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The Temptations I’m Not Eliminating

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Department Of This Should Not Come As A Surprise

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

Y’all ask this…seriously?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

*   *   *

Department Of One More Thing
#379 In An Ongoing Series

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guess what? No takers.

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Her ankles have caused me to fall!”

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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*   *   *

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

 

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

 

*   *   *

Department Of Oops I Did It Again

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

 

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

 

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

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

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

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

 

*   *   *

 

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ingredients Lists I’m Not Reading

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Department Of, And Yet Another One

I wrote about this recently – was it only two weeks ago?

I was going to title this segment, Department Of No Comment…except that –  surprise! – moiself  be commenting.

Gender Reveal Device Explodes, Killing Man in Upstate New York
A man who was expecting his first child was killed on Sunday and his brother was injured when a device they were preparing for a gender-reveal party exploded in a garage in the Catskills in New York, the authorities said….(another) brother, called what happened “the freakiest of freak accidents…”
What set off the explosion remained under investigation…. The device consisted of some kind of pipe that was intended to be used at a gender-reveal party, but the nature of its explosive material was not yet known….
( Gender-Reveal Device Explodes, Killing Man in Upstate New York,
NY Times 2-22-21 )

Apparently, my sarcastic rebuke wise warning words re the foolhardiness of the gender reveal party phenomenon was not significant to the expectant father/now existent cremation candidate.  He, of course, like 99.9999999% of the population, doesn’t (uh, didn’t) know or care that I exist, nor what I write about. Common sense, along with any sense of proportion and propriety wasn’t enough, either.  Nor was Learning From The Mistakes Of Others. ®    [1]

As for the description of the incident as, “the freakiest a freak accidents…”

 

 

Public Service Announcement:  it’s not a freak accident when an explosive device explodes. That’s what explosive devices are designed and constructed to do.

Ask fire fighters or EMTs or hospital ER personnel: their collective “Can you believe this?!?” arsenal of stories is replete with tending to people injured by explosive devices which unintentionally exploded – people from munitions “experts,” to the schmuck who volunteered to shoot his high school’s pep rally confetti cannon.

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

Different as in, something which restored my optimism about humanity.

Department Of: This.

Dateline: Tuesday morning; circa 7:30 am. I am on my morning walk, headed toward a light rail station. As I turn onto the bike/walk path which parallels soccer and baseball fields I see a young woman walking on the path ahead of me.  She hears my footsteps as I close the gap between us, or so I assume because she does (and then I do) The Right Thing® : she scooches all the way to the right and I to the left, and we both raise our masks.

I call out a good morning to her; she greets me in return, and although my pace is quicker than hers for a moment we are side-by-side (if 10 feet apart).   She says something else which I can’t understand due to both her mask and her heavily accented English. I politely ask her to repeat herself; she asks how I am doing…but not in that casual way where people say, How are You?  in lieu of Hello or Good Morning. She means it.

I hope she sees the smile beneath my mask which makes it up to my eyes, when I reply that I am doing very well, thanks, and that I hope the day will be good for her.  “Yes, yes it will be,” she says, as we both reach the point where the path ends. She begins to head right, toward the light rail station, and I am headed left.

I stop, turn to face her, and call out, “By the way, thank you for asking.” She gives me a cheerful wave and we go our separate ways.

And I was…content. I had the proverbial warm and fuzzies, which lasted all day. Two strangers made a connection, brief yet significant, heartfelt if ephemeral, with the subtext of, in these stressful pandemic times, intentionally acknowledging a passerby beyond the usual, “G’morning.”

It takes no time at all and only a few kind words to acknowledge a fellow human being.  “Hi there – I’m here; so are you. I wish good things for us both.”

 

“If she starts singing ‘Kumbaya’ I’m gonna stop reading her insipid blog and turn on a WWF match.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Something New To Do When You’re Bored

Take out your canned food, your cereal boxes, your condiments and beverage cartons from the frig, your vitamins/nutritional supplements, and line them up on the kitchen counter.  One by one, read the items’ ingredients list, out loud, and wherever it lists “extract” substitute the word, “urine.”

 

 

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Department Of Just Wondering

Moiself  is imagining something of a sticky wicket situation for women in science.  Specifically, in the branch of biology known as zoology.

Say you’re a female British ornithologist curating your university’s natural history museum. A visiting American professor of ornithology wishes to review your collection of native European bird species.  You invite him to the museum to do so.

Now, are you technically responsible for his reaction, when he sees your display case of Parus major specimens and exclaims,

“Wow!  You have great tits!”    [2]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Reason To Never Fine-Tune
My Cellphone’s Voice Typing Feature

Dateline: Sunday; MH and I both away from home, separately running errands.  As I’m entering a grocery store I receive a text from him, alerting me to the fact that we are out of hairball chews  [3]   and asking if moiself’s  errands are taking me anywhere near a pet supplies store which might have them?

I reply in the affirmative. Except, dictating through my mask (and, as always, sending it before proof-reading), my text comes out thusly:

I will go to PetSmart to get the hairball truth.

When I read what I’d sent, moiself is transported into existential-mode.  First, I follow up that text with

Chews! I will get the chews! That’s the truth.

But I can’t stop thinking about it.  What *is* the hairball truth? Is it something that can be gotten, or comprehended – or merely contemplated – by mere bipeds?

 

 

YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE HAIRBALL TRUTH !

 

*   *   *

Department Of Did You Know About This?

Woman in Motion is now available for streaming.  And you are going to watch it, right?

I knew that actor Nichelle Nichols, best known as the iconic Lt. Nyota Uhura from Star Trek’s original series, is quite beloved by the sci-fi aficionados for her knowledge of the genre and passion for space travel, the latter of which included working to recruit astronauts for NASA.  I did not know of the extent of her involvement.

“Woman in Motion: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek and the Remaking of NASA,” tells the story of how Nichols, in the late 1970s, led recruitment efforts at NASA to bring in more women and people of color. According to the film’s synopsis, “In 1977, with just four months left, NASA struggles to recruit scientists, engineers and astronauts for their new Space Shuttle Program. That is when Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura, challenges them by asking the question: Where are my people? She embarks on a national blitz, recruiting 8,000 of the nation’s best and brightest, including the trailblazing astronauts who became the first African American, Asian and Latino men and women to fly in space.”
(Daily Star Trek news 2-8-21 )

 

“I am so much more than ‘Hailing frequency open, Captain,” and don’t y’all forget it.”

 

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Department Of What I Aspire To (Metaphorically. If Not Literally)

You’ve seen your pet  [4]  do it:  find that sunny spot on the rug or floor or windowsill or bed (or, if it’s your cat, your computer keyboard), plop down atop it, and bask in the simple pleasure of basking.  They’re not trying to figure out where the coveted sunny spot came from, what causes it, or where it’s going. they’re just…there.

Moiself aspires towards, at least occasionally, achieving an equanimity akin to the cat-on-the-sunny-spot-on-the-carpet  moment.  And when the spot “moves” I’ll move with it, or realize that what I had was enough, and get up and go on with whatever.

 

Sometimes, just the paws are enough.

*   *   *

Department Of Huh?

Dateline: Sunday 2-21. I am posting a for sale notice on a classified ads internet site.  MH suggests I also post on the FB marketplace, so I check it out. I find several local/neighborhood groups, and request to post on four of them.  Two of these groups have questions you must answer before you can be “‘approved” to join (and thus post on) them.

The first group has only one question: Are you advertising for a business?  The second group, for my city, has two questions: What is your zip code?  (I assume to make sure you really live in Hillsboro, and/or weed out scammers), and:

“What is your favorite thing about Hillsboro?”

That question strikes me as odd. It’s not relevant to my intent, nor the intent of others posting on the group who, I assume are, like moiself – listing items we wish to sell to anyone who might wish to purchase them, regardless of what they like (or don’t like) about the city.

My answer:

“The capital H!”   [5]

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

My musician friends formed a quartet called “Duvet.” They’re a cover band.

 

“A-one and a-two and a-nobody laugh.”

 

*   *   *

May all of your food item’s extracts be bona fide extracts;
May you exchange greetings with amiable strangers at every opportunity;
May you find your sunny spot on the rug;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] “Celebratory Cannon Salute at Baby Shower Ends in Death,” (NY Times 2-7-21); “…An Iowa woman was killed when her family inadvertently built a pipe bomb as part of their gender-reveal party” (The Atlantic 11-11-19); A fire sparked by a “pyrotechnic device” during a celebration meant to debut the sex of the hosts’ baby-on-the-way has scorched more than 10,000 acres of Southern California (The Washington Post 9-10-20)

[2] The great tit is the actual name of a species of bird in the songbird/perching bird family known as the tit family (Paridae), which includes chickadees, tits, and titmice.  I think it is safe to assume that some British dude is responsible for the name.

[3] For one of our cats, who really needs them.

[4] Or someone else’s, if you’re not a pet person.

[5] Hell yeah my request was approved.

The Songs I’m Not Censoring

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Gung hay fat choi!

Happy Lunar New Year to my Chinese friends and family, and all who celebrate it.

 

 

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Department Of At Least They Didn’t Start A Forest Fire

“A 26-year-old Michigan man died on Saturday after he was hit with shrapnel from ‘a small cannon type device’ that exploded when….”

This is how the news article began. What words, would you think, could possibly complete the article’s lead sentence?

“… it was fired in celebration at a baby shower….

 

 

Because celebrating babies and pregnancy and impending parenthood – one immediately thinks: Ah, yes: armaments!

“A cannon type device.” As in, a cannon? It was a friggin’ baby shower; it was not a Civil War reenactment, nor battle enactment of any kind…although – WARNING: BAD PREGNANCY PUN AHEAD – many a woman in her ninth month of gestation has felt like she is personally fighting the Battle of the Bulge.

 

The story continues:

“The man, Evan Thomas Silva, a guest at the party, was about 10 to 15 feet from the device when it blew up in the backyard of a home. Metal shrapnel hit Mr. Silva, three parked cars and the garage where the shower was being held, the police said…..
The night Mr. Silva died, he was among the guests…attending a baby shower — not a gender reveal party….”
( “Celebratory Cannon Salute at Baby Shower Ends in Death,” NY Times 2-7-21

Interesting that the article took pains to mention that this was *not* a gender reveal party, as per the idiotic trend in which celebratory pyrotechnics employed by excited parents-to-be inadvertently yet efficiently caused *more than one* wildfire in the past year (a trend which yours truly had mocked in a previous post).

Attention, expectant parents: stop this. Right now. Stop throwing such events for yourselves and stop attending them in your “honor.” Your friends and family will thank you:  no matter what they are saying to your face, under your nose and behind your back they are embarrassed and appalled that you apparently find the fact of *your* impending parenthood – an event so ordinary that it happens worldwide, 385,000 times PER DAY  – to be so special that it is the cause for the type of celebration usually reserved for a nation’s liberation from a dictator or the opening of yet another Disney theme park.

Have a party if you want to, of course!  Keep it simple – those kind of celebrations are remembered most fondly, and are less stressful to plan *and* attend. Do the potluck thing, play music and silly games.  [1]  But have some perspective, puuuuuhhhhllleeeaassee.  NO cannons, no fireworks – nothing which intentionally or otherwise explodes… with the exception of your Uncle Beauford’s mouth (and other orifices) after his third helping of your elderly neighbor’s double-chili-bean-cabbage-beer-garlic casserole.

 

“We’re so excited about baby’s first artillery!

