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The Service I’m Not Thanking

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Department Of What Are We Thankful For?

Answer: turkey substitutes.

In the past, our family has often hosted a Thanksgiving dinner at our house. We’re missing daughter Belle this year – she’s out of state, working at a wildlife refuge, and gets no holidays off  [1]  And somehow, the day just snuck up on us.  Translation: no one else made any plans, possibly hoping/assuming that someone (read: moiself) would step up and say, Here’s what we’re doing.

But we’d been busy and traveling and now MH and K and I have all come down with something flu-like (fever), and no one seems to have the energy to plan A Big Feast ® . Instead, the non-turkey eater announced that she would make herself an oven roasted steelhead filet, plus a few of of her favorite foods that she’d be “willing” to share, along with the suggestion that MH and K make/purchase a turkey or whatever they’d like to have.  Turns out both of them preferred a roast chicken, which they got at a Whole Foods market, and our dear family friend LAH was up for being spontaneous and joined us, also contributing to the feast. Sometimes, the simple is the best.

 

*   *   *

Speaking Of Turkey Substitutes….

The US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has recalled turkey products linked to a salmonella outbreak. The CDC announced the outbreak linked to raw turkey products in July, but more people have gotten sick, bringing the total to at least 164 in 35 states. One person in California has died, and 63 people have been hospitalized….

Just two days before Thanksgiving, the CDC warned US consumers to not eat romaine lettuce, as it may be contaminated with E. coli.

(“Watching out for these illnesses tied to recalled foods at Thanksgiving,”
CNN, 11-21-18)

I have a feeling I’m not the only plant-based   [2] eater who sees the headlines, laughs (mostly to moiself), and thinks, Hey, meat-munchers, perhaps this might be the time to transition to a plant-based diet... or at least swear off the turkey Caesar salad leftovers.

 

 

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Department of EEEEEEEEEEK

Well, at least it was an easy fix.

During the past midterm election season, I noticed I kept getting political mailers, from all parties, addressed to Robyn Gween Parnell.  I know *I’ve* never registered moiself thusly; I know how to spell my own name(s). After the election I checked the online voter’s registry and sure enough, there it was. Funny, what one extra keystroke will do. Now I’m wondering, did I technically commit voter fraud, by voting under that name?

*   *   *

Department Of The Question That Is Apparently On Everyone’s Mind

Dateline: earlier this week, at an Office Depot. I am shipping a package to daughter Belle, who is temporarily living in Arkansas. (Recurring Readers ®  may recall from previous posts why she is there, and that MH and I visited her three weeks ago.) The OD clerk notes the shipping address, says she can’t remember ever having shipped a package to Arkansas, and asks if I’d ever been there. When I reply in the affirmative, she blurts out what seemingly every person does – usually in all sincerity and with genuine confusion – when my visit to Arkansas comes up in conversation:

Why?

 

 

 Why? For the scenery, of course.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Obligatory Apologies

The management would like to apologize for the cultural stereotypes implied in the pictures chosen to illustrate the sentiments expressed in the previous blog segment.  [3]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Still Thinking About It

On Veterans’ Day, MH, K and I went to lunch at a local Red Robin.  The restaurant was getting slammed; I’d never seen it so busy. When a server finally got to our table she apologized for the wait, and explained that on Veterans’ Day, soldiers past and present who have their military ID (or show up in uniform) eat for free.

They (RR) have been doing this for several years, our server explained, and the offer  is so popular that Veteran’s Day is the one day when *everyone* works – no RR staff member can ask for the day off unless they make special arrangements six months in advance.  Non-veteran customers in the restaurant, when they find out what RR is doing, praise them for it and don’t seem to mind the extra crowds/wait, the server said, so it makes for a nice atmosphere, and thus she likes working on Veterans’ Day.

That idea – of freebies for vets    [4] – stuck in my head, due to conversations I’d had with my father.  During the end of our meal I told MH and K that although Chet Parnell had been proud of his military service  [5]  and wouldn’t begrudge any other veteran of any age from accepting a restaurant’s offer of a free meal,  I was confident that, were he here with us, he wouldn’t have claimed such an offer for himself.

My confidence about his response stems from talks we’d had over the years, and in particular, our last, long telephone conversation   [6] about his time in the military, as well as that of his brother-in-law, Bill O’Malley. My Uncle Bill, also a WWII paratrooper, and saw action in campaigns from North Africa to Italy to D-Day to the Battle of the Bulge.  He was hospitalized after the war, in Europe, for (what we now know is) PTSD. When he was well enough to be released, his PTSD, or what was called “shell shock” back then, continued to give him emotional problems when he returned to the States. My Uncle Bill never received any stateside counseling or mental health treatment.  [7]   Instead, he’d gradually “recovered,” he’d told me, when he and I talked extensively about his war stories,  [8]  because of how he was treated by his fellow Americans. As a returning GI, everyone was kind to and patient with him.  “If they knew or even suspected that I’d been a soldier,” Bill said, “I never paid for a cup of coffee.”

Chet chuckled when I told him Bill’s story, then said that he himself had always felt …odd…accepting any kind of kudos for his military service. He was an enlistee, not a draftee, and had proudly signed up for the paratroopers. It was an important job he and the other soldiers had to do, he said, but he didn’t want to make “a big deal” out of it.  He got paid for doing it, and never felt that he was owed him anything nor that civilians were beholden to him in any way. Or, as he put it, “I can buy my own damn cuppa coffee.”

 

Chet Parnell (front row far left) and some of his “stick.”  [9]

 

*   *   *

Who doesn’t want to be thanked for their military service?….
Many people, it turns out….To some recent vets…the thanks comes across as shallow, disconnected, a reflexive offering from people who, while meaning well, have no clue what soldiers did over there or what motivated them to go, and who would never have gone themselves nor sent their own sons and daughters.
To these vets, thanking soldiers for their service symbolizes the ease of sending a volunteer army to wage war at great distance — physically, spiritually, economically. It raises questions of the meaning of patriotism, shared purpose and, pointedly, what you’re supposed to say to those who put their lives on the line and are uncomfortable about being thanked for it.
(Hunter Garth, 26, former Marine who served in Afghanistan) said that when he gets thanked it can feel self-serving for the thankers, suggesting that he did it for them, and that they somehow understand the sacrifice, night terrors, feelings of loss and bewilderment. Or don’t think about it at all.
“I pulled the trigger,” he said. “You didn’t. Don’t take that away from me.”

(“Please Don’t Thank Me For My Service,” NY Times, 2-21-15)

*   *   *

 

May you have a restful post-Thanksgiving weekend;
May you contemplate the existential reasons why a person might visit Arkansas;
May you appreciate being able to buy your own damn cuppa coffee;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Lions and tigers and bears want to eat every day, and don’t understand Thanksgiving.

[2] Plant-based eaters generally exclude or minimize consumption of meat and animal products. Some, like moiself, have fish on occasion. And others, also like moiself, are trying to get Tillamook Pepper Jack cheese classified as a fish.

[3] The management would like to apologize, if only she could do it sincerely.

[4] I sincerely hope all veteran’s order of burgers and fries were not delivered to their tables with that phrase I find at once odious and obsequious: Thank you for your service.

[5] He served in WWII as a paratrooper.

[6] The night before he died.

[7] Both treatment for and knowledge about PTSD was practically non-existent, for WWII vets.

[8] Which flabbergasted my parents when I told them, years later, because, other than a few talks with Chet, a fellow paratrooper, “Bill wouldn’t talk about the war with anyone.” My theory was that while Bill wouldn’t talk about the war with other adults, a ten year old (at the time of our conversation) kid disarmed him with my genuine curiosity and guileless questions – and every question I asked, he answered.

[9] A “stick” is a load of paratroopers in one plane, prepared for a drop.

