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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 Future Vice President’s Campaign I’m Not Consulting On

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Department Of Yet Another Silver Lining

The Democratic convention’s pandemic-mindful/physical distancing states’ roll call (in its entirety, here ) – how delightful was that?   The usual political party convention roll call, with the delegates dressed basically the same (we can wear three colors – can you guess what they are?) and wearing those ridiculous straw boater hats, some of which look to be made of styrofoam….it’s beyond boring.

Well hellooooo, ladies.

 

Moiself  sez let’s do it this way from now on, pandemic or not. We got a brief glimpse into the states’ – and US territories’ – terrain as well as character,  [1]  with a few surprises, too.  Rhode Island calamari – that’s even a thing? Who knew?

*   *   *

Department Of Which Is The More Accurate Adjective?

What the radio podcast host said:
” (name)…is a board-licensed professional counselor.”

What moiself  heard;
“(name) …is a bored, licensed professional counselor.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of If Given My Druthers, I’d Like To
Leave The Civics Lesson To Someone Else

What, BTW, are druthers?  In the various idiomatic expressions which use the word, it does seem to be a positive thing. Do I have to wait to be given them, by someone else, or can I get or earn them on my own?   [2]

If it were in my power, I would give all of you your druthers. Wouldn’t it be great if druthers turned out to be something like this:

 

 

Once again, I digress.

Moiself  is thrilled with Joe Biden’s choice of a running mate.  During the Democratic debates, a California friend (MM) and I were exchanging ideas/compliments about the various candidates. In MM’s opinion Sen. Harris, besides being experienced and intelligent and a razor-sharp questioner during Senate hearings, was also not the kind to put up with crap or betrayal – “She’ll put a shiv in you,” MM wrote admiringly.  We both agreed that was a talent sorely needed when dealing with the petty viciousness and mendacity of the Republican congress.  [3]

One of the many, many other things I like about Senator and Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris is that I don’t know a thing about her religious/spiritual and/or worldview beliefs.  And I’d like to keep it that way.

Except of course, the Republicans will not stand for that. Even the (secretly) religion-free among them must grovel to the altar of right-wing Jayyy-suuuus  lovers.   #45 figured this out when he was laughing all the way to the bank (or golf course), passing church after church along the way, metaphorically thumbing his nose at them even as he was snickering about how easy it was to bamboozle the congregants.

 

 

The Republicans will look for every opportunity, during the election and debates,  [4]   to play their piety cards and jab Biden and Harris about their beliefs.  Biden has already fallen into that trap –of talking about his own faith rather than telling those who ask that it’s none of their business as the USA is not a theocracy, and let’s get back to the issues….

Thus, I humbly offer my advice to Ms. Harris – the advice she didn’t solicit from me   [5]  but which I hope she takes:

Don’t fall for Pence’s religious rhetoric claptrap, and make him sorry if he even asks. I know you’re capable of going all prosecutorial on his ass…even though that tactic, if you employed it, would make your advisors reach for the smelling salts as the white evangelicals would clutch their pearls and gasp in horror at The Angry Black Bitch Atheist (whether you are or are not the fourth, you’d definitely be pegged as the first three).  So, yes, I understand how you must go for discretion.

I also hope you don’t mumble platitudes about respecting everyone’s faith journey (although I understand there will be pressure to do so). When – not *if,* as religion will definitely be an issue – the subject of a paticular candidate’s religious beliefs are brought up, don’t ignore it.  Instead, candidly and assertively steer away from the subject, every time it happens, and every time reminding us of why you are doing so:

We are electing presidents and vice presidents here,
not popes and pastors and vicars and decans – or rabbis, imams or mullahs, Zen masters or Lamas, pujaris or gurus….

 

I know, this is important…I’ll ty to stay alert.

 

American citizens hold a diversity of religious opinions. The candidates elected will be the President and Vice President for all the people, including the growing percentage of atheists, agnostics, humanists, Freethinkers Brights – aka, to pollsters and scientists, as the “Nones,” as in, we Americans who are religion-free and/or claim no religious affiliation.

Polls and studies reveal that 23 to 26 % of the US population – approaching one out of every four people – claim “none” for their religion, despite facing open hostility and discrimination from religious believers (and incurring a political liability as well, if they run for office).  And scientists note that these 23-26% figures are conservative estimates.

“…psychologists…contend that there may be far more atheists than pollsters report because “social pressures favoring religiosity, coupled with stigma against religious disbelief…, might cause people who privately disbelieve in (god[s])  to nonetheless self-present as believers, even in anonymous questionnaires.”


To work around this problem of self-reported data, the psychologists employed what is called an unmatched count technique, which has been previously validated for estimating the size of other underreported cohorts…. (Using a) Bayesian probability estimation to compare their results with similar Gallup and Pew polls of 2,000 American adults each…they estimated, with 93 percent certainty, that somewhere between 17 and 35 percent of Americans are atheists, with a “most credible indirect estimate” of 26 percent.


(“The number of Americans with no religious affiliation is rising,”
Scientific American, 4-1-18 )

As a former prosecutor you, Senator Harris, are aware of the average person’s cognitive capacities, so I’ll trust you to condense those statistics into something debate-attention-span appropriate.

After doing so, please give a brief reminder – more like a civics lesson, considering how many Americans know next to nothing about the history of our country’s secular roots – that the USA was the first country to have a totally god-free constitution.  “God” – anyone’s god  – is not mentioned in the US Constitution (nor is Jesus, nor Christianity), not even once.  Religion is only mentioned twice, and then in exclusionary terms: in the First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”), and in Article VI, which declares that “…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

And do this – remind folks of the facts – Every. Time.

 

 

There will be some ignoramuses (most likely your debate opponent), even among otherwise seemingly articulate members of the press, who will confuse the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution, and will quote the former:

“But wait, what about the part where it says,
‘”We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights’….”

Here is, yet again, another opportunity for education. Remind the populace of the difference between the two: The Declaration of Independence (an “apology” and call to arms for the American revolution);  and the Constitution of the United States (the new nation’s governing document).

