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The Subject I’m Not Avoiding

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…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

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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.

The Friendly Skies I’m Not Flying

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Department Of This Never Would Have Happened On Alaska Airlines

Ah, United Airlines, where customer service goes to die.

Unless y’all have recently emerged from a persistent vegetative state, it is likely you are familiar with recent headlines along the lines of

* Two Girls Barred from United Flight For Wearing Leggings

* Passengers ‘shaky and so disgusted’ as United forces screaming doctor off a plane

 

 

united1

 

Once again, the internet comes to the rescue: satire wafts from the ashes of tragedy and shame, as per these new slogans people have suggested for United Airlines:

* United Airlines: You Carry On, We Carry Off.

* United Airlines: The Captain Has Turned On The No Passenger Sign.

* United Airlines: Other Flights Have Cabin Crews. We Have Bouncers.

* United Airlines: Board As a Doctor, Leave As a Patient.

* United Airlines: You Can Run But You Cannot Fly.

* United Airlines: Would You Like a Neck Pillow or a Neck Brace?

* United Airlines:  If We Overbook You’ll Catch a Right Hook.

* United Airlines: Now Serving Punch.

* United Airlines:  Tell Us Your Safe Word At Check-in.

* United Airlines: We Have First Class, Business Class, and No Class.

* United Airlines: We’ll Drag You All Over The World.

 

Years ago (decades, actually) I stopped voluntarily [1] flying United Airlines, due to what I perceived as their cattle-car treatment of passengers. As for the (latest) incident, it is turd-twirlingly mind-scrambling to think of how many ways United fucked up.

I recall standing in an airline’s boarding area, listening to the announcement that the flight is full, and wishing I’d hear a, We’ve-overbooked-would-anyone-volunteer-their-seat-for-the-following-compensation? announcement, because although it would inconvenience me it was the one time when I could have taken the free trip anywhere plus hotel voucher and rebooked for a later flight to my destination.

I can recall many more times when I have heard the, We’ve overbooked announcement but could not take the offer because I really had to be at a certain some place at a certain time. Being at a certain place by a certain time is why I had booked that particular flight – why 99.9% of passengers book any flights – in the first place.

 

 

DUH

 

 

 

Flying hasn’t been fun, or even a mildly pleasurable form of transportation, for years. Unless you can manage/afford to fly first class you’re basically boarding a bus with wings after having the write-home-to-grandma experience of the bus station employees giving you a body cavity search. People generally don’t book airline flights on a whim; they book a particular flight because they need to get to a particular place by a particular time. Thus, it is understandable that the United flight in question had no takers when the pilot or whomever announced that they’d overbooked the flight and needed four seats for their standby crew.

According to the news stories, the give-up-your-seat offer was $400 and a night at a hotel – no takers. United upped the cash to $800 – still no takers. Then a manager came on board the plane and announced that a computer would randomly select four people to be kicked off de-boarded.

Now then: why did United wait until the plane was already boarded to make the announcement/do the selection? We’re supposed to believe they didn’t know until the very last minute about the standby flight crew wanting a ride, or just didn’t announce it until later? Everyone knows you do the, We’re overbooked thing while passengers are still in the airport, impatiently milling about the gate – you do this BEFORE boarding the damn  plane, to save time/avoid hassle and embarrassment of having to de-board already boarded passengers. Major Fuckup #1.

Major Fuckup #2 – No takers on getting people to surrender a seat they’ve already paid for? You keep upping the amount until someone agrees to reschedule their flight. Sweeten the pot enough, eventually, someone will accept the offer.  By overbooking in the first place, you, the airline, have screwed this up, so you’re going to have to suck it up financially  in order to get someone to give up their seat.

Major Fuckup #3: random selection by computer may sound like the fairest option in a bad situation, but such measures will always need human triage, in the form of oversight and tweaking. What if the computer selects a single parent traveling with minor children, which would leave the children flying alone? Nope; move on to the next roll of the dice.  A person with a disability which makes boarding problematic, or a frail, easily confused elderly man flying with his attendant? Move on to someone else. A shell-shocked woman who is rushing to be with her mother after the sudden and unexpected death of her father,  [2] or a physician who has patients to treat…. The human components of reviewing circumstances and applying compassion must overrule random selection.

I’ll stop at that. In this era of instantaneous Twitter posts passing for reporting, the incident is already old news by now. Other minds more articulate and reflective than mine will continue to investigate and dissect the incident…but knowing this does not “un-rattle” me about what happened. It so Did Not Have To Be That Way. ®

 

 

united

May I show you our complimentary involuntary deplaning menu items?

*   *   *

Department Of That WooWoo That You Do So Well  [3]

Do you want to try something “woo” this Friday?

This is how I text-invited MH, last Wednesday, to an event about which I knew next to nothing. When I Googled What is a Crystal Sound Bath one of the first descriptions I ran across contained the advice to “…think of it as a woo-woo horizontal concert.”

The event, held at the yoga studio where I take classes, had the following description on the studio’s website:

“Come join us for an evening of sound healing and relaxation. A crystal bowl sound bath offers the participant the ability to completely release any stress or tension in the mind and body allowing one to relax, balance, and enjoy the peace and tranquility of a healthy mind, body, and spirit.
During this sound bath the participant will relax comfortably on their back, while the sounds and resonance of the pure crystal bowls engulf the room and move through and around you; feeling like an energetic massage from the inside out.”

It’s not like the crystal bowls resonate themselves…which you might wonder after reading that lacking-in-some-essential-details-description. There was a person, [4]  a self-described “musical artist”  [5]  playing the crystal bowls, and also drums and chimes and a few other percussion-type objects, while attendees were supine, eyes closed, on yoga mats.

I did find it a most pleasant and relaxing way to spend an hour. Bonus woo: the entertainment value of the “sharing” afterwards of participants’ experiences, wherein MH and I had an unspoken pact not to make eye contact when a very few other participants hopped the Woo Train and shared their experiences, including one person who claimed to have opened her eyes at one point and seeing – not imagining nor hallucinating, but seeing – “ethereal beings hovering” over the people in the studio…

 

 

 

beans

Ahem, ’twas BEINGS hovering, she said….

 

 

 

…while the sound of chimes engulfed the room.

Crystal Sound Bath.  I figured out the bath reference – one’s body is “bathed” in the sensation of sounds. Although when I first heard the term Crystal Sound Bath, for some reason I pictured moiself sitting in a really large bathtub with other participants and a guy holding one of those crystal bowls. Which, of course, took me right back to a tune from long ago.

Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub.
My how interesting – move over, boys.

BTW, if anyone can help me identify the novelty song  from whence those ever-so-lightly-naughty lyrics stem (a song played on the Dr. Demento radio show), you will have my eternal gratitude.  [6]   Thanking you in advance, I offer this Dr. D all time-favorite, for your listening pleasure:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sometimes It Hits Me With No Warning

Dateline: Saturday morning. While exercising, I looked out at the window to our backyard, surveying the remnants of the wind apocalypse that hit northwest Oregon from the coast to the Columbia Gorge last Friday. Just for a moment, I thought, in the present tense, I can’t wait to tell Mom about this.

The weather – that most bland, mundane and seemingly impersonal of subjects – was actually one of the best thing to talk about with my mother in her later (Read: “declining”) years. Mom loved hearing about the rain, or the glorious autumn foliage, or first sunny day in Spring and the unexpected snowstorm to blanket the Portland  area. She in turn seemed to enjoy sharing details of the latest (read: ongoing) drought in SoCal, the same weather she’d told me about the previous week.

In her last two years, all conversational roads with my mother circled around and back to the weather.  It was her way of keeping grounded, of telling me how she was doing, when the simple, basic “How are you doing/what’s up with you?” conversational queries were no longer so simple.   [7].

When she couldn’t remember the names of my children; when she couldn’t remember her own age or how many children she had or the fact that she was living in Southern California and not Minnesota or that she was talking with me and not another of my sisters, or that her husband was not with her because he had died and not deserted her – or if she could remember just enough to know that she was forgetful ,and was physically and cognitively deteriorating, which made her fearful – she could still understand and appreciate the weather.

Oh, tell me about it! Do you think you’ll get more ____ (rain, snow, wind, sunshine)? We really need the rain down here, even though, as you know, I love the sun….

And so on Saturday morning, for the briefest of moments, I was happy thinking about my next phone call to her – happy to have a “safe” topic to share…followed by my brain’s gut-clenching reminder to my heart that I now have no obligation – nor opportunity –  to share the weather report with my mother, who died last Christmas Eve.

 

 

 

MarionatOliveSt.

Marion Parnell, in the days when she didn’t have to pretend to care about the weather.

 

 

*   *   *

May all your airplane de-boardings be voluntary;
May your sound baths be as woo-filled or wee-free as you like;
May you never lack for safe topics to share with your loved ones;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] I have flown United once since making that vow; on a flight booked by someone else.

[2] I have been that passenger, and can’t imagine the additional heartache of being “randomly selected” to be thrown off the plane.

[3] If you’re too young to get the Frank Sinatra lyrical reference, just keep that to yourself, okay?

[4] A yoga teacher and “healer” type person specializing in “energy work.” Yeah, MH and I cringed a bit, but he was quite nice.

[5] As in, neither true musician or artist?

[6] Could it be The Moustache Song  (sp?)?  Here is a sample, but where is the entire song?  a sample here…where is the song? And no, not the one from that A Million Ways to Die in the West movie.

[7] Such questions are not recommended – in fact, they can be (unintentionally) cruel – for people suffering from memory impairment.

The Speech I’m Not Accepting

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Department Of Sneak Previews

truth

*   *   *

And The Oscar Goes To….

Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

 

I love movies, and love going to the theatres to see them. By the end of the year I’ve usually seen a good many of the films which will garner Golden Globe and Academy Award Nominations.  [1] Every year I strive to see every movie nominated for best picture (and also as many movies as I can that have writing and acting awards). Every year, I fail to achieve this goal.

This year I succeeded! Well, as per my scorecard. I saw eight of the nine films nominated for Best Picture.  (The one directed by Mel Gibson…no need for me to frost my butt in the theatre for that.)

 

 

theaward

 

 

IMHO, awards for any kind of performing arts are, in essence, silly and subjective PR fests. Many talented and influential actors, films, etc. which we now consider classics were either overlooked at their time of release, critically panned and/or never won awards.  [2]  Although I happily concede to the ultimate insignificance of it all, moiself has opinions.  When I’m watching the Oscar telecast I usually have definite preferences about who should win what award. Then ask me two years (or sometimes as little as two months) later which movie won Best Picture or which writer won for best adapted screenplay or who for Best Supporting Actor, and it’s…huh?

As last Sunday’s Academy Awards show began I looked over the list of nominations, and loved the fact that, for the first time in many years, I thought that all the nominated films were mahvelous. I’d high hopes for my underdog favorite, Hell or High Water, but was prepared to toast any of the other nominees (with the exception of the one directed by that religious fanatic/racist/misogynist/anti-Semitic/drunken hack Hacksaw Ridge).

MH and I hosted one of our Movie Awards Dinners ® . These MAD events consist of us providing “movie food” (hot dogs in all permutations, [3] popcorn, Junior Mints, plus chips and guacamole [4] and champagne) served up on TV trays. The feast is lovingly consumed by MAD attendees as we watch the broadcast and mark our very own Oscar ballots as each award is announced: MAD attendees each have a ballot containing the list of nominees for the 24 broadcast award categories. We mark each category twice – in red ink to indicate, for example, which actor we personally want to win the Best Actor award, and in blue ink the actor we think is most likely to actually win the award.

At the end of the ceremony we tally up our scores in two categories: how many of our red ink/personal faves actually won Oscars, and how many of our blue ink/predictions took home a trophy. We have our own brief awards ceremony for our two categories: Me and Them. Winners receive a $25 gift certificate to a local theatre chain. [5] And the losers…well, we know it was an honor just to be nominated.

 

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Department Of Acceptance Speeches I Loathe
Aka You Are A Working Actor And Not A Special Snowflake

 

 

speech

 

 

As per the afore-mentioned balloting game, I was pleased when Viola Davis’ name was announced for winning the Best Supporting Actress award. Besides the petty thrill of having chosen the winner (she was my personal fave in a strong field, and I also guessed correctly that she would be the Academy’s choice), she is an actor whose other work I have admired.

My admiration quickly faded as I listened to her acceptance speech.  Several days later, when I kept running across articles touting how “inspirational” her words were, I wondered if anyone besides me had actually heard what she’d said?

Let’s face it: most acting award acceptance speeches are faux-humble paeans to Self. Those in which the actor’s invisible friends are mentioned are the most cloyingly and self-righteously annoying of all – how nice of you to hold us captive while you praise your Lawd for taking time out from his busy schedule of ignoring the cries of schoolgirl Boko Harem rape camp victims to personally direct your career and give your parents the oh-so-extraordinary honor of raising you.  [6]

This declaration in particular, early on in Ms. Davis’ speech (transcript here), I had a hard time getting past:

I became an artist—and thank God I did! —because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.

