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The Limerence I’m Not Seeking

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Department Of Quarantine Reflections
Sub-Department of The Neurobiology Of Love

“Neuroscientists have studied madly-in-love folks, putting them in the fMRI machine…. The parts of the brain that ‘light up’ while looking at the lover are the same brain areas activated by cocaine—the reward centers. These researchers concluded that love is like a drug.

… The chemicals of early love: testosterone (the hormone fueling the sex drive in both men and women), dopamine (focusing on ‘that special someone’), and oxytocin (the bonding hormone/neurotransmitter)….in early love, the critical part of the brain goes quiet…

Crazy in love is a temporary state; the brain can’t stand the intensity forever. At some point the critical parts of the brain come back online, and we see our partners, warts and all. The jazzed-up chemicals settle down, and our drug high gives way to a calmer brain state. Romantic love, researchers find, yields to a tamer version, called companionate love….

Many couples are deeply disappointed when their romance fades into a more sedate version. They crave the high of early love, dopamine and all. Some have affairs, or divorce and remarry, seeking another hit of the drug. But eventually the new relationship will become old….

‘I still love my wife, but I’ve fallen out of love with her,’ a man said to me recently. He’s missing the hit of the drug, and is thinking of looking elsewhere for that love high again. To my mind, ‘falling out of love’ sounds so passive—like falling into a pothole! I propose a more proactive view of long-term love, in which both partners work to create a great relationship. Once the initial glow wears off, the real work of loving begins. The stakes are high; while happy relationships are associated with health and longevity, the stress of an unhappy marriage can result in illness and earlier death.”

(“After the Thrill Is Gone: The Science of Long-Term Love,”
Mona Fishbane, PhD, writing on goodtherapy.org )

 

“Frankly my dear, after the dopamine dips, I won’t give a damn.”

 

“That warm, fuzzy feeling…called limerence…refers to the intense, involuntary attraction we feel during the first stages of a romantic relationship. Limerence is often characterized by intrusive thoughts (we can’t stop thinking about someone) and a need for reciprocation (we can’t stand the thought of being rejected by someone).

Limerence has a biological basis. When we are first attracted to someone, our brains release chemicals like norepinephrine and dopamine, which make our hearts flutter and make us feel happy.

The feeling of limerence can last for weeks or decades, although most people start to feel its decline within a year or two of starting a romantic relationship. As we form a lasting romantic bond, dopamine and norepinephrine stop flowing. They’re replaced by hormones associated with social bonding, like oxytocin.”

(

Heart-racing romantic feelings fade over time — here’s why,”
Rose Wesche, Assistant professor, Virginia Tech,
Department of Human Development and Family Science. 

“It’s just limerence, darling. We’ll live through it.”

 

Although more and more people are becoming vaccinated, the health care, social, psychological, and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will linger for some time.  Perhaps it’s too early to be in “look back” mode, but since I have been fully vaccinated, moiself’s  mind tends to go there.  “There” includes bits of wisdom I attempted to impart to my offspring – when they were still in the nest, and then reminders   [1]  after they’d left – about the good which can come from hard times, including:

* realizing the value of resilience

* discovering, on more than a theoretical level, that you are (or can learn to be)
more resilient and adaptable than you may have previously thought.

In the past year+ I have been reading about how people got on each other’s nerves during the pandemic.  Fortunately, there were also stories about how some lucky folks found new things to admire in their partners and family members.  A particularly pleasant side effect of the pandemic for moiself  has been the reminder,

Oh yeah, I married the right guy.
(Right for *me,* that is).

MH has simply been…easy to be with.  I hope he found moiself  as agreeable (or at least as tolerable) as I found him. 

 

 

I don’t want to make light of what has been a trying time for all families, and very difficult for some.  I also realize that, in this stage of our lives…well, things might have been way different if our offspring were not successfully fledged but were instead school age/living at home and we had to juggle both childcare and education responsibilities, and if our economic situation had been precarious and/or not amenable to working from home. 

As fun (and also overwhelming) as the passion of the early times of a relationship can be, I have always and strongly believed that romantic love is overemphasized by our culture, and that relationships which prioritize that “romance” side of love above all else are doomed to fail, as the partners conflate the ebbing of romantic feelings with diminishment of the relationship.  As per the research quoted in the above excerpts, romantic love by its very nature has a shelf life, determined in part by the sheer newness of getting to know someone as well as by the biological realities  [2]   which produce those over-hyped romantic emotions.

Although the following Life Advice ® of mine is unlikely to inspire cinematic tales of inspirational star-crossed lovers, it is, IMHO, essential:

Marry someone whose essential qualities and temperament make you think,
“This is someone I could stand to be quarantined with.”

To put it in terms of my own ongoing realization:

“More important than ‘being in love’ with this person
is the fact that I *like* him.”

 

How could I not love a man who lets me take a picture of him with his hair in a “granny knot” (courtesy of daughter Belle’s styling skills)?

 

*   *   *

Department Of Back In The Saddle

Those who know me, and/or who have been reading this blog since before the pandemic, know that I am a fan of seeing movies in a movie theatre.  While I am grateful for the many streaming services that kept us all entertained during the times of social/physical isolation, I am now Making Up For Lost Time. ®   In the past five days moiself  has seen three movies, in a movie theatre:

* Cruella

* A Quiet Place Part II

* Dream Horse

Abby the Emotional Support Avocado gives two thumbs up to each.    [3]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things Unlikely To Happen In My Lifetime

As part of my coming-out-of-pandemic mindset, I still like to think of such things, even if they are unlikely to happen.  “Things” as in, solving the world’s pressing problems.  “Things” along the lines of, what would happen If I Ran The World ® ? And by ‘running the world’ I do not mean moiself  would be doing so as a queen or any kind of monarchist, ’cause y’all know how I feel about that.

 

 

Rather, If I Ran The World ® things would be like this:

* All nations would agree upon a “Marshall Plan” (or series of plans), to stop the damage we are doing to our home planet and for cleaning up the messes we’ve already made. Those coming up with workable solutions would be compensated (and celebrated) to the highest financial and “celebrity” degree.  [4]   Instead of being hailed for designing an app for more convenient shopping or food delivery or online gaming, the creative young (and older) engineering, artistic and scientific minds would be encouraged to pool resources and take up the various challenges (“Ok, our group will solve ground water storage and pollution; yours will do topsoil rejuvenation…”).

Components of this plan include coming up with solutions for

– renewable/sustainable non-polluting energy sources

– cleaning/filtering pollutants from our land skies and seas

– halting and reversing global warming

For example, in this if-I-ran-the-world scenario in no one would be using or manufacturing plastics anymore,  but what about the bazillion tons of plastic refuse that already exist? Somewhere out there is an idealistic student, in the suburbs of Portland or the streets of New Delhi, who is eager to put her brilliant but unappreciated mind to work inventing or discovering a bacteria or other organism that eats plastics and excretes something useful – or at least non-toxic –  in return  (read: that doesn’t turn into the sci-fi movie bogeyman which is going to take revenge on us all).

 

Unless of course, the organism turns out to be the inspiration for a classic monster movie, ala “The Blob.” Then I say, bring it on!

 

* National boundaries as such would become an anachronism; nations and governments would be organized according to Bioregions.   [5]

* Daylight savings or standard time – we’d pick one of those for our clocks to be set to, year-round, and we’d adjust our work and school schedules accordingly.   [6]   The choice would be in agreement with what medical science tell us is optimal for the human mind and body.   

* High Schools would eliminate the teaching of trigonometry and/or Algebra 2, and a mandatory math class for all students would be statistics and data analysis (aka Data Science).  [7]

* The percent of religious believers worldwide will continue to decline.

 

 

Religious believers may still cling to their creation mythologies and other dogmas: practitioners of the three major Abrahamic religions ( Christians and Jews and Muslims ) will be free to believe that the earth as it currently exists was created in six days 6000 years ago by their god, which then fashioned a man from dust/clay and a woman from a man’s rib; Hindus may believe in their various origins mythos, including that Brahma created the cosmos from a lotus flower which grew from Lord Vishnu’s navel with Brahma sitting on it, or that life in the universe came from the cracking of an enormous egg;  Wiccans can hold that “the Goddess” birthed a race of spirits that filled the world and became humans, animals, plants, and all living beings; Scientologists may assure one another that Tom Cruise is the heir to Xenu’s galactic confederacy ….[8]

Religious believers will be free to practice their beliefs as long as their doing so does not negatively impact their neighbors.  For example, in the privacy of their own homes and churches, Christians will still be able to appease their deities through reenacting their Jesus-as-the-ultimate-animal-sacrifice ritual via the symbolic cannibalism of communion.  However, there will be no governmental respecting of any religion’s theology, nor integration of such in public policy.  Religious believers will still be able to vote however they please but will not be able to influence other people’s healthcare options, nor demand that public education incorporate their folklore about the origins of the cosmos as if those myths held equal weight to the geologic, biologic, and astronomical evidence.

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Cinephile Edition

French movie fanatics want to open a floating cinema in Paris, with drive-in boats!
I just think that’s in Seine.

Have you seen the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie?
It’s rated aRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

Why did Bruce Willis try to commit suicide with an overdose of Viagra?
He wanted to Die Hard.

What is the internal temperature of a Tauntaun?
Lukewarm.

 

Christopher Walken

 

Christopher Dancen.

 

*   *   *

May you appreciate those people you could stand to be quarantined with;
May you make plans *right now* to go to the movie theater;
May you start your own “If I Ran The World” list;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] “Reminders” sounds better than unsolicited life advice.

[2] Those romance hormones, like opiates and other “highs,” lose their potency as we develop tolerances to them.

[3] Well…Abby was a bit generous with Cruella, which needed at least 30 minutes of edits. 

[4] Although I’d like to think the minds capable of solving our problems would not care about fame, it only seems fair that they’d be celebrated – and rewarded for their contribution to humanity – more than, say, the actor with the most Academy Awards or the basketball player with the highest field goal percentage.

[5]bioregion is an ecologically and geographically defined area. Bioregionalism, as a governing philosophy, advocates that politicalcultural, and economic systems to be organized around bioregions (which are defined through environmental features such as watershed boundaries, soil and topographical characteristics), rather than via the arbitrary and often unjust national boundaries established over the centuries via wars, immigration and expansionist policies,  and desire for land acquisition and resource exploitation.

[6] Once every month or so, in order to maximize our productive times with the times of the most daylight,  we would adjust our schedules to start or end an hour earlier or later, and such changes would be implemented with a week’s warning time: “Remember, next week/in six days School/work class begins at 9 AM not 10 AM.” We don’t change our clocks; we change our schedules.  9 AM is still 9 AM.

[7] The reality is that few of us will go on to use trigonometry, but all of us need to know how to sort out the overwhelming amount of data to which we are subjected in our daily lives, and how to determine what are valid stats verses what is being used to manipulate us (i.e., make us afraid).

[8] whatever other horseshit spewed from L. Ron Hubbard’s money-grubbing mind…. 

The “Carnus” Bias I’m Not Displaying

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Department of Victory Day

Yesterday marked the second week after my second (Moderna) COVID vaccination.  I feel…not quite invincible, but superb, nonetheless.

 

*   *   *

Dept Of Shame On The Shamers

I have a…how shall I describe it?…not, love-hate, but more, mostly like/sometimes WTF relationship with certain podcasts. The obsequiousness with which podcast hosts and their guests begin their show ranges from mildly annoying to barely tolerable. No matter the subject, from arts and entertainment to politics and science and comedy, it’s as if the podcast hosts and/or producers all received the same Podcast Handbook which decreed that each show must start with a mutual gushing session.

“I *love* your work!”
“Oh, and *I* love *your* work!”

This week, on standup comic/actor Tig Notaro’s Don’t Ask Tig podcast (one of my regular, mostly like/sometimes WTF listens), her guest was “outspoken journalist/author/activist” Jane Velez-Mitchell.   As soon as Velez-Mitchell  described herself as a “fellow lesbian/sober/vegan,” moiself  girded my aural loins for some particularly self-righteous gushing between Notaro and her guest..  After it subsided, I thought they would get on to the supposed raison d’etre for the show – reading listener’s letters.  [1]   It should have come as no surprise to moiself  that their mutual dietary sanctimony took center stage, prompted by Notaro, who asked V-M when she became “plant-based.”

 

 

V-M  told story of the “advice” she personally received from, Howard Lyman, the “Mad Cowboy” rancher-turned vegetarian-then-vegan.  Background info: Lyman got his 15 minutes of fame in 1996 on The Oprah Winfrey show, when the former rancher’s comments on the practices of the American beef industry caused Oprah to declare on the air that she was done with hamburgers. (Oprah, and Lyman, later got more than their 15 minutes of famous lawsuits from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association).

V-M said she’d met Lyman when she had her own news/opinion/interview show, and she interviewed him. After the interview…

V-M:
Lyman and his publicist walked up to my cubicle and said, “We hear you’re a vegetarian.” At that time I was a vegetarian. And I said yes, and they said, “Do you eat dairy?” And I kind of hung my head and because he had just talked about ——– (various horrors of the dairy industry) and I had said ‘yes’ and then he stuck his finger right at my nose and said, ‘Liquid meat!’ and that was the moment I went vegan.”

So. Lyman was able to shame V-M into doing something she probably was headed toward doing anyway. But is that a tactic she would endorse across the board?  Subtle hints brazen evidence surfaced in her comments when she and Notaro got to reading letters, the first from a self-described, “time-strapped single mom” who wanted to know how to prepare healthy meals for her nine-year-old son, who recently declared himself vegan “…oh and did I mention that I am also cooking for his ninety- and eighty-eight-year-old grandparents?”

