pick up your trash and get off our lawn beach.“)?

On the other hand, it could be seen as reassuring to residents of other states: if you meet an Oregonian and she looks like she’s about to takeoff, don’t worry – she has too much pride and self-reliance to steal *your * wings.  So sit back, relax, and enjoy the air show.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Best Song Couplets, V. 2

♫  The weeks went by and spring turned to summer and summer faded into fall/
And it turns out he was a missing person who nobody missed at all.  ♫

( from “Goodbye Earl,” the [band formerly known as the] Dixie Chick’s
ode to taking revenge on an abusive husband )

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Seriously, You Need A List For This?

On Monday, an ad with this headline appeared on my FB feed:

“Five Tips For Wearing Less Makeup.”

The ad’s headline accompanied a picture of an attractive Woman Of A Certain Age ®, which made me think the ad’s content could be along the lines of the standard advice that women who wear makeup should tone it down as they age…or perhaps the ad was related to the COVID shelter-in era, with people not wanting to deal with their usual routines?

I didn’t click on the ad, but instead of just scrolling by, I stared at the inane headline which had caught my eye, and repeated to moiself   the Five Tips For Wearing Less Makeup I would give, gratis, to anyone who asked:

1. Wear less makeup. 2. Wear less makeup. 3. Wear less makeup.
4. Wear less makeup.
5. Set your smartphone’s alarm reminder: Wear less makeup.

*   *   *

Department Of, Once Again, Reality Outdoes Fiction

You cannot make up a line this…rich.

Context:  MH and I, watching a Netflix show, Indian Matchmaking:

“Matchmaker Sima Taparia guides clients in the U.S. and India in the arranged marriage process, offering an inside look at the custom in a modern era.”

I thought at first the show was fiction, then, a documentary, then, after two episodes, I said to MH, “This is a reality show, right?”  (Translation: “We can’t watch it anymore. We don’t watch Those Kind of Shows. ® “)

The line in question came from an Indian-American woman, who spoke with snort-worthy distain about rejecting a man who wasn’t as travel-knowledgeable as she:

“He didn’t know that Bolivia had salt flats.”

 

 

 

That particular woman was one of the matchmaker’s clients featured in the two episodes we watched. She was in her mid-30s, a lawyer, very busy, a world traveler when not working.  Once she’d agreed to matchmaking services ( via evident pressure from her mother and sister ) she began noticing how her married female friends actually spent a significant amount of time with their husbands – an idea which seemed to disgust her. And she found excuse after excuse to object to any matches the matchmaker suggested.

Her predicament led to this tender exchange between me and my life match:

Moiself: “Why is she doing this?  She so obviously doesn’t want to be married.”

MH: “She doesn’t need a husband, she just needs a vibrator.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Convoluted Path Of Memories

Dateline: last Saturday.  I posted on Facebook a list my Swenadian   [4]  friend had sent me: five anecdotes with the theme of memorable, embarrassing misstatements. I actually remember reading (in a newspaper) about the fifth one:

What happens when you predict snow but don’t get any? We had a female news anchor, the day after it was supposed to have snowed and didn’t, who turned to the weatherman and asked,
“So, Bob, where’s that 8 inches you promised me last night?”

 

 

One of the main reasons I tell my stories or share the stories of others is because of what I call the 99% reaction motivation: ala the *I’ll-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours* approach to life, sharing a story almost always prompts others to share their similar stories. Whether it’s an anecdote of a major parental fail I pulled, or imparting someone else’s  *yes-she-really-said-to-the-handsome-golf-pro-that-she-liked-playing-with-men’s-balls* tale, I know that I will soon hear from a buddy about her worst mothering incident (which makes me feel better about mine), or a face-palming moment of their own which will make me laugh harder than the original story.

It’s what I live for.   [5]

Given the number of writers and reporters I know, I was certain that the last of the Five Embarrassing Misstatements stories would generate   [6]  a story in response.  What with newspaper editors asking for copy in terms of inches of print space (“I need six inches for the op-ed….”) I knew my journalism buddies would have similar stories. Sure enough, SDH, a comrade since our junior high school days, posted a doozy.

The next morning at breakfast, MH mentioned SDH’s story, which sent me on a memory flashback. I think about my high school journalism friends often – even posted about them six years ago. Since it’s summertime, I’ll indulge moiself  with a bit of a rerun:

(5-16-2014, excerpts from The Tattoo I’m Not Explaining )

I am currently reading Weedland by Peter HechtSubtitled Inside America’s Marijuana Epicenter and How Pot Went Legit, the book, as per one blurb, is “essential reading for anyone who is a fan of California’s most lucrative agricultural product.”  Which, I am not.  However, I am a fan of Peter Hecht.

I’ve known (and admired and adored) Pete since junior high school.  He was one of my buddies from a group of friends and acquaintances I still think of as the high school journalism gang.

The Write Stuff

Neither K nor Belle have ever brought home (nor even mentioned, sans my prompting) their high school’s newspaper. They both know I’d written for my school paper.   [7]  They know it was a “real” newspaper, with separate pages (and editors and reporters) devoted to news stories, editorial/opinion pieces, entertainment/feature and sports writing. They know that when The Generator, Santa Ana High School’s award-winning biweekly newspaper, was distributed in the school’s classrooms, the teachers and students stopped what they were doing and read it, cover to cover.  They know that students’ parents also read the high school newspaper, and that The Generator ran stories with enough substance to garner parental interest… and complaints.

(“I can’t believe what your reporter/ smart aleck columnist ____ wrote about! That’s no subject fit for a high school newspaper!”)   [8]

 

 

They know all of this because of the stories I’d told them.  And they could not bear to disappoint me when it came to their own school’s pitiful excuse for fishwrap newspaper.

Son K, ever the diplomat, laid it out for me after my third or fourth Why-don’t-you-ever-bring-your-school-newspaper-home? whine petition.