 

 

facepalm

Would someone initiate time warp so that we may go back and save this person from uttering her civilization-warping crap?

 

 

The magnanimous part of me is hoping that Ms. Davis was caught up in the moment and really had no idea what she was saying. The more sarcastic pragmatic part of me thinks her speech sounded just like what it was: rehearsed. Which means she had to have thought about that pretentious, self-congratulatory, elitist declaration before she spoke it.

Tsk tsk tsk upon cynical moiself. I suppose I should actually be relieved – thankful, even – on behalf of the rest of us little people.  From teachers to social workers to engineers to radiologists to landscape crews to mail clerks to hospice care nurses to nursing home attendants to baristas to food cart vendors to journalists to Peace Corps workers to fire department EMTs to parents and day care workers – good news for us all! After putting in long hours every day caring for others and ourselves, which often includes sharing our hopes and dreams and victories and defeats with friends and family and co-workers, we no longer have to bother with thinking about or even remarking upon anything related to existential, meaning-of-life issues. We can and should shift that burden to actors and other artists and stop wasting our time contemplating that which we can never truly understand, because “they” occupy the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.

Calling all (self-considered or otherwise labeled) artists: [7]  what y’all do is important in its own way – at the very least, you ofttimes afford the rest of us a bit o’ momentary entertainment. But holy fucking inflated-sense-of-self-importance-disguised-as-cinematic-celebration – maintain some perspective. Clutch your trophy, say Thank you, humbly and briefly reflect upon the whimsies of luck and your red carpet privileges, and then sit your designer-swaddled buns down.

 

 

pretensioius

*   *   *

Department Of Nobody Is Listening To Me, But If They Were…
How To Make The Oscar Awards Show Telecast Better…

Or at least shorter. Which would be better, I think we can all agree.

I have many opinions on the subject. Attention, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Scientists, y’all can start by considering this one: The Oscar Awards telecast should not have any musical performances, whether by the original artist/songwriter or guest singers, of the songs which are nominated for Best Song. These individual song performances plus their intros add 25 – 30 minutes to the show.

The Oscar telecast usually features brief (as in 15 second, tops) clips of the nominated acting performances, but doesn’t have anyone  – either the nominated actors themselves or stand-ins – acting out the pivotal, five minute scenery-chewing soliloquies which merited each nomination. Why can’t you do the same with the nominated songs? A measure or two is all we need.

We can and will hear the movie’s songs by watching the movies, just as we can see the acting by seeing the movies…just as we can see the movies, by seeing the movies.

 

 

sally

“If you’d only really like her suggestion…what a better show this could be!”

 

 

*   *   *

“When a woman writes a book that has anything to do with feelings or relationships, it’s either called chick lit or women’s fiction, right? But look at Updike or Irving.  Imagine if they’d been women.  Just imagine.  Someone would have slapped a pink cover onto ‘Rabbit at Rest,’ and poof, there goes the Pulitzer.”
(From the J. Courtney Sullivan novel, Commencement)

 

*   *   *

Department Of Gloria Steinem Stole My Neologism!

 

But since I like her so much, she can have her variant, with my blessing.

Background info: For years (a search of my documents shows at least since 2010) I’d been sharing my idea/gripe with friend and fellow writer SCM and others, about how we need counterpart terms for the almost-always-used-dismissive literary and cinematic classifying labels, chick lit and chick flick.  I decided it was only logical that dick lit and dick flick were up to the task. But I’ve never heard anyone else, outside of my circle of disaffected cynics acquaintances, use the term….

That is until yesterday, when the eminently quotable Gloria Steinem, in a NY Times op-ed, wrote about the quandary of a fellow passenger on her recent New York to Seattle flight. When passengers were offered free movie viewing to placate them during a long tarmac delay, a young man, frustrated by the available movie choices, sputtered, “I don’t watch chick flicks.”

Chick flick; chick lit. We all know what is meant by the terms. [8] Steinem briefly used the man’s dilemma to illuminated the double standard (read: sexism) that has been long-noted by and for women in fiction reviewing and classifying…

I wasn’t challenging his preference, but I did question the logic of his term. After all, much of what we read as great literature in school may well have been called “chick lit,” especially if it had been written by women.
Think about it: If “Anna Karenina” had been by Leah Tolstoy, or “The Scarlet Letter” by Nancy Hawthorne or “A Doll’s House” by Henrietta Ibsen — if “The Invisible Man” had been “The Invisible Woman” — would they have been hailed as classics?

… before advocating, rather tongue-in-cheekily, that the young man deserved a label to direct him toward films he might prefer (my emphases):

I realized the problem began with the fact that adjectives are mostly required of the less powerful. Thus, there are “novelists” and “female novelists,” “African-American doctors” but not “European- American doctors,” “gay soldiers” but not “heterosexual soldiers,”….
As has been true forever, the person with the power takes the noun — and the norm — while the less powerful requires an adjective. Thus, my fellow passenger was left with only half a guide.
Bias is, as always, unfair to everyone. Inspired by the blood-and-guts, monosyllabic war movie that had taken us off the tarmac and into the air, I realized the answer by the time of arrival. The opposite of a “chick flick” is a “prick flick.” 

I nearly jumped out of my chair when I read that. For some reason, I felt as much like crowing, “You’re welcome,” as Right on!”

 

 

 

gloria

Back at ya, sister!

*   *   *

 

 

 

May you have the chance to share a collective consciousness moment with Gloria Steinem;
May you enjoy the simply if petty pleasures of watching silly awards shows;
May you know when it’s time to gush and when it’s time to sit your ass down;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Except for the years when the BOOM BOOM CRASH CRASH PUNCH PUNCH FIGHT FIGHT pictures dominate.

[2] Peter O’Toole, nominated for Best Actor eight times – zip. I tried to pass this wisdom along to younger members of my extended family who were incensed about certain Grammy awards: (“What does Beyonce have to do to win record of the year?!?!?”)

[3] Read: some vegan/veggie dawgs for us wimps.

[4] Not standard movie theatre fare but that’s what we like…and I make a hot damn fine guacamole if I do say so moiself (and I just did). Secret: white pepper and finely diced white onion.

[5] Go big or go home, I always say.

