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The Hedgerow I’m Not Bustling

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Department Of I’m So Glad This One Made It Over The Fence

I refer of course to the Guatemalan blue banana squash, which was in our CSA share this week.   [1]

I’m not sure about the name; to moiself it looks more like a model of the Goodyear Blimp that had accidentally been zapped in a food dehydrator.

It’s almost too cute to cut. Methinks it will end up in a curry with some greens, or my fallback method:  when in doubt, roast it and turn it into soup.

 

 

bluebananasquash

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 Department Of Why I Feel I Must Apologize To Someone I’ve Never Met

There is, apparently, a designer with the unfortunate name of Helen Ficolora. I say unfortunate because, through no fault of Helen’s, who is likely proud of the Italian heritage indicated by her surname, the first time People Like Me ® hear her name we are likely to mishear it, and blurt out,  Helen FECAL FLORA? – what kind of name is that !?!

 

 

exclamation chip

You’re right – this picture has nothing to do with this blurb, but do you really want to see what I came up up with to illustrate fecal flora?

 

 

*   *   *

Speaking Of Designers  [2]

Those with no too much time on their hands attentive attentive readers may remember the post from last month (9-1-17) regarding the t-shirts MH made for our eclipse viewing party:

Our astronomer friend and trip organizer MM posted pictures of the event on his FB page, which caught the eyes of two astronomy fashion bloggers.  [3]

MM contacted MH and let him know that the startorialist astronomers had noticed our group’s groovy shirts, and had asked for more photos and info on how the shirts were made, which they intended to post on one of their upcoming blog posts.

Upcoming is here: http://www.startorialist.com/ . Look for the link in the September archives.

 

 

eclipse

Look – there go our fifteen minutes – make that seconds –  of fame!

 

 

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Department of They’re Too Young to Get the Eleanor Rigby Reference

One route of the several routes I vary during my morning walks takes me through a local park around 7:50 am. At that time I typically see ~ 10-12 students, coming from all compass points, walking through the park, toward their bus stop.  A bus to the high school stops on the street which marks the eastern boundary of the park, at a point where one of the park trails veers off from the sidewalk. It is a prime people-watching opportunity for moiself, , albeit an increasingly disheartening one. Here is what I observed on Monday, which is, unfortunately, becoming par for the course.

I approached the park from the east, walking toward and then past the (unmarked) bus stop, and noted the students walking, from various directions, through the park, toward the street. Except for three gangly-buff, football player-ish looking boys who are standing within four feet of each another on the sidewalk, none of the students come together as a group. One stops under a tree, within 30 or so feet of the stop, and another goes to a picnic bench and several others all pick their own spots, some stopping in the middle of one of the park’s walking paths, within viewing distance of where the bus will pull up to the curb.  I walk past them and turn around to check out the scene…and then walk back the way I came so that I can brazenly look into their faces from about twenty feet away. Their eyes are glazed, and they pay me no mind.

Most of the students are wearing earbuds, and although it is a warm day, several of them have their hoodies pulled over their faces, and all of them – every goddamn one – are looking down at the their cell phones, captivated – read: numbed – by what, I can only guess. No student interacts with another person or with their environment, save to glance up every ten seconds or so toward the street, to see if the bus is approaching.

I remain there, watching for a while. No one watches me in return. None of them are smiling; their faces are devoid of expression. Even the four boys standing by or “with” each other are not talking to each other. And I am overwhelmed by the thought that whatever they are doing, however “social” they (think they) are being through their phone media, no matter what kind of “friend“  they may be interacting with via their tiny screens, they all look so…isolated.  And so incredibly lonely.

 

 

 

allthelonely

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Goodbye, Mr. Christmas

Mr. Christmas has died.

I don’t know if either son K or daughter Belle remember the trip we made to his house. It many years ago, when we were in the Bay Area (specifically Concord, CA) visiting with my younger sister, RAPV, and her family, who were hosting our extended family fore Thanksgiving. The day after Tday RAPV insisted she had something special to show us, and that night we made the pilgrimage to Olive Dr., to see an ordinary house turned into a light spectacle…well, I thought my retinas would go into spasms. [4]

Bruce Mertz, the Concord man known around Contra Costa County as ‘Mr. Christmas’, has died. He was 87.
Mertz owned the home on Olive Dr. in Concord, and for 36-years during Christmastime, he decorated his home with thousands of lights and custom made characters.
A documentary about Mertz was made by filmmaker Nick Palmer in 2014.
(from Claycord News & Talk, 10-11-17)

 

 

 

mrchristmas

 

 

 

 

 

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Department Of Two Sad Stories In A Row – Must Be Time For The Scotsman

 

 

 

 

 

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Department Of I So Would Have Said It If He’d Been Wearing A Led Zeppelin Tee Shirt

Dateline: Last Friday, at the Whole Foods  [5] register. A man standing behind line dropped a paper bag as he was transferring the items in his hand cart to the register belt. I don’t know what was in the bag – but something made a loud, crackling sound when the bag hit the floor, and I turned to see if anything had broken or if the man needed assistance. As the man bent down to retrieve the bag he looked up, an expression of agitation on his face…and it just came to me in a flash.

I almost said to him, “You seem alarmed; is there a bustle in your hedgerow?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you know the simple pleasure of contemplating an oddly-shaped winter squash;
May you hold in your heart, for just a moment, all the lonely people;
May you realize that the bustle in your hedgerow is just a spring clean for the May Queen;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Our CSA is La Finquita del Bujo, or “Little Farm of the Owl,” in the scenic farmlands north of Hillsboro.

[2] Even if you weren’t, we can pretend.

[3] The blog’s motto: Where science meets fashion and scientists get fabulous!