“Mom, our school’s newspaper sucks.
It’s embarrassing…nothing in it but rah-rah stories…
No one reads it and no one cares.”

Think back to your high school history, chemistry, English, or PE classes:  how many of those classmates went on to become historians or chemists or English teachers or pro athletes?  It still amazes me to think of how many of my peers who wrote for The Generator went on to pursue careers in journalism in one form or another. Along with Peter Hecht, there are:

* Scott Harris, former Los Angeles Times and San Jose Mercury reporter/columnist, Scott is currently one of “The Expat Files” contributors, living in/freelancing from Hanoi;

* Janis Carr, longtime Orange County Register sportswriter;

* Tim Ferguson, – Wall St. Journal reporter and current Forbes editor;

* Victor Cota, reporter for the Orange County Register 

* Phil Blauer, So-Cal area news anchor;

* Deborah Franklin, “my” editor,  [9]  whom I greatly admire for finding a way to combine her two loves, science and journalism.  Instead of (as the dubious voices advised) dumping one to concentrate on the other, Franklin became a science and medical reporter. Her works appear in a variety of venues, from VIA to NPR to Scientific American.

…and oodles of others I’m probably forgetting.  [10]

 

Three of those previously mentioned: Back row: the striped shirt and boyish-grin belong to Tim Ferguson; front row: L, Pete get-a-load-of-that-1974-hair Hecht; R Scott Harris, who was engaged in a campaign to get me to leave student government (“The BOC”) and join The Generator staff, which almost excuses his scribbled commentary;
second from R, Janis Carr.

 

Back to the breakfast table of the present: After MH told me about reading SDH’s story, I told him how delighted I was that SDH had shared it, then repeated two observations I’d made many a time: (1) I am amazed at how so many of my high school peers went on to have long careers in “actual” journalism, and, (2) of all the different sub-groups I was involved with in high school – the “gifted’ academic program; athletics; student government; the school newspaper – it is the journalism group I think of most frequently, and most fondly.

I got a good-natured, well-of-course-and-duh-you-are-all-writers reaction from MH the first time I told him that.  This time, his expression was open and interested, beyond mere tolerance mode to an actual, tell-me-more-of-what-you-mean way.

 

Yes, almost exactly like this.

 

And so, I did.

What was so great about that group was that, although they were all different, unique students, definitely not cut from the same “cloth,” politically or personally or socially or emotionally, they were all really…. *smart.*

They were intelligent, if not necessarily in the academically-gifted-program way (most of them were not enrolled in our school’s ‘s gifted program)…but it was more than that.  They were informed and inquisitive; they were both interesting, and interested – attentive to people and events and ideas outside of themselves…which was a refreshing change from the ubiquitous high school, *it’s-all-about-me* mentality.  Even those who “just” reported on sports (sorry, guys) were also conversant on politics and culture – they had a wide variety of interests, beyond their personal (and later, professional) specializations.

And they were, almost without exception, *wicked* funny.

 

 

Trading barbs, making wittily snarky observations of our fellow students – you had to have a thick hide to survive that group, and be able to take it as well as dish it out.  We were fast on the draw, quick to mine any seemingly innocent comment for innuendo potential.  Speaking of which, how convenient of moiself  to provide a segue to this apropos example:  One afternoon during my senior year, I was in our newspaper’s office, shooting the breeze with one of our newspaper’s reporter’s as he had a late lunch. He told me that someone had asked him for a clarification for the usage of the word, * innuendo,* then spat out part of his sandwich when I told him that “innuendo” was Italian for “anal sex.”

*   *   *

Department Of, It’s Her, Again? But She Won Last Month….

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

When you get a bladder infection you know urine trouble.

 

 

*   *   *

May you visit Oregon, but remember to bring your own wings;
May you have fond memories of at least one of your high school “groups;”
May you never reject a potential romantic partner because they
don’t know obscure geographic facts about Bolivia;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] Beating it in ugliness are the state flags of Hawaii (A union jack? Seriously? With all the gorgeous Hawaiian colors to choose from, you steal from the Brits?) and the flags of Georgia and Mississippi, which incorporate part of the Confederate flag, tackily celebrating one of the ugliest chapters in American History.

[2] Vexillology is the study of flag history and symbolism.   Yes, Virginia, there’s an organization for everything.

[3] Oregon was the first state to enact a container-deposit bill (1971);  Oregon’s landmark beach bill  (1967) declares that all “wet sand” within sixteen vertical feet of the low tide line belongs to the state of Oregon, and recognizes public easements of all beach areas up to the line of vegetation, regardless of underlying property rights, so that the public has “free and uninterrupted use of the beaches,” and property owners are required to seek state permits for building and other uses of the ocean shore.   Wikipedia, Oregon Beach Bill

[4] A Canadian married to a Swede.

[5] Well, that and Grey’s Anatomy reruns. And world peace.

[6] Only a select few of my readers will get that reference: My high school’s student newspaper, where I met most of these fine folk,s was named The Generator.

[7] Primarily Parnal Knowledge, my regular op-ed column, plus miscellaneous reporting, ranging from “hard” news to satire to cultural reviews to sports.

[8] The Generator’s faculty advisor (English teacher Ted Clucas), was never happier than when he’d received a parental complaint.  “It proves they’re paying attention – you made somebody think about something!”

[9] Franklin, The Generator’s Editor-in Chief my senior year, displayed support and discretion above and beyond the call of journalistic duty by allowing me free (mostly) range in writing my op-ed column, Parnal Knowledge.

[10] I have not updated this list; some of the members have retired/moved on. One of the “oodles” I forgot to mention was the venerable Peter Schmuck (all together now: yep, that’s his real name), who recently retired from over 30 years of sports reporting for The Baltimore Sun.

The Extra I’m Not Waiting Until Next Week To Post

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Department Of This Is Too Good To Be True

Dateline: today; a few minutes ago. Moiself  was exercising on my elliptical-thingy, listening to a podcast, when I heard the phrase that was music to my ears:

“…leading climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe…”

The Ramone’s favorite climatologist!