[6] (“My parents―I’m so thankful that God chose you to bring me into this world.” Really?  I mean, sure, thank your parents for their support, but get over yourself, Ms. Viola.)

[7] And as a  fiction writer I would be and have been included by some in this category.

[8] In movies, a chick flick is a movie which has, as Steinem succinctly puts it, “more dialogue than car chases, more relationships than special effects,” and its plot depends more on how people live than how they are killed.

The Call To Resistance I’m Not Writing

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Clarification: I began to write such a call, and (once again) superior scribes beat me to it.

Last week I started taking notes on the topic of a citizen’s right – responsibility, I’d argue – to peacefully and vigorously advocate for political accountability. This was after I’d started seeing links to articles re actor Matthew McConaughey, in an interview with ChannelFi, advising his fellow Americans to castrate themselves “embrace Trump.”  As in, get over it, he’s the Prez, let’s work with him/give him a chance and….

Huh? Really? Huh? Really? That couldn’t be what he said, moiself said (But, yep, he did).

Okay; he’s an actor – and one who always struck me as having too much artificial turf between his goal posts, so to speak. Nevertheless, does he understand what he’s saying? Is he –  are any of the other “get over it” voices I’ve read about – advising that we forgo our First Amendment rights to petition our government, or that we ignore the warning signs of the rise of authoritarianism and nationalism and….   scribble scribble scribble[1]

 

 

ohm

R.I.P : Resistance Is Imperative

 

 

Earlier this week I was sitting on my mat in one of my yoga classes. This particular class begins with the teacher inviting the students join her in the Om resonant chant, and this week, as I did so, I remembered having recently seen the Ohm sign – the physics symbol for electrical resistance – being applied in political terms. I decided right there and then on the mat that ohm – as in, “resistance” – would be my “mantra.”

After class, back at home, I opened my scribbles document. Before getting to work I check ed on a couple of blogs I try to follow but hadn’t looked at in a couple of weeks. When I saw the wonderful post of author/activist/blogger Greta Christina, which opened with the picture of a large ohm symbol, I felt the literal/proverbial chill run down my spine.

It was as if GC had siphoned my frontal lobe onto the screen. Frankly, her exposition was much mo betta than any rant smartly-worded essay I would have produced (although, judging from my scribbles file, I would have included more, how you say, colorful modifiers   [2] ).  And so I will happily and humbly defer to GC’s superior, Yeah, what she said! composition, by posting some excerpts here and by urging you to read her rousing essay, in all its eloquent pithiness, here. [3]

 

Are you arguing…

 …that citizens of a democratic country…should not, as the First Amendment says, peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances?
… that once a president is elected, citizens should let him do whatever he wants with no opposition, regardless of whether it’s grossly immoral and indeed illegal?
…. that we should ignore the gross irregularities in this election — the widespread and systemic voter disenfranchisement, the interference from a hostile foreign government, the absurd electoral system that allows someone to become president when they lost by three million votes — and accept the results of this election as if they were normal and legitimate?
… that people who recognize the warning signs of fascism — who are listening to the historians who study fascism when they say that yes, this is what the rise of fascism looks like — should sit back and let fascism rise, for fear of looking like poor losers?

(excerpts from Great Christina’s Resistance, and Being a “Sore Loser”)

 

*   *   *

Department Of Petty Pleasures

Dateline: Last Friday, on my way to Somewhere ®, listening to a Portland classical radio station on my car’s radio. I tuned in just in time to hear the radio station’s announcer say that the previous selection had been written by Tchaikovsky and performed by the Czech Philharmonic under the direction of conductor Semyon Bychkov.

I had to look up the correct spelling when I returned home, because the announcer most distinctly pronounced the conductor’s name as, Simone Bitch-koff.

The announcer repeated the conductor’s surname several times…was it my imagination, or was she stifling a giggle each time she found an excuse to say BITCH-koff? And yes, I am still immature young at heart-enough to have enjoy a cheap thrill for the rest of the afternoon, imagining how much fun Bychkov’s music school peers would have had with his name, had the (Jewish/Russian-born) future conductor been raised in the U.S.A.

 

 

angry-conductor

“That’s Bychkov, you drek kop!”

*   *   *

Department Of But It Was Funny At 6:28 am

I awoke earlier this week with My First Ever Broadway Musical/Legal Rights Joke ® stumbling around my cerebral cortex:

  1. Why is creator of the musical “Hamilton” trying to get himself arrested?
  2. He’s looking forward to the police reading him his rights.  [4]

 

 

bad-smell

She didn’t say it was a good Broadway Musical/Legal Rights joke….

*   *   *

Department Of We Have No Secrets Between Us

I ordered a special card for daughter Belle’s 21st birthday. It arrived last Friday afternoon; I wanted to include it with a birthday package I was sending her, up at college. In order for the package to arrive by her birthday (Monday), I’d have to mail it without MH having seen or signed the card. I took a picture of the card and messaged MH:

Moiself: Here’s the card I ordered for Belle’s birthday. Shall I sign it for you, or do you (even) want your name on it?

MH: I suppose you can sign my name. She’ll know who bought it.

 

 

sadiebdaycardjpg

*   *   *

Department Of What She Said

“You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.”
(former Colorado U.S. Congresswoman Pat Schroeder)

“Given all the changes politically in the United States (and around the world), how can we freethinkers best deal with these challenge in 2017?”

This question was posed to the scientists, professors, authors, and activists who comprise the  Freedom From Religion Foundation‘s honorary board members, by the editors of the FFRF’s Freethought Today. Such a query was sure to elicit a fanny-load of WTF-the-sky-is-falling responses…or so I grumbled to moiself when I saw the article, “Words of wisdom for 2017” in the current (Jan-Feb 2017) issue of Freethought Today.

Sometimes I really, really like to be wrong.

“Words of wisdom for 2017”  was, on the whole, encouraging and moving. Some of the contributors, like Harvard psychology researcher and author Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, did focus on/warn about the bummers, such as the dangers of outrage fatigue:

The tactics of the new presidential administration were laid clear in the campaign and have continued, fast and furious, since Election Day. They consist in so overwhelming us with outrages – sometimes as many as six impossible things before breakfast, as the White Queen said to Alice – that we can’t fully give any single one of them their due before our attention is swept away by yet another.”

Other contributors, including neuroendocrinlogist Robert Sapolsky, pointed out what has become depressingly obvious, before offering a glimmer of hope:

“Critical thinking, counter-arguments, even facts will not make a dent with the new administration. Nor will empathy, compassion and decency. All that’s keeping me from despair is the fact that the young overwhelming rejected Trump….”