[4] Mr. Christmas had a donation box attached to the (light-bedecked, of course) fence around his yard – I can only imagine his electric bill.

[5] Brought to you by Amazon ®

The Takedown I’m Not Quite Appreciating

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horn tooting

Dare I toot moiself’s own horn?

 

 

Silly question.

And The Emmy For Best Limited Blog Post Goes To….

 

 

 

sally

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

Dateline: last Sunday, watching (portions of) the Emmys telecast. A reunion of sorts, of the leads of the 1980’s movie 9 to 5, occurred when Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dolly Parton walked on stage present the award for Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie. In what was apparently/generally considered to be a moment of empowerment – i.e., a takedown of #45 without even mentioning his name – Fonda segued to the award introduction by saying, “Back in 1980, in that movie, we refused to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.”  Tomlin followed with the kicker: “And in 2017, we still refuse to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.”

Except…not entirely.

 

 

lion

Sorry Ladies, but I’ve a bone to pick with you.

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: I am such a fan of Tomlin’s and Fonda’s [1]  and even (surprise!) of parts of Parton’s respective careers.

But.

Since the release of their iconic feminist comedy…well…perhaps it’s just petty moiself, but I couldn’t help but squirm when I saw them on the Emmys and thought, what exactly has changed?

Those (relatively) powerful  and privileged women can, without apparent irony, wring declarations such as ” …we refuse to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot” out of their unrealistically, surgically-taut mouths, while the passion and conviction and other emotions I assume they wish to convey are barely detectable from the frozen/practically immobile facial muscles beneath their Botoxed/lifted and pulled countenances.

Add up the costs of the plastic surgery and cosmetic “enhancements” the three of them have obviously had, and it could underwrite hurricane relief in the US Virgin Islands for the next three months.

 

 

emmyshot

 

 

 

Such alternations of any natural appearance of aging are, in part, a direct result of the entertainment industry’s notorious acquiescence to the male standards of female appearance. Women actors must forever attempt to look like they are desperately attempting to pass for 35, while male actors like Robert DeNiro can still get leading man roles despite having a face that increasingl resembles albino beef jerky makes him look as if he is in his seventies. Which he is.

Keep up the good work, ladies, but don’t kid yourselves that you’ve refused to be controlled by sexism and hypocrisy.

 

 

*   *   *

 

Speaking of bones to pick….

Department Of Missing The Point

In Thursday’s NY Times there appeared a full page letter, addressed to #45 and Members of Congress, from The Episcopal Church. The letter, signed by prominent Episcopal bishops, implored the addressees not to end DACA.

Being bishops and such, they had to justify their appeal on religious grounds, and began the letter with a quote from Christian scriptures:

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so, some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:1)

Yeah, well…Bishop Boys,  [2] that particular passage doesn’t exactly make your case in the way I think you intended.

 

 

WORD

 

 

 

It’s too bad they can’t be like Happy Heathens, Heretics and Humanists, whose motivation for helping the powerless and people in need is… because that’s the right thing to do.  We the (secular) people help one another, not at the behest of or to score brownies points with some supernatural entity, but because we recognize that we are all we have, and that we must try to overturn the divisive, provincial loyalties of the past, which are based on religion, nationality, gender, etc.,  and work together for the common good of humanity.

The quote used in the EC letter, like so many scripture passages, makes no case for treating strangers kindly because they are our fellow human beings and are in need of, are deserving of, being treated with dignity and empathy.  Nope; it takes the brownie point route: it says that you should welcome strangers because they might be your invisible friend’s special assistants.

 

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Department Of Fun With Words

MH, shaking his head and chuckling softly after hanging up the phone after speaking with a medical billing representative about daughter Belle’s foot surgery.

“Her (the billing rep’s) word for patients’ visits is, encounters.”

Moiself, of course, immediately imagined the scenario of a doctor charting an “encounter” with a patient: I was walking down the hallway and turned the corner, and there she was!

 

 

mccoy

Dammit, I’m a doctor, not an encounter group therapist.

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

“It’s time for the human race to enter the solar system.”

“I love California. I practically grew up in Phoenix.”

The future will be better tomorrow.”

“Hawaii has always been a very pivotal role in the Pacific. It is in the Pacific. It is a part of the United States that is an island that is right here.”

“For NASA, space is still a high priority.”

“If we don’t succeed we run the risk of failure.”

“If you give a person a fish, they’ll fish for a day. But if you train a person to fish, they’ll fish for a lifetime.”

“You all look like happy campers to me. Happy campers you are, Happy campers you have been, and as far as I’m concerned, happy campers you will always be.

“I understand the importance of bondage between parent and child.”

“Verbosity leads to clear, inarticulate things.”

“I stand by all the misstatements that I have made.”

The above is  a sampling of the many mangled messages from arguably one of the 20th century’s greatest public bunglers of the English language, J. Danforth “Dan” Quayle. [3]

After watching portions of Sunday’s Emmys awards telecast –  essentially a #45 dump-a-thon  [4] which occasionally bestowed an award – I recalled what a comedy writer said, oh-so-many years ago, during the 1992 political race. The writer, along with a couple of political cartoonists, sheepishly confessed to rooting for the Bush–Quayle ticket, for what he described as purely selfish reasons:  material.  You just sat back and watched  Quayle, and the jokes and cartoons essentially wrote themselves.

Quayle, who eventually could claim the dubious honor of being featured in many a political and cultural journal’s Dumbest Vice Presidential Picks of All Time list, was described as “the handsome, blond junior senator from Indiana,” and it was rumored he had been chosen for the Republican presidential ticket in part for his looks, which some people mistakenly thought akin to a matinee idol.  [5]   Republican party analysts hoped, as reported in this LA Times article,  that Quayle’s youth, and his”…boyish handsomeness that has proven appealing to some women voters” would help Bush to close the “gender gap that makes him (Bush) less popular with women….”