Everything is going to be all right.

Happy Friday, y’all.

 

 

 

 

The Excuses I’m Not Excusing

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Department of War Is Hell
(And Also Entertaining, In A Masterpiece Theatre Production)

MH and I watched season 1 of World on Fire, “an adrenalized, emotionally gripping and resonant World War II drama that follows the intertwining fates of ordinary people in five countries as they grapple with the effects of the war on their everyday lives.” Which is * exactly * how I was going to describe it to y’all, until  Masterpiece Theatre’s website did it first and saved me the trouble of using terms like resonant.

The seven part series, which follows the first year of (the European experience of) WWII, left us looking forward to the second season (not yet available, but in the works).  Moiself  of course wants to see how the *intertwining fates of ordinary people*  plays out; also, I’m curious to see if something moiself  noticed, about the presentation of the series’ male and female characters’ personalities, continues into season two.  

With the exception of an endearingly awkward, ethically decent RAF pilot and a shell-shocked WWI vet-turned-pacifist-activist, the male characters seemed rather and  variously “weak” when it came to overall content of character, from their decision-making, treatment of others, and ability to act on – and modify, as circumstances dictated – their principles.  In contrast, the majority of the female characters, no matter their economic, personal, and cultural backgrounds, displayed a certain ethical, temperamental and intellectual strength, despite the chaos and amorality of the war around them.  I wanted to ask the writers and producers, was this gender character discrepancy intentional?

I’m thinking, yes…or at least, maybe…and that it is,at least in part meant to ironically highlight the strength of the women of that time and in those countries, wherein they were viewed as the “weaker” sex.  In so many, many ways (ways that still are in place, around the world), women, indeed, were “weaker” than their male counterparts:

* Women were “weaker” in that being born female automatically assigned them to a lower status in their country, their religion, their own family;

* Women were “weaker” in that they had fewer (if any, in some cases) civil rights or personal, professional, educational opportunities as compared to men, yet they were subject to life-altering decisions imposed upon them by (male) politicians, religious and cultural leaders, as well as that of their own and husbands, fathers, and male kin;

* Women were “weaker” in that their opportunities for self-determination were limited, and if somehow they were able to take direct action they had to do so at the sacrifice of what was considered a normal life and risk incurring societal shaming and ostracizing;

* Women were “weaker” in that the personal life choices both men and woman made had very different consequences for women than for men (e.g. extramarital sex; bearing vs. fathering a child out of wedlock).

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Talking Back To Someone Who Can’t Hear Me

Dateline: last week, circa 7:45 am on a rainy morning.  Moiself  is listening to a Fresh Air podcast during my morning walk. I’m at the end of the podcast, a slot typically reserved for a book, film or other artistic review.  As book critic Maureen Corrigan begins her segment on “Need A Mental Escape? These Books Offer Solace In Troubled Times,” my mind begins to drift. I’m snapped back to the present when I hear Corrigan, speaking about who she thinks of when she thinks about her favorite food writers, say that she always thinks of:

“…the immortal Laurie Colwin, who died in 1992.

With only the raindrops splashing up from the street to hear me, I blurt out:

“Well then, she wasn’t exactly immortal, was she?”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sometimes I Don’t Even Ask, “What?” (Or, “Why?”)

Sight of the week, spotted at the entrance to our cul-de-sac, while moiself is driving to the grocery store: An Older Gentleman (late 70s, I’d guess), is standing on our street corner, talking to a neighbor (they are a bit closer to each other than social distancing norms would recommend, and neither is wearing a mask).

 

 

As I round approach and then round the corner I see that the OG is holding a…gas dispenser nozzle?  Yep, that’s what it is…in each hand.  OG (consciously or otherwise) uses the nozzles to gesture as he speaks.  Neither nozzle is attached to a hose, or anything else –  they are just nozzles, no gas tank or gas station in sight.

 

“For the last time, Regular or premium, and do you want your receipt?!”

*   *   *

 

Department Of Excuses In The Coronavirus Age

My late mother  [1]  was born and raised in the small northern Minnesota town of Cass Lake.  A reserved, studious, compliant child, she was never what I would (nor she did) describe as introspective or particularly perceptive. Still, every now and then she’d share with me an anecdote from her childhood which demonstrated, even when it was not the point of the story, that she was paying attention to the world of grown-ups around her, and not always liking or respecting what she saw.

Mom was in her early teens during the WWII era. One time when I asked her to recount some of her wartime memories, the first thing she told me was how she’d noticed that so many of the townsfolk, from merchants to private citizens, used The War ® as an all-purpose excuse or evasion for their mistakes, oversights, and outright incompetencies.

Cass Lake was far off the national defense radar; the town was not a hub or conduit for anything of vital importance  [2]  for The War Effort. ®   Of course, there was rationing of certain goods (e.g., gasoline, butter, sugar, canned milk) and shortages of others (e.g., automobile tires; shoe soles, and other rubber items), like in all towns across the country. Everyone knew this and adjusted their habits and expectations accordingly.  But when your mother asked you to stop on your way home from school at the five and dime store and get a spool of (non-rationed) black thread and the shopkeeper told you he was out of black thread but would put in an order and he’d have it next Tuesday…then when you went to the store on Tuesday and there was still no black thread and you timidly inquired as to when your mother could expect it to be in, the shopkeeper would glare at you and dismissively whine,

“Don’t your folks know there’s a war on?”

 

 

War on- schmoron.  You found out later (from a classmate who had an after-school job in the store’s stockroom) that the shopkeeper had written up his re-supply invoices just before closing time, that very day of your first visit – after he’d taken a late lunch (read: three whiskeys) at the tavern. He’d simply forgotten to include your order, as well as the orders of several other customers, who also found out on Tuesday that the ______ (shoelaces/spatula/salt mill/cornhusker’s lotion) they’d requested were not in because,

“There’s a war on.”