And, as cognitive scientist/linguist/professor Steven Pinker added:

“…remember that far more people voted for Clinton than for Trump…and that Trump’s support was concentrated among older voters, who will die someday and be replaced by more liberal cohorts.”

Biology/genetics professor and author Sean B. Carroll reminded us that there have been other eras when “cultures slammed into reverse.” He suggests that we, like the clear-eyed thinkers of those eras who anticipated the reversals:

“…have to summon hope and courage, resist paralysis, and get on with our work – convinced that in time, the tide will turn back in favor of reason.”

I was most heartened by feminist pioneer/activist/author Robin Morgan’s stirring call to action (my emphases):

“Never forget that the reason for this worldwide anti-progressive backlash – in this country whitelash and male-lash – is in fact because we have made such progress.
The ferocity of the response to everything we stand for tells us just how terrified the patriarchal systems are of losing their power. Which they will, they will. As Susan B. Anthony told us, ‘Failure is impossible.’ “

You can browse this and other FT articles here, and also request a free sample of Freethought Today.

 

*   *   *

Department Of And If That Don’t Stir Your Blood To Action…

 

…maybe you need to see a picture of my daughter’s Bengal kitty checking out her first snow.

Happy 21st, Belle!

 

 

snowyeti

 

*   *   *

May you remember that The Borg were wrong;  [5]
May you forgive Matthew McConaughey for being a dick;

May you appreciate any joke your brain constructs at 6:28 am;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Okay, it was actually click click click or tap tap tap on the keyboard. Which just doesn’t read as cinematically as the writer and her furious scribbles, IMHO.

[2] Which is yet another reason why she did the better job.

[3] And then you should buy and read her  books on Atheism/Freethought/religion, if you haven’t already.

[4] Lyn-Manuel Miranda.  Get it? Getitgetitgetitgetitgetitgetit?

[5] Resistance is NOT futile.

The Award I’m Not Accepting

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Oh, please, shut up already!

Son K smirked in solidarity when I yelled at the woman who was speechifying on television. “This is the kind of person,” he said, gesturing at the TV, “who gives social justice warriors a bad name.”

Let me set the stage: you are watching a stage, a stage from which, you sense, there is going to be a Pontificating Moment. You are, for whatever reasons, *** watching an awards show on TV. Not one of those candy-ass People’s Choice imitations, but one of the “biggies” – The Oscars; The Tonys; The Emmys (it usually doesn’t happen at The Golden Globe Awards, because the participants are too tipsy to be serious).  The winner’s name is called; they feign surprise, make their way to the stage, clutch their trophy…and you can see the warning light flash in their eyes. Instead of a heartfelt thanking of family and friends, or a recitation of an interminable laundry list of industry asses to kiss, [1]  they’ve decided to take advantage of the situation and torture a captive audience make the stage their platform and educate (read: lecture) a global broadcast audience.

 

facepalm

Please…make it not so.

 

I refer of course to last Sunday’s 2016 Emmy Awards, and the full-of-herself windbag excited winner in the My Show Is More Smugly Diverse Than Yours Best Director of A Comedy Series category, Jill Soloway, creator of the Amazon series, Transparent.

*** Before I continue with my rant thoughtfully considered illumination of a cultural phenomenon, let me explain the afore-mentioned You are, for whatever reasons, watching an awards show on TV.  The whatever reasons in my house = what has turned into a family tradition: watching an entertainment awards show on TV whilst dining [2] on “movie food.” Movie food is defined as hot dogs, popcorn, nachos,  Skittles and Junior Mints and Red Vines licorice and/or your favorite movie theatre candies and snacks, washed down with liberal amounts of a sparkling beverage.

Our family friend LAH has been part of our tradition for years, and she joined MH and I on Sunday, along with our son, K. Responsible College Graduate And Gainfully Employed Young Man ®  that he is, K no longer lives at home but could not pass up the opportunity for an Awards Night Movie Food Dinner ©  [3] …even though a few of us ANMFD participants (read: everyone but K) now try to lower the life-shortening effects of authentic movie food by substituting tofu/veggie dogs and/or burgers for the Scary Mystery Meat Sodium Bombs traditional hot dogs.  

 

 

 

tvdinner

 

 

 

Yet again, I digress. Back to the awards show.

I’d only seen one episode of Transparent, and was meh-impressed (trans – no pun intended – lation: Meh as in mehbe I’ll watch another episode, some day, when I’m folding laundry and nothing else is on.). [4] Soloway’s bloated, self-important acceptance speech made me never want to watch another episode of her series, on principle.

Is this person on stage giving an oration about winning an award for a Very Very Very Important…TV comedy? I wondered aloud.  Because her oh-so-serious-and-earnest emoting seems more fitting for a filmmaker documenting a Doctors Without Borders group of volunteers battling an Ebola epidemic.

“…this thing that these people call television, but I call a revolution.”

Yep, the director compared what she does to a revolution – you know, the thing defined as “a (usually) violent attempt by many people to end the rule of one government and start a new one.” I was reminded of advertising hacks who use hyperbole to shill mundane products that are, in fact, anything but world-shattering (“Oral-B-Clean’s Vibra-rama strip is the revolutionary [5]  way to floss!”).

BTW, I hope any Syrian refugees watching the show, or anyone with the misfortune to be involved in an actual revolution, took comfort from realizing that their struggles are comparable to – if less entertaining and worthy of prime time TV coverage than – the subject matter of a TV comedy series.

Soloway ended her sermon speech by raising her trophy aloft and chanting, “Topple the patriarchy! Topple the patriarchy!”

 

 

 

really

 

 

After Soloway’s harangue the Emmy Awards show’s emcee, comedian and talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, [6]  had the tricky task of segueing to the next award presentation. Kimmel provided a mood-lightening transition when said he wasn’t sure how to respond: “I’m trying to figure out if ‘topple the patriarchy’ is a good thing for me or not,” he quipped.

Certain Actors, Directors and Show Biz People ©  :  I love you, love your work, even (usually) agree with your politics [7] – I mean, topple the patriarchy, I am so there – but  wise up, please. An entertainment awards show is neither the time nor the place to promote your political or social (or even human rights) agenda.

So. Attention, Self-Important/Self-Anointed Spokespeople For Righteous Causes: yeah, we get it. Just thank the audience and awards presenters, say something nice about your family, then shut up, go backstage, and fondle your trophy.

