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The S*** I’m Not Fixing

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Department Of Now Who Can Argue With That?

 

 

 

“You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.”
(Jim, aka The Waco Kid, Blazing Saddles)

 

 

Happy (belated) birthday to Mel Brooks. He shares a birthday with my nephew, BPV, who turned 26 on Tuesday while Mel is…can it be…90?

In Mel’s honor, I had to watch a certain movie Tuesday evening. I have three of his films in my DVD collection; Blazing Saddles won out.

I am ever so fond of Brook’s boisterous Western spoof for many reasons, [1] including that it has come to remind me of my offspring.

 

 

explain

 

 

Gladly, Neil. The weeks preceding each of K’s and Belle’s births, I had an après-diner DVD (or video rental) film fest – two movies per night, screening my then-current or all-time favorite comedies. I was trying to laugh ’em out.

While watching Blazing, I wondered yet again: if the movie were made today, how likely is it that the film’s dialogue would include such copious usage of the N-word?  [2]

Brooks was an equal opportunity offender and master genre satirist. Blazing includes some of my favorite movie dialogue, including the authentic frontier gibberish speech opening this post. One line from the movie (can you guess which?) was nominated for the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Greatest Movie Quotes. [3]

 

 

And, of course, there is the scene which altered the art of the western cinematic genre. For decades after the release of Blazing Saddles, directors complained that they could no longer include any incident involving a campfire, due to Brooks’ lampooning of that iconic Western setting.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of This Is Going To Make For Interesting Dinner Table Conversation

It’s been a movie-watching week at dinner time. MH was late getting home on Monday, and I settled into one of our comfy chairs and put in a Netflix video: the documentary, “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry.”  A few minutes past the title sequence MH returned home. He began watching the documentary, which included having to watch me squeal with delightful recognition as one of my college professors, journalist and historian Ruth Rosen, made an onscreen appearance.

MH asked me a few questions about the documentary’s subject matter – the resurgence of what historians call 2nd wave feminism (circa 1960-1972). This prompted me to ask him if he’d ever read The Feminine Mystique, or Sexual Politics, or The Feminist Papers, or….I gestured toward the shelf on our family room’s ceiling-to-floor bookcase where those books, and other seminal (so to speak) writings of the feminist movement may be found. Uh…no?

Alright then, what about Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice? Nope?  Okay, not even (I did not use those words) Black Like Me?

MH said something about one disadvantages of not going to a liberal arts college (he attended Caltech) was not having those books on his reading list.

 

 

REALLY

 

 

And I was flummoxed.

I sat there thinking…stuff I mostly didn’t say. Once again I indicated our bookshelf by the fireplace. I read those books, and not because I attended a “liberal arts college” where they were required reading. I attended UC Davis, a public research university with (at the time) a mostly science/agricultural bent and reputation. Some of those books I read were mentioned in a couple of the classes I took, in the classes’ supplemental/extra reading syllabi, but were not “required” reading. All of them (and many other titles) should, in my opinion, be required reading for every citizen, regardless of their academic interests. Because of THE PROFOUND SOCIAL, CULTURAL, AND ECONOMIC CHANGES both documented and/or foreshadowed in them; because….  Oy vey.

 

Consider yourself warned.

Consider yourself warned.

 

 

Equality of opportunity for all people, regardless of any ism, is something MH and so many Good Men ® like him espouse and practice…and also, in some ways, IMHO, take for granted, often times because of how they were raised. But MH is no historical ignoramus; thus, I sat…and wondered. I wondered why so many men of his age, class and ethnicity who are (considered to be) well-educated, seemingly display little curiosity about why those books were written and the historical context in which such manuscripts and manifestos could be – had to be – produced?

People who have a science- or evidence- or reality-based view of the world (I consider both MH and I to be in that category) want to know how the world works. That is one of the strongest incentives MH and I had for eschewing the religious indoctrination of our respective childhoods and families: “It” (religion) is not a rational explanation for How Things Work. ® .

I am puzzled by people who hold a reality-based worldview and yet seem to lack the curiosity to understand the many other ways in which the world “works.” Perhaps it’s simply because those other ways are just too damn complicated. Even as complex as understanding the biology, chemistry and physics of life is trying to understand and dissect the pesky, messy, human political and cultural processes…including how a person may be an unwitting beneficiary of systems he did not design but by which he profits and therefore has no vested interest in dismantling…or even fully recognizing.

 

 

yeahright

 

 

Our brief exchange on the matter made me think of a term which makes many people defensively (unfortunately) cringe. It’s in the category of those terms which can be seen as cultural yellow alerts – ala “microagressions” or  “heteronormative” –  terms which cause a certain number of people to close their ears, minds and hearts the moment you use them.

I intuitively understood “privilege,” the first time I heard the word used to frame matters of social inequalty, [4]  because it was a concept I’d previously defined to myself as “luxury.”

Many men – including MH and our son, K – are decent folk who would never (consciously) think of oppressing, limiting or defining someone because of race or gender or sexual orientation or economic or social class.  Nonetheless, MH and K and manparts-people like them, as people born into this country’s dominant/normative gender/race/class, have the luxury of not having to think about their dominant or privileged status, simply because it isn’t part of their daily experience (unless it is “required reading” in some academic or theoretical setting).

The thing about privilege is that it’s invisible to we who have it. The ultimate privilege is the fact of not having to think about privilege, or to even notice that it exists.

Oh, and this privilege, luxury, or whatever you want to call it – it’s not inherently a bad thing. As scientist and atheist/feminist writer and activist Jen McCreight has pointed out, we all have some kind of privilege over somebody. What matters is whether we’re aware of it, how we use it, and that we not dismiss the concerns of the people who don’t share our particular form of it.

 

Young man, if you honestly think this country doesn’t care about religion or race, then you are privileged. You have grown up in an America that has enabled you to not know otherwise.
And I don’t need to you to be sorry about it, because you didn’t create that. I’d just love for you to someday understand it.

