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The Character Reference I’m Not Providing

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Department Of A Blast From The Past

Enjoying the free time of the newly retired, I’ve been sorting through some old (VERY old) files. I found this letter your mom wrote for me to include in a scholarship application. However challenging her last few years were, I will always remember the sweet lady who took the time to do this for me.

A friend from high school sent me the above email earlier this week, along with a photo of said letter – my mother’s “character reference” for my friend.

That was so delightful of her to do that.  The letter made me laugh for several reasons, including the fact that it was for a “character recommendation.” I have no memory of needing a character reference for *my* college and scholarship applications. I do recall the jaw-clenching process of asking teachers for academic recommendations (and appreciating their patience, as it seems they were each juggling other such requests from at least twenty students), but “character” recommendations? I’m drawing a complete blank.    [1]   

Perhaps only certain kinds of scholarships required it (my friend was applying to a private college with a religious affiliation)?  In any case, I can’t imagine which adult I would have requested it (a character reference letter) from – and I know I would have dreaded the process.  However, variations on their possible responses do come to mind:

“Oh yes, I can attest, she’s a character…”

A sad – to me – historical/patriarchal footnote…that, unfortunately, remains more than a footnote some forty years later:  my mother’s signoff on the letter. My father could sign letters, recommendations and other documents of importance, legal and otherwise, with his name, which was also his “title.” They were one and the same.  Like so many women of that era, my mother’s own name wasn’t enough to confer weight to her declarations.  Just in case you weren’t impressed by her being herself, she had to parenthetically include her ownership status:

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Heart-Blast From The Past

This week, eleven years ago, 2-11-09: he left this life, but not this heart.

My father, Chester Bryan (aka, “Chet the Jet”) Parnell, died on 2-11-09. The years have changed my grief, as I think (and hope) they do for most people.  I’ve gone from anguish to appreciation, in that I realize “the luck of the draw.”  How fortunate my siblings and I were to have had him as our dad.

The following photo: I have just turned 19, and it is my first Christmas home from college.  Chet was 51, and was eager to prove to his wife (my mother, nervous, behind the camera:  “Don’t throw your back out!”) that he could still pick up his adult daughter.

Moiself can’t be the only person to look at a photograph of a parent and feel a combination of awe and weirded-out-ness to realize that you are older now than they were back then, in that photo.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yes, I Really Did Do This

Dateline: recently. Listening to the Curiosity Daily podcast, the February 7 episode, alluringly titled, “Measuring the Deadliness of Viruses (Like Coronavirus), Why We Do the Potty Dance, and Depression’s Cousin ‘Acedia.’ ”

Moiself was compelled to send feedback to podcast host Cody Gough, who was bantering with co-host Ashley Hamer during the recap/closing moments of the podcast.  Gough made a statement that…well…I could not let it go unchallenged.

Dear Cody Gough,

I’m a fan of the podcast, and as such, I need to offer a suggestion re a possible correction, after listening to your most recent (February 7) episode.  In the closing moments/recap of the episode, when you and Ms. Hamer were discussing practical tips about how to avoid having to do “the pee pee dance,” in response to a strategy recapped by Ms. Hamer, you said:

“…as a gamer growing up, I can tell you that’s not an option.”

I believe you need to apologize to listeners for the oxymoron
(i.e., linking the concepts of “gamer” and “growing up”).

Keep up the good work,
Nit-pickingly yours,
Robyn Parnell

 

 

*   *   *

 

Department Of Mere Words Cannot Express How Sorry I Am
That “The Irishman” Won No Academy Awards

 

 

There were two films I avoided seeing in 2019, even though they were each nominated for multiple Academy Awards.  Longtime readers of this blog may recall that I see a lot of (theatrical release) movies, and try to see all of the nominees for Best Picture and most of the nominees for the writing and acting awards.  But I just couldn’t bring myself to spend good money and lengthy ass-sitting time on Joker and The Irishman[2]