*   *   *

Department Of What To Serve At Your Baby Shower
Sup-Department Of Maybe Reconsider The Chicken Wings

“Torture a single chicken in your backyard, and you risk arrest. Abuse tens of millions of them? Why, that’s agribusiness.”
( “The Ugly Secrets Behind the Costco Chicken,” NY Times, 2-6-21 )

 

 

Selective breeding by agricultural scientists for larger overall size and enormous breasts – the white meat consumers prefer – has produced  “exploding chickens” that put on weight at a monstrous clip….The journal Poultry Science once calculated that if humans grew at the same rate as these chickens, a 2-month-old baby would weigh 660 pounds…. The chickens’ legs, unable to support the weight of their out-of-proportion bodies, often splay or collapse, making some chickens topple onto their backs (and then they cannot right themselves) and others collapse onto their bellies, where they lie in mounds of feces and suffer bloody rashes called ammonia burns – the poultry version of bed sores.

*   *   *

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Memory Sparking

The film class moiself  had in college: I hadn’t thought of it, nor of the class’s professor, in years.  Now, twice in the past two months both have come to mind (and thus, to this blog).

The first time was two months ago, during the brouhaha manufactured by a Wall Street Journal columnist who chided Jill Biden, who holds a Ph.D. in education, for using her professional credentials. I’d remembered how I’d gotten a kick out of how Robert Miller, my film class’s professor,  [2]  made his point as to how he wished to be addressed.  Miller, who had a Ph.D. in literature, introduced himself as “Professor Miller.” When a student speaking in class prefaced their remarks with, “Dr. Miller…” Miller would interrupt with, “Yes, nurse?”

The second time was last week, when I was listening to a recent Fresh Air interview with former writer  [3]  and current professional observationist  [4]   Fran Leibovitz.  Leibovitz was promoting a new Netflix docuseries, “Pretend It’s a City,”  in which the series’ director (Leibovitz’s longtime friend, Martin Scorsese) talks with Leibovitz about…well, about Leibovitz, and whatever Leibovitz thinks about any and every thing she thinks about.   [5]

In the Fresh Air interview Leibovitz talked about her “career” background. Before enjoying her fifteen minutes of fame as a writer in the 1970s  [6]  Leibovitz held a series of menial/odd jobs. She claims she took housecleaning jobs and drove a taxi because, “I don’t have any skills. I didn’t know how to do anything else.”

“I also didn’t want to do the job that most of my friends did, which was wait tables, because I didn’t want to have to be nice to men to get tips or to sleep with the manager of my shift, which was a common requirement then for being a waitress in New York.”

My film professor, who was a writer as well as a teacher, didn’t (to my knowledge) require any of his students to sleep with him – that’s not why this memory was sparked.  He *did* do something which I thought was an abuse of power, although at that time I hadn’t the emotional or intellectual context to frame it as such, given its complexity.

One afternoon in class the topic was screenplay adaptation.  As an example of how you would turn a literary story into a cinematic one, Professor Miller announced that our next assignment, due the following week, would be to write up a proposal for adapting a piece of short fiction he would give to us.  We’ll spend the rest of the class time discussing the assignment, Professor Miller said.  He began passing out photocopies of – I stifled a gasp when I read the byline – a short story *he* had written.

 

 

I remember thinking, “Uh, this a good idea?  HELL NO.”

Would any student dare say, “This story is not adaptable,” or, “There’s no way I would want to adapt this even if I thought I could because I just don’t like it.…” or express any other critique, from mild to scathing, knowing that it is the professor’s own work?

I tried to stifle my instinctive, lip-curling expression as I read the story, which was a Mailer-Hemingwayesque male fantasy, about a backpacking trip taken by an Older Man ® (an artist-teacher of some kind) and the Much Younger Woman ® he is mentoring and – surprise! – fucking dating.   Meanwhile, Professor Miller read aloud from the story’s campfire scene, a scene which, he told the class, would be particularly visually appealing for a screenwriter (the following is my summation of the scene):

OM and MYW are sitting around their campfire, their conversation terse and tense. There is a sense of growing strain between them for a variety of reasons, including the status of their relationship, and signs of bear activity in the vicinity. When MYW excuses herself  (presumably to go behind the tent to take a pee break),  OM ruminates about how their relationship will likely be coming to an end, as he is older, more educated and world-wise, and she is…well…she is what she is (young and beautiful).

MYW returns, tossing an item into the campfire as she sits down; OM sees a tampon briefly blaze before the flames incinerate it. He begins to panic…. 

Already feeling nauseated by the retch-worthy cliché of the older male teacher/younger female student predatory romantic relationship scenario, I had another thought that made me want to puke in class: he’s not going to incorporate the macho woodsy myth about bears being attracted to menstruating women in his story, is he?   [7] 

OM starts asking MYW about why she didn’t tell him she was having her menstrual period – they’re in bear country, FFS! That explains his feeling that a bear has been stalking them.  Now, they are in danger….

Several students (all male) took turns praising the scene and shared their ideas as to how they would script it.  I remember Professor Miller looking at me several times, as if he expected my feedback – me, who remained silent, despite usually speaking up in class discussions; me, the one student (or so the professor  told me a week earlier, when he’d returned an assignment of mine   [8]  ) whom he allowed to turn any assignment into a prose-writing opportunity.   [9]

I remember looking around at the class, paying particular attention to the expressions on the other female student’s faces, and having a click-worthy moment of realization:

Oh, so *this* is how women learn to fake orgasms.

 

“Do tell?”

 

Up until that moment, the class as a whole had had little problem tearing into films we had been told were “classics” but which one or more of us found poorly made, reductive, or just plain boring.  But for this assignment, what choice did we have, other than to act as if we liked the story?  He was our professor; it was his story. We had to pretend to like or at least approve of it in order for us to succeed in that situation.

Somewhere near the end of class time moiself  raised my hand and asked if we had other options for the assignment – for example, adapting works of…other authors.  I remember phrasing my question as delicately as I could, and squeezing in some (faux) compliments of his story, compliments which were bland enough that I didn’t hate myself for wimping out on what I wanted to do, which was to object to the inherent hubris of him assigning his own story.  Fortunately for me, several of the professor’s suck-ups acolytes weighed in on the subject, and my tacit criticism of his self-indulgent ego trip of an assignment didn’t seem to register (or at least not for long, as I got an A in the class).

*   *   *

Department Of Sometimes I Miss The Good Old Days Of Censorship

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

“I’ll try anything once, twice if I like it, three times to make sure.”

― Mae West

 

The Good Old Days ® of any kind were usually not-that-good, just old.  I am not condoning censorship; continuing with this post’s cinematic theme, I am remember the day in my film class where we learned about the Hays Code, aka the Motion Picture Production Code.  The Hays Code was used, for almost four decades, by film studios to require that their pictures be “wholesome” and “moral” and free from a list of no-nos (e.g. nudity, overt violence, sexually suggestive dances, discussions of sexual perversity, characters which engendered sympathy for criminals, unnecessary use of liquor, making fun of religion, interracial relationships, “lustful kissing,” ridicule of law and order….)

A lively class discussion about the Hays Code ensued.  Several students, and the professor, gave reasons for favoring some kind of code or guidelines (although not outright censorship), due to the artistic ingenuity such guidelines inevitably inspired.

This idea that “guidelines up the game” is one which crosses artistic genres. I recall experiencing a joy I don’t think can be replicated today, when I realized that 13-year-old moiself  “got” The Kinks’ song, Lola, and my parents   [10]   and the radio censors didn’t.  Presently, pop vocalists can call for the execution of people they don’t like, can call each other obscene and racist epithets, can brag about the…uh, humidity level of their intimate parts….  There are few if any lines to subversively read between. 

 

A fun factoid about “Lola” is that the word “Coca-Cola” in the original recording had to be changed ( ♫ “I met her in a bar down in old Soho where you drink champagne and it takes just like Coca-Cola…” ♫ ).  Singer Ray Davies dubbed in “cherry cola” for the song’s release, due to the BBC Radio’s policy against product placement.

 

Son K and I had an interesting IM session about the subject of censorship when, apropos of what-I-cannot-now recall, K came across some info about the Parents Music Resource Center, asked me some questions, and began searching for and then watching videos of the PMRC’s congressional hearing.

[ The PMRC, as some of y’all may recall, was an American governmental “advisory committee” formed in the 1980s which sought to increase parental control over children’s access to music with violent, sexual, and drug-related themes. The PMRC lobbied the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America)  to develop a music labeling system, ala the MPAA’s film rating system.  Because the PMRC was founded by four women whose husbands had political connections (including Tipper Gore, married to Senator and later Vice President Al Gore) the group was sometimes derisively and dismissively referred to as “The Washington Wives.” ]

K: man so reading about the PMRC. what was tipper gore’s problem

Moiself What made you read about the PMRC?
Some say Tipper Gore was looking for a “cause,; others, including herself and her husband, say she was a concerned parent who became shocked when she listened to the lyrics of one of her daughter’s favorite songs…and then started acquainting herself with other lyrics to popular music.
I think it’s probably a combination of both motivations.  The PMRC was actually a milder version of other parental groups at the time which were calling for censorship – the PMRC wanted parental warning labels as to content….

I gave K a brief history lesson: at that time, many kids didn’t buy their own records – their parents or grandparents did.  As a parent and “consumer,” I wouldn’t want to spend my money on songs that used racial epithets or promoted homophobic or misogynistic viewpoints to my kids. And in the ’80s lyrics were getting really explicit, which made me actually wish for the days of radio content restrictions…because then singers and songwriters had to be clever.  It was so much fun when, ala my “Lola” reference, you knew something was slipped by the sensors – you caught a reference that even the supposedly hip radio programming directors, as well as your own parents, didn’t “get.”

K: just looking through it, (the PMRC hearings) all comes across to me as one of those bullshit moral crusades. a need to either feel self superior, or a need to control anything that doesn’t appeal to X person’s personal tastes, or both.
it just reminded me of a milder version of McCarthyist witch hunting.
demonizing something for political gain

Moiself: Yes, but the latter is a proven technique.

Later on, in an in-person dialogue, I shared with K my opinion that any form of guideline or structure-free art risks…well, think of the criticism of free verse poetry as playing tennis with the net down.  I’m not lauding censorship per se, but, to reiterate, IMHO guidelines can actually make people more creative – or sneaky, which has a strong element of creativity to it. Because when you can’t just come out and say Certain Things ® you have to be subtle and sly, employing cheeky imagery and evocative dialogue.  You have to be more poetic, in a way.

A movie critic once asked the late great writer/screenwriter/director Nora Ephron if Ephron agreed with the critic’s observation that there seemed to have been stronger roles for women actors, and better plots and dialog, in the earlier days of cinema. Ephron agreed, and lamented contemporary movies’ lack of witty dialogue and snappy repartee – and distinctive, self-assured female characters – which were found in the movies of the 30s and 40s and even 50s.  Beginning in the late 60s, along came the “New Cinema” movement, which emphasized so-called gritty realism. You no longer had to employ clever camera angles and witty, double-entendre laden repartee – now you can just show (instead of imply) a graphic murder, have the protagonists jump into bed together (which had the effect of valuing, defining – and casting – female actors as per their sexual appeal)…and then what?

In an atmosphere where nothing is considered to be off-limits, you will never have the delightful shock value of experiencing, say, the judicious use of “strong” language.  I fondly recall my mother telling me about her most memorable movie experience, when as a child she saw Gone With The Wind. She said she’d never forget how she was both scandalized and thrilled – and how “the entire theater gasped” –  when Rhett Butler delivered his infamous parting line:

 

 

 

*   *   *

Pun(z) For The Day

Moiself : Did you hear about that actress, Reese, who just stabbed a guy to death?
Innocent bystander: Witherspoon?
Moiself : No, she used her knife.

  1. Q.  How does award-winning actor Reese eat her Cheerios?
  2. A.  Witherspoon.

I suppose I have to be a good sport about this.

*   *   *

May you shun any event mixing pyrotechnics and babies;
May you neither actively nor passively contribute to “exploding chickens;”
May you challenge yourself to both follow and subvert the guidelines;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Of course, have these events safely, distanced/outdoors, and masked until this damn COVID-19 thing peters out …do I really need to say this? Apparently.