 

*   *   *

 

Department Of When You Don’t Know Which Noun To Use

Last week’s Science Friday program provided a brief but golden moment for us neologism lovers. It featured an interview with Ann Druyan and Frank Drake, two of the creators of Voyager’s Golden Record – the phonograph record collection placed aboard both Voyager probes launched in 1977.

The records were chosen to provide a combination ship-in-a-bottle/time capsule selection of sounds and images to illustrate the variety of Terran life and culture. Drake spoke about having to be careful re what to include: scientists wanted the collection be culturally and scientifically representative…but then there are those prickly human sensibilities to consider: [8]

NASA got nervous, because they knew (including anatomically correct drawings of naked people) could create a big public  _____.”

My mind was a split second ahead, and expected Drake to finish the sentence with either outcry, or uproar, but instead he neologized [9]  outroar.

 

 

 

firstcontact

“Greetings. We made first contact to find out what happened to the naked pictures we so enjoyed on your earlier space probes.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things That Just Strike Me Every Now And Then

 

One evening last week, as MH and I were doing après-dinner kitchen cleanup, I began singing a song. Seemingly apropos of nothing and without really being aware of what I was doing what it was, I chuckled when I realized I was warbling the Hank Williams classic, ”Your Cheatin’ Heart.

When I was a young child my father would sing to me after reading a bedtime story. Chet Parnell had a nice, mellow singing voice; he loved Hank Williams’ music, and YCH was one of his favorites. I learned to sing along with whatever the song was, although as a three year old I didn’t pay much attention to the words.

Looking back, YCH – a mournful song about cuckolded husband predicting heartache for his straying wife – was an odd choice for a bedtime lullaby. But it wouldn’t have mattered if it were an ode to the sinking of the Titanic – it wasn’t the lyrics that meant so much to me then…or now. It was that my daddy sang me to sleep.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May your acceptance speeches be short and sweet;
May your hopes and dreams be Golden Record-worthy;
May you not shuffle off this mortal coil without having sung someone to sleep;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] “I’d like to thank my long-suffering agent, my genius publicist, my courageous accountant…”

[2] In the loosest definition of the term.

[3] Plus, I bribed him with homemade guacamole.

[4] Okay, when MH – or someone else, anyone else in this house – is folding laundry. Homey don’t play that.

[5] Is there no one in advertising – surely, at least one English major populates the profession – who actually cares about the definition of words? Can a dental hygiene product – or laundry detergent or weed whacker or shoelace organizer or any consumer product – rightfully be described as revolutionary? I sincerely doubt that governments will be overthrown if people find a new way to pick their teeth.

[6] IMHO all award shows should be hosted by quick-thinking comics who can provide on-the-spot retorts to prick the overinflated ego balloons of award recipients.

[7] It’s that liberal Hollywood elite crowd, after all.

[8] Prudish early ’70’s media criticized NASA over the nudity (line drawings of the figures of a man and woman which, along with other  symbols, were designed to provide information about the origin of the spacecraft) included on the Pioneer plaque.

[9] Itself a neologism, courtesy of moiself. I’m open to changes in spelling.

The Culture I’m Not Relativizing

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Content warning: content, much of it cranky. If you’re not cranky, you’re not paying attention.

*   *   *

Here is the understated headline of the article MH alerted me to, in Tuesday’s NY Times:

Clash of Values Emerges After Afghan Child Bride Burns to Death

I find the passive voice repugnant – burns to death? The girl didn’t just spontaneously combust. She was beaten and set on fire, after being bartered away as a 6th grader to settle a family dispute – treated and discarded as the piece of dispensable property women ultimately are in such brutal and backward cultures.

Clash of values. What an obscenity it becomes, being put so mildly. And how many times have I read variations of this grotesque play out of cultural values?

* Afghan woman, whose genitalia was severed by her husband, fights for justice amid rising violence against women

* Banished or battered at home, Afghan women share stories of surviving abuse.

*  … the images show an Afghan woman beaten to death by a mob…savagely beaten not by bearded Taliban but by very young men, wielding sticks and carrying mobile phones.

Go ahead, do the search yourself. You can Google until you gag with this subject, and also with the knowledge that for every story of the barbarous treatment of women and girls that makes the news, thousands more are not headline grabbers; rather, it’s just Life Goes On in Afghanistan and other Islamist cultures.

Back to the shiny happy first story. In the final paragraphs of the NY Times article, the story tells of how a relative of the family suspected in the girl’s torture and murder was questioned, by a criminal investigator and local activists, as to whether the girl was even old enough to consent (to the bartered marriage) in the first place.

“Why are you asking me? Go ask the Prophet,” (the relative) said, explaining that they were merely following traditions from the Prophet Muhammad’s time.

 

 

warning

 

 

As I have no doubt noted before in this space, I am not a cultural relativist. I abhor the fact that there is even such a concept as cultural relativism. And if you support it or defend it and I find out about it, I am going to go all medieval judgmental on your ass. Because the idea that people’s backwards and bigoted beliefs and cruel behaviors should be understood in terms of their culture leads to backwards and bigoted beliefs and cruel behaviors being defended or even excused…because it’s their culture.

You bet your ecumenical ass I’m gonna judge that. Judging cultures – any and all cultures – is what we all should be doing.

Discerning differences and making choices are good and necessary practices. It is wise to judge a tree by the fruit it produces. If your pear tree consistently produces sour-tasting, parasitic-ridden pears that rot before they ripen despite your best horticultural and pest control efforts, you’d best leave it to the bees and get your Anjous elsewhere.

 

 

bees

 

 

Don’t let any mush-brained cultural apologist fool you into thinking there are not valid criteria for testing or judging beliefs, world-views or practices, whether religious or non-religious. There are criteria, and they focus on the centrality of that most humanist value, compassion.  Analyze a belief, worldview or practice – does it lead to compassion and loving kindness?  Or does it produce in its adherents certainty, self-righteousness, belligerence, and the domination of the powerful us over the vulnerable them? [1]  

A worldview that teaches humility, gratitude, love and compassion and fosters equal responsibility and equal justice for all, is “better” than one that justifies or permits slavery and/or inequality and/or values (or even demands) incuriosity and ignorance re the natural world and/or preaches fear and guilt or the domination of the majority by a plutocracy.

Way back in the ’60s and ’70s I heard the argument that the ideology of Apartheid was part of the Afrikaaner culture; thus, who are we, as non South Africans, to understand or judge South African society? When enough of us worldwide stopped accepting that excuse, Apartheid was ended.

