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The Mirror Universe I’m Not Occupying

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Department Of Aging Well

As soon as you’re within sniffing distance of The Medicare Age ®, look out.  I thought all the television and mail (smail- and e-) solicitations were over-the-top, but lately moiself   has been running across ads for podcasts about that subject-most-subjected-to-stereotyping:  aging.

“In this podcast, reporter ___ ___ explores the challenges of aging.”

“Aging is inevitable.  We can fight it (despite knowing we can never win) or we can learn how to embrace it.”

“(podcast series name) is about why and how to live a long healthy, fit, energetic and vital life and never be OLD at any age. ____ will offer you mind, body, spiritual proven (sic) tips and strategies that (sic) guarantee will help you resolve most health challenges and age fearlessly and never be old.”   [1]

 

 

 

I get the impression that many of these programs and podcasts are going to perpetuate the stereotypes they purport to address.  Never be OLD [gasp!] at any age gee, no pejoratives about aging there.

The problem is not with aging; it’s with ageism.  Yeah, I’ve brought this up before; yeah, as we get older we might tend to repeat ourselves.  But this is something that bears repeating, until we all get it.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Apropos Of Nothing,
I Recently Remembered The Most Apropos Tribute Ever.

It was a billboard erected by Star Trek fans, upon hearing of the death (2-27-15) of actor, poet, director, author and photographer, Leonard Nimoy.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sometimes (Translation; Many, Many, Times)
Moiself  Thinks About These Things

Dateline: Tuesday morning 7:45 am-ish.  [2]   I’m walking in a neighborhood near Shadywood Park in Hillsboro. A person is approaching me; she is also, moiself  deduces, taking a morning constitutional.   [3]

As we get within eye-contact-making-distance (approximately 15 feet away from each other) we each, almost simultaneously, say to the other, “Morning.”  Not, “Good morning,” or even its truncated version, “G’morning.”

And not for the first time in my life moiself  thinks about that.  I think about why, as a form of greeting-a-stranger-in-passing, we each say a word which could be taken, in another culture or by an alien anthropologist, as a statement of fact.

Morning.  Well, yes, as per the time of day, it is morning. Why don’t we exchange some other factual/descriptive word(s)? The walker approaching me could’ve said Sidewalk (she was walking on the sidewalk) and I could’ve said Asphalt (I was walking in the street). Or, I could have said, Trekking poles (which I was using) and she could’ve responded with, New Balance Nergize Sport (or the name of whatever shoes she was wearing).

Perhaps if Star Trek was/is correct and there are mirror or parallel universes, even as I type this there is a parallel moiself, a behavioral scientist studying this question of upmost importance to…well, to me.

Or, perhaps mirror moiself  has a real job.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Why People   [4]   Don’t Like Christians

In the past few months Florida governor Ron DeSantis has used several bastardizations of a certain bible passage to rally his like-minded cretin stormtroopers motivate his conservative base.  DeSantis referenced the apostle Paul’s “Armor of God” passage in the New Testament’s letter to the Ephesians while speaking to, respectively, the national student summit for Turning Point USA; the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference, and another rally in February:

“You gotta be ready for battle. So put on the full armor of God, take a stand against the left’s schemes, stand firm with the belt of truth buckled around your waist. You will face fire from flaming arrows, but the shield of faith will protect you.”

“It ain’t going to be easy. You got to be strong. You got to put on the full armor of God. You got to take a stand, take a stand against the left’s schemes, you got to stand your ground, you got to be firm, you will face flaming arrows, but take up the shield of faith and fight on.”

“We need people all over the country to be willing to put on that full armor of God to stand firm against the left.”

 

 

Here is the actual passage:

“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:10–12, NLT)

DeSantis – surprise! – conveniently stops his misquotes before verse 12, which inconveniently (for DeSantis and other right wing Christian politicians) states that Paul is not talking about politicians or citizens, or earthly opponents of any kind, but spiritual ones.  Surprise again, DeSantis replaces taking a stand against “the devil” with taking a stand against “the left,” leaving no doubt for his listeners:

Y’all paying attention, kids:  The Left/Democrats = Satan.

 

 

At least one Christian blogger noticed and took issue:

“Politicians quoting the Bible in an effort to garner votes or appeal to the religious beliefs of their supporters is nothing new; politicians quoting a verse completely out of context is equally common….
A politician blatantly changing the wording of the Bible is something else entirely, especially when it’s done to gain the support of the very people who should be outraged by it. Christians of all stripes (liberal, conservative, moderate) and all denominations (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant) may disagree on the interpretation of the Bible, but few if any would go so far as to change the actual words to fit their worldview.”

(“Ron DeSantis Changes a Well-Known Bible Verse to Fit His Own Agenda,”
medium.com 8-3-22 )

 

 

 

Moiself  disagrees with the blogger’s last statement (in the above excerpt). Experience and observation have taught me that the opposite is true.  It’s not few if any – it’s most if not all religious believers have no problem fiddling with “the actual words” (of their scriptures, of anyone else’s scriptures, of anything) to fit their worldview.

The above-quoted blogger went on to wonder/despair at the lack of concern – or even recognition – other Christians have shown re DeSantis’ hyperbolic scriptural contortions.  Moiself’s concern is how those who identify as Christians will handle the most recent “un-Christian,”  [5]   headline-grabbing stunt pulled by DeSantis (who’s a proclaimed Christian).

“A couple of weeks back, The Economist published a long cover story on ‘The Disunited States of America,’ detailing how, on issues such as abortion, guns, voting rights, and immigration, America’s red and blue states are engaged in a “new politics of confrontation.” As if on cue, Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor who often seems as if he is campaigning to succeed Donald Trump as the nation’s Provoker-in-Chief, staged his latest political stunt: using Florida taxpayers’ money to charter two planes to fly about fifty undocumented migrants, mostly Venezuelan, to Martha’s Vineyard. DeSantis was not even relocating the group from his own state—the flights originated in Texas.”
( DeSantis’s Heartless Migrant Stunt Provides a Preview of 2024,
newyorker.com, 9-17-22 )

I felt no pressing need to condemn DeSantis’s cruel, political stunt…even though (and of course) moiself  eventually did, when I found that someone else had edited, DeSantis-style, the very scriptural passage I’d been thinking of:

 

My comment to this FB repost:  “All these Christians ignoring one of the few unambiguous statements in their scriptures…all of those mega churches in Texas apparently open their pocketbooks (and hearts) only for themselves and their rapacious ‘pastors.’ ”

Yes, The Immigration/Undocumented Migrant Issue ® is a problem that is intractable and almost/ultimately seems unsolvable.  But, however you purport to solve this problem – any problem – you don’t do it by exploiting the vulnerable. Tell me, Ron-DeS-boy, whom would your Jesus manipulate?

DeSantis’ hard-hearted action condemns itself. Here’s a thing which keeps coming back to moiself.

Decades ago, before designated dog parks were a thing, I remember reading a newspaper article about a town’s escalating disagreement between neighborhoods:   Some of the townsfolk living in one neighborhood discovered a nearby neighborhood which contained two adjacent, un fenced, empty lots owned by the city.  Neighborhood #1 folks were advocating for those lots to be designated as a dog-walking/play area. Many people living in the neighborhood by the empty lots were opposed to that idea: they feared that such a designation would attract dog owners from outside the neighborhood, which would exacerbate the dog feces problem they already had (not-so-long ago, when taking their dogs for a walk, most dog owners let their pooches poop with impunity without picking up after them).  As the debate heated up, some of the “anti-dog-yard” people gathered up bags of dog feces and deposited them on the front porches of the “pro-dog-yard“ people.

That is literally the first thing I thought of when I read about DeSantis’s vile act:

he’s treating vulnerable human beings like bags of dog shit.

With all the migrants have been through, having their dignity dissed is perhaps the least of their worries at the moment.  However, I’m sure the humiliation will come back to haunt them.  The Humiliation of being treated like bags of dog shit – like something people would be aghast to find on their front porch.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Sure-Fire Mood Uplifter After Reading The Nasty News
Made By Ron DeSantis And Other Nasty People

The following made my day…week…month…  Say what you will about social media (and moiself  does), but without it, I might have missed seeing this.

 

 

 

Ballerinas can fart, too!

This is going to be my new mantra.  It is applicable to sooooo many situations, including those involving the kinds of discrimination and injustices which can only be mitigated by the realization of our shared humanity:  remember; we are all human.  Ultimately, we are all ballerinas, and yes, ballerinas can    [6]  fart.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
MGE   [7]

I started reading a book about anti-gravity. It’s impossible to put down.

I dream of taking a sailing adventure in an ocean of orange soda.
It’s just my Fanta sea.

Wife to husband: “Honey, it sounds like elk are falling from the sky!”
Husband to wife: “No, it’s just reindeer.”

Doctor to patient:  “The tests confirm that you drank a bottle of food coloring,
but you’re going to be fine.”
 Patient: “But doc, I feel like I’m dyeing inside.”

Biologists made a lab frog immortal by removing its vocal cords.
Now it can’t croak.

I was going to make my husband a belt of watches…
but then I realized it would be a waist of time.     [8]

 

*   *   *

May you fight ageism and not aging;
May you be remembered, vis-à-vis the Vulcan saying, Live Long and Prosper,
as someone who did;
May you remember that ballerinas can fart, too;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] And never having to worry about being able to construct coherent sentences.

[2] Not amish.

[3] Which sounds so much more posh than “going for a walk”  — it sounds downright British, in fact.  My tribute to Queen Elizabeth.

[4] As in people who are not Christians, whether they claim a different religious affiliation or are religion-free.

[5] The words of others, not moiself.

[6] And evidently do.

[7] Miscellaneous Groaners Edition.

[8] No, this does not require a footnote.

The Novel Characters I’m Not Liking

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

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

Moiself  has started a book club.

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Ick, ick, ick.

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

The straw which broke my BC camel’s back…

 

“Ooh, thank you for that.”