V-M began her advice with,

“But see there’s the inherent carnus bias in the question – that somehow it’s going to take longer to make something that’s vegan, so we always come from that carnistic bias that it’s going to be more expensive, it’s going to take longer …”

 

 

Not one complete sentence into her advice and she’s already invented two words: “carnus” and “carnistic.”  [2]

V-M did have some actual advice for the advice-seeker advice re recipes, and getting the child involved re the cooking process, but she had to go further:

“…So, get your  child involved in the cooking process, and then you can feed that vegan food to your elderly grandparents so that they live longer, because the best way to ensure longevity is to go plant-based.
So it’s a win-win for everybody; you son is clearly smarter than everybody else in the family….”

 

 

The letter writer had said nothing about the grandparents wanting to live longer or that they were seeking a change in *their* dietary habits. Nor had she mentioned her son’s intelligence vis-à-vis that of the other family members.  But, because he wants to eat vegan, a vegan evangelist just *knows* that he’s “smarter than everyone else.”

As is the way of vegan proselytizers, V-M took (or made) an opening and ran with it. Reacting to another letter, from a man who wanted to tell his friend that opening a bakery is a terrible idea (the friend is not the best cook and her baked goods are atrocious), here’s how V-M dove in:

“First of all, I hope that if she does create this business that’s it’s a vegan bakery, because you don’t need eggs to make cake, or milk…”

Fellow Vegan Notaro could not suppress herself:
“Or milk! You do not need it! You do not need it!”

V-M:
“But the bigger thing is, people are on their journey, and it’s very hard for us to steer people on their journey.”

Except of course when it comes to steering them toward vegan land, when it is not hard at all for her to offer unsolicited advice, bordering on shame.

 

 

I used the term evangelists and proselytizers, because for hardcore vegans, their philosophy is truly a religion.  Notaro and V-M obviously and sincerely believe that their veganism is saving the planet.   [3]   There are people who believe – just as passionately as Notaro and V-M believe in the benefits of plant-based nutrition – that all people have an eternal soul, and that a certain god has a plan for that soul, and that nothing is more important than that.  How receptive would V-M be toward a conservative Christian who “stuck his finger right at your nose” and told her that being lesbian (even a sober, vegan one) is damning her to hellfire, harming heself and the planet, ad nauseum?

And yes, it’s the fucking same thing.

*   *   *

Department Of Random Thoughts At The Stop Light

I love my Subaru, and am impressed with Subaru’s’ reputation for quality and reliability. But when it comes time to get a new car I know I will not be going with their latest (and largest) SUV, due to my gut reaction when I became aware of the model’s name.

Dateline: Wednesday afternoon; running errands.  Moiself  was in my Outback, at a stop light, behind a model of Subaru I’ve never heard of.  I looked to the right of the six-star Subaru logo on the car’s trunk to see the model’s name:  Ascent.  My kneejerk reaction/comment, which moiself  uttered aloud to moiself:

“I guess that name must have market-tested better than Buttsmell.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Downside Of Unmasking

Dateline: last week speaking with an acquaintance who works in the personal services industry.   [4]   We talked about nearing the end of social/physical distancing, and about getting – or having – to see people without masks again.  Moiself  listed a few of the advantages of mask wearing, including the fact that I’d gotten used to running errands without feeling guilty for not having washed my face that morning or having showered in three days (distancing + mask…who’s gonna notice?).  Acquaintance laughed heartily, even more so when I added, “No, I’m serious.”

I started to mention the return of something else which *wasn’t* missed by millions of women…then thought better of it, and chided moiself  for being so cynical.  Turns out, others have been thinking along same lines:

So in less than an hour out of the new CDC mask guidance, I just went outside and pulled mine down. A nearby construction worker immediately told me to “Smile.”
I will miss masks for some reasons that are not pandemic-related.
(tweet from @ Sarah_boxer, quoted in the article mentioned below).

For M. ___, the pandemic marked the first time in decades she hadn’t felt any pressure to adopt an obsequious, apologetic smile when asking for help at the grocery or the hardware store or the car dealership. For women, “the smile sort of neutralizes you. It implies that you’re more pliable, you’re not going to give them trouble,” she says.
With the smile suddenly out of the equation…“it made me go a step further. I decided to not be the type of person who asks for something. Instead I would tell them what I wanted. I would say, ‘I need this.’ ” She plans to keep doing so even when she quits wearing a mask.
(“Masks are off — which means men will start telling women to ‘Smile!’ again.”
Washington Post, 5-22-21 )

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Next Time I’m Going To Shout It To The Cosmos

Dateline:  a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.  Moiself, taking a bus to a job interview….

Oh lawwwdy, those were the days. Out of college, interviewing, no car, dependent upon a sketchy public transportation system.  I became convinced that there were signs posted on my forehead and back of my head.  These signs, invisible to moiself  and normal  [5]   bus riders, apparently flashed neon clarion calls to every loud and loony and delusional and horny street person:  “Talk to this one – she’ll listen to anything and she loves unsolicited advice.”

Yet again, I digress.

I was riding the bus, passing the time by reading a magazine article.  The bus slowed as it approached my stop; I looked up from my magazine and saw a man seated across the aisle, who was staring at me.  I stood up and moved to the front of the bus; Staring Man said, loud enough for the other passengers seated at the front of the bus to hear:

“You’d look prettier if you’d smile.”

I muttered as I exited the bus, “And you’d sound smarter if you’d never open your mouth.”

 

 

Back in those days, I swore that Weird Al wrote his parody of Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust for me.

♫  Ridin’ in the bus down the boulevard
And the place was pretty packed,
Couldn’t find a seat so I had to stand
With the perverts in the back
It was smellin’ like a locker room
There was junk all over the floor
We’re already packed in like sardines
But we’re stoppin’ to pick up more, look out

Another one rides the bus, another one rides the bus
And another comes on and another comes on
Another one rides the bus
Hey, he’s gonna sit by YOU, another one rides the bus…

( “Another One Rides the Bus,” full lyrics here )

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Poetic License

I write and mail two letters every Friday, one to son K and one to daughter Belle. Just because. They don’t get much in the way of snail mail these days (who does?); I thought it would be a nice for them to get something other than advertising flyers, and a fun discipline for moiself, and that it would give them the opportunity to say holy crap, not another one” and reach for the recycling bin lovingly tuck away these personal missives and review them later with fond nostalgia.

Each letter begins with either a haiku or a limerick I have composed, themes varying from personal to political to the weather or a new month/the passage of time…whatever.  Usually I personalize the compositions, but last week they both got the same:

A Haiku For Those Counties Who Want To Leave “Liberal” Oregon
Begone, ingrates, and
take your tR**p-licking mindset
With you when you go.

You diss Portland, yet
have no qualms about taking
Liberal money,

disbursed by the state,
from higher earning/urban
cities, to your schools.

Wave bye-bye, and don’t
let the door hit your Proud Boy
asses when you leave.

That purple prose was inspired by a recent event in Oregon politics:  the majority of voters who cast ballots in advisory special elections in seven eastern/southern Oregon counties approved measures for their counties to leave Oregon and join Idaho.

I should turn in my Scout’s current events badge; I had *no idea* that this issue was A Thing ® . My Not Paying Attention ® may be an example of one of the reasons why the people voting to “secede” did so: they think they play second fiddle to urbanized Oregon (i.e., the  Portland and Eugene metro areas ), and that urbanites, such as moiself, don’t know (or care) about their concerns.  And, in a democracy, that’s kind of true – the “second fiddle” analogy, that is.

The seven counties that  voted to leave, Jefferson, Union, Baker, Grant, Lake, Malheur and Sherman, constitute almost 75% of Oregon’s landmass.
BUT – and it’s a big but here ­–

 

And also here.

 

BUT…all that land is meagerly populated, as in, only ~ 114, 000 total residents.  The state’s entire population is ~ 4,238,000…so those leaving constitute ~ 3% of the total population. Those seven counties poll and vote “red.” And there is, of course, a conservative advocacy group behind this: ” Citizens for Greater Idaho.”

In all the excitement to thumb their noses at those damn liberals,  it is likely that the people who voted to leave have not fully considered several factors in joining “Greater Idaho.”  Two prime factors are:

* A good percentage of the jobs in those counties are minimum wage. Translation: those counties who want to leave are essentially agreeing to a pay cut for hourly workers, as the minimum wage in Oregon ($11.25) is a whopping four dollars higher than in Idaho.

* Speaking of higher, weed is illegal in Idaho.  Are those disgruntled voters trading Oregon buds for Idaho spuds? Those (wanna-be) seceding Oregon counties have made a lot of money from legal marijuana sales (and, in the opinion of some of us, are obviously heavy users of the stuff themselves, as an Oregonian who would vote to join Idaho must be stoned).

Another reason not to miss those who want to go involves something Oregon’s urbanites have grumbled about for years when they hear criticism from the smaller eastern/southern counties:

Oregon is a state that disproportionately gets tax money from its most economically productive citizens — and regions — and which disproportionately spends its resources in economically struggling communities.
(Oregon’s Fiscal Flow)

When it comes to contributing to state coffers and these smaller counties have usually received more, percentage wise, than they give.  The much-despised liberal urban areas pay more than their share for the educational and other social services consumed by the smaller/rural areas.

Here is what Citizen’s For Greater Idaho Envision:

 

 

Here is moiself’s  equally probable pipe dream, of redoing the borders of our entire nation, ever since the re-election of GWB:

 

 

Moiself’s personal take on all of this:  I’ve no problem with those counties leaving (assuming Idaho is willing to take them).  I actually think it would be a good thing, for our country, to see how it turns out.  If it is a success (however that would be measured), I hope that California would then consider a split, or four, of its own.   [6]

From what I’m reading, the secession of these seven counties is unlikely to happen, as per the layers of bureaucracy that have to be dealt with.  Despite what the citizens of those counties voted for, they are dependent upon the approval of other government bodies: both the Oregon and Idaho state legislatures would have to agree to redefine their respective boundaries and redistrict their legislatures. And then the US Congress has final approval.   [7]

Gee, does this dilemma sound so familiar?  The majority voted a certain way; now, the will of the people being thwarted….  Hey y’all in the by-bye Oregon movement, do you now understand why so your fellow Americans want to get rid of the Electoral College?

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
COVID Pundemic Edition

Why do they call it the novel coronavirus? It’s a long story….

Ran out of toilet paper and started using lettuce leaves.
Today was just the tip of the iceberg, tomorrow romaines to be seen.

We had a run on toilet paper in the USA,
but in Germany there was panic-buying of sausage and cheese – the wurst-kase scenario.

The World Health Organization announced that dogs cannot contract COVID-19; thus, dogs previously held in quarantine can be released.
Yep: WHO let the dogs out.

 

*   *   *

 

May you enjoy the new-car smell, no matter what your new car model’s name;
May you soon (if you haven’t already) celebrate your vaccine victory day;
May you hold the door open for anyone you know who wants to secede to Idaho;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] The podcast is an “advice column” in podcast form, although I wonder how many of the advice seekers are legit, or are just making up letters to get some airtime.

[2] I’m not sure re the spellings…but does it matter with a made-up terms?

[3] And as a 99% plant-based eater moiself, I’m in agreement with that idea…but not with how she’s promoting it. And yep, I manage to bake without (dairy) milk and eggs.

[4] And shame on you for immediately going to Euphemism Land.  Think more along the lines of hair salon. 

[5] “normal” as in polite, discreet, keeping their opinions and personal hygiene to themselves.

[6] It’s ridiculous that the 39+ MILLION Californians have less say in their lives than the 580 THOUSAND Wyomingites as per Senate representation. Such incredible power-skewing is not what the framers of the US Constitution envisioned.

[7] The U.S. Constitution (Article IV, section 3) allows for states to be subdivided if the affected states’ legislatures consent and U.S. Congress approves,

The Digestion I’m Not Promoting

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Department Of Teasers I Can’t Resist

Dateline: Monday, doing a 7:45 am warm-up on my elliptical thingy before my streaming yoga class begins. I tune in to the Curiosity Daily podcast, which begins (as always) with a brief preview of the day’s topics:

“Today we’ll learn about why introverts fared better than extroverts
during the pandemic;
that time people were afraid that astronaut farts were a fire hazard…”

Wait – “that time?” What time was that?  Please oh please oh please tell me that there was that time, because I really want to find a way to revisit it.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Everything Has Its Price

Dateline:  last weekend.  The man from the Home Maintenance Business  [1]  stood in our entryway, chatting with MH as I began to write out a check. This company provided us with a service which required several visits.  I asked him to confirm that the price for the day’s visit was $158.  He did, then said that if I would go online and give his company a five-star review, which he would very as coming from us, he’d knock it down to $150.

 

 

“I knew there was a reason I didn’t trust those reviews!”

Although my tone was humorous, I made no attempt to hide the are-you-fucking-kidding-me? indignation in my eyes, which met his above our respective face masks.  He immediately (and defensively) added that, what with all the competition out there, reviews were essential to small businesses like his, and….

Yes, I imagine they are, I thought. And shouldn’t something essential be, essentially, honest?

I let him babble on as I continued to write the check for the original amount. 