The town’s lone barber station was closed for four hours one Friday afternoon, during your father’s regularly scheduled 2 pm appointment.  It was a sunny day; business was slow, and the barber wanted to go fishing during lunch and stayed at the pond later than he’d planned.  The next day, when your father complained to the barber about leaving work and showing up for his appointment only to find that there was no one there to trim his hair, guess what he heard:

“Don’t you know there’s a war on?”

The one movie theater in town oversold their Saturday matinee.  You and your friend bought tickets to the show but could find not one empty seat in the theater, and when you returned your tickets and asked for your money back, or at least tickets to a later showing:

“Don’t you girls know there’s a war on?”

Y’all get the picture.

 

 

Nowadays, we (allegedly) peacetime Consumers ® get the you-know-what excuses, most frequently encountered when we are put on hold during telephone calls (and we’re making more calls then we used to, what with  sheltering-at-home and not taking our concerns directly to the businesses and organizations) to customer service lines.

First, there are the two customary/introductory lies which accompany our journey to the call waiting queue:

* “We’re experiencing a higher volume of calls than usual…”
(WTF, customer service voice dude!?  This is your default/standard message, no matter what day/time of day I call – which means that since you are *always* experiencing a “higher” volume of calls, by definition you are experiencing just a normal volume of calls…which you can’t admit and so you feed me this bullshit line, trying to get me to imagine 500 people calling at the same time as moiself instead of admitting you don’t have the staff to handle a normal amount of customer calls.)

* “We thank you for your patience.”
(Ahem. I do *not* thank you for your presumption.  We’ve never met; you haven’t even spoken with me, yet you are thanking me for my temperament, when I am not in fact experiencing anything resembling patience.)

Now we move on the Situation Specific Mendacity:

* “Due to the coronavirus, we are ______________

* “…taking extra precautions with your newspaper production and delivery…”

* “…dealing with customers who have extra concerns about our services, and we are doing our utmost to ensure that…”

 

 

Attention, companies:  unless you are a health care business, you can’t use the virus as an excuse for putting us in the same holding pattern you’ve been using FOR YEARS.

No, no, and no – the coronavirus has nothing to do with ourcellphone family plan you altered with neither my request nor permission…. And people are not calling your newspaper’s customer service subscription info line to ask about COVID-19 symptoms…nor are they waiting to speak with a Target customer returns representative about how best to administer the Presidentially-recommended COVID-killing bleach enema….  The timeliness and accuracy, or lack thereof, of your responses to our concerns have to nothing to do with COVID-19, and your call centers/customer service department employees are perfectly capable of lying to us/not listening to our complaints working from home, so don’t be using this as yet another excuse for your ineptitude.

*   *   *

Department of The Corona Virus Playlist
The Weird Al Yankovic Edition

Moiself  has listed some of Weird Al’s song titles which are IMHO, applicable to our social-isolating, transmission–paranoid, COVID-19 times, and which, in small groupings, imply a related story. If I were making a movie of these times, Weird Al might just be the person I’d tap to do the soundtrack.

Germs
Cable Tv
I Can’t Watch This
Callin’ In Sick
The Saga Begins

Stuck In A Closet With Vanna White
Amish Paradise
Laundry Day
I’m So Sick Of You
I Was Only Kidding

Livin’ In The Fridge
Free Delivery
Girls Just Want To Have Lunch
Fast Food

I Love Rocky Road
Rice, Rice Baby
Snack All Night
Fat
Fatter
You Don’t Love Me Anymore
Won’t Eat Prunes Again

Everything You Know Is Wrong
Dare To Be Stupid
I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead
Mr. Frump In The Iron Lung

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher who lost her job
because she couldn’t control her pupils?

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion Evolution  [3]

 

And here’s what I made for ours, one day this week.

Featuring this week’s Theme Day and recipe…Never mind.
It was my and MH’s wedding anniversary. We got takeout veggie burgers and tots.  [4]

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [5]

*   *   *

May you enjoy the petty pleasure of talking back to those who can’t hear you;
May you not accept “coronavirus” excuses for non-coronavirus issues;
May you remember to be mellow when you’re dead;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Late as in deceased, not as in chronically tardy.

[2] Except of course for the young men (and women) who joined the Armed Forces – thank you for your service (oh…yeah…they’re all dead now…it’s just a reflex, ya know?).

[3] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 1 of April 2020, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go themes as listed in the 4-3-20 blog.

[4] Cajun spiced, okay?

[5]

* Abject Failure:  I’ll make a canned wieners & SpaghettiOs gelatin mold before I make this recipe again.

* Tolerable:  if you have the proper…attitude.

* Yep: why, sure, I’d share this with my cat.

* Now you’re talkin’: Abby the support Avocado ® approves.

* Yummers: So good, it merits The Purple Tortilla Chip Of Exclamation ® !

 

The Post I’m Not Posting

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If it’s good enough for The Go-Gos, it’s good enough for moiself.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  See you next week, and  Au Vendredi!

 

 

Sure, the Go-Go-s can fake water-ski, but can they do this?

The 4th Of July Parade I’m Not Recovering From

2 Comments

Best Compliment Ever
Aka, My Work Here Is Done

“You’re my spirit animal!”
(Absolutely adorable/soon to be handsome 13 year old boy, to moiself,
after Manzanita’s July 4 July parade)  [1]

I think it was the Dali Lama – or was it Dolly Parton?  [2]  – who advised, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  Thus, the impetus for my participation in Manzanita’s July 4 Parade.

Manzanita’s annual parade is small town enough that individuals can just show up at the parade assembly grounds and participate. I’m a smartass cynic when it comes to such events, and this year I decided to force myself to join in. Okay, but…how?

When notorious parade loather moiself thought of parades in general and July 4th parades in particular, I decided I wanted to see something else among the usual procession of star-spangled, flag-waving

* kids on tricycles

*adults on bicycles

* politicians in convertibles

* golden retrievers on leashes

* T-Rex-costumed teens on roller stakes

* Civil War re-enactors on foot

*muscle car drivers on methamphetamines….