 

…you’re welcome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

Book Club Monthly Themes

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Books Clubs Edition

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Greatest Hits I’m Not Compiling

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Thanks for checking in, so to speak (…er, write).  I am taking moiself  on holiday.  From this Friday and through June, I will be posting blogs from the same time period of eight years ago (late May-June, 2014).  New posts will return in early-mid July.

Until then, I hope y’all enjoy these reruns (or at least gain a modicum of petty amusement from making fun of them, and/or noting how NOT perspicacious my 2014 blatherings observations turned out to be).  Perhaps they may spark some sense of déjà vu in you, or cause you to contemplate what you were doing and thinking in those pre-pandemic, pre-idiocy epidemic times (i.e., before the debacle that was #45).

Moiself  apologizes for the fact that visuals (pictures; video clips) in the original posts may or may not be included.
*   *   * 

 

One day back from de merveilleuses vacances à Paris with Belle, and I’m in no shape to blog.

I thought about running a greatest hits–type compilation from blogs past…as if the masses are clamoring for such a thing…and as if such a thing exists.

What an ego that would require – you’d think I was French or something.

Cette femme n’est pas Français!

Yes, we had a fantastic time, and yes, so much (but not all) of what is said about Paris is true. [1] Unbelievably wonderful bread and wine…

 …served in charming cafes by debonair French waiters

 

Who, remercier les dieux, looked nothing like these gentlemen.

So, je ne post pas.  Until I can muster the energy, and circadian readjustment to Oregon time, stunning visual images and a few jokes will have to do.

Here is the favorite of the many pictures we took:

I so did not take this picture.  Neither did Belle.

Q: Which ghost was president of France?
A: Charles de Ghoul

Q: Why don’t they have fireworks at Euro Disney?
A: Because every time they shoot them off, the French try to surrender.

Q: What is a native of Paris called?
A: A parisite.

Time for equal time. The French do love their jokes about the Yanks.

Q: What do you call a beautiful woman in America?
A: A tourist.

Q: What is the difference between an American and a pot of yoghurt?
A: After a period of time, the yoghurt [2] begins to develop cultures.

This next one is from the Parisites to the Brits.

Q: What’s long, dark, hard, gloomy, and ends with millions of assholes?
A: The Channel Tunnel.

*   *   *

May you and yours always have Paris, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] The French use very few footnotes.

[2] Using the French spelling, but of course.

The World Languages I’m Not Learning

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Department Of How Did I Not Know Until Now About This Song !?!?

Dateline: Monday am, 7:30 ish.  Morning walk/podcast listen: Clear + Vivid: Bette Midler: How She Became Divine.

 

 

The Divine Miss M herself was regaling host C+V  host Alan Alda with tales of her first European tour, and how the following ditty Midler performed on stage “…went down really well” in Germany.

(sung to the tune of the theme song of the movie, The Bridge Over The River Kwai) :

♫  Hitler…
had only one big ball
Goering…
had two but they were small
Himmler…
Had something similar
And poor old Goebbels
had no balls
at all.  ♫      [1]

I’d vaguely known about Hitler’s goofy gonads (he suffered from right-side cryptorchidism – an undescended testicle).  But the fact that this detail was woven into an anti-Nazi ditty delighted the spirit of the 11-year-old Girl Scout who still resides in me – the girl who wanted to sit in the back during the boring troop meetings and exchange bawdy jokes with the other so-inclined scouts instead of listening to yet another boring lecture on how we were supposed to be working on our camping merit badges.

 

“All in favor of skipping reciting the Girl Scout Promise and singing the Hitler song instead, raise your hands.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Podcast Citation

The most recent episode of the People I (Mostly) Admire podcast – website description: “Steven Levitt, the unorthodox University of Chicago economist and co-author of the Freakonomics book series….tracks down other high achievers and asks questions that only he would think to ask….” – had me hooked with the opening:

“My guest today, John McWhorter, likes to stir things up….
He’s a linguistics professor at Columbia university, author of over a dozen books, and has emerged as one of America’s most prominent public intellectuals. He’s an opinionated centrist, and chances are, whatever your politics, you’ll love his views on some issues, and despise his stance on others.”
(intro to People I Mostly Admire, episode 72: “Leaving Black People in the Lurch” )

 

 

 

I was immediately intrigued by the host’s description of his guest: “an opinionated centrist.”  Not being fond of political labels (at least for moiself ), I don’t consider moiself  to be a centrist.  Rather, I approach issues as a Does this make sense?-trist.” When some folks on The Far Left ® find out my liberal/religion-free/ flaming feminist viewpoints, they assume that I’ll tick off all their boxes on particular issues.  And when they find out that I do not, *they* get ticked off.

My intrigue-ears perked up for other reasons as well, including the fact that McWhorter is a linguistics professor.  Being a linguist, as in studying the cultural and cognitive development and application of languages, is one of my “if-I-were-to-do-it-all-over-again” professions.   [2]  Now, just because I maintain an interest in that area of study doesn’t mean that I have any current and/or particular skill in or aptitude for languages – far from it, as anyone who has heard me mangle the French language could attest to.  And while moiself  is on the subject I’d like to offer a shout-out to all you Parisian shopkeepers and restauranters who, despite the stereotype of the snooty French, were most patient and gracious with me when I was visiting your merveilluse ville and tried to order a pain au chocolat in every venue possible.

 

Let me guess, *elle demande* the entire tray, again?

 

Once again, I digress.

Back to the podcast opening.

Steve LEVITT:
“In your day job, you (McWhorter) are a linguist at Columbia University and you also moonlight as a commentator on American society, especially around issues of race. But I’d like to talk first about linguistics, because I suspect if we start on race, we’ll never make our way back to linguistics.”

Linguistics/ race – I wanted to hear it all.  Any author of a book called “Nine Nasty Words: English in the Gutter,” is all right by me. Then, after the first 15 minutes of linguistics talk, I was surprised by McWhorter’s choice in an answer to a certain question.

LEVITT:
So, English is obviously emerging as something of a world language, and that’s mostly for accidental, historical, social, political reasons. And in my very first episode of this podcast, I had Steve Pinker, the Harvard linguist, on. And I tried to get him to make a vote for what the best world language would be. I had no luck. He would not bite on that at all. Is that a question you’ll bite on?”

MCWHORTER:
” Hell yeah.
….If all of the world were going to use a single language, it should be not English….
Really, the language of the world should be Indonesian.”

 

 

Really.  He chose Indonesian.


MCWHORTER:
“…Not the way it’s written, but the way it’s typically spoken, where you have almost no suffixes, almost no prefixes. (Indonesian is) not a tonal language. It’s very low on throwing you with things like, what does ‘pick up’ mean?  You can pick up a disease; you can pick somebody up from school; speed is about picking up speed. Why deal with that? There’s very little of that. …. even though most people who don’t speak Indonesian would find it hard to learn just the words themselves….if you could pick up 500 of them, say 600 of them…the grammar would be very, very easy. You could make yourself understood. I would say it’s better. It’s easier for everybody — colloquial Indonesian would be the one.”

McWhorter’s quotes about the reasons why a language like Indonesian would be a better “world” language  [3]  made me think about Turkish, which I studied for a few days in an online course (until Putin’s aggressive assholery changed my travel plans   [4]  ).

Here are nine encouraging and refreshing observations I made during my brief foray into the Turkish language:

  1. Turkish is phonetic; thus, pronunciation is easy!
  2. Every letter in a word is pronounced!   [5]
  3. Each letter has only one sound!
  4. Two or more letters are never combined to make a new or different sound!
  5. Turkish contains no articles at all!
  6. It is also not a gendered language; nor is it tonal!
  7. There is no 7th observation!
  8. There are standard rules for making plurals!
  9. Word Order is set: Subject-Object-Verb. The verb is always at the end in written Turkish!    [6]

 

You’d spin with delight, too, if you spoke such a sensible language.

 

After twenty-five or so minutes of Fun With Words®,  podcast host Levitt ventured into topics where McWhorter’s opinions have made people who are prone to look for divergent poles line up into their default defensive positions…such as McWhorter’s book, Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America.

LEVITT:
“I was talking to a white friend of mine, someone who is deeply sympathetic to the anti-racist cause. And she said to me recently, ‘My daughter is friends with a Black girl in her nursery school class….and I’d like to invite that Black girl over to my house for a play date, but I’m afraid to because I don’t know the appropriate way to acknowledge my white privilege to the girl’s parents. And I don’t want to insult them by not acknowledging it.’

 To me, what a disaster – when kids can’t build friendships because parents are so paralyzed by fear of not doing the right thing.”

MCWHORTER:
“You know what? That woman is who I wrote Woke Racism for.
That is exactly what I mean. That is somebody whose heart is very much in the right place, but she’s so afraid of being called the dirtiest-name-other-than-pedophile in our current cultural vocabulary that she’s basically hamstrung.

After a while, it might be that you end up avoiding Black people because you don’t want to take a wrong step. And then you get accused of being a racist. And where does that get us?  To actually say, ‘What is the result of all this?’ is seen as somehow beside the point.

Rather, what’s considered important is smart people stating that racism still exists; racism is systemic. Now, what’s actually happening out on the ground, whether we’re improving Black lives by stating that, is considered subsidiary…..

And yet, that’s the situation that I saw us slipping into starting after the hideous murder of George Floyd. I saw us dealing with a kind of semaphore, where we say things and we say things and we say things, and what we’re really doing is fostering a kind of general guilt and engaging in a kind of passion play…. But the result is not anything that any civil rights leaders of the past would have recognized as meaningful. We need to get back to doing the real thing.”

 

Fine; you’re awake. Now, make the bed and start cleaning up the mess you left in the kitchen.

LEVITT:
“I always ask my guests to give advice to my listeners. And I’m curious what advice you would give to young people trying to build a good life for themselves.
And would you give the same advice to a young white person and a young Black person?”