Had he merely asked me to review the company online, I probably would have done so.  But he went further, in a way that flummoxed me, the more I thought about it.  He offered me a laughably paltry discount contingent upon the kind of review I would write – AND, which he would “verify,” whatever that meant.  Seeing as how he was prepared to take the check I wrote at that moment, how would he later enforce such a verification?  If he went online, read my review, and discovered it wasn’t five stars, what was he going to do – return to our house, rifle through our petty cash drawer, and take eight bucks?   [2]

The review I might have given would have been a positive review, but not five stars.  As a matter of principle, I generally do not give five stars (or eighteen thumbs up, or whatever the highest rating is, depending on the system).   Moiself  be suspicious of anything reviewed – from movies and books to restaurants and services – which has all top-rated/glowing reviews.  Such hyperbole makes me think that the maker of the product being reviewed guilted and/or blackmailed convinced family and friends to rave about it.  And then, there is the “everyone gets a trophy for participating” phenomena.  If every rating is five stars, then a five-star rating is nothing special.

Perhaps, for him, it was business as usual. Thus, it’s possible that he didn’t think of his request in the same way MH and I did.  As in, Dude, do you realize that you tried buy our integrity for $8?

Now, if it had been $50….

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Return To Normalcy (?)

Dateline: Tuesday, 1:20p, a Cinemark theater.  I saw “Those Who Wish Me Dead.” My first movie in a movie theater in well over a year (since mid-March of 2020).

Daughter Belle, when I proudly texted her re my outing, pointed out that I could have watched the same movie via Netflix (as she did).  Yep, and duh.  But I didn’t want to, and was glad I didn’t.  It was the kind of movie whose cinematic presentation demanded…well…a cinematic presentation.  Montana; wilderness; wildfires – big screen stuff.

There were about fifteen of us intrepid cinephiles scattered about the theatre.  We all made ISN’T THIS GREAT ?!?!?!?! eye contact with one another as we entered the theater and found our respective (reserved online; generous spacing) seats. One older gent seated near the entrance greeted everyone with a lifting of his popcorn bag in a toasting gesture; no words were necessary to convey his meaning.

Moiself  is hoping to return to regular (as in, weekly) movie-in-a-theater viewing.    [3]  Now I just have to hope for suitable movies available to see.    [4]

*   *   *

Department Of They Only Want What’s Best For America

Dateline: May 14 (last Friday). I posted the following on Facebook:

Department of irrefutable evidence:
I thought I was doing fine after my second COVID vaccination yesterday – just a sore arm; no other reactions.  But later that evening, I allowed Amazon to charge me $3.99 to watch “Gidget Goes Hawaiian.”
Should I report this to the CDC?

 

Trigger Warning


Apparently, my inclusion of the words “vaccination,” “reaction,” and “CDC” triggered Facebook’s Vigilant Guardians of Factual Information Monitors. ®   MH alerted me to the fact that, within minutes of posting my post, Facebook had added a comment/post to my post, which read:

COVID-19 vaccines go through many tests for safety and effectiveness and are then monitored closely.
Source: World Health Organization.

The comment included a blue-highlighted “Get vaccine Information” link.

This amused me to no end.  I had to comment further:

Isn’t it funny, that, because my post mentions the COVID vaccine, it got flagged for a warning? In case all my moron friends think that a desire to watch dreadful movies is a side-effect and decide to remain unvaccinated.
They couldn’t protect us from Russian hackers stealing our elections, but my golly, FB monitors are gonna protect y’all from Gidget!

 

Carefree American teenagers riding surfboards, or Russian anti-vaxxer spies atop giant radioactive tongue depressors?

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Reaction I’m Not Reporting To Social Media

Dateline Friday afternoon, lounging on the sofa, languishing with my post second vaccine 100.6° temperature.    [5]   Following the CDC guidelines for recovery from illness, I fall asleep while watching TV.  I doze off to a 2019 surfing championship program and awake 45 minutes later to see the cheery visage of the host of a “raw vegan” cooking show.

Moiself  watches with fever-influenced interest as the host/chef works her way through several recipes, some of which look delicious, and others…not so. The show ends with a picture of the final recipe, accompanied by a voice-over listing the recipe’s ingredients, and three lines of text listing why you should make this recipe yourself.  As in, this recipe is

* Easy

* Tasty

* Promotes Digestion

 

 

Wait a minute.  Even with a fever, I recognize the gobbledy-gook nonsense of that line #3.

That last line is one of those claims which, at first glance, can seem desirous (digestion is good, right?)  but which in fact conveys…well, nothing.

Be specific.  Do you mean to say that the casserole you’ll concoct by following this recipe is guaranteed to give you astronaut-worthy flatulence?  Do you mean to convey, “People who suffer from intestinal blockages will be thrilled to know that this recipe contains ten times the amount of fiber found in a Douglas Fir floor joist, which is enough to clean out the colon of a constipated bull elephant….”

The recipe *promotes digestion.*  Well, sure, it does. That’s what all foods do, when you ingest them.  Even non-food items will do the same, when swallowed.

Digestion is your digestive system’s raison d’etre

 

“Hey babe, let’s promote *me* as your raisin d’etre.”

Ahem.

Digestion is your digestive system’s raison d’etre – that’s what it does. You don’t need to “promote” it.

Anything that manages to wriggle down your esophagus and into your stomach – whether it’s a lima bean, a raw vegan energy bar, or a piece of cardboard    [6] – activates that organ’s digestive processes.  Holy baloney on rye.   [7]

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Promoting Digestion Edition

A surgeon told me that he once dropped a tool into a patient’s stomach.
It was a gut-wrenching story.

I had some Greek food that upset my stomach.
Now I falafel.

My mother, a doctor, told me that the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach.
I’m guessing that’s why she failed her cardiac surgery internship.

 

*   *   *

 

May you experience the bliss of promotion-free digestion;
May you be wary of five-star reviews;
May your social media post be sprinkled with trigger words;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] The company’s name I will keep private, for obvious reasons.

[2] We don’t have a petty cash drawer.  And although I have many petty pleasures in life, cash isn’t one of them.

[3] Last week’s blog had a bajillion footnotes.  I’m  behind pace; it’s time for another one.

[4] Previews are helpful in weeding out what I do not want to see: nothing featuring a scowling Bruce Willis or his macho-actor-saves-the-world equivalent, nor lots of explosions, nor grunting hordes of The Undead…and enough with the Superheroes, please.

[5] Which returned to normal less than 24 hours later.

[6] A kid who sat across from me in the second grade had this thing about eating paper.  Sadly, that was his most memorable quality.

[7] Which sounds indigestible, to moiself.

The Coyote I’m Not Leashing

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Department Of The Importance Of Looking At The Warning Sign Head-On

Dateline: Wednesday. Moiself  is visiting a Tillamook County campground, to purchase day use passes for the county’s parks and boat launches.  While waiting at the campground’s registry building I see a bright yellow sign posted to the right of the registry’s service window.  As the camp registry clerk prepares my day use passes, I turn my head to look at the sign, which warns campers of coyote sightings in the vicinity.  From where I am standing I can only see the sign from an angle. This slight but significant limit to my field of vision means that I miss two key words in the warning.  The clerk looks up from her paperwork and eyes me questioningly when I begin laughing.  I point to the sign, and say,

“I don’t know about that requirement – from what I understand, most coyotes are very resistant to leash training.”   [1]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of All We Religion-Free Folks Ask For Is A Little Perspective

MH’s chuckles as he looked at his phone prepped me for the why-haven’t-I-ever-thought-of-that?  moment that was to come.  I was not disappointed, as he read me a social media rumination from a prominent atheist activist:

Christians claim Jesus “died for their sin” ( whatever that means   [2]  ).  However, they also claim that he rose from the dead after three days – crucified on a Friday, alive again on Sunday.  So, essentially, Jesus gave up a long weekend for their sins.

 

“Goddammit! Sooner or later, someone was bound to notice….”

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Literary Biography I Definitely Won’t Be Reading

“I have a terrible confession to make—I have nothing to say about any of the talented women who write today…. I do not seem able to read them.  Indeed I doubt if there will be a really exciting woman writer until the first whore becomes a call girl and tells her tale.”
( Norman Mailer, Advertisements for Myself )

 

 

I was introduced to the “Beat Generation Writers,” in junior high and high school, via recommendations from both teachers and several classmates.  The Beats (e.g., Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg) influenced the 20th century writers who followed them, practitioners of the aggrieved-male-viewpoint-dominated school of fiction. Exemplars of the latter, who came to prominence in the 1950s and 60s, included Norman Mailer (credited for spawning the creative non-fiction movement, aka, “New Journalism”) , Philip Roth, John Updike ad nauseum et al.  These were the writers, I was told, who were influential, and “happening.”  And, you know, cool.  Because they wrote about the anger and angst of contemporary life (read: sex) and weren’t afraid to tackle controversial issues (more sex).

When I first started reading their works, I thought I must be missing something.   [3]  Not wanting to be thought uncool, I mostly kept those thoughts to moiself …then I just stopped pretending I was interested.  Other than an amusing passage about his father’s constipation that I remember from Portnoy’s Complaint, I loathed Philip Roth, and Mailer as well.  Fairly soon after being introduced to their works (after reading one or two novels, essays, short stories from the authors) I stopped reading them altogether.

I loathed the fact that their alleged “hip contemporary” outlook was a thin veil for their raging misogyny.  Yes, they could string together some impressive sentences, but…ick.  And I didn’t need to know the biographical facts of those writers – for example,  [4]   that Mailer had stabbed his wife (# two in a series that would eventually total six wives) –  to figure out that their raging hetero-masculinity  [5]  hid – or fed – a simmering hatred and fear of women, and of anything they deemed feminine (including homosexuality   [6]  ).

I didn’t have the vocabulary to express it at the time, but I knew what those writers’ works reeked of.  The Beats and “New Literature” works were presented to me – to the world – with the implication that to be “literary” (read: not a prude) you have to appreciate them.  Yet I found little either neither new nor literary in those men’s work.  It was the same old, age old sexism, repackaged in more contemporary (i.e., profane and sexual) language.

Those male authors simply and profoundly didn’t like women.  To them, women were a class (or perhaps, caste?), and were lower than men on the intellectual, moral, and consequential totem pole of humanity.  If you were a female you were in one of two of their thematic camps.  You were either their mothers, whom they resented and blamed, or a girl they wanted to fuck (and, later/eventually, resent and blame).  If you didn’t fit into either of those categories you had no use to them.

Thus, my appreciation of a recent essay in The Washington Post, about the controversy behind the release of the latest Philip Roth biography (the biography’s author is accused of sexual assault).  The following excerpt is from that article, which is titled, “Philip Roth and the sympathetic biographer: This is how misogyny gets cemented in our culture.  Roth’s issues with women are well-documented. One of the prime documenters has been accused of rape.”  The essay is by Monica Hesse, and can be read in its entirety here.

“I can’t help thinking about how readers and viewers have been repeatedly presented narratives as the factual observations of great minds rather than as the ax-grinding of men whose judgment on gender relations might be questionable.
Roth, who died in 2018, was not so much a male writer as an archaeologist of maleness, excavating his own concepts of what men desired, needed and hated….’There is in him a dark distaste for women,’ book critic Linda Grant wrote. ‘A repugnance that can only be described by the word misogyny.’  In her essay, a review of his 2001 work, “The Dying Animal,” Grant describes a particular passage, in which a cancer-stricken woman uses her last day before a mastectomy to visit her former professor/lover so that he may fondle her chest and say goodbye. Grant notes that every woman she discussed this passage with burst out laughing at the preposterousness of this idea.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of And While We’re On The Subject

If women write about their inner lives it is considered “confessional.” When men do the same it is called “literary.”  When men write about their lives and feelings, they are said to be writing for and about the human condition, while women doing the same are accused of navel-gazing.

A recent example of this age-old literary hypocrisy can be found in the New York Times article about the writer Kate Baer, aka “The Mommy Poems author.”  The article deals in part with the criticism that because much (not all) of Baer’s subject matter involves motherhood, her work is not considered serious enough…at least, to some (envious, in my opinion   [7])  literary critics.

 

 

A subject that all of humanity experiences is not universal or relevant or serious enough (to the entrenched bastion of male-lens literary criticism) to write about?  Almost half of the human race will be mothers, at some point in our lives, and *all * of us, no matter our class, nationality, religion, ethnicity, political viewpoints, or gender, have mothers.  But how dare a poet write about it – and, even worse, be successful  (my emphases)!

“Since the pandemic, the 35-year-old mother of four (Kate Baer) has been working from the Panera parking lot, sitting in her Honda minivan with her laptop propped against the steering wheel, attempting to catch a Wi-Fi signal….
It was there that she wrote “What Kind of Woman,” a poetry collection that topped the New York Times best-seller list for paperback trade fiction….

( “Kate Baer Is Speaking Truth. From Her Minivan.
Who says motherhood can’t be literary, even poetic?” NY Times 3-13-21 )

The title of Baer’s collection came from the last line of an Instagram message she received from a (male) freelance book reviewer:

“Hi, my name is ___ …and I’d love to pick your brain about being a mommy writer. …my questions are on content. I find your work well written, but the subject matter was not necessarily what I want to read about. Not unbearable, but also not universal.  I’m wondering if studying some of the classic writers (Poe, Hardy, Thoreau) would help hone in (sic) your work to be more relatable. Also the way we have allowed poetry in any space concerns me.  How can we determine what is good from otherwise? I’d love to take at least an hour on the interview…. Afterward we can shape the piece to include excerpts of your work and perhaps explain what kind of woman you are!    ”  

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Getting COVID Vaccination #2

Which moiself  did, yesterday.  Oh, I feel like dancing.  [8]

 

 

*   *   *

Puns For The Day

(male) Authors’ Edition

The author of Webster’s dictionary committed suicide with the book he wrote.
At least he died on his own terms.