Not that there’s anything wrong with all the red white and blue on July 4….but it’s been done, you know? I knew there were people who would do the flag-waving thing far better than moiself; I also knew it was likely that no one would be willing to take on the role of Goodwill Ambassador to the Planet ® in the form of Orange Hat Women With Spatulas.

My outfit and participation had the effect I’d intended: smiles, laughter and shout-outs all around. I mean, really – who doesn’t appreciate a spatula?  It’s a humble kitchen utensil which unites everyone on the political spectrum (as I explained to some parade watchers who wanted to know, why spatulas?). 

Some folks looked bewildered at first, until they figured out what I was (the signboard I wore was easier for some parade watchers to read from behind; i.e., just after I’d passed them). You never heard so many calls of “Spatulas!  Yay!” in your life.  [3]   There was nothing to “get” – no greater, existential meaning. Just truth in advertising, so to speak.

One of my favorite reactions came from two elderly women – sisters, I like to think – who were sitting side by side in beach chairs on the sidewalk in front of the Manzanita Post Office.  As I passed by, one of them read my sign aloud, and her sister responded (both women’s piercing vocal volume indicated they were probably hard of hearing):

Sister #1:
” ‘ Orange Hat Woman With…uh…Spatulas?’  What does it mean?”

Sister #2 (slapping sister #1, then pointing toward moiself, who was wearing an orange hat with spatulas dangling from the hat rim, and waving two spatulas in each hand):
“What do you THINK it means ?!”

 

 

You made my day!
Spatulas, yee haw – I Love Spatulas, too!
You should win best costume!
You’re my favorite parade entry of all time!
Spatulas rock!
God Bless America, and spatulas!
(a sampling of the comments Orange Hat Woman With Spatula ® received, 7-4-19)

It is truly difficult to convey how enjoyable it was to be on the receiving (and producing) end of so much good will.

And so, I did it:  I’ve marched in a parade, and I don’t ever have to do it again.  Except that my neighbor and a few other folks afterwards urged me to consider an encore performance next year, with “more” of what they assumed was my theme…

You can add to your banner – tape a sign at the bottom which says, ‘AND WHISKS’ and then sew some whisks onto your hat, or hold some whisks along with the spatulas….OH OH OH – and then the year after that, you can add slotted spoons! And then….

*   *   *

Department Of A Good Story That Gets Even Better

Dateline: Wednesday a.m. Over breakfast, MH reads aloud a headline from the NY Times sports section (print edition):

“Olympic Swimmer Rescues Drowning Man”

“In record time,” moiself adds.

MH chuckles and continues to read. It appears that the swimmer came to the aid of a man on his honeymoon…

who had fallen off an inflatable swan.”

Say no more, I insisted. It just can’t get any better.

 

No man – don’t risk it!

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [4]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

David’s Vegan Home Cooking, by David A. Gabbe

Recipes:

* Miso Tahini Salad Dressing
* Millet Cornbread Muffins
*”Creamy” Cauliflower Soup

My ratings:

* Miso Tahini Salad Dressing

* Millet Cornbread Muffins

*”Creamy” Cauliflower Soup

 

Recipe Rating Refresher  [5]

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

           Department Of Testing The Goodwill Of Strangers

Dateline Monday, July 8, circa 5:30 pm. Moiself is parked in a grocery store parking lot, sitting in my car’s driver’s seat, texting to MH and son K re our dinner options (ants have invaded our kitchen counters; no one’s in a cooking mood). I am just about to exit the vehicle when I am startled by an Out Of Nowhere ® rap on my car’s door.

I open the door, exit the car, and behold a Very Large And Friendly-If-Sheepish Looking Man holding a cell phone and gesturing toward my car’s rear bumper.

I was just talking a picture of one of your bumper stickers, VLAFISLM says, and thought I should let you know.

I reply that I don’t mind, and that he’s not the first person to do that – in fact, from what I’ve seen, it’s a frequent occurrence, in parking lots.

Oh, then can I take a picture of the others, too?

I laugh and tell him he can take as many pictures as he wants, as long as he doesn’t slash my tires.   [6]

Oh Yeah, ha ha thanks!  I just wanted you to know – I mean, I didn’t want you to, like, look in your mirror and think that there was some crazy guy taking pictures of your car.

But that’s actually what’s happening, isn’t it? I say, as I head toward the store’s entrance.

 

He told me his favorite was the one in the upper right corner (hard to make out in this picture), which reads:
National Sarcasm Society
like we need your support

*   *   *

May you be patient with the Crazy Guy In The Parking Lot ® ;
May you consider that whatever romantic or aphrodisiac properties may be obtained by riding an inflatable swan just might not be worth the inherent risk;
May you one day experience the indescribably joy of being a non sequitur parade participant;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] He then asked if he could take his picture with me, and I gave him a spatula.

[2]  It was a dolly/dali of some sort.

[3] Or, most likely, it was the first (and possibly last) time you’d hear such a call.

[4] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[5] * Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin (a character from The Office who would eat anything) would like this.  

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

[6] Several of the stickers poke fun at religion and certain political views…you never know who has a sense of humor about what, although I’ve yet to receive an in-person negative reaction.

The Next Year I’m Not Waiting For

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Belated Happy 4th of July/Independence Day wishes to y’all.

As I  threatened promised last year, I walked in Manzanita’s July 4th parade yesterday.  Here’s what I wrote about the parade in last year‘s log post:

Department Of Saved By The Spirit Of America

I am a notorious parade-loather. I find parades, at both the conceptual and practical levels, to be…absurd, at best. Thus, unless a parade’s entrants and/or organizers acknowledge the inanity of it all  [1]  and try to be deliberately silly – anyone seen Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade?   [2]  – you can count me out, as either a spectator or participant.

However….

