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The Guerilla Prank I’m Not Pulling

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Department Of Irrefutable Evidence

Now I know I’ve given up:  I put away the St. Patrick’s Day dinner decorations.

Moiself and MH had a dinner party planned for Tuesday, March 17, an event that – surprise! – got…suspended.  At the time, I told would-be attendees that we were, in an act of delusion optimism, not cancelling the invitation but merely postponing it, and that I would be leaving the dining table decorated.  And I did, for two months.  Then, gradually, the napkins and plates were put away, and I put the table décor, such as it is/was  (think: an eight-year-old’s idea of festive holiday dining), into its long term storage bag but did NOT transport it to its shelf in the attic.  It remained on the table, until three days ago.

Instead of deleting the reminder I had on my computer calendar (“Rsch St. Patrick’s day dinner when COVID shit is over”) I have reduced its occurrence from weekly to every other month.  The computer prompt, initially a hopeful harbinger of a return to normalcy, came to be a dispiriting reminder of physical isolation: I miss the company of dining and conversing with friends, both long time and recently met, all treasured, and groaning at each recitation of a dreadful (but occasion-appropriate) joke and pun.   [1]

All apologies to the centerpiece: Good Lady Spud, your time shall come again.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Title I Want When I Grow Up

…I’ve carved out this little niche for myself on the internet…
because as we all know, the easiest way to be at the top of your field is to choose a very small field.”
(inventor Simone Giertz, in her TED talk)

Dateline: Monday; listening to a TED Radio Hour episode, titled “Pure Joy.” A description of the episode, as per the TEDsite:

More than ever, we need to make time for joy. This hour…(we)…explore talks that surprise, inspire, and delight.

The first talk excerpted was one given two years ago by Simone Giertz. Twenty-nine-year-old Giertz, the creator of the toothbrush helmet,  [2]   is a Swedish inventor and robotics enthusiast. She’s also, and perhaps most prestigiously for her generation, that which most generations never imagined would be a thing: she is a YouTube celebrity ®.

In her talk, “Why You Should Make Useless Things,” Giertz apparently advocates for inventing devices which are “useless at solving the problem they are attempting to solve,” but which serve a higher purpose of overcoming your fear of failure (by working hard at something you know is bound to fail) and teaching you engineering and design skills.  I say “apparently” because I was unable, or rather unwilling, to listen to the rest of her talk, after hearing the podcast curator describe Giertz as

“…the queen of useless robots.”

Overcome with both admiration and envy, moiself  completely lost interest in listening further.  I figured it was better to let my imagination take the wheel as I envisioned the perks and responsibilities of that particular kind of royalty.

“…uneasy is the head that wears a crown”    [3]…unless of course that head belongs to The Queen of Useless Robots.

*   *   *

Department of The Neighborhood Guerilla Prankster Strikes Again…
In Her Dreams

There’s a house a couple of blocks away from my street with an attached, two-door, three-car garage set up:

 

 

An older couple lives in said house.  Depending on the route I take, I often walk past the house in the morning, and I’ve seen it with either or both garage doors open; thus, moiself  knows that the smaller, one-car garage is not used as a garage but has been turned into the workshop space of the older gentleman.  When the workshop/garage door is open you can see the tool racks and radial saw and other workshop equipment; when the workshop/garage door is closed, you can see a sign on it which reads, MEN ONLY.

When I first saw the sign, and then every time I walked past the house, moiself  had the almost overwhelming desire to take a picture of it, then take the picture to a signage shop and order a self-adhesive sign in similar lettering, color and size that read: GIRLY.  The plan:  early one morning, I would post GIRLY above MEN ONLY.

Alas; the time for that prank has passed.  I recently noticed that the exterior of the house (including the garage doors) has been painted, and the MEN ONLY sign has not reappeared on the garage door.  Still, I think of it when I pass that house, and remind moiself of the ultimate reason I decided against enacting my prank: the ubiquity, nowadays, of cell phones and home security cameras.  Ending up on someone’s YouTube shaming video is not something I crave for moiself , even in the performance of (what would have been) a public service.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Just Wondering

Due to the wildfires plaguing the West, I am checking the Air Quality Index several times daily – even though a cursory look out of my house’s (all tightly closed) windows tells me all I need to know about whether or not it’s safe to go outside.

How quickly I and my friends have adapted to using yet another acronym:

“So, what’s the AQI in your town?”

This is so surreal. The air where I live has been smoky-jaundice-colored; the pictures I’ve seen of the Bay Area’s midday, sci-fi/Martian orange skies have a certain, apocalyptic beauty, even as I realized the horrific reasons behind them that had nothing to do with a more benign reason, such as a particularly flamboyant sunset or sunrise.   [4]

 

 

In my early morning walks (the ones I used to do before our AQI was at Hazardous level – the carefree mornings before I even knew what an AQI was) I pass by several houses where I often see a smoker out on his front porch, lighting up his first deathstick cigarette of the day.  Actually, I smell the smokers before moiself  sees them – even from across the street.  I’ve come to know which houses they live in and cross to the other side before passing by. (Most smokers seem to not know – or care – how far their effluence travels and how long it lingers.)

From having exchanged pleasantries with them over the years, I know that the main reason these folks are lighting up on their porches is because they are the only smoker in their household, and they’ve been forbidden by their spouses and/or other family members from polluting their domicile and have been banished to puffing in The Great Outdoors ® .

I haven’t done a morning walk since the AQI reached the first level of Unhealthy…even though I didn’t know it had done so at the time.  I’d gone out earlier than usual and wore a mask; it was the first morning where the sky looked…suspicious.  I decided to end my walk after 30 minutes, and thought I probably shouldn’t walk outside again until I figured out what was going on. On my way back I passed by two of the Porch Smokers, the glowing ends of their cigarettes providing an eerie impetus for me to get back home.

Our current situation: we’ve been warned about the wildfires near and far, spewing particulate matter in the air which, at an AQI in the upper ranges (which we’ve been having in the Pacific NW for days), can aggravate or trigger serious respiratory conditions in otherwise healthy people, even with relatively short exposure.

 

 

So, when smokers awaken, and eagerly or furtively inhale the day’s first fumes into their lungs, moiself  can’t help but wonder: what’s being circulated in the organ between their ears?  Amidst the reports of the wildfire’s devastation – it’s been all wildfires, all the time, for local news reporting – including the loss of life from burns and smoke inhalation, do they consider even for a moment the fires’ victims?  Do they find their eyes tearing up with compassion as they think to themselves, “Oh, how awful! Those poor people!” as they suck in their own mini-conflagration?

While we live with the warnings to not go outside even for short periods of time because breathing the air could sicken or even kill you, and smokers continue to expedite that process by lighting up their cigarettes.

We humans are experts at compartmentalization and denial…and, yeah yeah yeah, nicotine is one of the most addictive substance on earth, and addicts are not known for rationality and or introspection thoughts….  Still, it boggles my mind.

The Great American Smokeout, the American Cancer Society’s  annual “quitting campaign,” is on the third Thursday in November.  The Not-so-Great American Smoke-In is happening as I type.  Aaaaaarrrrrggggghhhhh.

*   *   *

Department Of, Of All The Things To Be Thinking About….

 

2020.  The year that, on a national and global shitstorm level, has brought us:

* COVID-19;

* Year three of criminally negligent governance by a musty scrotal hair of a human being (#45) and his soul-sucking sycophants;

* the Murder Hornet ;

*  Too many Americans determined to focus on someone looting a 7-11 rather than face the centuries of systemic injustice which have prompted the (majority peaceful) displays of civil disobedience;

* the apocalyptic wildfires in the US, yet another testament to the consequences of ignoring of global warming…

 

Thank you, and please demoralize us further.

 

On a personal level,   [5]  my concerns include a friend who fled the wildfires (her town is essentially gone; her neighbors have lost nearly everything); my daughter Belle who, recovering from foot surgery, has developed an allergy to medical adhesives holding her bandages in place; MH’s “sister/cousin”  [6]  and her protracted recovery from the heart surgeryand kidney failure after she and her young adult daughter discovered they both have a genetic disorder which has given them, among other conditions, aortal defects; learning that the son of my MIL’s longtime friend and business associate has just lost his son to suicide….

Two days ago, amidst all of these woes and more, I found moiself  thinking,

I really hope Mel Brooks doesn’t die right now.

The beloved comedian/writer/screenwriter/playwright/songwriter/director and WWII vet has seen so much in this world, and contributed so much to our culture…and now here’s this shitty year in which Mel had to mourn the death of his best buddy – another national comedy treasure, Carl Reiner

I just want Mr. Brooks to be able to survive this year.  I would so look forward to his commentary on all of this, you know?

Two of my favorite scenes from my favorite Mel  Brooks movie:

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

The past, the present, and the future walk into a bar. It was tense!   [7]

 

*   *   *

May we work for the best (even if we suspect the worst);
May we return to the privilege of not knowing our AQI;
May we all be deserving of even the most obscure royal title;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] “What do you call an Irishman with an IQ of 100?  A village.”

[2] A device which you have never heard of because it is “recommended by zero out of ten dentists,” the inventor admits.

[3] Henry IV, Part 2.  I don’t imagine Shakespeare imagined just how heavy – or silly – crowns could get.

[4] Ash higher in the atmosphere turned the Bay Area skies orange, as opposed to around me, where the smoke was lower.  If I can remember some basic physics/light refraction, I think this has to do with the high ash/smoke particles scattering blue light & only allowing certain wavelengths of light –  yellow-orange-red light – to reach the earth’s surface.

[5] It must be time for another footnote.

[6] This not some Mormon polygamy term; rather, she is cousin who is more than a cousin but not technically a sister – she came to live with MH’s family when she was an adolescent, after both of her parents died.

[7] I’m sorry, but there is no room for a seventh footnote.

The Karma I’m Not Accruing

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Department Ah, Morning, With The Delicate Aroma
Of Horseshit Wafting Through The Air
Sub Department Of Yet Another Reason Not To Check Facebook Before Breakfast

A wise and witty friend recently posted this on her FB site:

 

 

Right on!, moiself  thought. I began to read one of the comments on her post, one which started with a teensy provocative sentence, and then, there was that blue more

I should have left it at that, but, noooooooo.  I had to click on more, and there was more. And more, and more, and more – and did I mention, *more*?

*More* turned out to be a multi-paragraph treatise of Buddhist proselytizing, starting with how we should remember that there are also poor and downtrodden white people  [1]   who don’t feel particularly privileged (which should have clued me in – it’s the, “But, all lives matter!” equivalent of deflection from the issue), and how people’s choices and actions in life lead to their circumstances, plus many other Buddhist tenets….  [2] 

 

At least it wasn’t pimply-faced kids half your age showing up on your front porch, calling themselves, “Elder.”

 

I thought about privately messaging Wise and Witty Friend, something along the lines of, Hey, WWF, would you allow someone to post a fundamentalist Christian tract on your page, because some Karma fundamentalist has just done the equivalent.   It turns out WWF was way ahead of me, and deleted the comment soon after it was posted.  Dang. Now I have to slag it from memory.

BTW, be it the Christian version, or Buddhist/Hindu/Karmic fundamentalism, I call BS on all of ’em. So, let the specific slagging begin.

The Buddhist Evangelical Fundamentalist Commenter (BEFC) quoted a Buddhist adage:

 

 

Sweet, and harmless, right?

Wrong.  Especially as per the issues of privilege and systemic racism that the Black Lives Matter movement is bringing to the fore…as well as a host of other life situations.

As I read BEFC’s proselytizing prose I flashed back to a bar conversation I’d had many years ago,   [3]  with a friend who’d emigrated to the USA (with his parents) from India when he was an adolescent.  We were  [4]   talking religion; specifically, his refutation of his religious background (although, in part to please his family, he kept up with a few of what he considered to be non-religious, cultural practices).  He simply could not overlook the damage done by the concepts of karma and reincarnation (central to both Hinduism and Buddhism).

Karma…though its specifics are different depending on the religion… generally denotes the cycle of cause and effect — each action a person takes will affect him or her at some time in the future. This rule also applies to a person’s thoughts and words….
With karma, like causes produce like effects: a good deed will lead to a future beneficial effect, while a bad deed will lead to a future harmful effect….
Importantly, karma is wrapped up with the concept of reincarnation or rebirth, in which a person is born in a new human (or nonhuman) body after death. The effects of an action can therefore be visited upon a person in a future life, and the good or bad fortune someone experiences may be the result of actions performed in past lives.
What’s more, a person’s karmic sum will decide the form he or she takes in the next life.
(LiveScience, “What is Karma?”)

To summarize an hour-long discourse, the gist of my friend’s opinion: Besides being superstitious nonsense physically and intellectually unsubstantiated, karma essentially credits people for their successes and blames them for their failures. Your success is justified because it is either something you have achieved yourself in the here and now or it is the result of your good deeds in your previous life – the fact that you happened to be born in a powerful class/caste/gender/time period can be conveniently ignored.  As for that poor Dalit (aka, “Untouchable“) man you sometimes run across, who does your laundry, sweeps your streets, unblocks your sewers with this bare hands and does other “unclean” work out of economic necessity? Yeah, that’s unfortunate for him, but who are you to interfere with his experience of cause and effect? It’s his karma; obviously, he did something bad in his previous life and/or has something to work out in this one….

There are so many Life Factors we humans don’t – or don’t wish to – understand (or even acknowledge), including those of luck and circumstance.  In particular, people who are happy and successful are often hesitant to attribute their well-off circumstances, even in part, to the happenstance of their birth into the “right” (or at least more opportunity-providing) society/class/ethnicity/gender. People can be reluctant, even nervous, to admit that not everything is in their own control. This reluctance paves the way for religion/supernaturalism to step in with, “Don’t worry – here’s the answer!” or, “Sure, there *is* an answer, but it’s too much for mere mortal minds to comprehend so just trust in what we tell you and one day in the future/heaven/your next life you’ll get it….”

As to BEFC’s presentation, certainly the attitude embodied in the Buddhist saying (about the journey from blaming others, yourself, and then no one), has some merit, in the positive mindset/know thyself realm.  But to avoid the fact that some things are mostly or even entirely out of your hand, and that sometimes other people and/or social frameworks and institutions *are* to blame – ignoring reality is not how we combat injustice.

The karma concept has always reminded me of a much-loathed – by moiself , at least – allegedly inspirational phrase from my own culture, which states that it is admirable and possible to Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.  The thing is, in order to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, you have to have a pair of boots in the first place – you either can afford a pair of boots, or someone has given you boots. With straps.

 

Although I’m onboard with RuPaul pulling up any boot with any kind of strap.

 

A Black American family, working and saving diligently to be first-time home owners, can have the most positive attitude in the world, but when their mortgage application is denied, their “blaming no one” will not help them “arrive” on their journey to financial security when that loan denial is due to reasons out of their control.    [5]   “Blaming no one” will not alleviate the injustice when the family has been redlined, due to their skin color and/or the neighborhood in which they currently live and/or the neighborhood where the house they wish to purchase is located.