Joker, when I heard about its plot points from a friend, seemed too bleak and too venturing-into-incel-territory for my tastes.   The combination of a loner/misfit male blaming female rejection for his problems, and yet-another-comic-book-character movie…I’d rather stay home and organize the cat feeding bowls, no matter how much the (mostly male) critics seemed to be coming in their pants re the lead actor’s performance.  Then, I ran across this interview with Time magazine movie critic Stephanie Zacharek:

“(Joker director) Phillips may want us to think he’s giving us a movie all about the emptiness of our culture — but really, he’s offering a prime example of it”…(he) presents (The Joker) as a man beset by misfortunes, from unrequited love to Gotham City budget cuts…. In “Joker,” Zacharek says Phillips wants viewers to pity (The Joker) because “he just hasn’t had enough love,” but what he’s done is create a protagonist who could become the “patron saint of incels.”

Because she…wrote one of the earliest negative reviews, Zacharek “became a target of angry, derogatory, sometimes aggressively misogynistic missives from people who haven’t yet seen the movie.”…. Zacharek shared more specifics about the trolls who came at her with “sick burns” both on Twitter and Instagram. One called her a “lonely old hag.”

“It was just so stupid,” (Zacharek )said. “How many of these people are out there? These are people who don’t think things through, and if this is the audience that this movie is courting, that proves my point.”

(Excerpts from “Several male film critics praised ‘Joker.’
Here’s why female critics aren’t sold.”   The Lily, 10-13-19.)

 

 

Yep.

Moving right along… Martin Scorsese.  Oh, Marty Marty Marty – may I call him Marty?   [3] I’ve enjoyed a couple of his films over the years but never understood what all the fuss was about.  The overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male movie critics and members of the Academy love to refer to Scorsese as one of “the greatest living film directors.”  He is part of that (unofficial) Young Upstarts/Now Respected Veterans club – three males of a similar generation who came to films around the same time and who have earned venerated, call-them-by-their-last-name status: Lucas, Speilberg, and Scorsese.

I know it’s not a competition, but for movie directors, I prefer Spielberg over Scorsese any day, hands down. Spielberg has chosen such a variety of stories to present over the years, from Jurassic Park to The Color Purple, from Saving Private Ryan to Amistad, From E.T. to Schindler’s List, from The Sugarland Express to Lincoln…you can’t pigeonhole what a Spielberg film is.

 

Yes, the director of that also directed this.

 

Now, here comes Marty with The Irishman.  A criminal syndicate/gangster film – imagine that! What a bold, new path for him! 

I have become convinced that there are some male directors who, subconsciously or otherwise, choose subjects and/or time periods (e.g. they set their films “historically”) so that they have an excuse for the way they portray (the few) women in their films.  They are relieved of the burden of doing something they’re not interested in doing the first place – creating three-D, complex, female characters who have a role other than to decorate or prop up the male characters – because, you know, Authenticity. ®  (“Oh well, that’s what it was like back in the 1940s/ with Italian-Americans/in the gang subculture….”)

A gangster/crime movie – you can get away with having a few females in the background for window dressing. Female roles *can* be significant in these movies, but only in ways which relate to the protagonist, as per these Scorsese film examples (both via Taxi Driver ): you got Iris, the teenage waif/prostitute who needs rescuing, and you got Betsy, The Unattainable Icy Blonde Who Rebuffs The Protagonist’s Romantic Overtures  And Thus Serves As A Catalyst For His Violent Self-Destructive Spree ® .

I saw the trailers and read a few descriptions of The Irishman, and said to moiself, “Oh, please, again?  If this film were an Olympic athlete it would fail the male hormone doping drug test.”

With few exceptions   [4]  Scorsese’s films present repeating themes:   Italian-Americans and their American assimilation (or lack of); hypermasculinity (as expressed via crime and violence); the search for a father figure; ethnic (especially Italian and Irish) tribalism, religious (read: Roman Catholic) notions of sin and guilt and salvation; crime, organized and otherwise; male power male pride male bonding….

Several months back, before I knew a thing about The Irishman, I read a snippet of an article which used a retrospective of Scorsese‘s career as a lead-in to a review praising The Irishman.  When I came across the phrase, “Scorsese does it again,” my reaction was, “Oh please, say it ain’t so…and get that man into cinematic rehab.”