Why did the author suffer writers’ block after rectal surgery?
He was left with only a semicolon.

 

“I’m begging you, make it stop.”

*   *   *

May you rejoice in getting completely vaccinated;
May you trust your own judgement in deciding what kind of literature is truly cool;
May you beware of unleashed coyotes;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] The words I could not see were “All pets” (preceding  ” MUST be kept on leash….”).

[2] Yeah, I know what it’s supposed to mean, but it’s so bizarre and primitive – an appeasement of an angry deity through blood sacrifice…it’s nice to watch believers squirm when they try to explain such antiquated theology in 21st century terms.

[3] And for those writers, I was.  I was missing male anatomy, which to them, was everything.

[4] I did not know this at the time I first read anything by Mailer.  Mailer stabbed wife #2 at a party wherein he’d intended to announce his candidacy for New York City Mayor.  “Mailer appeared the next day (after the stabbing) in a scheduled interview on The Mike Wallace Show, where he spoke of the knife as a symbol of manhood and continued to plug his mayoral bid.” (Wikipedia, quoting the article, “Norman Mailer: Stabbing Your Wife as an Existential Experiment.” )

[5] In the case of Roth and Mailer.  Updike’s sexism was a more laid-back, suburbanite version.

[6] Mailer and Updike were particularly known for their homophobic sentiments and comments, even book reviews.

[7] I mean, a best-selling book of poetry?  That just doesn’t happen.

[8] Even if I am having the not-uncommon reaction of feeling a bit punkish afterwards.  My immune system is working; good to know.

The Mission I’m Not Volunteering For

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Department Of Roads Not Taken

Dateline: May 1.  A social media post caught my attention: several pictures of our friends’ daughter, who attends a university overseas.  She and her fellow undergraduates, clad in their distinctive red academic gowns, were preparing for one of her school’s traditional activities: the May Dip[1]    Everybody into the North Sea!

It was all so gorgeous.  Romantic, even.  I visited the school’s website, and was entranced by the many pictures: of the academic gowns (students can chose to wear them for formal occasions, or all the time); the other traditions of the centuries-old institution (you gotta love an event called, “Raisin Weekend”); the beauty of the campus and the landscape….  Some of the pictures on the school’s website had moiself  thinking, “That place *has* to be the inspiration for Hogwarts.”

 

 

 

My vicarious joy for my friends’ daughter’s college experience surprised me when, later that afternoon, it resurfaced in the form of an unexpected spasm of a wistfulness at the realization:

҉    There are some things you cannot do over.    ҉

Not complaining.  I was able to attend and graduate from college – an opportunity denied to many around the world.  I received a good education (and, for the most part, had a helluva good time) at the college which was my #1 choice, one of the top schools in The University of California system, (which was at the time) the highest-rated state university system in the nation.

Still, contemplative pangs plagued me the next few days, and I felt drawn to revisit that overseas college’s website, and do the what-if ? thing.  Speculating on alternative realities.  I shared these speculations with friend LAH and son K, who joined MH and I for dinner Sunday night.  Did they ever have similar thoughts/feelings, even regrets, such as wishing they had sought an adventure by going to university out of the country, or ___  fill-in-the-blanks?

The adventure that entices me now is one which never occurred to me to pursue at the time I was applying to colleges.  Sure, I’d heard that some universities   [2]  had semester-study-abroad programs, but to do your entire undergraduate degree oversees?  No teacher or guidance counselor ever mentioned that to me; I didn’t know that that was an option.  And, realistically, it wouldn’t have been, for moiself.

Despite my high GPA and SAT scores in the 90th percentile, what with my family’s finances I would’ve needed a full scholarship to do four years of college abroad.  Given my mindset then (and now), I *never* would have taken out a student loan.  My parents were able to pay for one year of college; I put myself through the rest by doing something that isn’t possible for students today, given the exponential rise in the cost of a college education over the past 30+ years:  While being a full-time student I worked approximately half-time hours at various student jobs   [3]  during the academic year (and full time during the summers).  Working at a student job, even finding a job, is not always an option when you are a “foreign” student.

MH, LAH and K’s responses to my “do-you-ever-look-back?” questions/speculations were generally…nah.  Like me, going overseas for college hadn’t occurred to them (although, with the encouragement of our Swenadian  [4]  friend, K investigated a few Canadian universities and made an on-campus visit to one of them).  And, as MH reminded me, the young woman whose European college adventures I was so smitten with is the daughter of two scientists/academics, who have traveled much overseas (ofttimes with their offspring) and who have more knowledge of/exposure to those kinds of academic possibilities.  K did express mild regret at not being more adventurous at the college he had chosen, in terms of getting more involved in intramural sports and games, and exposing himself to different kinds of art….

 

 Not in that particular way.  [5]

… and music and other activities which were out of his comfort, or even interest, zones.  I would have liked to have heard daughter Belle’s answer to the same question, and may pose it to her, when I next see her in person.

Moiself  came to the conclusion that these longings are my subconscious reminding me that I need to get out more. Preferably, out of the country.  MH’s and my second vaccine doses are next week, and I’ve been having dreams of having the opportunity to, say, sip New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc   [6]   in an Irish pub while listening to a Canadian using a Spanish bagpipe   [7]  to play Celtic music….

*   *   *

Department Of Surprises That Shouldn’t Be Surprises

The light. As in, Hey, there’s so much more of it!

Yes, this happens every year. Lighter in the morning; lighter in the evening; here comes the summer solstice.  Still, I am, once again, surprised by and appreciative of the phenomenon.

 

Not so appreciative that I would devote my life to building one of these, but yeah, the light is nice.

*   *   *

Department Of Answer This Burning Question, Please

What is a Mom Joke, and why is that not a thing?

We all (think we) know what Dad Jokes ®  are, right? Quintessential examples:

What kind of noise does a witch’s vehicle make?
Brrrroooom, brrroooom.

What time did the man go to the dentist?
Tooth hurt-y.

Me: “Dad, make me a sandwich.”
Dad: “Poof, you’re a sandwich!”

Why is there no Mom Joke category? Is it because Dad is the ultimate Mom Joke?

 

 

*    *   *

Department Of Pleasant Thoughts To Meditate Upon Before You Go To Bed

Just when the general public seemed to be paying attention to our excessive (and usually/totally unnecessary) use of hand sanitizers and “anti-bacterial” soaps and wipes, enter, COVID-19 and “germ” hysteria.  I wonder how many super bugs have been incubating during this pandemic?

 

“Good night; sleep tight; don’t let the bedbugs bite….”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Other Things I Think About At Night:  The Mars Problem.

 

 

“No bucks, no Buck Rogers.”   [8]

You might not even think there is a Mars Problem ®  (except inside my tortured brain). Read on, you glutton for punishment, thoughtful person.

In order for people of all nations – including the folks who live next door – to be enthused about missions to Mars, and to feel that the gazillion hours of research and the gazillion $$$$ required to do so are time and money well-spent, what do we need?

Thanks for asking:  we need to send humans to explore Mars (and other planets and/or moons), not just more probes.   

We’ve already had a glimpse of the future of space exploration, which will entail a mixture of government and private funding – it won’t all be NASA or other governmental agencies.  Even the corporations and gazillionaires willing to entertain such a partnership also need motivation (other than their self-aggrandizement).  And psychologists and behavioral scientists have figured out that human activities are what attract the most human interest (and thus, human investment).

Yep, manned space exploration is horribly expensive, and dangerous…as were earlier explorations in their day.  Homo Sapiens evolved as explorers. The reasons we have for exploring our solar system correspond to the reasons that prompted our ancestors to risk “sailing off the edge of the earth” to explore new (to them) oceans and lands on Earth. In sending a manned mission to Mars, we would be continuing a tradition, exercising a defining “trait” even, of human beings: exploration.

There are sound economic reasons for sending probes (or robots), vs. humans, to Mars. I won’t take issue with the naysayers, except to say my own version of nay.

 

Did I hear, neigh-sayers?

 

Regardless of whether “life” (or even enough usable mineral resources to, say, to make a tin can) can be found beyond our own planet, Mars exploration would boost our citizen’s pride in their country, spark renewed interest in the science and engineering necessary to achieve such a feat, and help lift the U.S. image abroad (Uncle Sam is in need of a face lift, after the worldwide embarrassment that was the  #45 administration).

Alden Munson, a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, noted that,

A lot of the warmest feelings people have had around the world have had to do with the space program. It’s hard to put a value on that.”    [9]

We need humans in space because what interests most humans *about* space is humans *in* space.  The whole world would be rooting for the first earthlings on Mars, just as they did for the Apollo moon landing.  And we’ll want (and need) the rest of the world to get involved in research, designing, tracking, and maybe even the funding, of a manned Mars mission.  The human appeal – yes, even (or especially) re the dangers involved – tugs at our intellectual and emotional strings in ways that seeing a robot or probe – as cool as that is! –  does not.

 

 

Also, human explorers can do things that robots/AI devices cannot, including playing hunches, making last-minute decisions in emergency situations, and noticing objects and phenomena that can turn out to be significant, but which missed the programmers’ viewscreens, so to speak.

The most important factor of any manned space mission is the human factor.  Our behavioral science knowledge points to the fact that the most difficult part of any space exploration will likely be the crewmembers, getting along with one another, in the years-long mission (at least 7 months there/7 months to return, and a stay of…months/years?).  

Thus, the rigorous psychological profiling and testing required for astronaut candidates.

So, we come to (my version of) The Mars Problem.   [10]  Moiself  be thinking: you need a crew with a mix of temperaments, interests and skills.  You don’t want carbon copies, not at all Type A/gung-ho Marines on the one hand or all introverted science geeks on the other hand; you need a mix of diverse but also stable personalities.  A mission as fraught as going to Mars will involve years of commitment, not only to the training beforehand, but to get there, stay there, then return…or, not?  Many of Those Who Know What They Are Talking About ® suggest that mission-to-Mars astronauts who volunteer for the program should assume that they will not return. 

 

There goes the neighborhood.

 

““How can you leave forever?” “What does your family think about this?” “Your husband’s O.K. with you leaving him?”
These are the questions I’m peppered with when I tell people this is a one-way trip. And these are reasonable questions, perfectly understandable, and they deserve well-considered answers.”
(Sonia Van Meter, Mars 1 candidate, “Why I’m volunteering to die on Mars” )

This kind of trip will be unlike any before it.  Not just crossing an ocean to a land you heard of (no matter how stormy the seas, you can stick your head out of the porthole for some fresh air) and much farther than humans have ever attempted. Thus, you need a crew who are, essentially, willing to volunteer for a suicide mission. Are well-adjusted humans really capable of this (even though we who will volunteer will say that we are) ?

Other than someone who’s already under a death sentence   [11]  (“What the heck, my oncologist gives me another seven years”/”I’ve nothing to lose – Huntington’s disease will get me in a decade”),  who’s gonna think this is okay?  What kind of person is willing to say, this is somehow worth it, to die for this mission? What kind of person could prioritize that ‘”mission” abstraction over the reality of the loss that will be experienced by their loved ones – spouses and children, family and friends –  who will be 34 million miles away?

How does being able to parse that death/loss/grief v. mission equation mesh with being psychologically healthy? So, you’ll need a crew composed of people who are intelligent and skillful…and are in denial about statistics and reality in terms of their chances of survival…or who simply don’t give a flying fuck.

My conclusion:  For such an undertaking, you’ll need a sane, insane crew.

Just wondering out loud.

As should be obvious by now, moiself  fully supports a manned mission to Mars.  In my younger days I’d have considered volunteering for it, but only, if I’d been unencumbered by family and friends –  people who loved me.  I would have volunteered if I’d had no one who loved  and/or cared about me…which would have meant that I was, what?  An isolated jerk.  Just the kind of person you’d want to share limited space and resources with for a couple of years, eh?

OK, all y’all who think you are smarter than moiself – Elon, for the last time, put your hand down and return to your desk! – figure it out and get back to me.

 

The perfect space crew? Just clone me five times!

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day: Space Exploration Edition

Did you hear how NASA recruited the first cow astronaut?
They told her she could land on the mooooooooooooon.

My astronaut friend divorced her astronaut husband.  She calls him her SpaceX.

 

Please don’t waste our precious oxygen supply by laughing.

 

*   *   *

May you enjoy the extra light, whether or not it surprises you;
May you be loved enough that you would never volunteer to die on Mars;
May you be inspired – but not haunted – by roads not taken;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] At dawn on May Day, after staying awake all night, students run into the North Sea as they are serenaded by madrigals sung by the university’s Madrigal group.  

[2] Those tended to be the wealthier/private schools, or so it seemed.

[3] Including typing other student’s reports and term papers. I charged those engineering students – for some reason, their reports were always a last minute/emergency thing – twice my per page fee when I had to work past midnight.

[4] Longtime readers will recognize that appellation as my friend the Canadian, married to a Swede.

[5] Many people are unaware that, in this infamous poster, the “flasher” is Bud Clark, the eccentric and beloved former Portland mayor.

[6] I’m not a beer drinker; thus, no Guinness or Harp for me.  It seems that the pubs of Ireland have some sort of deal with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc distributors, because that is the wine I found in every Irish pub MH and I visited, when we were there four years ago.

[7] That happened to us, in the wee town of Kinsale.