[2] A pseudonym.

[3] Leibovitz has famously suffered from writer’s block for years, and now seems to get by with having people pay to listen to her talk about the things she used to write about. Not a criticism – she has a keen, sardonic eye, and is quite witty.  I have enjoyed the series, so far (haven’t as of this writing finished listening to all episodes).

[4] I’m not sure if “observationist” is a thing, but Leibovitz seems to be making a living from it.

[5] Which centers around her technophobic life in New York city; specifically, Manhattan.

[6] Using her satirical, NYC-centered wit, she opined on American life in two best-selling collections of essays,   Metropolitan Life and Social Studies.

[7] After class I found a couple of Wildlife Fisheries Biology majors who confirmed that was a myth.  Even so, it was a myth that got a lot of traction, and it wasn’t until in the 1980s and ’90s that biologists did studies proving that bears – or sharks – are no more attracted to menstruating women than to any other kind of human.

[8] storyboarding a dada-esque, vignette-style commercial for the soft drink, 7-Up, which he graded A+.

[9] We’d had and would continue to have various projects over the quarter, from “making” a short films or advertisements or animation. I’d no interest in filming anything or doing animation, and always chose to interpret “making” as doing the screenplay, storyboarding and/or writing portion of the project.

[10] When my friend’s très conservative mother was singing along to “Lola” on the radio while was driving us to the beach, I somehow resisted the urge to ask if she knew she was enjoying an ode to a naïve young man’s romance with a transvestite.

The Normal Post I’m Not Posting

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Normal as in, consisting of political, religious, educational and/or cultural sniping critiques.

No worries – the usual mélange of podcast reviews, feminist fun, cultural tidbits, sarcasm, insightful commentary, bad puns (and occasional fart jokes) returns next week.

 

 

While going through our attic and other storage spaces I found a military pin belonging to my father, Chet Parnell. I added it to a box of (mostly) WWII memorabilia I keep in a closet, and thought I should write a description/explanation of the items in the box for the inheritors of it, my offspring, K and Belle.  While doing so I began thinking of thousands of families who likely have similar stories – and boxes – and may or may not know some of the stories behind them.  You might not give two snakes’ elbows for a story about my extended family; in that case, kick back and rewatch “Young Frankenstein” and remind yourself of what a great actor we had in Cloris Leachman.  But in hopes of sparking at least one other person to ask a family member about their past…or open a forgotten storage box in their own closet….

What follows is an edited version of the document I wrote for K and Belle.

*   *   *

 

The Combat Infantryman Badge is a U.S. Army military decoration awarded to infantrymen who fought in active ground combat while assigned as members of either an Infantry or Special Forces unit.

Your grandpa Chet was awarded this badge while in Alaska, serving with the 542nd paratroop infantry regiment, in the Aleutian Islands Campaign.

The Aleutian Islands campaign was…conducted by the USA and Japan in the Aleutian Islands, part of the Territory of Alaska, in the American theater and the Pacific theater of World War II.  In the only two invasions of the United States during the war, a small Japanese force occupied the islands of Attu and Kiska. The islands’ strategic value was their ability to control Pacific transportation routes.  Japan reasoned that control of the Aleutians would prevent a possible U.S. attack across the Northern Pacific. Similarly, the U.S. feared that the islands would be used as bases from which to carry out a full-scale aerial attack on U.S. West Coast cities. A battle to reclaim Attu was launched on May 11, 1943, and completed following a final Japanese banzai charge on May 29. On August 15 an invasion force landed on Kiska in the wake of a sustained three-week barrage, only to discover that the Japanese had withdrawn from the island on July 29.

The campaign is known as the “Forgotten Battle,” due to its being overshadowed by other events in the war. Military historians believe the Japanese invasion of the Aleutians was a diversionary or feint attack during the Battle of Midway, meant to draw out the U.S. Pacific Fleet from Midway Atoll, as it was launched simultaneously under the same commander, Isoroku Yamamoto. Some historians have argued against this interpretation, believing that the Japanese invaded the Aleutians to protect their northern flank, and did not intend it as a diversion.
(AIC excerpts from Wikipedia)

Although Chet’s unit was never directly involved the combat, he served in a combat zone.  The paratroopers stationed in Alaska had a dual mission: protecting the Alaskan territory from further Japanese invasion, and preparing for the invasion of Japan…which was stopped when the U.S. dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Having served in a combat zone, Chet was eligible for “full military honors”  at his funeral.  He was proud of his service as a paratrooper, but told my mother that, when the time came, he wanted her to decline the offer of full honors, as he felt it belonged to soldiers who had actually faced enemy fire. Thus, at his funeral (as you two may remember) he had what is known as “Military Honors,” which consists of two or more uniformed military persons doing a military funeral honors ceremony, including the folding of and presenting to the survivors a United States burial flag, and the playing of Taps.

*   *   *

 

 

This is the enlisted soldier’s Signal Corps Badge.  Chet had that badge as well…and now I can’t remember where it is.

Each paratrooper had training as a rifleman/infantryman, and also in one or more specialties (besides learning how to jump from a plane and not die).  Chet was trained in Signal Corps duties (which he once described to me as, “Scrambling up the nearest tree” to set up long range cables).  After landing in enemy territory, his job would be to work with his unit’s radio operator(s) to set up radio communications.

*   *   *

 

This is a WWII U.S. Army Paratrooper badge (aka “jump wings” pin).  I also have this pin… somewhere.  Chet gave me both pins – the signal corps and jump wings – years before his death. I used to wear them, along with other pins, on a denim jacket (he got a kick out of that), then when the jacket was falling apart I took all the pins off and put them away for safekeeping…and now I have no idea where they are.  ;-(

*   *   *

The jacket in this box is a WWII paratrooper’s dress jacket.  It belonged to my favorite uncle, Bill O’Malley, my aunt Erva’s husband.   [1]   Bill O’Malley (“Billy” to his fellow soldiers) saw heavy combat in WWII – briefly in N. Africa, then in the European Theater of Operation (ETO).

I find what Bill experienced in WWII to be amazing, and I’m going to tell you what I know of it. Bill and Erva had no children to pass this on to, and their generation has all but died out – all gone, actually, on my side of the family.  It seems to me that someone (of a younger generation, ahem) should know his story, you know? My information is incomplete, and I won’t bore you with dates (most of which I don’t have, although I could look them up).  My purpose here is to convey some of what he went through. The words and phrases in quotes are, to the best of my memory, verbatim from what Bill (and in some cases, Chet or Erva or my grandmother) told me.

This information is pieced together from notes I made decades ago, plus many conversations Chet and I had about WWII and Bill O’Malley. The last and longest of these conversations a phone call the night before Chet died, during which I shared what Bill had told me when I’d visited Bill and Erva the summer after my fourth-grade year (I’d made a road trip to Spokane with my Aunt Gwen (Erva’s sister), Uncle Joe, and their son, Joey.  We all stayed at Erva’s & Bill’s Spokane house for two weeks).  I knew Uncle Bill had been a paratrooper, and one afternoon when the others were playing a lawn game in the backyard, I got Bill to sit down with me in his kitchen and talk about it.  Chet was flummoxed by some of the information I’d elicited;  Bill did *not* like to talk about the war and typically refused all entreaties – by adults – to do so (he did have a few war-related conversations over the years with Chet, whom he respected as a fellow paratrooper).  My theory is that, being a 10-year-old kid, I somehow disarmed Bill. My questions were sincere; I had no illusions about war “heroism” – I was just genuinely curious.  Bill didn’t have to impress or reassure me, the way he might have felt pressured to do by other adults.

*   *   *

When Bill enlisted in the paratroopers he was ~ five years older than the others in his unit (they were teens – early twenties; he was in his mid-twenties). His age and skills soon enabled him to hold the rank of sergeant (and he aspired to no higher rank).  After completing his paratrooper training Bill was assigned to the 82nd airborne division.   [2]

In N. Africa, during one of Bill’s first combat drops, the pilot of Bill’s plane made a navigational error and dropped its paratroopers over the wrong site – a fact which was not discussed nor even acknowledged by the army, as Bill later discovered when he made the obligatory report of the incident to his superiors.  One of its planes going in the opposite direction it was supposed to go – yikes.  It was quite an embarrassment to the Army higher-ups. Bad for soldier morale!

As in that jump and all others afterward, Bill jumped with his favorite weapon, his “tommy gun.”   [3]    Bill was the jump master, and after realizing they’d been dropped over the wrong site, he and his squad disagreed as to what to do next.  There was nothing but sand in all directions; Bill spotted an outcropping and insisted they follow it. His squad rebelled and went in the opposite direction without him, even after he (convinced that he was right, and that they were headed to their deaths) pulled his “tommy” on them and ordered them to follow him. The twelve paratroopers were never seen from again; they presumably died in the desert from exposure.

Bill, following the outcropping, wandered for days in the desert until he was rescued by a Brit in a jeep who was patrolling the perimeter of a nearby British military encampment.  By that time quite dehydrated, Bill thought he was hallucinating seeing the jeep, until it drove up to within a few feet of him.  The British officer exited his jeep and said to Bill, in the most stereotypical, slightly perturbed, upper-class British accent,

“I say old boy, what are you doing out here all alone?”

“You son of a bitch!” is how Bill began his reply….

Bill was reassigned to the ETO, to a unit serving in Italy.  In an incident which resulted in the largest “friendly fire” casualties of WWII, U.S. guns at Sicily fired at planes overhead, which were actually U.S. planes carrying U.S. paratroopers. The 504th Parachute Infantry was shot to pieces – two dozen of our own planes, shot down by “us.”  More than 300 U.S. soldiers died.  Bill survived that tragedy, did another jump in Italy (Salerno), and was reassigned again.  [4]   His next unit became part of the massive Allied paratroop drop into Normandy at D-Day.  After that he went on to fight in the Battle of Bulge.

Not surprisingly, Bill was hospitalized in France after the war had ended, for what was then called “shell shock” or “combat fatigue,” but which we now know as PTSD.

Although the army hospital doctors pronounced him “cured” after a few weeks of rest, Bill’s shell shock was not totally under control when he returned to the States.  His first date with Erva was “a humiliating disaster.”  Being out in public made him nervous; he couldn’t shake the feeling of being constantly “on patrol.”  Erva drove on their first date, as Bill had no car.  After picking Bill up, she was driving down the main street of their town when the car in front of hers backfired, the sound of which caused Bill to dive to the passenger’s seat floorboards (“Scared me half to death!” Erva said).  Bill was deeply embarrassed, and even more so when, ten minutes later, he had to ask Erva to take him back to his apartment so he could change clothes.  He had sweated through his clothing – completely soaked the three-piece suit he had worn, the suit he’d “bought special,” to impress Erva.

Gradually, Bill readjusted to civilian life.  When I asked him how he did this he replied, “I never had to pay for a cup of coffee.”   I assume the confused expression on my ten-year-old face is what sparked him to elaborate: After the war ended, soldiers were treated with kindness by everyone.  Although civilians did not want to hear anything about the war that “didn’t involve heroes,” they showered the returning GIs with respect, gratitude, and gifts (including job offers).  Bill also didn’t want to engage in war stories talk.  He found the eagerness of the nation to “get on with it” and look to the future to be helpful to him as he strove to forget/push aside his memories of what he’d seen and done in The War.

One “memory” he brought home with him was a German Shepard. He’d found the dog during one of his last maneuvers before he was hospitalized – somewhere in France, when he and his unit were patrolling a battle site. The dog, dehydrated and starving but still vigilant, was guarding the corpse of its (presumed) handler, a German soldier.

 

A scenario akin to this, only the Nazi was dead.

 

Bill spoke some German to the dog, shared his water and rations with it, and the dog transferred its loyalty to Bill.  The doctors at the hospital where Bill was treated agreed to let him keep it, and he was able to get it shipped back to the States with him.