 

“Is this what it’ll take to get you to see his movie?”

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [5]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

Vegan Holiday Cooking (from Candle Café; multiple authors)
Recipe:  Truffled Tofu Medallions With Wild Mushroom and Pinot Gris Sauce

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

 

Recipe Rating Refresher  [6]    

*   *   *

May you delight a longtime old friend with a copy of an old letter;
May you enjoy the petty pleasure of insulting gamers (or gangster movies);
May you remember your good fortune in loving even those you’ve lost;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Which could be indicative of my lack of character.

[2] And they made it easy for The Irishman, by releasing it on Netflix after it played in theaters for 5.6 seconds (or whatever was long enough to qualify it for awards nominations).

[3] That seems to be the moniker the Hollywood in-crowd uses to signal that they know Scorsese, or at least know enough about him to be so personal….

[4] Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore; The Age of Innocence.

[5] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) once recipe from one book.

[6]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who’d eat anything, would like this.
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

 

The Habits I’m Not Building

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Department Of Is Writing This Weekly Blog A Good Habit,
Or Indicative of Moiself’s Amazing Willpower?

At the end of last month, just around the time when folks might be thinking of making New Year’s resolutions, the Hidden Brain podcast ran an appropriate episode:

“At the beginning of the year, many of us make resolutions for the months to come. We vow to work out more, procrastinate less, or save more money. Though some people stick with these aspirations, many of us fall short. How do we actually develop good habits and maintain them? What about breaking bad ones?”
( “Creatures Of Habit: How Habits Shape Who We Are — And Who We Become”
(12-30-19), intro to Hidden Brain podcast)

Moiself had listened to the podcast when it first ran, but did so while distracted and didn’t remember much about it.  When MH asked me earlier this week if I had listened to it, I decided to relisten. MH found the podcast, especially the parts about how people use psychological “tricks” on themselves to build habits, to be very interesting:

“It turns out that when you build a habit, it’s like putting on a set of unconscious mental blinders. Once in place, the blinders protect you from temptations and distractions.
The more you ignore those temptations, the stronger the blinders become. To put this another way, habits are self-reinforcing. They can be difficult to start but once in place, they have a life of their own because they stop being conscious and become automatic and unconscious.
In fact, once you have developed a habit, you will stick to it even if the alternative is objectively easier.”

 

 

I was more interested in the mini-debate/subtext of the episode.  The host, NPR Social Science correspondent Shankar Vedantam, and his guest, Wendy Wood, USC professor of psychology and business, bantered about the idea that “… significant numbers of Americans believe that the way to change their behavior is through self-control, that willpower is the key to either making changes that stick or to making changes that fail to stick.”  Wood cited several examples of willpower fail, and said that “performing a behavior,” which leads to habit-building, is more effective.

IMHO, the points that were made re habit vs. willpower were mere quibbling over semantics. For true behavior and/or lifestyle alteration you need both, and there is overlap. Neither the host nor his guest made the delineation clear; it seemed as they were acknowledging – or assuming – that there is something “judgy” about using the term willpower, so they refer to “establishing good habits” instead of “exercising willpower.”

As someone who, over the years, has established and maintained several good habits (e.g. regular exercise) as well as taken on a few bad ones (never you mind), it is both my opinion and experience that you can’t have good habits without willpower, and vice-versa.  “Good habits” and willpower” are complementary, not conflicting.  But as long as we aren’t sure about this, someone will try to convince us one way or another.

 

 

 

 

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Department Of Life Is Tough But It’s Even Tougher If You’re Stupid
Chapter 3 in a series

When driving to or from Tacoma,   [1] one of the sights I have come to look forward to is the Right Wing Uncle Sam Billboard ® , on the east side of I-5 near Chehalis, WA.

 

 

This message is par for the course for Right Wing Uncle Sam (RWUS), whose baleful countenance reminds me of Balok, the fearsome (and false, as it turns out) alien from the Star Trek TOS episode, The Corbomite Maneuver.