[8] No money, no space travel. The phrase comes from The Right Stuff, a movie about the beginnings of US space exploration…. “Buck Rogers” was a space-traveling comic strip character in the early 20th century. (The Free dictionary)

[9]Is Exploring Mars worth the Investment?“)

[10] It would be a similar problem re a mission to Europa, or another planet, but for discussion’s sake, I’ll stick with the closest target: Mars. 

[11] Which, you’d think, would disqualify them on medical grounds.

The (insert your organization’s name here) Of The Year Award I’m Not Winning

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Department Of A Rhetorical Question Which Is Going To Be Answered

Dateline: Sunday morning, returning from walk, listening to The Go-Go’s album,  Talk Show.  It’s one of my faves, except for the chorus of the song, Forget That Day. The song’s narrator laments what seems to be a tryst at a no-tell motel, with a lover who is already involved with someone else.  In the chorus, she laments the consequences…over and over and over….

♫  Why’d you say you loved me
That day, that day
When you knew you wouldn’t have me on
This day, this day…

What do you mean *why?*

Because it worked. Because he wanted you to fuck him, and you did.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Best Kind Of Spam Call

MH called me into his work-at-home office. When I entered the room to find out what had put the impish lilt in his voice, he held up his cellphone for me to see the caller ID for the call he’d just received (but did not answer).  “I knew you’d like this,” he said, when moiself  raised my hands with gratitude to unknown cosmic pranksters when I beheld the call’s destination:

Unknown
Athol, Maine

Hopefully, fans of the romcom Made of Honor will also one day have the opportunity to say that you got a call from some anonymous athol.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Well, There Goes My Award

Dateline: Tuesday, noonish.  MH comes downstairs, holding his phone, with yet another bit o’ impishness about him – this time, in his expression.

“What?” I ask him.

“Did you hear that Richard Dawkins got his Humanist of the Year Award taken away?” he says.

I didn’t even know that Richard Dawkins – evolutionary biologist, author, professor, atheist activist, religion-and-supernatural-thinking debunker, and equal opportunity offender when it comes to towing *any* group’s party line – had even received a Humanist of the Year Award…but him being bestowed with that title wouldn’t surprise me. I knew Dawkins had received the prized, “The Emperor Has No Clothes” award from the FFRF (Freedom From Religion Foundation), as well as a variety of other accolades for his advocacy of science and critical thinking. 

“No, I didn’t,” I replied.  “Why was it taken away – wait; let me guess.  He said something ‘offensive’?”

“It was taken away for, ‘transphobia.’ ” MH scrolled through the news feed he was reading.  “Something he tweeted.”

“Oh dear,” I giggled.  “Did someone get their trannie panties in a knot?”

 

 

*   *   *

Department So Of Course I Got Curious

Moiself got to be wondering: when was the award given, and when and what did Dawkins tweet? The answers were just a google search away.

The award was given in – holy crap – 1996?  Twenty-five years ago?  Yeah, he’s gonna be missing that…certificate…trophy…framed plaque…engraved toaster, or whatever prize is bestowed upon a Humanist of The Year.

“Mr. Dawkins sparked a backlash on Twitter after he tweeted on April 10: ‘In 2015, Rachel Dolezal, a white chapter president of NAACP, was vilified for identifying as Black. Some men choose to identify as women, and some women choose to identify as men. You will be vilified if you deny that they literally are what they identify as. Discuss.’

Several hours later, Mr. Dawkins clarified he was asking the question for academic purposes and not stating his own opinion on the matter.

‘I do not intend to disparage trans people,’ he wrote. ‘I see that my academic ‘Discuss’ question has been misconstrued as such and I deplore this. It was also not my intent to ally in any way with Republican bigots in US now exploiting this issue.’ ”
( “Richard Dawkins loses ‘Humanist of the Year’ award after comparing trans people to Rachel Dolezal,”
The Washington Times, 4-20-21 )

Okey-dokey. So: Dawkins didn’t call anyone names; he didn’t call for anyone to be marginalized or vilified. He merely stated several verifiable historical, biological, cultural and social commentary data:

  1. In 2015, Rachel Dolezal, a white chapter president of NAACP, was vilified for identifying as Black.
  2. Some men choose to identify as women.
  3. Some women choose to identify as men.
  4. You will be vilified if you deny that they (the men and women in points B and C) literally are what they identify as.

Richard Dawkins is a scientist.  He views the world, even the “social constructs” of the culture wars, through the lens of scientific critique and investigation.  Here is another thing he said, in 2015 when the Rachel Dolezal brouhaha was going on:

Is trans woman a woman? Purely semantic.
If you define by chromosomes, no. If by self-identification, yes.
I call her “she” out of courtesy.
(Richard Dawkins, @RichardDawkins, Oct 26, 2015 )

I call her she” out of courtesy (my emphases).  Whether you are a scientist or a sociologist or a dinner party guest, you call people what they want to be called; it’s a simple courtesy.  Dawkins reinforces that, by using the preferred pronouns a trans woman would use.  Were any of his critics paying attention?

In terms of the reaction to Ms. Dolezal, Dawkins stated the facts that had many people on the many sides of that wild rumpus wondering, “Wait a minute – how is this is this different from that?” (including moiself , who, deep down inside, identifies as Scarlett Johanssen, no matter what moiself looks like from the outside).

 

“Yeah, right – don’t drag me into this dumpster fire of an issue, bitch.”

Ahem.

Such questions ( “Can we talk about how or why this is, or is not, different from that?”)  can lead to illuminating dialogs.    [1]   Dialogs; you know, as in talking about the issues.  As in, “discussions.” 

Nope.  “Discuss” translates into – Dis-and-react.  As in (attempt to) shame, shout down, demonize,   [2]   and “cancel.”

It often seems that, in the censorious here and now, we cannot merely discuss any hot button topics.  This, regrettably, gives ammunition to those on “The Right” who say that “The Left” is composed of thin-skinned, self-righteous, free-speech fascists/crybabies who cannot abide the examination of their sacred cows without hiding behind the skirts of The Rhetoric of the Oppressed (“You offended me!  WAAAH!”). 

Dawkins, of course, should’ve expected this reaction.  Or, perhaps he anticipated it? He seems to enjoy putting the proverbial burr under the saddle – any rider’s saddle, including those of his own cavalry.

 

“Tell her she can stop right now with the horseback-riding metaphors, okay?”

 

Also, after decades of being threatened with the torments of hell by the (Christian) religious right for his pro-evolution/anti-creationism campaigns (Dawkins has likened the teaching of creationism in schools – which can be found hiding behind the rhetorical skirts of “intelligent design” – as “educational debauchery”), I don’t think Dawkins is going to lose any sleep over the retracted prize.

And so it is that I dust out the Asshat Of The Week award.  [3]   It seems fitting to give the award to The American Humanist Association, to dishonor their sanctimonious revocation of their 1996 award to Dawkins.  [4]

 

American Humanist Association, this Ass Hat is for you.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Everything Is Going To Be All Right, Trust Me

You know how some people contact a famous person and request birthday or other greetings for their friend, their elderly mother, a child dying of cancer, etc.?  Apparently, not all such requests are on the up-and-up, as Former Member of Parliament Nigel Farage discovered when he fell for a prank on a video-sharing app wherein fans pay celebrities to record personalized messages.

Serves him right, sez moiself.  Farage, a Brexit party leader , anti-semitic conspiracy theorist, right wing German anti-immigrant party supporter , long-time #45 defender and all-around enema bag, participates on this greetings-for-hire site (and reportedly charges £75 for each recording).  But money can’t buy a petty thrill as delightful as the one that comes from knowing that Farage’s petty greed and/or ego led to him being seen and heard around the viral world, wishing a happy birthday to a “Hugh Janus.”

“Happy birthday Hugh Janus, I’ve heard you’re a massive fan,” Farage said.

 

They also think it’s hilarious….and they don’t even speak English.

 

You can see the video here.

*   *   *

Department Of 7 Am Reflections On The Meaning Of Life ®

On a walk, blissfully solitary except for the early risers   [5]  taking their canine companions for a morning piss stroll, I find moiself  thinking,

Dogs are amiable, furry, quadrupedal structures enclosing gallon-sized bladders.

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I keep asking wat LGBTQ stands for,
but I can never get a straight answer.    [6]

 

 

*   *   *

May Those Who Bestow Such Things ® have a helluva good reason before they take away your award;
May you refrain (sorry) from writing songs with stupid questions in their choruses;
May Mr. Hugh Janus record a birthday greeting for you;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] If cool heads reign.

[2] Which is a failing strategy, when applied to an atheist.

[3] Which actually has not been bestowed, by moiself, in several years.

[4] Who will likely lose little sleep over the issue.  “Dawkins, 80, claimed that the loss of the award would have little practical effect on him because he had never used it. ‘Apparently the honour hadn’t meant enough to me to be worth recording in my CV,’ he said.”  (The Times)

[5] Now, why would you think there would be a footnote here?

[6] And the answer is “Let’s Get Bubble Tea Quickly.”

The Songs I’m Not Re-Writing

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Department Of Actually, It *Was* You.
Atone and Move On, But Don’t Deny, Minimize, Or Forget.

Re: the recent Fresh Air interview with singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile.  I tuned in eagerly, as I’m a fan of both the show and Carlile’s music (and am currently reading her memoir).  I’m sure I must have previously heard the BC song “That Wasn’t Me,” but I’d never paid attention to the lyrics until FA host Terry Gross and BC began discussing it.

Carlile had a tumultuous childhood, with a myriad of family challenges, including poverty, coming out as gay as an adolescent (and being publicly refused a baptism because of it), and her father’s alcoholism.  Carlile spoke of being influenced by the mindset/jaron of Al-Anon and Alateen in terms of her composing  That Wasn’t Me, which is sung from the POV of an addict or “misbehaver” of some kind.

The song is written in sympathy, or at least that’s moiself’s  interpretation, as the addict/narrator is not called out for his self-deception which prevents him from full-on owning and/or apologizing for the pain he has caused.

♫  Tell me did I go on a tangent?
Did I lie through my teeth?
Did I cause you to stumble on your feet?
Did I bring shame on my family?
Did it show when I was weak?
Whatever you see, that wasn’t me
That wasn’t me, that wasn’t me  ♫
(excerpt from “That Wasn’t Me,” Brandi Carlile)

“That wasn’t me?” I disagree.  Ginormously.

A second listen to the lyrics and I was still clenching my jaw.

 

 

I assume the song is Carlile’s way of trying to show love/empathy/forgiveness for her father – all laudable emotions and goals. Still, I loathe the way she did it, as in, the lines she gave him.   [1]

Whatever you see, that wasn’t me.  Uh, actually, it *was.*

It was you, using drugs or whiskey or whatever, but it was still *you* on drugs or whiskey, not Mel Gibson or anyone else. Not all addicts do the particular, specific things you did; thus, the whatever-it-is-you-did-that-you-feel-the-need-to-mention,  it *was* you.  It may have been difficult, even-heart-breaking, for the little girl to see you, her daddy, do the things you did, but you did do those things and she saw you do them.  It was you; it wasn’t someone or something (“the needle” or “the bottle”)  else.

 

 

No matter how lyrically or artfully it is phrased, a statement which uses the format of a question for listing the consequences, for others, for your behavior (“did I go on a tangent/lie/cause you to stumble/bring shame on my family…?”) is not an *acknowledgment* of those consequences.  Sans acceptance of responsibility, such an anemic non-apology is arguably even more damaging (to the one being addressed) than a denial.  Especially, in moiself’s opinion, when such statements are aimed at a girl-childs.

From sexual harassment and abuse, to academic, political and workplace discrimination, to family dysfunction and every dynamic on the planet, girls and women are taught, socialized, and pressured to *not*  believe their own eyes and ears, nor to trust their own experiences. “It’s *your* interpretation of what happened that is wrong,” females are told, it’s not that what happened to you is wrong.    [2]

* You’re six years old, and just before another holiday gathering you tell your mother about how the behavior of a certain extended family member creeps you out.  But your mother pooh-poohs your request to stay far away from him.  “Oh no, that’s just your Uncle Buck!  He’s so friendly – Buck loves everybody, and he’s always been a big hugger.  Now, don’t be shy or hurt his feelings when he’s around, you know how special he thinks you are….”
Months or years later, Uncle Buck molests you/your sister/cousin/friend, and/or you find out he’s been arrested for child sexual abuse….

* Introverted, awkward, 7th grade you finally gets up the nerve to complain to your teacher and your parents about your classmate Billy.  Billy constantly looks for opportunities to tease you in the school hallways; he has “bumped into” you several times, jamming his elbow in your ribs (so hard that it once left a bruise); he even tried to push you/trip you down the stairs the other day.  Although you are annoyed by and even growing fearful of Billy, the adults tell you that you should “laugh it off,” and that Billy “…does this because he likes you…and you want boys to like you, right?”

* Your high school guidance counselor tries to discourage you (and another female A-student you know) from applying to a certain university because, he warns you, it is known for being “…a very competitive school, academically rigorous, with all the students vying for pre-professional majors.”  Two male friends of yours, who want to apply to the same university, are told by that same counselor that the school would be an excellent choice for them, as it is “…a very competitive school, academically rigorous, with all the students vying for pre-professional majors.”  This is despite the fact that both your and that other female student’s GPAs and SAT scores are higher than the same of those two boys.   [3]  When you bring this incongruity to the attention of a trusted teacher and/or your parents, you are told that there is no sexist bias, overt or subliminal.  “That’s not like him, no way! The counselor was just encouraging students to follow their natural interests….”