The concept of karma arose and survived because, like all religious philosophies, it tries to explain the unexplainable, and many of us are uncomfortable with uncertainty. Life is complex; there is much we don’t understand, about the physical world around us and the inner world of people’s thoughts motivations, and humans evolved to see and seek patterns even where none exist.  But worldviews which admit to this reality – “Hey, this stuff is complicated and no one has all the answers” – don’t get many followers (and even fewer collection plate donations and tax credits).

Ah, karma. “What goes around comes around“…if only.  Don’t we all know too many people whose actions merit shit pie, yet Life keeps serving them Crème Brûlée?

 

“For every action there is an equal and opposite re-action”

Karma and other religious principles are sometimes quoted as if they were one of Newton’s Laws of Motion, yet they are not even close to qualifying as laws of physics, let alone testable hypotheses.  The karmic premises of cause and effect –

“each action  (as well as a person’s thoughts and words) a person takes will affect him or her at some time in the future,” and
“like causes produce like effects”

– are

(1) presumptuous;
(2) not borne out by objective data, and often refuted by experience;
(3) antithetical to the reality of injustice and systemic bigotry;
(4) aren’t the first three reasons enough?

Most abhorrent of all, whether you call it karma or one of those other, “You can do whatever you dream/You make your own reality” philosophies, such concepts lay the foundation for victim-blaming.

 

“… the accused had entered the West Delhi residence of the minor with the intent to ransack, but attacked (a 12-year-old girl) after she spotted him….
Besides the sexual assault, the girl was hit on the face and head with a sharp object. She was found lying in a pool of blood by her neighbours….
The girl has multiple head fractures and bite marks all over her body. She has been brutally assaulted to the extent that there are injury marks on every part of her body….”
(“Two days after 12-year-old beaten, sexually assaulted, one held
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who visited the hospital, said the brutality inflicted on the girl has “shaken is soul” and the government will hire the best lawyers to bring the guilty to justice.”
Indianexpress.com)

Two disturbing facts of life are that (1) sometimes people chose to do bad things and good people can simply be in the wrong place at the wrong time;  and (2) cultural/gender privilege and systemic bias exist.  But people won’t try to change that which they won’t acknowledge as existing…or which can be explained away by concepts like karma.

The white 16-year-old by pulled over by a cop for a minor traffic infraction (then let go with a warning) has the privilege of escaping violent stereotypes associated with his race, in a way that his 16-year-old Black classmate – pulled over for the same infraction yet subjected to an unwarranted drug test/vehicle and body search by the suspicious cop – does not.  Neither boy is experiencing the “karma” – or “cause and effect” –  of their own relatively short lives; rather, their immediate circumstances are determined by the biases of others who hold power over them.

Nothing that 12-year-old girl (in the above news story) did or could ever do is responsible for or related to the brutality which was done to her. Anyone who would even entertain a mindset which would allow for that possibility needs to wash out their mind with soap.

*   *   *

Departments Of Exceptions To The Rule

Moiself  is, however, grateful for whomever dreamed up the concept of karma, if only for the fact that it (eventually) led to one of the best “The Far Side” cartoons, ever.

I wasn’t able to find the cartoon itself, so use your imagination.  First, picture the silhouette of a classic Far Side Woman. ®  

 

 

The cartoon consists of a single panel: two flies are on a refrigerator door. Looming over and behind them we see the shadow of Far Side Woman ®, her upraised arm holding a fly swatter.  One fly says to the other,

“I guess I should have been nicer to my wife when I was alive;
this is the third time I’ve been reincarnated as a fly in her kitchen.”

*   *   *

Department Of Idiocy Makes My Brain Hurt
Sub-Department Of Let’s Just Cancel those Pesky Qualities of Imagination And Empathy, Part 102.7 In A Contemptibly Long Series
Adjunct to the Sub-Sub Division Of Why My Own Profession
Has Left A Bad Taste In My Mouth For Years

 

One of the worst things for writers is not to be censored, but to self-censor in fear of crossing the sensibilities and preferences of others.

 

 

I’ve written before of my frustration with and loathing for the “cultural appropriation” tribalism/mob mentality that has infected the world of literary fiction…and I’ll doubtless have cause to lament about it again.  The latest instigation was a Fresh Air interview (a rerun, which I heard for the first time, this week) with actor/producer Kerry Washington.

Washington has been nominated for Emmy awards for acting in and co-producing the series, “Little Fires Everywhere,” which was adapted from the bestselling novel by Celeste Ng.  Washington is Black; in the novel, the ethnicity of Mia, the character Washington plays, is never mentioned.  Podcast host Terry Gross asked Washington how changing the character’s race changed the story and the story’s subtext. Washington said that casting herself in the role was the idea of her producing partners.

Washington (my emphases):

“…They had the idea to call me up and send me the book and ask me if I wanted to do it. And I thought it was an amazing idea. Of course, when I read it, I was reading it through the lens of Mia being Black because I’m Black. I think the novel is so much about identity and how the roles and the context of our identity contributes to how we live and relate to others in the world. So we knew that adding this layer of race would add to that complexity in an exciting way.
Then when I met Celeste Ng, the writer, for the first time, she actually admitted to me that she had always thought of Mia as a woman of color and that she had been drawn to the idea of writing Mia as a Black woman. But she didn’t feel like she had the authoritative voice to do that in the right way.”

I felt sucker-punched to hear that…yet I was hardly surprised.  I’ve little doubt that author Ng’s hesitation about her “authoritative voice” was due to her anticipating charges of cultural appropriation (and the very real possibility of being boycotted by publishers, who would fear such a backlash): as in, how dare Ng think that she, an Asian (read: non-Black) writer, could create a full-blooded, multi-faceted, Black character?

So:

* Although the Asian-American author imagined a Black woman as this lead character, she couldn’t bring herself to actually write her as such;

* Nevertheless, this Asian/non-Black writer was so successful in creating a compelling story about “identity and how the roles and the context of our identity contributes to how we live and relate to others in the world” that a Black actor could identify with this lead character as Black;

* And it was acceptable for the series’ casting director and other lead actor and producers to suggest casting the character as Black, and the Black actor allowed herself to take the role (“an amazing idea”), which was created by an Asian, non-Black writer….

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Worst First (and last) Date Ever

Dateline: an early morning walk, listening to a Curiosity Daily (“a unique mix of research-based life hacks, the latest science and technology news”). One of the podcast’s topics was how male angler fish fuse with their mates without risking immune system rejection.

Narration: “… (the) male angler fish latches on, and begins to dissolve. As his tissues and circulatory system meld with the female’s, eventually most of his body parts and organs disintegrate, leaving his girl with only a pair of reproductive organs to remember him by. This is called sexual parasitism, and it’s totally unique to the anglerfish…”

Moiself” ‘Sexual parasitism is unique to the angler fish’ ” – really? ‘Cause I’ve heard stories from friends that would curl your hair (or dissolve your organs)….”

 

 

I’m thinking, is there a Barry White song which could possibly make this kind of coupling bearable?  Nope; nada.  Gotta be something more post-punk….

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of News Stories Like This Make Moiself  Struggle With My Humanity…
Because I Am *So* On The Side Of The First Victim

This post, earlier this week on Facebook, from an Oregon Coast news bulletin board:

HUNTER KILLED BY ELK
” (Man, name; age, residence) was archery hunting on private property…. Man  wounded a 5X5 bull elk but was unable to locate it before dark.
Man and the landowner attempted to find the wounded bull on the morning of (the next day) at approximately 9:15 A.M., Man located the bull and attempted to kill it with his bow. The elk charged Man and gored him in the neck with its antlers. The landowner attempted to help Man but he sustained fatal injuries and died.
The elk was killed and the meat was donated to the Tillamook County Jail….”

The lead sentence (which I omitted) in the post was, “Please send prayers for the family!”  Moiself’s  instinctive (if admittedly unsympathetic) reaction was, “F*** no; he got what he deserved!  The elk was tortured, wandering for over 12 hours with a grievous wound….”

It was nice (? perhaps moiself  should seek another word) to realize, as per several comments on the article, that I was not the only heartless judgmental bastard person concerned with the issue behind the issue:

* for the elk, this was literally a matter of life and death

* for the hunter, it was sport, and maybe some tasty elk steaks for the freezer   [6]

Along with the posts saying, “Prayers to the deceased and his family”, I spotted several comments along the lines of, “Prayers for the poor elk’s family & friends.”

 

Whaddya think – would I look just as majestic decapitated and mounted above someone’s fireplace?

*   *   *

May you enjoy the exceptions to the rules;
May you cherish the simple windfalls of life, like not having an angler fish for a mate;
May you never give an elk (or any other animal) cause to think, “It’s him or me!”;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Nothing about the concept of white privilege claims or implies that there are no poor/struggling white folk….arrrrrrgh.

[2] With which I was mostly familiar, although there are several streams of Buddhist thought, and without the original post I cannot say for sure if the post-er was referencing Mahayana, Theravada, Vajrayana, or modern variants and “branches” of the those streams.

[3] As in, Wine and Deep Thoughts ® were involved.

[4] Part of our conversation included the fact that, by even acknowledging the Indian caste system, he might be creating “bad karma” for himself, as many higher-caste Indians who now live in America – and if they have the means to come here they are from the higher castes – surprise! – would rather pretend, in front of non-Indian Americans, that such a thing goes not exist. The social stratification of Indian society – including the emphasis of skin color and the bias against dark skin – is seen as an embarrassing cultural relic, yet, since it benefits them…why work to change it?

[5] Reasons which will be couched in other terms – the real reason will *never* be admitted to by the loan officers because although redlining is technically illegal, it is still practiced

[6] With the emphasis on sport.  Subsistence hunters don’t go for elk with bows and arrows on their landowner friend’s private acreage, and don’t care if it the animal they hunt, out of absolute necessity, is a “5×5″( a ranking system which refers to the points in each side of the antler rack).

The Saga I’m Not Ending

Comments Off on The Saga I’m Not Ending

Notice to new (or returning) readers: Welcome!


This week’s post will make a lot more sense…

 

 

Excuse moiself ?  I am not saying it will make *total* sense, so I see no need for the sarcastic intrusion….

I’ll begin again.

This week’s post is the second of a two-parter. It will make a lot more sense  [1]     if you read (or reread) last week’s post (here) first. That said….

 

 

I was in the fifth grade. One day my classmate Kelly told me her said she could invite me to her house after school to go swimming. I usually wriggled out of invitations which involved spending time inside Kelly’s house, which was…disheartening. It was dark, even in the summer, even with the lights on, and it was – I cringe today to think it, just as I did back then, but there’s no way around it – just filthy.  It reeked of old trash and cat urine; the one time I’d had a sleepover there I spotted cockroaches in the kitchen when Kelly’s older sister showed Kelly and I how to make fudge from scratch.

Kelly’s widowed mother, whom I liked (she was kind to me and told funny jokes, and knew all the words to my favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs), worked long hours as a hospital nurse. She apparently had neither the time nor inclination to clean house, and was unable to convince or command her three children to do so, either.  But Kelly’s backyard consisted of a swimming pool!  She was the only friend I knew who had one, and I eagerly accepted her invitation. I’ll need to go home, check with my mom, and get my swimsuit and a towel, I told her. Kelly suggested she ride on the back of my bike with me to my house to get my stuff, then we’d go to her place.

I peddled us toward my house, with Kelly perched on the bookrack attached to my bike’s rear axle. As we reached the main part of Martha Lane (ML) I updated Kelly about the ML kids’ war with the neighborhood cranks.

“That’s them,” I said, pointing to the Wagners’ house, when we were about 100 feet away. “The brown house up there on the left.”

“Can we sing it – let’s sing The Song!” Kelly begged me.  But without my ML crew to back me up, I was too chicken hesitant.  Then when we were about forty feet from the Wagners’ house, I noticed that their ever-present Cadillac was not in their driveway. I figured they were not home, and it was safe.

I slowed down, and told Kelly we could sing The Song, but not loudly.  Kelly teased me for my lack of vocal enthusiasm (“That’s not singing, that’s practically whispering“) as I peddled us past the Wagner house.

♫  We hate you Wagners/
oh yes we do….♫

When we got to my house my older sister, already home from her school and engrossed in homework, informed me that our mother had gone to the grocery store.  I decided not to tell her what Kelly and I had done. I wanted her approval, but thought Kelly would rat me out for being chickenshit and only singing The Song when I thought the Wagners weren’t home.  I told my sister to tell Mom that I was going to Kelly’s house. I put my swimsuit on under my clothes, Kelly hopped onto the back of my bike, and we headed off.

As I steered my bicycle out of our driveway a brownish-gold sedan crossed Pacific Ave into our cul-de-sac.  It caught my attention because it was not any of the neighbor’s cars (that I recognized) and was driving very slowly.  The sedan circled the end of the cul-de-sac, then drove right up alongside my bicycle as I stopped to check for cross traffic at Pacific Ave.

The driver was clad in a suit and hat which matched the color of his car.  He rolled down his window and signaled with his hand for me to come closer. I stood stock still, my feet planted on either side of my bike’s frame. He’s probably one of those perverts who tries to kidnap kids, I thought.  I began to calculate how long it would take Kelly and I to hop off of my bike and run back to my house.

“Are you the girls who rode a bicycle down this street a few minutes ago?” Sedan Man pointed up Martha Lane, in the direction of the Wagner house.

Kelly mumbled something to me. “Don’t talk to him,” I shushed Kelly.  I looked the man squarely in the eyes, trying to appear as savvy and tough as possible.  “He’s a stranger; we don’t know who he is.”

Sedan Man repeated his question. I could feel my bicycle frame shaking, and reached my hand back to reassure Kelly, who was trembling.  “Go away,” I said to him, “or we’ll call the police.”

“I *am* the police.” Sedan Man pulled a wallet from his suit breast pocket and held out an ID card which had his picture on it and a Santa Ana Police Department shield.

“That’s not a police car,” I said to Kelly.

“I’m a detective.”  Sedan Man waved his ID card.  He said was investigating harassment charges brought by the Wagners, and needed to speak with my parents. I should return home *now* he insisted, pointing toward my house.

“He saw where we came from,” Kelly whispered. She pleaded with me to return home.  We both got off my bicycle and walked back to back to my driveway as the man parked his sedan in front of my house. I was determined *not* to let him inside; I leaned my bicycle against the massive Japanese elm in our front yard and led Kelly up the front yard walkway to sit beside me n the concrete steps of our front porch – the entry no one in the family (and no one who knew us) used.   [2]   Sedan Detective Man followed us to the porch. He stood over us, with one foot on the walkway and the other on the porch’s bottom step, and began to question us.