(Mary Elizabeth Williams, We Don’t Need Your Apology, Princeton Kid written in response to an essay published by a Princeton student who claimed he’d “checked his privilege” and decided he need “apologize for nothing.”)

 

Okay; deep, cleansing breath. Writing this makes me feel…old. Like I’ve failed my kids. Wasn’t my generation supposed to fix this shit?

 

 

Yep – totally your job!

Yep – totally your job!

 

 

*   *   *

Speaking of generational shit:

Department Of Saving Time And Heartache And Maybe An STD Or Three

“Booze gave me permission to do and be whatever I wanted.”
(Blackout: Remembering The Things I Drank To Forget,  by Sarah Hepola)

 

I wish I could get all teens through twenty-somethings to listen to author Sarah Hepola‘s interview on the June 21st  edition of Fresh Air, in which she discusses her participation in the “hook up” culture of college and the reality of sex without the “liquid courage” of alcohol. It would be wonderful if young men and women could have the insights at age 19 that Hepola didn’t recognize until age 35.

 

*   *   *

May you feel responsible for fixing a modicum of shit attributable to any generation;
May you appreciate the well-written campfire scene;
May you remember the insights at age 35 when you’re way older than that;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Not the least of which is singing along to the marvelous title song. I still can’t believe Brooks got the singer of so many iconic Westerns, Frankie Laine, to do it with a straight face…or straight vocal cords.

[2] According to an interview with Brooks I read many years ago, co-screenwriter Richard Pryor is to thank for that.

[3] Yes, it’s now official – there is a list of Best 100… for everything.

[4] E.g., white privilege or male privilege.

The Sushi Roll I’m Not Ordering

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Department Of Sophomoric Observations

A Japanese restaurant where I have become a weekly lunch regular recently installed a video screen which plays a continuous loop of some truly gorgeous pictures of their various sushi and rolls, combination platters, bento boxes and other menu items. Last week I was enjoying the show as I ate my bowl of edamame, until I almost choked when the picture of a long, brown, slightly curved, specialty roll flashed by on the screen – a roll that someone had unfortunately decided to dub, “The Johnson Roll.”

Slang terms and idioms don’t always travel graciously across cultures. My server gave me a curious look when she caught my mirthful reaction, and I wondered if I should say anything – just pose an innocent question, to see if she “got it.” [1]   I mean, I’d feel like a pervert ordering the thing.

 

If I order the Johnson roll will you be happy to see me?

If I order the Johnson roll will you be happy to see me?

*   *   *

The Electorate I’m Not Analyzing

Because simple ad hominem attacks, the usage of which I am usually (or at least philosophically) opposed to, will suffice:

Are people bloody bonkers?

I refer of course to the great mystery of our time.

 

 

mystery

 

 

No, not that one. The mystery is that the Trumpster is not in the dumpster at this point in the primaries. My theory: there are many short-sighted people who, the more they feel ineffective, unappreciated and threatened, the more they gravitate towards that which they perceive as powerful. And these people apparently equate bombasity with power, and there are enough of them to keep That Man at the top of the festering turd of a heap that is the Republican presidential primary contest.

And yes, bombasity (the condition or quality of being bombastic to the nth power) needed to be a word. [2] Now it is. So let it be written; so let it be done.

 

 

*   *   *

The Constraints I’m Not Protesting

Content warning: Yet another plug for Star Talk, Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s podcast.

This time I’m touting the Science Of Creativity episode, with host NGT interviewing his guest, musician, Talking Heads founder and AARP men’s hair fashion correspondent, David Byrne, about…see the show’s title.

Which (drum roll, please) got me to thinking .

I love it when Someone Smarter Than Moiself ® articulates a concept with which I am in total agreement. [3]  As per the referenced podcast, that concept is this:  constraints, both in art and science, can be liberating, and are in fact what lead to creativity.

Many wannabe (IMHO) artists chafe at the mere mention of restraints or controls or guidelines when it comes to that nebulous concepts creativity. On the other hand [4], mature/experienced artists realize that when there are no boundaries you can just do anything…which often seems like – and sometimes leads to – doing nothing in particular.

Witness the creativity called up by the NASA engineers – the astounding, seat-of-their-pants, imagination and resourcefulness that enabled them to create solutions for the Apollo 13 crew to bring their severely damaged spacecraft home safely. These solutions were arrived at not by using anything/everything at the engineers’ disposal; rather, they had to work within the constraints of what the astronauts actually had within their capsule.

Constraints, even those which might be called “censorship,” can be liberating, in that you can focus on what you can do with the materials/talents/themes/venues at hand, and not ramble within a world of seemingly no limits. The beauty of haiku is in its structure. The insipidness with much of so-called free form or free verse poetry…tennis without a net, anyone?

We’ve all had the experience of listening to/reading/watching/observing a less than magnificent (or not even marginally competent) book/painting/play/movie/recital/concert. Some of us have also been witness to (read: somehow forced to attend a showing of) the “art” of someone who evinces little or no actual artistic talent – someone who lacks the discipline to put in the years and hard work to develop the talent but who is so enamored of the concept of being an artist that they have to come up with another name for…for whatever it is they can do.  [5]

 

I'm artist, dammit, and who are you to limit or define what that is?

I’m artist, dammit, and who are you to limit or define what that is?

 

 

Nowadays it seems you can show/describe/sing about just about anything, including people performing personal hygiene rituals, people fucking, people being disemboweled and tortured….  The proponents of this show-it-all-ness call it realism, and fling the censorship! pejorative at those who suggest subtlety or moderation in presentation.

Excuse me, but your story might be more enjoyable if it had complex, three dimensional characters and a more intricate plot, or one which might encourage viewers to imagine and  anticipate and….

(Gasp!)  This is intentional – you would censor/constrain my art?!