* Your colleague keeps claiming credit for your ideas and work, and/or interrupting you during meetings and/or touching you and speaking provocatively/dismissively to you. He never shows such behavior with his male coworkers. When you bring this to your boss’s attention you are told, “That’s not what’s going on; that’s just Jake.  He doesn’t mean anything personal; that’s his M.O.  Why are you putting that interpretation on things, when no one else has a problem with him?”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of My Brain Just Does This
Number 949 In A Never-Ending Series

Speaking of Fresh Air, Terry Gross is one of the best interviewers ever. And she says something at least once during every FA interview which never fails to amuse me. After TG announces a pause for the obligatory station identification break, she continues with,

“For those of you just joining us, my guest is Brandi Carlile (or whomever.)”

Immediately, every damn time, my brain does a riff on taking that phrase literally, ala

“And for those of you *not*  just joining us, my guest is _______”    [4]

 

*   *   *

Department Of What Is The Sound Of Asparagus Screaming?

The Food Editor of the NY Times apparently knows, as per this recent headline:

16 Asparagus Recipes That Positively Scream Spring

I made one of the recipes (“Turmeric Black Pepper Chicken With Asparagus”), “trading”  [5]  crumbled tempeh for the chicken.

Moiself  heard no positive (or negative) screaming, nor vocalizing of any kind, from the asparagus stalks.  The asparagus tips, however, were another matter.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Perfect Shell

  1. The perfect shell does not exist.
  2. Even if it does exist, it is unlikely that I will find it.
  3. There is no third thing.

That said, something about the symmetry and simplicity of the lines and coloring made me think that this shell is close to perfect. 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Doing My Part For Public Health

What from I’m been seeing on social media, apparently, the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccination approaches 110% if you post a picture of your proof of vaccine card.  Not wanting to dis science or anything:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Nit-Picking Yet Another Podcast-Related Song

Don’t Ask Tig (“Comedian Tig Notaro doesn’t have all the answers, but that won’t stop her from giving advice on…”).  The podcast is bookended with Edie Brickell songs – new songs, apparently written for (and owned by?) the podcast.  The theme/opener seems to be “We Got a friend in Tig,” and the closing song, I’m calling, “That’s What Your Heart is For.”   [6]    The closing song reminds me of the podcast itself, in that I like a lot of things about it but there are parts of it I want to change.

♫  Ooooh, my sweet child/There’s so much I want you to know
Ooooh, my sweet child/There’s so much I want you to see
I wish that I could give you the answers
I wish that I could make you believe
I wish that I could put you on your path and set you free…

That’s what your heart is for
That’s what your heart is for
That’s what your heart is for
Listen to your heart….  ♫

It’s a sweet tune; a lovely melody, a song about a mother (the sentiments, of course, could be the same for a father) expressing her love and hopes for the life journey her child will be taking.  But, when it comes to the chorus I want Brickell to add another line

♫ …That’s what your heart is for
Listen to your heart….
Then check in with your brain.  ♫

Listen to your heart is considered by many folks to be classic advice. But unless tempered by your head, listening to your heart can be horrible counsel.  The latter because…

 

 

Step back and look at your own life and decisions, as well as those of your family and friends.  “Follow your heart” is a strategy which *never* leads us astray, does it?  We always, consistently, want and crave what is ultimately best for us, right?

It seems every week I run across a news story about how someone, from an average Joe to a Famous Person, needs to take out an order of protection (aka, restraining order) against some other person who is stalking them. this is because Stalker’s heart has told them that their primary mission in life is to be with average Joe/celebrity, even when the object of their obsession vehemently thinks otherwise.

In the case of the Famous Person, oft times the celebrity is being hounded by someone they have never even met. Yet that Someone is absolutely, 150% convinced, “in their heart,” that they and the famous Person are meant to be together.

Lovelorn fanatics aside, there’s also a small but significant number of people whose hearts (and heads) can never (or rarely) be trusted to give them reliable guidance or even feedback, due to mental illness and related disorders.

Perhaps I’m overthinking this.  I like the song; still, if you’re gonna listen to your heart, please remember to run whatever your heart is saying past your brain.

 

*   *   *

(Visually Assisted) Pun For The Day

From a day last month, actually. I’m just seeing it for the first time.

Backstory:  Infectious Disease Epidemiologist Julia Marcus tweeted a picture of a graph (a screenshot from a slide presentation on an FDA website) which showed how the efficacy of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine increased over time.  The image, a faint black line amid gray shading, resembled something that the good-humored doctor thought was worth celebrating, as per her caption,

J&J vaccine is rising to the occasion.”

 

*   *   *

 

May you rise to the occasion and get your COVID vaccination;
May you uncover the beauty and mystery of screaming asparagus;
May your heart always check in with your brain;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Or, perhaps those are the lines he gave himself?

[2] The following incidences I site as examples, each and every one of them unfortunately common to “the female experience” worldwide. These particular ones were all experienced by girls and women I know personally.

[3] Which you know because you asked them, after you found out that they were interested in applying to the same school and you asked about their conversation with the guidance counselor, mistakenly assuming that he (the counselor) also tried to discourage them, like he did with you and the other girl.

[4] Victor Lazlo, or, _____?  We who’ve listened from the beginning of the show get someone else.

[5] Their term, not mine, for substituting other protein sources for the chicken…which we plant-based folks are known to do.

[6] I’m having a hard time doing a search for the song titles.

The Subjects I’m Not Avoiding

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Department Of Are You Mortal?

Moiself, too.  So, why do we act as if we think are not?

I highly recommend the latest edition of the podcast Clear + Vivid. In a moving and candid conversation – frequently seasoned by laughter (which might be surprising to some, given the subject matter) – podcast host Alan Alda talks with his guest, author and Rabbi Steve Leder,  about the inevitability of death, and grief. These are subjects people usually avoid, which, Leder says, only adds to the losses people inevitably face in life.

At one point in their conversation, as Alda and Leder discussed the importance of acknowledging our mortality, Alda said,  “Talk some more about this. ‘Cause you still haven’t convinced me to die.”  Leder’s response, which prompted laughter from both men, was, “Well, I don’t have to.”

Leder has written a book (“The Beauty of What Remains: How Our Greatest Fear Becomes Our Greatest Gift”) which Alda describes as “…a moving, inspiring and often funny book about the loss of loved ones.”  Although Leder has officiated at more than 1,000 funerals, he found his own preconceived notions of grief – what it is and “how” to do it – challenged when his beloved father died.

I love it when Someone With Experience And Authority ® confirms a suspicion I’ve had for years.  Thus, thank gawd (sez the atheist) that Leder disagrees with the “Five  [1]   Stages of Grief” mythology.  Leder says we have “been done a terrible disservice” with this idea that there are stages or phases of grief, which implies that grief is a linear process (“First you will deal with Stage A, then you will feel Stage B…”).

Grief is non-liner; Leder declares. It is much more analogous to waves:

“They come very close together and are very large at first. They do spread out, and sometimes you even get beautiful, calm seas for a day, a week, a month, a year…. And then sometimes, when your back is turned, there can be a massive wave of grief that takes you down.  And that is not ‘stages.’

Before my father died, what I used to say to people is, ‘Look, the most honest and helpful think I can say to you right now is that it won’t always hurt so much.’ And I don’t say that anymore.  Now I say, ‘It won’t always hurt so *often.*’ Because when it hurts, it hurts every bit as much.”

 

 

*  It’s who we have, not what we have, that matters.

*The beauty of the flower is that it fades.

*The meaning of life is that it ends.

* Understanding the ephemeral nature of life – choosing to acknowledge that we don’t have forever – makes things great and small (our children and friends; a hot fudge sundae) more precious, not less.

These and other observations which Leder shares and expounds upon are no less profound for their relative simplicity.  Check out the entire interview:  “Make the End a Beginning” Clear + Vivid.

 

Alda and Leder also have an interesting chat about what is revealed by what people put on their gravestones.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Reality Checks

As in, my attempt to provide one.  No doubt I will need one as well, if moiself  thinks that my feedback will either get a response (I doubt it/am not expecting it) or make a difference (I hope it will).

The following feedback was sent by moiself , earlier this week, to Shankar Vedantam, the science journalist and host of one of my favorite podcasts, Hidden Brain.

Dear Mr. Vedantam,

Love your show; regular listener here.  As per your interview on “Useful Delusions,” re your upcoming book of the same name, I cringed to hear you give credence, even in the context of how people respond to stress, to that  “…old proverb, ‘There are no atheists in the foxhole’….”

Yes, it is an old proverb. Old, insulting, and lousy – as in, inaccurate.

I wish you’d do a story on that.

An atheist-themed festival drew hundreds of people to an Army post in North Carolina on Saturday for what was believed to be the first-ever event held on a U.S. military base for service members who do not have religious beliefs.
Signs in support of atheism are seen during the “Rock Beyond Belief” festival at Fort Bragg army base in North Carolina March 31, 2012. The atheist-themed festival drew hundreds of people to Fort Bragg on Saturday for what was believed to be the first-ever event held on a U.S. military base for service members who do not have religious beliefs.
Organizers said they hoped the “Rock Beyond Belief” event at Fort Bragg would spur equal treatment toward nonbelievers in the armed forces and help lift the stigma for approximately 295,000 active duty personnel who consider themselves atheist, agnostic or without a religious preference.
Defense Department policy holds that all service members have the right to believe in any or no religion. But those gathered at the event described being ostracized and harassed in the military community for not believing in God and worried about getting passed over for promotions if their secularist stances were widely known.
( “Military nonbelievers’ event shows there are atheists in foxholes.” (Reuters)

Not only have there *always* been atheists in foxholes, the FFRF   [2]  periodically bestows an award, “Atheists in Foxhole,” to commemorate that fact:

“This award was suggested by Vietnam War vet…Steve Trunk, to combat the ridiculous myth that there are no “atheists in foxholes,” and, in particular, to recognize activism to defend the constitutional principle of separation between state and church which every soldier takes an oath to uphold.”

To repeat: there are and have always been “atheists in foxholes;” however, they often have compelling reasons to remain in the foxhole/closet while they serve in the military. Religion-free soldiers can feel that they face an equal or greater danger from their fellow soldiers and commanding officers than from enemy fire, if their religious comrades discover that they are not religious believers.

“When Specialist Jeremy Hall held a meeting last July for atheists and freethinkers at Camp Speicher in Iraq, he was excited, he said, to see an officer attending.
But minutes into the talk, the officer…began to berate Specialist Hall and another soldier about atheism….
Major Welborn told the soldiers he might bar them from re-enlistment and bring charges against them….
Specialist Hall and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group, filed suit in federal court in Kansas, alleging that Specialist Hall’s right to be free from state endorsement of religion under the First Amendment had been violated and that he had faced retaliation for his views. (Specialist Hall) was sent home early from Iraq because of threats from fellow soldiers.
( “Soldier Sues Army, Saying His Atheism Led to Threats,” NY Times )

Staff Sgt. Richlin Chan, who served in Afghanistan, is an “Atheist in Foxhole” who was profiled in the FFRF’s newsletter, Freethought Today (June/July 2010). Chan told this story:

In 2007, a soldier named Jeremy Hall was threatened and persecuted by fellow soldiers and a higher-ranking officer for holding an atheist meeting in Iraq.  After a firefight in which a protective screen deflected enemy fire, his commander later asked him if he believed in god.  Jeremy responded, “No, but I believe in plexiglass.”

If you’re interested, other resources include the MAAF (Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers); “I was An Atheist in a Foxhole,” (American Humanist Association) ; “The US Military Has a Problem With Atheists,” (The Week);  “Military atheists seeking the rights and benefits offered to religious groups”(Stars and Stripes).

Yours in the never-ending battle to temper inaccurate proverbs with reality checks,

 

 

*   *   *

Lest you think my picking that certain nit   [3]  spoiled the podcast for me, it did not.  I found the (rest of the) episode (Hidden Brain: Useful Delusions) quite enjoyable.  Of particular interest to moiself  was Shankar’s exposition on the adaptive or “useful” effects that delusional thinking can have, as well as the phenomenon of “naive realism.”

Naive realism allows us to judge others for engaging in what we’d call delusional thinking, while we convince ourselves that we, even in the same position as a desperate person, would never, say, vote for a demagogue or buy a snake oil potion/miracle cure, etc.  Vedantam illustrates this with a personal story of his own.  Several months ago, while travelling several hours from his home, Vedantam suffered a retinal detachment.  He had to seek emergency medical care, without having time to check reviews or get recommendations for a doctor or weighs pros and cons of treatment options. He found a doctor who was willing to open his practice up at 9 pm and see him. The doctor said Vedantam had to have emergency surgery ASAP or he would lose his eyesight. And so, Vedantan did….

“…what all of us do, in positions of great vulnerability: I put all my faith and trust in this doctor. Now, as it turned out, he was a brilliant surgeon and he ended up saving my eye, for which I am profoundly grateful. But imagine for a moment that he had not been a brilliant doctor; let’s imagine if he had been a charlatan. Would it have been any less likely for me to put my faith in him? And I would argue the answer is no, because my faith in him did not arise because of what *he* did, my faith arose because of what *I* was going through.

I was going through a period of great vulnerability, a period of great fear. Trusting him made me feel better…. Expand this in all kinds of ways, and you can see why people sometimes gravitate to beliefs that are false, to demagogues and false prophets. It’s not so much because of the demagogues and false prophets, it’s because of their own vulnerabilities.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of My Favorite Euphemisms

Dateline: last weekend, listening to a podcast in which anthropologists discussed the DNA sequences found from human bodies in caves in Siberia, Spain, and Croatia.