He wanted to speak with my parents; where were they?  Would I go get them, or should he knock on the door?  I told him my father was at work and would be home after 7 pm, my mother was at the store and would be back any minute, and my older siblings were inside watching TV (I only had one older sibling but I wanted him to think there were a lot of people in my house). He asked the same questions of Kelly, who said nothing. She sat beside me, silently staring down at her shoes.

The Wagners were being harassed by the ML kids, Sedan Detective Man said. The police knew all about it, he added, and Kelly and I were “in serious trouble.” He demanded to speak to my parents; I replied as before: “My dad’s at work; he’ll be back after 7. My mom’s at the store;  she’ll be back soon.”

Sedan Detective Man turned his gaze to Kelly and asked about her parents.  I began to explain that Kelly didn’t live in this neighborhood; he jabbed his long, bony index finger in my direction, silenced me with a glare, and repeated his question to Kelly. She was obviously frightened as he pressed her for information.  She managed to squeak out that her mother at work. She was a nurse, and wouldn’t be back until her shift was over, around 11:30 pm…. her voice trailed off.

“What about your father? Hey, look at me when I’m talking to you. Tell me how I can contact your father – I need to speak with him.”

Kelly briefly raised her head.  “My dad…” she lowered her eyes. I could see her chin begin to quiver.

“‘My dad…'” The detective mocked Kelly’s high-pitched, quavering voice.  “Your dad, what? You have a dad, right? I need to speak to him.”

Kelly hugged her knees to her chest and shook her head, almost imperceptibly, as if she had a nervous tic.

“What does that mean – I can’t speak with your dad?  Why?  Is he out of town?  Did he leave you and your mom – are your parents divorced?”

A tear dribbled down Kelly’s cheek and dropped onto her knee. I thought I might explode with suppressed rage, and just for a moment wondered how much time I would get “in juvie” for head-butting a detective’s nutsack.

“Stop it,” I muttered to Sedan Man, through clenched teeth.

Like a school bully or a shark smelling blood, the detective homed in on the perceived weaker target. He kept pressing Kelly, who was visibly shaking at this point.

What about your father – when is he available? I can’t wait until midnight to talk with your mother. Tell me where your father is – why won’t you look up, are you ashamed of him….

Kelly let out a low moan, and began pinching the skin of her forearm with her thumb and index finger.

I interrupted the detective with all of the, *none-of-your-fucking business,* fifth-grade gravitas I could muster.

“You can’t talk to her father. He’s dead.”

Several years earlier Kelly’s parents had separated, and her father moved out of the family house to an apartment.  The day after Kelly’s mother went to his apartment and confronted him with proof of his infidelity, Kelly’s father shot himself in the head.

The detective, of course, had no way of knowing this.  Even so, Kelly’s distress was evident, and he continued to badger an anguished child.

Well, why didn’t you say your dad had died?  Why didn’t you just….

At that propitious moment, our station wagon pulled into our driveway. My mother left a sack of groceries in the passenger’s seat and walked toward us, a look of polite confusion on her face as she beheld a strange man standing over her daughter and her daughter’s friend – all three of them on the front porch, where *nobody* went.

The detective’s entire demeanor changed with an adult present, which made me despise him all the more.  His malevolent mien morphed into one of professional solicitude, and he introduced himself to my mother with a smile and a doff of his hat.

I inched closer to Kelly, wanting to comfort her without embarrassing her – I could tell she did not want my mother to know that she’d been crying. Meanwhile, the two adults talked, at first as if Kelly and I were not present. The detective informed my mother of the situation; she listened, then asked me if Kelly and I had sung The Song. I looked her in the eye and said that we had, but we thought the Wagners weren’t home, and…. She put up her hand, motioning for me to stop talking. She told the detective that yes, the neighborhood children had perhaps taken their pranks too far, but did the detective know what the Wagners had done to egg them on? And Kelly did not live on Martha Lane, and had nothing to do with….

I was amazed to hear my mother speak to the detective.  She was a shy person, introverted with strangers, particularly male authority figures – and back then all males were authority figures (or acted as if they were) to all women.  My mother had heretofore never displayed anything I would have mistaken for a spine; it must have taken a lot for her to stand her ground with that man.  He asked more questions of her, all of which she politely but firmly deflected. She told him that he needed to speak with her husband about the matter, and if he’d give her his business card she would have her husband call him.

The detective left his card with my mother and left our street with me throwing silent curses at his butt-ugly, doggy-doo-colored sedan.  My mother asked me to take the groceries inside and set the table for dinner, and said she’d give Kelly a ride home. I never found out what, if anything, she and Kelly talked about on the ride; the next day at school both Kelly and I pretended that the previous day had never happened.

That evening, mere minutes after my father got home from work   [3] and had spoken with my mother, I stood with my back to the living room wall, listening to my father as he spoke on the kitchen telephone   [4] with the detective. 

My father prided himself on his diplomacy, which was in full force that evening. He was firm and reasonable, considerate but not quite conciliatory. What follows is his end of the conversation, from memory, as paraphrased by moiself . He started with introductions and personal chitchat, deftly and swiftly gleaning that the detective also had teen and preteen children.  He told the detective that

“the neighborhood teenagers”  [5]  had taken things a bit too far, but the police likely did not know all the facts.  I will declare the Wagners and their house off-limits to our family and will spread the word among the other Martha Lane parents, but I also need you to realize something:  the children’s behavior is immature to say the least, but these are *kids.* What is Mr. and Mrs. Wagner’s excuse – who are the “adults” in this situation?  It is unlikely the Wagners have admitted to you their *years* of harassment of the neighborhood (both children, and their parents).  The Wagners played an equal part in this vendetta – in fact, it began with them.  If you would interview other families in the neighborhood you would find out about that. And both you and I, as parents, know that when adults hassle kids past a certain point, even good kids will fight back.”

After speaking with the detective, my father telephoned Mr. Wagner.  He told Mr. Wagner that the kids were in the wrong; Mr. Wagner told my father that Mrs. Wagner was suffering health effects from being harassed by the neighborhood children, and agreed that things had gotten out of hand.  It was interesting to listen to my father saying something that, if you didn’t know the context, would sound nonsensical:  the children should “stop their singing their songs” and that perhaps everyone, the children of Martha Lane and the Wagners, could just steer clear of one another?

After an unusually silent dinner time my parents excused my younger sister from the table and asked her to take our toddler brother to the living room to watch TV. My parents remained at the kitchen table, and spoke privately with my older sister and I.  My father did most of the talking.  In a serious but not angry manner, he told us what had transpired with his phone calls (I said nothing about my eavesdropping).  We were to stop all contact with the Wagners, and inform our friends that the Wagner house was a demilitarized zone – off limits to all; no exceptions.  The Wagners agreed to drop their harassment charges, but were prepared to reinstate them if there were any more “incidents” (the detective told my father that the case would remain open for a couple of weeks to “see how things go.”).

Later that evening my father phoned several of the neighborhood children’s parents and explained the situation to them. He asked them to spread the word to other parents: the children of Martha Lane are to act as if the Wagners do not exist.  And, that was that, my parents said.  It’s over.

Except that for me, it wasn’t.  Unbeknownst to my parents or siblings, I cried myself to sleep that night, and for weeks afterward.

 

If only she’d had a baby sloth to hug.

 

It’s funny to me, in retrospect, how adults neglect to explain How Things Work ®  to children, because their adult minds don’t go down all the paths that a child’s mind will take.  I thought I had a criminal record! And that it would follow me the rest of my life!  That made me feel frightened, anxious, hopeless…and fence-kicking, hornet-spitting, furious.

I feared my parents were disappointed in me, and me alone. And I was steaming angry about the fact that the majority of the “harassment” tactics had come from the older kids  –  teens, like my sister, The Consummate Good Girl/Model Child ®.  My sister and her friend made up that damn stupid song, had sung it with their friends “at” the Wagners, then taught it to me and my friends and urged us to sing it whenever we could….and guess who got caught?

In my family’s script my older sister was The Good Child ®  –  polite and obedient and respectful of authority, while I was the imp/rabble rouser/mischief-maker.  But family roles and labels (“this is the smart one, and this is the clever one, and this is the sweet one…”)  are always far more complicated than surface perceptions.  *I* knew, from personal experience, that my sister was not the goody-two-shoes her teachers and parents thought she was.  But the fact that she and her friends could “get away” with what had happened while I was implicated – that was typical.

There is nothing like the righteous indignation of a wrong adolescent. I avoided fully considering my own culpability in the Wagner harassment by focusing on (what I thought was) the colossal injustice done to me – and poor Kelly, by association.

But, I digress.

 

 

I didn’t sleep well for weeks after the visit from Undercover Detective Asshat.  My throat would tighten and my fists would clench whenever I saw a sedan that reminded me of that detective’s car – and every such vehicle was, to me, potentially an unmarked police car… and, BTW, unmarked cars for police?  How unfair?!?! Detectives must be a slimy bunch, to sneak around like that….

My reaction was only slightly less volatile when I saw a regular, black and white police car cruiser; I held a silent but deadly   [6]  grudge against cops.

How that plainclothes detective had treated Kelly – those memories and feelings stayed with me for years.  However, time eventually did what time eventually does, and by high school I had gotten over my indignation.

But here (yes, after all this) is what prompted my telling of this My Encounter With The Police ® story:  judging from the reactions of many (white) people to the Black Lives Matter movement, some folks just don’t seem to understand the simple yet profound idea that people’s experiences color and inform their perceptions.

I got over what had happened with that vile, abusive, unprofessional detective – I was able to navigate through the world and let go of my anger – in part because during the ensuing years I had few if any encounters with “law enforcement officers.”  I was able to see the incident as just that – an incident; an aberration.

I was a white girl.

All the “players” in the My Encounter With The Police ®  story were white.

What if I had been Black, or Latina?  Would the detective have shown as much deference to my mother if she were Mexican-American?  Would he have been as respectful and agreeable to my father, who argued for considering the perspective of the “harassing” children, if my father had been a Black man? What if all of the neighborhood children had been a different “shade” than the Wagners – would the detective have agreed to drop the investigation?  What if the Wagners had been Black – would their complaints have been investigated, or even given serious consideration?

Knowing what I now know now, the answers to all of those questions would be a regrettable but accurate, Are you fucking kidding me?  No.

As I passed from grade school  [7]   through junior and then high school, I slowly came to realize that my darker-skinned peers had many more negative experiences with the police, and for matters far more trivial than “singing that song” and with far different outcomes than my family had experienced (“It’s a crime, you know, to drive while Mexican,” my “cruiser car” buddy GS, a Chicano, once joked to me).

Your experiences shape your perceptions.  Too few white people are beginning to consider that idea, vis-à-vis Black and Brown people and the police and other governmental forces; fewer still are able to summon the introspection necessary to examine their visceral reaction to the complex ideas and realities behind concepts like, Defund the police.

And for those of us in this better-late-than-never category, I’ll apply my dinner party analogy. Specifically, how I feel about guests whom I looked forward to seeing (that’s why I invited them: I don’t ask people to dinner if I don’t like them), and they showed up…eventually:

Welcome to the party y’all!

You’re hours late; you missed the appetizers and first courses
and the entrée and we’re halfway through dessert…
but it’s great to see you and we’re happy
you showed up in time to help with the dishes.

*   *   *

May you be a helpful voice in the Defund the Police conversation;
May you discern when to use your voice and when it’s better to listen to other’s voices;  [8]

May you always arrive in time to help with the dishes;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] If you don’t know or remember the significance behind the phrase “the ML kids’ war with the neighborhood cranks” then there’s no point in reading further without reading the previous post.

[2] Friends and family used the side entrance to our house, which led to the kitchen. If someone knocked on our front door that was a giveaway that it was a stranger, or a solicitor.

[3] About 5:20p and not after 6p, like I’d told the detective. Yep, I lied to the creep.

[4] Which was, at the time, our only telephone.

[5] my dad’s words. Although Kelly and I were preteens, it was the older kids who had instigated the anti-Wagner campaign,

[6] You knew I had to get a fart reference in the story,  somewhere…somehow.

[7] A story like this should have more footnotes. Or, less.

[8] As in, the voices of other people, not the voice you may hear in your head that sounds like your demon uncle ordering you to vote for anything wearing a MAGA hat and then strangle a baby hamster.

The Fond Childhood Memories I’m Not Reliving

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Department Of Now I’ve Seen Everything

Dateline: Wednesday, circa 4pm, outside a grocery store.  A woman who exited the store ahead of me scurries to a spot around 30 feet from the store’s exit door. She pulls a cigarette and lighter from her purse, pulls down her mask and lights up.  She proceeds to take several long, desperate drags of the cigarette, pulling her mask up inbetween, in a bizarre ritual: lower mask; suck on her death sticks; exhale; raise mask; wait five seconds; repeat.

Lady, just take down your mask, go into a filthy public restroom, run your bare hands over every surface and then touch your hands to your face and mouth and rub your eyes. Get it over with.

Celebrities like Ben Affleck won’t let a pesky pandemic stop their slow suicide, so why should she?

 

*   *   *

Department of Yep, This.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of My Defund The Police Story

In the ongoing Defund the Police ® debate, some folks declare that an alternative phrase for police reform is needed. It seems that too many (white) people read or hear “defund” and lose their shit react defensively.  They interpret “defund” as doing away with police forces entirely, instead of the how the term is used by reform activists: as shorthand for reallocating funds from police departments to non-policing forms of public safety and community support, (e.g. social, mental health, housing and education services).

Moiself  has heard this defensive reaction explained along these lines:

White people get defensive and even frightened at that notion (doing away with police) because white people associate police with security, in ways that communities of color, because of their collective history with aggressive and discriminatory policing, do not.

Sometime in the late 1970s-early 1980s, I read a feature article in a So Cal newspaper about police officer recruitment.  Police chiefs were just starting to realize that for community policing to be effective the police force needed to be representative of all members of the community.  Given the rising number of Vietnamese immigrants in So Cal, local police departments were trying, and mostly failing, to recruit Vietnamese-Americans.  The reason for that failure was not apparent to the majority white police staff, until a cultural liaison enlightened them:

The police forces in Vietnam, and several other Asian countries, were considered to be corrupt, and the average Southeast Asian immigrant’s contact with them had been unpleasant.  Thus, young Asian men   [1] who might have been interested in being recruited were discouraged from doing so by their parents, who thought policing a dishonorable profession.

There’s a very basic lesson here: your experiences color your perception.

 

 

Yep, that seems evident on a Psychology 101 level. Moiself  thinks it’s a bit more far-reaching than that, and ties into the Black Lives Matter movement in a variety of ways and from a variety of perspectives…including the one I am about to share here.

Little known fact about moiself :  from about my 5th to 8th grade years, I hated and feared the police. I held particular fear and loathing for men I suspected were undercover cops in unmarked cars. This is because of an experience I had….

Translation: there is a story to be told.