MCWHORTER (my emphases):
“… at this point, in the way our national dialogue goes, I would say this to kids of any race: Distrust your impulse to suppose that people who don’t think like you are either naive or evil.

It’s very easy to think that if they don’t think like you. It’s either they don’t have the facts that you have, or if they do have the facts that you have, there’s something sinister about them. They’ve got motives that they’re not quite letting onto.

And the sad thing is that these days, young people are being taught to think that way by an awful lot of grown-ups.

It’s an easy misimpression to fall into because we tend to be binary thinkers. But with any debate that’s uniquely challenging or frankly, interesting, about which you might argue, that’s different from decreeing that people are either stupid or bad. And that’s what a diverse and large society is all about. That’s what diversity of opinion is.”

Moiself  highly recommends that y’all’s selves listen to the entire interview, and pay attention to McWhorter’s insightful analysis re how “3rd wave anti-racism” (a term he borrows from the feminist movement) “is a religion.” It’s guaranteed to offend at least a few third wave anti-racists and religionists.  Now, that’s my kind of a podcast guest.

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Woke Politics Edition

Why were environmental activists protesting outside the elementary school?
That heard a rumor that the kids were singing, “Rain, rain, go away.”

What do you call a woke Star Wars droid?
R2-Me2

Did you hear about the laundromat manager who had her Facebook account cancelled?
FB monitors read that she told her customers to separate the whites from the colors.

One night I dreamt that I was a muffler…
I woke up exhausted.

 

“There’s woke jokes, and then there’s woke jokes.”

 

*   *   *

May you choose meaningful action over virtue-signalling;
May you have fond memories of your bawdy joke-telling, scout-meeting (or the equivalent) ignoring days;
May you enjoy singing the song about Hitler’s balls;    [7]

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Yes, this is the first footnote of this blog.

[2] Which would also include neurobiologist and astronaut.

[3] Better than, say, English, with its jumble of grammar, spelling, and pronunciation variants.

[4] We (MH and I) had planned a trip to Turkey in late May-early June.  Maybe…next year?

[5] With one exception – ğ, lengthens the sound of the vowel preceding it.

[6] Spoken Turkish allows for some flexibility.

[7] You know you’re going to hum it, at least once, if only to yourself.

The April Fool’s Joke No One Was Playing

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Content warning: Despite the date, and one or two moments of comic relief,  [1]   this is probably the most serious and personal blog post I have written.  No foolin.’

*   *   *

Department Of Worst April Fool’s Day Ever

The following took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away – twenty-one years ago today, April 1, 2001. Background info: MH and I and our offspring, K and Belle, were members of a local church.  [2]   Within the past seven weeks we’d celebrated K’s eighth birthday, and Belle’s fifth.

*   *   *

At approximately 12:20pm, Sunday, April 1, 2001, MH and I were in the ___ (church name)  Fellowship Hall’s kitchen, doing cleanup after coffee hour.  K and Belle were playing with other children outside, in the church’s courtyard.  Belle found a hypodermic syringe (“A shiny toy,” as she later described it to me) on the grass under the bushes next to a play-shed in the courtyard.  She picked up the syringe, which was capped, but the syringe’s needle — which was sticking out at an angle from under the side of the cap — poked her in her right thumb.  She dropped the syringe and walked away.

K had seen Belle pick up something and then quickly drop it.  He went over to where she had been, saw the syringe, and picked it up. He intended to take it upstairs to MH and I, to show us what Belle had touched…then he also got stuck by the needle (in his left thumb) when he picked up the syringe.

K came into the kitchen, holding the syringe.  He told us that he’d found “this thing on the grass” and that he’d accidentally stuck himself with it. Before K had finished his sentence MH whisked the syringe from K, and recapped it (K said he took the cap off *after* the needle stuck him, as he wanted us to see exactly what it was that had stuck him, but that the syringe had the cap ON when he picked it up).

I rushed K to the sink, quickly but thoroughly washed his thumb, and told MH to get Belle and meet us at the hospital.  We had our two cars with us; I wrapped the syringe in several paper towels and ran down the back stairs of the hall with K in tow, telling him that we were going to the Tuality Hospital ER (which is less than half a mile from the church).

At this time MH and I did *not* know that Belle had also – and first – been stuck by that same syringe’s needle.

MH found Belle standing in the entrance to the Fellowship Hall, crying and holding her thumb, which was bleeding.  MH asked another child, who was lying on a couch in the entrance, what was going on.   The kid glanced at Belle and casually replied, “Oh, she cut herself.”   MH asked Belle what happened; she said that “a knife” she found in the courtyard had cut her finger.

I’d parked on the street by the entrance to the Fellowship Hall. Just as I was about to pull away from the curb MH ran to my car, pounded on the window, opened the door and practically threw Belle in the back seat, next to K.  MH told me about Belle’s thumb as he strapped Belle into her car seat; we tried to get more out of her, but she was very upset.  She didn’t want to say that it was the needle which had cut her, but K said that it was, and then Belle confirmed this.

All of this — from the moment K came up to the kitchen with the syringe to MH running with Belle to the car — took place in less than two minutes.  I squeezed Belle’s thumb to get more blood out, gave her a tissue to hold over her thumb, and drove to the ER, with MH arriving in our other car about four minutes after the kids and I did.

The bad news:

…was what had happened.  Of particular concern was the fact that the syringe was from an “unknown source,” which is hospital jargon for, “We don’t have the syringe’s user to test.”  However, as the hospital personnel  [3]   – and our own instincts and experience told us – as far as what the syringe had been used for, we should assume the worst.  Translation: the syringe had been used to inject a person or persons with illegal drugs; it had not been left there by a diabetic who on the spur of the moment decided to adjust his blood sugar/insulin ratio in our church’s courtyard’s bushes. (Coincidentally, earlier that morning I’d been told by the church groundskeeper that the previous day, members of our church had done a cleanup of the church grounds, removing beer cans and trash from under and around the bushes in the courtyard, where the groundskeeper had occasionally found “vagrants and street people partying.”)

Hospital personnel told us the syringe was likely used to inject its user(s) with a certain kind of heroin (“Mexican brown”) and/or methamphetamine, which, for “street users,” were the injectable drugs of choice both the hospital and the police were seeing at that time.  Although we brought the syringe with us (and could detect a micro-microscopic drop of fluid inside of it), we were told that there was nothing the hospital could test it for.  In fact, it was hospital policy not to test it, for among other reasons, the false reassurance of any false negative results (which they would likely get, as there was no way to determine how long the syringe had been there).

The relatively good (or at least, less bad) news:

-Both kids’ immunizations were up to date, including for Hepatitis B.

-Although there were no vaccinations for Hepatitis C and the other rare strains (D, E, F), risk of transmission for those infections, in that kind of possible exposure, were negligible…  Also, those strains of hepatitis were rarely seen in Oregon at that time (Hepatitis A is not transmitted via needle sticks).

-The syringe had a small gauge needle; thus, the possibility of a significant “viral load” transmission was small.

-HIV, the big fear factor at the time, is a very fragile virus.  Despite its many mutations it can survive only a few hours (if that) outside a host body.

The children were seen by P.A. ____, who examined them and then spoke with us about what happened.  Over the next three-plus hours, the P.A. consulted via telephone with Drs. E___ and L___ at Emmanuel Hospital’s Infectious Disease and Pediatrics Infectious Disease departments, with our pediatrician’s on call group, and with other physicians at the CDC.  [4]

We were told (by the P.A. and a Tuality ER physician) that HIV prophylaxis treatment was something we should consider, for both K and Belle.  We did, and decided against it, with the following information in mind:

– None of the doctors consulted would strongly recommend that we start either K or Belle on prophylactic treatment for possible HIV exposure, given the parameters of the particular accident/incident, nor was such treatment the recommended protocol for that kind of possible exposure.

– MMR (Morbidity & Mortality Report) statistics showed no transmission of disease had been recorded to have occurred in “this kind of injury,” in Oregon.

– Risk of transmission of HIV was estimated to be less than 1%; risk of side effects from AZT or other prophylactic HIV treatments definitely exceeded 1%.

K and Belle had blood drawn at the hospital for baseline HIV and Hepatitis titers, and we were given scripts to have the tests repeated at intervals of two, four, and six months.  The P.A. suggested, for our own peace of mine, that we do another test at twelve months (although that was not the official recommendation).

******************************

Department Of The Aftermath

At one point, sitting in the ER exam room with MH and the kids, I remembered noting the date and thinking, “If only this were an April Fool’s joke….”

The above was the Dragnet (“Just the facts, ma’am”) version of the incident, which I sent to family, and wrote for our own records.  I left out the emotions experienced by K, Belle, MH, and myself, which you can probably imagine (and which took me months to forget).

 

 

We were at that ER for hours.  We waited, while the P.A. consulted with various specialists and/or waited for them to return his calls and periodically came into the exam room we occupied, to update us.  All the adults were (trying to be) calm.  The ER seemed understaffed, to me (a hospital staff member later told me it was unexpectedly busy “for a Sunday afternoon”).  Even so and speaking of the afternoon, I wish one of the staff would have thought to offer our kids some food.  It was lunch time when the accident happened, and a little after 4 pm when we got out of there.  MH and I were too adrenalized to be hungry and, in our state of shock and with possible scenarios and outcomes running through our minds, we forgot that the kids, of course, were hungry  [5] ). I finally had the presence of mind to realize this, and got someone to bring them some sugary drinks, which made them both happy.

Waiting, waiting, waiting….  We bummed drawing supplies (paper and pens) from a nurse, to keep the kids amused or at least distracted, while hospital staff checked with one another and called various experts.  We shut the door to the exam room we were in and talked loudly to the kids when an accident victim with a fractured femur was brought into the ER (we were mostly successful in muffling the victim’s cries of pain, which echoed down the ER hallway).