 

 

The billboard is notorious in These Here Parts (it even has its own Wikipedia entry!), and has been up since the 1970s. The original wackadoodle wingnut archconservative who erected and maintained the billboard and changed the messages weekly died over a decade ago; his survivors have kept it going.

Poor RWUS, seemingly doomed for life to hector travelers north and south (it’s a two-sided wingnut fest billboard!). No wonder his severe visage, as if he were trying to maintain composure while being administered a perpetual colonoscopy by government-employed, immigrant gay Russian liberal Muslims dressed like John Kerry.   [2]

Returning to Oregon on Sunday after a long weekend in Tacoma, my view on the trip south was a rather mild, for RWUS: “Be glad Pelosi is not commander-in-chief.”  I forget what it was on the trip north…but RWUS seems to be losing his fire.  I used to count on his irrational screeds entertaining and stimulating messages to lull me out of highway hypnosis and remind moiself to pull over at the next rest stop and do some calisthenics.

 

*   *   *

Blog Department Of I’m Too Old For This…Except When I’m Not.

My most recent opportunity to see Right Wing Uncle Sam Billboard ® was last weekend, when I ventured north to help daughter Belle move from her tiny studio apartment into a roomier rental.  Belle is much cuter than but just as strong as the proverbial ox…

…as I was, at her age (well, the strong part).  But the Strong Young People ® who were promised to help Belle and I never materialized.  So it was my daughter and moiself, the latter feeling (and probably looking) more like the Decrepit Crypt Keeper than the Dynamic Couch Mover after two days of schlepping furniture and boxes up and down stairs and in and out of vans….

“I’m almost forty years older than you,” I huffed on Day 2, trying (and failing) to find a handhold on one end of a very heavy and extremely softly upholstered (read: slippery) couch.  “I’m too old for this…I can’t do this anymore.”

“But, you *are* doing this,” Belle remarked.

Which caused moiself  to wonder, Who raised this smartass?

 

“You want the futon *where*?”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Reflections,
While Resting Outside An Apartment Building,
Between Bouts of Furniture Moving,
Watching People And Their Dogs Walk By

Aka, Dog Poo Haiku

I see them each day:
Patiently, or otherwise
waiting, bag in hand.

Before them it squats:
hindquarters raised; tail aloft;
butthole aquiver.

The owners stand by,
impassively accepting
their twice daily task.

I often wonder,
as the doggies deliver
a fresh poop package,

If their owners knew
what they’d be getting into
each day, without fail

This is what you do;
A primal identity:
Fetcher of feces.

They scoop, once again.
I smile, silently praising
our litterboxes.

 

*   *   *

 

Department Of Well, Duh
Sub Department Of It’s Nice To Give The “Florida Man” Headline A Break, And See
“Florida Woman Does BatShit Crazy Thing” For A Change

It seems that some Christian folks be losing their Jesus shit over a video clip of President #45’s “Spiritual Adviser…”

 

Yeah, I know, right?

 

Ahem…the President’s Spiritual Adviser Paula White, her arms shaking in Pentecostal fundy lunacy fervor, praying during her January 5 sermon to congregants at her City of Loony Tunes Destiny church in Apopka, Florida. In the clip, posted to Twitter by a group that monitors radical right wing organizations, White prays as Jesus instructed his followers to do,  [3] and urges her flock to “…Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

 

 

Well of course she doesn’t.  Instead, she blathers entreats her supernatural friends:

“In the name of Jesus, we command all satanic pregnancies
to miscarry right now.
We declare that anything that’s been conceived in satanic wombs
that it’ll miscarry, it will not be able to carry forth
any plan of destruction, any plan of harm.”

Why is this so offensive and astonishing for some people?  Yeah, yeah, there is the flaming hypocrisy of a Pentecostal preacher who opposes abortion calling for her deity to abort pregnancies of people she deems evil….  [4]

But, really: is this surprising?

My well-known and ongoing critique of religion is evident on these (cyber) pages.  I also count religious believers among my family and friends – people I love, admire and respect (the people themselves – not necessarily the origins and contents of their religious beliefs).   However, unlike Penty Preacher Paula And Her Fundy Fans,   [5]  these people’s beliefs, like the religious beliefs and practices of most contemporary American Christians, are informed and constrained by modernity.