Key elements of this story (“The Wagner Incident”) became much beloved by my family as the years past.  My parents in particular loved for my older sister and I to recall the tale, and I always obliged.  However, most of my family never knew that I was actually quite traumatized by what happened.

There is (unfortunately or yee-haw! depending on your enjoyment of background information) stage-setting to be done, for this Drama of Shakespearean Importance.   [2]

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, my family lived in a house on Martha Lane in Santa Ana (CA).  Martha Lane extended west from a major thoroughfare down to a cross-street (Pacific Ave.) which led to the local community college.  [3]  Across Pacific Ave., Martha Lane continued as a cul-de-sac, where my family’s house was located.    [4]

The Wagners were an older couple   [5]  whose house was on the main part of Martha Lane (ML).  The Wagners had gained a reputation – not a good one – among the other denizens of ML.   Mr. Wagner, occasionally accompanied by Mrs. Wagner, walked their massive dog twice daily around the neighborhood.  They made of one or two loops around the main portion of ML (they did not cross the street to the cul-de-sac), and they let their dog defecate on other people’s lawns. They made no attempt to pick it up the droppings or at least “curb” their dog; they let him go where he wanted to go.   [6]  

Some of the neighbors began to come out of their houses and speak to Mr. Wagner as he made his rounds.  At first they politely suggested – then, as time passed and the poop accumulated, they increasingly and more frustratingly demanded – that the Wagners’ dog should do its doggie business at their own home, and not foul other people’s property.  The Wagners ignored all such requests, with Mr. Wagner on a couple of such occasions responding with strongly-worded suggestions as to what the other homeowners could do with his dog’s “business.”

Petty, inconsiderate neighbor shit, so to speak, right? Nothing either novel or earth-shattering.

 

 

There were other actions the Wagners took that, looking back, seemed almost intentionally aimed at making them the scourge of the neighborhood.  It was as if the Wagners got some kind of petty pleasure in taunting their neighbors, in particular, the Young People ®.  I can find no other explanation for their behavior.

As a Girl Scout, moiself  had the twice-a-year fundraising duties (which I loathed) of going from house to house in my neighborhood, peddling Girl Scout Cookies in the spring and Girl Scout Calenders   [7] in the fall.  The Wagners did not have a no soliciting sign on their porch; nevertheless, the first time I rang their doorbell on behalf of the Scouts I received a very snooty dismissal from Mrs. Wagner, when a simple, “We’re not interested” would have sufficed.  The second (and last) time I approached their house as a Girl Scout (having forgotten about the first incident, since six months had passed), Mrs. Wagner apparently saw me coming, and couldn’t wait until I set foot on her porch to reject my sales pitch.   Before I’d taken three steps from the sidewalk to her driveway her front door flew open and she came barreling out of her house.  Her voluminous bat wings shook along with her index finger, which she waggled at me while she bellowed about how she didn’t want to buy anything.

I fled the Wagner driveway with as much dignity as I could muster.  Later, I compared stories with other neighborhood kids, whom, I discovered, had experienced similar treatment when they were seeking donations for, say, a school paper drive or other charities.  The next time I had to do my GS soliciting I remembered my lesson, and as I left the porch of the house *before* the Wagners’ I proceeded on to the house *after* the Wagners’.  As I did so, Mrs. Wagner once again came charging out of the house into her driveway – how strange, I later thought, as she must have been sitting by her front window, just waiting for…what?  For a youngster to yell at? – and proceeded to berate me. Apparently, I was a stand-in for all the neighborhood children, as she began her rant with, “YOU KIDS….”  I hadn’t even made the slightest indication of stopping at her house – I was just walking past it, on the sidewalk!

 

At least she wasn’t armed with a garden hose.

 

Sharing and comparing stories – that’s what kids in a ‘hood do. As the years passed the older kids began to compile a hefty dossier of Wagner Incidents, many of them involving the holidays.  A few neighbors told about “Christmas incidents,” stories I cannot now recall,   [8]  and every July 4 we heard about how the Wagners did their own fireworks in the street in front of their house, then loudly complained if their next door or across-the-street neighbor’s – in particular, their neighbor’s children or grandchildren – did the same…or just yelled at teens who were walking on the other side of the street, on their way to a friend’s family’s fireworks party.

October 31 seemed to bring out the worst (or weirdest) in the Wagners. On Halloween night the Wagners always turned their porch light on and hung Halloween decorations on their front door, then were randomly and mystifyingly rude to the kids who rang their doorbell.  In our neighborhood the trick-or-treaters tended to go in groups of four or more children; the Wagners would often single out someone in your group, make disparaging remarks about a costume they didn’t like, then give candy to some kids and not to others.  Sometimes, as if on a whim, they would answer the doorbell, refuse to give candy (from the big jar they had on display) to anyone, and shoo your entire group off their porch.   [9]

 

 

Like many grade school-aged children, I found the world of adults both baffling and boring. Unless a home contained children of my or my siblings’ ages, I didn’t pay much attention as to who lived in what house on my block. It took a couple of years for it to sink in:  you don’t go to the Wagner‘s house for Halloween…or anything else.

Can you guess what kind of attitude among the neighbors, in particular among the youth of Martha Lane, was engendered by the Wagners, toward the Wagners?

 

“I knew you could, boys and girls.”

 

There were many more incidents that my older sister and her friends shared with moiself and my friends. Slowly but surely, a vendetta arose. The older kids in the neighborhood had had it with the Wagners, and conspired to tease them at every opportunity. 

My older sister and her friend rewrote lyrics to the tune of, “We Love You Conrad,” (a song from the Broadway musical, Bye Bye Birdie): 

♫  We hate you Wagners
Oh yes we do
We don’t hate anyone
like you
When you are near us,
P.U.!
Oh Wagners we hate you.  ♫

 

 

Yeah; I know – hardly cutting-edge satire. Still, I thought my sister and her friend were so clever when sang me that song, and they were obviously proud of themselves.  They taught the song to all the neighborhood kids, and made us all vow to sing it at any Wagner-sighting opportunity.

Things escalated, as they say, from there. 

Early one hot summer night a bunch of us ML kids were hanging out on the corner of Pacific and ML, negotiating which chase/tag game we would play that evening (Green Monster? Hide n’ Seek?)  We spotted Mrs. Wagner up the street, identifiable from even 200 feet away by her towering, glow-in-the-dark white beehive hairdo and imperious, waddling stride.  She was walking her dog, and one of us in the group – I can’t remember who but it might have been me or my older sister – had the brilliant idea to begin humming the Miss America theme song:

♫  There she is…Miss America…
There she is, your ideal…. ♫ 

Silly stuff – hardly the material of celebrity stalking lawsuits.  Even so, it apparently put a burr under Mrs. Wagner’s saddle (or that ridiculous beehive).  Unbeknownst to us kids, when Mrs. Wagner returned home she told her husband what we kids had done, and he called the police and insisted they open a harassment investigation.

We hummed the Miss America song  – that’s what put them over the edge?  We didn’t even sing the words.

 

 

Also unbeknownst – to me, at that time – were other incidences of kids taking revenge on the Wagners.  Some older teens who lived on the main section of ML had, with their parents’ knowledge and approval, saved some of the “droppings” the Wagner’s dog left on their lawn.  After accumulating several days’ worth, the kids delivered shovelfuls of feces to the Wagner’s lawn.  When this failed to deter Mr. Wagner from his dog walking/dumping, on July Fourth one family’s teenage son played the proverbial, flaming-sack-of-poop prank on the Wagner’s front porch.  [10]  

That and other incidences enabled the Wagners to convince the police to open a harassment file…or a case…or whatever it was.

 

“Martha Lane Kids v. Wagner” ? – what is this bullshit, Danno?

 

So.  This “case” was going on, without my knowledge.

Then, one day….

 

 

I’ve always wanted to say that.

The story continues, in next week’s post.

*   *   *

May you get to say something you’ve always wanted to say;
May you be mindful of how petty neighborhood disputes can escalate;
May you bear with me until next week;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] And it was only men who were being recruited, at that time.

[2] A slight exaggeration.

[3] The imaginatively named, Santa Ana College.

[4] Those two portions of Martha Lane no longer exist. Under eminent domain, the community college took over the properties in the early 1980s. In archetypical, SoCal development fashion, the area where my family house once stood is now a parking lot.

[5] In their late 60s – early 70s?

[6] Do people still use that term?  For the young ‘uns who may be unfamiliar with it, to curb one’s dog involved pulling it off the curb – away from someone’s  lawn or sidewalk – and making it poop in the street gutter.

[7] Anyone remember those?  The Girl Scouts stopped selling them in 2008.

[8] The Wagners scared off Santa’s reindeer with a shotgun?  Nothing would surprise me.

[9] But they would leave the porch light on – the universal sign of “open for business” for trick-or-treaters – and answer the doorbell when the next group of kids came by.  Yep, we watched, to see what happened.

[10] He filled a brown paper bag with the Wagner’s dog’s droppings, put the bag on the Wagner’s front porch, set it afire, rang their doorbell, and hauled ass up the block.  And yes, when Mr. Wagner answered the doorbell he attempted to stamp out the flames….

The Reality Show I’m Not Watching

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Department Of Peculiar State Mottos

 

 

I love my state, despite its having these three flaws:

(1) the 46th ugliest  [1]  state flag in the USA (it violates at least one of the Five Basic Principles of Flag Design, as per the North American Vexillological Association,  [2]

(2) as well as one of the more perplexing state mottos.

(3) There is no third flaw.

Who was the person who first decreed, “States must have slogans – oh, wait, let’s call them, ‘mottoes!’ ” ? Who convinced others in the government that, with all the to-dos which come with qualifying for statehood,  motto-composing is a good use of time?  That person is lost to history.

Moiself  (motto: “It’s my blog, so there.”) decrees that there are four states vying for Worst State Motto award.  Besides Oregon, they are:

* Connecticut (“He who transplanted sustains.”)

Oh, yeah. That goes without saying.

* New Mexico (“It grows as it goes.”)

Imagine what the NM motto committee was smoking when they thought up that one.

* Maryland (“Manly deeds, womanly words.”)

 

 

Oregon’s state motto is in Latin, because the same doofus who sent out the, “Every state must have a motto” memo also apparently added, “…and if you can’t think of anything profound or at least plausible to say, say it in Latin.”

Thus, Oregon’s motto: Alis volat propriis. Which translates as…

She flies with her own wings.

 

 

Many Oregonians do not know what our state’s motto is. And when they find out, their reaction is not what moiself  imagines was the goal of the motto committee:

WTF does that even MEAN ?!?!?

The general consensus of historians and People Who Try To Care About Such Things ® is that the motto is meant to convey a sense of Oregon’s “tradition of independence and innovation” (e.g., the nation’s first bottle bill, the public beach access bill).  [3]  So yeah; there’s that. But, couldn’t it have been phrased in a more accessible way (“Oregon: pick up your trash and get off our lawn beach.“)?

On the other hand, it could be seen as reassuring to residents of other states: if you meet an Oregonian and she looks like she’s about to takeoff, don’t worry – she has too much pride and self-reliance to steal *your * wings.  So sit back, relax, and enjoy the air show.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Best Song Couplets, V. 2

♫  The weeks went by and spring turned to summer and summer faded into fall/
And it turns out he was a missing person who nobody missed at all.  ♫

( from “Goodbye Earl,” the [band formerly known as the] Dixie Chick’s
ode to taking revenge on an abusive husband )

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Seriously, You Need A List For This?

On Monday, an ad with this headline appeared on my FB feed:

“Five Tips For Wearing Less Makeup.”

The ad’s headline accompanied a picture of an attractive Woman Of A Certain Age ®, which made me think the ad’s content could be along the lines of the standard advice that women who wear makeup should tone it down as they age…or perhaps the ad was related to the COVID shelter-in era, with people not wanting to deal with their usual routines?

I didn’t click on the ad, but instead of just scrolling by, I stared at the inane headline which had caught my eye, and repeated to moiself   the Five Tips For Wearing Less Makeup I would give, gratis, to anyone who asked:

1. Wear less makeup. 2. Wear less makeup. 3. Wear less makeup.
4. Wear less makeup.
5. Set your smartphone’s alarm reminder: Wear less makeup.

*   *   *

Department Of, Once Again, Reality Outdoes Fiction

You cannot make up a line this…rich.

Context:  MH and I, watching a Netflix show, Indian Matchmaking:

“Matchmaker Sima Taparia guides clients in the U.S. and India in the arranged marriage process, offering an inside look at the custom in a modern era.”

I thought at first the show was fiction, then, a documentary, then, after two episodes, I said to MH, “This is a reality show, right?”  (Translation: “We can’t watch it anymore. We don’t watch Those Kind of Shows. ® “)

The line in question came from an Indian-American woman, who spoke with snort-worthy distain about rejecting a man who wasn’t as travel-knowledgeable as she:

“He didn’t know that Bolivia had salt flats.”

 

 

 

That particular woman was one of the matchmaker’s clients featured in the two episodes we watched. She was in her mid-30s, a lawyer, very busy, a world traveler when not working.  Once she’d agreed to matchmaking services ( via evident pressure from her mother and sister ) she began noticing how her married female friends actually spent a significant amount of time with their husbands – an idea which seemed to disgust her. And she found excuse after excuse to object to any matches the matchmaker suggested.

Her predicament led to this tender exchange between me and my life match:

Moiself: “Why is she doing this?  She so obviously doesn’t want to be married.”

MH: “She doesn’t need a husband, she just needs a vibrator.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Convoluted Path Of Memories

Dateline: last Saturday.  I posted on Facebook a list my Swenadian   [4]  friend had sent me: five anecdotes with the theme of memorable, embarrassing misstatements. I actually remember reading (in a newspaper) about the fifth one:

What happens when you predict snow but don’t get any? We had a female news anchor, the day after it was supposed to have snowed and didn’t, who turned to the weatherman and asked,
“So, Bob, where’s that 8 inches you promised me last night?”

 

 

One of the main reasons I tell my stories or share the stories of others is because of what I call the 99% reaction motivation: ala the *I’ll-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours* approach to life, sharing a story almost always prompts others to share their similar stories. Whether it’s an anecdote of a major parental fail I pulled, or imparting someone else’s  *yes-she-really-said-to-the-handsome-golf-pro-that-she-liked-playing-with-men’s-balls* tale, I know that I will soon hear from a buddy about her worst mothering incident (which makes me feel better about mine), or a face-palming moment of their own which will make me laugh harder than the original story.

It’s what I live for.   [5]

Given the number of writers and reporters I know, I was certain that the last of the Five Embarrassing Misstatements stories would generate   [6]  a story in response.  What with newspaper editors asking for copy in terms of inches of print space (“I need six inches for the op-ed….”) I knew my journalism buddies would have similar stories. Sure enough, SDH, a comrade since our junior high school days, posted a doozy.