The Nuts I’m Not Mixing

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Department Of Commenting On The Election Results

There was the good,   [1] and the bad, and the, We’ll see. Like the can my Aunt Gwen used to set out by the olive tray every Thanksgiving, it was….

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

 

Department Of How I Spent The Night Of The Election

*Not* watching the returns, but watching the movie, Dave. It’s one of my (and my daughter Belle’s) favorite political movies (yes, I do have movie categories, and political movies get a group of their own), with an appealing cast and a delightful (if admittedly goofy, far-fetched) plot and a hopeful ending…along with a heart-tugging performance by Sigourney Weaver as a determined, idealistic, and (understandably) bitterly lonely “First Lady.”   [2]

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Pipe Dreams

Dateline: a week ago Monday, after yoga class. Although it was too late for this (the next day’s) midterm election, I fantasized about organizing a nationwide demonstration – perhaps it should be called a presentation – outside of polling booths all over the nation.  The presentation would consist of a bunch of yogis standing by the polls (or ballot return boxes, for those states who have early and/or mail-in voting) doing vrikshasana ( “Tree Pose”), and/or other yoga poses requiring balance and focus and radiating a sense of calm.

That’s it.

I figure at least one blustery couple on their way to the polls would pause, take a look, then turn to one another and say, “Oh, sweetie, let’s not vote for assholes this year.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Who Does This, And Why

 

“The Mystery of the Cuckoo Bird Recycler has returned.”

It wasn’t the perfect analogy, but MH and son K understood what I meant.

Background #1: You may be familiar with the story of the cuckoo bird, which, as a brood parasite, lays its eggs in other bird’s nests.

Background #2: Wednesday is the trash and recycling pickup day in our ‘hood. When I return from my walk on Wednesday mornings, I check our glass recycling bin, which, along with the mixed recycling bin and our garbage can, we’ve set out for the morning pickup.  I check the glass bin to make certain that it contains only recyclable glass jars and bottles…which may seem like a silly thing to do, since we put it out the night before and after years of doing this we know what items go where.  But “we” are not the problem.

We’ve had a history of, every couple of months or so, finding items in the recycling bin that aren’t ours. Who cares, right, as long as the items will be going to recycling and are sorted appropriately?  But they are not, and that’s the problem.

 

 

It should be obvious that this is *not* the plastic duck decoy recycling bin.

 

 

 

 

It may seem funny (or obsessive) to you – as it does to me – that moiself feels the need to check the recycling bin for FOREIGN OBJECTS. The thing is, Mystery Neighborhood Cuckoo Recycler ®  has had a habit of putting items in the wrong bin.  I first discovered this several years ago, after the recycling trucks and come and gone and our full glass recycling bin was still by the curb, with an Official Notice ®  from the recycling service placed on top of it, informing us that they cannot take items improperly sorted…which means it will be another two weeks until they will pick up our glass recyclables bin.  [3]

I was confused, until I looked under the Official Notice ® . Sure enough, there were several empty tin cans someone had dumped atop the glass bottles and jars.  The glass recycling truck folks will not or cannot be bothered to simply take the cans out of the glass recycling bin and toss them in our mixed recycling bin. It would take maybe 10 seconds to accomplish that task…but, nope.  “Not their job.” They do have the time to go back to the truck and get the you’ve been a naughty recycler form and leave it in our recycle bin.

 

 

 

 

There is a tremendous size and color discrepancy between the small, four-sided, no cover, bright red, glass-only bin and the ginormous, gray, covered, paper and plastics recycling cart. We’ve been doing this for years; we know which is which.  Still, this thing – miscreant cans placed in our glass-only recycle bin, causing the recycling company to refuse to take our glass items – has happened several times. I know it wasn’t someone from our family who got the bins mixed up, as the cans have always been store brands from stores we don’t shop at and/or items we don’t use or buy.

The mystery cans stopped being dumped in our glass bin after I printed out a brightly colored form of my own, which read GLASS ONLY NO CANS and affixed it to our glass recycling bin.  I’ve still been checking on a regular basis, which is why this week I discovered three wine bottles which were not ours  [4], placed atop our recycle bin. At least the hitchhikers were in the correct bin this time.

I can imagine a neighbor thinking, for example, that they don’t have enough items to justify schlepping their bin at the curb this week so they’ll just add the odd wine bottle or pickle jar to ours.  On the one hand, it’s no big deal.  On the other hand… it just seems like they should ask us, ya know?  [5]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Segue To Another Avian-Related Anecdote

No cuckoos that I could detect;  nevertheless, I was charmed by the sight of this bird-covered light post, shrouded in the morning mist.  I immediately thought of my Swenadian   [6] friend, who is an ornithophobe. Coming upon something like this would be her Alfred Hitchcock nightmare come true.  They’re waiting for you to walk by….

 

 

*   *   *

 

*   *   *

Department Of Words And Phrases I Hope Are Never Applied To Me

 

☼  spry

☼  quirky

☼  feisty

☼  “Bless her heart…”

☼   “She means well…”

☼  such an inspiration

☼   a national treasure

☼   emeritus

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Here

 

 

I’ve seen enough you-know-what decorations and merchandise in stores that I feel justified sharing my favorite song about the matter, the Dropkick Murphy’s deliciously subversive ode to the holidays:

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The View From The Floor

 

Sometimes, someone joins me during my morning stretches.

 

 

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Department Of , And My Response Would Be, “That Is What You’d Call It When They Finally Impeach #45, Aka The Tantrum Thrower-In-Chief.”

Dateline: Thursday am, I am exercising on one of those elliptical machines while listening to the podcast Serial, which, this season, is focusing on stories about the Cleveland criminal justice system. The episode I am listening to contains several mentions of when/why courts may try juveniles as adults, which causes MH to wonder aloud, “Do they ever try adults as juveniles?”

 

 

 

*   *   *

May someone join you during your après workout stretch;
May #45 be tried as a juvenile, an adult, an irradiated alien….;
May you prepare a “presentation” of your own for the next election;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Specifically, the GOP (Grumpy Old Pissants) losing the House majority.

[2] What a horrible, horrible title/role.

[3] Garbage pickup is weekly; recycling alternates other week, between yard debris and glass/paper/plastic.

[4] Varietals we don’t drink.

[5] As neighbors have done so in the past when they had extra garbage and wondered if we had space in our garbage can. We are always happy to help out in that case.

[6] Our friends, a Sweden married to a Canadian, refer to themselves and their (now-adult) children by this delightful ethnic hybrid.

The Virtue I’m Not Signaling

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By next Tuesday – Election Day – we’ll find out if all this talk, outrage, Facebook posting and parade attending has translated into voting action. If all the hoopla turns out to be so much virtue signaling, moiself is going to be looking for asses to kick.

Y’all likely have encountered someone who practices virtue signaling, even if the term is unfamiliar to you. One example of a virtue signaler is the guy who wants to be seen as “an environmentalist” more than he actually wants to consider the impact of his lifestyle on his environment:

His image:
“You know how I admire my co-worker, Mr. Forrest Greene –  he’s always advocating for sustainability and environmental issues! And now he’s selling his downtown condo and buying land upon which he will build a tiny house – he’s downsizing to live in the country!”

His reality:
If Mr. Green was truly advocating for sustainability he wouldn’t change his lifestyle to leave a much larger carbon footprint than that which he currently produces as an urbanite. He is developing previously undeveloped land, for one. And he’s neither quitting his job nor getting rid of his car, but by moving “to the country® ” he’s tripled his commute time and distance.  Is he, somehow, on his land, going to be able to raise/produce all of his food and clothing material (and toilet paper and other household goods?). Of course not, so he’s going to have to drive much farther and more often to get the essentials. When he lived in the city he mostly used public transportation to commute to work, and also for work, errands, and entertainment…and he could walk to many stores, cafes, theaters and nightclubs and…

 

 

virtue

 

 

After the nightmarish 2016 election, Portland had several nights of demonstrations.  [1]  I remember my shock-quickly-morphing-into-disgust when some of the demonstrators, many of whom were seemingly passionate and articulate people, were interviewed by TV news crews: when these demonstrators were asked re whom/what they supported in the election, they said that they had not voted.