The Realism Rah-Rahs seem clueless when it comes to understanding how their in-your-face approach loses the poetry of subterfuge, the beauty of obfuscation, the creativity of concealment.

Without constraints, there is no thrill of sneaking a song like The Kinks’ Lola past the censors. [6]  And the snappy, now-classic cinematic dialogue, the clever artistry of cinematography and staging necessary to impart certain concepts (e.g. a sexual rendezvous) was enabled, and made necessary, by the movie production codes of the day. [7]  The saucy double entendres of Mae West

When I’m good I’m very, very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.

Too much of a good thing can be taxing.

When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.

Why don’t you come up and… see me some time?

­– why write those lines today [8] when you can have your actors openly proposition one another (and then follow through) on camera?

 

maewest

*   *   *

The Certificate I’m Not Showing You [9]

Perhaps you remember (or are desperately trying to forget) my blog post from two weeks ago, wherein profanely ranted about I articulately lamented what I saw as the lack of respect MH received for his 25th anniversary with his company (all together now: Twenty-five years and they gave you a fucking $8.99 Safeway cake?!?!?”)

 

certificate_of_appreciation

 

That’s not all the recognition he received. Tuesday eve MH came home from work bearing a Certificate of Accomplishment, in the form of a white 8 ½ x 11 inch piece of paper that had his name, a Congratulations, 25 years, yay you! message and a couple of color graphics printed on it. The cheap piece of paper certificate had been laminated, and was slightly bent/curled in the middle, as if someone had tried to roll it up or had sat on it.

Perhaps the yeah-isn’t-this-great twinkle in MH’s eyes as he showed the paper to me should’ve reassured me that I didn’t need to suppress my reaction. Still, I waited until the next morning, to see if I felt the same about it. I asked to see the certificate again, and summoned all the enthusiasm such an honor merited:

Moiself: “I’m sorry for snickering at this. I mean, it’s obvious someone went to the trouble to go all the way to Kinko’s to have it laminated.”

MH: “I’m pretty sure it was in-house job. If they’d gone to Kinko’s it wouldn’t be bent.”

I could not let that stand. I made a rare (for me) trip to a local crafts store, got a shiny purple frame and what son K refers to as “bedazzlers,” and I pimped that certificate.

 

bling

*   *   *

May your accomplishments be bedazzled;
May your constraints be creative;
May The Martian win this year’s Best Picture Oscar;
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] I did: “So, what is a Johnson roll made of?” Her straightforward description of the ingredients indicated to me that she’d no idea of the…possible interpretations of the roll’s name.

[2] You’re welcome.

[3] Aka the Yeah, what she said, phenomenon.

[4] …you have other fingers.

[5] Performance Art, anyone?

[6] Certainly, it would have been a different song – or perhaps, not even written – had there been no radio content censorship back then.

[7] Hays Code and Breen code, e.g. 

[8] And, sadly, few screenwriters do.

[9] Because MH refused to let me photograph it.

 

 

The Pants Seat I’m Not Flying By

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This has been a week of Deep Thoughts ®. Bear with me.

Conversation Of The Week

Sensing that I’m a friendly person – or perhaps that pesky, Go Ahead, You Can Say Anything To This One sign was flashing on my forehead, again – the stranger behind me in the checkout line begins chatting with me while she unloads her cartful of groceries. I had just a few items, including a bag of son K’s favorite cookies, which she commented on (“I didn’t know they came in mini-size!”). She hefted a 10 lb. bag of potatoes onto the scanner belt, followed by several other fresh vegetable items, and began to complain about the produce selection at the “new store.”

Woman Whom I’ve Never Seen Before: “I was really disappointed at the produce selection at the new store. There’s hardly any variety in vegetables – nothing like here.”

Me: “The new store?” I assumed she meant that a new franchise of the supermarket chain she and I are in has opened.  “I didn’t know they’d built another one.”

WWINSB: “Yeah, the new store.” She paused, anticipating the light of recognition in my eyes that never appeared. “You know the one. It’s right by where I live.” 

Me (as sweetly and patiently as humanly possible): “I have no idea where you live.”

WWINSB: “Right by the new Wal-Mart.”

We were not in a Wal-Mart.

 

WTF Spock

*   *   *

Fess up. Neither you nor I nor the rest of the world, I bet, have ever seen someone actually flying by the seat of their pants. For some reason, this is bothering me.

I’ve a general awareness of the definition of the idiom (“to proceed or work by feel or instinct, without formal guidelines), and also that it has several origin stories, including, no surprise, an anecdote from the early days of aviation.

But that story doesn’t help to explain the images that come to mind or are implied when that expression is employed.

 

pantsflypng

 

Does that mean that you are able to fly by, what, flapping your pants’ seat? Or, is it that the seat of your pants is flying, as are you, and you are flying “by” (in formation, alongside, or proximity to) the seat of your pants…in which case, if your pants are flying by themselves then you are flying pants-less, and the wind-chill factor is likely to do a number on your noonies.

Yeah, I know: A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

 

facepalm

*   *   *

Department Of My Brain Hurts

Just a sample of the thoughts spinning through (orbiting?) my head after listening to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk Radio podcast , “Colonizing Mars with Bas Landsdorp.” [1]

Some of my questions/thoughts were addressed or at least acknowledged…but not fully answered, IMHO…by  my buddies, Neil and Bas. The issues facing the successful, long-term survival of colonists do not, to me, seem to be primarily those which will be solved [2] by engineers and – oh, I love the chance to type this – rocket scientists.  The main obstacles of establishing and maintaining a colony on Mars would seem to be psychological and sociological. Some of my concerns include:

* What kind of person volunteers for a no-return trip? Are you going to end up with a ship (and then colony) full of highly intelligent, scientifically and technologically literate, highly motivated…sociopaths and misanthropes? I know there will be psychological/personality testing up the wazoo for any volunteers…and I also know that highly motivated and highly intelligent and highly manipulative people can figure out how to beat those tests.