 

 

quayle

 

 

 

Much to the chagrin of Republicans and the delight of everyone else, it didn’t take long for folks to realize that the GOP had put someone on their ticket who was…how you say…a shiny box of Cracker Jack with no prize inside.  For many of us, it was both amusing and frightening to think that such a person was a heartbeat (and a minus 35 IQ points) away from the presidency. Quayle gave every indication of being, politically and intellectually, the kind of person who would ask for a price check at the Dollar Tree.

It is obvious that political commentators, satirists, cartoonists, stand-up comics, the entire cast of SNL and late night TV talk shows hosts, have had an surplus of material since the Mandarin Mussolini took office.. But I don’t think any of them were rooting for that possibility (or if they were; I hope they’d be ashamed to admit it now).

 

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Department Of Not Quite The Affirmation He Was Looking For

A conversation with a friend about ego-centrism, self -aggrandizement, false humility, and other endearing traits, was responsible for this  story coming to mind.

In the mid 1970s, (former) Beatle John Lennon and his wife, artist Yoko Ono, were separated for 18 months, at Ono’s suggestion, to relieve stress on their relationship. Ono stayed in New York while Lennon went to Los Angeles, where he engaged in a period of self-doubt and alcoholic debauchery (which he was later to call his “Lost Weekend”), hanging out with other like-minded substance abusers in the music world (e.g., singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson).

One night in March 1974, Lennon and a group of friends went to LA’s legendary Troubador nightclub.  At one point, while waiting for the headliner to come on stage, Lennon went to the restroom. He rifled through the drawers in the restroom’s cabinet, found a (clean) Kotex napkin, stuck it to his forehead, and returned to his table. He continued to wear the unique chapeau for the remainder of the evening. Because the drunker you and your friends get, the funnier is the sanitary napkin stuck to your head.

The increasingly inebriated Lennon  ordered drink after drink and reportedly behaved obnoxiously to the nightclub staff.  [6] When he left his table and headed for the exit he was confronted by a waitress, who asked him why he wasn’t leaving a tip.

“Do you know who I am?” Lennon snapped.

“Yeah,” the waitress  retorted. “You’re some asshole with a Kotex on your head.”

 

 

 

lennonhat

On the other hand, he had been photographed sporting less flattering headgear….

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you never be some asshole with a Kotex on your head;
May you never be referred to as a Happy Camper;
May you come to terms with your doctor viewing your visits as encounters;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Especially their latest venture, Grace and  Frankie. See it, it you haven’t already

[2] And girls – this is the Episcopal Church, after all. Like all Christian denominations, still peddling Iron Age mythology, but with their own 21st century, gender-inclusive twist.

[3] who – believe it or not, kiddies – was an actual Vice President of the United States of ‘Murka, during the Bush The First term.

[4] Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

[5] They compared him to Robert Redford, if you can imagine that. No need to imagine that Redford was not pleased, and fired back at Quayle and his supporters.

[6] “It was my first night on Brandy Alexanders and my last,” Lennon later said, when recalling the incident.

The Argument I’m Not Winning

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Department Of Perhaps It’s For The Best That I Am Not An Artist

 

Because, were I an artist, this is the summer squash I would paint. Over and over and over. It’s the most interestingly-shaped Romanesco zucchini I’ve ever seen.

 

 

 

pixiezuc

 

 

 

 

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In the WTF is happening to summer time-warp I’ve been experiencing, I’m already mourning the dearth of kayaking opportunities. Correction: the opportunities are there, of course, it’s just that the pesky time-space continuum keeps getting in the way.

I’ve been out twice this summer, both times with MH: once at a new entry point along the Tualatin River, and last Sunday, when we decided to check out the hitherto-unvisited-by-us Lacamas Lake, across the Columbia River in Washington State.

 

 

 

Matlacamaslake

MH inspecting an island in the lake.

 

 

 

I was unimpressed by Sunday’s “venue” – I am a paddling snob purist and detest sharing the waters with stinky, loud, polluting boats inhabited by sedentary slobs motorized craft.  [1]  Still, I would have liked Sunday’s paddle trip to have been longer.  But when I felt that blast from the past – the long-ago-but-still-familiar sensation of tightness in my bronchial tubes, which takes me back to those dreary days of the 1970s Southern California Smog Alerts – my lungs stopped enjoying the outing.

Sure enough, both MH and I received Air Quality Alerts on our respective AccuWeather apps. The air was icky – sorry to get all science-y on y’all.  Translation: the air was brown and hazy from a combination of the record-setting heat wave we’ve been having combined with the smoke from 37 ( !!! ) wildfires burning in the Northwest U.S. and Canada.

 

 

lily

A white lily pad bloom – a pleasant if momentary distraction from the brown skies.

 

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Department Of Early Morning Earworms

Last Sunday, as always with my early morning earworms, apropos of seemingly nothing I awoke with a Mitch Miller tune bouncing between my ears.

 

 

 

mitch

 

 

 

My parents both loved Mitch Miller’s music, and had many of his albums and watched his television show. Thus, my early childhood memories include listening to Sing Along With Mitch.  But, why now, and why Bell Bottom Trousers ?

On further reflection, the apropos of nothing was probably a big something: Tuesday, August 8, was what would have been the 93rd birthday of my father, Chester Bryan (akak “Chet the Jet”) Parnell. And Mitch Miller, or more specifically, the musical stylings of Miller’s all-male chorus, was one of the few things my father and I ever argued about.