 

KHAN

 

 

The streets of downtown Portland have swelled with protesters each night since Donald Trump won the presidential election on Tuesday, and on occasion the protests have turned violent….a review of state election records by a local news station shows that more than a third of those arrested didn’t even vote.
(
A Third of Anti-Trump Protestors Arrested
in Portland Didn’t Vote,” NY magazine, 11-15-16 )

If I hear you complain about the state of our government, then find out you didn’t vote….

 

 

slap

 

 

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                                           Department Of It Pays To Get Distracted                 

Dateline: last week, during the previously mentioned trip to Arkansas. MH and moiself are hiking the Devil’s Den State Park cave trail, which takes hikers past really cool caves you can no longer explore. [2]   I am in the lead, about 50 feet ahead of MH, who has stopped for a photo op. I think I see something off of a side trail leading to a creek, and decide to investigate…and am very glad I did.  I call out to MH and he joins me in admiring (and adding to) The Mysterious Land O’ Cairns ®.  

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of You Can’t Make Up This Shit   [3]

Helpful Background Information ® :

haram (adjective) ha·​ram | \hä-ˈräm:
forbidden by Islamic law

News flash: as you may have heard, a notorious Islamist country took a teensiest baby step a bold leap into the 15th century by granting its female citizen a modicum of independence . Even so, the decision by Saudi Arabia to allow women to drive was apparently too much for at least one slavering fanatic  pious Saudi cleric, who tweeted  [4]  this helpful explanation of why it is sinful for women to drive:

“When a woman is driving, she’s exposed to vibrations, this shakes her vagina, she will feel sexual euphoria and this is haram.”

 

vibrator

Hip Hip Hooray for haram!

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Honeymoon Never Ends

Content warning: sex and violence.  [5]

 

 

content

 

 

During our previously mentioned trip to Arkansas MH and I stayed I overnight in a cabin in the also previously mentioned Devil’s Den State Park. After enjoying some adult snuggle time during the evening, MH felt compelled to share the following tender sentiment with me the next morning:

“So, in a horror movie, when the two teenagers have sex in the cabin in the woods, that’s when the slasher/killer gets them.”

 

 

 

cabin

Now where did those two lovebirds go?

 

 

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The Halloween Costumes I’m Not Wearing

Halloween, what was once one of my childhood favorite holidays, has fallen by the wayside, so to cliché-speak, in my adult years. I still enjoy thinking up costume ideas but often go no further than the brainstorm, because, Life.  [6]

This week the Trick or Treat day fell on my yoga class day; I wanted to do something to celebrate both, but after having just returned from the (previously to the nth degree mentioned) Arkansas trip I’d neither the time nor the energy to put in much effort.

I considered hitting the streets as Hell’s Yoga Teacher: wearing an uber yoga outfit, accessorized by a devil’s tail and pointy ears and carrying a rolled up yoga mat and wielding a pitchfork, I would accost strangers on the street and correct their posture:

 (“Tuck your pelvis; shoulders back; lift the crown of your head; remember to breathe…now, give me 160 Sun Salutations….)

Instead, I made a last minute trip to a Halloween Costume shop, where I purchased a couple of “props” for my yoga teacher:

 

 

catcow

 

 

Keeping in mind the forbearance and good humor of both the teacher and my classmates, I also purchased a lame bear mask, which I wore to class. I appreciated that most of my fellow students—who are old enough (ahem) to get the reference, eventually guessed that I was Yogi Bear   [7].  

 

 

 

beartreepose

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

May you vote as if your country depended on it (and not make moiself want to slap you);
May you savor forbidden vibrations;
May you enjoy what magical sights may be found by going off the main trail;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] A couple of which turned into near-riots.

[2] To protect the wildlife – read: bats – humans may no longer enter the caves, although once upon a time you and our trusty flashlight could do so.

[3] Except, of course,  when it comes to religion, all the shit is made up.

[4] Posting talking-out-of-your-ass statement on social media, however, is expressly praised in the Islamic scriptures.

[5] As in, your now adult children are still in fact your children and even the slightest allusion to the fact that their parents may be having marital relations is embarrassing…

[6] What a lame, adult excuse, right?

[7] A yogi is the term for anyone who practices yoga.

The Comment Cards I’m Not Discarding

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Department Of Things That Should Be No Brainers…
But Some People Have No Brains When It Comes To Animals

History: ____ (exotic animal’s name) was taken into her (former) owners’ home to be kept as a pet. After being bitten through a pair of welding gloves, her owners reached out to the rescue sanctuary….

History: ___ (exotic animal’s name) had been kept as a pet, but was rehomed after biting his owner’s child….

History: ___ (exotic animal’s name) was rescued from a home in ____(town, state), where she was being kept as a pet. After injuring her owners’ son….

History:  Young couple purchased a baby (exotic animal) from a breeder who told them that the (exotic animal) would make a good pet for their young children. “Don’t feed the (exotic animal) any raw meat and he will mature to be docile,” the exotic animal breeder told the young couple. The (exotic animal) was put on a diet of canned tuna and chicken, until one day he bit the couple’s five-year-old son on the shoulder and would not let go…

These are just a few of the stories of how thousands of formerly neglected and abused lions and tigers and bears – and cougars and bobcats and servals and leopards, et al – came to be rescued by exotic wildlife refuge centers across the country. These stories also illustrate a few of the myriad of reasons why “exotic” animals do not make good “pets.”

No matter how much you may wish it, this

 

bobcats

 

Is not this

 

 

cat

 

*   *   *

I am currently on vacation with MH, visiting daughter Belle, who is working at one such exotic animal rescue sanctuary, as previously mentioned in this blog:

A few months after acquiring an exotic pet (whether via legal or questionable means), Joe Lookatmei’mcoolIownatiger realizes that the cub which was so adorable at 8 weeks old is growing into AN ACTUAL FRIGGIN’ TIGER – never mind that the breeder assured them it was from eight generations of “domesticated” tigers and was really just a big, big pussy cat.  At that point, Joe either voluntarily abandons/surrenders the animal or is forced to do so by his neighbors or an animal welfare organization.
Enter Wild Cat SanctuaryBig Cat RescueTurpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, et al, who offer a place for these discarded “pets” –  along with animals rescued or retired from circuses or other anachronistic “entertainment” shows  –  to live out the remainder of their lives in as natural a setting as possible.  These organizations also work to, essentially, put themselves out of business. That is, they lobby for legislation which would end the captive wildlife crisis by outlawing the buying, selling, breeding and exhibiting of such animals.

*   *   *

 

This is my first trip to Arkansas, home of Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge[1]  Turpentine Creek’s mission, like that of other legitimate wildlife rescue organizations, is twofold:

  1. to care for and provide lifetime refuge for abandoned, abused [2]  and neglected big cats, (with an emphasis on lions, tigers, leopards and cougars   [3]);
  2. to educate the public about the plight of wild animals kept as pets and used for profit (e.g. cub petting “zoos” and traveling animal shows and animal display or petting birthday and other kiddie parties and trophy hunting), and to lobby for legislation which would outlaw these practices.

 

wild

 

Intelligent, proactive, well–intentioned and kind-hearted, supportive-of-ethical-businesses person that you are,  [4] you might be interested in advocating for and maybe even visiting an exotic animal sanctuary. But because the term “sanctuary” is not regulated by the government, any facility can call itself such. Being a person with the afore-mentioned attributes, you want to make sure you are supporting a true sanctuary and not enabling a pseudo-sanctuary – one which may seem to say all the right things but which in fact is keeping (and even raising) its animals for profit.