* Establishment of a long-term or permanent colony brings up the dilemma of how the colony members will be replenished: by continuing trips from earth, or via reproduction?  Humans evolved to live in social groups; most people instinctively crave the love and support of family life, want to pass on both their genes and their experiences, and find pleasure in raising children. If you assume that people will do what people will do and plan to let nature take its course…will nature even be able to find a course?  Can humans, who evolved on earth, even reproduce in different gravity environments, and what will happen with pregnancy and fetal development?

* Humans are humans. If you don’t send already established couples to the colony, there will be competition/jealousy when it comes to the finding a mate issue. Also, the pickings, initially, will be slim. Will the desire or need for reproduction (to keep the colony going) rule out sending gay male scientists and explorers? [3]

* If/once you have a colony rug rat or two, ay yi yi. How can you give a child a normal life without endangering the colony and/or driving both the parents and the child insane via the need for constant vigilance? It’s one thing if little Marina kicks a soccer ball through the neighbor’s plate glass window, quite another if she inadvertently takes out a solar panel or other crucial piece of equipment.

* The most important question of all: will I live to see any of this?

 

 

mars

 

*   *   *

Department Of This Is What Happens When You Talk Loudly Next To A Blogger
Aka, With Friends Like These, Who Needs Lunch Dates?

After my Qigong class at the community college I treated myself to lunch at a nearby pasta restaurant. Two women in their mid-to-late sixties were seated at the table next to me, and I had no problem catching parts of their conversation about a friend of theirs who had bailed out on their lunch invitation.

Friend #1: I probably shouldn’t say this…

(But of course, she does.)

Friend #1: I know there is such a thing as migraines, but sometimes I think she just doesn’t want to get out of bed.

Friend #2: “Well, that’s her problem.”

Friend #1: “She takes one or two prescriptions, but she won’t take the prescriptions that the doctor gives her.”

Friend #2: “So why bother going to the doctor?”

Friend #1: “That’s what I told her. She said she doesn’t want drugs, she only (#1 sniffs disdainfully) wants ‘natural stuff.'”

 

gossip

*   *   *

Department of Great Movie Lines

One of the greatest (IMHO) pieces of movie dialogue consists of only one word. Oh, but what a word. A Golden Scroll from the Department of Cultural Literary ® if you can remember [4] where this one comes from:

Ovaltine?

Think hard, and this trophy can be yours.

Think hard, and coveted this trophy is yours.

*   *   *

May you never have your lunchtime gossip chitchat recorded by a stranger;
May your flights by any kind of pants be safe and turbulent-free;
May we all live to see a (human) Mission to Mars…
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] Bas Lansdorp is a Dutch entrepreneur best known as the founder of the Mars One Project , not a kind if rocket or an extra planetary colonization technique. But you knew that.

[2] And I believe the mechanics of getting people to mars and housing and feeding them while they are there will be solves.

[3] Gay women can still conceive and bear children.

[4] Hint: no.

The Lab Specimens I’m Not Sniffing

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Department of Big Surprises

Son K is enjoying his job as a research assistant for a medical diagnostics company, and I love to hear his stories about his tasks. Recently he was preparing lab specimens used to cultivate proteins. Specifically, he was working with  e. coil bacteria. Dare you guess how descriptive K was when trying to convey to MH and I what the lab samples smelled like?

 

bad smell

 

*   *   *

And now, a related breaking (sorry) news story, which I shall classify under

Department of Tempting Fate

From The Looks Of Things © , I am probably the youngest student in my Tai Chi-Qigong class.  And from the sounds of things, I am also the only student who has not (yet) inadvertently let one slip – if you know what I mean and I think you do – during one of  the class’s twisting routines.

 

qifart

*   *   *

By Grabthar’s Hammer…

…this is one actor I am really going to miss.

Alan Rickman played an amazing range of characters over the years. Praised for his performances across the board in the theatre and television, he was most widely known for his movie roles. He was perfectly cast to play the complexly nuanced, ostensible-villain-turned-heart-rending-hero, Severus Snape, [1] and probably most widely known for turning what could have been just another wise-cracking action film (Die Hard) into Something Truly Memorable, with his performance as arguably the greatest bad guy of all time, German terrorist Hans Gruber.

My favorites of Rickman’s many movie roles included the reticent, infatuated, honorable Colonel Brandon (Sense and Sensibility) and Alexander Dane, the hilariously frustrated classically trained actor fallen on hard times who finds himself stuck repeating a catchphrase from his role in a sci-fi Television franchise he despises (Galaxy Quest).  And I managed to forgive Rickman for so convincingly playing the conflicted husband who broke wife Emma’ Thompson’s heart in Love, Actually. For a real cinematic treat, revel in his “gloriously nasty” portrayal of the Sheriff of Nottingham, by which Rickman steals Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves right out from under Kevin Costner’s spasmodic British accent.

When I read the news of Rickman’s passing I noted he was the same age as David Bowie. The world lost two truly Great Brits, esteemed and beloved in their respective fields. Thanks and RIP – you guys rock (ed).

Now, if you believe the old husband’s tale that “these things [2] come in threes,” who’d you put $$ on to be the next to go? I hear O.J. Simpson is turning 69 this year….

 

 

*   *   *

Yet Another Reason To Hate/Quit Writing Go On Living

I belong to several professional writers associations. The Authors Guild is the largest, oldest and most influential of the lot, and the one I most admire. As per its mission to “…advocate for authors on issues of copyright, fair contracts…protect authors’ copyrights…establish fair royalty rates for both e-books and print books…” the AG has its work cut out for it, especially in these days of the digital and electronic piracy and royalty grabs changes in publishing.

 

book

 

The AG are the good guys; they fight the right fights. There are so many fronts, so many battles, for authors these days, I truly wish I could – as per the suggestion on the AG’s membership renewal form – add a donation in addition to my dues to further their work.