As a brown-skinned person with a Muslim name, I can get away with a lot more than you’d think. I can publicly parade my wife or daughters around in head-to-toe burqas and be excused out of “respect” for my culture and/or religion, thanks to the racism of lowered expectations.
( Pakistani-Canadian writer and physician and self-described “Atheist Muslim” Ali A. Rizvi )

 

allah says

 

  

“Go ask the prophet.”

Fuck your prophet.  Fuck anyone’s prophet. Fuck your shitty prophet’s shitty, primitive, ignorant, Iron Age, intellectually dysenteric misogyny still practiced as “traditions” by the various prophets’ blinkered, small-minded, ignorant followers Find some kind of shield, place it over prophet-following countries, and remove it when there’s nothing left but the cockroaches. [2]

Some days, that’s how I feel. Which is one reason I so love Bruce Cockburn’s song,  If I Had a Rocket Launcher …because it reminds me why it is a good thing I don’t have a rocket launcher. [3]

So. On my good days, I try to remember the individual women living in such cultures. I try to think of the almost 500,000 women sponsored via an organization I’ve supported for many years, an international organization which works directly with “marginalized women in 8 countries  [4]  affected by war and conflict…to offer support, tools, and access to life-changing skills to move from crisis and poverty to stability and economic self-sufficiency,” via offering these women  “job training, business and life skills, access to opportunity and more.”

On my bad days, [5]  I consider the email I got from said organization informing me of the new “sponsored sister” I’ll be supporting for the next 18 months and think, What’s the point? I think about the fact that this woman lives in Afghanistan, and I am sponsoring her…for what? To “access opportunity” in a culture of this?

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Tried, I Really Tried…

…to force myself to watch a live telecast of the Republican Convention.

 

 

REALLY

 

 

Yes, really. Civic Duty ®  and/or Informed Citizen ® , and all that.

Five minutes into it, I thought it would be more intellectual stimulating [6] to enjoy re-watching one of my favorite Star Trek TNG episodes, appropriately titled, Disaster.

 

 

Has there ever been a larger assemblage of metaphorical Number Twos, Number One?

Has there ever been a larger assemblage of metaphorical Number Twos, Number One?

*   *   *

 

Speaking of disasters,

Department Of This Should Come As Little Surprise, But Still…

I’m shocked – shocked! – that anyone associated with the self-anointed Law and Order candidate would engage in such bald-face, bare-assed thievery.

Please tell me someone is planning to sue for plagiarism, after many journalists and bloggers pointed out that portions of Melania Trump’s convention speech contained “striking similarities” – i.e., word for word pilfering – of Michelle Obama’s address at the 2008 Democratic convention.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Oh – cynical moiself. Who am I to judge? [7] It was difficult for Melania, growing up as a black woman in Chicago. Just ask her daughters, Sasha and Malia.

*   *   *

Department Of Yes It’s True I Live To Burst Your Bubble

In our over-stressed and under-thought society, we esteem the concept of taking time out from our busy lives to notice, admire and appreciate the simple pleasures in life. We even have an advisory adage for it:

Remember to stop and smell the roses.

I am someone who stops to smell the roses, whenever I’m out walking and come across a particularly alluring one. Thus, I feel entitled to add a cautionary addendum to that adage.

 

 

How quaint; she's going to bollix it up for us, isn't she?

How quaint; she’s going to bollix it up for the rest of us, isn’t she?

 

 

If we (claim to) appreciate taking the time to seek the beauty in the everyday world, I hope we also appreciate telling the truth about performing such acts. Because the thing about stopping to smell the roses is that if you do so you will, at times, feel sorely disappointed – even betrayed.

As MH can testify, many is the time I’ve paused on our walks or hikes to sniff a beautiful flower, only to indignantly exhale, What is this – they call this a rose!?

Not every rose smells like a rose, or like any blooming thing at all, for that matter.

Not every visually enticing flower has a fragrance worthy of its name. Some of the most visually stunning roses seem to have no scent at all, as if they’ve had their monoterpenes bred out of them. The beautiful grandiflora salmonie that caught your eye may not have a whiff of anything remotely floral  [8]  emanating from its delicate, salmon-colored petals.

 

 

 

Keep Calm and pretend you relish the aroma reminiscent of your grandmother's mothballed woolen stockings.

Keep Calm and pretend you relish the aroma of your grandmother’s mothballed woolen stockings.

 

 

*   *   *

May you, like Trump Missus #3 in a series,
have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood and call bullshit (and plagiarism) when they hear it;
May you beware of trees producing rotten fruit;
May you take the risk and stop to sniff the blossoms anyway;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Be it men over women, true believers over infidels….

[2] I would like to find a shield that would let the innocent flora and fauna survive, but the people, I’m not so sure are worth preserving. Even the “victims” of such cultures go on to victimize others, as that is how they are raised.

[3] Ah, but if Trump were president, a rocket launcher in every garage!

[4] Afghanistan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Sudan.

[5] Or perhaps, realistically, those are also good days?

[6] And less psychologically disturbing.

[7] Oh, that’s right – I settled the judgy thing in the previous rant.

[8] Or remotely salmon…for which you may be grateful.

The TV Show Song I’m Not Singing

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Department Of Rachel Bloom Needs To Thank Me

Content warning: awesomeness, and dick humor.

Yes, the afore-mentioned Ms. Bloom, she of multiple slash abilities (singer/songwriter/actor/comedian), might want to toss some gratitude my way for being way older than her. Because if I were Rachel Bloom’s age (and – minor point – if I also had her talent ) I would have composed, sang and posted those so-funny-you-laugh-so-hard-milk-squirts-out-of-your-nose-and-you-weren’t-even-drinking-any-milk videos (usually NSFW) before she did.

Like…maybe…this one.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWMpnxMLZ_E

 

*   *   *

Department Of Speculation: What Is “Stupid Shit” The Title Of?

Alas, it’s not the working title of my autobiography. [1]   It the name of a song by Andy Harrison I was listening to on Tuesday, while walking to lunch.

♫  There’s a world in your hands full of power and love
And the choice’s right here like a new pair of gloves
Whatcha gonna do, you can handle it.  ♫

I was reflecting on the inspiring words of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, spoken at a press conference announcing the Department of Justice lawsuit filed re North Carolina’s anti-LGBT legislation; I was reflecting on how frustrating it is, to me, that such eloquence had to be mustered for such nonsense. It’s a big world with big problems, yet some folks be getting’ their tighty whities in a knot about which public bathroom someone else can use…

 

REALLY

 

  …and then, the song’s chorus is ringing in my ears: 

♫  But they want you to focus on stupid shit
So you don’t have a clue about what’s legit
They want you to focus on
 stupid shit.