The Oregon beach town of my dreams and my heart, Manzanita, has a yearly July 4th parade, which, I have been told, is just so low tech and small-town cutesy that even a parade-hater such as moiself would find it adorable (or at least tolerable).  So, I had an idea for my participation in this year’s parade. I had a banner made, and began gathering the beginnings of my parade “uniform,” much to the consternation of MH, who wondered aloud if he would attend the parade (or need to leave town afterward), should I be a participant, wearing and doing…whatever it was I would wear and do.

Moiself got herself to the Manzanita City hall website where, I was told, parade entry info would be posted the first week in June. And it was, and…

Damn you, Foul Crushers of Aspirations!

Manzanita’s parade apparently has a theme, which varies from year to year. This year’s theme is, The Spirit of America. My planned getup could be – very, very, verrrrrrrrry loosely – attributed to a certain, uh, independence of spirit, but it definitely ain’t yer red white and blue/flag-waving, lovin’ that good ole country of mine. What I have in mind holds no disparagement toward my country nor toward the concept of patriotism, but it would be a non sequitur, given the theme, as per this description from the parade’s participant registration form (which has a picture of a very serious-looking bald eagle, ready to pluck the eyes out of anyone who would mock its usage as a symbol of American Greatness ® ) :

Decorations required: All entries including autos must be decorated in a patriotic theme and/or in the theme of the parade. The theme is “The Spirit of America”.

I tried to clarify the parade registration form information. The city clerk told me she thought that the requirement to dress as per the theme might be only for entrants “who want to be judged.”

“Trust me,” I replied, “I’m judged all the time, whether or not I’m an official entrant of anything.”

Later that day, when I returned home (to Hillsboro), I reassured MH that he’d been saved by the (Liberty) bell, so to speak. My parade accoutrements will remain in my closet, in a bag protected by a sentiment dear to the heart of every perennial loser underdog sports team’s fans:

Flash forward, 2019: I confirmed with City Hall that parade entrants need not dress as per the parade’s theme unless they are “official” entrants – non-officials may simply show up at the parade’s starting area and be assigned a marching spot. Which I did.

As my blog deadline is actually the night before publication (when friends and I were doing our 4th of July celebrating), I shall have a brief recount plus Photographic Evidence ® of my public shame parade participation in next week’s blog.

*   *   *

Department Of Secret Identities Revealed

As per last week’s review of the first of the Democratic candidates’ debates:

…there was just one candidate (whom I shall not name) who disappointed me: it was the guy who, although an experienced and seasoned politician, when the camera was first turned on him looked as if he were trying to remain calm despite knowing that a weasel was crawling up his pant leg.

It was Rep. Tim Ryan.  Doubt me? Watch the debate again, and look at Ryan’s face, the first time a question is posed to him – this was long before he got schooled on Taliban v. Al-Qaeda by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

She let the damn weasels in; I just know it.

*   *   *

Department Of Pathetic Justifications
Aka, That’s My Story And I’m Sticking To It

“Welcome to Walmart!”

No one greeted me thusly. Nevertheless, I kept my sunglasses on when I entered in the store, as if I were afraid of being recognized:

“That’s her – the woman who swore she’d never set foot inside a Walmart!”

Indeed, it was my first time, ever, in a Walmart. I’ve boycotted them because of their history of sexism and discriminatory employment practices, and decimating small town retail businesses … But no other local business had what I needed.  I knew I could order it online, but if Walmart had it, at least that would keep a bit of the money locally (I was on the Oregon coast) vs. putting more dollars in Amazon’s pocket.… Yeah, that’s the ticket.

*   *   *

Department Of Apparently This Also Happens In Other Artistic Professions

“Would you please donate _______ (your mentoring time; your expertise; a photo shoot, pottery lessons, original oil painting; five copies of your book)  to our worthy cause?  We can’t pay you, but you’ll get plenty of exposure….”
(Requests heard and loathed by every artist/artisan, ever)

I saw a posting on Facebook from a photographer who, fed up with people asking for free photo shoots, decided to turn the tables, so to speak, by composing his own ad seeking free services from professionals. Like others working in a “creative” field, I am all-too familiar with the situation he lampooned, to the point that, many years ago, I had composed (but never sent to anyone, or posted) my own “employment ad.” Inspired by the FB post, I searched my files and dug up my fantasy employment ad. With all attribution/apologies to the photographer:

Writer Seeks Professionals Willing To Do Their Jobs For Free

I am a writer. All kinds of people ask me for my products and services, for free. They request that I:

* provide them or their group free copies of my books

* travel to their school or community group to speak about writing, and/or /give writing workshops, sans remuneration

* edit their or their children’s resumes, job applications, term papers….

I therefore assume that all kinds of people must also do their jobs and offer their services without expecting payment.

I need all kinds of people to provide all kinds of services for me.  Doctors; dentists, yard maintenance; grocery shopping and deliver; massage; auto repair; computer chip design; tax preparation; restaurant chefs and waitstaff; plumbers; college professors to educate my children – I will gladly and gratefully accept these and other services as long as I don’t have to pay for them.

What’s in it for you, you may ask?  Why, you’ll gain even more experience in your chosen field, and although you can’t take gratitude to the bank, you can bank on my gratitude: I’ll tell everyone I know how appreciative I am and what wonderful work you do. That’s, like, free publicity! This will likely bring you innumerable offers for unpaid work but also plenty of goodwill, and who can put a price on exposure?

So, if you have a job or service you provide, and will do it for free, let me know and I’ll gladly hire you!

 

(Don’t read The Oatmeal? You should.)

*   *   *

 

Department Of Honey, You *So* Did Not Have To Do That To Make Me Feel Better

MH texted me with the picture he took for his passport renewal, with the message:

“Here’s the guy that will accompany you on international trips.”

Moiself‘s response:

“We are so going to get pulled out of line for additional screening.”