Except for one pesky detail: I have no spare writing income with which to do so.

The AG has a tiered membership dues structure, based on author members’ annual income from book and magazine writing.  There are four levels: I ($0 – 24,999; II ($25 – $49,999); III ($ 50,000 – 100,000): IV ($ over $100,000), with dues rates increasing with each level.

I am (surprise!) at the lowest level. My writing income-loss sheet [3] has remained the same as last year, and the AG’s Level I dues have jumped 38%, from $90 to $125.

 

sob

*   *   *

Department of Apparently It’s a Thing ® Now

…to leave up your Christmas or solstice tree year round, and decorate it according [4] to whatever season’s or month’s commemorations strike your fancy. For example, you might hang paper flags from the branches during July (to celebrate Independence Day);  Bunny and Easter egg ornaments in March (Spring); candy corn and mini pumpkins in October (Halloween); Quaaludes and still photos from The Bill Cosby Show in April (Sexual Assault Awareness Month)….

Well. I’ve left our tree up, but I’m not sure you can call it decorated (I did leave two of my favorite ornaments on it). I just like having it around. I don’t know why, but I derive much sinple contentment from looking at the little blinking lights.

 

tree

*   *   *

May your enjoy whatever constitutes your own blinking lights of contentment,
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] I don’t need to reference the Harry Potter series of books and films, do I? I do not require readers to be fans of either; I do assume a certain amount of cultural literacy.

[2] In this case, famous and/or infamous peoples’ deaths.

[3]  I’ve not done the figuring for 2015, but already know it will rival last year in pathetic-osity.

[4] Simply not enough footnotes in the New Year.

The Bohemian Like You I’m Not Like

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And Now You Know

This is the song I’d write, and play rhythm guitar on, if I wrote alt-type songs and played guitar.

 

 

*   *   *

And Now You Know Even More

And this is the song, I told MH as we were listening to the radio in the car on the way to run some errand, that I would learn to play if I played bass guitar.

 

 

*   *   *

Although You Probably Didn’t Know This

I have written a song. It’s a C & W ditty, titled, If You Can’t Live Without Me Then Why Aren’t You Dead. It remains (mercifully so, in the eyes and ears of some) unpublished and unrecorded. Ah, but the year is young….

*   *   *

If You Read Only One Book This Year…

Well then, shame on you. Put down your screens and read one more.  And make sure it’s Between the World and Me, by journalist-author Ta-Nehisi Coates.

I won’t write a review because y’all know I neither write nor read book reviews. Suffice to say I think you’d enjoy this book (I’d like to add, you need to read this book if you’d like to consider yourself a Good American Citizen ® , but that would be too dogmatic), especially if you’re one of us who “think they are white.” [1]

 

Enlightened minds are amused by the concept of race.

Enlightened minds are amused by the concept of race.

*   *   *

Department of The End

…of one of my favorite weeks of the year, that is. I love the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. [2]  New Year’s Eve, however, is another thing. I have a somewhat bipolar relationship to the day. Over my adult years it has seemed to be either been really fun or really dull. I’ve (almost) outgrown the We’re Supposed To Be Having Fun – Are We Having Fun Now?  mentality – the notion that somewhere out there, everyone is having a gay old time except for moiself, who is home polishing furniture or something. [3]

 

Please do tell me when I'm having a jolly old time.

Please do tell me when I’m having a jolly time.

 

Today we’ll have a few close friends over for dinner. We’ll be serving a variation of my father’s beloved New Year’s Day meal: you must have black-eyed peas and rice, aka Hoppin’ John, and cornbread and collard greens, in some form, on the first day of the year.

It’s a Southern Thing ©: eating black-eyed peas on January 1 supposedly brings good luck for the coming year (black-eyed peas were supposedly seen, by several cultures, as resembling pennies or coins). And as even the most cursory glance through the pages of an American history book demonstrates, if you’re looking for a culture synonymous with good luck, you can’t go wrong by picking a tradition from The South ®  and following it to the letter.

So. In defiance of the good luck that will not be coming my way in 2016, I’ll be tweaking the traditional menu. I’ll make black-eyed peas and rice cakes with roasted red pepper sour cream sauce, cider vinegar sautéed collard greens, and cornbread.

 

I see not the slightest resemblance to coins and would never attempt to use these objects in vending machines.

I see not the slightest resemblance to coins and would never attempt to use these objects in vending machines.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Why Do They Do That?

“Our culture is not the only one that had slavery/Slavery has been practiced by all people around the globe/Native Americans took slaves from neighboring tribes/….”

Make that, Department Of Rhetorical Questions.

I know why “they” (people in general, moiself included) do “that,” which is to joke, distract or “play the devil’s advocate” when Certain Subjects ® are raised. It is an attempt to hide discomfort and/or distance yourself from unpleasant topics, particularly those that may make you feel defensive and powerless yet complicit.

The italicized comments above were evoked when I attempted to recommend the previously mentioned Book I Read But Did Not Review ® to a couple of light-skinned menfolk. Their immediate (and interruptive) comments –  the kind of Oh yeah? Well what about ___? defense-as-offense remarks which strike me as the intellectual equivalent of an eight year old sticking his fingers in his ears, nyah nyah I can’t hear you – should  have come as little surprise, given the subject (racism in America).  Still, it frosted my butt.

First of all: Hello, I was merely attempting to recommend a book I think you would enjoy reading. I was not attempting to discuss the book – which negates the kneejerk, devil’s advocate defense (“it’s no fun if everyone is agreeing…”). What would be the point of wanting, or even trying, to discuss a book with people who haven’t yet read it?

Second of all: Geesh.

If your daughter ran into the kitchen, blood gushing from her nose, and said she’d been punched in the face by the neighborhood bully, you should (1) tend to her injuries and (2) consider paying a visit to the bully’s house. I would hope your reaction would not be to tell your daughter that there have always been bullies all over the world, that Julius Caesar bullied Marc Antony, and that she isn’t the only kid who’s ever gotten punched in the nose – we know of kids in the next block and across town who also got bloody noses….