What the anthropologists found shows evidence of human-Neanderthal interbreeding as far back as 100,000 years ago. What I found was a delightful, heretofore-unknown-to-moiself, synonym…genteelism…rewording.

According to scientists, early humans and Neanderthals engaged in

“gene flow events.”

Aka, sex.

This substitute term should be a relief to teens everywhere. Despite their legendary taking of delight in shocking their elders by singing along to salacious pop song lyrics, teens are notoriously squeamish, to the point of disgust, when it comes to even thinking about the fact that their parents might have hooked up with one another in order to produce their offspring.  Chill, Ethan and Emma: your mother and father didn’t get it on. They merely engaged in a gene flow event.

 

 

*   *   *

Department of, Bingo!

But when Abby and I announced our relationship, the first article…said, “Abby Wambach in love with Christian mommy blogger.”…So the rest of the world picked up that one  — and now on my tombstone, no matter what else I do, it’ll say Christian mommy blogger…. I feel like it’s the most misogynistic, ridiculous title ever. Because no male activist or New York Times bestseller is described as a daddy…or by his religion.
( Glennon Doyle, from the podcast, Sway, 2-25-21)

I’m somewhat new to Sway, but after listening to a few episodes I’m impressed with the variety of guests and topics.  Hosted by Kara Swisher, “Silicon Valley’s most feared and well-liked journalist,” the podcast’s focus is “power: who has it, who’s been denied it, and who dares to defy it.” In the episode whence the above quote, Swisher interviews Glennon Doyle, best-selling author and activist previously best known – or rather, labeled – as a Christian-LGBTQ-friendly blogger and “confessional” writer, and most recently getting (unwanted) tabloid-type attention in the past few years for divorcing her (cheating) husband and marrying US soccer star Abby Wambach.

The reason for Doyle’s interview On Sway was Doyle having been named by many of Joe Biden’s campaign strategists as the person whose campaign endorsement, they believed, would influence women the most. The part of the interview that interested me the most was when Doyle shared her reactions to the male-values-dominated worlds of publishing and book reviews and publicity.   [4]   Doyle rejects the labels that have been put upon her, including “self-help expert” and “mommy blogger,” as reductive and misogynistic. 

Doyle:
“…I think that it’s very often the case that when a man puts work out into the world, the world looks at the work and says, ‘Is this work worthy?’ And I think that when a woman puts work out into the world, the world looks at the woman and says, ‘Is this woman worthy of putting out work?’
For example, the first big article that was put out about (her new memoir) in a big newspaper, the headline was, ‘Glennon Doyle writes third memoir?’ Question mark, question mark.”

Kara Swisher:
“As if you shouldn’t have many memoirs in you. That’s the suggestion.”

Doyle:
“Like, ‘Jesus Christ, this woman is going to say a *third* thing? We already let her say two things. She said two things, and then she’s going to come back and say a third thing. Who does this person think she is.’  Right?’
Sedaris came out with his new book, and it was like, ‘David Sedaris releases 158th memoir.’  Not, question mark, question mark.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Not My Fault; My Mind Just Goes To These Places

Apropos of nothing I can think of, while coming back from a walk the other day I mused about ways to get junior high school aged students interested in “classic” works of literature. I’ve heard many a teacher say that engaging that age group (particularly for the boys) will determine whether reluctant readers will show interest in, for example, the plays of William Shakespeare.

So, considering the age group, I humbly suggest this approach:

֍   Shakespearean Gas Theater   ֍

English, literature, and drama teachers can search the internet databases for well-known Shakespearean lines which can be altered and/or…uh, illustrated…as per the theme.

From Twelfth Night, the name of character Sir Toby Belch fits right in with those certain enhancements which tween actors could give to the delivery of Sir Toby’s classic lines:

”Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous,
there shall be no more cakes and….Baaaaaaaarrrrrrraaasaaaapppp…ale?

 

And, let’s face it, few 12-year-old boys want to play the lead male role of Romeo and Juliet‘s 14th century lovestruck Italian teen.  But when the line Romeo calls out to Juliet (in the famous balcony scene) is transformed, boys will be jostling for the opportunity to raise their arms in supplication and cut the cheese with romantic gusto while reciting,

“What wind thorough yonder window breaks.”

Then again, maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t pursue a career as an Arts in Education consultant.

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

When a road construction worker farts, don’t blame him – it’s his asphalt.

 

“I want no part of this juvenile humor.”

 

*   *   *

May you write as many memoirs as you have in you;    [5]

May you appreciate the beauty of that which will fade;

May you be lucky enough to have an atheist beside you in the foxhole;

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Or nine…or seven…or twelve.  Different self-appointed grief experts have different numbers, but most people are familiar with psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross‘s five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

[2] The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a non-profit founded in 1978, is the nation’s largest association of Atheists, Agnostic, Freethinkers, Humanists and Skeptics .

[3] This particular issue is more the size of a glacier than a nit, as the number of the non-religiously affiliated and atheists – and thus the number of people insulted and mischaracterized by such inaccurate adages – continues to grow/be revealed.

[4] A subject about which I have both opinions and experiences, as regular and/or long time readers of this blog may know.

[5] Well, maybe not 158.

The Vaccine Appointment I’m Not Scheduling

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If even for a moment you think that this week’s blog title means that moiself  is an anti-vaxxer, you must stop reading right now, go to your bathroom, and somehow administer yourself a swirlie.

 

 

Moderna; Pfizer; Johnson & Johnson – when referring to the three currently available (in the USA) COVID-19 vaccines, the nomenclature seems to be, “The Vaccine.” As in,

* Have you had the vaccine yet?

* Have you scheduled your appointment for the vaccine?

It is *THE* topic of conversation, especially among People of a Certain Age.®  Ahem.

Gawddammit, it seems that being this old  of or near a certain age should be good for something, besides obtaining the wisdom we’ve accumulated over the years which we impart to appreciative youngsters at every opportunity.

 

 

But in my state (Oregon), having no “predisposing” conditions and not being in occupations deemed frontline/essential…and being oh-so-close to that magic cutoff age, yet not actually turning 65 until December, means that I, (and MH, who is 5+ years younger than moiself  ) will not be eligible until the vaccines are opened up to the very last group – everyone above age 16 (May 1).  Judging from the experience of others when “their group” became eligible, this means we will be part of a massive online stampede, the scheduling systems will be overloaded, and some baggy-ass pants-wearing 17-year-olds will get the first appointments and we’ll still be two weeks out.

 

 

Reality check: I am grateful for my good health, and for not having the health conditions which would qualify moiself  for The Vaccine ® ahead of others.  And although the first reports I heard about people gaming the system (read: cheating/lying, to get a vaccine) frosted my butt, I’m getting philosophical about it.  As in, I’m trying to keep the larger point in mind:  we need as many people as possible to be vaccinated, for the health of us as individuals, for our country, for our economy, for the world….

Sure, I clenched my jaw when I read a young woman’s brag on social media of how, because her parents (who are in their mid-40s with no health problems) came to visit her for three weeks, she decided to check her state’s vaccine box of “Living in a multigenerational household”  [1]  and thus she, who is in excellent health and works from home in a non-frontline occupation, got the vaccine at age 23.  Besides being deceitful she arguably jumped the line/took the spot of someone else…but, okay.  I’m gonna look at it this way: that’s one more person who is vaccinated.  My turn will come.

 

 

Last week MH and I participated in a Zoom call with MH’s mother, who lives in Florida, to celebrate her 85th birthday.  Her children and their families dialed in; our family was the one most West-est, with daughter Belle participating from Tacoma, MH and moiself  from Hillsboro, and son K from Portland.  There were four callers from the Midwest, three in Florida, and the prize to the Easternmost went to my MIL’s other granddaughter, who joined us from Germany.

The call reaffirmed my distaste for Zoom communications with multiple people.  It reminds me of how much I miss being in the same room with a bunch of people and being able to hear everyone even when everyone is talking “over” and under and around one another.  It’s just…awkward, but what can you do?  Oh, that’s right, I forgot: if we really cared, MH and I could have been in Florida, in person.  It’s totally fine for us to hop on a plane and fly across the country – it’s perfectly safe to travel or do just anything, because, as one of the Zoom participants brayed, COVID-19 is no big deal:

 

“They just makin’ that up and if they get their way they’ll have you scared to do anything for the next ten years…”

 

After that declaration, the (other) callers’ screens went totally silent, for a couple moments of unintentional comic relief masked as uneasy pauses.  I noticed a few faces, like mine, turned downward, in an effort to hide our eye-rolling expressions of bemused revulsion.

The topic of conversation turned to the questions about who has been vaccinated, which is how MH and I found out that Belle had just been able to schedule her first vaccine.   [2]  As happy as we were for her, MH and I had to do our obligatory pouting – Both our kids are going to be vaccinated before us, wah wah wah!    [3]    Belle had a good story –  or perhaps more accurately, an interesting-as-in-an-indictment-of-certain-political-mindsets tale– as to how this happy event came about.

Washington state had just entered “Phase 1B tiers 3 and 4” for their vaccination program, which meant that Belle, as a Kitchen Asst. manager for a McMenamin’s flagship establishment, was eligible, along with her fellow “high critical…restaurant” workers.  But, she said, finding a vaccine appointment proved impossible, until her boss told her a trick: Google a political map of your state, find a county, or a district in your city, that voted “red” in the last election, and that area will likely have more unclaimed vaccines.  She did that, and got an appointment right away.  

That chickenshit, lamebrain, chief bunker bitch esxuce of a former president #45 downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic, costing thousands of lives.  He then quietly got his own vaccine ASAP (in January), even as he did little to quell the anti-VAX anti-science sentiment of his pathetically deluded followers.  But hey, thanks, chumps, if that allowed my daughter to get safer before y’all.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Is It Just My Imagination…

Or do people play less April Fool’s Day jokes than they used to?

Nobody played one on moiself  this year.  Wah.  

Oh well…maybe next year I’ll try something like the following:

 

*   *   *

Department Of Paying Close Attention
Feminist Radar Edition

 

 

“The first lady is often remembered as a genteel Southerner who promoted highway beautification, but author Julia Sweig says archival records show Lady Bird was also a savvy political strategist. “
(intro to the Fresh Air podcast,
Correcting The Record On Lady Bird Johnson” )

As I was listening to the interview with the “Lady Bird” Johnson biographer, I was struck by what biographer Sweig *didn’t* say, when it came to crediting Lady Bird with being smart about exercising power without taking credit:

“They shared their political operation and he (LBJ)  relied on her…because he knew she had her own version of ‘The Johnson Treatment,’ being that ability to twist arms and manipulate and guide. Lady Bird was expert at that….  The difference, of course, is that Lady Bird… was able to let people think that *they* had come up with the idea. She was a collaborative deployer of power; she let people feel that they had some sense of ownership – she didn’t need to take the credit. A very different, approach in a way.”

Here is where the feminist nuances of listening, and analyzing history, should have kicked in.  I waited for Sweig to add the observation as to why Lady Bird got people to do things by making them think it was their idea in the first place.  But the author never did.

Lady Bird Johnson’s collaborative, credit-shunning approach was just not a smart or “savvy” way to deploy power – for a woman, especially of that day, it was often the only way.  That indirect approach was *directly* taught to women (“You cannot – or should not – aspire to the throne yourself, but you can be the power *behind* the throne,” or “the hand that rocks the cradle,” ad nauseum).  It was implicitly stated and explicitly understood that anything beyond a collaborative strategy toward exercising political power would have been considered unseemly (for a woman).

Also, why bother to take credit for an idea or accomplishment when a man – even  [4]   your own husband – will just claim it for his own, and be believed?

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

“I’m not getting a COVID vaccine so they can microchip me!”
the man typed into his smartphone,
which tracks his every thought and constantly logs his location.

 

And that was not a pun…but it’s still groan-worthy.

 

*   *   *

May you collaborate for power and still take credit when it’s due;
May you start planning for next year’s April Fool’s Day jokes;
May you claim all the “red” zone vaccines you can;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Which is meant for those serving as actual caretakers for their frail/elderly parents or relatives at home.

[2] Which she had on Monday, yay!

[3] Our son K works in research at OHSU – Oregon Health Sciences University, which vaccinated almost all of their employees during the past two months.

[4] Or especially, in the case of  Lady Bird’s husband, President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

The Temptations I’m Not Eliminating

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Department Of This Should Not Come As A Surprise

“Recent polling shows that 39% of Americans believe that the election that just occurred was rigged…  You may not agree with that assessment, but it is nonetheless a reality for nearly half the country.”
(Senator Ted Cruz, 1-6-21)

“In other words, ‘We have no proof the election was stolen, and you may have verifiable evidence that it wasn’t, but that doesn’t matter. It only matters that we believe it.’

  And that’s when you’re at religion: that you have to respect something just because people believe it. Does that include professional wrestling?”
( Comedian Bill Maher on Real Time With Bill Maher, re the remarks of Senator Cruz )

The fact that many evangelical/conservative Christians believe and promote QAnon conspiracy theories seems to confuse and embarrass Other Christians ® .  Even some leaders of ultra conservative Christian churches and nationalist groups have wondered aloud about the fact that many of their followers are part of a “mass delusion.”