This is highly unusual. Moiself is the one who takes the atrocious pictures, from family snapshots to passport, Costco, and other ID cards.  You know how at the DMV, when you go to the line for your driver’s license picture they hurry you through and you get one shot only because there are six people in line behind you? The last time I had my license renewed the DMV employee who took my picture looked at her camera screen, frowned, and called her supervisor over. The supervisor looked at the screen, then at me, back at the screen again, then said to me, “Oh, you really don’t want this one.” And they redid my photo. TWICE.

But, really, this passport photo of MH’s is…uh….oh, dear.  [3]

MH’s tresses are shoulder length, and he has a beard – both are dark and were apparently having a Bad Hair Day ® when the picture was taken.  He’s a friendly-looking guy, but they don’t want you to smile in a passport photo, and you can tell he wants to…but the overall effect…  Well, he looks like he’s about to scream, “Death to America!”

Also, I think the choice to wear a bistro napkin on his head was a poor one.

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [4]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking by Julie Sahni.

Recipes: Muttakos Sambaar (Hearty Blue Mountain Cabbage and Tomato Stew), and
Pachadi Vallerika  (Zucchini and Yogurt Salad)

My rating: for the Muttakos Sambaar:

for the Pachadi Vallerika

 

 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [5]     

*   *   *

May your most hideous ID photo not cause you to get additional screening;
May you think twice, and twice again, before asking someone to “donate” their services;
May you never run for political office if you can’t control your weasel face;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] A bunch of people sitting on street curbs, watching another bunch of people walk past them, or watching cars drive by slowly and horses poop while they are walking and then other people following behind scooping the poop.

[2] How could I not love a parade which introduced the world to the following Drill Teams:

* Synchronized Precision Marching Briefcase Drill Team
* Lawn Mower Drill Team
* The BBQ & Hibachi Marching Grill Team
* The Shopping Cart Drill Team
* The Men of Leisure Synchronized Nap Team
* Claude Rains & the 20-Man Memorial Invisible Man Marching Drill Team
* The Committee for the Right to Bear Arms, which marches while carrying mannequin arms.

[3] On the bright side, seeing it made me realize it is way past time for me to get my own shaggy hair trimmed.

[4] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[5]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin ( a character on The Office who would eat anything) would like this.  

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

The Label I’m Not Understanding

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Department Of Grief And Relief

I’m thinking about my friends, JWW and MW.  MW’s mother, Molly (a lovely Irish name for a lovely Irish-American lady) died last Monday, after a long physical and mental decline.  Molly was never officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but had significant memory and cognitive problems over the past decade. After her husband died she lived with MW’s sister for several years,  then came to stay with MW and JWW.

 

 

Molly was a sweet woman, and maintained her gentle and loving disposition (she was a favorite at the Memory Care center MW & JWW eventually found for her, in a nearby town), and did not seem to descend into the fear and anger that can affect people with memory problems. It was sweet, watching MW and JWW interact with Molly, showing her unqualified patience and love. But as is often the case with an elderly parent who can no longer live independently, love cannot conquer all. MW & JWW realized they could not provide Molly with the safe, 24/7 care she needed, which was made evident to them in many ways over many months, particularly on the day when JWW came downstairs to discover that Molly had removed her favorite polyester shirt from the dryer, put it on, and realized it was still damp. It seemed perfectly reasonable to Molly to finish drying her shirt – while she was wearing it – by holding her arms over an open flame on the stove…which is how JWW found her (fortunately, before Molly set herself on fire).

Now, MW & JWW find themselves in that odd life stage, as I was with the death of my own mother: between grief and relief.  Such a strange feeling, also – to find yourself feeling both sad and somewhat amused by the fact that you feel like an orphan in your 60s.  All the orphans of classic literature were way younger, right?

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Tricky Questions, Trickier Answers

Developmentally delayed.

Dateline: earlier this week, doing an am workout in our family room, listening to a podcast story.  The afore-mentioned description – developmentally delayed  –  was used in the podcast to describe the podcast story narrator’s brother, who had a broad list of cognitive and emotional impediments.  MH entered the room just in time to hear the term DD. He paused for a moment, then posed a question (to the universe, as much as to moiself), “What does that mean?”

He was not exactly being rhetorical.  I knew that he knew what DD meant…then began to think beyond what I thought I knew…and, really, what does it mean?

I told him a few of the emotional and cognitive defects (of the narrator’s brother) which had been mentioned in the podcast ,and offered my opinion that the DD label, in the particular case of that podcast and in what has become its common usage, is it meant to replace an older term which has now entered the retirement home of words-not-to-be-used-due-to-derogatory-potential: “mentally retarded.”

 

 

The concept and label of mental retardation was widely used, by both laypersons and medical professionals, up until relatively recently.   [1]

In the 1950s the word retarded was progressive, an improvement over feebleminded, imbecile, moron. It shares a root with ritardando, a musical term meaning a gradual decrease in tempo. Think: the musicians’ fingers letting the moments stretch between their notes.
To retard, to slow down. As in: Your baby’s growth is retarded.
But retarded soon came to mean dumb or incompetent. As in: I just lost my phone. I’m so retarded.
(from “The R-Word,” by Heather Kirn Lanier, The Sun )

 

MH and I began to wonder aloud with one another (one of our more frequent conversational formats) about the fact that although the term developmentally delayed may be less open to derogatory usage by laypersons, it isn’t very helpful in the way that all terminology is supposed to be: by being specific or descriptive.

Close-to-the-heart example: My friend FP is blind. FP once told me about her scornful objection to the term visually impaired.  In FP’s experience, some Well-Meaning People ®  think the word blind is somehow insulting. One WMP actually corrected FP when FP described herself as blind: “Oh, you mean you’re ‘visually impaired?’ “

 

“Hell no, I mean, I’m BLIND.”

 

To FP, “blind” is merely, vitally factual:  I’m not simply “impaired,” I’m blind, and that is important for people to know. It’s not that I just see things dimly or unclearly – I don’t see them at all, so when I ask for directions to the bathroom and you tell me it’s ten steps ahead but don’t tell me that there is an ottoman in the way I will trip over it and break my #*%!? nose.