My arguments with Chet were memorable, mostly because there were so few of them. My father adored his “Robbie Doll”   [2] –  he and I were of similar temperaments and got along famously. Thus, it took me by surprise that one night, all those years ago, when he teased me about how it wasn’t really possible for me to claim to like both Mitch Miller and The Beatles (this was after he’d run across a quote from Miller dissing rock ‘n roll music).  [3]  I responded with the righteous indignation only a grade-schooler can muster, spewing the counter charges I’d heard from Miller’s critics, who accused him of namby-pamby, gimmicky song choices and arrangements…

I can’t remember how I “won” the argument, only that it was obvious that I did. Although, it didn’t take me long to realize that it was also obvious that he’d let me win.  My father thought the sun shown out of my ass…and for a time it actually did, thanks to a tragic childhood flashlight accident, the details of which I won’t go into right now.  [4]

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

Chetdec1978

“These are the good times.” Chester Bryan Parnell

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you be free from Air Quality alerts;
May you enjoy these times, which are the good times;
May you be able to appreciate the balance of whatever in your life approximates both Mitch Miller and The Beatles;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Which paddlers encounter more frequently on lakes than in rivers.

[2] Chet’s childhood nickname for his second daughter, the nickname a high school friend would memorialize with a drawing of me as a doll, wearing a bank robber outfit and holding a gun. Yes, I’m talking about you, Ruth Rockliffe.

[3] “Rock’n’roll is the glorification of monotony. A certain element of juveniles accepts almost any form of it, even the lowest and the most distasteful, because everybody else in their group does.” From the UK Independent’s obituary of Miller.

[4] Which is, of course, a totally fictitious story, but one he would have loved.

The Yoga Pose I’m Not Practicing

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Among the many reasons the short story is my favorite fiction format: it is one wherein questions are raised, but not necessarily answered. Unlike the novel, which may take you through a character’s existence from cradle to grave or present a life survey from A-to-Z , [1] a short story often drops you in the middle, say, in segments M-Q, leaving – or allowing – you to fill in the befores and afters with the clues the writer has presented.

A well-crafted short story leaves you wanting to know more, and even frees your imagination to provide your own details.  I admire the art of lyrical songwriting, in that a song can sometimes be the perfect short story. The first time I heard The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby I was blown away by how a song could be at once so sparse and evocative.  But wait – how did those lonely people get to be so lonely, and where did they come from? I must know.

 

 

 

billie Jo

 

 

 

 

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, someone asked me who my favorite contemporary short fiction writer was, and I answered, “Bobbie Gentry.”

Arguably one of the greatest short stories of the twentieth century was penned and sung by Bobbie Gentry .  Her Southern gothic ballad, Ode to Billie Joe, was released 50 years ago this month, when Gentry was a mere 22 years old.

The song, which never reveals why Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge, has been described as suggestive, haunting, enigmatic, poignant, disturbing, mystifying, etc.  But to the grade school moiself who, after a first listen, had to listen again and again and again, it was then and remains now merely and monumentally…cool

Congratulations on the anniversary, along with a Tallahatchie River’s worth of admiration, to the classy Ms. Gentry, who had always refused to explain “the meaning” of the song.

 

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Department Of You Never Know What Fun Awaits While Running Mundane Errands

Dateline: Wednesday, noonish:  I would like to thank the Mystery Person(s) ® who left this pair of  –  guardians?  greeters? mascots? ninja warriors in disguise? on a curb in the grocery store parking lot.

 

 

grocery guardians

 

 

 

After I took that picture I stepped back about thirty feet or so and hung around for awhile, watching the people who walked to and from the store – people seemingly oblivious to the mini public art display at their feet.  The only reason I saw it was that I happened to look down at just the right moment when I was passing by – no doubt it was my karmic reward  [2] for what had just previously transpired outside the store (is this a segue, or what?).

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yes I Do I Blurt Things Out To Total Strangers

As I exited the (previously mentioned) grocery store, two young girls, looking to be about four or five years old, ran past the store’s entry door, each giggling and turning to glance over their respective shoulders. I looked in the direction of their glances: thirty or so feet behind the girls was a rather impatient-looking woman (whom I took to be the girls’ mother), resolutely pushing a shopping cart.

Impatient Mother called out to the girls,

“You are not running away from me!”

Which caused me to smile and say, in what I thought was my best/supportive, I’ve-been-there voice,

Actually, that’s exactly what they’re doing.

Impatient Mother threw me a bit o’ stink eye and then called out again to her daughters, this time using their names.  I got a kick out of the fact that one of the girls has the same (non-blog moniker) name as my daughter.  And there was much rejoicing.

 

 

 

 

 

Was I that easily amused when I was younger?

 

*   *   *

They’re here!

 

 

harpandfuchsia

“All together now: “Harp and fuchsia, ahhhhhhhh.”

 

 

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Department Of Life Is One Big Celebration

 

Dateline: Monday My Swenadian [3] friend recently returned to the ‘hood after spending six months in Sweden. I visited her, bringing welcome-back goodies, and we played catch-up with each other’s lives. She, too, has traveled to Ireland and loved it and would like to return someday.  [4]  After telling her about MH’s and my trip to Ireland and the recent arrival of the Harp and Fuchsia pattern [5]  tumblers we’d ordered from Dingle Crystal, I returned home with the sudden urge to take whatever I had in the frig and turn it into a meal an Irish person would enjoy. Plus, there were those mahhhhhvelous gin and tonics we’d had in the town of Dingle, made with Dingle Gin, which would be lovely to serve in the tumblers…but what are the chances of being able to find a Hillsboro Oregon liquor store which stocks a spirit from a small Irish distillery in Oregon?