You may also want to be prepared for when some idiot sputters about how his dollar bills say, “In God We Trust”…which he probably doesn’t know was not added to our currency until 1957, during the Commie/Red Scare era:

 

 

…and then he may continue on as how the Pledge of Allegiance contains the phrase, “Under God”…except that until relatively recently, it didn’t:

The Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy… (who) had hoped that the pledge would be used by citizens in any country.  In its original form it read:
“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands,
one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
In 1923, the words, “the Flag of the United States of America” were added:
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America
and to the Republic for which it stands,
one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
In 1954, in response to the Communist threat of the times, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words “under God,” creating the 31-word pledge we say today.
Bellamy’s daughter objected to this alteration.
(“The Pledge of Allegiance,” Historic Documents, usdocuments.org)

You will likely also encounter shade from the historical yahoos who will crow about how the USA was formed as a “Christian nation.” Not only does Constitution make no such claims, we have the confirmation to the opposite, declared and signed by the very founding fathers of our country and the framers of the constitution, in the 1797 Treaty of Tripoly – which was sent to the Senate (by President John Adams).  The entire treaty was read aloud on the Senate floor (including the (in)famous words in Article 11; copies were printed for every Senator; the treaty was ratified by a unanimous vote of all 23 Senators. They knew what they were doing:

Treaty of Tripoli, article 11

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”   [6]

All this history should be enough.  Of course, it won’t be.

So, please, get the message across…in your own astute, succinct way.  Perhaps, a more prime time-palatable version of the following?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Fun With Nature’s Wacky Reproductive Scenarios


“Some sharks give live birth from two uteruses — and that’s not the weirdest part.”

Dateline: earlier this week, listening to a Curiosity Daily podcast. CD is one of my favorite podcasts.  As per their website:

The award-winning Curiosity Daily podcast will help you get smarter about the world around you — every day.
In less than 10 minutes, you’ll get a unique mix of research-based life hacks, the latest science and technology news, and more.

I’m not sure how much smarter CD has helped moiself  to get, but I’m certainly entertained, and armed with interesting trivia facts, by each episode.

A recent segment on sharks which have dual uteri caught my eye (ear?).  The takeaway: many shark species have multiple uteri and give birth to live baby sharks, which hatch from eggs in the uteri.  Before being expelled, the baby sharks which hatch first swim between the uteri, and eat the eggs of their un-hatched siblings, so they can grow faster. In one species, multiple free-swimming baby sharks hatch at the same time and fight to the death inside their shark mom’s uterus.

 

“Congrats, Mom, it’s a boy…I mean, a girl…uh, make that, a cannibal.”

 

For some petty reason, I enjoy the idea of anti-choicers – most of whom hold a conservative religious dogma which says that their god creates and directs all life (so guess who’s responsible for this preborn carnage?) –  cringing at these facts…even though sibling predation – “siblicide” –  is not unknown in other animals (e.g. the newly hatched chicks of some bird species will attack and eat their smaller siblings, or push them or any unhatched eggs out of the nest).

As with every CD episode, at the end of this one the two hosts recapped what they’d learned.  The male host, whose wife is pregnant, said that he’s been feeling his wife’s belly when the fetus kicks her, and now he’s thinking how “…that is really mild, compared to what sharks do.” He then declared, “I’m glad I didn’t marry a shark.”

 

“Oh, honey, can you feel them fighting to the death?”

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Presidential candidate Scissors was forced to withdraw from the race
after failing to find anyone who would run with him.

 

“Do you see what humor they have to put up with, in a so-called ‘free’ society?”

 

*   *   *

May you support politicians in remembering and upholding our country’s secular foundation/roots;
May you have yet another reason to detest that insipid “Baby Sharks” song;
May someone surprise you with the gift of druthers;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] But California should have had a surfer boy standing between those two women.

[2] I could Google this, I know, but sometimes, it’s just more fun to wonder.

[3] Then added that, as much as he admired President Obama, “that was a talent Obama lacked.”  (moiself  ageed).

[4] Are we even going to have debates, this year?

[5] Or, maybe she *did* and her email got caught in the spam folder.

[6] At the time of the Treat, Mediterranean Sea traffic was largely controlled by pirates from the North African Muslim states of the Barbary Coast.  Many European seafaring countries paid a tribute to the Barbary Sultans in exchange for safe passage through the Mediterranean. After the American Revolution, the US was no longer covered by British tribute treaties. The U.S. decided to form tribute treaties with the Barbary States, and given the history of The Crusades, assure the sultans that the US was not going to use the excuse of Christianity vs. Islam to go to war with them.

The Yoga Pose I’m Not Practicing

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Department Of Even Yoga Teachers Need To Be Careful What They Ask For

Backstory: A couple of months ago, when we were all new to this streaming business, my 9 am yoga class teacher held a pre-class video chat for us streamers. She told us a “yoga joke,” then said that if anyone else knew any yoga jokes, she’d love to hear them.  

Dateline: Monday; circa 9:30 am; doing a vinyasa (yoga) class via streaming. The regular teacher is on vacation.  As the substitute yoga teacher leads the class into Triangle Pose, my mind wanders – which *not* the point of a yoga class, I realize…

 

 “Bad yogi!”  [1]

Ahem.

…my mind wanders to ponder the many different yoga pose names, both their English “nickname” and the Sanskrit names and translations, and as I do this, a joke begins to develop in moiself’s un-mindfulness-practicing mine.  There are a few twisting yoga poses which are notorious for producing, in certain people, a certain bodily response – in fact, the Sanskrit name for one such pose translates as:

 

 

My joke is a play on the Sanskrit name for Triangle Pose, which is Trikonasa (TREE- kone-ah-sauna).  I will ask my yoga teacher if there is a yoga pose known for inducing bladder leakage, and if so, would that pose be called, Trickle-asana?

 

My guess is that Trickleasana would look something like this

 

*   *   *

Department Of Extending The Metaphor

Yeah, hipster, since you obviously don’t care about trashing your own lungs, go right ahead and give no thought to trashing your small portion of the planet, which happens to be shared by everyone else.  That’s the true American Spirit.    [2]

 

 

*   *   *

 

Actually, not. Not something *completely* different, that is.

Instead, a smooth segue into….

Department Of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes… And Nowhere Else, If You’re Lucky.

MH and I have two fireplaces in our house.  One has never been used; the other has been used once, not long after we moved in (~ 26 years ago), and never since.  This is because of moiself’s killjoy spirit  high livability standards.

I have been the family spoilsport when it comes to wood fires, be they fireplace fires or beach bonfires or campfires.  When on vacation, burning wood is “permissible” only if necessary – e.g., if your accommodations have a wood-fire stove as the only heating source.  You see, I am one of those annoying I-can’t-pretend-to-not-know-something-once-I-know-it kinda people, and cannot justify sitting around a pollution source sans a more compelling reason than my personal entertainment.

 

 

 

And yes, I have fun, sitting-around-the-campfire memories from childhood.  And yes, I have been pooh-poohed for my anti-wood fire attitude (“Oh, c’mon, it’s not really that bad…“).  And yes, I am thanking someone else for doing the legwork on the It Really Is That Bad ® statistics I once knew but have forgotten and was too lazy to look up.