MH’s cousin is a pediatrician and her husband an epidemiologist; MH used some of the waiting time to call her (she lived on the East coast).  She was very reassuring.  She told us that, to her knowledge and after checking her sources, there were no cases of someone “sero-converting” – i.e., going from a negative HIV test to a positive – after having “that kind” of accident (being stuck with a needle which had likely been used and discarded several hours before the stick-accident).

Okay; yes; this is good.   But, if this is common knowledge, why is this taking so long?
Why all the consults – are they preparing detailed information for us,
for a prognosis we don’t want to hear?

We had plenty of time, sitting/waiting/pacing in that exam room, to imagine the worst.  I had worked for nine years in the women’s reproductive health care field but been away from the medical world for almost as many years and hadn’t kept up with “things.”  HIV, despite its ability to mutate rapidly, was – or had been – a very fragile virus. Perhaps new strains had developed, which I was unaware of – new mutations which could survive hours outside a host body? I thought that unlikely, thus; actually, my main concern was not HIV.

I was more troubled to think that the kids might have been infected by one of the new strains of hepatitis that seemed to be cropping up left and right. When I’d worked at Planned Parenthood, just before MH and I moved up to Oregon, I’d had a needle stick accident, [6]  and had to go through the routines of initial HIV/hepatitis blood tests, getting the Hep B vaccine series,   [7]   then follow-up HIV and hepatitis tests at two, four, and six month intervals.

Meanwhile, back in the ER….  Finally, a little before 4 pm, the ER staff attending to our case had documented it to their satisfaction. We needed the kids to each have their blood drawn for the first round of tests, and then we could go home.  MH and I and the hospital personnel tried to be as straightforward – and as nonchalant – with the kids as possible.  Everything is going to be all right, we just have to do one test (which…er, yeah…will involve another needle stick)….”

K tried to be brave.  He was old enough that we could explain the hospital procedures to him, how they’d need to draw a small amount of blood for a test.  Did he think he could cooperate?  His lower lip trembled as he nodded yes.  He sat in my lap, I hugged him, and he hid his head under my arm when they drew his blood sample.  For each of the subsequent, follow-up blood draws (at two, four and six months after the incident), K got better at handling the needle poke (he even watched the last one, instead of turning his head to the side!).

Belle’s reaction was…almost feral.

What a difference three years makes, especially for younger children, in terms of experience and comprehension. Looking back, I realize that Belle was also being brave, in a different way – in defense of herself.  She did not understand why she had essentially been held captive for hours; she did not understand the need for the tests the adults were trying to explain to her.  She understood that she had already been injured by one needle, and she was determined not to let that happen again.

The hospital personnel were kind and patient with her, but despite their assurances that they would use the tiniest needle possible (“The size we use on preemies,” a nurse told me) Belle became unhinged. Even her beloved daddy could not get her to cooperate, nor could he restrain her.  Finally, in order to safely draw her blood, the hospital staff put her in what I can only describe as a full body straitjacket.  It was a device/garment I’d never seen before,   [8]   and it provided me with one brief moment of levity in that dreary afternoon (I had to leave the exam room for a moment, to stifle my giggles).

The follow-up blood draws were, for Belle, not much better (although full body restraints were not necessary).  For years after that ER visit Belle maintained a visceral fear of needles.  Routine vaccinations were…stressful, to put it mildly, for Belle, her parents, and her pediatrician.

Despite Belle’s fear of needles (which had not been present before the trip to the ER), neither she nor K seemed to carry any long-term trauma from the needle stick accident.  They also barely displayed any short-term distress.  By the morning after they seemed to have accepted what the adults had told them (it was an accident; everything is going to be fine), and it was almost as if the accident hadn’t happened.

The night we came home from the ER they both fell asleep even quicker than usual (fatigued from the excitement, was my guess).  Oh, to have that short term memory dump capability, I remember thinking.  Meanwhile, as our children dozed in blissful ignorance, MH and I sat upright in our bed, eyes abuzz from our respective adrenaline overdoses.

“What just happened?” I said to MH.  “I feel like – like I should attack something.  I’m all geared up for battle, but there’s no one to fight.”

*   *   *

When the option for prophylactic HIV treatment had been offered to us, I thought:

Is this the day our lives change forever?

I hoped the medical personnel were going to advise *against* such treatment; instead, they’d presented the pros and cons, and left the decision to us.

I’d already decided that, unless there were compelling evidence to do so, no way was I going to agree to poison my kids to play the odds.  During some of the down time in the ER exam room I’d chatted with the kindly if seriously-demeanored P.A., and discovered that he too was a parent.  After he and a hospital physician had presented the HIV treatment option to MH and I, I waited until the physician left the room, then asked the PA,

“What would *you* do, if this had happened to *your* children?”

He paused, and I continued.

“I know you’re not supposed to answer that kind of question, but please?”

The P.A. nodded at me, in a way I can only describe as respectful, and I saw the brief flicker of a smile cross his eyes for the first time since he’d met us.  No, he said, if it were his children, he would not opt for the HIV prophylaxis.

*   *   *

Thanks to the merciful element known as “the passing of Time,” the distress of that day has morphed, for me, into having an impassive remembrance of what happened without having to relive how it “felt.”  Years will pass without me thinking about the accident, and then something will remind me.

One such reminder came via a local public television show I saw a few years ago, which featured an interview with an activist who “represented” an encampment which homeless people had been setting up in a Portland neighborhood.  The encampment was in an area which had been designated as a wildlife corridor; homeowners living near the corridor were disgusted and alarmed by the encampment’s accumulating trash, habitat destruction, and crime.  The activist/representative said that the camp occupants were policing themselves – she looked directly into the camera and declared that they had a strict, no drugs/no alcohol policy.

 

 

Local news reported that within days of authorities evicting the campers, the encampment resembled an EPA-declared toxic waste dump. City employees and volunteers who cleared out the hundreds of pounds of garbage the campers had left behind had to wear special gloves and protective garments, as the trash included  – surprise, “self-policing” activist/representative! – drug paraphernalia, including contaminated syringes and needles.

When I read that follow-up story I was right back to that day – back to the moment when MH ran up to my car, carrying our frightened five-year-old in his arms; back to the moment when I realized that *both* of our children had been stuck by a hypodermic needle; back to the moment when, as surely as I could sense my own pulse hammering in my carotid artery, I felt as if my “spirit” were draining out of my skull, down through my chest and gut and legs, and exiting my body through the soles of my feet.  And no, this is not a florid way of saying I peed my pants (which I didn’t).  The sensation was so vivid, I later checked my car’s floormat for…something (I didn’t really know what I was looking for).

Several months passed before the needle stick accident wasn’t the first and last thing I thought of every day.  Some mornings with stoic acceptance and some nights with fierce, Samuel L. Jackson-style defiance (“C’mon, just try and hurt us again, you needle-discarding, muthaF#&%?! ass#@&%* !”), I’d contemplate the fact that there are so many things out of a parent’s control.  Seemingly apropos of nothing, I would find myself ruminating on the plethora of shit, be it circumstantial, biological, genetic, or whatever, that I could neither anticipate nor control, but which could harm K and Belle.

I eventually made peace with the reality that generations of parents before me had recognized:

Your life can change in an instant;
your love for your children may be river deep and mountain high,
but it cannot protect them from everything that might harm them….
including random fate and their and other peoples’ (and your own) mistakes.

One day, several months after the NS accident and after things had returned to the proverbial normal, I was out running errands with Belle.  We were at a crafty-type store, getting supplies for her preschool project, and she had to pee.  The store’s restroom was a fairly large, handicapped access room. After Belle flushed the toilet and began to move to the sink to wash up, she exclaimed, “Look!” and reached for a shiny object lying on the floor, to the side of the toilet.

I had my first ever out-of-body experience: I watched as a hand (that was apparently my own) reached out with lightning speed and slapped Belle’s hand just before she touched the object; I heard a banshee’s voice from the bowels of the hells I don’t believe in bellow from my mouth:

” NO NO NO NO NO !!!
Don’t EVER pick up ANYTHING when you don’t know what it is –
didn’t you learn ANYTHING from the accident ?!?!? “

It took a stunned two seconds for first Belle and then me to burst into tears, and a nanosecond after that for me to apologize to her.

*   *   *

May you never have a similar story to tell;
May you make peace with life’s realities but do your damnedest anyway;
May you remember to ask for something to eat and drink when
you’re stuck in an ER room for hours;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] Thank you for the inspiration, Samuel L. Jackson.

[2] One of the more (if not most) liberal of the Protestant denominations.  Yes, this foulmouthed  expressive atheist and her family were active church members.

[3] The P.A., doctors, and nurses we saw during our ER stay.

[4] He had also spoken with at least two other Tuality hospital physicians, one of whom, along with the P.A., presented the HIV prophylactic treatment option to us.  We also had several nurses (in and out of the exam room where we and the kids waited) who never introduced themselves.

[5] Although, oddly enough, neither of them said anything to us about it…which I attribute to them being intimidated by the surroundings.

[6]  This happened as I was doing a finger poke blood draw from a high-risk (multiple sexual partners; IV drug user) patient: I poked myself with the same lancet I’d just used on the patient, as I was transferring the lancet to the sharpie container.  It was a move I’d done a hundred times, only that time I somehow managed to stick myself as I grabbed the sharpie container.  To this day, I’m not sure how it happened, but I’ll never forget how the patient looked at me and said, “Uh oh.” 

[7] Which I should have had anyway…but I’d kept putting off for time/scheduling reasons.

[8] Then a few months later, in a veterinary setting, I saw a similar garment used to restrain a fractious cat!

The Hotel I’m Not Bonking

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Not Up To Their Previous Standards

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

*   *   *

Department Of How Other Journalists Are Getting It So Right

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of International Relations

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

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

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

Moiself:
Ahem, that’s, bokning.  [7]

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Swedish Edition

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

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

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

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

 

Mamma Mia, there she goes again.

 

*   *   *

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

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mask I’m Not Burning

Comments Off on The Mask I’m Not Burning

 

Department Of…And…They’re Off!