 

 

Dingle2

 

 

 

My mission was to find something comparable, so I told the clerk at Hillsboro Liquor Store that I was looking for Irish gin (not even thinking to mention the specific distillery, as it is so small) but realized the likelihood of finding it was slim, so did he know if a Scottish or British gin would be analogous? The Friendly and Helpful Clerk ® checked his register computer and said, “What about Ding –” he couldn’t even get the word out of his mouth before I shrieked, gobsmacked with delight, “You have Dingle gin?!?!?”

That night I informed MH that our Irish butter-poached steelhead salmon, cabbage/potatoes/mushroom colcannon and fresh spring peas feast was to celebrate the arrival of our crystal and the memory of our Ireland trip, the return of our beloved Swenadian friends, my acquisition of Dingle gin, and…

I searched my mind for another reason to justify spending $50 on a bottle of gin.

…”and oh yeah, this morning someone farted quite loudly in yoga class” (despite the fact that the class was *not* performing pawanmuktasana, which translates as “wind-relieving pose”).   [6]

 

 

wind

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you continue to wonder why
Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge;
May you, via gin or crystal purchases or berry encounters,
have the opportunity to say, Dingle;
May all of your poses, yoga or other, bring wind relief;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

[2] Plenty of doubt, actually, as I do not believing in karmic or any other/similar of reward.

[3] She is Canadian, her husband is Swedish.

[4] She worked and lived there one summer, during her student days.

[5] A design unique to Dingle Crystal, representing Ireland (Harp) and West Kerry (fuchsia).

[6] Yes, there is such a pose.

The Woman I’m Not Born As

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Dateline: Tuesday eve, post dinner. Son K is staying with his parental units [1] while recovering from jaw surgery. K and I are watching Bright Lights, a documentary about Carrie Fisher & her mother, Debbie Reynolds, and we came to the following point in the film, a segment which momentarily caused my son a reaction which might have endangered his recovery (he is forbidden from jaw-dropping for several weeks).

Singer/dancer/actor Reynolds, a product of the Warner Brothers and MGM studios star systems, was being interviewed about her passion for film history preservation, a passion which she manifested via her extensive collection of movie studio props, costumes and other memorabilia. She was giving the interviewer a tour of her collection, naming or describing the objects in terms of their connections to cinema (e.g., These are Dorothy’s slippers from “The Wizard of Oz”….):

“And this is Elizabeth Taylor’s stool…” Reynolds paused, makeup stool, from Cleopatra.”

OH THANK GOD, K blurted out.

I nearly dislocated my own jaw with laughter, while K sighed with relief and said that he appreciated Reynolds’s clarification, because “People will buy all kinds of stuff….”

 

 

Elizabeth Taylor 2

Cleopatra sits on a * throne, *not a stool, you barbarian schmucks.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Oh Please Not This Again

It is just as well that I’m a writer, not an editor. Were I editing a newspaper or magazine, I might soon be out of a job. For this is an essay in defense of cultural appropriation.
In Canada last month, three editors lost their jobs after making such a defense.
(Kenan Malik, opening lines from, In Defense of Cultural Appropriation  )

I’ve written about this issue before (9-16-16’s post, The Culture I’m Not Appropriating), and likely will again in the future, as this cultural appropriation controversy – this boil on the buttocks of arts & literature – keeps recurring.

The controversy resurfaced recently when Hal Niedzviecki, editor of Write (the magazine of the Canadian Writers’ Union), penned an editorial defending the right of white authors to create characters from minority backgrounds. Within days, a social media backlash forced Niedzviecki to resign.

This brouhaha provided the impetus for writer/broadcaster Kenan Malik‘s mahvelous op-ed in the NY Times. Malik cited the circumstances of Niedzviecki ‘s resignation, along with other controversies in the worlds of arts and literature,  [2]  to examine and defend  the concept known as cultural appropriation.

What has always struck me (or perhaps smote me, given the analogy to come) about this topic is that an accusation of cultural appropriation [3] is the intellectual equivalent to Religion’s  [4] defensiveness and protectionism when faced with analysis and critique. And now, I am happy to know that I’m not the only one smote by the similarity, as per Malik’s opinion that The accusation of cultural appropriation is a secular version of the charge of blasphemy.

Malik understands that although racism and inequality shape the ways in which people imagine others, writers and artists have nevertheless, always and necessarily engaged and examined the experiences of The Other. However, this engagement – which he terms messy interaction – does not always occur on a level playing field; thus, Malik acknowledges the resulting, understandable impulse which leads some artists to call for cultures to be walled off and boundaries to be policed,” even as he wonders how creating gated cultures helps promote social justice.  (my emphases):

But who does the policing? Every society has its gatekeepers, whose role is to protect certain institutions, maintain the privileges of particular groups and cordon off some beliefs from challenge. Such gatekeepers protect not the marginalized but the powerful. Racism itself is a form of gatekeeping, a means of denying racialized groups equal rights, access and opportunities.

In minority communities, the gatekeepers are usually self-appointed guardians whose power rests on their ability to define what is acceptable and what is beyond the bounds. They appropriate for themselves the authority to license certain forms of cultural engagement, and in doing so, entrench their power.

The most potent form of gatekeeping is religion. When certain beliefs are deemed sacred, they are put beyond questioning. To challenge such beliefs is to commit blasphemy.

Ok; if this topic interests you, read the article cited. Or my afore-mentioned post. Yes, I am daring to reference moiself. But only because Georgie Boy  [5] recommends it.

 

I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.
(George Bernard Shaw).

 

 

 

shaw

*   *   *

Department Of Get That Woman A Backbone, A Zoloft, A Shotgun, And An Attorney – In That Order.

Y’all may recall the radio station I’ve mentioned several times in this space – the station I listen to when I am driving; the station I like because of its eclectic playlist. From well-known to incredibly scarce pop songs, interspersed with bizzarre/long forgotten TV theme songs, commercial advertisements, etc. I find it a font of amusement…and an occasional spewer of WTF?!?!?! culture shock.