That info via Someone Else ®  was provided in yesterday’s Ask Amy column, wherein Amy dealt with a woman’s am-I-right-to-be-disturbed-by-this question. This (nonsmoking) woman has been accused by her (non-smoking) husband’s “big smoker” sisters of over-reacting because of the woman’s concerns about the fact that when she and hubby go for “chats and s’mores” to the sisters’ place, the sisters toss their butts and partially smoked cigarettes into the fire pit: 

“…since we don’t smell any cigarette smoke as the fire burns, (the sisters claim that) second-hand smoke isn’t an issue.
I feel this is second-hand smoke and a very real health concern.”

Amy lays it on the line (my emphases):

Cigarettes aside, the backyard fire pit itself presents risks to lung health. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (epa.gov), “In addition to particle pollution, wood smoke contains several toxic harmful air pollutants, including: benzene, formaldehyde, acrolein, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).”

Cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate, which is a finely spun plastic (not cotton, as I had always assumed). Burning plastic sends off toxic fumes. The leftover tobacco on the spent cigarettes will also release “second-hand” smoke.

So yes – this bonfire is basically a flaming pit of toxins.

 

The Scoutmaster says we’re only two requirements shy of earning our Flaming Pit of Toxins merit badges!

 

Are you lost in the forest in the dead of winter? Ok; build a fire. You and your friends just wanna sit beside a pile of wood and watch it burn for…oh, that warm, glowy-feeling, or whatever?  There are other ways to enjoy each other’s company that don’t involve needless production of toxic waste.  How about playing charades, or that game where you find clever ways to trash your hypocritical friends who make you feel guilty about, say, things like polluting for your own pleasure?

Or how about this: re-purpose some old holiday lights, and if you put them on twinkly-mode you can pretend it’s flickering flames.  Imagination is good for the body and spirit.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Could The Editor Have Cut The Movie To Give You All At Least Five Minutes Before Contradicting Yourselves?

Dateline: a week ago, this evening; watching The Go-Go’s documentary with MH. One of the Go-Gos was doing a voice over about the early 1980s Los Angeles punk scene (from whence the Go-Gos was spawned); specifically, about how accepting the punks were:  it didn’t matter if you were gay or straight, white or black, male or female etc. you were welcomed for however you were/whatever you were.

 

 

 

This kumbaya declaration was made literally seconds before the band went on to recall how the other Go-Gos demanded that their new drummer, Gina Schock, an import LA from Baltimore, undergo a makeover when she arrived – they cut and dyed her frizzy blonde hair to short and dark, to be more suitable to the punk scene.

Confession:  the picture of Gina’s “Baltimore” hairstyle that flashed onscreen during that recollection…it *was* really, clownishy, wretched, even by 1980’s hair standards.  [3]  Open and accepting only goes so far; I guess even punk rockers have standards.

 

Yep; it was worse than this.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Stopping Moiself  In The Nick Of Time

Dateline: Tuesday, circa 7 am, walking north along the beach at Manzanita. There are few people on the misty beach.  About 200 yards ahead of me I see three creatures walking south – a man, a woman, and their dog. The man and the woman each hold a large takeout coffee cup in their respective right hands.  The dog, walking between the two, is looking up at the man.  Dog pays the woman no attention; dog’s eyes stare up at the man.

As the trio gets closer I notice that the dog’s laser focus is on the man’s left arm, which the man has tightly clenched to his left side, and I get a glimpse of the halves of two brightly colored orbs the man is carrying between his upper arm and armpit/chest.

As our two groups (well, moiself  is a group of one) we both do the polite, COVID-appropriate thing, moving to the side and smiling in acknowledgement and greeting. The woman says a few words to the dog, which gives no indication it has heard her – it never tears its gaze from the man and the toys he has “hidden” under his arm…and the woman sees that I have noticed this.  As she gives me a “What am I – chopped liver?” look and shrug of her shoulders, I stop myself at the last minute from pointing to the dog and to the man and saying to the man,

“Oh, I get it – you’re the one with the balls!”

 

“In a just world, I’m the one with *all* the balls.”

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I can’t believe I got fired from the calendar factory – all I did was take a day off!

 

*   *   *

 

May you enjoy the simple pleasure of wasting precious brain wattage on composing a bad joke about your favorite form of exercise;
May you be the coveted one with the…uh…balls;
May we all hope that the nostalgia for pre-pandemic times does not presage a return to 1980s hair;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] No no no – not *that* kind. A yogi is anyone who practices yoga.

[2] Can you make out the cigarette carton brand?  Do ya get it, huh? Huh? Huh? Huh?

[3] I can provide no still picture of that hair, from the documentary – I think it would have burned the camera lens to even attempt it.

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

Comments Off on The “Yes” I’m Not Typing

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 Grumpy Grandpa I’m Not Correcting

2 Comments

Another Fact Abscess Feminist Ruins A Family Outing  Enlightens A Grateful Grandpa

My offspring, K and Belle, successfully fledged several years ago. When they were young (ages 1-5), their respective daycare/preschool teachers knew that, rain or shine, they wouldn’t be in class on Wednesdays, as that was our zoo/museum outing day.  Nine out of ten times, we’d go to the Oregon Zoo.

Those zoo trips were before the massive, community bond-supported revamping, updating, and expansion of the zoo and its animal habitats. There weren’t many visitors then – particularly on windy/rainy days, which were our favorites, because it often seemed if we had the zoo all to ourselves.  [1]  Several of the zookeepers got to recognize us, and we them. The staff were impressed and amused by K’s and Belle’s flourishing interest in animals and wildlife conservation and liked that we always greeted the keepers by name and asked (or tried to ask) interesting questions about the animals.

That the zookeepers took the time to speak with us (often quite extensively, and when it was obvious they had *real* work to do) is one of several factors moiself  credits for both K and Belle going on to be in the Zoo Teens program while in high school and then majoring in the Biological Sciences in college.

I’d also like to think that I “modeled” or that K and Belle inherited (nature?  nurture?) that interest from me. Moiself  was quite the animal nerd growing up, particularly in grade school.  My parents recognized and encouraged that interest, and for years I always received at least one nature-themed/animal facts book for my birthday and Christmas presents.  Thus, informed and armed, I was able to spoil the fun of many a prepubescent boy – who was trying to be naughty by teasing his female classmates about this AMAZING animal he’d come across – by explaining that a titmouse was in fact *not* a well-endowed rodent, but a petite North American songbird.