Bill loved that dog  (I can’t remember what he named it; something ala, “Scout”). However, everyone he met back in the States was wary of it, and for good reason. The dog was huge, and would “greet” anyone who came to see Bill by silently approaching them (it supposedly never barked or growled), rearing up on its hind legs, resting its front paws on the visitor’s shoulders, and baring its teeth and looking them straight in the eyes, as if it were pondering, “Hmmm, should I rip your throat out, or go for the eyes first?”   Bill would speak to the dog in German, then he’d (attempt to) reassure his visitor:

“He won’t hurt you, but don’t make any sudden moves.”

Erva was terrified of the dog, as were Bill’s neighbors, who complained to his landlord about having to live next to a dangerous animal.   [5]  After they’d been dating several weeks, Erva told Bill, “It’s me or the dog,” and Bill found it another home.   [6]

*   *   *

After completing their paratrooper training and before shipping out to Europe, Bill and his paratrooper unit (company? regiment? whatever the terminology, it consisted of 105 men) shared their respective family contact info and made a pact to have a reunion after the war – the original 105 of them, no matter what outfits/companies/regiments they ended up being transferred to.  One of the men made good on that promised and organized the reunion a year after the war ended…but there were only five of the original 105 left alive.  The rest had died, in combat or in paratroop jump “accidents.” Of the five, Bill was the only one who had not been seriously injured (he’d twisted his ankle diving into a foxhole during a mortar attack at the Battle of the Bulge, but had never been shot or stabbed during combat, as the other survivors had been).

Those figures blow my mind, as an illustration of how much “action” Bill and his original company saw: a casualty rate of over 99% and a death rate of 95%.

 

 

Bill O’Malley’s paratrooper dress jacket.

 

 

Chet regretted that he didn’t keep his paratrooper dress jacket.   [7]   When Erva was dying,   [8]  she told my parents that she wanted Chet to have Bill’s jacket.   Bill and Chet had bonded over their paratrooper service, and Erva told me that Chet was Bill’s favorite of his “Hole Sisters” brothers-in-law.    [9]

 

*   *   *

May you have fun going through your attic;
May you remember that you don’t need 90% of what you put in your attic years ago, certain that you might “need it some day;”
May you share your family stories while you still can;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Erva O’Malley, nee Hole, was your grandma Marion’s eldest sister.

[2] The 82nd Airborne Division, first formed during WWI as an infantry division, earned the nickname “All-American” because, unlike the other army divisions at the time, its soldiers hailed from all 48 states.  The 82nd’s uniforms had a double “A” design shoulder patch insignia.

[3] A Thompson machine gun.

[4] Chet said Bill kept getting reassigned to regiments and infantries and squads – still within the 82nd division.  After battles with heavy casualties if the army needed you elsewhere, they sent you elsewhere, sometimes without the “proper” documentation, and soldiers went where they were told to go.  Chet was not sure of the numbers/names of the various infantries, companies, etc., Bill served with, and since Bill seldom talked about the war, the few times Bill was willing to offer information Chet just listened and didn’t press for such bureaucratic details.

[5] Presumably the dog, and not Bill.

[6] With another GI who’d served in the ETO.

[7] When Chet was discharged after the war he was given a train ticket home, and had limited luggage capacity – he  was unable to fit the paratrooper jacket into his suitcase (and was already wearing his uniform and two other jackets on top of that) and gave it to a GI buddy at the train station.

[8] From lung cancer, in 1998.  Bill died from a burst aortic aneurysm in 1969. He was 51.

[9] The Hole family sisters, now deceased:  Erva, Gwen, Ruth, and your grandma Marion.

The Terms I’m Not Agreeing To

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“As the coronavirus pandemic has kept more residents at home, it has created such a high demand for adopting dogs that there’s a dwindling supply.”
( “So many pets have been adopted during the pandemic that shelters are running out,”
Washington Post, 1-6-21 )

Since it is likely the physical isolation will continue for some time – i.e.,  until the post-holiday spikes settle down and vaccination distribution reaches the masses – I’ve been thinking of jumping on the COVID companion bandwagon and adding a new pet to our family.  Moiself  is having trouble deciding; I’m torn between two equally compelling options.  What do y’all, think:

 

Or

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Reasons I Hate The Business Side Of What I Do
Part 1,294 In A Seemingly Endless Series….

Dateline: earlier this week, reading the fine print of the publishing contract of an international fiction journal – a journal whose aims/ambitions and unique form of distribution I respected…until moiself  read this part of their contract, in the section,  Grants of Rights (my emphases):

(d) The publication Rights granted in The Furrowed Kneecap Review
[1]  may be exercised in any media now in existence or hereafter developed, including without limit, print media, electronic media, and electronic data bases….

 

Your work belongs to us – now, and in whatever future there can be, bwah haa haw!  

 

Yeah, that frosts my butt (and furrows my kneecaps). But the thing is, in the Wild Wild West of the publishing world, what with digital and other rights being coined and  re-invented within minutes of the appearance of new/online technologies which purport to “broaden a writer’s exposure” (read: steal use your work without compensation), more and more publishing contracts, whether for book-length material or journal articles, have some form of this language.  And no matter what the stipulations, a contract it can turn out to be – like many a domestic violence victim has discovered re restraining orders – “just a piece of paper.”  As one writer friend of mine learned, within two months after his book was published, your work may be scanned and posted on some website – where it can be downloaded and read (as in, stolen) by people all over the world  with no financial remuneration for you.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of We Be Needing Schooling On A Complicated/Simple Word

“An educated person before the scientific revolution could very well believe that there were unicorns and werewolves, and that comets and eclipses are portents of the future – beliefs we now think of as primitive, superstitious, magical, but they were the conventional understanding of the day.”
( Steven Pinker, psychologist and author, focusing on language,
the mind, and human nature and behavior)

Educated.   What do we mean when we say that someone is, “educated,” or that a person “needs to be educated?”

It should be a positive thing, to be to be educated or to be thought of as such.  However, it seems to moiself  that, more and more, I am hearing and reading educated  used as a sort of passive-aggressive pejorative.  As in,

“He just needs to be educated, then he wouldn’t be such a ______ ( racist; sexist; nativist; libtard;  homophobe; fan of ‘The Bachelor’….)”

 

 

Sometimes, that may indeed be the case: the person whom you think needs to be educated is demonstrably ignorant on certain facts, and/or has led a sheltered life sans exposure to different people and ideas, and/or lacks wider world experience and the perspective it brings.  But, here’s the trick: a person can be educated about an issue, just as educated as you are – BTW how are you-who-are-using-the-term-“educated” defining it? – and can disagree with you.

A person can know the facts, and agree with you as to what the facts are (“We both accept the Homeland Security Department’s statistic that 254,595 of the ‘Aliens Apprehended’ in the fiscal year 2019 were from Mexico and 1,368 were from Bangladesh”), but can vehemently and sincerely disagree with you about what the facts *mean.*

Let’s all be careful out there, and not take the ad hominem, patronizing, gettin’-all-educated-on-your-uninformed-ass manner when someone disagrees with us:

“They need to get educated  on  ____ [your pet issue];  then they’d see….”

That person to whom you are so quick to ascribe ignorance may know much more than you realize; beware the unspoken assumption, “If only he were educated in the matter, he would agree with *me*.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Surprisingly, This Was *Not* A Story About Farting

Although when I tuned into a favorite podcast of mine and heard this introduction, I at first thought they were putting a sciencey-spin on a story about SBDs.   [2]

“In 1931 a chemist named Arthur Fox accidentally released a cloud of phenylthiocarbamide in his lab.  A colleague nearby complained about the noxious odor…but Fox didn’t know what he was talking about…”   [3]

 

 

*   *   *

I’m not a fan of body building/weight lifting or MMA fighting, and I absolutely loath boxing, but I was intrigued by the The Game Changers This documentary was produced by and/or featured interviews with major players in the afore-mentioned sports, and also film, including James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Lewis Hamilton, Novak Djokovic and Chris Paul. 

The Game Changers focuses largely on males, and myths about meat, protein, and strength, and on how such myths got started and are promoted (to us all, but especially to men and athletes and others in “macho” professions, e.g., firefighters).  It features interviews with top athletes in their field who have increased their performances (and the longevity of their careers and their overall cardiovascular health) by opting out of the standard American diet (appropriate acronym: SAD) with its emphasis on meat and dairy products, and switching to plant-based eating.

 

 

The documentary also makes the bigger picture, linking personal consumption choices to global consequences :

And with more than 70 billion animals consumed globally every year, growing animal feed requires vast amounts of land. Which is why the single biggest source of habitat destruction is said to be the livestock sector….in South America, some 70% of former forests in the Amazon are now used to graze cattle, with much of the remainder used to grow feed crops for the cattle. Anti-poaching rangers on the “frontlines” of protecting endangered species see these effects firsthand.


“The actual biggest threat we have is the meat industry and the land that they are continually taking away from what we have left of these natural wilderness areas. Inch by inch, yard by yard, mile by mile.”


(  Damien Mander, founder of The International Anti-Poaching Foundation )

Also, the film is just dang funny in parts…and about parts. The scene where a medical doctor “who wrote the book on the penis” (literally) gets three football players to participate in an experiment showing how their nocturnal erections are greater in both quality and quantity  [4]  after eating a plant-based meal – it gets ten stars on the giggle-meter.

 

One of the things that interested me in the documentary was thinking that it might give me a chance to make fun of AHHHnold Schadenfreude  Schwarzenegger.  Turns out I need to bitch-slap moiself back to the 1990’s for holding that petty thought, as Herr Schw-etcetera actually comports himself quite well.

Oh, and lest you think certain opinions of moiself’s  have changed, although I’m pleased to see him realizing and embracing the personal and planetary benefits of plant-based eating, I still wish Maria Shriver would have gone all paleo on Ahhhnold’s cheating ass.

*   *   *

The Podcast I’m Not…Casting?

Think of all the great, meandering conversations you’ve had with a friend, and how you enjoyed the sometimes linear/sometimes non sequitur give-and-take, because you were a part of it.  Now think how many of those conversations would be interesting for other people to listen to – people who don’t know you and your friend and were not even present during the conversation – for thirty minutes or more.

 

“Who cares if neither of us is talking sense – this is fun.”

 

Regular readers know I am a regular podcast listener. The current list of podcasts I follow/subscribe to includes 20+ feeds, from Clear + Vivid  to the TED Radio Hour.  Five times as long as this list is the catalog of podcasts I have tried for a few episodes – even a few weeks – then deleted from my feed.  Most of the latter are podcasts hosted by Famous People, whose sole subject seemed to be talking with Other Famous People.   [5]

There seem to be a plethora of Famous Folks ® who are either clever or articulate, and who have been convinced by others (read: their agents and fellow suckups celebrity friends) that they are *both* clever and articulate. Thus, these Celebri-pods believe their amiable personae means that merely chatting on mic with their celebri-friends about…stuff…is interesting to others who aren’t directly involved in the conversation.  Wrong.  In my experience, it’s too often….

The fact that anyone can blog used to be touted as an example of the great democratization of our media. Now we’ve devolved from Anyone can blog! to Everyone has a podcast!  So: here’s my idea. With a nod to Abbie Hoffman, I will title my entry into podcast-dom, Turn This Off.

Mine will be yet another foray into the advice podcast genre.  A growing number of podcasts (e.g. Don’t Ask Tig, which I listen to) aim to give columnist-style guidance (think Dear Abby, et al), whether facetious or serious.

By virtue of its title, I figure my podcast will be the one advice podcast where people will actually follow the advice.

Of course, now that I’ve put this idea out there someone’s going to steal it….so this will be the podcast I’m not actually producing.  [6]

 

 

In the podcast I’m not doing, here’s one thing I can guarantee you won’t hear:  the host (that would be moiself ) staying silent when her guest makes a WTF?!  declaration.