 

True sanctuaries will NOT

*breed animals
*allow any interaction (petting/feeding) with cubs
*allow the public to have any hands-on interaction with any carnivore of any age
*allow its own animal care team to handle any animal (unless it is sedated for veterinary care)
* buy or sell animal parts
* exhibit animals at shows, or transport animals to any place off- sanctuary (unless for vet care)

Turpentine Creek’s website has links (What is a Sanctuary) which will help us educate ourselves; i.e., to know what questions to ask about a facility to determine its legitimacy:

“Differentiating between a true sanctuary and a pseudo-sanctuary might take a little extra research, but when you visit a true sanctuary you are helping to put an end to the exotic animal trade and also protecting exotic animals from exploitation.”

*   *   *

Department Of One More Thing: You Also Don’t Want To Be Responsible For Encouraging The Breeding Of More “Kennys” In This World

 

kenny

 

If this tiger remind you in anyway of the British royal family, that’s because the (now deceased) “Kenny” is the poster boy for the dangers of inbreeding. Kenny’s tiger parents were closely related, and he suffered from a variety of physiological – and obviously cosmetic – ailments and deformities…but as long as breeding exotics is allowed and someone can make money off of it they will continue to do so and breed for a rare mutation – one that is de-selected for in the wild – because thanks in large part to ASSHOLES like Siegfried and Roy people got the mistaken idea that it would be cool to own white tiger.

*   *   *

Belle loves her work and the proximity she has to the creatures in the sanctuary, and reaffirmed her comment to us, made after her first week of her internship, about how she needs no convincing about wild animals needing to be wild:  no matter how many generations of “domestic” breeding the animals come from, no matter how friendly they seem on the other side of the fence,  [5]  no matter how long they’ve lived in captivity or how much they seem recognize you as an ally/as someone who brings their food, “As soon as you turn your back to them they begin to stalk you.”  [6]  

*   *   *

Department Of But Wait, There’s More…
(To Arkansas, That Is, Besides The Big Cat Sanctuary)

* more road kill than I’ve seen in a long time

* the former includes armadillos (seeing their carcasses, for some reason, makes me sadder than seeing that of the other road kill specimens)

* The beautiful Ozark “Mountains” (I cannot bring myself to refer to them as mountains without quotation marks –apologies to the friends who’d seen this part of the country and who, when they found out my destination, told me, “What they call ‘mountains” in the south/east aren’t really mountains.”  These apologies are due because I reacted by pooh-pooh-ing them for what I considered to be their Western Regionalism Prejudice ® …and now I find myself thinking, Really, people, these are nice, rolling hills on a plateau…but the highest peak is 2500 feet and you call them, ‘mountains?”    [7]

* An architecturally notable Art Museum…which inadvertently provided the most notable art of all (at least for moiself): A Certain Moment Of Engagement With A Fellow Human Being ® which happened to take place at said museum.

 

 

astonishedspock

Please, do go on.

 

*   *   *

Blog Department Of Please Share Your Impressions With Us… Up To A Point.

Dateline: Monday, Crystal Bridges Museum of Contemporary Art in Bentonville, AR. MH and I have just completed viewing the museum’s featured exhibit: Art for a New Understanding: Native Voices, 1950s to Today, which “…presents works of art by important Native American artists, enriching our understanding of American art.”

At the end of the exhibit, I am standing in front of a comment board near the exhibition’s exit door.  The comment board is a series of metal grooves on a wall, into which museum visitors may insert ~ 4″ x 6″ unlined index cards which are provided, along with felt pens, on a table by the wall, along with the instructions to “share your impressions of the exhibit.”

I begin to scan the various comments. One of the museum’s docents, who is stationed near the exit door, walks over to stand beside me. He also begins reading the comment cards, and quickly reaches up and removes two of them.

Moiself: Why are you taking those cards down?

Docent (pointing to a slot in the top of a trash can-like receptacle to the right of the Comment Wall): “We save them; they all go here. We take some cards down to make room for others.”

I note that there is plenty of room on the board, which looked as if it could hold about 50 comment cars and there were only about 9 – 10 posted at that time.

Moiself: “Okay…but why are you taking those two cards down?

I was careful to modulate my voice, to indicate curiosity and not accusation. Because the cards the docent left posted had comments along the lines of, “Beautiful!” and, “Thanks I  enjoyed this,” while the comments written on the two cards he took down were:

card one: Move on

card two: There can be no illegal people living on stolen land.

The docent, again (attempting to distract/reassure me?) says, “We save all the comments.”  I ask him if he’d chose those particular cards to remove – excuse me, to expedite to the save box – because they could be considered political or controversial.  [8]  

Docent (flashing me a nervous smile): “We like to leave the ones that are positive.”

Before I can point out to him that the instructions for filling out the comment cards mention noting about positive or negative, only offer the opportunity to share your impressions of the exhibit, he once again declares, “We save all the comments.“

 

 

saynice

*   *   *

 

May you do more than “save all the comments;”
May you appreciate another state’s hills even if you remain smug about the superiority of your state’s mountains;
May you appreciate and support the true sanctuaries of (exotic or ordinary) life;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] MH had previously visited the state in his way younger years, to see an uncle who ran one of those “Life of Jesus” theme parks (really).

[2] And by definition, private ownership and breeding of these animals is abuse.

[3] Along the way TC has also answered the call to rescue several bears, and servals, and even a monkey.

[4] Since your reading this blog, I’m assuming the best!

[5] And they are *always* on the other side of the fence. No matter what the individual animal’s history of human contact was prior to coming to the refuge there is *no* direct animal/human contact at that – or any respectable – wildlife refuge.

[6] The caregivers are always behind fences, and there is NO direct human contact with sanctuary animals, except for when the animal is sedated, e.g., veterinary care.

[7] When your point of reference for mountains are The Rockies (62 peaks exceeding 13k feet), or The Sierras (peaks to 14k), or the Cascades (peaks to 14k) or even the Coast Range of the Pacific Northwest (peaks to 4k)…. these cute little hills just don’t cut it.

[8] It was an interesting “egalitarian” moment of censorship, I thought, in that the move on comment could be taken to be a more right wing suggestion to Native peoples to get over their history of defeat and exploitation (common themes in the art), while There can be no illegal people living on stolen land is obviously a more left-leaning sentiment.

The Superhero Unmentionables I’m Not Wearing

2 Comments

Department Of Theme Songs Previously Unheard…

Until now, that is.

Thanks to a radio station I frequently listen to when I’m driving – a station which treats the ears with old advertising jingles and televisions theme songs as well as “oldies – I recently heard part of the “Wonder Woman” theme song for the first time.

That show was on during the no-TV years for me. I never watched it, nor even knew it had a theme song with lyrics.  As soon as I returned home I had to search the web and check the lyrics, to make sure I was hearing what I thought I was hearing:

Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman/All the world’s waiting for you,
and the power you possess.
In your satin tights/Fighting for your rights….

 

 

REALLY

 

 

 

Really.

In your satin tights/Fighting for your rights….

Ahhhhhh, yes. Perhaps I have inadvertently stumbled upon an explanation for just one of the many, many reasons why both my lifelong quest for superhero status and civil rights have fallen short of my dreams:

no satin tights.

Now I can’t help but think of alternative verses commending the magical underwear of superheroes:

☼  In your lingerie/Showing us the way….

☼  In your undergarments/Chasing evil varmints….

☼  In your silken thong/Righting all that’s wrong….

In your tighty whitey/Looking fierce and mighty….

☼  In your boxer shorts/ Rescuing cohorts….

☼  In your granny pants/Evil has no chance….

☼  In your woolen bloomers/Saving Baby Boomers….