 

 

As always, I digress.

One of my interests at the zoo was not only watching my kids watch the animals, but watching the other zoo visitors. In that older version of the zoo, near the Penguin House, there was a habitat wherein dwelt a solitary, enormous, beautiful, Alaskan Brown bear named Marcia  (Marsha? Or Martha? Don’t know the spelling; her name was not on the information card on the habitat; we’d learned about her from the zookeepers   [2] ).

On days when there were many other zoo visitors and we stopped by Marcia’s habitat, inevitably – I mean, without fail – other adults would “mis-identify” the bear.  Always the male visitors (and also quite a few of the females) would remark, to themselves or to the kids who were with them, something along the lines of,

“Wow, get a load of that bear, he’s so big! Look at his paws…”

I would then take the opportunity to say, “Actually, her name is Marcia.” My comment/correction  would oftentimes lead to brief but interesting, personal-connection type conversations about the zoo and the animals, and sometimes my kids and I would learn something new, from a visitor who had talked with a zookeeper at another exhibit and had an interesting animal fact/behavior tidbit to share.  If the person seemed receptive, I would sneak in a factoid about how a zookeeper told me that the majority of the zoo’s resident animals were female…and how another zookeeper, and more than one biologist I’d met, told me that the majority of the world’s biomass is female but that an individual animal’s gender is usually misidentified by non-biologists when they use a pronoun other than “it” to refer to the animal.  For example, if you espy a wild animal when you’re out and about – say, a garter snake when you’re hiking the Wildwood trail in Forest Park – it is most likely a “she snake,” even though you or your hiking companion(s) will probably call it, or think of it as, a “he.”

With two exceptions moiself  can recall, these interactions at Marcia’s habitat were always positive (which is why I kept engaging in them).  In exception #2, an older dude got his grandpa tighty-whities in a knot when I spoke up after he’d pointed out the bear to (what I assumed were) his two grandkids, as well as to moiself and my two kids, and exclaimed, “Look at that HUGE bear – can you guess how strong he is?”

“She sure is something – she’s one of our favorite animals at the zoo!” I cheerfully chirped. “And, actually, her name is Marcia.”

The man’s face slowly but surely morphed into Grumpy Old Man, get-offa-my-lawn!  territory, as his granddaughter waved to the bear and called out, “Marcia – she’s Marcia! Hi, Marcia!”

“Why does that matter?” he said to me. 

“What do you mean?” I asked, not knowing if the “matter” he was wondering about was the bear’s name or its sex.

“Why does it matter?” he repeated, now looking full-blown irritated, as if he thought I were trying to show him up in front of his grandkids (neither of whom were paying any attention to the adults, but were standing with my kids, waving to the bear). “Does it matter if it’s a he or a she?”

Moiself  donned my best, well-practiced, kill him with kindness visage, raised my voice to a perky, non-threatening octave above my usual tone, and delivered my reply with bared teeth pretending to be a smile a friendly grin:

“Well, obviously it does, or you wouldn’t object to being corrected about a simple fact.”

He muttered under his breath and herded his grandkids away from the exhibit. The little girl turned back and called out, “Marcia!  Marcia! Bye, Marcia!”

 

The Brady Bunch Marcia Marcia Marcia GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

*   *   *

Department Of Telling Grandpa Why It Matters

If Grumpy Gramps had stuck around and showed an ounce of amiable interest in the subject, I might have told him that I also would have offered a corrective comment had he misidentified the bear’s species, or its coloration or predation habits or dietary needs (“Look at that black bear/purple grizzly bear/orange sun bear – you know, in the wild, polar bears climb trees to hunt penguins  [3]….”), or any other basic fact about it. An animal’s sex or gender   [4]  is just another one of those basic facts.

The most obvious “proof” as to how important this is, Gramps, is that when I pointed out this particular, simple, factual error, did you notice how many of your feathers got ruffled?

I have taken it upon moiself  to be a “Squirt Gun Ambassador” re the natural world, hoping to incorporate the playfulness/good humor that this childhood summer toy brings to mind, when dealing with this particular issue, which is of importance TO THE ENTIRE WORLD (whether the entire world realizes it or not).

 

 

The SQUIRT gun issue to which I refer is my Sex Question Identification Reparations Therapy ®  crusade, regarding peoples’ tendency to apply male pronouns to all animals they see, unless the animal is obviously female (e.g., nursing its young).  I go the other direction, and use “she” instead of “it” (which I used to always do, and which I’ll get back to doing some day, when people stop defaulting to using “he”) to refer to an animal whose gender is unknown.  My crusade is somewhat analogous to, and in part inspired by, actor Geena Davis’ campaign on gender inequity in entertainment media.

Media is one of the most important factors influencing our values. Women and girls are 51% of the population, but entertainment media is bereft of female characters, with a ratio of approximately 3:1 male characters to female characters since the 1940s.
(Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media )

……When her…daughter was a toddler, and (Davis) started watching movies with her, she realised how woeful the depictions of women in family movies really were.
She was particularly struck by just how few speaking characters in these films were female. She took this point to industry colleagues, but most denied it. Well-meaning and sincere, they couldn’t see a problem.
Davis pressed on – she wanted to see the numbers….she sponsored the largest study carried out on gender depictions in family-rated films and children’s television…and found that for every female speaking-character, there were 2.5 or three male characters – a figure unchanged since 1946.
Furthermore, the vast majority of those female characters were stereotypical or highly sexualised, with ambitions largely related to romance. Even crowd scenes were only made up of 17% women….

 

Hollywood thinks women just don’t like to “gather,” or flee from monsters….

 

“What if we are inculcating generation after generation to believe that low representation of women is the norm?” (Davis) asked her audience.
So her institute commissioned more research: this time, a global study of gender in film in the 10 biggest film markets in the world. The findings were “bleak”: of those characters seen to be holding a job, 77.5% were male and 22.5% were female. Women in leadership and science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM fields were dramatically underrepresented in film, she said, and of the 127 characters that held political office, only 12 were women.
This lack of onscreen depiction contributes to symbolic annihilation, Davis said, by which those that don’t see themselves reflected on screen believe they are unimportant. She quoted damning statistics that show the more hours of television a girl watches, the fewer options she thinks she has in life.

(“How Geena Davis became a champion for women on screen,”
The Guardian, 3-5-17 )

*   *   *

Department Of And While I’m On The Subject…

Can we agree to get rid of those dreadful feminizing/diminishing suffixes appended to people, animals, and professions?

If you come to a party at my house, I am your host, not your hostess.

 

And I won’t be serving these, BTW.