Tomorrow is the official day in my state, Oregon (and also Washington and California (Oregon) when the mask mandate is liftedExcusez-moi; it’s actually/officially lifted “after 11:59 p.m. on March 11.”   [1]

Recently I’ve overheard at least two  conversations   [2]   wherein people were talking about having a mask-burning party to celebrate the lifting of the mandate.  Moiself  gathered that these parties were more about embracing reaching certain pandemic milestones, and were light-hearted, akin to the tradition of the celebratory mortgage-burning parties. These intended parties were to be nothing akin to the hostile, the anti-mask demonstrations held in certain areas of certain states during the past year, e.g. Idaho, where mouth-breathing child abusing ignoramuses red-staters taught their children to embrace their parents’ imbecility and anti-science stances:

“Parents cheered Saturday on the steps of the Idaho Capitol building as children threw handfuls of surgical masks into a fire. Far-right groups and some lawmakers held similar demonstrations in more than 20 Idaho towns, seizing on growing impatience with COVID-19 restrictions.

‘Hey fire, you hungry?’ asked one boy as adults watched him toss face coverings into a burn barrel. ‘Here’s another mask!’

Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin and state Rep. Dorothy Moon addressed the crowd of more than 100 people, standing behind a lectern on the Capitol steps. Nearby, a banner with the racist phrase ‘Wu Flu’ was draped over a replica Liberty Bell….

Idaho is one of 16 states that have not implemented a statewide mask mandate….

Idaho leads the Pacific Northwest in COVID-19 cases and death count per 100,000 residents. In the Gem State, people are dying at almost twice the rate of Oregonians, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.”

(“Mask burning rally in Idaho fans COVID-19 worries in Oregon” OPB 3-8-21)

 

Yeah, and not only that, those people are allowed to breed, and vote.

 

I don’t think moiself  will be burning any masks any time soon. Rather, I’m going to pause and take a moment of gratitude for the lives that mask-wearing saved, as documented here and here (and also here and here, and….) and also be grateful for how wearing masks contributed to a record-low flu season during the COVID pandemic.

Nope; not gonna burn, gonna celebrate, I thought to moiself, while I was out walking a couple of “laps” around the movie theater I’d arrived at. I had 20 minutes before the show began, and as I walked I looked at my surroundings, as I am wont to do, and my eyes were drawn to a trash comparison. Walking along the sidewalks of the busy streets by the movie theater, as well as the non-busy back alleys, I noticed one distinctive bit of trash which rivaled cigarette butts in number:  discarded facemasks.

When I think of all the excess trash the pandemic brought us, it frosts my butt.  It seems like we’d just gotten people to bring their own reusable bags when shopping, and to even consider bringing their own reusable drinking straws and take out containers when dining out…then came COVID and the (unnecessary, it turns out) regressive turn, back to the one-use, discard-after-use, plastic everything. This increase in our trash made me almost as sad as the number of COVID deaths.  I’m not exaggerating.

 

“The amount of plastic wastes generated worldwide since the outbreak
is estimated at 1.6 million tonnes/day.

( COVID pollution: impact of COVID-19 pandemic on global plastic waste footprint, Science Direct, 2-21 )

 

*   *   *

The Department Of Returning To Normalcy   [3]

Moiself  is not One Of Those People ® who rant and rave about self-checkout lines at the grocery (or other, but mostly grocery) stores – about how they are evil corporate plots to reduce employment  (even though they probably are), or how they are bring us one step closer to Orwellian scenarios, or how they are just inefficient or whatever.  I use the self-checkout option, occasionally to frequently, depending on the store. When I have a whole lotta items in my cart I’ll use the regular checkout lines…unless they are quite backed up, in which case I’ll do the time math in my head –

do I have more complex items which will require manual input and/or the self-checkout clerk’s attention – e.g. fresh produce and/or bulk items which require weighting and manual input of codes, wine – or primarily pre-packaged items, which I can scan almost as quickly as an experienced checker –

 and pick one or the other.

 

 

Midway through the pandemic restrictions, the checkout clerks at New Seasons   [4]  and I began joking about when the “return to normalcy” would begin, and what that normalcy would look like.  The NS clerks always seemed somewhat apologetic about their store’s policy banning customers bringing their own/reusable bags.  They were also one of the first stores to return to letting customers bring their own bags, and then one of the first to return to bagging customers’ purchases in the reusable bags.

Most of the other grocery stores I skulk around patronize have both regular and self-checkout options, the latter with no item limits (some still have a “15 items or fewer” option).  But I’ve learned, even if there is a line of three carts ahead of me in the regular check outline, if I have a cartload of items it’s ultimately worth it to get in the regular checkout line.

 

Hmmm, which line….

 

The checkers are just more efficient – surprise! It’s what they do, all day long.  And the logistics of the self-checkout stations…urgh.  I can count on the fingers of two hands the number of times they have truly been *self*-checkout (as in, no store employee contact) for moiself, despite my having used the self-checkout option hundreds of times.

It seems like I can’t get through checking out my own groceries without needing the employee in charge of overseeing the self-checkout lines to come over (and input his or her magic code, or whatever) when my self-checkout scanning machine refuses to scan any further because:

* it didn’t register the proper weight of an item

* when I rearranged an already checked item in one of my bags, trying to make room for another item, it thinks I took some items out and didn’t put them back

* I need an age/ID verification for an adult beverage

* I need a verification on the weight of my bags after I checked the “I brought my own bags” option on the scanner and it didn’t register them because my bags are deemed either too light or too heavy

* after I get the okay for my bags and arrange them in the (inadequate) space allowed, one end of one bag slips over the edge of the counter, and thus the last item I placed in it doesn’t get its weight registered properly

* the organic beets I’m trying to buy have no UPC code/tag and are not listed in the “look up item” option on the scanner….

All of these and many more scenarios stop the scanner, and trigger the dreaded hopeful, “Help Is On The Way” message on the scanner’s screen.  While waiting for the HIOTW employee to arrive I often look around at my fellow self-checkout-ers.. I see that they are also awaiting the same service; I see one of them shake his head and grumble that he’s been waiting for five minutes to get help because the loaf of the store’s freshly baked bread – FFS, he only has ONE item – lacks a scannable code, and the store’s self-checkout line overseer/employee is helping another customer scan their 985 coupons….

 

 

My favorites in the we-are-all-waiting-for-the-help-that-is-on-the-way group are the sweet and petite elderly women who wave their hands in a Yoo-hoo ® manner at store employees, optimistically yet incorrectly assuming that this will expedite the process.

Once again, I digress.

*Most* local stores have returned to allowing reusable bags, but why *all* have not returned to bagging a customer’s purchases using that customer’s reusable bag is a mystery to moiself.  After all, this is what we’re all supposed to do – bring our own bags – right?  There are a few grocery stores that, if you are in their regular checkout lines, will not bag your groceries if bring your own reusable bags. Yep, I’m talking to you, Albertsons  (and Safeway…and since one chain bought the other several years back, I’m assuming this is the parent company’s policy).

At first, I thought it was a staffing issue.  The last time I was at Albertson’s I decided to test this notion by going through a regular checkout line.  There were two people and their respective cartloads ahead of me, and an employee other than the cashier stood at the end of the cashier stand, bagging the customers’ groceries in the store’s paper bags. So, they *did* have staff available to bag.  When I unloaded my cart, placing my two reusable bags along with my groceries on the conveyor belt, the cashier pointed to my bags and asked me if I was “comfortable” bagging my own groceries.

Perhaps noticing the lack of enthusiasm in my, “ ‘Comfortable?’ Uh yeah…downright cozy” reply, the cashier followed up with, “We can’t do that” (indicating my reusable bags) because of “the COVID thing.”

Which is ridiculous.

 

“I told her I wasn’t going to touch her filthy reusable bags and the bitch done left me with her cartful of items.”

 

I did not tell her that her company’s policy is absurd, seeing as how she was a rank-and-file employee who was just following the store’s policy.  But the other employee, the one who either was the bagger or was temporarily functioning as such, stepped aside, yet remained at the bagging station…to do what? I wondered, as I pushed my cart to the end of the checkout line and began to bag my groceries. So, you’re not going to bag my items, you’re going to…uh, provide them with an escort?  Or chaperone me, while I bag them?  Dude, what is your function?

Many months ago at the afore-mentioned NS market, when they were still not bagging your groceries if you bought your own bags, the checkers and I joked about how it was understandable to have such draconian policies, two year ago, at the very beginning of the pandemic, when people weren’t sure what COVID-19 was or how it was transmitted.  But we’ve known for some time that COVID is an airborne virus.  You are not going to get it from my woven grocery basket, nor from my reusable bag made of nylon or another synthetic materials.

I tried and (mostly succeeded) in not berating store employees for following their company mandates, no matter how *not*-based-in-reality such mandates were.  There was one notable exception.

 

 

Several months into the pandemic moiself  tried to donate cans of pet food to a local animal shelter.  This is something I did periodically, although this particular trip was in response to moiself’s  having read an article about how the shelter was going through tough times and needed donations for food and other basic animal care items.  A volunteer at the shelter approached me as I began to lower my bags of canned food into the shelter’s donation bins – bins which were open, and at the entrance to the shelter, just as they had always been pre-pandemic.  The volunteer apologetically said that the shelter would not take a donation of cans, “…because of COVID.”

Moiself:
“Seriously?
You *do* realize that you can’t get COVID from a can of cat food…don’t you?”

I immediately regretted my outburst response, apologized to the volunteer,   [5]   adding that I realized he was not personally responsible for such an idiotic, non-science-based overly-cautious policy.    [6]

 

 

So, to reiterate: You (store clerk/business employee) are not going to get COVID from my reusable bag unless each component of the following scenario ensues:

* I, infected with COVID, am standing in your checkout line at your store.

* I feel a cough coming on, lift up my face mask, put my bag to my face, and hack and sputter into said bag.