Whether or not what I will call these MCs – modern (moderate?) Christians – realize this, and whether or not MCs consider their beliefs and practices to be an authentic interpretation and application of their scriptures, they simply do not believe nor practice as their religious ancestors did.  Many of the MCs’ fundamentalist fellow Christians criticize them for this ( “Cafeteria Christians,”   [6]  anyone?)

But this Happy Apostate is glad that MCs give themselves license to resolve their cognitive dissonance by declaring that certain of their scriptures are meant to be allegorical or somehow do not apply in the present day (even though the scriptures themselves say no such thing).

Look: I’m glad that most MCs do not heed Jesus’s advice to demonstrate signs of their belief by handling snakes and scorpions and drinking poison  [7]   because Jesus has given them power over such things and assures them that “nothing shall by any means hurt you.”  Even so, the practice persists: a professor of psychology at UTC, who has for 25+ years studied and documented serpent-handling among Christians documents over 100 deaths of sincere believers (this is in our times, not the 1700s) from snake bites and drinking poison.

I’m also tickled several shades of apostate pink that, despite their Jesus warning them,

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.
For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away,
not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law
until everything is accomplished”
 
(Matt: 5 17-18)

most MCs pick-and-choose among the 613 commandments of their god.

I’ve no problem with MCs who heed the commandment to respect their god’s name (Lev. 22:32). I’m *really* happy that MCs ignore the commandments to kill non-believers (John 15:6; Deut 13; 2 Chron 15) and people who work on the sabbath (Exodus 35) and stubborn and rebellious sons (Deut. 21) and those who curse or blaspheme (Lev. 24) or have consensual non-marital sex ( Deut . 22 & Lev. 20) or….

I’m pleased when you MCs find ways to live peaceful and useful lives that help and not harm others, even as I’m gob-smacked by your naivete – e.g., your being shocked when a fundy preacher calls for your god to end the pregnancies of perceived enemies.  Because even the robes of modernity cannot clothe the naked nuttiness of the primitive, pre-science, blood sacrifice-based foundation of Christian theology.

Without regurgitating a tract-worthy summation you had to memorize in seventh grade confirmation class (or one which a friend or coworker felt obliged to “share” with you); without falling back on the centuries of Church theology that tell you how you’re supposed to see things, try to explain even one aspect of classic Christian theology.  The “Fall leading to Original Sin leading to separation from god leading to reconciliation and redemption only through the death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus (who, according to the Doctrine of the Trinity, was actually the afore-mentioned god).”

Try explaining that to a ten year old.  Or, to yourself:

“Okay, it’s like this: God’s own child, who was fathered by God Himself and who is/was that same God, according to the doctrine of the Trinity (so, yeah, God impregnated His own mother)…


uh, anyway, moving right along, God killed God’s own child  (committed suicide, actually, since the Trinity means that Jesus is God) as the ultimate blood/animal sacrifice, which was the only way to appease God’s anger for something God allowed the humans He created to do (and in fact knew that they would do, since God is all-knowing)…


and although this God *is* (of course and by definition) all-powerful, this God couldn’t accomplish this appeasement in any other way…and believing all of this is the only way to God.”

 

 

Of course #45’s “Spiritual Advisor” said what she said.  Even way back in the 1700s, enlightened thinkers warned political leaders and common folk alike of the dangers of the irrationality of religion:

“Those who can make you believe absurdities,
can make you commit atrocities.”

( Voltaire,  “Questions sur les miracles,” 1765 )

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [8]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

Vegan Casseroles, by Julie Hasson
Recipe:  Pale Ale Stew

My rating: 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [9]

*   *   *

May your habits and willpower peacefully coexist;
May your pet waste disposal routines inspire poetic masterpieces;
May you never be too old to help my your child move furniture;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Which I do several times a year to visit daughter Belle, who lives and works there.

[2] Some of the favorite targets of the billboard’s founder.

[3] According to Matthew 5:44.