Example: a few minutes into a recent celebrity-advice podcast I was listening to, the host’s celeb guest said that “fear should never make you navigate your decisions.”

The following digression is yet another reason why the podcast I’m not doing would fail (for reasons other than me telling people to turn it off) : no celebrities would want to come on my podcast because I wouldn’t let them get away with a statement like that.

Celebrity Guest ® was likely referring to her career decisions; still, she made a blanket statement, and a face-palming one at that. There’ve been books written about why ignoring your fears is foolish.  If you don’t recognize the *value* of fear (one of humanity’s most important survival senses) in making decisions you’ll inevitably make some really poor ones.

Evolutionary biologists tell us that the “rationally fearful” are the ones who survive. I’m not talking about nonsensical fears, like fearing that if you don’t touch the doorknob five times before you leave for work your house will catch on fire, or other phobias or irrational compulsions.  Pay attention to fear (sometimes referred/always related to intuition).  Learn how to analyze a realistic fear (that you may tumble off the cliff if you lean way over trying to get the ultimate selfie) from a momentarily uncomfortable but ultimately inconsequential worry (that you’re anxious you’ll flub your toast to the bride and groom).

In other words, pay attention when your Spidey senses start tingling.

People who don’t pay attention to their fear can end up injured or worse, whether it’s tumbling off of a cliff or being drugged by that “really cool guy” your friend set you up with but whose vibes gave you the willies….

“Intuition is always right in at least two important ways;
It is always in response to something.
It always has your best interest at heart.”

( Security Consultant Gavin De Becker, author of
The Gift of Fear: And Other Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence )

*   *   *

Department Of Partridge Of The Week

Which was actually last week’s, until a mob of racist rightwing Republican-abetted terrorists…current events, shall we say, stole the blog show.  This Partridge in our pear tree will be the last one, until the next solstice/winter/Christmas holiday season:

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I taught my kids how to fart. You could say they were under my tutelage.

 

 

*   *   *

May you pay attention to your fear;
May you follow your dreams
(except for that one where you are naked at work);
May you look in the mirror before you deem that someone else needs to be educated;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] Not the journal’s real name.

[2] Silent But Deadly. Surely, no reader of mine needs that acronym explained.

[3] ( excerpt from Curiosity Daily podcast, Do people think more in words or pictures? )

[4] (consumption of animal products cause inflammation; less inflammation from plant-based proteins = more blood flow to vital, ahem, “areas” of the body.

[5] I discovered these podcasts when I did a search for “comedy” or entertainment podcasts, wanting more laughable-listens in these COVID times, as opposed to shows devoted to news/current events (I have enough of those in my feed).

[6] Although, who knows what 2021 will hold?

 

The Blog Post I Wasn’t Planning On

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

As in, What. Happened. On. Wednesday.

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

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

*   *   *

Someone needs to be shot for insurrection. 

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

*   *   *

 

Prevoskhodno! This is all going according to plan.”

 

*   *   *

 

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

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

As friend MM so succinctly put it,

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

 

*   *   *

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

“The whole world is watching.”

 

 

And they were.  And we are.

*   *   *

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

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

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

No.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

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

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

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

The Advice Columns I’m Not Reading

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Department Of Haven’t We Learned By Now?

Here’s how I began my first post of 2020:

As I’ve noted previously in this blog, moiself  always serves some version of black-eyed peas (aka Hoppin’ John ) and greens for New Year’s Day dinner. These culinary creations are prepared in homage to my father’s family’s logic-defying adherence  [1]   to the tradition which told them that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day assures good luck in the year to come.

Good thing I followed that tradition, eh? What a luckity-luck-lucky year it turned out to be!

*   *   *

Department Of Advising The Advisor

Moiself  took it upon herself to email Amy Dickinson, who writes the syndicated advice column Ask Amy. My feedback was re Amy’s advice to a letter writer who was distressed about her cousins’ comments of victimhood re the 2020 election:

Dear Amy, Regarding the letter from “Text- challenged,” who was concerned that her conversations with her cousins were descending into their conservative political complaints, I must point out something about this comment of yours: 

“…if you voted for the Democrat candidate in 2016, you might remember how it felt to be declared a citizen of Loserville, USA. You might have felt like a victim of some mysterious process.”

Actually, Amy, (in 2016) we all *were* victims of “some mysterious process.” It’s called The Electoral College, and this mysterious constitutional relic of slave state appeasement once again thwarted the will of the people by installing the *loser* of the popular vote as leader of our (alleged) democracy, transforming us all into citizens of Loserville.

(From the Pew Research Center: “Besides the U.S, the only other democracies that indirectly elect a leader who combines the roles of head of state and head of government (as the U.S. president does) are Botswana, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, South Africa and Suriname.” )
Wishing you all the best in the new year,
Just another citizen,
Robyn Parnell

 

*   *   *

Department Of Partridge Of The Week

This week’s Partridge in our pear tree:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Just What The World Needs…

Is another moniker to describe How (as in, What) Someone Eats ®.  Thus, moiself  will happily supply that for y’all.

We got your paleo, vegan, keto, raw foods, juice, sugar-free, food combination, raw food paleo, tantrum-throwing-picky-toddler single-food diets….

 

 

Many if not most “diets” are just that – diets – as in something-to-go-“on” (and then off) when a certain weight or health goal is reached, instead of a sustainable, lifestyle and/or nutritional change.  Because someone recently asked, I thought about the best (as in, most ear-friendly) way to describe my not-a-diet FCP (food consumption patterns).

For five-plus years now I’ve been largely (as in 95%+) plant-based, but not vegan  [2]  as I have fish once or twice a week.  And although I avoid other dairy products I also consume some (a diminishing amount, but still there) cheese, for both personal addiction taste reasons, and also to keep moiself  travel-friendly.  [3]

 

Come back to the dark side.  We’re waiting for you….

 

MH asked me, “Doesn’t the label pescatarian describe how we eat at home/the majority of the time?” Maybe; but I don’t care for that term.

I consider my eating and cooking choices to be adventuresome, investigative, horizon-expanding rather than limiting,   [4] and science-based/planet-friendly.  I want an affable term to reflect that.  Hmm; vegetarian; plant-based; planet-friendly;   [5] fish, aquarium….

 

Oh, Yeaeeaaah.  This is perfect.

I am a planetarium.

You’re welcome.

Feel free to borrow/appropriate, with attribution.

 

Can you say,”She seems quite pleased with herself,” boys and girls? I knew you could.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yeah What She Said

When it comes to commentary on American culture and politics, moiself  often finds the musings of those who are on the outside looking in to be particularly incisive.  As in this excerpt from the State of the Me blog post, by C.L. Hanson.  Hanson, an engineer and expat American, describes her blog as “The Adventures of a Friendly French-American ExMormon Atheist Mom Living in Switzerland!!!” (my emphases):

“I’m happy that Trump will finally be leaving the White House. As I’ve said before, I don’t agree with the people who said that voting him out is the “right” way to get him out — he should have been impeached and convicted within the first year of his presidency. Whether the president is above the law is not a question that should be up for popular vote (or some weirdly-derived subset of the popular vote). If the US system can’t eject a president for constantly and openly breaking the law, then the system is broken. But this band-aid is better than nothing. The bare last line of defense has held firm against the deadly march of fascism — when there was no guarantee that it would. Hopefully this victory will help turn the tide and encourage the people to make serious changes and fix things for real.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Oh, Oh, How I Hate Hate Hate Having To Write This…

But, I have to.  Because it’s bugging the ever-lovin’ sudoriferous secretions out of me.   [6]

 

Trigger warning.

 

To start the new year, here are two things I look forward to seeing ended:

(1) This should go without saying: the termination of a certain administration (hint: this will take place on January 20)

(2) “Woke” and “Cancel” culture, which, IMO, is directly related to (1)…and my concern with it is tangentially related to the first entry in this post (as in, reading advice columns).

“…many Americans have come to believe that the only way to spur change is by ginning up anger. It isn’t enough to say your opponents are wrong. You have to say they are reprehensible….
So many tools of modern culture take ancient circuits in the brain and put them in hyperdrive…. We evolved to care about relationships, but social media has weaponized this, transforming personal connections into metrics of self-worth. Getting angry at (who we perceived to be) wrongdoers was helpful in our evolutionary past, but when people apply that same impulse today…what we get are doxing and death threats.
Used recklessly or for self-promotion, outrage can poison the way we interact with each other. It can imprison us in our own echo chambers.
( excerpts from “Screaming Into The Void: How Outrage Is Hijacking Our Culture
And Our Minds,” Hidden Brain, 10-7-19 )

 

 

The Orwellian speak of #45’s administration reminds me of the opposite side of the same coin, which is groupthink, and “cancel” or “woke culture.”  It seems I can’t spit (and I have tried) without hearing, from aggrieved persons or interest groups, cries of “hateful!” re someone who disagrees with them, and without citation of an actual, factual statement from that someone of hate. To list only two examples…

* a woman, having been sexually assaulted in a private/public room, articulates her concerns about any man being able to enter a women’s restroom if he claims to “identify as female”.   [7]    Her concerns are not addressed logically or compassionately; rather, she is shrieked at by trans activists, YOU’RE TRYING TO KILL US ALL!!

* People on “the left” seem to feel entitled to call someone who disagrees with them and/or their identity group, on a certain issue (even if they support other issues for that group) “hateful” and “evil.”

Moiself  is reminded of #45’s kneejerk way of dealing with disagreements and critiques,  particularly from women. He rarely attempts to refute the substance of the criticism (he’ll say it’s not valid, it’s fake news). Rather, he goes into attack mode, claiming that those women hate him because they are “nasty,” “evil,” “pathetic,” “sad”….

 

 

 

I’ve written of this – my concerns about and loathing of “cancel culture” and thought and language policing and their many variants   [8]several times previously in this space. Here is the promised advice column link.

I read several advice columns regularly.  One is slate.com’s Dear Prudence. A recent DP column had the attention-getting headline, “Help! My Son Is Trans. Is It Wrong to Read the Harry Potter Series to His Younger Brother?”  What turned out to be even more face-palming to me than the headline/question was DP‘s answer.

The write said that her youngest son loved the first Harry Potter book (read in class by his third grade teacher) and was asking her to read the remaining books with him. She’d read the entire HP series to her older two sons, who loved it. But now her oldest (trans) son asked her “…not to read the books to his younger brother and not to buy Harry Potter merchandise because it would feel to him that I was supporting J.K. Rowling’s horrible anti-trans comments.”  The letter-writing mom is struggling with wanting to let her youngest “…enjoy the world of Harry Potter without supporting a bigot.”

DP‘s answer included a WTF ?!?! reference to the author of the Harry Potter series as an “artist who’s made transphobia a significant part of her career.”

I can’t help but wonder how the letter writer hear about Rowling’s alleged “horrible” comments – and did she even know of Rowling’s articulate, nuanced  response to being slandered, or is she (and her oldest son) jumping on the Orwellian groupthink bandwagon?  The DP columnist   [9]   didn’t correct the writer’s hyperbole and seems to agree with it.  Although I (mostly) like the DP column I ‘ve noticed the groupthink tendency in DP‘s answers and assumptions.  I’m not cancelling my on-line subscription – that would make me part of the cancel culture, right?   But the stench of self-righteous piling-on lingers, and don’t know if I’ll be able to stomach reading DP column for a while.

 

 

Summary of the issue at hand, for those who’ve managed to remain blissfully ignorant of transphobia-hysteria: in December 2019 writer J.K. Rowling tweeted her support for a British woman who’d lost her job for posting so-called “transphobic” tweets. On 6 June, Rowling poked Twitter fun at the usage of the phrase “people who menstruate” – a phrase many people and writers (such as moiself ) find unnecessary, even bizarre, not to mention  WTF, Saturday-Night-Live-skit-worthy awkwardness.

” ‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”

I’m so glad Rowling beat me to it, because that would have been my first reaction. ROTFL.

Ah, but then….  The self-appointed “woke culture” piled on.

 

 

Sexual dimorphism is a factual, biological phenomenon in mammalian species. There are a variety of opinions as to the diversity or spectrum of expression within that phenomenon itself and within our human, culture expressions of biology.  Rowling and many others hold the opinion that being female is not just a “construct,” and now, such opinions are labeled by a vocal minority as “hate speech.”  Many trans activists and their supporters called for Rowlings’ books to be burned, told Rowling she was “literally killing trans people with [her] hate,” called her a cunt and a bitch…. 

Rowling responded to the criticism with an essay which, apparently, most of her critics (including, I’d guess, the mother who wrote to DP and DP himself ) – did not bother to fully, open-mindedly and carefully read.  Nowhere in the essay did I find sentiments I’d even remotely consider hateful or “horrible,” nor indicative of someone who’s “made transphobia a significant part of her career.”  Rowling is a committed feminist with a personal history of experiencing misogyny, gender discrimination, and sexual abuse.  She believes that most trans people are “vulnerable and deserve protection,” and she calmly and articulately explained her concerns with the “the consequences of the current trans activism”:

We’re living through the most misogynistic period I’ve experienced. Back in the 80s, I imagined that my future daughters, should I have any, would have it far better than I ever did, but between the backlash against feminism and a porn-saturated online culture, I believe things have got significantly worse for girls. Never have I seen women denigrated and dehumanised to the extent they are now. From the leader of the free world’s long history of sexual assault accusations and his proud boast of ‘grabbing them by the pussy’, to the incel (‘involuntarily celibate’) movement that rages against women who won’t give them sex, to the trans activists who declare that TERFs   [10]   need punching and re-educating, men across the political spectrum seem to agree: women are asking for trouble. Everywhere, women are being told to shut up and sit down, or else.

I’ve read all the arguments about femaleness not residing in the sexed body, and the assertions that biological women don’t have common experiences, and I find them, too, deeply misogynistic and regressive. It’s also clear that one of the objectives of denying the importance of sex is to erode what some seem to see as the cruelly segregationist idea of women having their own biological realities or – just as threatening – unifying realities that make them a cohesive political class….

….as many women have said before me, ‘woman’ is not a costume. ‘Woman’ is not an idea in a man’s head. ‘Woman’ is not a pink brain, a liking for Jimmy Choos or any of the other sexist ideas now somehow touted as progressive. Moreover, the ‘inclusive’ language that calls female people ‘menstruators’ and ‘people with vulvas’ strikes many women as dehumanising and demeaning. I understand why trans activists consider this language to be appropriate and kind, but for those of us who’ve had degrading slurs spat at us by violent men, it’s not neutral, it’s hostile and alienating.

(excerpt from “J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues,” 6-10-20)

This is a brief except from a 3,600 word essay.  Read it in its entirety before forming an opinion; I realize it’s a bit longer than many kneejerk reactors are used to (if they don’t come across the corrext buzz words they are looking for in the first two paragraphs, bye bye). Maybe you agreed with all of it, some of it, none of it. What is your response if you truly (or think you ought to, because it’s the woke thing to do) disagree with Rowling – or anyone else, for that matter, on this issue or any other.  Do you go from 0 to 120 in the blink of an eye? Is there nothing in between? Can you disagree with what someone says without conflating their opinions – or your interpretations of their opinions – with terms like “hateful” “horrible,” and twist her words into saying she calls for “literally killing” someone?

Rowling, on the record as supporting  LGBTQ rights and people, envisioned one of the most beloved characters in literature, Professor Albus Dumbledoree, as gay .  I find it both ironic and pathetic that the creator of the most famous and beloved world of witches and wizards is now herself the object of an ideological witch-hunt.

Those who jumped on the public chastisement bandwagon included actor Daniel Radcliffe, whom I took to task here.  I in turn didn’t want to accuse Radcliffe of being “hateful” nor accuse him of  trying to “kill” Rowling’s career…but perhaps I should have.  As per our culture of outrage, no one will listen to you unless you go over the top.

 

“Harry Potter, you need to learn to think before you speak.”

 

Anyone from a bartender to a biologist who disagrees with the “woke” tenet re gender- that it exists in the mind/is primarily/only a social construct –  will, sooner or later, be called transphobic.  To disagree with someone is to “hate” them and what they say, and to label them as pathologically fearful.   [11]   You disagree with me on that?  You hater, you…opposition-ophobe, you!  And woe unto you if you make a simple, human error.  If you absent-mindedly  [12]  call a trans-man by his birthname, even if you originally – as in, for forty frickin’ *years*- knew him as her, you are no longer a fallible friend who made a totally understandable slip of the tongue – you DEAD-named him, you transphobic bigot!

This issue is more than one of free speech and ideological and imaginational conformity (which, as a writer, I have great concerns about).  This link directly to What Just Happened ® (in the past four years and the recent election), which we are still trying to figure out. Bear with me a bit longer as I make the point I earlier alluded to.

 

 

People stop talking with one another across party, ideological, and cultural “lines” if they know or fear that others are going to pay more attention to *how* they say something rather than *what* they are saying.  In particular, folks who are not hateful and/or ignorant fools, but who

(1) don’t consider themselves deftly articulate or skilled in written expression, and thus
(2) worry that they won’t use the “correct” jargon or terminology

fear being misunderstood, and are prone to withdrawing from dialogue with those who hold differing opinions.

Someone can disagree with you on an aspect of what you consider to be your most important or even defining cause, without rejecting your entire cause.  That Someone can be an ally, can still be “on your side” – unless blindered, politico-speak conformity is your price for alliance, in which case you’ll end up driving allies away, or underground.  Then, hey – good luck dealing with the vocal opposition, who are as firm in the self-righteousness of their position as you seem to be of yours.

 

 

This is not just a matter of agreeing or disagreeing with a successful author who has social media followers. The vitriol directed against Rowling is directly related to disturbing social phenomena which have political and cultural ramifications for us all – phenomena that give us headlines like the following, which too many left-leaning/”progressive” Americans either ignored or misunderstood, in their post-election head-scratching:

A Stinging Setback in California Is a Warning for Democrats in 2022

 ( NY Times, 12-26-2020 )

Although the election pollsters were mostly accurate about Trump’s impending defeat, Democrats lost ground in other important areas, which took pollsters by surprise. How could they have been so wrong about that? Several studies and theories point to the idea that although most folks, even conservatives, agreed that #45 had to go, people on all sides of all aisles are becoming more and more concerned with cancel culture, and they blame the Democrats/The Left for that (or for being the *least* willing to call it out).  And because of cancel culture, people didn’t answer truthfully to pollsters (or even to their own family and friends) about their concerns, lest they be called evil,  ___- o-phobes, and haters.

“Differences of opinion no longer are defined by one’s approach or framing of an issue, but rather by the person who holds a contrary position as being evil….  Comedy, one would think, should be exempt from restrictions on speech, but it is not. Chris Rock stated… ‘I stopped playing colleges (because of) … their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody. You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.’

Free speech in America is on the ballot for many Americans who see an intellectual orthodoxy rapidly developing….They fear that zealots have been permitted to gain power to banish anyone who questions or denies progressive beliefs or policies….

Pew Research found that “majorities in both major parties believe censorship is likely occurring (on social media.)” ….  On Nov. 3, these beliefs may motivate a new voting bloc to cast their votes for the candidate who stands up to cancel culture.”
( “Cancel culture’ may spawn a new, silent voting bloc,” The Hill  )

Those fears, printed a few weeks before the election, turned out to be prescient, as noted in “Woke Culture Destroyed The Blue Wave” (The Daily Cardinal, 11-19, my emphases)

“…the mythical “blue wave” fizzled out into a splash long before the first ballot was even cast. While President-Elect Biden won with a sizable lead in both the electoral and popular votes, the Democratic Party barely held its own in the Senate and the House….and Republicans may be on track to win back the House in 2022.

If Democrats truly want to emerge mightily victorious in the future, they must analyze why over 73 million people voted against them and their party. The analysis must be a brutally honest one for it to have any merit, and conclusions such as the opposition being ‘racists’ or ‘fascists’ are lazy responses which fail to examine the failures of the Democratic Party to reach out to millions of Americans.

… Bill Maher — a vocal Democrat — (stated) that the biggest enemy to liberals is themselves…that the woke culture which has permeated both the personal and professional world is halting the Democrat’s chances at flipping right-leaning voters.

Maher’s analysis could not be more astute. Phenomenon such as…’woke’ culture are the very thing which created the political atmosphere in which a person like Donald Trump could thrive and rally supporters. Democrats created their own monster in this regard. While President Trump may be in office for only a few short months, the angst which propelled his political support is here to stay.

… many (on the Left) subscribe to the belief that ‘if you don’t agree with me, you’re a racist and a bigot and your career should be destroyed.’ …Fear has gripped many, as they struggle to articulate their thoughts, frightened if they may be the next ones to be ‘cancelled.’ “

 

You really want to equate JK Rowling to this?

 

*   *   *

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I was disappointed by the organizers of the New Year’s Eve celebration at Times Square.
Once again, they dropped the ball.

 

 

But wait – there’s more!

Did y’all here about the guy in England who assaulted a dozen people with a miniature replica of Big Ben on New Year’s Eve?
He couldn’t wait for the clock to strike twelve.

 

Someone has to end this, and soon.

 

*   *   *

May the hyperbole of “woke” culture take a well-needed nap;
May the new year be filled with new hope and old (but still loved) puns;
May 2021 be better than…oh, you know;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] They were dirt poor sharecroppers tenant farmers. That good-luck-meal thing failed, year after year.

[2] Although when dining out – y’all remember that thing we used to do, way back in 2019? – I will ask for vegan items, to get the point across to restaurant staff that, for example, I don’t want the “vegetable” soup if it’s made with beef broth.

[3] It’s becoming easier to have plant-based options when traveling, but in many cultures and foreign countries – e.g., Arkansas – it can be difficult:  the ideas and imaginations of some folks, when it comes to vegetarian/vegan foods, is remove the “meat” and add cheese and voila, it’s a veggie entrée! Also, I want to be a good visitor and not reject *everything* the host/local cuisine offers.

[4] Plant-based is not so much about out cutting meat, milk, and eggs —it’s about crowding them out with the amazing variety of fruits and veggies and nuts and legumes and grains that there are out there, many of which get overlooked when the centerpiece of the meal is a big hunk of flesh, accompanied by the usual side veggie suspects.

[5] Nutritionists and scientists around the globe are researching and recommending the advantages of a plant-based-diet in conserving resources and reducing global warming, not to mention personal health benefits….

[6] Whaddya think, should I have just written, “sweat“?

[7] When daughter Belle was working closing shifts at a restaurant, and a lawyer friend of mine who was working for a law firm specializing in sexual assault cases found out that Belle’s duties included cleaning the restrooms, she warned Belle about never closing the doors and being very careful to watch her back, because of the number of cases she’d seen where a male waited until a female co-worker was alone in a restroom to assault her.

[8] Which include literary censorship (“write what you know” which equals “write what you are”) and “cultural appropriation.”

[9] Who is a trans man.

[10] ‘TERF, ’an acronym coined by trans activists, stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist.

[11] Do people who so generously apply the “phobia/phobic” label even know the definition of a phobia?