The latter is best illustrated by a hitherto unheard (to moiself) song the station played this week, when I was out running errands and had to pull my car over to the side of the road to make sure I was hearing what I thought I was hearing.  [6]

I listened, in watching-a-zombie-train-wreck fascination and repulsion, to what just may be one of the most offensive songs ever written. When I returned home I looked it up: Born a Woman  was recorded in 1966 by a female Uncle Tom (Aunt Thomasina?), named Sandy Posey.  The songwriting was credited to “Martha Sharp,” – who apparently isn’t very, as per her misogynistic/masochistic lyrics:

It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor
Or if you’re smart or dumb
A woman’s place in this old world
Is under some man’s thumb

And if you’re born a woman
You’re born to be hurt
You’re born to be stepped on, lied to, cheated on
And treated like dirt

 

 

REALLY

 

 

 

Really.

The song continues with yet another verse depicting the sorry lot of womankind, and then there is a coda, for which there can be no explanation. Other than drugs. Or maybe a temporal lobe lesion or three. Or perhaps, the Stockholm Syndrome?

And when my man finally comes home
He makes me glad it happened that way
Because to be his woman
No price is too great to pay

 Yes I was born a woman
I’m glad it happened that way
Oh I was born a woman (fade out)

 

Fade out, indeed.

 

 

lobotomy

 

*   *   *

Department Of Fun With Religion Continues

Aka, You Can’t Makeup This Shit

Israeli airline employees cannot ask women to change seats to spare a man from having to sit next to them, a Jerusalem court ruled on Wednesday, handing down a groundbreaking decision in a case brought by a woman in her 80s.

Strictly religious Jewish men who refuse to sit next to women, for fear of even inadvertent contact that could be considered immodest, are a growing phenomenon that has caused disruptions and flight delays around the world and prompted protests and social media campaigns. The pressure to switch seats can be particularly acute on El Al, Israel’s national airline. And the issue has become emblematic of a broader battle in Israel over religion and gender in public spaces.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Renee Rabinowitz, now 83, boarded El Al Flight 028, bound for Tel Aviv from Newark in December 2015. She had settled into her aisle seat in the business-class section when the passenger with the window seat showed up: an Orthodox man who complained about sitting next to a woman. A flight attendant asked her to change seats to accommodate him….

Israeli Woman Who Sued El Al for Sexism Wins Landmark Ruling, NYTimes, 6-22-17)

 

 

 

jew

Calm yourself, Mr. Tuches, we would be happy to accommodate you with your own private seat in the economy cabin lavatory for the remainder of the flight.

*   *   *

May you be glad you were born, but remember you weren’t born that way;
May you do your part to advance cultural appropriation and appreciation;
May you have the opportunity to appreciate or even appropriate a cinematic icon’s stool;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Which would be MH and moiself.

[2] Including the editor of a Canadian writers’ journal being forced to resign after he defended the right of white authors to create characters from indigenous backgrounds; an artist organizing a petition to have another artist’s work not only censored but destroyed (the work in question was a painting of the corpse of Emmett Till ( an African-American boy murdered by white men in 1955).

[3] C.A. is variously defined as the adoption or use of the elements of one culture by members of another culture –  sometimes it is referred to as cultural misappropriation, when the adoption or use of the elements in question is claimed to be damaging to the intellectual and/or artistic rights of the originating culture…and yes, there are a whole lotta terms being used in those definitions which have not (and cannot) be objectively defined.

[4] Capital R, as in, any or anyone’s religion.

[5] Not to be confused with Boy George.

[6] Isn’t it time for a sixth footnote?

The Beer I’m Not Buying

Comments Off on The Beer I’m Not Buying

 

Department Of Except That It Was

Another week, another celebrity demise, another chance for everyone to get it wrong. But not in the way most people think.

I refer to friends and former coworkers of Erin Moran (best known for playing Joanie on Happy Days), who received a bit o’ splash back for their comments after her death. Some of the comments either directly mentioned or alluded to the actor’s well-known struggles with substance abuse as the likely cause of her death.

Indeed, the rush to remark upon and speculate about a famous person’s death is worthy of a modicum of scorn. It seems celebs often Twitter-trip over themselves to see who can be the first to express condolences and…opinions.  If, for whatever reasons, you feel the world needs your commentary within hours of the death notice, can you just say to her family and friends that you’re sorry for their loss, and leave it at that?

There’s more to the story. In my mind, at least. When it was revealed that Moran had been diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer, the self-righteous gotcha! critics took aim at the self-righteous she-died-from-substance-abuse speculators:  Aha! Shame on you! It was cancer, it wasn’t drugs!

Except that it was.

There’s more ways to die from substance abuse or drug overdose or to have a drug-related death than by choking on your own vomit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As of this writing, it appears that Moran died from throat cancer. Throat cancer is one of many cancers caused by cigarette smoking. Moran was a longtime cigarette smoker.

Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, DeeDee Ramone, Philip Michael Hoffman, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley – we’ve all heard or seen the list of hundreds if not thousands of musicians and actors, politicians and reporters and others in the public eye who’ve died of drug overdose/substance abuse.

George Harrison‘s name never appears on those lists, and that frosts my butt.

The Beatles’ lead guitarist and far too many of his comrades died from their chronic use of arguably the most powerful addictive substance – nicotine – known to humanity. However, their names do not appear in the annual toll of drug/substance abuse deaths.

Also not appearing on those lists: Yul Brynner, Spencer Tracey, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Peter Jennings, Desi Arnaz, Humphrey Bogart, Rosemary Clooney, Bob Fosse, Warren Zevon, Sarah Vaughn, and the other musicians, actors and artists who died from lung cancer and other cigarette-related diseases.  Is it because their deaths were due to their addiction to a toxin which happens to be legal?  [1]

 

 

cig

*   *   *

Department of Prom Dress Rugby

Because how much fun is that?