* While bagging my groceries with the bag I brought and just coughed into, you – for  reasons fathomable only by a highly perceptive mental health professional – grab that bag, lift your own mask, stick your finger into the glob of moist ejecta I coughed onto the bag, stick that finger in your nostril and inhale deeply and then, just to make sure, lick that same finger before proclaiming, “Just as I thought! Definitely NOT lime Jell-O.”

 

 

Neither are you, nor I, *not* are going to catch COVID because you, the checker, obsessively sprayed and wiped your checkstand’s conveyor belt between each customer.  [7]    Our mask-wearing, social distance-maintaining, hand-washing; our getting vaccinated and staying home when we’re ill – these are the actions that matter.  However, store policies re obsessive cleaning are…well…policies.  And when a policy is established, for reasons sound or otherwise, it tends to remain in place.  ‘Cause, you know: Science.  [8]

So, Albertsons, answer me this: Do your fellow grocery stores, your competitors – do all those other stores and their employees have a special dispensation or super powers which allow them protection from those icky reusable bags which are out to contaminate your store’s employees?

Albertsons, hear this:  It is safe for your baggers to use customer’s reusable bags.  Update your policy. Either that or tell your “baggers” to get off their asses and move away if they’re not going to bag my groceries. I don’t need a chaperone or a witness while I do so. You could at least have them pretend to count the store’s supply of paper bags, or dust shelves or whatever, while I am doing what is supposed to be their job.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sometimes I Amaze Even Moiself

Did I really just write over twenty paragraphs about the pesky   [9]  dilemma of grocery store bagging?

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Pundemic Pandemic Edition

I will tell you a Coronavirus joke now,
but you will have to wait two weeks to see if you got it.

Why are four out of five fishermen *not* worried about COVD-19?
Because they never catch anything.

What’s the difference between Covid-19 and Romeo and Juliet?
One’s the coronavirus, the other is a Verona crisis

What will we call the kids who celebrate their thirteenth birthday
thirteen years after the start of the pandemic lockdown?
The quaranteens.

Bonus
 Chuck Norris has been exposed to the COVID-19.
The virus is now in quarantine for a month.

Special bonus
Best pickup line, as overheard in a nursing home:
Single elderly man says to single elderly woman,
“If COVID doesn’t take you out, can I?”

 

 

*   *   *

 

May you never use “because of the COVID thing” as an excuse;
May this post not be your (only) reason for avoiding lime Jell-O;
May you remember to bring your reusable bags;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Lifted as in no longer mandatory in indoor public spaces and schools.  Federal requirements still include masks on public transit.

[2] Had between apparent friends, in public spaces.  And yes, I was keeping proper physical distancing.  I wasn’t exactly eavesdropping; they were talking loudly and my mask did not cover my ears. Or, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

[3] As in, post-pandemic…as in, assuming what we had and did before was somehow “normal.”

[4] My longtime favorite store.  Which does not (yet) have a self-checkout option.

[5] Moiself  used to volunteer at that same shelter.

[6] “They’ll take monetary donations,” he sheepishly responded.  The “they,” I assume, meant the shelter staff.

[7] Now, wiping the belt after the previous customer’s raw beef dripped blood all over it and I’m going to put down my fresh produce on that very belt – YES! Thank you!

[8] The law of inertia, or whatever.

[9] As in, slightly frustrating, but not approaching the level of invading-another-sovereign-country frustrating.

The Job I’m Not Dressing For

2 Comments

Department Of Preview Of Coming Attractions

I went to a career advancement program at work, where I was advised,
“Dress for the job you *want,* not the job you *have.*”
Great!” I thought.
The next day, they fired me for violating the dress code at the bank.
Hypocrites.  How am I ever going to become a sumo wrestler now?

 

*   *   *

Department Of Mysteries Of The Mind
Chapter 82 In An Ongoing Series.

How is it possible for me to love the song, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” even as moiself  loathes the supposedly classic movie it references?

Admittedly, it’s been years since I watched the film.  I recall finding it an overrated snooze fest; also, the inclusion of an appalling ethnic stereotype character erased, for moiself, any possibility of enjoying the performance of the gamin-like ®  Audrey Hepburn.  [1]

And, yes indeedy-doo, I am aware of the pitfalls of employing the standards of today to judge the art of yesterday.  But, holy fortune cookie on a chopstick! – the movie was release in 1961, not 1916, and it had Mickey Rooney playing Hepburn’s buck-toothed, nearsighted, Japanese landlord (“Mr. Yunioshi”).

Effin’ MICKEY ROONEY?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Classic Bits Of Advice That Are Soooooo Not True

Such as the following, from a great English writer and social critic who wrote so movingly about the human condition, you think he’d know better.

“Ask no questions and you’ll be told no lies.”
( Charles Dickens )

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Do You Think They’ll Even Care (Or Read It)?   [2]

Dateline: last week, Thursday.  After listening again, to a repeat episode of one of my regular/favorite “science info” podcasts,  and being, annoyed, again, by the same thing that annoyed moiself the first (and second) time I heard it, I had to write to the podcast hosts.  [3]  Except that the podcast website provides no way to do that.  Thus….

Dear Curiosity Daily Hosts Cody Gough and Ashley Hamer,

Regular listener of CD here. Love the science; loathe the hyperbole.

As in: CD’s recent rebroadcast of the episode, Giant Cheese Race, “Morning You,” Consciousness-Altering Eye Contact. Specifically, the script for the Morning You segment.  It bothered me then (when it originally ran, in 2018), and it bothers me now:

“…A massive new study says…that you are a totally different person in the morning than you are at night.”

No. And, no no no.

I am certain that’s not what the study (if it claims any relation to scientific validity) says.  Remember, words impart meaning, which is why we argue over their usage.

A “Tweet analysis” study (geesh; really?), even a so-called massive one, did not discover a “total” change in personhood. Rather, it indicated that there could be a difference in some peoples’ moods, focuses, and vocabulary usage over the course of a day.

No earth-shattering discovery there. Altering interests and focuses over the day do not transform you into a “totally different person.”

If you were a *totally* different person, that would be something along the lines of, you woke up as a lonely 50-year-old male Ukrainian airline pilot obsessed with learning to play the didgeridoo, and went to bed as a gregarious 13-year-old female Guatemalan ballet dancer who’s planning to run for 8th grade class president.

Sincerely (if not totally) yours,

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Memory Lane
Sub-Department Of Not My Finest Moment of Being A Supportive Sibling

Recently I had cause to think back upon a childhood memory: the one big rebellion of my older sister (N).  I shared it with daughter Belle…and now, with y’all.

 

 

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…okay, in Santa Ana, CA.  I was in the second grade, my sister, your Aunt “N,” was in grade 4.

One night, with our family at the kitchen table, N did something astonishing (for her): she cleaned *most* of her plate (she always ate everything on it), but refused to eat a certain portion of her dinner.

I can’t remember exactly what it was that she didn’t eat – a new vegetable, or side dish?   [4]   The thing was, N, the stereotypically good/obedient first child, refused to take a bite and try it.  And that was sooo un-N-like, which is probably what irritated my parents the most.  They decreed that N had to remain at the kitchen table; she had to stay seated until she sampled __ (whatever it was).  She stayed at the table, but refused to take a bite.

I was fascinated by this.  I remained sitting at my usual place beside her on the table, while Mom and Dad and my younger sister RA (this was before your uncle, RS, was born) cleared their plates and went to the living room to watch Gilligan’s Island, which just happened to be one of N’s favorite TV shows. The following conversation ensued (transcript approximate; not verbatim):

Moiself:
Gilligan’s Island is about to start.”

N:
“I don’t care.”

Moiself:
“Mom and Dad said you have to stay at the table until you finish eating.”

N:
“Then I’ll sit here, all night.”

Moiself:
“You’re really gonna sit there, all night?”

N:
“I’m gonna sit here forever.”

Moiself:
“Oh, okay.”  (a pause of several seconds.)
“Then, can I have your room?    [5]

N:
“Fine; I don’t care.”

I can’t remember all the details of the aftermath; indeed, N was still sitting at the kitchen table when my parents informed RA and I that it was our bedtime (earlier than usual, and I was pissed by that.  I thought that they were going to argue with N or something and didn’t want us to see).  I had to go to bed in my own room; in the morning, it was obvious N had gone to bed at some point and did not stay at the table all night.

Years later, when I asked N about the incident, she said she didn’t remember it, and Mom and Dad are both gone so I can’t ask them:  Well, did she take a bite, or didn’t she?  It certainly made an impression on me – N  (not me, for once) getting in trouble and being willfully disobedient.  What I also remember is how much power it gave N, even if only temporary.  Her refusing to take even one measly, No Thank You Bite ® drove my parents nuts.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Faith-Based Lack-of-Initiative

“Portland mayor’s top adviser proposed massive, militarized group shelters as step in ending homeless camping….”
( The Oregonian, 2-11-22 )

Moiself  recently saw the above headline about the latest proposal possibly being considered by Portland’s mayor – a proposal that likely will go nowhere/do nothing re the city’s ongoing homeless/street camping problem.

There is a seeming intractability to this multifaceted issue, where no one can agree on what to do without infringing on someone’s “rights.”  Moiself  leans toward the rights of taxpaying homeowners and renters to *not* have to live next to, and among, hazardous waste sites, [6]  nor abide pollution and fires and destruction of wetlands, wildlife corridors and other protected wildlife habitats directly resulting from homeless encampments.  [7]

I am not impressed with the assertion, made by well-meaning but ultimately misguided (IMO) folks, that a mentally ill and/or addicted/substance-abusing person has the “right” to wander the streets, muttering gibberish, panhandling ( which can devolve into threats and aggression, demand and extortion   [8]  ) eating from dumpsters, defecating on the streets, and dying of hypothermia.

And it got me to thinking…about all those churches.  Specifically, all those church buildings and the real estate they own and (occasionally) occupy.