[12] As contrasted with, you know that Roberta now wants to be called Robert, but you intentionally use the former name because you’re the Mean Uncle. ®

The Party Hat I’m Not Wearing

1 Comment

Department Of Nomination For Lyrical Couplet Of The Year

My nomination hails from the musical-comedy “The Prom,” the Netflix-streamed movie, adapted from the 2018 Broadway show of the same name. The story revolves around the political, cultural and social shenanigans which ensue when a small town Indiana High School PTA announces their intention to cancel the school’s prom because a female student wants to take her girlfriend to the dance.    [1]

The couplet moiself  refers to is sung by an archetypal cheerleader/popular/hot/girl, who is quite pleased with her perceptions of her own “hotness” as she arrives at her much-anticipated high school prom:

♫  …You have to hand it to me
I mean even I would do me  ♫

(lyric from “Tonight Belongs To You”)

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Good News For Office Party Nerds

Speaking of sexual/physical desirability, a recent episode of the Curiosity Daily podcast, “Why Birds Wore Funny Hats for Science,” dealt with scientific experiments in avian mate preference and selection.

“A female finch was given a choice between two males. One was just a regular guy, but the other had an upgrade. He was wearing a tiny hat with a giant white feather sticking straight up.   …Imagine being uncontrollable attracted to him, because that’s what happened in the trials. Females went wild for the guys in funny hats….”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Doctor Will See You Now…
So Turn Our Head And Cough

“Many Ph.D. holders are fine with reserving the title for medical doctors in common parlance, viewing insistence on the title as arrogant and elitist, and do not use their titles even in a scholarly setting. But for women and people of color, an academic title can be a tool to remind others of their expertise in a world that often undermines it.”
( “Should all Ph.D’s be called ‘Doctor’ ” KQED )

“…female engineers with Ph.D.s who said they are under-represented in their field, and feel like they need to put doctor in front of their names to get the same respect that male engineers get.
…researchers found that male doctors introduce their male colleagues as “Dr.” around 70 percent of the time, but introduce their female colleagues as doctor a little less than half the time.”
( “Who Gets To Be Called ‘Doctor” And Why It Matters,”  WHYY )

 

 

Yep, moiself  just has to put my two cents’ in re The Dr. Jill Biden Thing ® .

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (UC Davis, circa 1979), most of my college professors had Ph.D.s in their respective fields.  When it came to their professional titles, I can’t recall how most of them preferred to be addressed (“Professor,” “Dr.” “Ms. ___” or “Mr. ___”), nor what I or the other students called them…with one notable exception.

I took a class from Robert Miller,  [2]  who had a Ph.D. in literature and taught a class on film/cinema (the name of which escapes me).  From day one of the class Miller made it clear as to how he preferred to be addressed. In-class questions and discussions were encouraged, but when any student raised their hand and began their remarks with, “Dr. Miller…? Miller would interrupt with, “Yes, nurse?”

Most of the students caught on rather quickly.  One particularly obsequious toady with artistic pretensions (he wore all black attire, no matter the weather, including black turtleneck shirt AND, I kid you not, a black beret)  did not.  After the fifth or six occasion of him hearing, “Yes, nurse?”  he got up the nerve to ask Miller some deferential version of, whaz up wit dat?

Miller took that opportunity to tell the entire class that, yes, he had a doctorate degree, but he preferred to be addressed by the title, “Professor,” because that was his profession.  He went on to tell an entertaining story of the history of academic titles.  According to Miller, the title “professor “fell out of favor during the mid-late 19th century, when traveling snake oil salesman referred to themselves thusly, to add a cloak of respectability re the noxious potions they peddled.  Thus, the term “professor” became associated with charlatans, and actual professors who held doctorate degrees began calling themselves “Dr.,” a title which had heretofore been reserved for physicians.

Professor Miller briefly expressed his opinion that academics in any field who insisted on being called “Dr.” were either insecure with or overly impressed by their own credentials. For clarity, Miller thought that “Dr.” should refer to a practicing M.D.

 

 

Until recently, I shared Professor Miller’s antipathy toward the use of Dr. referring to anyone other than a physician.  I am also loath to address physicians, when they are not on duty, as Doctor, and in social settings I am suspicious of medical doctors who insist on being introduced that way.  If you are a medical doctor, off-duty at the grocery store or at your spouse’s office party or any other situation wherein I can expect that you will *not* be putting a tongue depressor into my mouth, what is the point – other than for your own self-aggrandizement – to introduce yourself to me as a doctor?

Years ago, in social situations where there were enough people unfamiliar with each other so as to require name tags, I encountered that situation frequently, enough so that I was inspired to Do Something About It ®.  I’d noticed that some (not all) of the party attendees added, either before their first name or after their surname, their professional titles and/or initials in situations which clearly did not require the identification of one’s profession.  Think, “Rev. Blowschlock” at a non-religious gathering, or “Elmer Turnblatter, M.D.,” at a New Year’s Eve party or other, non-medical setting.  In anticipation of the next such event, I made moiself  a name tag which I could proudly wear on Those Special Occasions.    [3]

 

 

Being proud of your accomplishments is one thing; unconsciously or otherwise hoping for special notice/treatment because of the letters after your name is another.  Cynical moiself  usually assumed the latter reasoning, when it came to people who insisted that others know or use their professional letters and titles in non-professional situations.

Which brings us to Joseph Epstein, BFD.

In case you’ve spent the last two weeks in a drunken stupor/hiding under a rock/binge-watching”Grey’s Anatomy  paying attention to more weighty matters, you may not know about the column that journalist Joseph not-a-doctor Epstein wrote for the Wall Street Journal. In the column, Epstein offered unsolicited advice to Jill Biden, who has a doctorate degree in education, as to how people should address her and how she should refer to herself.  His column…I shall not link to it here.  Not to worry, you can easily find it, as the odor from his festering turd of deprecating sexism disguised as an op/ed can be detected across the country.  The stench begins with the first paragraph.

“Madame First Lady — Mrs. Biden — Jill — kiddo: a bit of advice on what might seem like a small but I think is not an unimportant matter.  Any chance you might drop the ‘Dr.’ before your name? ‘Dr. Jill Biden’ sounds and feels a touch fraudulent, not to mention comical.”

 

“Fradulent.”  “Comical.”

 

 

Yep. He wrote that.

Epstein has heretofore *not* offered such advice to other Ph.D. holders in the public eye.    [4]  Nor did No-doc Epstein voice any complaints when his newspaper identified non-medical doctor Henry Kissinger as Dr. Kissinger.  Epstein is taking some well-deserved heat for his comments, and is responding to this blowback by clutching his proverbial pearls and hiding behind the whiny, entitled skirts of crying, “Cancel culture!!” instead of taking this criticism as an opportunity to examine his own myopia when it comes to equal respect for and treatment of professional titles.

As Monica Hessee, Washington Post writer of  “The Wall Street Journal column about Jill Biden is worse than you thought” points out,

“As supporting evidence for his reasoning (that “no one should call himself Dr. unless he has delivered a child.”    [5]),  Epstein cites his own refusal to be called “Dr.” when he taught courses at Northwestern University — which would, in fact, have been fraudulent and comical because Epstein’s highest degree is a bachelor’s. It seems he would like Jill Biden to deny herself what she earned, because he denied himself what he did not.”

 

 

Doctor? What doctor? Epstein’s “advice” ends as malodorously as it begins.

“Forget the small thrill of being Dr. Jill and settle for the larger thrill of living for the next four years in the best public housing in the world as First Lady Jill Biden.”

 

“the small thrill of being Dr. Jill….”

Got that, folks?  Regardless of how you or I think about what professional titles any person should or should not use, Epstein reveals his closeted (perhaps even to himself) sexism in his finale:  Jill Biden’s own hard work and achievements should not be as important as those “larger thrills” which society may bestow upon her by virtue of the man she married, and that she should accept this marital title and the perks (best public housing, ever, yee haw!) and refrain from claiming her personal identity and accomplishments.

It may be possible that (doctor-less) Epstein truly doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about.  The mere fact that he could pen such a condescending column indicates he has had his head up his ass in the sand of entitlement for the past X decades, when it comes realizing how women have had to fight for respect, to have their professional accomplishments acknowledged – and even attributed, what with the history of males claiming credit for their female colleagues’ accomplishments….

*The Art of Claiming Credit: Why women in particular have to be strategic with our suggestions and insights, plus advice on calling out credit stealers.

*9 Women Who Changed History…And The Men Who Took Credit

* Men Are Taking Credit For Women’s Work, And Now We Know Why

* When Teamwork Doesn’t Work For Women: …new evidence suggests that the underrepresentation of women reflects a systemic bias in that marketplace: a failure to give women full credit for collaborative work done with men.

*When A Male Colleague Took Credit For My Work

 

 

All else being equal, I would hold with my original discomfort with non-medical-docs using the Dr. title.  But we do not live on planet All Else Being Equal.

Also, my college film professor was not entirely correct regarding his take on the doctor v. professor issue.  Ph.D.’s, not M.D.s, were the original “doctors.”

“The term doctor can be traced back to the late 1200s, and it stems from a Latin word meaning “to teach.” It wasn’t used to describe a licensed medical practitioner until about 1400, and it wasn’t used as such with regularity until the late 1600s.”
(““M.D.” vs. “Ph.D.” vs. “Dr.,” dictionary.com )

“The premise that only medical doctors should get to hold the Dr. title is etymologically specious because, as Merriam-Webster dictionary pointed out on Twitter, “doctor” comes from the Latin word for “teacher”; it was scholars and theologians who, back in the 14th century, used the title well before medical practitioners.”
(Monica Hessee, Washington Post op cit )

 

*   *   *

Department Of Save That Poop – It May Save your Life

So happy to have yet another excuse to mention Murder Hornets before this year is consigned to the dumpster fire of history.

“To ward off giant hornet attacks, honeybees in Vietnam will adorn the entrances to their nests with other animals’ feces, a defensive behavior called fecal spotting…. The odious ornamentation seems to repel the wasps — or at least seriously wig them out…. Decorating one’s home with dung might sound indecorous….But the scat-based strategy appears to capitalize on a relatable trend: Most creatures aren’t keen on muddying their meals with someone else’s waste.”
( “When Murder Hornets Menace Their Hive, Bees Decorate It With Animal Feces,”
(NY Times, Sciences, 12-9-20 )

 

A house completely made of dung. Notice the lack of murder hornets…or people, within a 50 yard radius.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Partridge Of The Week  [6]

This week’s Partridge in our pear tree:

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

A dung beetle spent an entire day rolling a ball of dung up a hill, only to have it fall into a ravine on the other side.  Needless to say, he lost his shit.

 

Make. It. Stop.

 

*   *   *

May your title denigration be equal opportunity, if you feel the need to discount someone’s adacemic achievements;
May you always choose the guy (or girl) with the funny hat;
May you do whatever you have to do-do when the Murder Hornets arrive;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] Although “The Prom” is fictional, it is based on the true story of what happened in 2010 at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi, where school officials, objecting to a lesbian student who wanted to bring her date to the prom, decided that, rather than face lawsuits of discrimination against that student they would  cancel the entire prom, for all students, rather than allow gay couples to attend.

[2] Not his real name.

[3] “Not a Doctor.”

[4] That we know of, and at least, not in print.

[5] And note the sexists defaults to the male pronouns, even as Epstein is presuming to address a female.

[6] Why isn’t there another footnote, like, right here?

The Home Health Tests I’m Not Administering

Comments Off on The Home Health Tests I’m Not Administering

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

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

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

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

 

“I heard that….”

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

But, sorry – BLL is no Macbeth.

And, the sex scenes…

“Like, I *know*….

 

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

* candle- or otherwise gauzily-lit locales

*nothing resembling safe sex being practiced

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

(Washington Post, 7-14-20 )

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

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

 

 

Yep.  All that, plus karaoke singing.

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

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

 

 

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

Yeah, right.  Welcome to the USA.

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


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


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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Damn Damn Damn Damn Damn!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Damn damn damn damn damn.

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Get A Load Of This Pair

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Partridge Of The Week

This week’s Partridge in our pear tree:

 

 

*   *   *

 

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] As in, “I heard that!”