☼  In your BVDs/Fighting Killer Bees….

☼  In your magic drawers/cleansing zit-clogged pores….

☼  In your skanky skivvies/.…

Feel free to stop me anytime.

*   *   *

Content warning:

SOAPBOX

 

Department Of How To Do More Than Just Gripe

…. meat production funnels far more resources through animals than it gets out of them…. even the most efficient sources of meat convert only ~ 11% of feed energy into human food.
And to grow all that animal feed, the industry is constantly converting more native lands to agricultural operations—burning and clear-cutting the Amazon and other forests to make way for feed fields. Today, a whopping 30% of Earth’s landmass goes to meat, dairy, and egg production, according to the United Nations. As the UN also reports, livestock production causes “an even larger contribution” to climate change “than the transportation sector worldwide.” That’s right: Factory farmed animals contribute more to climate change than all the world’s cars, trucks, planes, trains and ships combined.
(Fortune, “How Your Diet Can Save the Planet,” )

Governments of the Most Powerful and Influential Nations ® , especially ours, are doing little to nothing when it comes to initiating effective solutions to combat climate change. We need a global Marshall Plan devoted to such. Absent that, it is easy for individuals to become cynical and think that our ordinary, Best Efforts ®  (I wash and reuse my plastic ziplock bags!) mean diddly-squat.  But… and this is a big but…

 

 

bigbutt

Even bigger than this, if you can imagine.

 

 

…. there is something every individual can do that will make a difference:

Switch to a plant-based diet.

The human population has reached 7.6 billion and could number 9 billion or 10 billion by midcentury. All those people will need to eat. A sobering report published in the journal Nature argues that a sustainable food system that doesn’t ravage the environment is going to require dramatic reforms, including a radical change in dietary habits.
To be specific: Cheeseburgers are out, and fruits and veggies are in.
The 23 authors of the report, hailing from Europe, the United States, Australia and Lebanon, reviewed the many moving parts of the global food system and how they interact with the environment. The authors concluded that the current methods of producing, distributing and consuming food aren’t environmentally sustainable and that damage to the planet could make it less hospitable for human existence.
A core message from the researchers is that efforts to keep climate change at an acceptable level won’t be successful without a huge reduction in meat consumption.
(“Earth’s population is skyrocketing. How do you feed 10 billion people sustainably?” Washington Post)

uncle sam

…to eat your veggies!

 

Despite your best intentions, a weekly Meatless Monday or Steak-less Saturday ain’t gonna cut it. The numbers have been crunched: our patterns of producing, distributing and consuming foods – specifically, animals and animal products – are not sustainable.

New research shows moving away from animal protein towards legumes makes sense nutritionally and environmentally.
… A substantial amount of (greenhouse gas emissions, which exacerbate climate change emissions) comes from livestock farming with the production of the gas, methane….
switching diets towards plants as sources of protein as opposed to meat, is much more sustainable….plant protein sources (have) the lowest environmental production cost, while at the same time demonstrate the highest density of nutrients. “Peas have a nutrient density to environmental footprint ratio approximately five times higher than equivalent amounts of lamb, pork, beef or chicken.”
(“A switch to plant-based protein could help tackle climate change and hunger,”
Science X Network”)

You care about climate change and environmental degradation, don’t you?  [1]  You can do something. Not only about The Planet ®, but about yourself, as well.  If this concept (plant-based nutrition) is new to you, you’re in for a treat. You’ll discover a tasty, healthier way of fueling your body, as opposed to the SAD (Standard American Diet) you’ve likely been following.   [2] And despite the food-as-entertainment and eating-as-sport mindset our industrialized food culture has spawned, our intake of food is ultimately and primarily to provide fuel for our bodies.

If physicians know of a treatment that could prevent and reverse disease, then it seems like that treatment should be the first-line method of care prescribed to patients. Researchers at Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest managed care organizations in the country, found that there is, in fact, such a treatment. In their official materials, they now advise the 17,000+ physicians in their network to recommend the most powerful, yet least-used prescription to their patients: a healthy, plant-based diet and active lifestyle.
(“Why the Nation’s Largest Health Plan Wants Its Doctors
to Recommend a Plant-Based Diet”, Wellness)

Talk to someone who’s made the switch.  Yeah, you’ve fallen for all the advertising that makes it seem cool to brag about adding bacon to every meal, but your body and mind….

 

 

wilbur

…and Wilbur….

 

 

will thank you for wising up.  [3]  

You’ll also, hopefully, derive some satisfaction for not personally contributing to the myriad of environmental degradations caused by industrial meat production, which includes the lagoons of pig shit which overflow after hurricanes and other natural disasters…

 

 

lagoon

No palm trees to decorate these festering lagoons…are your Jimmy Dean sausage patties really worth it?

 

 

   [4] …and the totally preventable/unnatural disaster of the contamination of rural communities’ water supplies from manure and nitrates, which are the “natural” and unavoidable by-products of industrialized meat farming.

And no, if you change your eating habits and go plant-based, you don’t have to go around tossing buckets of blood on people who wear fur,  [5] or call yourself a vegan – or anything special, for that matter. Treat it like any other issue you care about and may, for example, disagree with a family member about. Your Uncle Anus takes every opportunity to crow about why he doesn’t “believe” in global warming; to keep the peace at Thanksgiving you might not counter his beliefs with the facts right there at the table, but you encourage him to do the research  [6]  and get back to you. Ditto, here.  Do the research. Then, be a responsible person and make the changes you can make,  [7]  rather than literally or figuratively sitting on your (expanding, animal products-fed) ass and pissing and moaning about why your government doesn’t ban all coal production or whatever.

 

 

 

turkeys

*   *   *

Department Of Ouch

Dateline: one week ago. I am on the phone with a Very Helpful Young Woman ® who is setting up an account for a new utility billing for MH and moiself. In order to establish credit and bill us, as opposed to requiring payment at time of service, she needs to run a brief credit check on moiself. The only info required is my name, last four digits of my SSN, my mother’s birthname, my date of birth, and occupation.  She goes down the list of questions, and when it gets to occupation, she says, “I assume you’re retired.”

Now, then. Ahem. We’re communicating by phone, so I’m guessing the VHYW made the assumption based on my birth date (which still, IMHO and experience, is a young date to retire). No one’s ever told me my voice sounds old, but maybe to her I sounded like this?

 

 

OLD

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Touchy Issues  [8]

I remember, at the beginning of the modern gay rights movement, how there were some vocal, disgruntled black Americans who complained, in a my-experience-of-prejudice-is-greater-than-yours kind of way, that with regards to discrimination (I’m paraphrasing here), “It’s harder to be black than gay, because you can’t hide that you’re black.”As in, people look at you and know your “race,” while homosexuals can “pass” or get by and no one will know unless you want them to.

 

 

flaming

Of course, it’s harder for some folks to pass than others.

 

 

I’ve been thinking about this issue – that of coming out, to family, friends, neighbors, co-workers – for many years now. On last week’s National Coming Out Day, I wondered if it would be appropriate to, say, on a Facebook post, encourage those of us who are religion-free (but unknown as such, to family and friends) to do the same, on that day?

I decided not to steal the fire, so to speak, from LGBTQ issues. Still, many of us who are religion-free (we People Of The Many Monikers ®, including, atheists, humanists, Freethinkers, Brights, Skeptics, et al) have long realized that we need to take a page from the LGBTQ’s civil rights playbook.  It is far too easy for us to “hide’ or to have our worldviews remain unknown, especially in the USA where prejudice against non-religious believers is common.