 

Your doctor, if she is a woman, is your doctor, not your doctress. Lions are male and female; there is no need for “lioness” as an identifier. If you name your Aunt Erva in your will as the person who will manage your estate, she should be called your executor, not your executrix.

Still with me, Grumpy Gramps? Since you asked it’s important, to know the animal’s correct gender because girls need to know that what is female is present, in the world, everywhere.  Girls often grow up into women who lack the confidence to move through the world as easily and powerfully as men do, because they don’t think that the world belongs to them.  Unintentionally and sometimes deliberately, girls get presented with skewed perceptions of their “place” – even of simply how many of them there are  [5]   –  in the world.  In the images and examples girls *and* boys are shown, the default for everything is male, especially if the thing in question is perceived as being big and powerful.

It’s important because a person will want to care for the world and that which is in the world, to seek education and take action – from studying to be a geologist to learning to do their own basic auto maintenance and repairs – if they think these things are truly and equally theirs.  If it belongs to you, then you feel a sense of responsibility for it. Despite the progress made in the past few decades, girls (and boys) still look at the world, at the images and descriptions presented to them, and see it as primarily belonging to, and inhabited and ruled by, boys and men.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Remember That Which Will Eventually Kill Those Of Us Who Survive The Rest Of This Ca-Ca?

Global warming/climate change – the human-induced warming of the planet  – has been getting our attention span short shrift these days, what with the pandemic, poor policing of POC and other parts of the panoply of poop parading past.   [6]

After my pitch for gender label inclusivity, I’ve not much energy left for another harangue.

 

 

I’ll leave y’all with this analogy on the subject. At many a dinner party discussion, I’ve listened while friends have lamented the conundrum of how and why otherwise rational-seeming people can ignore the evidence  of climate change and/or that some “aware” people tacitly admit that the evidence is real, but find ways to avoid thinking about it and/or don’t want to act on this evidence because they view any such actions as impeding their current lifestyle, or that they believe that individuals cannot make any significant changes to the problem.

I’ve had to bite my tongue when well-meaning people whom I admire and even love have sincerely claimed not to understand such willful ignorance…because they do the same thing, with regards to the same issue. They are all willing and enthusiastic participators in the environment-razing, carnivore fodder industry.

They all eat (factory-farm grown and processed) meat.

I’ve decided to be silent no more.  I will try my Girl Scout Best  [7]  to *not* be of those self-righteous scolds, but the next time someone starts with the, “How can those people ignore the evidence ?!?!?” wail I will gently point out that their lament is not only rhetorical, but disingenuous. They know, or *should* know, exactly why “those people” want to ignore the evidence of climate change because they themselves use the same rationale for ignoring the evidence on meat consumption:

* because they don’t want to alter their current way of life;

* because they don’t want to make the necessary changes, which they view as making sacrifices and being inconvenienced;

* because they just don’t want to be bothered.

Some of the most thoughtful people I know find ways not to give the problems of animal agriculture any thought, just as I find ways to avoid thinking about climate change and income inequality….
Animal agriculture is now recognized as a leading cause of global warming….
We cannot protect our environment while continuing to eat meat regularly. This is not a refutable perspective, but a banal truism….cows produce an enormous amount of greenhouse gas. If cows were a country, they would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world.
According to the research director of Project Drawdown — a nonprofit organization dedicated to modeling solutions to address climate change — eating a plant-based diet is “the most important contribution every individual can make to reversing global warming.”
Americans overwhelmingly accept the science of climate change. A majority of both Republicans and Democrats say that the United States should have remained in the Paris climate accord. We don’t need new information, and we don’t need new values. We only need to walk through the open door.

 ( “The End of Meat Is Here: If you care about the working poor,
about racial justice, and about climate change,
you have to stop eating animals,” Jonathan Safran Foer,
 NY Times 5-21-20 )

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

 

*   *   *

May you carefully consider which evidence you are choosing to ignore;
May you remember that I’m a writer, not a writress;
May you enjoy an adolescent’s misunderstanding of “titmouse;”
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] I remember at least two occasions where we saw no other human beings, with the exception of the zookeepers and other zoo employees.

[2] And two keepers told me two different names for that bear: “Martha” and “Marcia.”

[3] Despite all the cute cartoons you may have seen, polar bears and penguins never interact. Polar bears are northern pole denizens while penguin species all live south of the equator. And neither of them climb trees.

[4] I realize these are loaded terms, used interchangeably and not always in the same manner, by humans.

[5] The world human population male/female ratio consistently hovers around 50-50,   but you wouldn’t know that if your only statistic in this matter came from your consumption of popular media, where the male characters consistently and overwhelmingly outnumber the female.

[6] I counted at least eight Ps there.

[7] Well, in my case, Girl-Scout-drop-out best….

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 Letter (To The Editor) I’m Not Sending

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Department Of Although I Promised Not To Use The Term
“Silver Lining” When Referring To A Pandemic….

…there is at least one good thing to come from our world’s current situation. The “good” I refer to is a side effect of the stay at home/shelter in place/physical distancing/non-essential business closures. This side effect – I need a better term; ’tis not marginal consequence – provides some evidence that it might not be too late for us (humans). It’s the realization that, when we stop screwing with Mother Nature, even inadvertently, we begin to clean her (read: our) house.

“4.2 Million Deaths per year attributed to ambient (outdoor) air pollution.
…. The combined effects of ambient (outdoor) and household air pollution cause about seven million premature deaths every year, largely as a result of increased mortality from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections.
( World Health Organization website, health topic: air pollution )

 

New Delhi, during rush hour…not at night.

 

Imagine living a mere 500 miles from the world’s tallest mountain range – in the geographic scale that means Mt. Everest is practically in your backyard – but you haven’t been able to see the world’s tallest peak in 30 years?

* Residents in the northern Indian state of Punjab say they’re seeing the Himalayas for the first time in decades while on coronavirus lockdown.
*Since India was put on lockdown in March to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the country’s air quality
has seen immense improvement.
*The air quality has increased because public transportation has stopped,
fewer people are driving, and there’s less air traffic in the skies.
( excerpts from “India’s air quality has improved so much since the country
went on coronavirus lockdown; citizens can now see the Himalayas
for the first time in 30 years,” Reuters)

“The reductions in air pollution in China caused by this economic disruption likely saved twenty times more lives in China than have currently been lost due to infection with the virus in that country.”
( Marshall Burke, assistant professor, Stanford Department of Earth System Science, from CNN’s China’s coronavirus lockdown curbs deadly pollution, likely saving the lives of tens of thousands, says researcher” )

It remains to be seen, of course, how people and businesses adjust after the various stay-at-home restrictions are lifted.  That tiny, optimistic part of my brain – a part so small it cannot be located on this map of basic brain regions –

 

(that tiny part is located behind the brainstem and contains the pathways for minor yet essential neutral activities, including optimism, holding grudges, understanding fart jokes….)