Yeah they want you to focus on stupid shit
So you don’t find your power, your love, your wit
Take a look around
and don’t do it.  ♫

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Name Blame Game

Content warning: Tragedy For All Humanity ©

 

Ahoy, Boaty...in our dreams....

Ahoy, Boaty…in our dreams….

 

I am in mourning, for the lost of inarguably The. Best. Boat. Name. Ever.

You’ve been following the saga of how Britain’s Natural Environment Research Council invited the British public to name their new research vessel…haven’t you? [2]

Long story short, people submitted names and voted; Boaty Mcboat Face was the runaway winner.; the British Science Minister proved himself to be yet another Upper Class Twit by saying there were “more suitable” names and declaring that the NERC’s research vessel would be named for renowned naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough .

I’ve nothing against Sir David McDave Face; in fact, I’m a fan. But, he’s got all those wildlife harassment nature documentaries to be remembered for. Those sneaky Limeys asked for the people’s choice, they got it, and then, nooooooooooooooooooooooo.

 

 

 

You were saying something about suitable names?

You were saying something about suitable names?

*   *   *

Department Of Adventures In American Racism

Content warning: the n-word; stupid/offensive jokes.

♫ Daniel Boone was a man,
Yes a big man.
He was brave he was fearless
And as tough as a mighty oak tree. ♫

It had been years since I’d heard that song, and there it was, on the radio. [3] Anyone else out there old enough to remember the Daniel Boone TV show? It aired on NBC in the mid-to-late 1960s. Its theme song had three or four verses, each one beginning with the same two lines, stressing what a big man Dan’l was.

♫ Daniel Boone was a man,
Yes a big man…. ♫

The theme song was popular, easy-to-remember…

 

 

…and easy to lampoon.

I must have been in the third or fourth grade when two of my cousins pulled me aside at a family gathering. DB and his brother JB told me that if I’d ditch the appetizers table [4] and follow them out to the backyard I could hear some really funny stuff.

These cousins were the first (but not the last) people to tell me racist jokes – jokes I didn’t always “get.” Although I was only nine years old I considered myself pretty humor-hep; still, I didn’t understand why “Did you hear about the NFL’s plan to reduce the number of fumbles by running backs? They’re going to paint the footballs to look like watermelons!” was supposed to be funny.

I prepared myself for another round of my cousins’ alleged comedy. I was hoping for at least one fart story; no such luck. JB announced that he and DB were going to honor me by sharing the “secret last verse” to the Daniel Boone song.

Daniel Boone was a man,
Yes a big man
But the bear was bigger
So he ran like a nigger up a tree.

Get it? Do you get it?

 

Stone-faced, flummoxed silence on my part.

My cousins stopped their chortling and exchanged nervous glances. My delayed reaction had them worrying that I was shocked and offended by their use of the N-word (I was) and was going to tattle on them to their parents (I didn’t).

I did laugh. Sort of…eventually. But, not early enough for my cousins. And not for the reasons they’d hoped.

My chuckle, tardy as it was, was genuine. It was one of the first times I was conscious of…I’m not sure what to call it…what, in my mind, was the joke I saw behind the joke they wanted to tell.  And I knew there was no way I could explain my thinking to them.

The rhyming offensive word was almost superfluous to the meta/existentialism of the line:

“…but the bear was bigger…”

No need to go further. It still gets me.

Later on, at home, I asked my father about the altered verse. It wasn’t the first time I’d questioned my parents after hearing a racist comment, and it wasn’t the first time their response would include some variation of the Crabs in a Bucket story – a story I later realized didn’t really apply, although my parents obviously thought it did. [5]

It’s not that your cousins are prejudiced [6] or even mean-spirited, my father said, it’s that they’re ignorant. People who aren’t very smart, or who are insecure about their status…well, the only way some people know how to shore themselves up is to find someone below them on the totem pole, [7] and pull someone else back down in the bucket so that they can climb out, or at least not be left behind. Sometimes they do this by mocking people of a different race.

When I was a child, I never heard my parents express (overt) racist sentiments.   [8] I also never heard them openly contradict the bigotry freely expressed in front of me by a few of our neighbors and certain relatives. When a squirm-worthy comment would slither past my Aunt Erva’s cigarette, my parents would change the subject. Later, in private, they would tell me that Erva was not truly prejudiced,  [9] just ill-informed and insensitive.

But you said nothing, I thought. And people were listening.

My parents’ silence on such matters was one of many experiences which helped make me the judgmental bigmouth concerned citizen I am today. A guiding life principle I’ve tried to instill in son K and daughter Belle: if you are with a group of people and someone makes an ignorant/racist/hurtful/sexist/bullying/scientifically-stupid-disguised-as-religious-opinion remark, and you say nothing, others listening may rightfully assume you agree with, or are at least accepting of, the speaker’s sentiments.

Yes, you must choose your battles. But…silence implies acquiescence.

But….

But the bear was bigger….

It still cracks me up. 

 

 

But the bear was bigger....So Fess Parker left the frontier and got into wine making.

But the bear was bigger….So Fess Parker left the frontier and got into wine making.

*   *   *

Is There Any Day As Happy….

As that day when you get new underwear? Let us all rejoice, as one big pile of 100% cotton loving humanity.

 

undies

*   *   *

By The Way And For Your Information

If we’re going to be acquainted on this level you should know that it’s underwear or underpants, and never…never….”panties” (shudder).

 

wordcops

 

 

*   *   *

May you focus on the shit that matters (or at least isn’t stupid);
May your silence never imply acquiescence (unless it does);
May new underwear raise your spirits (and never give you wedgies);
…and may the hijinks ensue. 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] But nice guess, thanks.

[2] If not, stop reading this right now, go to your contemplative corner, and think about why you distance yourself from the vital issues that unite humanity.

[3] And I have no idea why. Channel-flipping, you hear all sorts of snippets.

[4] I could – and one time, I think, did – finish an entire jar of green olives by moiself.

[5] No parent wants their wiseass ten year old telling them, “Actually, you’re misusing the metaphor….”

[6] They were.

[7] I was never sure about how a totem pole could fit into a crab bucket.

[8] Although as I came to realize later, their political and social justice opinions were far more conservative than mine, and indicative of their respective, less than gracious and enlightened upbringings.

[9] Wrong again, folks.

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