 

 

 

Last weekend  MH and I made a road trip up to Tacoma, to visit daughter Belle,  [2]  who lives in a rental house off-campus. As always during our visits with her  [3]  we found an excuse to go onto the college campus, such as:

(1)  it is a beautiful campus, so who needs an excuse?

(2)  to view and/or participate in Some Interesting Event ®

(3)  see reason (1)

(4)  there is no reason (4)

In the case of (2), Some Interesting Event ® turned out to be Belle’s (former) rugby teammates suiting up for their annual Prom Dress Rugby match. A tradition amongst many college women’s – and some men’s – rugby teams, a PDR match is pretty much what it sounds like. The women get decked out in formal finery (worn over their usual game uniforms) and play serious rugby…or as serious as you can be while charging up the pitch with your feather boa dangling behind you or trying not to grind your tiara in your teammate’s ass during a scrum.

Referees of any gender – and often the men’s rugby team members, in solidarity – also don the festive attire (I imagine thrift shop owners local to colleges with PDR events are pleased at the spike in used formal wear sales).  Sometimes PDR events are mixed gender: not quite the Battle of the Sexes, more like The Battle Of Tuxes And Dresses, wherein the men’s team wear prom dresses and the women’s tuxedos, and the teams play an exhibition match against one another, usually to raise money for charity.

While Belle remains an active supporter of her school’s rugby teams, her class and work schedules have not allowed her to be a member of the women’s rugby team this year. I have mixed feelings about that. I love the fact that she has taken advantage of the opportunities around her, to try/learn new skills and activities (that’s what you do in college, right?), from lumberjack axe-throwing to rugby to kick boxing to being a disc jockey at her school’s radio station. I also and decidedly do not miss the weekly (no exaggeration  [4] ) bills MH and I  received, during her sophomore year, from various doctors, hospital, physical therapy, urgent care and other medical facilities – bills which resulted from an enthusiastic and but relatively petite young woman participating in so physical an activity.

 

 

rugbygirl

Image not to scale.

Department Of How Can I Make This About Moiself

Via Belle’s participation in the sport, the more I learned about the forthright and festive and playful “culture” of college rugby, the more I wish I had further pursued an invitation to join the UC Davis women’s rugby team.

 

 

 

 

tellmemore

 

 

 

I was involved in athletics throughout high school. During my senior year, after I had been accepted at The University of My Choice ® (aka UC Davis), I received a letter from the UCD Athletic department. The letter was both brief and fawning – a note saying they’d heard of my athletic “accomplishments” and were thus extending me the honor of an invitation to try out for their field hockey team.  [5]  I had a good laugh showing the letter to my family, and then responded with a letter of my own, in which I briefly and non-fawningly declined the invitation.

I’d enjoyed my various school sport adventures, from field hockey to volleyball to track & field to badminton, but I’d had enough of schedules and practices. While I intended to try out the occasional intramural sport while in college – and is there any game more fun than inner tube water polo[6] – I viewed my continuing participation in team sports as…well, as so high school. College was going to be a new thing, much more intense academically than high school, I assumed (and hoped), and I didn’t want to tie myself down to any other time-consuming extracurricular schedule.

I can’t exactly recall how she found me, but early in my first quarter of my college freshman year a short but strapping young woman knocked on my dorm room door one afternoon.  She said she was on the women’s rugby team, and asked if I’d be interested in attending a rugby scrimmage, as an observer. She’d gotten my name from the UCD field hockey coach, and while she was aware that I wasn’t interested in being on the UCD field hockey team, she figured that my having been a hockey player meant I must like sports requiring running and endurance, and the rugby team was seeking new players….

What the heck; I had a free afternoon. Like most Americans then (or now, I’d wager), I knew next to nothing about rugby, and thought it might be a jolly good show to watch something that required an effort of concentration for moiself, as a spectator, to try and figure out what the heck was going on.

 

 

       

rugbydance

Watched it; still didn’t know what the heck was going on.

 

 

 

 

While not vain about my appearance, [7]  I was fond of (most of) my body parts and in particular my teeth; thus, after observing two scrums, I thought, I’m outta here.

A minute after coming to that conclusion I chided moiself for making such a snap judgment – or for, as The Young People Of Today ® say, for getting’ all judgy.

I stayed for the rest of the practice. In an attempt to be cordial and to also learn more about the sport, I made conversation with She Who Had Invited Me. It turns out SWHIM didn’t know much more about the rules than what I, a newbie observer, was deducing moment by moment. Still, SWHIM was filled with enthusiasm for her new sport. She told me she’d participated in everything from field hockey to basketball to softball to swimming in high school, and had decided that rugby was the best game, ever.

I stopped prodding her about regulations and strategy, and asked what she personally found so enjoyable about rugby. The skills required? The workouts? The strategy? The…?

“Oh, it’s just the best!” she gushed. “After every game, we party with the men’s team. AND THEY BUY ALL THE BEER !!”

 

promrugby

 

*   *   *

May you be cognizant of which drugs you use or abuse;
May you realize that the best use for a prom dress has nothing to do with the prom;
May the other team always buy all the beer;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] But alcohol is legal, and alcohol poisoning and related deaths are included on those lists.

[2] A junior at the University of Puget  Sound.

[3] And prior to that, with her brother, K, who graduated from the same school three years ago.

[4] I thought we check into running a tab at the Tacoma Urgent care clinics.

[5] The honor did not include mention of a scholarship or any $$$.

[6] Which was invented at UC Davis, ahem and hurrah!