 

– that part lets me hope that all sides of this multi-faceted situation, from big and small businesses to individuals, will see the benefits of working (at least part time) from home where and when possible, and coordinate alternative solutions to our transportation and energy needs and uses.  

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Letter (To The Editor) I’m Not Sending

That would be a letter in response to The Oregonian’s front page promo puff piece article several weeks back, titled “Crafting an Easter message of hope and faith at a time when both seem elusive.”

The article was written by staff writer Tom Hallman Jr., who purported to explore “finding the light in a season of darkness” and other such (supposed) Easter themes, all from Christian points of view.  [1]

I wasn’t sure what to call the piece when I first read it, and even now.  “Article” is too neutral, for that which was essentially a newspaper staff member’s promotion of a particular religious faith; also, it ran on the front page of a (supposedly) neutral newspaper, and not in the op-ed section.

Moiself  meant to craft a response of some sort, something compelling and rational, a day or so after reading the article, which is when my feedback would have been more topical, if not appreciated. You know the advice: “Strike while the iron is hot;“Make hay when the sun shines,” and…um…“Tee up while the caddy isn’t looking” – all those inspirational sayings from the pantheon of metallurgical, agricultural and sports idioms which make this The Greatest Nation On Earth ® .

 

 

I wanted to ask Hallman if, in light of the COVID-19 crisis (or for other reasons), he is planning on doing comparable PR pieces/blatant bootlickery  articles on religious faiths besides Christianity, as well as articles exploring religion-free worldviews, during their respective, reflective, special times and/or celebrations?

MH has an abundance of co-workers who hail from all over the world, largely from India and other south Asian countries. These folks, who have become an integral part of the Portland Metro area society and workforce, have a variety of cultural and worldview roots, including Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh (and secular!). What about their – and other – ways of “finding light in darkness?”

The Hindu multi-day celebration of Ganesh Chathrthi will be coming up this summer. Ganesh is a Hindu avatar known as the “remover of obstacles” and “imparter of wisdom”– attributes even non-Hindus can appreciate, especially in these COVID-19 times when there are obstacles aplenty (and a shortage of wisdom, considering what passes as “leadership” from the White House).   

Besides (and no disrespect intended), who doesn’t enjoy the image of a colorfully-dressed, multiple-limbed elephant avatar (and his ever-present rodent sidekick)?

 

 

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a time of fasting, reflection, and community, is ongoing, as I type.  Vesak Day, upcoming any day now,  [2]  is observed worldwide by Buddhists (and some Hindus), who, heeding the Buddha’s exhortation that the only way to truly honor him is to follow his teachings, encourage love, peace and harmony via “noble deeds” such as donating to charity, organizing blood donation drives, distributing gifts and food to those in need, etc.

Portland has a thriving Pagan community, and given the past months of uncertainty (and those to come), the Wiccan celebration of Lughnasad (August 1) will hold special meaning this year. What can Wiccans teach non-wiccans, with analogies via a celebration filled with both the hopes and fears that are as real today as they were in ancient times: hopes for a bountiful harvest and abundant food, juggled with fears that the harvest might not be enough and that the approaching winter will be filled with struggle and deprivation.

Here’s one of Hallman’s opening statements, in his The Oregonian Easter article:

“What we’re hungry for is an answer of certainty. Given that (his prior statements of the worries of our time, including spread of a new disease, school and economic closures and general life disruption and uncertainty)…Is there a place this Easter for a message rooted in something as nebulous as the concept of Christian faith?”

Here moiself’s  reflective statement, after reading Hallman’s article: Will be we be seeing a front page feature on the relevancy of modern interpretations of ancient celebrations – as we did with Easter –  illustrating other worldviews, e.g., the Wiccan acknowledgement of facing your fears, concentrating on developing your own abilities, and taking steps to protect yourselves and your homes?  Are Hallman and/or other Oregonian reporters going to write about that?

 

We’ll get right on it.

 

Or, how about space for a message that needs no special time of year, in contrast to (using Hallman’s wording) “a message rooted in something as nebulous as the Christian faith”   [3] :

“Is there a place for a non-nebulous message — a message as far as possible from supernaturalism, and which is as grounded as the principles of Humanism?”

These principles, found in greater detail here, are, briefly and chiefly:

Humanism affirms both the ability and responsibility  of people to live their lives and pursue opportunities compatible with social and planetary harmony, and seek the greater good for our fellow human beings. Since it is free of theism and other supernatural beliefs, humanism derives the goals of life from human need and interest, rather than from theological or ideological abstractions, and asserts that humanity must take responsibility for its own destiny.

 

 American Humanist Association logo

 

“Protestants and Catholics are shrinking as a share of U.S. population;
all subsets of “none” are growing.”
(“In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace,”
Pew Research Center, 10-17-19, Religion and Public Life)

 

It should come as no surprise that, along with the nationwide increase in the number of people who ( are willing to   [4] ) identity as Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, et al., at least one third of Oregonians claim a “not-affiliated/none” label when asked to list their religious affiliation . Added with the number of people practicing non-Christian faiths, that makes ~ forty percent of Oregonians who are “Christianity-free.”  That sounds like a subject worthy of exploration in a publication which calls itself The Oregonian.

 

“You heard the lady; we’ll get right on it.

 

*   *   *

Department of The Corona Virus Playlist
Los Angeles Seminal Punk Rock Bands Edition

And by seminal moiself  is referring to how influential and ground-breaking were the punk bands which formed and played in So Cal in the late 1970s/early1980s – not the variety of bodily fluids that were flung onstage during a Germs performance.

Along with the afore-mentioned Germs, Bands in this genre include Black Flag, Alice Bag Band, the Circle Jerks, Catholic Discipline, Fear, and (my personal favorite), X.

Moiself  has listed some of those groups’ song titles which are IMHO, applicable to our social-isolating, transmission–paranoid, COVID-19 times, and which, in small groupings, imply a related story.