The next morning at breakfast, MH mentioned SDH’s story, which sent me on a memory flashback. I think about my high school journalism friends often – even posted about them six years ago. Since it’s summertime, I’ll indulge moiself  with a bit of a rerun:

(5-16-2014, excerpts from The Tattoo I’m Not Explaining )

I am currently reading Weedland by Peter HechtSubtitled Inside America’s Marijuana Epicenter and How Pot Went Legit, the book, as per one blurb, is “essential reading for anyone who is a fan of California’s most lucrative agricultural product.”  Which, I am not.  However, I am a fan of Peter Hecht.

I’ve known (and admired and adored) Pete since junior high school.  He was one of my buddies from a group of friends and acquaintances I still think of as the high school journalism gang.

The Write Stuff

Neither K nor Belle have ever brought home (nor even mentioned, sans my prompting) their high school’s newspaper. They both know I’d written for my school paper.   [7]  They know it was a “real” newspaper, with separate pages (and editors and reporters) devoted to news stories, editorial/opinion pieces, entertainment/feature and sports writing. They know that when The Generator, Santa Ana High School’s award-winning biweekly newspaper, was distributed in the school’s classrooms, the teachers and students stopped what they were doing and read it, cover to cover.  They know that students’ parents also read the high school newspaper, and that The Generator ran stories with enough substance to garner parental interest… and complaints.

(“I can’t believe what your reporter/ smart aleck columnist ____ wrote about! That’s no subject fit for a high school newspaper!”)   [8]

 

 

They know all of this because of the stories I’d told them.  And they could not bear to disappoint me when it came to their own school’s pitiful excuse for fishwrap newspaper.

Son K, ever the diplomat, laid it out for me after my third or fourth Why-don’t-you-ever-bring-your-school-newspaper-home? whine petition.

“Mom, our school’s newspaper sucks.
It’s embarrassing…nothing in it but rah-rah stories…
No one reads it and no one cares.”

Think back to your high school history, chemistry, English, or PE classes:  how many of those classmates went on to become historians or chemists or English teachers or pro athletes?  It still amazes me to think of how many of my peers who wrote for The Generator went on to pursue careers in journalism in one form or another. Along with Peter Hecht, there are:

* Scott Harris, former Los Angeles Times and San Jose Mercury reporter/columnist, Scott is currently one of “The Expat Files” contributors, living in/freelancing from Hanoi;

* Janis Carr, longtime Orange County Register sportswriter;

* Tim Ferguson, – Wall St. Journal reporter and current Forbes editor;

* Victor Cota, reporter for the Orange County Register 

* Phil Blauer, So-Cal area news anchor;

* Deborah Franklin, “my” editor,  [9]  whom I greatly admire for finding a way to combine her two loves, science and journalism.  Instead of (as the dubious voices advised) dumping one to concentrate on the other, Franklin became a science and medical reporter. Her works appear in a variety of venues, from VIA to NPR to Scientific American.

…and oodles of others I’m probably forgetting.  [10]

 

Three of those previously mentioned: Back row: the striped shirt and boyish-grin belong to Tim Ferguson; front row: L, Pete get-a-load-of-that-1974-hair Hecht; R Scott Harris, who was engaged in a campaign to get me to leave student government (“The BOC”) and join The Generator staff, which almost excuses his scribbled commentary;
second from R, Janis Carr.

 

Back to the breakfast table of the present: After MH told me about reading SDH’s story, I told him how delighted I was that SDH had shared it, then repeated two observations I’d made many a time: (1) I am amazed at how so many of my high school peers went on to have long careers in “actual” journalism, and, (2) of all the different sub-groups I was involved with in high school – the “gifted’ academic program; athletics; student government; the school newspaper – it is the journalism group I think of most frequently, and most fondly.

I got a good-natured, well-of-course-and-duh-you-are-all-writers reaction from MH the first time I told him that.  This time, his expression was open and interested, beyond mere tolerance mode to an actual, tell-me-more-of-what-you-mean way.

 

Yes, almost exactly like this.

 

And so, I did.

What was so great about that group was that, although they were all different, unique students, definitely not cut from the same “cloth,” politically or personally or socially or emotionally, they were all really…. *smart.*

They were intelligent, if not necessarily in the academically-gifted-program way (most of them were not enrolled in our school’s ‘s gifted program)…but it was more than that.  They were informed and inquisitive; they were both interesting, and interested – attentive to people and events and ideas outside of themselves…which was a refreshing change from the ubiquitous high school, *it’s-all-about-me* mentality.  Even those who “just” reported on sports (sorry, guys) were also conversant on politics and culture – they had a wide variety of interests, beyond their personal (and later, professional) specializations.

And they were, almost without exception, *wicked* funny.

 

 

Trading barbs, making wittily snarky observations of our fellow students – you had to have a thick hide to survive that group, and be able to take it as well as dish it out.  We were fast on the draw, quick to mine any seemingly innocent comment for innuendo potential.  Speaking of which, how convenient of moiself  to provide a segue to this apropos example:  One afternoon during my senior year, I was in our newspaper’s office, shooting the breeze with one of our newspaper’s reporter’s as he had a late lunch. He told me that someone had asked him for a clarification for the usage of the word, * innuendo,* then spat out part of his sandwich when I told him that “innuendo” was Italian for “anal sex.”

*   *   *

Department Of, It’s Her, Again? But She Won Last Month….

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

When you get a bladder infection you know urine trouble.

 

 

*   *   *

May you visit Oregon, but remember to bring your own wings;
May you have fond memories of at least one of your high school “groups;”
May you never reject a potential romantic partner because they
don’t know obscure geographic facts about Bolivia;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] Beating it in ugliness are the state flags of Hawaii (A union jack? Seriously? With all the gorgeous Hawaiian colors to choose from, you steal from the Brits?) and the flags of Georgia and Mississippi, which incorporate part of the Confederate flag, tackily celebrating one of the ugliest chapters in American History.

[2] Vexillology is the study of flag history and symbolism.   Yes, Virginia, there’s an organization for everything.

[3] Oregon was the first state to enact a container-deposit bill (1971);  Oregon’s landmark beach bill  (1967) declares that all “wet sand” within sixteen vertical feet of the low tide line belongs to the state of Oregon, and recognizes public easements of all beach areas up to the line of vegetation, regardless of underlying property rights, so that the public has “free and uninterrupted use of the beaches,” and property owners are required to seek state permits for building and other uses of the ocean shore.   Wikipedia, Oregon Beach Bill

[4] A Canadian married to a Swede.

[5] Well, that and Grey’s Anatomy reruns. And world peace.

[6] Only a select few of my readers will get that reference: My high school’s student newspaper, where I met most of these fine folk,s was named The Generator.

[7] Primarily Parnal Knowledge, my regular op-ed column, plus miscellaneous reporting, ranging from “hard” news to satire to cultural reviews to sports.

[8] The Generator’s faculty advisor (English teacher Ted Clucas), was never happier than when he’d received a parental complaint.  “It proves they’re paying attention – you made somebody think about something!”

[9] Franklin, The Generator’s Editor-in Chief my senior year, displayed support and discretion above and beyond the call of journalistic duty by allowing me free (mostly) range in writing my op-ed column, Parnal Knowledge.

[10] I have not updated this list; some of the members have retired/moved on. One of the “oodles” I forgot to mention was the venerable Peter Schmuck (all together now: yep, that’s his real name), who recently retired from over 30 years of sports reporting for The Baltimore Sun.

The “Yes” I’m Not Typing

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Department Of Things I Can’t Wrap My Brain Around

 

 

Moiself  has a hard time getting protective face mask straps – whether elastic or tie-on – around my ears (not much room behind the upper ridges of my earlobes, apparently), and then when I do, it’s not particularly comfortable.  But, it’s not about my comfort, is it?

I have an even harder time understanding how, despite the entreaties from doctors and public health officials, some people refuse to wear masks because, as the maskscofflaws say, it’s a matter of “personal freedom.”  In particular, I feel as if I’m falling into a Twilight Zone vortex when I read about conservative Christians who seem to be suspending their usual Jesus loves me/saves you platitudes in favor of mouthing repetitive denials of the sort which might be expected from Satan’s toddler’s temper tantrum: 

 

It’s My Right! It’s My Right! It’s My Right! You Can’t Make Me!

 

Whoever was the first of the maskholes responsible for trying to link protective health measures to politics needs to be bitch-slapped back to the Middle Ages (or a present day COVID respirator ward).  The fact that *any* of the anti-maskers identifies as Christian….

Hmmm, what PPE would Jesus refuse to don? 

Folks, this is an opportunity to show selfless love, in the form of concern for and kindness toward your fellow human beings. Do y’all really think that disease and/or the actions of others are respecters of either your religion or your politics?  Secondhand smoke doesn’t waft away from liberals and toward libertarians, or vice versa.

Speaking of which, here is my personal, unexpected bonus to mask wearing. Dateline: Wednesday afternoon. After grocery shopping I am walking through the store’s parking lot toward my car, the point at which, if there are no other people around, I would usually take off my mask. I hear the distinctive sound of a big ass engine behind me, and a woman (whom I recognized as having been ahead of me in the store’s checkout line) slowly drives past me, quite (read: too) closely on my right side. A cigarette dangles from her lips; the driver’s side window of her truck is rolled down and she exhales vigorously, as only a nicotine addict forced to go a whole 20 minutes without smoking can do.  Many are the times I’ve been assaulted by secondhand smoke, but as her gray cloud envelopes me I realize I only get a faint whiff of it, and am grateful that I left my mask on.   [1]

Take it away, Science Guy.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Favorite Song Lines Couplets

Moiself  returned from a walk singing the following…which took a bit of explaining to MH.

  ♫  You’re in the corner with your boys you bet ’em five bucks
You’d get the girl who just walked in but she thinks you suck… ♫

(from U and Ur Hand, singer/songwriter Pink’s deliciously sharp-tongued ode to girls who just want to have fun and the boys who think that girls’ fun has to include them. )

 

*   *   *

Department Of, Oh, That’s Kinda Sweet… But Mostly Pathetic… And You *Do* Realize It’s Too Late To Help This Poor Woman, Don’t You?
Sub-department Of, I Really Need To Finish This Book And Move On.

For the past two weeks I’ve been reading Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter.  As I near the end of the book, I find moiself  cringing because I know what is going to happen: anorexia will cut short the life of a talented musician and singer who had one of the most distinctive voices of the 20th century.  And I’ve noticed that the more I read of Ms. Carpenter’s refusals to eat, the more I’m rummaging through my refrigerator after dinner.

 

This nacho’s for you, Karen.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Missing The Mark For Good Advice

What is it about us humans, with our propensity for numbered lists?

* Buddhism has its Three Jewels, Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path;

* Christianity and Judaism have their Ten Commandments (but there are three versions of them, a fact most Christians seem to be unaware of   [2] )

* Islam has its 99 Names of God

* several quasi-religious addiction programs claim there are 12 Steps to recovery;

* self-help books tell us about The 5 Second Rule to Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage, and the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and Ten Principles for Nourishing a Healthy Relationship With Food, and 101 Questions You Need to Ask In Your Twenties and 1000 Places You Need To See Before You Die….

* and of course, as per Paul Simon, there are 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover

Here’s a new list moiself  has been seeing recently, in various social media posts:

 

 

At first glance these so-called 7 Rules of Life could be easily accepted (or dismissed) as yet another benign (or banal, depending on your POV) list of feel good/common sense admonitions.  But when I read the request – almost more of a command – at the end of the list (“TYPE YES IF YOU AGREE” ), I decided to actually give each item in the list more than a cursory glance.  And, then….no way.

“TYPE YES IF YOU AGREE.”  Uh, if I agree with what? With discounting complexity and nuance in favor of treacly naiveté?

Not that anyone cares ,   [3]   but I cannot TYPE YES, for the following reasons for each rule:

  1. I’d say first, try to *understand* your past, so you can understand your present and not let your past rule your future. And if some part of your past is disturbing to you, and the disturbance has to do with personal and/or institutional abuse and discrimination, depending on the situation, hell no, don’t just let it go! Don’t give a pass to people and institutions which keep abusive systems in place just because they tell you that the only way you will have peace is if you let them get away with it. That’s just another form of abuse.
  2. This one is…sorta okay. Unless what they think of you is shaped by their bigotry and stereotypes – then, it is *very much* your business, because they are going to treat you (and others they deem like you) accordingly, and if they have personal/political/financial power, this could mean a whole lotta trouble for you.
  3. This one reeks of shallow, First World Privilege and, “If-you-can-visualize-it-you-can-act-it” victim-blaming mentality. Yeah, by all means, please tell the continually unhappy woman in the refugee camp, who risks being gang-raped by guards on her way to fetch water or use the toilet facilities, that she is in charge of her happiness.
  4. This one mostly gets a pass…with, of course, exceptions: Do compare *certain* areas of your life to others, to help both you and your colleagues. If your coworker who does the same job as you and has your same credentials/seniority/work performance reviews, but his salary is higher than yours and the only difference is your gender/skin color, you owe it to yourself and others to compare…and challenge, if necessary.
  5. Mostly. Give many things time…but again, don’t apply this across the board. That festering sore on your bum which is starting to smell like last year’s ham – time is not on your side, dude – get yourself to the ER, pronto. And remember, those in power use the “Be patient; it’ll take time; nothing changes overnight…” admonitions to placate (read: stall and prevent) the less powerful from gaining access to human rights. American slaveholders kept those they enslaved from rising up against them by stripping enslaved people of their own spiritual beliefs and teaching them Christianity, with the assurance that, if the enslaved persons were docile and obedient (as the scriptures say) and would bide their time, their woes would be healed in paradise.
  6. These two sentences are incongruous. Of course it’s alright not to know all the answers. However, always be suspicious of someone who tells you to stop thinking – either “so much,” or in any amount.
  7. Excuse me and fuck you very much ? No one fully knows what problems another person holds. And, never patronize anyone – especially a woman – by telling them to smile.  If someone is not smiling and you tell them to smile, it is *always* patronizing. People are perfectly capable of smiling when they have a reason to.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Getting All Philosophical Before Breakfast

Dateline: Tuesday morning, the site of Mount Neahkahnie is in my eyes and the sound of a science podcast comes through my earbuds as I walk north along the beach.  I am reflecting on a subject I’ve had cause to ponder two days in a row, thanks to snippets of an overheard conversation, and now this podcast.

I assume moiself  has addressed this issue previously, in this space, and surely will have the occasion to do so again.   [4]

 

 

One of the more common, (and often patronizing) questions that religious believers ask of those of us who are religious-free seems to follow a certain script. First, there will be a statement of what they think we believe, followed by the question:

* Oh, so you think there is no god, which means that we are just particles of atoms in the cosmos, which means we have no significance and there is no meaning to life. If you don’t believe in (a) god, what is the meaning of life?