A 2013 Harris Poll…found that 23 percent of all Americans have forsaken religion altogether. A 2015 Pew Research Center poll reported that 34 to 36 percent of millennials (those born after 1980) are” nones” and corroborated the 23 percent figure, adding that this was a dramatic increase from 2007, when only 16 percent of Americans said they were affiliated with no religion...(The Rise of the Atheists,” Scientific American)

Despite the fact that there’s been a dramatic increase in the percentage of Americans who claim no religious affiliation, unless you are “out” the default assumption is that you hold (some kind of) religious beliefs.

It was only when LGBTQ people began to come out that the myths surrounding them began to be destroyed. It is easier to express or hold hateful (or just well-meaning but ignorant) opinions and beliefs about what “those people” think or do when those people remain unknown to you – you never have to confront your mutual humanity.

When you find out those homos or those godless commies include the person in the cubicle next to yours, your next door neighbor, your cousin, your mom’s favorite auntie, the man sitting across the dinner table or the woman who sits beside you in the pew every Sunday,   [9]   your opinions almost have to become enlightened…or at least, a bit more in touch with reality.

Wait a minute, I’ve always thought that gays are __ (insert favorite stereotype), but now I found out that cousin Andy is gay, and so is Susie in accounting and my best friend’s brother, and these people are all nice, intelligent, decent, hard-working and principled citizens — not the kind of people at all to cause tornadoes to hit Midwestern trailer parks….hmmm…maybew the 700 Club was wrong about that, and other things….

 

 

Ateed

 

*   *   *

 

May you come out, come out, wherever you are;
May you fight the cynicism and make the changes you can;
May you send me your list of superhero undergarment rhymes;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] If not, stop reading this blog right now, slit your arteries open and dive heart-first into a vat of suet.

[2] Not that you’re a bad person, but we’ve all mostly been raised that way.

[3]  And if for whatever selfish personal reasons you continue to eat meat, climate concerns aside, you do know why you should not eat processed meats…don’t you?

[4] “Lagoons of Pig Waste Are Overflowing After Florence. Yes, That’s as Nasty as It Sounds,” NY Times.

[5] As fun as that might be…I mean, you can still do that, if you want (but I hope you don’t).

[6] This is an easy one to start with: (“Hidden Costs of Industrialized Agriculture“,
Union of Concerned Scientists)

[7] while you can still do so voluntarily and proactively, before all your “numbers” (BP, blood sugar, cholesterol & triglycerides, etc. ) skyrocket and you get your doctor’s ultimatum to go veggie.

[8] As if the whole “go plant-based!” screed wasn’t touchy enough.

[9] Yep, many religious non-believers (including MH, son K, daughter Belle, and moiself) continued to be active church members, for a variety of reasons and for various periods of time, after personally acknowledging that they do not hold religious beliefs.

The Beauty Pageant I’m Not Entering

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Although the current events of the past two weeks have been almost unbearably rant-worthy, y’all may notice I haven’t posted much on “politics.” At this what-could-be-pivotal-but-may-only-be-a-blip-in-obtaining-justice-and-reining-in-misogyny-and-privilege moment in history, I’m a bit…pessimistic…re my fellow citizens’ ability to Do The Right Thing. ® 

To employ – actually, create – a WTF? metaphor, let me just say that were I to be a contestant in the Ms. Human Nature Beauty Pageant – I mean of course, Scholarship Pageant – the judges would likely throw me out after the first round…and the other contestants would unanimously vote me, Miss Anthropic.   [1]

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of “What’s That Bitch Sayin’—what’s a Igneous —Fish Loggin’?’

It’s odd, sometimes, what sparks a memory.

From ages 18 through 28, I ran in the morning, every morning, for my primary form of exercise. When I was in college I would set my alarm to get up and going while it was still dark but approaching dawn;  [2]  I found it… aesthetically pleasing, would be the best way to describe it, to finish my run with the rising sun.  ‘Twas a nice way to start the day.

There was a grassy field near my (freshman year) dorm, and every day during the late winter through spring early mornings I’d run past a dozen or so rabbits which were out in the field, nibbling on whatever munchies they could find.  The first few mornings they fled at my approach, but as the weeks went by their little bunny brains apparently got used to the sight of a lone biped loping past – not at – them.  Once they realized I posed no threat they’d stand their ground, heads up, chins bobbing sideways with chewing, acknowledging me (or so I liked to think) as I passed by.  I often wondered what they thought – if they thought, at all – about what I was doing or where I was going. Perhaps, they figured, I was on my way to my own field of greens.

 

 

bunnies

It’s her again. Everybody act normal.

 

 

 

I would not keep that particular schedule now. Translation: I would not run or do any form of exercise outside alone, at night or in the early morning darkness, without carrying some kind of personal protection device. [3]   Never-you-mind-how-many years ago, it never occurred to me to feel unsafe on campus. I was never hassled by anyone when I was running (but then, I almost never encountered anyone, during those early hours).  That changed after graduation

My morning routine did not change: I still got up early to do my run/exercise/shower routine, only now it was to do these things before work instead of before classes. And instead of running on campus I was now running on the sidewalks and streets in areas surrounding whatever apartment/rental house I was occupying.  Thus, I became privy to the phenomenon of men (mostly plural, but the occasional lone male), usually in passing cars (some on bicycles, on foot, or in nearby buildings), who feel compelled to “comment” on women they pass by.

By comment I mean, as almost every female above the age of eight knows, spew a series of masturbatory grunts, groans and whistles. Their auditory emissions occasionally contained an intelligible world or two, typically of the hey baby woo-hoo ilk.

 

 

manboobss

I can run outdoors every day, dressed like this, and nobody yells about my boobs!

 

 

 

I never said anything in reply – although there were times….oh, lawdy, there were times…when my middle fingers practically begged for extension. My only reaction to the comments was to momentarily heighten my alert level – for example, I’d make sure that the car from which came the cretinous comments had indeed kept on going in its original direction and was not turning around to follow me.

It happened All. The. Time. As in, on an almost daily basis. It was so frequent that I noted the “aberration” of those days when my run was harassment-free. This is not an exaggeration.

One Saturday I allowed moiself the luxury of sleeping in, and went for a run at (what for me was) a later time, around 8 am. I decided to do a new route, and went downtown, where I approached…a construction site. For a moment, I considered changing my route:  nah, it’s early on a Saturday, and I don’t see any construction crews on site, and shame on me for holding that stereotype.  Then, as if out of nowhere, there they were: three men in hardhats standing around bright orange construction cones surrounding a manhole.  Sure enough, they produced the commentary as I ran past them.  I kept going for a few seconds, then thought, Nope, not today.

I did an about face and strode, slowly, deliberately, back to where the manhole-assholes stood. They eyed me suspiciously as I approached them; the smirks so evident in their voices a mere five seconds earlier had morphed into wary silence.  I stopped when I was about 10 feet away from them.

Do you realize, I said, when you say things like that to women, you perpetuate the stereotype that male construction workers are ignorant misogynists?

Although I didn’t have the acronym back then, their facial expressions were classic WTF?… and became even WTF?-er when I chuckled aloud at my silent realization: Holy thesaurus, they need a translator – they have no idea what those words mean.

I resumed my run.

 

 

ava

Say there big fella, my girlfriends and I find it oh-so-sexy when men comment on our bodies as we’re walking in public…said no woman ever.

 

*   *   *

Department Of High Praise, Indeed

Dateline: last Saturday, MH and I discussing ways to make the drive to the coast less boring for the two cats  [4]  we take with us when we go for the weekend.  We put them in their respective carriers and lock the carriers into the back seatbelts; they are safe that way,  [5]  but of course confined, and have not much to do, or even look at.

MH, wondering aloud:   “There should be a way for them to look out the window, like you see dogs doing.”

Moiself, responding even aloud-er: “Yeah, there should be a…cat-traption, for that.”

MH: “Cat-traption – I like that word. It should be in a crossword puzzle.”

My work here is done.