[4] Read: opposing the president. She also prays during her sermon for the “superior blood of Jesus” break “any strange winds that have been sent…against our President.”

[5] Sounds like a Lawrence Welk Show side act, eh?

[6] “Cafeteria Christians” is a derogatory term used by conservative Christians to critique the beliefs and practices of more liberal Christians who choose which doctrines and scriptures they will follow literally, and which they will not.

[7] Mark 16 and Luke 10

[8] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) once recipe from one book.

[9]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who’d eat anything, would like this.
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

 

The Menfolk I’m Not Controlling

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Department FYI In Case you Didn’t Already Know/Suspect,
I Am A Naughty Person

Dateline: last week, out to lunch at a favorite restaurant of mine.  After two large glasses of liquid (water and iced tea)…well, when nature calls, who am I not to answer?  When I enter the women’s restroom I have the place to moiself; a mere thirty seconds later there is a small line – just three women – waiting for the accommodations.  I hold the stall door open for the lucky gal at the front of the line, a woman with friendly, brightly shining eyes peeking above a medical mask she is wearing.  She thanks me, and as I head for the sink she calls out, “Have a good one.”

It was all I could do to stop myself from blurting out, “Thanks – I just did!”   [1]

 

*   *   *

Department Of Would Everybody Please Stop Saying This?

Dateline: Tuesday, circa 6:50 am. Listening to the most recent episode of one of my favorite podcasts, actor and science communication advocate Alan Alda’s Clear and Vivid. This episode features guest Dr. Lisa Kaltenegger, an Austrian Astronomer, professor, and head of Cornell University’s Carl Sagan Institute.

In Clear and Vivid: Lisa Kaltenegger: Looking for Life on Other Earths, host Alda interviews Dr. Kaltenegger about her professional and personal interests, how she got to be doing what she is doing, and her passion for communicating science to others.  Here are some snippets from Kaltenegger’s Cornell website bio:

Lisa Kaltenegger is the Director of the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell and Associate Professor in Astronomy. Her research focuses on exploring new worlds orbiting other stars…. She is a world-leading expert in modeling potential habitable worlds and their detectable spectral fingerprint….  Kaltenegger serves among others on the National Science Foundation’s Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee (AAAC)….

(snip snip) It goes on to list many more committees, awards and prizes, even an asteroid named after Kaltenegger.  Then, this, which caught my attention. Her book title echoed what seems to be the common question or even meme when it comes to searching for life, whether sentient or merely existent, beyond our planet:

Her book Are we alone in the universe?” has been published in…..

Moiself  loved the interview. However, I hate (the phrasing of) that damn question, and was disappointed that Kaltenegger chose it for her book title…and also that she used the phrase at least once more – as did Alda, if I remember correctly – during her interview.

Are We Alone In The Universe? ® is used by people, from professional astronomers to sci fi geeks aficionados, as some kind of guidepost disguised as a question – as if answering that question is a prime directive or reason for why we (humans) might be interested in searching for life beyond our planet. 

Are we alone in the universe?

 

 

No no no no no no.

The question might be relevant – or accurate – if it were posed by a single person, stranded on the proverbial desert island or mountain top after a full-scale nuclear war, multiple asteroid strike, or other catastrophe which could justifiably cause a person to think that they might be the sole survivor on the planet.

But, other than that, the *we* question answers  (well, it refutes) itself.

No: by definition, *we* are not alone.  There are seven billion plus Earthlings – I hardly consider that *alone* on any scale.  But, forget for a moment Earth’s astronomically boggling number of human infestation residents.  All y’all need is one other person to make a me into a *we* (or a y’all).

I know, I know; the question is meant to summon the idea of whether or not we Terrans are the only sentient species in the galaxy/nearby planetary systems), along with the proposition that if we know there is another *we* (“them”?), we will…no, there it goes again – *we* will not feel so lonely?

Just who, I’d like to know, is feeling lonely in the cosmos?  There is plenty of loneliness to go around on Earth – some mental health professionals talk about a loneliness epidemic despite (or because of) our social media/”connected” age.  However, I truly doubt that anyone’s personal or existential loneliness crisis is caused by thinking that they are not, in their lifetime, going to know if the galaxy is populated with not just earthlings but also Martians or Enceladusians  [2]  or Proxima Centaurians….