“Why is it our people are so vulnerable to this stuff?”
(Lance Wallnau, self-proclaimed prophet, Christian Nationalist, and
“7 Mountains Mandate” creator, The Washington Post, 1-14-21 )

 

 

The embarrassment of these Other Christians is itself an embarrassment – especially when I hear or read my mainstream/progressive Christian family and friends wondering:

“How can those QAnon Christians believe things that make no sense?”

Y’all ask this…seriously?

My religious friends, whose hearts and intentions I deeply respect, the answer is simple, and you’re not going to like it:

The reason those QAnon/Trump/Confederate Flag/Proud Boy Christians can believe things that make no sense is because they already believe things that make no sense. Your fellow Christians  [1]  believe such things in the first place *because* of their religious faith, not in spite of it.  Religion has already primed them to accept outlandish claims sans objective proof (other than the “proof” they say they find “in their own hearts”).

The January 6 insurrection was a faith-based initiative, and Trumpism/White Supremacy are Christian nationalist movements.

Freethinkers/Humanists/Agnostics/Atheists/Skeptics have long known this, and while we sometimes tiptoe around this subject with our more mainstream and progressive Christian friends and family…c’mon folks.  Why do you keep acting so shocked?

It’s not a giant leap from believing some major things that cannot be proven – aka, taking them on “faith” – to believing other things that cannot be proven.

During a recent New Rules segment of his show, comedian and magical-thinking eviscerator   [2]  Bill Maher used his incisive wit to point out the overlap between QAnon theorists and (white Christian) religionists.  He pointed out that Christians who roll their eyes at or mock QAnon and its baby-eating lizard people/pedophile pizza parlors scenarios seem not to have read their own Book of Revelation.  Right there, in the Christians’ “holy book,” are bizarre tales of “…stuff you see only after the guy in the park sells you bad mushrooms.”   [3]

It was evangelical Christians like Senators Ted Cruz and Paul Gosar who spouted the unjustifiable claims that the 2020 election was “stolen” from #45. Who is seriously surprised by the fact that most of the senators who objected to certifying the electoral college votes for Biden  – Cruz and Gosar and their frothing cronies, Senators Josh Hawley, Cindy Hyde-Smith, John Kennedy, Roger Marshall and Tommy Tuberville – were fundamentalist Christians?  Not only did each of those senators identify and campaign as fundamentalist Christians, Alabama Sen. Tuberville even filmed a campaign ad equating Trump to Jesus .

The January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol  “…looked like a revival meeting,” Maher quipped.  Watch the videos of the event, and you’ll see the signs that read, “Jesus is my god and Trump is my president,” and “Trump/Jesus 2020.”

 

 

“Magical religious thinking is a virus and QAnon is just its current mutation. That’s why megachurches play QAnon videos. We need to stop pretending there’s no way we’ll ever understand why the Trump mob believes in him.  It’s because they’re religious…they’ve already made space in their heads for shit that doesn’t make sense.

There’s a lot of talk now about how Republicans should tell their base who still believe the election was rigged that they need to grow up and move on and stop asking the rest of us to respect their mass delusion.  But the inconvenient truth here is that if you accord religious faith the kind of exalted respect we do here in America, you’ve already lost the argument that mass delusion is bad.

( Bill Maher, New Rules, 2-5-21, my emphases.
You can see the entire segment here. )

*   *   *

Department Of One More Thing
#379 In An Ongoing Series

In a recent blog post (3-12-21) , re my rant highly nuanced disagreement with the idea that Muslim women are “free” to “choose” whether or not to wear the hijab, moiself  forgot to mention one relevant, veil-related anecdote.

The 9/11 attacks took place on a Tuesday morning, which was the meeting time for a book group I’d been attending for years. The book group met at the church MH and I had attended for years.   [4]   The pastor of the church (which belongs to ” among the most liberal of the mainline Protestant denominations,”) was the book group’s leader.  She, like the rest of us “bookies” (book group members), was stunned by the news,   [5]  even more so because of personal reasons: she had a sister-in-law who was a flight attendant for American Airlines out of Boston,  [6]  and a brother-in-law who was from the Middle East, and she was concerned for his safety re the growing anti-Arab sentiment.

Moving right along….  One by one the group members staggered into our meeting room as our pastor put on a fresh pot of coffee to brew (she’d already downed one entire pot herself).  Glassy-eyed with “WTF just happened?” confusion, we babbled with one another about the attacks (although I’m not sure my opening remarks – “We’re all FUCKED – this is how wars start!” –  count as a babble).  The pastor was, eventually, able to steer us into a half-hearted discussion of the book we were reading.

The next week the pastor told us bookies about the latest news from the ecumenical group of ministers she belonged to. The group, which was mostly comprised of ministers from liberal Christian denominations but also with Jewish, Muslim and Bahá’í clergy,   [7]   had been brainstorming re how to be of support to local Muslims.  The news was filled with accounts of how, across the nation, Muslims (as well as people who were not Muslim but who were “suspected” of being Muslim) were being threatened and even physically attacked.  Because of the hijab, Muslim women’s religious affiliations were more visible than that of Muslim men, and many Muslim women and girls reported being harassed while riding public transportation or at the grocery store – or just out in public.

Another (female) pastor from the ecumenical group announced that, to express solidarity with Muslim women, she had started wearing a veil in public, and she was “inviting” other non-Muslim women to do so as well.  Moiself  expressed the same, immediate, visceral reaction that our pastor said she’d had when she heard Well-Meaning Veil Pastor’s suggestion. It was a reaction my pastor and I vowed to share with everyone we knew who might was supportive of the veil-solidarity gesture:

Solidarity; right on!
Yes indeedy, we’ll be happy to don a veil in support of Muslim women – providing Muslim men and boys first do the same, to show support for *their* mothers/sisters/wives/daughters/cousins/co-workers/neighbors….

Guess what? No takers.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of More Good Clean Fun Brought To You By That All-American Combo, Misogyny And Religion  [8]

Last week a 21-year old man attacked three spas in Atlanta, shooting nine people and killing eight of them, seven of them women (who were his targets; the men were in the wrong place at the wrong time). The alleged suspect told the police that he killed them because he needed to “eliminate the temptations” they presented to him, and that by doing so he would help other men by removing those same “temptations.”

I don’t get it. What could anyone possibly have against The Temptations?

 

 

Ahem. “Temptations,” as in, women.  You know – female human beings.

 

 

If you’ve been paying attention, it’s not the first time you’ve heart this kind of story. In California, Oregon; Toronto…you can Google more, about male killers who target one woman or all women, but it’s too damn depressing. Two years ago, in a refreshing change, a 27-year-old Denver man was arrested on a terrorism charge *before* he was able to carry out his intended rampage. This enabled the press to write “Here is why he said he was going to commit a mass murder” stories, instead of after-the-fact, “The killer said he killed all those women because…” stories:

A 27-year-old Colorado man…arrested on a terrorism charge…cited his virginity as the reason he said he was planning to carry out a mass shooting: “…its is why I’m planning on shooting up a public place soon and being the next mass shooter cause I’m ready to die and all the girls the (sic) turned me down is (sic) going to make it right by killing as many girls as I see.” (sick sick sick).
(“A man cited his virginity as reason he planned to kill ‘as many girls’ as he could, police say,” Washington Post, 1-22-19)

As shocking as most of us find these rampages, moiself  posits that they are also predictable and even inevitable outcomes in our society, due to the mixture of two poisonous cultural ingredients:

*online sexism and incel forums wherein young men commiserate and encourage one another to blame women for their sexual desires and frustrations;

* religious teachings (in particular, “Purity Culture”) which set the stage and fuel the fire for those frustrations by shaming and pathologizing sexual activity – including masturbation, and even the mere *desiring* of sex – outside of heterosexual marriage, and which hold females responsible for male thoughts and behavior.    [9]

 

“Her ankles have caused me to fall!”

 

“It should come as no shock that purity culture is steeped in contradictions:
1) Women hold the sexual reigns and are wholly responsible for any sexual encounter that escalates to something sinful because men lack the ability and should not be expected to control themselves…but
2) somehow, women also hate sex and use it as a punishment/reward system for their husbands…yet
3) women are weak and need the protection
of these feeble-minded, animal-like men.”
(“Freedom From Purity Culture“)

“When Brad Onishi heard that the man accused of a rampage at three Atlanta-area spas told detectives that he had carried out the attacks as a way to eliminate his own temptations, the claim sounded painfully familiar.
Dr. Onishi…grew up in a strict evangelical community…that emphasized sexual purity….
The evangelical culture he was raised in, he said, “teaches women to hate their bodies, as the source of temptation, and it teaches men to hate their minds, which lead them into lust and sexual immorality.”
(“Atlanta Suspect’s Fixation on Sex Is Familiar Thorn for Evangelicals,” NY Times 3-20-21)

 

 

A former roommate of the alleged   [10]   Atlanta shooter told police that the shooter

* didn’t own a smartphone because he feared he’d use it to look at online pornography;
* was ashamed of masturbating;
* expressed suicidal thoughts as per his fear that he was “falling out of God’s grace” and “living in sin” because he had masturbated and visited sex workers.

“…the idea that men’s sexual issues are women’s responsibility isn’t new, nor is it a fringe ideology confined to the internet — it’s a mainstream belief held by many Americans…

These thoughts mirror traditional conservative evangelical Christian teachings about sex and the idea that it’s women’s responsibility to avoid leading men into sexual situations.

This kind of purity culture has a reach far beyond religion. Abstinence-only education classes taught in over half the states across the country tell young people that the onus is on girls not to tease or tempt boys, whose sexual compulsions, they say, are near uncontrollable.

But rather than curb sexual activity, these programs seem to normalize misogynist impulses. A 2017 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, for example, found abstinence-only programs often ‘reinforce gender stereotypes about female passivity and male aggressiveness.’

(“How Many Women Have to Die to End ‘Temptation’?
The Atlanta murders follow a terrible pattern of misogynist violence,” NY Times 3-22-21)

 

I really wish I was both making up this chart, and the organization it comes from.  But…no.

 

And let’s not forget another key ingredient in this toxic stew: the romanticized reporting of violence against women, which often frames murderers as reflexive sad sacks “at the end of their rope” or “having a bad day.”  Various media headlines, and even comments from law enforcement officials, reinforce the sexist idea that the men and boys who hurt women are themselves victims – casualties of their unrequited desires.

Horrific, brutal killings of women by men have been described as being committed by “a lovesick teen,” and the murderers as suffering from “unrequited love.” The lab tech who strangled a pharmacology grad student and stuffed her body behind a wall was referred to in the press as “lovelorn.”  And now, in Atlanta, the County Sheriff investigating the killings said the suspect may have been “lashing out,” and another member of the Sheriff’s office said that the subject had had “a really bad day” and “this is what he did.”

 

No, (real) love doesn’t kill. But when a notorious punk rocker stabbed a 20-year-old woman to death, some media presented it as a Romeo and Juliet story.

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department Of Apropos Of Nothing…
And I Know We Have Some Serious Issues Facing Our Country, And The Entire Planet, But This Is Something Which Might Unite Us – Yes, Even Across
Seemingly Insurmountable Borders Of Religious, Political, And Cultural Identity

 

Can we all agree to get rid of the first *r* in February?

 

*   *   *

Department Of Oops I Did It Again

What I did was a whole lotta yoga: 108 Sun salutations, in honor of the Vernal Equinox.

 

Now if only I could find a colorful toucan to join me next time.

 

In a less-honorable tribute to the arrival of Spring, once again, hearing the term *Vernal Equinox* made moiself  think of a Tennessee mother yelling across the fields for her son.

 “Vernal!  Vernal Equinox, you git yer butt back home this instant!”

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I changed my smart phone’s name to Titanic. It’s syncing now.

 

*   *   *

 

May you try to say February ten times, as fast as you can, pronouncing both rs
(and then agree with moiself  about getting rid of the first one);
May you not be deluded as to why *other* people believe crazy shit;
May you celebrate the arrival of Spring, no matter how you feel about a term like
“Vernal Equinox;”
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] And yes, they are Christians, whether or not you approve of them. You don’t own the term; they claim it too, and spout the theology.

[2] If Maher can have “New Rules” then I can have new words.

[3] Maher’s delightful recounting of one of Revelation’s major stories: “The book of Revelations will tell you exactly where the world ends – Megiddo, Israel. That’s where all of the armies of the world will gather and Jesus will come down to earth on a flying horse shooting swords out of his mouth (Jesus, not the horse), and have a 1000 year cosmic boss battle with Satan, The Beast, and The Anti-Christ. It’s like ten Avenger movies plus ten Hobbit movies plus a night out with Johnny Depp.”

[4] It was also the church I was on the cusp of leaving – not that church in particular, but any church, as in religion in general. I had known I was a non- believer for decades yet stayed “closeted” for complicated reasons.

[5] Our gathering time was 7 am, Pacific time, so we all knew at least something about the attacks on the East Coast.

[6] One of the four hijacked airplanes, the one which crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, was an American Airlines flight originating in Boston; the pastor’s SIL was not working that flight.

[7] Well, representatives, in the case of the Bahá’í, who do not have clergy.

[8] And very likely, racism. Although as of this writing the (alleged) perpetrator has denied a racial motive (he blamed his “sex addiction”),  six of the women were Asian. Others are addressing that issue, including here, here, and here, far better than I could.

[9] To cite just one of hundreds of disgusting examples, the federally funded Heritage Keepers curriculum teaches students that ‘girls have a responsibility to wear modest clothing that doesn’t invite lustful thoughts.”

[10] I’m not going to patronize either moiself  or y’all by continuing to use that modifier.

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