 

Modern Man
American Waste
Annihilate This Week
Beat My Head Against The Wall
Fix Me
Life Of Pain

I’ve Had It
Loose Nut
Nervous Breakdown
Nothing Left Inside
Padded Cell
Shut Down

Media Blitz
I Don’t Care About You
Let’s Have a War
We Destroy The Family
Have A Beer With Fear
World Up My Ass

 

 

Deny Everything
Moral Majority
Killing For Jesus
Your Phone’s Off The Hook, But You’re Not
Back Against The Wall
We’re Desperate

I’m Coming Over
Some Other Time
When Our Love Passes Out On The Couch
Under The Big Black Sun
How I Learned My Lesson

I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
Painting The Town Blue
What’s Wrong With Me
Lettuce and Vodka
Live Fast Die Young

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I’m reading a book about anti-gravity.  I just can’t put it down

 

MAKE IT STOP

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion  Evolution  [5]

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

Featuring this week’s Theme Day and recipe:
Mushroom-Miso-Mustard Monday: Mushroom Stroganoff Over Roast Cauliflower

My rating: 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [6]

*   *   *

May you find your own silver linings (and perhaps a better term to describe them)
in times of stress and deprivation;
May you be able to spot the mountain ranges – be they metaphorical or
actual – from your own backyard;
May you embrace the part of your humanity that takes responsibility for its own destiny;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Which, like the name “Easter,” was appropriated by early Christians from Celtic, Germanic and Pagan cultures.

[2] Many religious or cultural holidays use a particular culture’s ancient lunar – rather than the contemporary Gregorian – calendar, and so their date(s) vary from year to year.

[3] I would add, “or any religion” when it comes to being nebulous.

[4] Those who are open about being religion-free face “intense prejudice” in this country.

[5] 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.

[6]

* 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 Judgment I’m Not Judging

1 Comment

Department Of One Of My Least Favorite Phrases In Any Language

Dateline: Wednesday circa 7 am; listening to Hidden Brain‘s rerun   [1]  of a 2019 podcast.  “Sex Machines: Love In The Age Of Robots,” is about…well, hello: title.

HB host Shankar Vedantam interviewed Computer Scientist/Professor Kate Devlin about her visit to a company that makes life-size sex dolls. In the latter part of the interview, Vedantam asks Devin about the dangers of people being in (translate: *thinking* they are in) a relationship – in this case, with a robot/AI doll – wherein there is no true reciprocity.

VEDANTAM:
So Kate, does having a lover who is completely dedicated to our needs
without asking for anything in return – is that actually good for us?

DEVLIN:
…I can see that argument, you know, the hedonistic thing of, you will have all your needs met, and you will never know…
what it really feels like to be in a proper human relationship.
It’s tricky because…
that might be appealing for some people
And who am I to judge if that is the case?”

 

Who am I to judge?   Who are you to judge? Seriously?

 

 

Prof. Devlin is (I presume) a human being. Choosing how we walk through this world and how we treat and interact with others – as humans, our whole life is about making choices. And choices involve making  judgments, from the mundane…

– “Should I get ranch dressing or the vinaigrette? Which do I think is ‘better’?”

to the profound

– “Should my partner and I have one or two children, biological or adopted,
or would we – and the world – be better off if we stayed child-free?”

– “Tommy, your friend Jason is bullying that new kid at school.
It doesn’t matter what Jason’s excuse is – it’s wrong to treat anyone that way.”

From the personal to the political: You judge this candidate to be more qualified than that one; which potential life partner to be a better fit
for you (and you for them)…. Who are you to judge?

 

“Holy non-conundrum, Batman!”

 

Let’s give three cheers and a bison booty shake for those who can discern between meticulous discernment and  (gasp) “being judgmental” – the bogey phrase that has become the go-to slur for times and situations which actually call for thoughtful judgement.

 

You want me to shake my what?

 

Who-am-I-to-judge is not only about a human being’s right but also their responsibility to judge, (to use a very important example)  that “cultural relativism” is dangerously naive – and ultimately leads to excusing and even propagating racist and sexist bullshit.  To do so, however, you must realize the difference between relativism and pluralism:

The fact of cultural pluralism does not present any philosophical problem to me, nor should it to anyone else.   It simply IS a fact that there are many different traditions of cultural life and thought.  Therefore, saying that I “believe in” cultural pluralism isn’t particularly illuminating or challenging; it would be like saying that I believe in the ocean.  However, acknowledging, accepting and even welcoming pluralism — which I eagerly do — does not require relativism.


Just as not all members of a particular culture – let’s say, French people – are in agreement on the doctrines or practices of their way of life (i.e., what makes a person “French”), not all people understand exactly the same things about the world in the same way.


Discerning differences and making choices are both good and necessary practices; it is wise to judge a tree by the fruit it produces.
There are valid criteria for testing or judging beliefs, world-views, or practices, whether cultural, religious, political, whatever. These criteria come from the various worldviews and traditions themselves, and are encompassed in what scholar Karen Armstrong calls the centrality of compassion.  Take any belief, worldview or practice and ask, does it lead to compassion and loving kindness?  If yes, then that is good (or at least acceptable).  Does it produce in its adherents certainty, self-righteousness, belligerence, and/or reality-denial?   Then that is bad.


I think a culture or worldview that teaches humility, gratitude, love and compassion and fosters equal responsibility and equal justice for all is “better” than one that justifies or permits slavery and/or inequality, or preaches fear and guilt or the domination of the majority by a plutocracy.

(adapted from “Robbiedoll-eology,” originally begun as a treatise
on my philosophy of religion.  Yep, I’m citing moiself. )

 

 

I will champion What’s Right ® in my own society and within whatever tribes/labels people want to put me in.  I will also not excuse discrimination – and racial/gender/class apartheid and genital mutilation and educational and professional marginalization, ad nauseum – perpetuated by people outside of my tribes, by saying I can’t judge them because I’m not “one of them.”

Some of the same people who opposed Apartheid (and by doing so they explicitly rejected the excuse that it was white South Africans’ culture – which it was – to believe that blacks were inferior and act accordingly) hesitate to criticize Islamist countries for those countries’  treatment of women and non-Muslim citizens – even to the point of slurring others who point out such discrimination, with labels like, “bigots,” or “Islamophobes.”

 

Oh, great – look what you made me do.

 

Yet again, I digress. Back to the podcast.

Prof. Devlin goes on to make some lame defenses of people (human doll makers and their users, I suppose) who want to shake up the

“monoheteronormative stances that societies impose”

(Yes, some people really talk like that).

 

 

 …then she gets back to the point the host was trying to explore:

Devlin:
“So in some ways, I see what you’re saying.
You know, is it a selfish thing to do?
Does it make us terrible people if we take and take and take,
and we don’t give?”