There are Are. So. Many. Reasons. to be interested in whether or not there are biological life forms outside of our planet – the same reasons for wondering about any natural phenomenon. These reasons – our primal, driving curiosity to learn more about the natural world – are why we have science.  What is this?  How does it “work” and how did it come to be the way it is, and is there more, and…?

Yo, all, you Persons Doing Science ®, whom I admire more than I can say – keep up the good work!  And maybe please kinda wouldya consider dropping the Are We Alone? claptrap?  The search for knowledge needs no hyperbolic, quasi-query justification.

Speaking of important and/or existential questions about the universe, maybe I should take a poll.  Am I the only person bothered by this?

If so, maybe I’ll shut up about it.

 

*   *   *

Department Of And One More Thing…

At the end of his Clear and Vivid podcasts, Alda asks his guests seven questions that are directly or tangentially related to the topic of communication.  The content of the questions has varied over the years of the podcast, and has included queries such as

* What do you wish you really understood?

* What do you wish other people understood about you?

* How do you stop a compulsive talker?

* How do you tell someone they have their facts wrong?

* What, if anything, would make you end a friendship?

* How do you start a conversation with a stranger sitting next to you at a dinner party?

 There is a new batch of questions this year, but one “old” question made the cut:

* What is the strangest question anyone has ever asked you?

Dr. Kaltenegger said that one of the strangest questions she ever got was,

“So, *really,* YOU are a scientist?
I always expected them to look very differently.”

Kaltenegger and Alda both laughed when she shared that anecdote, then Alda told Kaltenegger “…I hear that too often from women scientists – the stereotype precedes them.”  Kaltenegger she found the incident funny; she had been giving a lunchtime talk in a church in Germany, and the question came from a priest who approached her afterward,:

  “…he meant it completely non-offensive; he was just like super-excited to see somebody who didn’t look like the textbook version,
but he was like, “Are you *suuuure*?’
And I was like, ‘Yup, I’m pretty sure I’m a scientist….’ ”   

What a truly odd question: “Are you sure you REALLY are ___ (whomever/ whatever you are)? “

I keep thinking of someone going to work one day, then suddenly looking around and thinking, “Hey, what am I doing here, in this laboratory, wearing this lab coat?”  Or, “Why am I looking through this telescope – where am I?  Oh, I must be A Scientist ®.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Life Is Tough But It’s Even Tougher If You’re Stupid
Chapter 2.789 in a series

This rumination is related to last week’s blog post on Chanel Miller, the writer who was raped by the Stanford student/athlete.  [3]    Specifically, moiself finds my brain coming back to Miller’s profound query/accusation about social mores and attitudes about men and woman and rape and “consent” –

“When a woman is assaulted, one of the first questions people ask is, ‘Did you say no?’ This question assumes the answer was always yes, and that it is her job to revoke the agreement. To defuse the bomb she was given.

But why are they allowed to touch us until we physically fight them off?
Why is the door open until we have to slam it shut?”

Why is the door open until we have to slam it shut?” –  the poster child phrase for the view that women have to be in charge of the “gatekeeping” of both (heterosexual) male and female sexuality.

The “bomb” Miller speaks of is the mere existence of women’s sexuality. Until recently, both boys and girls have grown up with centuries of implications or downright declarations that boys and men are easily swept away by desire when in the presence of attractive females, and are ultimately “unable to control themselves” when it comes to sex. Thus, the burden of guarding and maintaining safe, respectable sexual relationships and conduct falls upon girls and women.

 

 

I remember hearing that festering-turd-of-a-social-norm from a boy, during one of the sex education classes my family’s Lutheran Church held for junior high students.   [4] During a class discussion he championed the when-it-comes-to-sex-guys-just-can’t-control-themselves line.