Delay, in its various noun/verb/adverb/adjective forms, involves actions or objects that are postponed and hindered. But delay also carries with it the possibility of catching up.  In describing people as having developmental delays, the term is so broad/vague as to provide little functional information: I have heard it applied to a 4th grader with mild dyslexia as well as to a young adult born with such severe brain deficits he has never been able to communicate, much less toilet, feed and care for himself and thus has required 24 hour professional/institutional care since his toddlerhood.

The scope of conditions categorized under the label intellectual disabilities is broad, and with early intervention the outcomes for many developmentally delayed children (who is the past may have been labeled mentally retarded) is much brighter than in decades ago. But it’s not as if, say, the boy with Down Syndrome is merely delayed academically when compared with his older sister, who is taking calculus as a junior in high school.  It’s not as if, Sure, he’s behind now, but he’ll catch up one day and do higher mathematics – it’ll just take him a few years longer.

What would be an alternative, more accurate label: developmentally compromised ?  It doesn’t seem like there could be any term that would be acceptable to all, or even most people   [2] …and maybe that’s the point.  Here’s a realization worthy of a Hallmark Channel movie: treat everyone as individuals; no one label can tell you all of the strengths or disabilities (excuse me, challenges?   [3] ) facing a particular person.

Still…today’s “She has a developmental delay” isn’t ultimately more informative than yesterday’s, “He has a mental retardation.”

And of course, Things Being What They Are ® , MH and moiself both felt somewhat… awkward…even discussing the issue, just the two of us, no language cops in sight.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Headline That Is So Evocative Why Bother
Reading The Newspaper Article – Just Use Your Imagination
Because Whatever You Come Up With Is Bound To Be As (If Not More)
 Entertaining Than The Real Story

 

“Children Removed From A Facility That Limited Tampons”

(The Oregonian, 3-29-19)

 

This has nothing to do with the headline, but imagine a picture that did?

 

*   *   *

Department Of No April Foolin’

Yet another story inspired by a story I was listening to – this one on April 1, courtesy of NPR’s All Things Considered:  How Vanity License Plates Are Approved and Denied in California.

Dateline: sometime in 1980; moiself is down in SoCal, visiting my parents. My mother shows me a newspaper clipping, about an employee of the newspaper (The Orange County Register) who had recently won an “argument” with the California DMV.  “Don’t you know this guy?” my mother asks me.

I scan the article. “Peter?!” I burst out laughing. “Yeah, I know that Schmuck.”

 

Peter looks nothing like a baby sloth in pajamas, but I don’t have a recent photo of him.

 

I went to high school with He Who Was To Become sportswriter/columnist Peter Schmuck. He graduated the year before me; we had mutual friends (mostly the high school journalism crew) but didn’t know each other well. Moiself, like some of his peers, I’d guess, initially pitied then almost immediately admired or at least respected Peter, for having to deal with a first-last name combination considered redundant. Many of us who knew him attributed Peter’s sense of humor and in-your-face attitude – a combination of sarcasm and assertiveness sometimes bordering on aggression  [4] – to having grown up with that name.  It seems PS would at least partially agree with that sentiment, as per his interview with fellow journalist Steve Marantz:

“I‘m the only person in the world who thinks it was a big advantage to grow up with the last name Schmuck.. I’m pretty sure the distinctiveness of the name has helped me throughout my career. It also has given me a thicker skin – in a ‘Boy Named Sue’ kind of way – in a business where that isn’t a bad thing to have.”

I am not wandering off on yet another digression. Here comes the newspaper article/DMV story tie-in:

In 1980 Peter (or, his girlfriend at the time, as Peter has said) applied for a vanity license plate with his last name on it. That was the subject of the newspaper article my mother showed me: Peter Schmuck had been denied the vanity plate SCHMUCK because, in a letter the DMV sent to Peter, the DMV claimed schmuck was a Yiddish indecency.

I found that whole incident to be wonderfully WTF-ish to the nth (thank you, NPR, for the memory prod).  I still smile to picture a state government flunkie whose job it was to tell a person that the person’s given/authentic/legal surname was indecent (Dude, you’re the DMV! Look up his driver’s license, IT’S HIS NAME).

As well as his first 15 minutes of fame, Peter Schmuck got his license plate. Yes, the Good Guy prevailed in The Great License Plate Indecency Skirmish. I saw it on Peter’s car (which, if memory serves, he referred to as the Schmuckmobile).  Following his stint at The Register, Peter moved East and landed a long-time gig as a sports reporter and columnist for The Baltimore Sun.  I forgot to ask Peter, when I saw him at a Baltimore Orioles home game oh-so-many years ago, whether he got the state of Maryland to issue him a new plate.

 

Or, in a hitherto unknown (to moiself) assignment, did Peter spend some time covering the great sport of Iditarod?

*   *   *

May you, when it is your turn, find a graceful way to navigate between grief and relief;
May you be careful with your labels and also patient with those who use them;
May your choice of vanity license plates bring joy to the simple-minded masses;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] In 2010 President Barack Obama signed “Rosa’s Bill,” (approved unanimously by Congress), which required the federal government to replace the terms “mental retardation” “and “mentally retarded” with, respectively,  “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability” in policy documents.

[2] And trust me, when you get rid of “retard/retardation” it is replaced by turning the supposedly gentler term into a pejorative: “What are you, a special needs” kid?” which I heard, pronounced with multisyllabic sarcasm, along with “learning disabled” et al, on my childrens’ school yard playgrounds. Never doubt the ability of a grade schooler to turn the most well-intentioned label into a slur.

[3] Another adjective I’ve heard both embraced and mocked, and by people supposedly on the same side of the disability rights movement.  “Intellectually Challenged” – that’s me, trying to follow a chess match.

[4] Translation:  in high school, I thought him somewhat of an asshole. I figured he likely held the same opinion about me. Later on, I came to be, and still am, quite fond of him.

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