[7] Then, as now, I walked around looking like…well…looking like moiself.

The Subject I’m Not Avoiding

1 Comment

 

…except that I almost sorta kinda am. It’s later in this post.

 

*   *   *

Department Of My Work Here Is Done

…is what I could be saying, if I only I had written that one certain…thing.

But, I didn’t.

I wrote other stuff, and am currently on a fiction writing hiatus, after having published sixty-one short stories, one theatrical play, three books, various essays and anthology works and poems and children’s verse  [1] (and one Country/Western-type song, which mercifully remains unrecorded  [2]  ).

And then, there’s that thing I didn’t write. Listening to the local ham operated radio station that has recently caught my attention, I heard a Dead Teen Song ® parody with which I was hitherto unfamiliar.

 

 

teen tragedy2

 

 

 

Y’all are familiar with the genre Dead Teen Songs ®, even if you might not instantaneously recognize the label. Also known as teenage tragedy songs, death discs, splatter platters and the like, these ditties had their radio play heyday in the late 50s and early 60s. DTS are defined by shared literary clichés, including doomed/star-crossed and eternally devoted teenaged lovers kept apart by disapproving parents or peers, and tragic accidents  (usually involving motorcycles and cars) befalling those same reckless teens….  Think Teen Angel, Leader of the Pack, Tell Laura I Love Her.

Some of the best songs to come from the DTS craze were those that satirized the genre. Including, the send-up to which I refer.

I would feel artistically and culturally fulfilled, I could leave this world with my head held high, had I only composed this tender ballad, the mind-numbing heart-wrenching lyrics of which include:

My Johnny, oh how I love him
but he is caught in a teen age trap
he couldn’t turn down any drag race through town
and now all I have left is his hubcap

Chorus:
Please Johnny please, stay in my tender embrace
Please Johnny please, I don’t want you to drag race

My Johnny, oh I can see him
coming ’round the last lap
handsome and brave, if only he didn’t wave
I’d have more of him left than his hubcap

My Johnny, oh how I’ll miss him
and although he and my dreams lay in scrap
I’ll do what he’d expect and wear it around my neck
My Johnny’s, my Johnny’s hubcap

(All I Have Left Is) My Johnny’s Hubcap, performed by The Dellwoods

 

 

 

teen tragedy

*   *   *

Department Of Why It’s A Good Thing I’m Not The Surgeon General
Nor Capable In Any Way Of Influencing National Health Care Decisions

Content warning: TMI

Las

t Thursday, after my routine annual physical exam, because I am Of A Certain Age ® my doctor suggested a screening colonoscopy. I bargained her down to letting me start with something less invasive, and thus I was sent home with the equipment to gather a sample for a Fecal Immunochemical Test[3] The next day, while out for my morning walk, I strode past a chunk of a dog’s bm, which an irresponsible dog owner had neglected to scoop.  My first thought   [4]  was, What if I pick that up, take it home and send it in – would the test be able to distinguish between canine and human fecal matter?

 

 

REALLY

*   *   *

 

I met Jim Olwell during my sophomore year at UC Davis. Jim was a freshman; we lived on the same dorm floor (the legendary 3rd floor Bixby), and he became my adored and admired friend even before I saw him in the Herbivorous Man costume he concocted for a Halloween party. We kept in touch through the years; his emails and letters  [5]  were always a combination of heartfelt and hilarious, even – and especially – during the last ten years, when he was beset with multiple cancers.  His “ride to beat Multiple Myleoma” ended early last Saturday morning, April 15.

Anyone who knew and loved Jim (and if you knew him, you loved him) realized that this was coming; still, the news of his death was a boot to the gut.  Dearly loved husband to his wife and devoted father to his three young adult sons; loyal friend and brother; much-admired community charity activist; motivating math teacher to thousands of high school students…he’d lived and done so much. He was only 58.  Some people leave a big hole to fill when they’re gone.  Or big shoes to fill. Jim would have preferred the latter metaphor, especially coming from moiself, as I used to tease him about his really big feet.

Another UCD alum, Robin E., wrote a tribute to him Jim on FB that is so eloquent and touching I have forgiven her (yet again) for spelling her name wrong. I found this excerpt of RE’s tribute particularly affecting, in that years ago I had also used the George Bailey character as a comparison when describing Jim to my children:

Have you met anyone in your life that you would genuinely, authentically, say was kind of like the George Bailey character in “It’s a Wonderful Life?” Someone who made a difference in SO many people’s lives, cherished by everyone, loved deeply by his wife and children, who would do anything for him, humble, hard working, always sacrificing and doing for others, always a smile on his face, even through the worst of it? I haven’t either. Except for Jim.

People have offered sincere and kind words to me, for my loss of Jim as a friend, and also for what yet another loss represents. Even as I cherish these sentiments I realize that my loss is so little in comparison to Jim’s wife and sons and brothers….  I know it’s not a contest; nevertheless; Jim’s loss is anything but representational to his family.

I want to share more stories of him in this space, and I hope that I will have the energy to do so in the coming weeks, but right now, thinking about it makes me feel tired in ways I can’t quite express. Which is too bad, because Jim so loved to hear anyone’s and everyone’s stories. He was the best audience, ever.

 

*   *   *

May you find pleasure in novelty songs and their parodies;
May you never for one moment think of switching medical samples;
May you cherish the stories and memories of friends and family;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Ah, but who’s counting? Oh yeah….

[2] “If you Can’t Live Without me Then Why Aren’t you Dead?”

[3] Which consists of collecting a sample of just what it sounds like.

[4] Immediately followed by my second thought, Why do I think such things?

[5] Jim was a great letter writer, and, unlike so many others, did not eschew that form of communication once he discovered email.

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