 

nyah

*   *   *

Department Of Am I Missing Something?

I refer of course to watching Home Alone on Christmas Eve.

One thing led to another during our family dinner table conversation on December 24, the Another being Movies That Take Place On Or Are About Christmas.  It turned out that none of us – not moiself, MH, son K or daughter Belle –  had ever seen the so-called classic, Home Alone.

 

HA

 

We’d each been privy to a few scenes or outtakes from the movie. I pride myself on being somewhat [4] culturally literate (if only to be better equipped to do crossword puzzles), and thus was familiar with the movie’s general plot. So. After dinner we downloaded HA (either Amazon or Netflix, can’t remember) and watched it.

Really, how lame is that movie? And why does everyone [5] say it’s a classic?

MH offered a week defense of HA, with which I, at first, weakly agreed: you need a suspension of reality; i.e., pretend you’re watching a Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner cartoon, and you might be able to enjoy HA on that level. Nah. That ultimately and only made me wish for a Looney Tunes adventure, and did nothing to alleviate the loathing I felt for the excruciating “clever”, sitcom-ish, written-by-adults-trying-to-pretend-a-clever-8-year-old-kid-would-talk-like-this dialogue spewed by HA’s pint-sized protagonist.

 

scream

*   *   *

Department of Last Day Quotes of the Year

This is the disadvantage of being tall – people can look up your nose.
(MH, 12-31-15)

*   *   *

May you try to engage topics that make you uncomfortable;
may you feel free to avoid classic art that sucks;
may your height bring you nothing but advantages,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Happy New Year, and  Au Vendredi!

HNE

 

 

[1] This idea – of “race” as a construct and thus, e.g., people think they are white but in fact are not – is directly, obliquely and poetically addressed in Coates’ book.

[2] Well…I love it during those years when I’m not bogged down/distracted by the it’s a new year and what the hell have you done with your life and why did the last year leave skidmarks? kind of issues.

[3] An actual New Year’s Eve activity I did one year, a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away, as a one-woman protest of the hype and commercialism of the eve and to prove to myself that the event was overrated and that I could be satisfied with simple, contemplative activities, even an activity I would never otherwise undertake (wax the furniture?). And yes, it was also/partially because I hadn’t been invited to any of those overrated and hyped parties…and yes, it was also/partially lonely, and it sucked.

[4] Read: sometimes barely.

[5] Yes, everyone. When I meet people from overseas, it’s the first thing they say (well, after mumbling in their broken English some variation of “where’s the toilet?”): “So, does you are enjoying ze American classic, Home Alone?”

The Hand I’m Not Sniffing

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Nothing Says Here Comes Christmas…

…quite like decorating the tree while watching an American International Pictures movie, starring Annette FunicelloFrankie Avalon .  Muscle Beach Party , y’all. Fa la la la la, la la la la!

 

*   *   *

Department Of Now I Get It

Content warning: Ted “too-busy-tithing-to-pay-his-brain-bill” Cruz quote.

During the National Religious Liberties Conference last month, Rethuglican Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, when asked by conference sponsor Batshit Frothing Fanatic Foghorn Pastor Kevin Swanson [1]  how important it is for the President of the USA to “fear god,” replied (my emphases)  [2] :

“Any president who doesn’t begin every day on his knees
isn’t fit to be commander-in-chief of this nation.”

Gotcha, Massa Cruz. Christian cocksuckers are presidential material, but Atheists, Agnostics, Brights, Freethinkers and Humanists need not apply.

 

whatif

*   *   *

Department Of Laugh So Hard You Crap You Pants, Just Don’t Inhale

Dateline: last Sunday evening, 6 pm. Tears of joy welled in my eyes as, standing in front of my computer in my office, I overheard yet another, they-don’t-realize-how-loud-they-are-talking-and-that-we-can-hear-them discussion among The Stinky Boys ® [3] in the dining room. Topic: a story about a friend who left a gathering after he’d emitted what might be described genteelly [4] as a moist flatulent emission…but, before excusing himself, he put his hand down the back of his pants, removed his hand, and sniffed it.

TSB were taking sides on whether the sniff was necessary (“If you crapped your pants, you know what you did – you don’t need to smell it to confirm…”).  Believe it or not, there was quite a bit of back and forth about this. I had not imagined there could be pros and cons – or any opinions other than EEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWW – on the subject.

 

we are not amused

*   *   *

MH is feeling crafty this Christmas.  Funny how much more stately a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck cabernet seems when you dress it up as Obi Wine Kenobi.

 

obiwine

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sometimes All You Can Do Is Laugh

I needed a pitcher of martinis last Saturday afternoon. Or, as I explained to friend SCM, perhaps just a picture of James Bond and a martini would suffice.

 

bondmartini

 

The martini mood was induced by an odder-than-usual conversation with my mother, who had phoned me, or rather, had her “lady” [5] dial me up. My mother initiating a phone call is highly unusual (I’m the one who calls her); she wanted my reassurances on some pressing/disturbing issues for her. After speaking with Mom I called my older sister for a tête-à-tête re the situation, then lumbered downstairs.

MH met me at the bottom of the stairway and gestured toward the family room, where our son K and The Stinky Boys ®  [6] were gathered around our TV.   “You might not want to go in there,” he said. “They’re watching ‘Reservoir Dogs’.”   [7]

“That’s nothing,” I said. “I just had to kill my father.  Again.”

My mother had called to ask me why I had taken the family car. She’d been obsessing about the so-called missing car for days, according to her lady/caretaker, who is usually able to handle such matters. But Mom was convinced I’d taken the car and had been gone – and when was I coming back, and would I also bring back my younger sister? – and her caretaker, CCC, thought that I might be able to calm her down.