 

 

Some religious buildings are rather modest; others, particularly those belonging to the evangelical “mega” churches, are more like compounds which could house a small country.  Speaking of housing – the majority of churches buildings, no matter their size, lie unused most of the time. Except for a few Sunday services and a couple of mid-week bible studies, youth group meeting or other gatherings, they basically serve as a social hall for their members.

 

 Ariel photo of Pastor Joel Osteen’s $10.5 million dollar home, which is a 17,000 square foot compound on 1.86 acres.in River Oaks, a wealthy Houston suburb (Osteen also has another house, a $2.9 million mansion in Tanglewood, another Houston suburb).
“The property boasts loads of unique and luxurious features which span across the large mansion, including 6 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, 5 open wood fireplaces, 3 elevators, a 1 bedroom guest house, a pool, and a pool house.”
( Backstage: Joel Osteen’s house)

Criticizing the hypocrisy of the wealthy evangelical preachers is like shooting low-hanging fish in a fruit barrel. Preachers like Joel Osteen, known for peddling the Christianity “prosperity gospel” (translation: high on prosperity – for the leader/preacher, and low on gospel), is one of the wealthiest, and thus, lowest…uh, hanging.

But I’m holding all Christian churches, and Christians, responsible for the following observation of moiself:

If Christians took their faith seriously, there would be no homeless problem.    [9]

(I’m not ragging on dealing with other religions right now, although regular/longtime readers of this blog know that I do not hesitate to do so.  But the subject here is homelessness in the USA, where Christianity is the dominant religion among those who claim a religious affiliation. )

 

 

Christians, in particular those prone to a conservative, evangelizing theology, like to proclaim to non-Christians that, “Jesus/god loves you and has a plan for your life!” even as they conveniently ignore the plans that *their* god supposedly gave to believers in their own so-called holy book:    [10]

“Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’
‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.’
‘Which ones?’ he inquired.
Jesus replied, ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.’
 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
( Matthew 19:15-21 )

“…For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.
They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ …Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
(Matt: 25 42-45 )

 

 

Jesus could identify with the homeless in His itinerant ministry.
In Matthew 8:20, Jesus states that even animals have a place to call home, but He had nowhere to lay His head.
He stayed in the homes of whoever would welcome Him and sometimes outside.

God expects His people to help those who are homeless. The Law directly addressed care for those in need. In Leviticus 25:35 God commands His people to help support those who have no home and cannot support themselves: “If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.” (see also Deuteronomy 15:7–11). The Lord rebuked those who kept the outward form of religion yet did not care for the poor: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen . . . to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58:6–7).
(“What does the bible say about the homeless/homelessness.” Gotquestions.org )

Conservative/prosperity gospel practitioners of Christianity seem to take literally only a few scriptural injunctions which have to do with sex (i.e. those which they think don’t apply to themselves).  But Jesus’ many admonitions to his followers re helping the poor and not amassing treasures on earth?  Nah; those have nothing to do with them.  Obviously, JC meant for his followers to take *those* commands figuratively, as in this amazing rationalization, which I’ve actually heard from more than one Christian (when I’ve questioned them re their obvious comfort with acquiring wealth while so many in their community are impoverished):

“What the Bible means is that we should tend to a person’s *spiritual* (not financial) poverty, since material possessions ultimately don’t matter.”

Cool story, bro. Just one problem:

“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’
but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”
(James 2:15-16)

 

 

*   *   *

Punz/Jokez For The Day
Hypocrisy Edition

My pastor told me that my generation can’t live without technology.
I called him a hypocrite and unplugged his life support machine.

When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bike,
until I realized the Lord doesn’t work that way.
So I stole one and asked him to forgive me instead.

My priest is such a hypocrite.
He called my friend a hero for donating a kidney,
but when I turned tried to donate ten, he called me a monster.

 

 

*   *   *

May the job you want be the one you’re dressing for;
May you not rely upon iron age scriptures to discern and solve
 twenty-first century problems;
May you watch a better, if lesser-known, Audrey Hepburn film    [11]
(than “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”);
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Gamin is the word many movie critics seem to think one is required by law to use4 when commenting on Audrey Hepburn.

[2] I mean, would *you*?

[3] Who are also the writers of many (but not all) of the show’s segments.

[4]  Which hardly seems likely, as I can count on the fingers of less than one hand the times my mother added anything new to the standard rotation of dinners she cooked.

[5]  RA and I shared a bedroom; I dreamed of having my own.

[6] When homeless encampments move and/or are relocated, the resulting cleanup, with the combination of human waste, drugs, needles and other drug paraphernalia, has been likened to dealing with EPA toxic sites.

[7] “…the environmental impacts of homeless encampments in parks and green spaces…include erosion, destruction of native vegetation, debris accumulation, water quality issues, habitat destruction, public health issues (including hypodermic needles and possibly E. coli fecal coliform bacterial contamination of the creek and its tributaries), and discouragement of public use of parks and green spaces. ” (Environmental Damage and Homeless Camps, Thornton Creek Alliance )

” Environmental experts say, in the case of multiple protected Portland habitats, the damage is done, and it could take years to repair….because, months ago, those habitats went from safe havens for wildlife to hotspots for homeless campers.”( “Homeless campers damaging protected wildlife habitats, experts say,”)

[8] Some street beggars set themselves in such a way as to block your passage unless you give them money, or essentially extort nearby businesses – e.g., setting themselves up by the entrance to a café, and letting the cafe staff know that they will be there, harassing and scaring away would be customers, unless they get a certain “contribution” (read: unless the café staff pays them what amounts to a toll). 

[9] and not even, “literally.”

[10] Unless otherwise specified, the wording in the biblical passages is from the English language “The New International Version” of the Christian bible.

[11] Like, “Wait Until Dark.”

The Shows I’m Not Watching

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Department Of I Dare You To Listen To This Without Crying

The 11th: A Letter From George

I need to rephrase that, because moiself  *wants* you to listen to this Radio podcast, even though it will make you cry.  [1]   Because a person you love, maybe even your own self, is either walking in Matt’s shoes, or will be, someday.

Matt is the grieving man who is interviewed in this The 11th: A Letter From George  podcast, which, as per the Radiolab website, is part of a series

“… of mini pep talks designed to help us all get through this cold, dark,
second-pandemic-winter-in-a-row.
But this is about someone trying to get through something arguably much more difficult, something a pep talk can’t solve, but that a couple friends — and one very generous stranger — might be able to help make a little more bearable.”

 

 

In the interview, Matt tells how he wrote about his loss and grief to a man who was, essentially, a stranger, after a friend had given Matt an excerpt from a book by this stranger, the author George Saunders.  Matt found Saunders’ writing touching, and beneficial in that it wasn’t cliched:

“….he didn’t say it was going to get better;
he didn’t expect me to think that it was going to get better.
All it was, was just making me feel that the way I’m feeling is okay.”

Matt read from the letter he wrote to Saunders:

“Hello.  I just lost my fiancé two weeks ago, and she was buried last Saturday. She was 29; we had just moved into our first house together and we were about to start our life. A friend send me an excerpt from your new novel and I keep it with me always…. I don’t even know if anyone will see this, but I just want you to know that you have helped me.  I don’t even know what to do anymore, so thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve never experienced loss like this, and the only thing that’s keeping me from taking my life is that I know what it does to others. Be well.”

To Matt’s surprise, Saunders wrote back. 

“Dear Matt. Oh, I am so so sorry for your loss.
That must be just unspeakably difficult….
I don’t really know what to say, except that someone told me this recently: that grief is a form of praise.
You are praising the wonder of the person you lost. The great pain you are feeling means great love.  I can’t imagine that helps, but it is true.
It is like cause and effect, you really saw and knew and cherished her – that’s what your grief is proving
, and proving that she was wonderful, and that you appreciated that….”   [2]

 

 

Saunders later reached out to Matt on social media, to check in with him.  Their correspondence is beyond touching.

You deserve, and probably need ,  [3]  a good cry, followed by a good uplift.  You’ll get both if you listen to that episode.

*   *   *

Department Of Not The Murder Mystery Show I Was Expecting

 

Trigger warning: The following contains references to a “fact-based” TV series about murdered family members.

Dateline: two weeks ago, MH and I began watching A Confession, a six part BritBox series currently streaming on various services.  I knew next to nothing about it; I thought it was going to be a typical murder mystery.  But there wasn’t much of a mystery: the person who *seemed* to be the obvious perpetrator *was* the perpetrator.

Moiself  only made it to the first part episode three when I realized where the series was headed.  Despite the stellar acting and writing, I had to get up and leave the room.

 

 

It’s not a genre I spend a lot of time watching (or reading); still, it seems to me that in the typical murder mystery, the murder itself is or becomes almost a side note, to get the plot rolling to focus on

* the investigation and the antics of various law enforcement stock characters
(the jaded veteran, the /overenthusiastic but naive new recruit, etc.);

* the machinations of the legal/criminal justice system;

* what the crime and/or its investigation says about the larger culture.

The victim and family are not the primary focus.  In many cases where the story is an adaptation of a murder/mystery novel, you don’t even care about the victim, who is portrayed as an unsympathetic character, thus sparking the whodunit intrigue (“Whodunit?  The dude was a devious, hateful SOB – everybody who knew him had reason to dunit to him.”)

But A Confession, during the second episode, began to home in on the aftermath for the murdered young women’s families – their profound sorrows, horrors, regrets; their wrenching questions which will never be answered.  This change in focus is a change I welcome for the genre…in theory.  In practice, it turned out I was unprepared, and it proved to be too much for moiself  to continue watching.

 

 

Perhaps because the subject personal is to me, I can’t help but wonder:  do people who write these stories actually have close friends or family members who have been killed? I’m not talking about the classic or typical murder mystery series, many of which (e.g. the genre’s novels by Agatha Christie; Sayers, Grafton’s “alphabetical series”  [4]   )  seem to be almost…comical is not quite the word I’m looking for, but the tone is definitely light.  