 

hatcat

This is not the cat-traption to which I refer.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Why All Sports Announcers Should Be British

Should you doubt that proclamation, listen to the Freakonomics podcast How Sports Became Us. Not the whole thing (unless you’re interested, of course), but just the archival tape of the announcement from the 1954 radio broadcast when middle distance runner Roger Bannister had broken what had been thought to be an unbreakable record for track athletes: the sub four minute mile. The announcement comes at 3 minutes 25 seconds into the program, when the British announcer declares Bannister’s feat to be:

“…the Everest of athletic achievement.”

Really; you have to listen to it – perhaps not the way I’ve been doing it, over and over and over. It’s just so succinctly British – I’ve no idea what the announcer was wearing, but you know it had to be upper class twit tweed.  And the way he crisply enunciates each syllable – The Ev-er-est of ath-let-ic-achieve-ment – you can practically smell the tea and crumpets.

 

 

 

twit2

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

“Never accept a ride from a strange man, and remember, all men are strange.”  [6]

 

remember

 

*   *   *

May you attain your own personal Ev-er-est of achieve-ment;
May you know “what those words mean” when you are being confronted;
May you smell the tea and crumpets;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Regular or even sporadic readers of the blog will correctly surmise that I hold all the classic feminist/humanist objections to meat market parades “beauty contests.” But for the purposes of this blog and the horrible mixing of yet another metaphor, a gal can always fantasize….

[2] Wouldn’t you have loved to have been my roommate? Although, I did warn them in advance of my early rising habits.

[3]  A can of mace? A strobe light/alarm/pepper spray device?  Or the ultimate “feminine protection” – an extra strength tampon which transforms into a 9mm Glock?

[4] We are currently a four-cat household.  I know…I know.

[5] Or as relatively safe as any creature is in an automobile.

[6] Second wave feminist quote; source disputed.

The Lot I’m Not Accepting

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Department Of At Last, An Honest Answering Device

Last week I was gob smacked by the picture MH sent me of our answering machine’s display of a caller ID (for the phone call he missed):

 

 

ID

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Just Where My Mind Goes

My first thought upon reading the following review  [1] excerpt: The film isn’t circumcised?

New York Times Critics’ Pick!
An uncut gem of a movie…..

*   *   *
Department Of No, I Can’t Just Leave It Alone

Whaddya mean, I’ve never told you my favorite circumcision jokes?

Q. What did the receptionist say to the patient waiting in the circumcisionist’s office?
A. “It won’t be long now.”

Q. How much does a circumcisionist earn?
A. One hundred dollars an hour, plus tips.

 

CAMEL

 

 

 

Speaking of unkind cuts…what a convenient segue to

 

 

Department Of Name Dropping And Saint Shaming

Mother Teresa’s work was part of a global enterprise for the alleviation of bourgeois guilt, rather than a genuine challenge to those forces that produce and maintain poverty.
(“Mother Teresa as the Mirror of Bourgeois Guilt,”
Indian journalist/historian Vijay Prashad )

The following rant thoughtful explication was prompted by a recent comment I overheard, which I list in the paragraph after the warning.

(Consider yourself warned.)

Should you ever attempted to deflect a commendation (within earshot of moiself ) regarding an act of generosity or kindness on your part  by using the intended-to-be humble qualifier, “Well, I’m no Mother Teresa…”, brace yourself for my rejoinder:

“Yes, but Mother Teresa was, in fact, ‘no Mother Teresa.’ ”   [2]

The first time I recall doing this was at least fifteen years ago, during the book study group I attended at a UCC church (where we the still-closeted atheists – MH and I – were active members). I cannot recall the book under discussion nor the particular comment which elicited a fellow book group member’s poorly-timed, Well, I’m no Mother Teresa….

“Poorly-timed” translation:  I’d been reading up on Mother Teresa, having come across criticism from liberal Catholics regarding MT’s entry into what amounted to the RC church’s “Ten Items or Fewer” saint checkout line.  [3]  In doing so I’d encountered a surprising number of informed and rational voices – from British journalist Christopher Hitchens to Australian academic and social critic Germaine Greer [4] to Indian physicians and activists and others. These voices had dared to question –  and more importantly, to examine – MT’s previously unexamined reputation as a humble, selfless humanitarian devoted to the poor.  And I began to share some of my “encounters” with the book group.

Pity that unfortunate I’m-no-Mother-Teresa comment-dude…. I did later apologize to him   [5]  for getting the group “off track.” (And the always tolerant and circumspect book group leader practically left skidmarks getting us “back to the subject at hand.”)

 

weinterrupt

 

As per the name-dropping: In October 2007 I attended the Freedom From Religion Foundation‘s annual convention, held that year in Madison, WI. Christopher Hitchens, one of the featured speakers, gave a rousing speech for his acceptance of the FFRF’s The Emperor Has No Clothes Award   [6].  Later that evening, a New Friend I Met At The Convention ® and I went to the hotel bar/cafe, to discuss the day’s events over wine and a tasty hummus platter.   [7]  There were no tables available, so NFIMATV and I took a seat at the bar.  NFIMATV noticed that Mr. Hitchens was seated at the end of the bar, a mere six barstools down from us, and decided we should commend him re his speech.

Although never averse to chatting up strangers, I was reluctant to “pester” someone who was…well, a celebrity of sorts.  I reminded NFIMATV of Hitchens’ reputation for not suffering fools;  [8]  also, he’d just spoken in front of hundreds of people and might want to simply unwind and sip his drink….

NFIMATV would have none of my protestations. “He came to a crowded, public place! If he wanted to be left alone he’d have gone up to his suite and ordered room service.” She grabbed my arm and literally dragged me down to the end of the bar.

NFIMATV briefly introduced herself and I to Hitch, and complimented him on his speech. Moiself said WTF to moiself, and then aloud to Hitch: “I thought you might appreciate knowing that you’ve been quoted…uh, by me…in a church book study group, when someone said the usual obsequious nonsense about Mother Teresa.”

Hitch winked at me, replied, “Indeed,” and raised his whiskey glass in a toast. Then it was my turn to be the arm-grabber as I led NFIMATV back to our end of the bar.

This ends the name-dropping portion of our programming.

 

 

reliefjpg

 

 

“I just thought that this myth [re Mother Teresa and the Catholic charities providing compassionate care in the slums of India] had to be challenged”….
Over hundreds of hours of research, much of it cataloged in a book he published in 2003, Dr. Chatterjee said he found a “cult of suffering” in homes run by Mother Teresa’s organization, the Missionaries of Charity, with children tied to beds and little to comfort dying patients but aspirin.
He and others said that Mother Teresa took her adherence to frugality and simplicity in her work to extremes, allowing practices like the reuse of hypodermic needles and tolerating primitive facilities that required patients to defecate in front of one another.
(from “A Critic’s Lonely Quest: Revealing the Whole Truth About Mother Teresa,
NY Times profile of Dr. Aroup Chaterjee )

It is highly likely that what you “know,” and what most people think they know, about MT comes from a book about her  [9] – and the media coverage about the celebrity visits to MT’s clinics, which followed publication of the book – written by Malcolm Muggeridge.  Muggeridge, a zealous Roman Catholic convert and conservative British social commenter, was derided by  Christopher Hitchens as “that old fraud and mountebank.” Hitchens largely credited Muggeridge for providing the propaganda tool which spawned MT’s becoming “the focus of a fawning cult who used the suffering of the poor for her own political and ideological ends.”

 

 

Mother

 

 

Christopher Hitchens was MT’s most vocal – but by no means only –  detractor.  He described her as a “thieving, fanatical Albanian dwarf,” and charged that the missions she ran in Calcutta were humanitarian humbugs serving as a masquerade for her “cult of death and suffering.”  What Hitch did by investigating MT and her work is what any good journalist – and citizen – should do, and yet because he was one of the first to do so he was considered radical and contrarian when he was in fact being sensible and straightforward: he judged Mother Theresa‘s reputation by her words and actions.  What was being promoted by the myth makers, saint manufacturers was the opposite – they wanted you to judge MT’s words and actions by her reputation.