I was able to (eventually) get my mother off the missing car path, but her erratic thought train jumped another, more problematic track:

Where is your dad? Why won’t he come home – do you know what happened?

Oh….shit.

 

Apropos of nothing, except that I need a cute picture right about now.

Apropos of nothing, except that I need a cute picture right about now.

 

She’ll be fine for days, even weeks, then forgets that Chet Parnell died six years ago. The pain, fear and confusion in her voice is evident, and it is heartbreaking to realize she’s thinking her beloved husband abandoned her or is missing and no one knows what has happened – or, worse yet, we all know what’s going on but are keeping it from her….

This forgetting of her husband’s death, this most painful of her many memory lapses, has happened before, and will almost certainly happen again. I know this. Still, it catches me off guard. Such conversations are painful for me, to understate the situation to the nth degree. But imagine how distressing it is for her, a confused, frail, frightened, elderly woman, who essentially has to relive the death of her husband, over and over again….

At least I was able to reassure her that I had not run off with the car (nor kidnapped my younger sister). Evidently stuck in yesteryear, my mother thought I was a teenager; also, she didn’t trust that it was me, at first, on the phone. (“That’s not Robyn,” I heard her say to her caretaker). I was able to prove that I was her second born daughter by reciting my birth date, after which I heard CCC say in the background, “See, that’s Robyn. She knows her birth date…yeah, and that would make her about fifty, which is correct.”

I later told CCC that I like the way she does math. Now, my own mother thinks I’m only 50!

Some memory lapses have fringe benefits.

*   *   *

Department of Nyah Nyah Nyah Nyah Nyah

I’m seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens this afternoon, and you’re (probably) not.

 

 

force

*   *   *

Department Of It’s A Wonderful Life

Dateline: Wednesday, December 16. The birthday of moiself. The official family B-day dinner will be on Saturday, when Belle is home from college. On the actual day of The Blessed event © MH and son K took me out to a favorite eatery – a brew pub up in the hills. I enjoyed a relaxing evening: dinner and listening to live music with my boys at the Rock Creek Tavern.

Most of all, I enjoyed our conversation, the free range topics of which were inspired by K’s new job as a lab research at a local biomedical startup.  We started with what defines terms commonly used by both scientist and laypersons that are also commonly misunderstood or under-understood: basic and acidic and the ph scale  . We all use the terms, but what do they actually measure?…which led to the more general concept of scientific classifications, which, as many scientists point out, are necessary for research but are also, sometimes, somewhat arbitrary…which segued to the political psychological and sociological ramifications of that most errant of classifications, “race” as per human beings…which led MH to point out that “breed” might be a better term to classify distinctive physiological differences among a group of animals that are still able to reproduce within the same group…which led to moiself approving the logic in MH’s suggestion, because after all, humans are animals…which prompted MH to share the fact that the German language has different terms – essen and fressen – to distinguish the same function – eating—between humans and other animals…and [8]  then K for some reason found it necessary to impart what he thought was a distinguishing feature that proved he was no mere animal – I  do not lick my balls!…a proclamation which, of course, had to be countered by moiself:

That’s only because you can’t.  If you could, you would.

K wisely decided not to contradict his mother on her birthday.

As my father, the late great “Chet the Jet,” was fond of saying, These are the good times.

 

happy family

*   *   *

Department Of If You Have To Ask…

I bought two of those clapper things – you know, the As Seen on TV devices. I’ve been having soooooooooooooo much fun using it to turn on the Christmas tree lights (clap clap clap), and also the lights I have in the fireplace (clap clap). Not only does the clapper do what it does, the festive device has provided me with opportunities for blissful marital repartee – all this for only $19.95, such a deal.

 

Moiself: Look at this!  (clap clap; clap clap clap).

MH: Uh oh.

Moiself: Isn’t this fun!  (clap clap clap). I actually bought two of them. Where shall we put the other one?

MH: You don’t want me to answer that.

clap

*   *   *

May the Ted Cruz-es of our world deem you unfit for their world;
may you be a credit to your race breed;
may you clap your way to happiness;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] Who, BTW, thinks gay people should be killed.

[2] watch the tape of Cruz’s remarks here

[3] As mentioned in previous posts, The Stinky Boys is MH’s and my affectionate nickname for the group of friends who gather with K every Sunday (and sometimes Saturday) night to play D & D and other games and watch movies and raise their risk of developing adult onset diabetes and heart disease eat pizza and junk food.

[4] But of course, was not.

[5] Her live-in caretaker. My mother is elderly, in poor mental and physical health and suffers from memory problems.

[6] A group of roughly 4-7 of K’s friends (membership varies), who are not in fact stinky (and sometimes not all boys), who gather here regularly to play D & D and other games and watch movies.

[7] A violent Quentin Tarentino movie…which I think is a redundancy.

[8] Pretend there is yet another smooth as silk segue here.

The Relevance I’m Not Maintaining

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Department of Thanksgiving Hangover

Yet another thing for which to be thankful – a spate of recent crisp, [1] clear mornings late last/early this week, when I could see the moon as I walked at dawn.

dawnmoon

 

Department of My Irrelevance

Medical doctors are trained in the importance of pain assessment , including how to differentiate between the many and problematically subjective human experiences of pain. Current thought on the matter is that storytelling, via descriptive prompts from doctor to patient, is a valuable lead-in to pain assessment.

Tell me about your pain. Would you describe it as:

burning, shooting, tingling, radiating, lancinating, or numbness
or achy, throbbing, or dull;
or squeezing, pressure, cramping, distention, dull, deep, and stretching

The pain I felt on Tuesday morning began as a burning in my ears. The sensation quickly radiated up the auditory nerve to my auditory cortex, where it translated into a deep, throbbing ache. It was all I could do not to jerk out my earbuds and fling my iphone to the ground.

Lay translation: the podcast I was listening to made my brain hurt.