The non-academia-gook, human-normative answer, Prof. Devlin, is *Fuck, yeah.*

Assuming her question is non-rhetorical, if you don’t get it on a personal level…this could go on for way too long, to have to explain human psychology and emotional intelligence, so I’ll put it this way: just take a look at current corporate and political leaders, and note the commonality in personality traits among the most rapacious and dictatorial of them: they think (and act as if) it’s perfectly fine to take take take and not give.

Moiself  is not going to get into all the ramifications of “life-like” human sex companion dolls.  Given the history of male and female relationships, even the idea of these robots…well, it makes me wish for a sci-fi/AI revolution movie where the robots take over.  But here in non-cinematic reality land, such inventions will continue to be one more crutch for emotionally and intellectually crippled males to have even fewer reasons to educate themselves about the other half of humanity.  Why bother learning perhaps what is a difficult skill set for you –  interacting with women as equals, seeing them as people – when you can have a slave (excuse me; I mean, a Realistic Companion ® ) who will not annoy or disagree with or challenge you, or point out that your jokes are corny and your reasoning flawed…or who also will never, genuinely, truly, love and care for you, with all the messiness, ambiguity, joy and wonderment that entails?

Come on folks, get your judge-y on.

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

*   *   *

Department Of Memory-Triggering Fun With Pandemics

Dateline: Monday, circa noon. Moiself  was responding to an email from a friend who lives overseas  [2] . I thanked her for the much-enjoyed link she’d sent: a video made by to an amply endowed woman who demonstrated the perils (read: suffocation) of heeding internet suggestions to make a COVID mask from an old brassiere cup.

 

 

I’d told my Swenadian friend that MH was making face masks for us, using leftover material from the so-adorable-you-could-puke, “Itsy Bitsy Spider” costume he made (twenty-six years ago!), that both our offspring wore for their respective first Halloweens.  Swenadian lamented her own sewing talent (read: lack thereof), which got me onto the following subjects:

Have any of your talented family and/or friends sent you a mask they’ve made?  My friend LPH has been making them with special – there’s no other way to put it – penis-themed fabric. The cloth looks like a delicate, pastels-on-white pattern you might use for a baby blanket, until you get closer – which is just the point!  If someone is near enough to you see what the pattern really is, you definitely know they’ve violated social distancing guidelines.

I’m grateful for my craft-talented husband because, like you, I am not adept at sewing.  And I’ve no desire to be so, as it conjures up memories of discrimination and frustration.  I’m old enough to have been a junior high student when, in the eighth grade in California public schools, the curriculum required girls and boys to take a year of “Life Skills” classes.  Girls had to take a Sewing class (one semester) and a Home Economics class (one semester), while boys during that same year took shop classes:  Wood Shop, Metal Shop, Electric Shop.

I think it was just a few years later that the gender-specific requirements for those classes were dropped, and either gender could choose to take whatever during that year (although the social – even parental –  pressure, of course, still remained for girls to do one thing and boys another).  Then, years later,    [3]  MH, in a public school in Florida, was able to take a sewing class and, as he recalled, it wasn’t such a big deal for him to do so.

Interesting to think back upon that, and how a public institution was used to reinforce societal stereotypes (well, duh and of course, right?)  No matter what an individual boy’s or girl’s “natural” proclivities and/or interests might have been, the genders were each steered in different directions:  whether or not they gave a flying rat’s ass about it, all boys were exposed to and thus learned some basics of  carpentry/woodworking and electric/metal shop work, while all girls learned some basics of sewing and “home economics” – the latter of which translated into doing things like writing a recipe card for cinnamon toast.   I kid you not and I’ll repeat that: a recipe card for cinnamon toast.

Really. I remember thinking how it seemed so obvious to me that the Home Ec teacher had to stretch to fill an entire semester of curriculum. There was a lot of downtime in that class (which I didn’t mind because I used it to do homework for other classes).

While at the time I thought a sewing class could be valuable – and I do remember how to sew on a button and do some basic clothing repairs – the Home Ec class was a complete f***ing waste of time.  And I state that as someone who has just finished grinding her own chickpea flour.  My later/adult interest in cooking and meal design/preparation was in spite of that class, not because of it. Nothing I “learned” in Home Ec translated into my later interest in the culinary arts.

 

“I can’t remember, does your head go in the refrigerator or the oven if you’re dying of boredom?”

Is there anything so frustrating (at the 8th grade level) as putting a zipper in backwards, and/or cutting out fabric pieces with a pattern only to discover that you’ve also cut into a fabric piece, that, unbeknownst to you, was below the piece you meant to cut out, and so you’ve ruined the rest of the fabric for that project?  Translation: while I was learning to sew, I was also learning to swear. Now, decades later, I never do the former but (as you know), have mastered the latter.

Cracks me up – I haven’t thought of this in years.

Which means I’m probably going to blog about it.  😉

 

 

*   *   *

Department of The Corona Virus Playlist
 Joni Mitchell Edition

I still may do a 1970s singer-songwriters edition (plenty of talent to choose from, in the era of James Taylor, Carole King, Carly Simon, Dan Fogelberg….), but there’s no doubt that the talented if notoriously prickly Ms. Mitchell should share a list with no one.

Moiself  has listed some of Mitchell’s song titles which are IMHO, applicable to our social-isolating, transmission–paranoid, COVID-19 times, and which, in small groupings, imply a related story.

All I Want
Talk To Me
Be Cool
Blue
The Last Time I Saw Richard

Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter
Don’t Go To Strangers
Come In From The Cold
Court And Spark
A Case Of You

Free Man In Paris
In France They Kiss On Main Street
People’s Parties
Help Me
Lesson In Survival

My Secret Place
Night In The City
Nothing Can Be Done
See You Sometime
Shadows And Light

The Way It Is
The Same Situation
Trouble Child
Twisted
Wild Things Run Fast

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion  Evolution  [4]

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

Featuring this week’s Theme Day  (Tofu/Tempeh Tuesday): Savory Marinated Tempeh,
(chaperoned by Celeriac/Carrot Puree; Lemony Roast Asparagus; Mediterranean Greens)

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [5]

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I wrote a Broadway musical about puns. It was a play on words.

 

 

*   *   *

 

May you judge wisely, and often;
May you have one fond or at least fun recollection of the inane
academic requirements of junior high school;
May you devise and share your own COVID-19 playlist;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] I did not hear the original, or you would have had this rant a year ago.

[2] A person mentioned previously in this space as my “Swenadian” buddy.  Swenadian is a Swedish-Canadian combo. You figured that out, right?

[3] I am 5 ½ years older than MH.

[4] 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.

[5]

* 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 ® !

 

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