Okay, perspective timeout. If you’re interested in this subject, or just perplexed because this is the first time you’ve heard about the MT controversy, you can find much more information than the crumbs I offer in this space.  There have been books, articles, even a documentary  [10] on the subject, by writers and investigators far more experienced and eloquent then moiself.  If you find your defensive hackles rising at the mere thought of criticizine a “saint”–  if you prefer the PR to reality – it’s likely you won’t be convinced by the evidence, no matter the source.

Evidence – and her own words – show that Mother Teresa was not so much a “champion of the poor” but a religious fanatic who took pleasure in their suffering. Not only did she refuse to alleviate the pain of her patients but she gloried in it. As she herself said: “I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people.”
(“Mother Teresa ‘a friend of poverty, not of the poor,” Carol Hunt, independent.ie)

Here’s the main point, which I think cannot be overemphasized:  Mother Teresa did not love the poor and the afflicted; she was in love with poverty and affliction. The difference is astronomically crucial, particularly in understanding her motivation – which is most adamantly not an excuse – for the way she treated her patients and ran her organization.

Did she see the Calcutta slum dwellers for who and what they were, and respect them as (non-Catholic) individuals? Or did she see them as mere objects sharing a “lot” she considered to be some kind of blessed condition bestowed by her deity?

People who are in fact poor and genuinely suffering do not idealize their misery. The destitute want to rise out of poverty, and the afflicted want to get well. To think (and act) otherwise about their situations is patronizing, not compassionate.

 

pajamasloth

Is it time for some kind of cute picture to relieve the tension?

 

A summary of the reality behind the Mother Teresa mythos:

* Critics have pointed out a host of ways in which MT’s mission of mercy was not all that it seemed, including but not limited to her shady ways of caring for the sick, her problematic political contacts, her irregular management of the vast sums of money she received, and her harsh, dogmatic views on social and cultural issues.  Examples include:

* Doctors and journalists who visited MT’s clinics accused her of perpetuating the suffering of destitute patients by not giving them easily obtainable painkillers and by having the dying spend their final weeks on wooden pallets in communal dormitories, fed only on boiled rice and water;

* Families who took their loved ones to MT’s clinics to receive care for, e.g., a broken leg, complained that their loved ones were treated as if they were dying (i.e., given only hospice-type care and not transferred or referred to another, actual medical clinic) and thus did die, from lack of treatment of totally non-lethal, treatable ailments.  [11]  Meanwhile, MT herself traveled out of the country to California clinics when she got sick and required treatment.

* Several visitors who traveled to see MT’s Calcutta clinic, impressed by the mission to help the poor but appalled by the clinic’s primitive conditions and lack of supplies, made substantial donations to MT’s order (“The Sisters of Charity”) for the express purpose of updating and supplying the clinic. When these donors returned months or years later to see what their monies had wrought, they were shocked to find the clinic was as rundown as it had always been (and MT’s order refused to publish any audit of its funds).  Meanwhile, MT’s order was opening religious schools around the world – by MT’s own claim she opened 500 convents in more than one hundred countries – most of them bearing her name.  [12]

* Germaine Greer called MT a “religious imperialist” bent on evangelism,” and Indian human rights activists accused MT of a covert agenda – trying to convert the poor to Christianity, under the guise of treating the sick. Witnesses observed MT and her staff performing the Catholic rite of baptism upon dying and delusional non-Christian patients while pretending to cool the patients’ heads with wet cloths.

* MT accepted donations from – and provided photo ops for – sleazy public figures who gave her donations –  including the brutal Haitian dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier (whom she praised in return), the disgraced British publisher Robert Maxwell, and the thieving American banker, Charles Keating (remember the S & Loan crisis?) – while refusing to comment upon (or claiming ignorance about) their atrocious human rights violations.

This last * is particularly galling to me, because if you can for some reason excuse the other criticisms of MT, how can you justify, other than for brazen $$ interests, her cozying up to such horrible people and regimes? Do you know about her astonishing personal involvement in the prosecution of Charles Keating?

MT wrote a letter, on behalf of Keating to the judge who tried Keating’s case, asking for mercy and leniency in Keaton’s sentencing…despite claiming in the letter to know nothing about his business nor the criminal charges levied against him. The Deputy DA who worked on the prosecution of Keating wrote an eloquent letter back to MT, detailing the charges against Keating and the sources of the money that Keating had donated to MT, thus providing, as Hitchens put it, the “clearest and best-documented proof against the customary apologies about (MT’s supposed) innocence and unworldliness.”

The DA was so appalled by MT’s efforts on behalf of her benefactor  – and her seeming lack of concern for those Keating had swindled – that he allowed Hitchens to print his response to MT in its entirety, in Hitchen’s MT expose, The Missionary Position.  An excerpt from his letter:

“The victims of Mr. Keating’s fraud come from a wide spectrum of society. Some were wealthy and well-educated. Most were people of modest means and unfamiliar with high finance. One was, indeed, a poor carpenter who did not speak English and had his life saving’s stolen by Mr. Keating’s fraud….

You urged (the judge) to look into his heart – as he sentences Charles Keating – and do what Jesus would do. I submit the same challenge to you. Ask yourself what Jesus would do if he were given the fruits of a crime; what Jesus would do if he were in possession of money that had been stolen; what Jesus would do if he were being exploited by a thief to ease his conscience?

I submit that Jesus would promptly and unhesitatingly return the stolen property to its rightful owners. You should do the same. You have been given money by Keating that he has been convicted of stealing by fraud. Do not permit him the “indulgence”  [13]  he desires. Do not keep the money. Return it to those who worked for it and earned it.

If you contact me I will put you indirect contact with the rightful owners of the property now in your possession.”

Mother Teresa neither replied to the letter nor returned the money.

*   *   *

May you always judge the reputation by the deeds, and not vice-versa;
May you always be able to provide an accounting;
May you know (at least as per circumcision jokes) when to leave it alone;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

 

[1] for the movie, We the Animals.

[2] And be relieved if I stop at the mere rejoinder and do not go into full lecture mode. 

[3] Bypassing traditional procedures for canonization, a move by Pope John Paul II which bothered many Catholics.

[4] Greer was once on the same airplane flight as MT, and noted that while she (Greer) rode in economy class, MT, who had taken a vow of poverty, rode in first class.  Greer had critiqued  MT and the Catholic charitable orders and their policies and politics before and after that plane ride, and infamously referred to MT as the “glamour girl of poverty” and MT’s Missionary order as an “order of clones.”

[5] And he later thanked me for bringing up a hitherto unknown (to him) perspective.

[6] An award bestowed by the FFRF, for public figures who use “plain speaking” on the shortcomings of religion.

[7]  We had to settle for stale pretzels. But the wine was nice.

[8] Which had been fully on display that evening during a Q & A session after his speech, when “Hitch” calmly, wittily, and effectively verbally eviscerated those who were less than prepared/articulate in framing their questions.

[9] Something Beautiful For God.

[10] “Hell’s Angel,” produced by Hitchens and journalist Tariq Ali. Hitchen’s research for this film, which first ran as a BBC television program in 1994, spurred him to write the book, The Missionary Position.

[11] And these poor families (who later spoke with journalists) told of how when they complained to the local  authorities, they were either disbelieved or hushed up, due to MT’s reputation.

[12] So much for her claims of modesty and humility.

[13] The purchase of “indulgences” (i.e.. buying one’s way to forgiveness)  was once an acceptable method of seeking forgiveness in the Catholic church. It was one of the theological abominations cited by Martin Luther which led to The Protestant reformation.

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