But A Confession was quite dramatic and realistic,   [5]  in terms of showing the overwhelming emotional consequences haunting a murder victim’s family and friends.  And thus, my wondering:  would anyone who has experienced this kind of a tragedy write such a story for…entertainment? And that’s what it is, isn’t it?  We are watching a story about murder, to…pass the time, and amuse ourselves?  Even if “fact-based,” the stories are not documentaries; we’re not watching them for edification, or to be informed as to, say, how we can avoid serial killers. And that proposition seems odd, to me.

Confession A: I was riveted to “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” the HBO documentary based on the book of the same name, about the serial rapist and murderer known as the Golden State Killer.  Even though I knew what happened and how it ended,  [6]  moiself  still wanted to see the portrayal of (at least partial) justice done, as I felt a connection to the story.  I was in college near the area where the GSK started his crime spree – back then he was known as the East Area Rapist ( moiself  previously blogged about his capture).

Confession B: Silence of the Lambs is one of my all-time favorite movies – although I’ve no doubt it would *not* be if it were a true story.  Still, are A and B hypocrisies, or inconsistencies, on my part? 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Watch This Instead

That would be the National Geographic documentary, The Rescue.

You are likely at least somewhat familiar with the against-all-odds, how-the-hell-didn’t-they-all-die ?!?!?, amazing true story The Rescue tells. If not, here’s a teaser:

One day in June 2018, members of Thai boys soccer team and their coach went for a hike in the Tham Luang cave.  Most of the boys had been inside the cave before – exploring it was something of a local rite of passage, and they wanted to go further inside than they’d gone before, as part of a team-building exercise.  (Two team members, who were tired and/or not feeling well did not go into the cave).

The cave became flooded; rising waters from sudden torrential rains blocked the exit and trapped twelve boys (ages 11 -16) and their 25-year-old coach when they were 2.5 miles from the cave’s entrance.  Despite heroic efforts by Thai Navy SEAL divers,   [7]  search and rescue efforts were obstructed by the rising waters and strong currents within the cave.  Having no contact with the trapped party for a week, Thai authorities summoned British rescue divers specializing in cave diving, who found the group alive, trapped on a cave ledge.  But how the heck were they going to get them out?  An international rescue operation was mounted….

 

You’ll feel baby-sloth-heart-warmed, after watching this inspiring story.

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Flawless Segue To Yet Another Content Warning:

 

 

Department Of Next Time, Why Not Adopt An Egalitarian Mixed Breed?

Did you know that at least 60% of Golden Retrievers will develop cancer, and that cancer is the leading cause of death in all but 11 purebred dog breeds?

Calling all dog lovers:  please consider boycotting watching the Westminster Kennel Dog Show, and all other such grotesque spectacles which celebrate the dog “breed standards,” which contribute to people’s preference for purebreds, which is responsible for the lack of genetic diversity within “pure” breeds and the resulting decline in the health of such dogs.

Holy doggy-do disposal device – think about it: the very term “purebred” reeks of…well, privilege (and even canine racism, one could argue).

And remember, the  so-called “royal” families around the world have shown us what inbreeding can lead to.

 

 

“By age five, for example, half of all King Cavalier Spaniels will develop mitral valve disease, a serious heart condition that leaves the dogs susceptible to premature death. By the same age, up to 70 percent will suffer from canine syringomyelia, a debilitating neurological disorder in which the brain is too large for the skull, causing severe pain in the neck and shoulders, along with damage to parts of the dog’s spinal cord. And although Cavaliers may be a particularly obvious case of purebreds with problems, they aren’t alone. Most purebred dogs today are at a high risk for numerous inherited diseases….

For almost 4,000 years people have been breeding dogs for certain traits….But the vast number of modern breeds—and the roots of their genetically caused problems—came about over the past two centuries, as dog shows became popular and people began selectively inbreeding the animals to have specific physical features. Over time the American Kennel Club (AKC) and other such organizations have set standards defining what each variety should look like. To foster the desired appearance, breeders often turn to line breeding—a type of inbreeding that mates direct relatives, such as grandmother and grandson.”
(“Although Purebred Dogs Can Be Best in Show, Are They Worst in Health?”

Scientific American )

Because some humans think it’s cute for a dog to have, for example, a smashed-in face (ala the pug and bulldog varieties), dogs have been bred to emphasize features and traits that humans find adorable but which are in fact genetic disorders and malformations.

 

That’s shocking…but, what about cats?

 

The multi-exotic-breed-mania has infected the cat world to a lesser degree.  You don’t see the extremes in domestic cats:

*  43 – 71 recognized breeds (depending on what authority you listen to) ranging in size from a 5 lb Singapura to a 20 lb Main Coon

that you do in dogs:

* 360 recognized breeds, ranging from a 4 lb Chihuahua to a 300 lb English Mastiff.

Many veterinarians, biologists, cat breed associations, and other animal lovers want to keep it that way.  Noting that it is cruel to breed animals with genetic deformities intentionally, they protest the breeding of The Munchkin (aka “sausage cat”), a relatively new breed of cat characterized by very short legs caused by a genetic mutation.

While many people think Munchkins are cute (and call them the “wiener dogs” cats), their stunted limbs impact their mobility – they struggle to run and jump, and suffer from back and hip problems similar to those experienced by short-legged dog breeds.   [8]

 

Cute? Sure, if you think animals should be bred for debilitating and painful deformities to amuse you.

 

“Much controversy erupted over the breed when it was recognized by The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1997 with critics voicing concern over potential health and mobility issues.    Many pedigree cat associations around the world have refused to recognize the Munchkin cat due to the welfare of the breed and severity of the health issues,  including the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy.
(Wikipedia, Munchkin cat entry)

“Andrew Prentis, of Hyde Park Veterinary Centre has warned that it’s cruel to breed the cats knowing of their physical defects.  He said: ‘The cat in its natural form has evolved over thousands of years to be pretty well designed and to be very efficient, healthy and athletic.  The idea that someone wants to breed them to have effectively no legs and for entirely cosmetic reasons is very disappointing.’ …

A spokesperson for PETA told Metro.co.uk: ‘Let’s leave cats be and admire them for their natural selves. They’re not bonsai trees to be contorted into unnatural shapes on a selfish whim.

‘The demand for ‘designer pets’ is fueling cruel breeding practices that cause animals to suffer from painful, debilitating conditions such as lordosis, whereby their spinal muscles grow too short, meaning that the spine arches inwards, because their bodies are unnaturally long. People who buy them view them in the same way one might a designer handbag – and once the novelty wears off, many animals will inevitably be abandoned, putting extra strain on already overburdened shelters.

‘And while breeders continue to profit from churning out felines with genetic mutations, thousands of healthy, highly adoptable cats languish in shelters, just waiting for someone to take them home.’

( excerpts from “Vets are warning animal-lovers to stay away from the cruel trend
for so-called sausage cats.”  UK Metro )

Please, please, next time, adopt a mixed-breed, aka, a mutt.  If the demand for “pure” breeds (and “designer” breeds   [9]  and hybrids   [10])  goes away, so will the supply.

  

We’ll see you at the shelter!

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Royal Inbred Family Edition

The 17th century French royalty depleted their treasury…
I guess you could say they were baroque.

What was the Russian royalty’s favorite fish?
Czardines.

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

What member of the royal family should always carry an umbrella?
The Reigning Monarch.

 

*   *   *

May you advocate for the mutts of this world;
May you appreciate the heroic efforts of rescue divers
(while not being reckless enough to need their services);
May you forgive yourself for enjoying Silence of the Lambs;   [11]

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] If it doesn’t, then there’s something wrong with you.  Yes, that’s judgmental of me, but here, in this space, I am The Judge.  What, you didn’t get the memo?

[2] Excerpts from Saunders’ response (my emphases).

[3] Yeah, presumptive of moiself, isn’t it?

[4] “A is for Alibi…”B is for Burglar”… “C is for Corpse”….

[5] From what I saw, which, again, is why I couldn’t watch the series to its conclusion.

[6] I’d read the book.

[7] One of whom tragically died during an attempted rescue.

[8] (e.g. dachshunds and corgis, which were also bred for a naturally occurring but distorting and potentially crippling genetic mutations)

[9] For example, labradoodles, whose creator later lamented his decision to create the breed, saying, “I opened a Pandora box and released a Frankenstein monster.” (“Health Problems in Labradoodles.”)

[10] Four Facts About Hybrid Dogs Unethical Breeders Don’t Want You to Know

[11] Which is a finely crafted film, from writing, directing, acting, cinematography and soundtrack – the whole cinematic enchilada.

The Date I’m Not Commemorating

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That would be yesterday, January 6. 

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

Department of Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum!

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of See You Next Year    [1]

Christmas cleanup.

 

Before.

 

After.

 

*    *   *

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Still Miss Siskel & Ebert

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

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

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

 

 

– Those Who Wish Me Dead

– A Quiet Place II

– Cruella

– Dream Horse

– In The Heights    ( zzz )    [8]

– Queen Bees

– Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard

– Black Widow

– Pig  ****

– Joe Bell

– Green Knight

– Stillwater

– Free Guy

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

– The Alpinist   ****

– Queenpins

– Dear Evan Hansen

– No Time To Die  ****

– The Last Duel

– Dune

– Spencer

– Belfast ****

– The French Dispatch

– Ghostbusters: Afterlife    ( zzz )     [9] 

– House of Gucci   ( zzz )   

– C’mon C’mon  ****

– West Side Story  ****

– Don’t Look Up  ****

– Licorice Pizza  ****   [10]

 

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Because, Why Not?

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

Especially when it’s nicknamed, Banana Pose.

 

*   *   *

 

Punz For The Day
Banana Edition

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

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

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

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

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

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Eleven months, actually.

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

[3] Unfortunately, we have two.

[4] Taxes, insurance and mortgage vitals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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