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

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

[4] Hopefully, teeny.

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

[6] And you know you want to.

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

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

The Pumpkin Spice Loincloth I’m Not Girding

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Department Of Autumnal Abuses

As delighted as I am to be able to wish y’all a (belated) happy autumnal equinox, as we enter this, my favorite season of the year, I am girding my proverbial loins for the onslaught of pumpkin-spiced products which flood the market at this time of year (and which one day may include nutmeg, cloves & cinnamon scented, loin-girding cloths).

Yo, y’all marketing types: Are there no other scents or flavors or ambiances associated with autumn – falling leaves? bales of hay? football cleats? – which can be exploited?

It seems you can’t spit (and moiself  has tried) without hitting a pumpkin spice candle, room deodorizer, latte, coffee creamer, soap, lotion, shampoo, syrup, dried pasta, yogurt pretzels, dinner mints, liqueurs…but wait – there’s more.

If the devil   [1]  came to your autumn housewarming party, his host gift to you would be a bottle of pumpkin spice vodka, and this:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of 2020 Has Been Bad Enough, But…
I  REALLY  DON’T  NEED  THIS  IMAGE  IN  MY  BRAIN,  OKAY?!?!?!?!

Dateline: last Saturday; early afternoon. I eject the exercise DVD I’ve been flailing about to working out with, and my TV reverts to…some old western movie.  As I return the DVD to its holder and begin to take off my shoes and socks, it’s apparently time for an advertisement break.  The images on TV change from Men on Horses ®  to a series of sad/frustrated/dispirited-looking men holding up various curved/sagging vegetables:  a curvy carrot, an arced cucumber, a badly bent banana….

It’s an advertisement for a treatment for Peyronie’s disease.    [2]

All together now: “I’m no prude, but….”

I find moiself  longing for the days when advertisements for undergarments couldn’t even mention which portion of the body the garment was for.

Remember when the makers of bismuth subsalicylate and other GI tract elixirs assumed that the public knew what their products were used for and did not reinforce the idea by showing us line dancers doing routines demonstrating which symptom they represented (e.g., Pepto Bismol’s Diarrhea Dame clutches her derriere)?

 

 

On second thought, more line dancers grabbing their butts!  Less bendy bananas!

*   *   *

Department Of It Was A Phenomenon Looooooooong Before It Had A Name

Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence…..

Men explain things to me, still. And no man has ever apologized for explaining, wrongly, things that I know and they don’t. Not yet, but according to the actuarial tables, I may have another forty-something years to live, more or less, so it could happen. Though I’m not holding my breath.

(Rebecca Solnit, in her essay,
Men Explain Things to Me: Facts Didn’t Get in Their Way.”)

After hearing yet another friend’s story of Yet Another One Of Those Workplace Encounters, ® I’ve been thinking of the origin of mansplaining.  As in, thinking that the woman who originated the term should get a Nobel Prize for Explicative Clarity.    [3]

The term “mansplaining” was inspired by, but not specifically used in, the 2008 essay by author Rebecca Solnit, which I’ve excerpted above.  Definitely a recommended read for anyone – make that, everyone –  whether or not you’ve ever mansplained, or have been on the receiving end of a mansplaination, or don’t understand what the fuss is about.

 

 

My friend’s story reminded me of another story, one that returns to me now and then, ever since I read it,  [4]  which was at least three decades ago.  The story, a brief recounting of a specific incident, was included in a writer’s longer magazine article on fatherhood.  I don’t recall the entirety of the article, but the gist of that one incident the Writer/Dad shared is forever burned on my brain.

Writer Dad (WD) was working in his home office one weekend when his five-year-old daughter, “Junie,” came inside to see him.  Junie had been outside with “Johnny,” a neighbor boy who was her frequent playmate. WD noticed that Junie seemed annoyed, yet also, oddly, thoughtful. 

“What’s up, Junie-girl?”  [5]  WD asked his daughter.

“I’m mad, Daddy-man.”

“I can see that.  Why are you mad,  Junie-girl?”

“I don’t think I’m going to play with Johnny anymore.  I don’t think I’m going to play with *any* boys anymore.  I don’t think I like boys.”

“Why is that?”

“Because they tell you things you already know.”

 “Oh…  Um…not all boys do this, right?”

Junie nodded.  “All boys.”

 WD tried to placate her with his best Daddy-man smile.
“Even me?” 

She paused before responding with a resignation beyond her years.
“Even you.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Mansplaining ‘Splained

On July 19, 2018 writer and designed Kim Goodwin came to the rescue on Twitter, with this post, followed by her brilliant diagram on the subject.

“I have had more than one male colleague sincerely ask whether a certain behavior is mansplaining. Since apparently this is hard to figure out, I made one of them a chart.”

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I saw an ad for burial plots, and thought, “That’s the last thing I need.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Blast From The Past Which In Some Ways Reminds Me Of The Present

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (okay; 1998), I was visiting my parents at their home in Santa Ana (CA).  On top of the pile of periodicals suffocating their coffee table was the latest issue of a popular weekly news magazine.  [6]   Bold, fiery red letters announced the magazine’s cover stor, which was along the lines of,

“1968 – The Year That Shook The World.

At that time, every other magazine and news outlet were doing stories on the 30th anniversary of 1968. I’d read several such stories, and was happy to see that magazine at my parents’ house, as it provided me with the opportunity to engage my mother in a conversation about 1968, which had been a pivotal year for people all over the world.

My mother wasn’t much for talking politics; even so, she sat down with me and began to reminisce.  She remembered the morning in early June when I came out of my bedroom, groggy-eyed and complaining about a very disturbing dream I’d had in which Bobby Kennedy’s helicopter was shot down in our backyard…  And I remembered how I looked up into her red eyes, realized that she’d been crying, and then she told me she and Dad had just learned that Senator Robert Kennedy had been assassinated the previous evening.

What with the assassination of MLK two months earlier, the nascent second wave feminist movement, the ongoing Vietnam War and student protests and civil rights protests and unrest around the world….. I recalled 1968 as the beginning of my political awareness, even as I recall my parents saying little if anything whenever I brought “things” up.

Mom admitted she’d used the “changing the subject” strategy when I’d wanted to talk about current events.  She said she thought it was her duty to protect her children from depressing information over which they had no control (although she didn’t protect us from reading the newspaper or watching the TV news).  Thus, even though she herself was very concerned about “everything that was going on,” she thought she had to maintain a sunny outlook for her kids and act as if everything was okay.  “But sometimes…” Marion Parnell shook her head. “That was such a difficult year.”

I remember, it was as if a shadow had crossed over my mother’s face, even though the So Cal sun shown brightly through my parents’ family room window.

Sometimes,” she murmured, “it felt as if the whole world was on fire…

 

 

What made me think of 1968 is some of the streaming I’ve been doing, of episodes of a particular classic television show.  History shows us that chaotic times often lead to the rise of dictators and  fascist supermen, who promise security in exchange for liberty.  As we presently deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and world economic insecurity, as well as the ramifications of *not* having every dealt with our country’s legacy of slavery and systemic racial injustice, and of having essentially ignored global warming with the resulting magnifying of wildfires and other “natural” disasters, all of this and more compounded by the political and personal corruption and gruesome lack of leadership by a puerile, tyrant-toadying excuse for a president and his sycophantic enablers, I’ve been seeking a nostalgia solace by watching reruns of a sketch comedy show which was launched during the chaos of 50 years ago.

Laugh-In (officially Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In) ran from 1968 – 1973; episodes are available via various streaming platforms, and I’m working my way through the seasons. Even as I’m (re)loving the episodes – for as much as the memories they bring back as well as the content of the episodes themselves – I’m well aware of the catch inherent for shows which strive to be topical: as you look back, the material is (of course and by definition) dated, and in some cases, even arcane.  But, that’s part of the fun, for moiself.

 

I’ve no doubt that my young adult children would be somewhat confused (even bored), in the And just why is this funny? vein, by the show…and I must admit that many of Laugh-In’s slapstick schtick, gags and punchlines fall flat in 2020.

My offspring have grown up in a time when TV shows announce what MH and I call The Five Major Food Groups ratings (MATURE SUBJECT MATTER- SEX – VIOLENCE – FEAR -ADULT LANGUAGE).  It is difficult if not impossible to have someone who wasn’t there appreciate the era in which Laugh-In began its run.  How do I adequately impart to them what simple, naughty fun it was for a 12-year-old, taking turns watching Laugh-In with her friends at each other’s houses, giggling over the fact that the show’s sex and drug references are going right over our parents’ heads (and probably ours as well)?

In each episode I’ve seen there are several sketches/jokes about political or cultural hot button issues at that time, which make me stop and try to remember the references (“Ooh – that guy was a Nixon cabinet member…?”).   Also, Laugh-In was not only topical culturally, but locally:  it was shot in So Cal (in legendary “Beautiful Downtown Burbank“), and the writers inserted regional references into their skits.  MH is  5 ½  years younger than moiself ; although he does recall watching Laugh-In it was the show’s regional references, and not its sex & drugs jokes, which confused him, as a seven-year-old Minnesotan.  Even today, watching the reruns with me (which he does only as a last resort; i.e. when I’ve commandeered the TV), why would he get – or care about – decades-old jokes about Sam Yorty (Los Angeles’ mayor during Laugh-In‘s run)?

It’s been fun getting reacquainted with my favorite recurring sketches and characters.  The Joke Wall; the Party; Tiny Tim, Wolfgang the German soldier (“Verrrrry interesting…”) ; Uncle Al the Kiddies’ Pal; Joanne Worley’s operatic complaints about chicken jokes and “Bo-oooooring!” and her never-seen boyfriend, Boris; Big Al’s Sports (and his “featurette tinkle”); Goldie Hawn’s giggling, vacant-eyed, Dumb Dora persona; “Here Come Da Judge,” The Farkel Family; Judy Carne’s Robot Theatre and “Sock-it-to me”…

 

 

Have there ever been a better-named pair of characters than Gladys Ormphby and Tyrone F. Horneigh?  [7]   And the worlds of television, cinema and theatre are forever in Laugh-In‘s debt for introducing us to Lily Tomlin.  Her best known Laugh-In personas are Ernestine and Edith Ann, but my favorite of Tomlin’s characters was The Tasteful Lady.

 

 

Re-watching these episodes decades after they were broadcast, it’s amazing to realize that, despite the show being considered progressive, bawdy, and outrageous for its time…how do I put this?  There’s no getting around how sexist much of the material was (but then, so was the country).  And Laugh-In was only slightly less dated on much of its racial and cultural content (the few references to Native Americans were especially, stereotypically, cringe-worthy).  But, that was then and this is now.  I’ll forgive the show almost anything, because it gave the world arguably my favorite comic dialogue, from Tyrone’s and Gladys’ “hereafter” sketch:

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you never contract a disease which can be represented by a droopy vegetable;
May we soon live in a world where we don’t have to ‘splain mansplaining;
May you always know what you’re here after;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Of course, the devil would not come to such a party because he doesn’t exist. Those who know moiself realize that the supposition of devils and/or evil spirits is something in which I do not believe.  Human behavior covers the spectrum – we do not need the supernatural to explain (or excuse) acts of cruelty…or kindness.

[2] As per those upright citizens of the Mayo Clinic, “Peyronie’s (pay-roe-NEEZ) disease is a noncancerous condition resulting from fibrous scar tissue that develops on the penis and causes curved, painful erections.”

[3] There is no such Nobel Prize, but maybe there should be.

[4] I think it was in Esquire magazine?

[5] As he recounted the story, he and his daughter had affectionate nicknames for each other (I made these up, as I can’t remember what they were).

[6] Time; Newsweek, US News and World Report were the big three – I think it was a copy of Newsweek.

[7] (pronounced “hor-NIGH”, to befuddle the censors)

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