“Seriously? How many hours do you have?” is moiself’s (so far, successfully restrained) fantasy, kneejerk response to a person who poses this question.

 

Worship
Definition of worship (Entry 1 of 2)    [5]

transitive verb

1: to honor or show reverence for as a divine being or supernatural power
2: to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion
(“a celebrity worshiped by her fans”)

intransitive verb
: to perform or take part in worship or an act of worship

Definition of worship (Entry 2 of 2)
noun

1: reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power
also : an act of expressing such reverence
2: a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual
3: extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem
(“worship of the dollar”)

 

It’s funny, that those who pose the if-you-don’t-believe-in-a-god/meaning-of-life question never seem to turn it on themselves.  And when moiself  has been so queried, the query-poser has never stuck to the subject long enough for me to ask in return,

“What does worshiping a deity – which you believe is all-powerful and has created you, correct? – what purpose and meaning does that give to *your* life…other than being part of the hive for the cosmic being who created your ant farm for its own amusement?  And why does “worshiping” that deity seem to be a worthy task for you – what reasoning allows you to give your devotion to any entity so narcissistic as to demand it?”

 

 

Certainly on a cosmic scale, humans have little significance.  This realization should be humbling, but not humiliating.  Considering how over the millennia religious believers have done so much damage to the planet and their fellow human beings under the excuses of divine mandate and of humans being the crown of creation, I think a little humility in this matter would benefit us all.

But just because there is no singular or ultimate meaning in life doesn’t mean that life is meaningless.  Perhaps none of us have cosmic significance, but each of us has great individual, personal significance. And the purpose of Life, capitalized or not, is the purpose that we give it.

There are so many varied and rich meanings to existence (other than being minions in some deity’s humanoid experiment). Here’s a general answer, variations of which I hold moiself, and have heard from others who identify as Agnostics, Atheists, Humanists, Brights, Freethinkers, Happy Heathens, et al, be they physicists or pharmacists or photographers or physical therapists or Phillies fans….

Life itself is the meaning of life.

 

Quite profound, for a human.

 

We determine the meaning of our lives.  Yours might primarily revolve around the scientific search for the origins and composition of the rings of Saturn, and hers might center upon artistic expression via musical theater,  [6]   and his might be his family and the joys and challenges of raising kind and inquisitive children.  We are responsible for setting our goals and for pursuing that which may bring us and others well-being and happiness.  It is our privilege, our right and our responsibility, to create meaning.

These heartfelt, wise reflections are from a woman who, suddenly and unexpectedly, lost her beloved husband to a previously unknown medical condition:

I find meaning in everyday things, and I choose to carry on.

The sun comes up and I have a chance to be kind to anyone who crosses my path because I can. I make that choice for myself and nobody has to tell me to do it. I am right with myself. I try my best to do my best, and if I fail, I try again tomorrow. I support myself in my own journey through life. I draw my own conclusions.

I find joy in the people I love. I love, and I am loved. I find peace in the places I visit; I cry when I listen to music I love, and find almost childlike joy in many things. This world is brilliant and full of fascinating things.

I have to think carefully for myself. I don’t have to believe what I’m told. I must ask questions and I try and use logic and reason to answer them…. I struggle with how difficult the world can be, but when we have free will, some people will make terrible decisions. No deity forces their hand, and they must live with that.

Grieving is never an easy road to travel….I try to be loving and caring with my family and friends, and have fun. I will cry with friends in distress and hear other people’s stories and be kind because it does me good as well. I listen and I learn. It helps me to be better. Life without (a god) is not a life without meaning. Everything, each and every interaction, is full of meaning. Everything matters.

(From Buzzfeed article, interviews w/atheists re meaning of life)

 

 

Sometimes, the most soothing “meaning of life” is the ability to appreciate pictures of baby sloths.

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I must apollogize for making puns about Greek gods.

 

I’ve heard worse, and so shall you – pull my finger, you measly mortal!

*   *   *

 

May you enjoy the challenge of finding your own meaning;
May you remember that everything matters;
May you just STFU and put on your mask – and remember, you still have the freedom to sing while doing so;

 

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] I sense a disturbance in the force…a feeling of…disappointment?  Some of y’all were expecting a fart story, right?

[2]  Version 1 is from Deuteronomy 5:6-21; Version 2, which is similar to Version 1, is found in Exodus 20:1-17. Version 3, found in Exodus 34,  – is riotously different from the first two versions, although the writing claims it is the LORD speaking.  Hmmm, guess he’d forgotten what he’s said the first two times?  Also, although this list is *never* quoted when religious leaders and politicians talk of the Ten Commandments, this is the only version referred to in scripture as the “ten commandments.”

[3] Which could be the subtitle of this blog.

[4] Both because it bears repeating, and because we who are religion-free are repeatedly asked this.

[5] Merriam Webster.

[6] And if so, can we get you to do something to ensure that there is never another adaptation of “Cats” to the silver screen?

The Dinner With Mel Brooks I’m Not Having

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Department Of SpellWalking is Spellbinding

What, you may ask, is this “SpellWalking” thing you’ve been hearing so much about?  And if you haven’t heard about it….

Spellwalking Spellwalking Spellwalking Spellwalking
Spellwalking Spellwalking

…there. Now you have.

You Must Check This Out ®.

Here’s the description of the activity, from the  brilliant   [1]   industrial engineer living in San Francisco who started it.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I started going on near-daily walks to help combat the monotony of being cooped up indoors all day. To spice things up a bit, I decided to plan my walking routes such that the paths I took formed letters and words. I call this activity SpellWalking. I live in San Francisco, a city favorable to SpellWalking due to the multiple intersecting gridiron street patterns to choose from.

( From the SpellWalking website
Yes, it has I website; it’s a *thing,* y’all)

Check out the grid patterns – they are delightful, and mostly feature San Francisco neighborhood names.

Moiself’s favorite (so far), due to its proximity to greenspaces, is the Haight.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Say What?
Sub-Department Of What Is The Emoji For Your Ears Doing A Double Take?
Division Of Unfortunate Government Employee Names

Dateline: Tuesday; circa 11 am; listening to the car radio while running an errand. I tuned into the Oregon Public Broadcasting channel, to the end of a story announcing the appointment of the man who will be Oregon State University’s 15th president. Current OSU president Ed Ray will step down, to be replaced by F. King Alexander.

 

 

Yep, that’s what I heard – followed by those voices coming from the radio in my own mind, speculating about what form the complaints he (the new OSU president) will receive from those who are unhappy with his leadership:

“That F** King Alexander….”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Speaking Of How My Brain Works…

I have layperson’s/”hobby” interest in neurology and neuropsychology – in how (scientists think) the brain works.  In my If-I-Had-To-Do-It-All-Over-Again ® mode, I might have pursued neuroscience and/or cognitive psychology-related fields, instead of following the highly lucrative and emotionally satisfying and rewarding batshit crazy “creative” path.

 

 

But I have this one problem   [2]  when it comes to reading articles about neuroscience and behavior and basic cognition. Whenever I read about a certain part of the brain, a part located deep in the temporal lobe and most strongly associated with memory, ’tis difficult for me to get past the name of said brain region.  I’ve learned that moiself cannot take whatever I am reading seriously until I deal with an image that always – as in, every F. King Alexander time – comes to mind.

Here’s what happens: I picture a college campus setting – a university whose student body is comprised solely of herbivorous, semiaquatic ungulate mammals native to sub-Saharan Africa.   And I face that image, appreciate it, and set it aside…until I come to the part in the article which says, in essence, “Let’s explore what we know about the hippocampus…” and I am immediately transported back to that same setting, with moiself  being led on a campus tour by a student guide…

 

“And over on the left is our renowned fine arts center….”

 

One might think that, with the interest in/reading about this neuro-stuff (excuse the fancy-pants, science jargon) I claim to do, moiself might have figured out why my brain does this.  Nah; not gonna go there. I suppose I enjoy it enough that the why doesn’t matter. It’s not something I would want to “fix.”

 

Fraternity rush season at the Hippocampus is intense.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Not All Of The Oldies Are Goodies

Dateline: same as my first lame story highly entertaining anecdote. I switched my car’s radio from the OPB channel to KQRZ, a local station which plays music from the past (aka “oldies”), and I heard a song moiself  hadn’t thought about in years.

Wildfire was popular when I was a certain age. The song had always seemed melodically anemic to me, and I’d never paid much attention to it when it somehow got regular airplay. This time I decided to actually listen to the lyrics, and….wow.

 

“Is that a good wow, or a bad wow?”

 

Wow as in, this dull ditty was a hit song?

The song’s narrator tells the brief tale of a young woman who supposedly died during a blizzard while searching for her escaped pony, “Wildfire.” The song’s narrator is in his cabin or somewhere – we don’t really know – in an early winter storm; an owl has perched outside of his window, which he takes as a sign that Ghostly Dead Girl is calling for him to join her and spend eternity riding her stupid horse lacking the horse sense to NOT run off into a blizzard pony with her.

The End.

Wow  as in, there’s not much to the story, is there?  It’s too insipid to be tragic.

*   *   *

Department Of An Oldie Who Was One Of The Best Of The Goodies

“Mel comes over most every night. We’ll have dinner and watch “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune.” After dinner, we’ll watch a movie, if anything good is playing that night. We once said, “Any movie that has the line, ‘Secure the perimeter,’ you know it’s good.”
(” Carl Reiner: Why Van Dyke is the best, Trump the worst and Mel Brooks is a savvy movie critic. ”  USA Today, 5-1-19 )

Goodbye, Carl Reiner.

Who is left among that generation of influential entertainers?  Mel Brooks; Betty White; Norman Lear; Dick Van Dyke?

Reiner leaves behind an impressive body of work and a loving family, but here’s what makes me “grieve” the most, when I think about it:  now that Carl Reiner is gone, who will Mel Brooks have dinner with?

My favorite Carl Reiner-directed movie is “All of Me,” which features wonderful work by actors Lily Tomlin and Steve Martin.  Frail, condescending, wealthy socialite Edwina Cutwater (Lily Tomlin) engages the help of a guru to “transmigrate” her soul upon her death to the body of a healthy young woman. Edwina enlists lawyer Roger Cobb (Steve Martin) to change her will to leave her entire estate to the young woman. Edwina dies within minutes of signing the updated will, but via an ill-timed accident she ends up inhabiting Roger’s body, sharing it with him and controlling his body’s right side. Edwina and Roger are forced to work together to find a way to get her soul out his body, as well as to navigate mundane but essential tasks, as in this scene below, when Roger desperately needs to use the bathroom.

Enjoy…better yet, watch the entire movie, which is surprisingly sweet and sentimental despite its I-am-SO-sure premise.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Even Harder To Comprehend Than Cosmic String Theory
Is The “Success” Of Certain Attention Whores Celebrities

Carl Reiner, he of the multiple “slash” talents (comedian slash actor slash writer slash director slash producer….), was more than deserving of the fame and acclaim – and arguably, most importantly, the respect –  which he received over a lifetime (his career spanned seventy-three years!), from both his audience and his show business peers.

And then, we have…oh, shit. I have to type this surname, don’t I, if I’m going to pursue this bizarre reflection?  Let’s just say the name rhymes with lard-ashian.

 

“For F. King Alexander’s sake, just type, ‘Kardashian,’ you big baby.”

 

Moiself  has never seen the Kardashian show. Of course, living in the culture, doing crossword puzzles, standing in line at the grocery store where there’s nothing to look at but the tabloid headlines or the ill-fitting clothing of the guy in front of me and I need to avert my eyes sideways lest they be further assaulted by the worst case of plumber’s crack I’ve ever seen…I can’t really avoid having a rudimentary knowledge of their existence.

And rudimentary will do, because there’s not much to know.  They are famous, for…for what?  For wanting to be famous.

Maybe there’s more to the show than that. Yeah…and maybe Chief Little Bunker-Bitch will join the Black Lives Matter movement and lead protesters in replacing statues of Robert E. Lee with gold-plated vaults containing the entire Spike Lee filmography.

I feel fully comfortable in judging this Show-That-I-Have-Not-Seen, and here is why.  The Kardashians actively and openly seek celebrity, and in my opinion and that of many others who are Smarter And More Educated Than Moiself, ® that in and of itself is the sign of an unbalanced personality and bloated ego.

Kardashians and those like them pursue fame, as opposed to merely tolerating (or even grudgingly accepting) celebrity status as a by-product of something they’ve done, which is the “normal” or usual way fame attaches itself to a person.

Despite my being someone friends and family would describe as being outgoing or extroverted, fame or celebrity – being recognized by strangers – is something I have studiously avoided all my life (my former editors, pushing for me to do more publicity, might snarkily add that avoiding fame was the one aspect of my fiction writing career at which I excelled ). Thus, I am somewhat bemused and mostly appalled by those who actively seek to be in the proverbial glare of the spotlight.

Fame or celebrity comes to you, in most cases, if you do something notable and/or something which brings you to the public’s attention (e.g. in the performing arts).  Not to be confused with the infamy accorded a mass murderer, you may become famous if, for example, you’ve acted in acclaimed movies. Yet, even then, the amount of fame coming your way cannot be determined by a cut and dried formula.  It’s interesting to consider the variables, some having to do with the life a celeb leads, whether they actively sought the limelight outside of their professional lives or desperately tried to avoid it (and thus got more attention for that avoidance), and other factors seemingly random.  Why did the paparazzi ignore a young(er) Sally Field, but pursue Angelina Jolie?  (That answer seems obvious on the surface, but maybe Ms. Field had some really juicy hidden details of her life that a dedicated celebrity snoop could have unearthed). Why have talented, award-winning actors Meryl Streep and Frances McDormand not been subjected to the kind of tabloid attention that talented, award-winning actors Julia Roberts and Jennifer Lawrence received?

However those actors may have played on it or downplayed it, their respective fame is due to actions or accomplishments on their part. Their celebrity is a consequence, not an predecessor, of their careers.

And then you have the reality TV stars – yep, I picked the low hanging fruit that is the Kardashian family – who want celebrity (but will settle for notoriety) first, before they’ve done anything to “merit” it.  It’s back-asswards:  once they have fame…for seeking fame…in order to keep their fame they need to figure out how to do something attention-worthy other than to be seeking attention.  The LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! stage they should’ve outgrown by age eight becomes a thing in itself. You get fame and celebrity for wanting fame and celebrity, and in order to keep up the public’s interest in your fame and celebrity you must continually pursue it in extreme and tasteless ways.

But thanks to the advent of Reality TV, which has brought us our first Reality TV president, the whole concept of tasteful may have gone out the window…

 

*   *   *

Department Of See This Movie, Right Now

Unless you’re on your way to the COVID ward of the hospital.

Otherwise, at one point in your life you’ve either been a frightened yet determined 17-year-old, or you’ve known one or (hopefully) have been a compassionate and loyal friend to one, as this movie so matter-of-factly and movingly depicts.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I just found out that I’m color blind – the news came completely out of the green.