This American Life , the mahvelous weekly journalistic radio show, follows a distinctive format.  Each show has a theme, and uses a combination of essays, first person narratives and interviews, archival sound recordings and sometimes even short fiction to explore and illustrate their show’s themes, in segments of up to three or four “acts.” TAL’s themes range from current events and popular culture to particular aspects of human nature. The one that made my brain hurt was This American Life #573: Status Update.

“Most of the time, the updates we share about our lives are small and inconsequential. This week, status updates that interrupt daily life.”

I had to force myself to finish listening to the first act – the ominously [2] titled, Finding the Self in Selfie. TAL host Ira Glass interviewed three teenage girls on the complex and constantly changing social media map that is primarily distributed and maintained via their cellphones. The interview consisted of the girls (Julia, Ella, Jane) explaining why they feel they must constantly tell their friends they are beautiful on Instagram and other social media sites, as well as post pictures of themselves on the same sites, which are in turn subject to commentary.

 

socialm

 

There are complicated and unwritten – yet widely known and seemingly accepted [3] –  “rules” for such social media interaction. And listening to the girls explain it made me want to puke.

Navigating the social strictures of high school was hard enough in The Olden Days, ® when your social status rose and fell via lunch table and locker room gossip. Now, kids have to obsess about their “relevance”  – they use that term, I kid you not – as per their peers’ reactions to their social media presence, a relevance (read: social ranking) both ephemeral and life-altering, which can change in minutes, even seconds.

And even as the girls complained about or acknowledged the shallowness behind the obligation of social media, they admitted to voluntarily and rabidly participating in the same.

(excerpt from a transcript of the episode)

Ira Glass: I have to say…oh my god, this is such a job.

Girls: Yeah.

Julia: It’s like I’m– I’m a brand, and I am like–

Ella: You’re trying to promote yourself.

Julia: The brand. I’m the director of the–

Ira Glass: And you’re the product.

Jane: You’re definitely trying to promote yourself.

Julia: To stay relevant, you have to–

Jane: You have to work hard.

Ella: Relevance is a big term right now.

Ira Glass: Are you guys relevant?

Ella: Um, I’m so relevant.

Jane: In middle school. In middle school, we were definitely really relevant.

Ella: (SARCASTICALLY) We were so relevant.

Jane: Because everything was established. But now, in the beginning of high school, you can’t really tell who’s relevant.

Ira Glass: Yeah. And what does relevant mean?

Jane: Relevant means that people care about what you’re posting on Instagram. People–

Julia: Care about you.

Listening to the story, I felt…I’m not sure how to describe it. I felt like some kind of Amish anti-tech/media advocate. 

 

There be no more Snapchat for thee, young ladies!

There be no more Snapchat for thee, young lady!

 

Of course, those seemingly benign Amish can get downright nasty when it comes to their community’s insular social status, and shun their own who fail to toe the line. But the threat of ostracizing, bullying or relevance banishment seems so much more pervasive in today’s all-knowing, all-reporting world of social media.

I wanted to slap some sense into those girls and envelop them in a mama bear hug, all at once.

It’s like I’m– I’m a brand…
…and you’re the product.

I wish feminism came in a can, like Red Bull, that girls and young women could chug. I wish there was a “product” to rev up their perception metabolism, a formula that would make them want to stop shoring up the system that perpetuates looksism and a bajillion-hundred other insecurities and forms of disempowerment.

 

wecandoit

*   *   *

Department of Holiday Hell

A recurrent seasonal nightmare of mine involves having a friend who participates in That Most Fiendish Holiday Of Events © . This friend invites me to attend said event, and in a moment of weakness truth-telling I blurt out that I would rather dive face first into a vat of eggnog-laced hyena feces than attend a Singing Christmas Tree show.

 

Santa, shoot me now.

Santa, shoot me now.

*   *   *

Department of Holiday What The Hell

Every time the traveling company for the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon has come to Portland I’ve tried to get tickets, and every time I have failed.  I did succeed in convincing MH and our son, K, in accompanying me to the next best thing: a matinee performance of The Book of Merman, which we saw last Sunday.

The Book of Merman is the story of what happens when two novice Mormon missionaries unexpectedly encounter “the undisputed first lady of the musical comedy stage.” (Well, of course it is).

I tried to make our outing as multicultural as possible. When one thinks of Mormons and/or Ethel Merman, the cuisine that naturally comes to mind is something Ricky Ricardo would appreciate. Thus, we dined before the show at Portland’s best Cuban café, [4] Pambiche,

BTW, you should know that Ethel Merman did one of the all-time great movie cameo appearances, in Airplane!

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Don’t Make Me Say It 

Is it December, already?

I thought I advised you not to make me say it.

And while I religiously dodge Singing Christmas Tree invitations I do enjoy a seasonal song or two.  There is no shortage of good Christmas carols for atheists, [5] including, White Christmas, Sleigh Bells, Deck the Halls, Rudolph…and I’d say almost any tune by Tim Minchin qualifies, especially the lovely, cheeky and yet sentimental, White Wine in the Sun. A new-old favorite of mine is I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas. [6]  And please, get you and yo mama some seasonal spirit by singling along with the greatest rap Yule tune of all time, Christmas In Hollis.

 

 

*   *   *

May your unexpected encounters be Merman-esque;
may you be emotionally healthy enough to not give a flying flounder’s flatulence about your social media relevance;
and may the holiday hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Not exactly thrilled about the 20˚ temps…but the moon is worth it.

[2] For someone my age who loathes selfies.

[3] At least, by the teenagers involved.

[4] Well, it’s the best Cuban restaurant – Perdóneme, el mejor café CubanoI’ve been to in Portland (okay, so there are, like, maybe three).

[5] “Good” is defined as songs that do not mention deities. And it’s funny, when you do the research, to find out how many Christmas songs were written by atheists and agnostics…and Jews.

[6] Of course, some godless nitpicker will point out that hippo gods were worshiped in ancient Egypt.

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