 

*   *   *

 

May you enjoy your own variation of a classic curse phrase ( F. King Alexander! );
May you think twice before approaching a “famous” person when they are not in the process of actively seeking fame;
May your sense of propriety pass The Tasteful Lady‘s scrutiny;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Partial disclosure – can you ever make a *full* disclosure? – he’s my nephew.

[2] Yes,  those who know me well might interject here that moiself has a lot more than just one problem… but how’s about if y’all control your intrusive thoughts on the matter and we can get back to the subject?

The Dad Jokes I’m Not Telling

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Department Of Trying To Remember How I Organized This Bookshelf

Dateline: a week ago; 7 am-ish. Moiself  is on my elliptical exercise thingy,  [1] which is in the corner of our family room next to a floor-to-ceiling bookcase. I open the podcast app on my cellphone and place the phone on the second-from-the-top bookcase shelf.  After five minutes I want to listen to a different podcast, and as I reach for my phone I notice, as if for the first time, a row of book titles on the top shelf.

All of the book case’s shelves are – or were, I think – organized as per some kind of theme. Thus it gives me no small amusement to look at the following titles on the top shelf and wonder to moiself who arranged these books…knowing full well it was moiself…and having no memory of why I put those  titles there ?

* The Complete Works of Mark Twain, Volumes I and II (Mark Twain)

* Ball Four (Jim Bouton)

* I am Spock (Leonard Nimoy)

* My Antonia (Willa Cather)

* The Lathe of Heaven (Ursula LeGuin)

* The Thurber Carnival (James Thurber)

* The Odyssey of Homer  (Homer Simpson)  [2]

* The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe (Jane Wagner)

* Candide (Voltaire)

* Tarzan of the Apes (Edgar Rice Burroughs)

* Go the F*** to Sleep (Adam Mansbach, Ricardo Cortés, illustrator)

 

*   *   *

Department Of Following Up

The relative risk of mental health problems following a single elective first-trimester abortion of is no greater risk to mental health than carrying a pregnancy to term.
(APA American Psychological Association, “Abortion and Mental Health,”)

“Most antiabortion activists oppose abortion for moral and religious reasons. In their effort to win broader public support and legitimacy, however, antiabortion leaders frequently assert that abortion…harms women physically and psychologically….
Likely because the science attesting to the physical safety of the abortion procedure is so clear, abortion foes have long focused on what they allege are its negative mental health consequences. For decades, they have charged that having an abortion causes mental instability and even may lead to suicide, and despite consistent repudiations from the major professional mental health associations, they remain undeterred. For example, the “postabortion traumatic stress syndrome” that they say is widespread is not recognized by either the American Psychological Association (APA) or the American Psychiatric Association.
 (“Abortion and Mental Health: Myths and Realities,”
GPR – Guttmacher  Policy Review )

As per in last week’s post, here is the follow up I mentioned in this post:

“Apparently, there are some people who are shocked and/or disappointed to learn that Norma Jean McCarvey, aka “Jane Roe” in the 1973 Roe V. Wade SCOTUS decision, admitted she was paid for her notorious “flip-flop” – from pro-choice to anti-abortion – by the anti-abortion side….
Such tactics are no surprise to many of us who have worked in women’s reproductive health care.  The anti-abortionists  [2]  use the ends-justifies-the-means excuses for their deception, propaganda, and outright pants-on-fire lies.
Moiself  has more stories than I care to recall, from both my days at Planned Parenthood and a private OB-GYN practice, having to do with women’s encounters with anti-choice exploiters activists. One of the ickiest stories I will detail in next week’s post.”

And now, the Icky Story ®.

One of the largest studies about women’s emotions after an abortion finds most feel relieved and don’t regret their choice, even if they struggled beforehand or worried about stigma. The study, one of the largest to date on the topic, was published Sunday in the journal Social Science & Medicine.
(
CNN, women-emotion-abortion study 1-15-20 )

Whether a girl or women terminates her pregnancy because it was unwanted (unplanned; the result of contraceptive failure; the result of rape/incest/molestation)… or it was dearly wanted and anticipated, until maternal and/or fetal health anomalies arose, she most likely experiences situationally-appropriate sadness. And then, she moves on…unless she has the misfortune of getting involved with an organization like WEBA which, perversely, seeks to convince the woman that she cannot move on, and that she has been physical and emotionally damaged will be haunted by shame and guilt.  [3]

What’s the number one emotion women experience after getting an abortion? …New research has found that most women feel relief after an abortion.
Nearly all women in the study — including those who had difficulty making the choice to end their pregnancy — said it was the right decision 5 years later.
The report, which was published in the journal Social Science & Medicine on Jan. 12 (2020), debunks the assumption that women regret terminating their pregnancies — a notion that’s been used by anti-choice activists to lobby for mandatory waiting periods and abortion counseling in many states.
(“99% of Women Say They Feel Relief, Not Regret, 5 Years After Having an Abortion,”
Healthline, cnn)

When I worked for Planned Parenthood clinics in the Bay Area, one of the clinicians I knew volunteered to do some espionage for us, by “infiltrating” a WEBA group..

 

Not nearly this glamorous…or entertaining.

 

PP administrators and clinicians didn’t want to destroy the group from the inside, or do anything that dramatic or nefarious. Rather, after public encounters with WEBA groups, which had started to appear alongside right wing religious groups demonstrating at certain PP clinic sites, we were curious as to what WEBA was saying – about both Planned Parenthood in general and women’s reproductive health care in general – in private.

WEBA (“Women Exploited By Abortion”) was   [4]  founded in the 1980s by anti-abortionists who claimed they wanted to find a more emotionally violent way to lie to women “expand the anti-abortion conversation.” They did this by promoting the (unsubstantiated) idea that women who have abortions experience substantial emotional, mental, and physical distress and regret as  a direct result of the procedure itself and the lack of information given to them regarding “post abortion syndrome.” [1]

PP clinician MT volunteered to go underground, as a woman who’d had an abortion and was interested in joining WEBA. She offered to do so after encountering a group of WEBA  sign-carrying women (at first, always led by a man   [5] ) at an anti-abortion protest.

MT noted that the WEBA group seemed to be connected with a couple of church groups.  She called the churches and, after being screened by receptionists, was able to attend WEBA meetings over a period of several months.

The stories MT told…oh, if only we had cell phones back then!  For fear of being found out MT did not carry any kind of recording devices, but wrote down her experiences in a notebook immediately after each meeting.

When I learned of MT’s adventures and asked her to recount them, the first thing she said to me was that the group’s acronym should be changed, from WEBA to WEBMEFWMH, as in,  “Women Exploited By Men Exploiting Fragile Women’s Mental Health.”  However, MT agreed with my observation that the latter wasn’t as catchy an acronym as the former, nor even pronounceable to most Americans, who might think it was some kind of Czechoslovakian skin disorder.

MT said she was angered and disgusted by what she saw at the meetings. Although the misinformation and outright lies told about medical issues did not surprise her, what did surprise her was how the dominant emotion for her was *not* anger and disgust, but sadness. She was saddened to see a group of obviously unhappy and depressed (some dangerously so) women (whom I called the “WEBA waifs”) who needed professional help…and who were obviously not going to get it in WEBA.

Numerous studies  (at that time, and now) showed that “post abortion syndrome” does not exist.  Rather:

* if you were a woman who had mental health issues before having an abortion, you would have them afterwards – abortion wouldn’t change or solve that.

* if you were a woman who was mentally and emotionally stable before having an abortion, you would remain so afterwards, even as you might be temporarily angered/saddened/frustrated by the circumstances of your life which led to your choice to terminate your pregnancy.

While MT couldn’t say whether the WEBA waifs she encountered were emotionally fragile before they’d had abortions, they were obviously fragile in the present.  Not once did MT hear any offers made, by the WEBA facilitators, for the chronically disturbed WEBA waifs to seek medical/psychological counseling.  The depressed and agitated WEBA waifs were made even more so by their participation in WEBA, a group which purported to embrace them and their experiences, but which in fact kept them whipped up in an emotional frenzy about the “sin” they had been sucked into.  This (in MT’s observation) was so that they could be deployed like rabid dogs at anti-abortion protests…and MT noticed that the WEBA leaders would stoke their rhetorical fires – i.e., ramp up the hysterical rhetoric – just before the group was deployed to a protest site.

Calm and serious folks offering pamphlets and chanting slogans is run of the mill, but a pack of sobbing women, pulling at their own hair, holding signs with dead baby slogans and screaming about sin (“Planned Parenthood forced me to murder my baby – JESUS please forgive me!”)…now, *that* is an attention-getter.

Shy, even-tempered woman that she was, even while “undercover,” MT did not at first merit much attention from the WEBA leaders, which was fine with her. MT’s main interest was the in plight of the WEBA waifs.  One such WW whom MT befriended, “DF,” was obviously, as per MT, “on the edge.” DF confided to MT about being bullied into carrying a sign with “pictures of hell” – a sign DF had adamantly told the WEBA leader she did *not* want to hold – at a recent anti-abortion rally.  DF spent a lot of time mumbling to herself during WEBA meetings and rocking back and forth, like an autistic child.  MT was so concerned about DF she approached one of the WEBA leaders after a meeting and suggested that not only was DF was in acute distress, DF had confided to MT that being on the front lines of demonstrations only exacerbated her pain: “I think DF needs more help than we can give her, perhaps a medical evaluation and professional counseling….”

MT’s observation was quickly shot down.

“That’s what WEBA is for – these women receive the best counseling available, from the group and the church pastors!  If you are suggesting a need for psychological counseling – which, BTW, if you don’t know yet you should know, is a tool of the devil – you need to get yourself right with God. Only Jesus  [6]  will help these women heal, and to suggest otherwise  shores up the atheist’s clever secular agenda disguised as in the medical profession…”

The reaction MT received from the WEBA leaders – when she suggested that obviously distraught women should not be deployed at protests but should be devoting their time and energy to getting healthy – made MT think that her cover was about to be blown.  She only went to two more meetings after that, each one sadly confirming her suspicions that those WEBA waifs and their individual psyches were not important to the church leaders – the only thing that mattered was the “work“ that they were doing on the picket lines.

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department Of Inquiring Minds Want To Know

How can I *not* be a thing, or display a certain characteristic, if I can’t be that thing/exhibit that characteristic in the first place?

If I am impatient, I can also be patient.  If someone judges an action of mine to be undisciplined, there is some standard by which I can display discipline.

What this is leading up to is the burning question I had in my mind, after doing a New York Times word puzzle game, in which I got points for one word but was informed that its “root” is not a word:

If I can be unruly, why can’t I be ruly?

 

*   *   *

Department Of Righteous Causes About Which I Have One Minor Reservation

I fully support equal/gay marriage and the rights of LGBTQ parents. Moiself  does have one particular concern re the latter issue – perhaps psychologists have already studied this, and can reassure me about my qualms?

Specifically, I am concerned about a child growing up with two fathers and thus being subject to *twice* as many Dad Jokes.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Let’s All Go To The Biffy

In a recent post to his Facebook page, a buddy of mine used the term “biffy,” which warmed the cockles of my heart.  My Aunt Erva used to say that word (“Excuse me, I’m off to use the biffy”).  No one else did that I knew of. Thus, I thought it was one of her own peculiar euphemisms, until, when I was around 11 years old, I asked my mother about it. She told me it was a term favored by “older folks” and that no one really uses it today.

Now, I say, let’s bring it back.  Given our alternatives:

bathroom; restroom; loo, the facilities; powder room; W.C..; shithouse, tRump closet; outhouse; ladies/gents room; dumpster; privy; back house; can; john; lavatory; House of Wi; bum chapel; crap castle; coffee house; dingleberry creek; relief station; temple; Parliament plumbing; bog; house of easement;

isn’t biffy a wee bit (sorry) more festive?

 

“Whatever you call it, your bum will shine in my crap castle.”

 

*   *   *

Bad Poetry Written In My Head While Walking On A Drizzly Manzanita Morning
Past The Golf Course, Which Is Open, And Where I See Two
Rain Gear-Clad Persons About To Tee Up

I think I could tolerate golf in the rain,
My usage of “tolerate” I must now explain.
Some people love golf, but as I understand,
golf courses are harmful to water and land.

Ground water, habitats, wetlands and more
fouled by chemicals and fertilizers galore
which must be applied to maintain the course grass….
I think of the waste, and it just chaps my ass.

And yet, on this morning, I pass the course by,
Caught by surprise as I feel myself sigh
at the sight in the mist, on a morning serene,
And I’m struck by my feelings – they’re quite unforeseen.

I’ll rethink for a moment a “sport” I disdain,
and maybe, one day, I might golf in the rain.

 

 

 

Mark Twain supposedly  [7] called golf … a good walk spoiled.”
It’s a good thing elk don’t read.

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Broken pencils are pretty much pointless.

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion  Evolution  [8]

 

 

And here’s what I made for ours, one day this week.

Featuring this week’s Theme Day and recipe:

Tofu/tempeh Tuesday: Kimchi spice roasted tofu with mango red pepper lime salsa

My rating:

 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [9]

*   *   *

Department Of We Need This Sentiment, Now:

 You Can Do This Hard Thing

 

 

*   *   *

 

May you stop whatever you’re doing and reorganize your bookshelf into categories which will flummox cultural anthropologists of the future, as well as anyone who knows you;
May you try a sport you think you disdain (preferably in the rain);
May you know that, eventually, you can do this hard thing;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Aka, “device.”

[2] Just seeing if y’all were paying attention. Homer Simpson is a cartoon character, and not the Homer who wrote The Odyssey of Homer. ( Homer Simpson wrote the much neglected third book in the saga, The Iliad of Idiocy.)

[3] And, they turn out to be correct – she will be filled with shame and guilt because WEBA will make sure to shame and guilt her, even under the guise of helping her.

[4] I use the past tense, as I haven’t heard much about or from them in some time and don’t know if they are still active, or have been absorbed into/by other anti-abortion groups.

[5] MT discovered that, although WEBA was ostensibly for women, it was “sponsored” by conservative Christian evangelical churches, whose dogma also decreed that men must hold all positions of leadership. When some pro-choice advocates pointed out that, at the WEBA rallies it was a man holding the megaphone and directing the WEBA women, at the very next rally (and for all subsequent public appearances by that WEBA group) an older woman was put in front on the group and given the megaphone. Another PP “spy” who attended the rallies thought it was rather comical, and obvious, that this newly appointed woman “leader” hadn’t been well-trained: when she was asked direct questions she couldn’t help but hide her reflexive deference, and she would look to the man in charge of the group – now off to the side, pretending to be just hanging around and * not*  in charge – as if to get his approval  before she said anything.

[6] Eventually…allegedly. When he makes up his mind to get around to it…’cause he sure wasn’t helping any of those poor women at the time.

[7] Sounds like something he *would* have said, and yet the first traceable printing of that quote comes from the post WWII years, and Twain died in 1910.

[8] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 1 of April 2020, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go themes as listed in the 4-3-20 blog.

[9]

* Abject Failure:  I’ll make a canned wieners & SpaghettiOs gelatin mold before I make this recipe again.

* Tolerable:  if you have the proper…attitude.

* Yep: why, sure, I’d share this with my cat.

* Now you’re talkin’: Abby the support Avocado ® approves.

* Yummers: So good, it merits The Purple Tortilla Chip Of Exclamation ® !

 

The Extra I’m Not Waiting Until Next Week To Post

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Department Of This Is Too Good To Be True

Dateline: today; a few minutes ago. Moiself  was exercising on my elliptical-thingy, listening to a podcast, when I heard the phrase that was music to my ears:

“…leading climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe…”

The Ramone’s favorite climatologist!

Everything is going to be all right.

Happy Friday, y’all.

 

 

 

 

The 2020 Mascot I Am Not Celebrating

1 Comment

Department Of Questions That Have No Logical Answers   [1]

 

 

The realm in question:

Sci-fi and set-in-the-future movies and television shows.

The question for the realm:

Why are the (almost always male) directors’ and/or producers’ of such shows seemingly obsessed with bizarre/fantastical/just-plain-silly female hairstyles?

 

 

 

 

Kroika! Only he who is strong enough to remove this hibernating wolverine from my head shall be my mate.”

 

Do these men imagine that, in the future and/or “out in space,” the laws of gravity will not apply to hair proceeding from the scalps of both humanoid and alien women?

 

 

Just moiself  asking. Because, you know – science.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Surprise Of The Week
(As In, Are You Kidding – Not. At. All.)

AKA Jane Roe. Put that documentary on your streaming list. Highly recommended.

A bombshell documentary airing…on FX adds a final shocking twist to Norma McCorvey’s ideologically eventful life. In AKA Jane Roe, McCorvey offers what she calls a “deathbed confession”: Actually, she was basically pro-choice all along and only became a pro-life activist for the money. “It was a mutual thing,” she tells director Nick Sweeney. “I took their money, and they took me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say.” Sweeney displays tax documents revealing that McCorvey received at least $450,000 from pro-life groups over the course of her years as an activist, often classified as “benevolent gifts.”
(slate.com)

 

 

Apparently, there are some people who are shocked and/or disappointed to learn that Norma Jean McCarvey, aka “Jane Roe” in the 1973 Roe V. Wade SCOTUS decision, admitted she was paid for her notorious “flip-flop” – from pro-choice to anti-abortion – by the anti-abortion side.

In the final scene of “AKA Jane Roe,” a near-death McCorvey is asked if she felt she was a “trophy” to the pro-life movement, and she says, “Of course. I was the Big Fish. I took their money and they took me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say … I’m a good actress. Of course, I’m not acting now.”
(rogerebert.com review of AKA Jane Roe)

Such tactics are no surprise to many of us who have worked in women’s reproductive health care.  The anti-abortionists  [2]  use the ends-justifies-the-means excuses for their deception, propaganda, and outright pants-on-fire lies.

Moiself  has more stories than I care to recall, from both my days at Planned Parenthood and a private OB-GYN practice, having to do with women’s encounters with anti-choice exploiters activists. One of the ickiest stories I will detail in next week’s post.

One of my “favorite” such stories came from a PP I worked at, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, in the Bay Area.  I was in the clinic’s lab, about to start the centrifuge, when I saw my co-worker, MT, exit the exam room across from the lab.  MT, known and admired by her coworkers for her serenity and equanimity, face-palmed her forehead as she scurried toward me, holding a pipette of her patient’s blood.  As she added her sample to the centrifuge, I asked her whence the WTF?!?! expression on her face.  She replied that her patient had come to PP after first going to one of those shit-faced, lying to women “Pregnancy Counseling Centers” which, its receptionist assured her when she telephoned for info, was a legitimate medical clinic. While the patient was waiting for her pregnancy test to be run, the center’s “counselor” told her that having an abortion would give her cancer (of her “womb”), which could then infect her husband’s reproductive tract.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Why We’re On The Subject Of Lying To Women…And Men….

Division Of Taking A Break From Dissing My Religious Roots
And Going After Other Peoples’

Sub-Department Of More Fun With Movies

This next movie I recommend is not a documentary, ala AKA Jane Roe, but is an equally fascinating, disturbing, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful account of real-life events. It is based on Deborah Feldman’s  Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots Feldman’s memoir recounts growing up within, becoming estranged to, and finally escaping from her rigid Satmar Hasidic community in the Willamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.

So. My thoughts after watching Netflix’s four-part series, Unorthodox:

 

 

I wonder how many of the residents of New York City’s most populous borough go about their daily business without giving a thought to the fact that, in their northwest corner, there is an entire community of people ruled by…mmm, how do I put this…mind-numbing, misogynistic mythological minutia.

I’ve heard of/read about the voluminous rules & regs of Hasidic life, but to be presented with the daily realities of the Satmar Hasids…yikes with a capital IKES. The sect’s many extremist emphases include an ultra-orthodox, anti-Zionist theology (they’re not fond of other [read: non-Hasidic] Jews, and particularly loathe the secular ones), and rejection of modernity.  As for the latter, they are able to interpret some amusing exceptions for themselves (surprise!).  For example, Satmar Hasids may have a cellphone, but not a ‘smart” phone – or any device with internet access (which would allow you to ask questions of/read opinions and facts presented by authorities other than your rabbi).

Satmar Hasids’ lives are a continual numerical equation of sorts, a computing and tracking of what must be done and when and how often – as well as, the biggest list of all, the thou-shall nots – all carried out within the confines of a close-knit (read: gossip-ridden and judgmental) community isolated from non-Jews, estranged from other (non-Hasidic) Jews, and centered around the dicta of a grand rabbi leader.   [3]

All of the minutia of rules rules rules – and did I mention, rules?  [4]  The most time-consuming, and physically and intellectually and sexually onerous and stifling “guidelines” and restrictions are (surprise, again!) applied to women.

 “Blessed are you, HaShem, King of the Universe,
for not having made me a gentile;”

“Blessed are you, HaShem, King of the Universe,
for not having made me a slave.”

“Blessed are you, HaShem, King of the Universe,
for not having made me a woman.

(2,000 year old prayer, from the Talmud, which Orthodox Jewish men are still supposed to recite every morning)

 

 

Hasids’ lives are directed by the triviality of detail, the constant accounting of everything – how many days for this, steps for that, when to touch or say or eat this and not that, what to cover and uncover  – lives prescribed and restricted by the rules that (they are taught) are from their god and are monitored by their god (and the other community members. You are always being watched).  Yet, somehow, there’s a subset of rules as to how you can circumvent the other rules  [5]   – which, remember, are from The King Of The Universe…who apparently isn’t paying enough attention to notice when his minions are doing an end run around his holy rules.

Adherents and supporters of such religious communities argue that those rules and rituals give meaning to life.  Moiself, along with those who have escaped from such constrictive communities, call claptrap and bullshit take strong issue with that claim.

When I’ve read and watched the stories of people who’ve fled such communities, it’s obvious to moiself  that the fulfillment of the religious rules – and the task of merely trying to keep track of all of them – takes up the majority of one’s time. This crucial phenomenon serves to keep the community running…even if it’s only on its own cultural hamster wheel.  As a member of the community you aren’t really doing anything other than upholding the community.  You are not doing, learning, or producing anything new/original. You’re not even thinking original thoughts, but merely “studying” those of your community’s founder, who presents himself as your god’s interpreter. And with all this you shall pass the time because…what else is there for you to do, that you are allowed to do?

 

 

And, oh, the pervasive and primitive misogyny at the root of the Hasid – of any religion’s – social regulations! The fear and mis-characterization of, and obsession with, female sexuality is ever present, despite the claims that the religion’s rules uphold the “beauty and sanctity of the marital relationship” (the ultimate purpose of which is to produce more human specimens for their god’s ant farm). Denying and obscuring and shaming, either directly or obliquely, is applied to the physical aspects of being human, the very aspects which supposedly stem from their creator-god. What a world of spiritual and cognitive dissonance – to honestly think about it would drive an introspective person mad. But, once again: ritual and rules to the rescue!

The detailed pro-and pre-scribing of peoples’ behavior – even their thoughts – is a highly effective form of crowd control.  The decrees and rituals to be learned and applied – the continuous “studying“ of them guarantees there will be no true contemplation going on…because you’re just too damn busy trying to remember it all (“Hmm; was that mitzvot 513 or 613?”).  A day is only so long; keeping your sect’s versions of physical, mental and spiritual “kosher” keeps you from having the time for the kind of thoughtful analysis of these superstitious burdens codes which would allow you to see through and escape from them.

Now then. To those of us who are giving ourselves the proverbial pat on the back re our relatively progressive take on things:  I can’t help but wonder how many “moderate” believers (of any religion) who’ll watch Unorthodox – or perhaps another depiction of an extremist/Fundy sect of their own faith – will cluck their tongues at the primeval actions and philosophies of the Fundies, and not realize their own proximity to such retrograde superstitions.

 

Yes, the same g-d who commands that we reject the homos is honored by our Nancy-boy curls and Ru-Paul-to-die-for hats, trust us.

 

If you are religious, those are your roots. You only are a few notches up the scale of modernity, if you try to apply Iron Age spirituality in the 21st century. You may reject or laugh at the claims of, say, your Fundy Christian cousins, but do you still, literally or figuratively, embrace the tenets of Christianity?   Do you, either with fellow worshipers in a god-box (temple, church) or alone in the privacy of your home, telepathically beseech and/or grovel to a cosmic Jewish zombie who was his own father and who can make you live forever if you symbolically cannibalize him (“take communion”) and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical but forbidden tree?

Yep.  You’re not like those silly Fundies at all.

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Know The Year Isn’t Even Half Over Yet…

…but moiself  has a nomination for the Mascot For The Year 2020.

According to the Chinese Zodiac, we are in the Year of the Rat – although in my estimation, we have been ever since #45 took office.

 

 

 

Ahem. Ladies and Gentleman, for your consideration, I propose that 2020 may be declared The Year Of The Murder Hornet.

Yes, you heard me right:  THE MURDER HORNET. A name like that begs for all caps, n’est ce pas?

THE MURDER HORNET.

I am compelled to keep typing it. I so wish I was making this up – and so will you, if you read about this insect.  The name alone – do you even want to Google it?

 

 

*   *   *

Department of The Corona Virus Playlist
The 500 Greatest Songs Off All Time Edition

As per the Rolling Stone Magazine list[6]  Not to diss songs 101-500, but I culled the following entrants from the top 100 (’cause life is short and I like to eat dinner).

As with previous CVPs, moiself  has listed some of these song titles which are IMHO, applicable to our social-isolating, transmission–paranoid, COVID-19 times, and which, in small groupings, imply a related story. This time there’s no clue save for the song titles as to who the recording artists are (but few clues needed, given the RS list’s bold title).

 (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
My Generation
Imagine
What’s Going On
Suspicious Minds

A Change Is Gonna Come
Blowin’ in the Wind
People Get Ready
A Day in the Life

Help!
I Walk the Line
Gimme Shelter
Let’s Stay Together
Let It Be

The Times They Are a-Changin’
The Weight
Heroes
Bridge Over Troubled Water

Walk On By
You Really Got Me
I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Every Breath You Take
Crazy

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

 

How does Moses make his tea? Hebrews it.

 

“Haven’t my people suffered enough?”

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion  Evolution  [7]

 

 

And here’s what I made for ours, one day this week – never mind.  EEE on hiatus this week. So, get your own damn dinner ideas.

 

*   *   *

May you never see a MURDER HORNET, even from a safe distance;
May you reject all belief systems which require you to wear silly hats;
May the month of June bring us closer to a cure from
COVID-19 (and MURDER HORNETS);
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Including why they often appear in moiself’s brain, seemingly apropos of nothing.

[2] They’re definitely not “pro-life” – (unless the life in question is fetal) as their other political views and polities indicate.

[3] In the Satmar community’s case, a Hungarian rabbi who migrated to the US with a group of followers after WWII.

[4] They are way too many to list; and many revolve around the paramount importance of maintaining what they define as physical modesty: bodies must be covered fully; all clothing is formal (or what as a child my family would have called “dress-up” clothes). Women’s skirts must hang a certain distance below the knees, shirt sleeves must  extend past the elbows, bodices must cover the collarbone. Satmar Hassids take the modesty rules to the extreme re women’s hair: when a girl marries she must shave her head, then wear a wig when she is in public (if she has no hair then she cannot possibly tempt a man with her hair, because he can’t possibly or even accidentally see her hair when she has no hair. A totally logical thing for an almighty deity to be concerned with.

* Young people are kept ignorant about their bodies; masturbation (and any sexual contact or knowledge) outside of marriage is forbidden; thus, marriages (arranged when the participants are between the ages of 17-19) are often consummated with the Hasidic bride essentially being raped by her husband.

* Women are considered ritually “unclean” for a period of 12 days each month (during and after menstruation). Husbands must not have physical contact with their wives until after she has had a Mikveh (ritual cleansing bath). There are scads of rules for pregnancy, including that a pregnant woman must not gaze at “non-kosher animals and other impure things.” A woman is ritually unclean for 7 days after birthing a boy and 14 days after having a girl.

* Husbands are “unclean” – but for only one day –  after ejaculating, and take a mikvah to restore ritual purity.

-You must pray three times a day, and make sure that on the Sabbath (Shabbos) each prayer session is longer than usual, and also study certain religious texts at certain times of the day for certain lengths of time (the primary role of Hasid women is wife and mother; because of this, women are excused from some commandments that require them to study/pray at certain times of day.)

* Work” is prohibited on the Sabbath. What is defined as work includes writing (or erasing!), tearing of paper, driving, shopping, using any electric device, cooking, laundry, cleaning, carrying any object outside of the home, handling money…. There is a maximum number of steps you may take on the Sabbath (again, as interpreted per your rabbi, and there are ways to define what is your home/community that can skirt this requirement).

 

[5] Hasidic Jews will ask or even hire a non-Jew, aka a “Shabbas goy,” to perform basic tasks – e.g. turning on a light or an air conditioner – which the Hasids are forbidden to do on the Sabbath. Yet, even then, the Hasids can’t be honest, to themselves or the goys, about how they are skirting this holy commandment of no work on the Sabbath.  When enlisting assistance they’ll try to avoid asking directly (“Would you please turn on the light for me?”); rather, they’ll drop hints and hope the goy will get it and help them (example: “It’s so hot in this room…if only the fan was turned on….”).

[6] Which was curated nine years ago, so yeah, an update may be needed.

[7] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 1 of April 2020, wherein moiself decided that moiself would do themes as listed in the 4-3-20 blog.

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