This immediately frosted my bony 7th grade ass,  [5]  especially when I considered a similar statement made by another boy, which I’d heard earlier in the week, in my social studies class.  The class had somehow got into a discussion re the dearth of women in politics, and Stupid Too-Much-Yardage-Between-His-Goal-Posts  Boy #2 began to blather on about how, well yeah, maybe a Third World country like India can allow Indira Ghandi to be prime minister, but that will never happen in the USA, due to the “fact” that “everybody knows” women cannot or should not be in positions of political control, because “…they aren’t as emotionally strong as men –  women can’t control themselves.

 

 

Ah – patriarchal rationality to the rescue!  Menfolk are in control of themselves…except when they are not.

And self-control, as “everybody knows,” is or should be one of the hallmarks of leadership. If you can’t trust a person not to play grab-ass with the nearest person he finds attractive, you obviously shouldn’t trust him with his finger on the nation’s nuclear button.  Clearly, the logical position should be that men are unfit for any positions of power and should be closely monitored for the sake of civilized society.

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [6]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:
V Street: 100 Globe-Hopping on the Cutting Edge of Vegetable Cooking,

by Rich Landau & Katy Jacoby

Recipes:

* Scallion Pancakes with Citrus Ponzu
* Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Black Vinegar

My ratings:

For  Scallion Pancakes with Citrus Ponzu

For Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Black Vinegar

 

 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [7]

*   *   *

May you hold the door open (and keep your smartasss mouth shut) for kind strangers
in public restrooms;
May you be in charge of controlling yourself, and no one else;
May you be sure that you REALLY ARE…whatever it is you are;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Even though I actually didn’t. Poop, that is, which is what was being implied…is this TMI?

[2] A moon of Saturn, which is included by SETI astronomer Seth Shostak on his 6 Most Likely Places for Alien Life in the Solar System due to the presence of frozen water geyers on Enceladus’s  surface

[3] Y’all remember him – the Stanford student who raped an unconscious – practically comatose – woman by a dumpster… but he swims really fast, so, give him a break, folks!

[4] As part of their confirmation curricula, one entire quarter devoted to the subject!  Pretty progressive for 1972 or whenever it was.

[5] And, how shall I say it, an “interesting conversational exchange” ensued.

[6] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) once recipe from one book.

[7]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who’d eat anything, would like this.
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

 

The Sample I’m Not Accepting

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Department Of Is This The First Bad Pun Of The New Year
Or The Worst Bad Pun Of The New Year?

 

 

So, if you identify as pansexual, would the above be an acceptable threesome?

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Keep Calm And Just Walk On By
While Looking Down At Your Cellphone
(You Know, Like Everyone Else Does These Days)

Dateline: earlier this week. Moiself had time to kill before an appointment, so I went to a nearby, large indoor mall.  It used to be *the* mall in our county, and I hadn’t been there in a couple of years… Wow. I can actually say that.

Anyway.  I am walking as I usually do in a mall: expeditiously, as if I have an Important Destination ® in mind.  I am passing a series of – what are they called, those mini-merchants, those booths in the walkways between the main stores on either side?  Kiosks? You know the ones, they hawk sunglasses and calling cards and everything in-between and upside down….

Anyway #2:  As I pass one of those kiosks an overdressed, hipster-ishy young man steps from behind the kiosk’s counter, holds out some kind of…sample, and says, [1]

“Something for your face, ma’am?”

 

 

Now then. If you are a young (-er than me) male, unless your name is Tex and/or you are wearing a cowboy hat and spurs, please don’t call me Ma’am.  Yep, that preference of mine makes it difficult for a stranger to address me (and if you are a stranger, why are you trying to address me?), but there you have it.

Anyway #3: “Something for your face, ma’am?”  My first instinct is to blurt out, “Are you implying that my face needs ‘something’?

I somehow manage to quash that instinct. I learned years ago that most people should think twice about asking a question if they don’t want to hear the answer.  Keeping in mind the time-tested wisdom about which Dionne Warwick sang, I just walk on by.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sports Team Names That Have Got To Go

Dateline: Later that same day, 1:45 pm, having a late lunch at a McMenamins Pub. I am seated in a corner booth almost directly under a wide screen TV mounted on the wall; the TV is at an awkward angle for viewing if you are seated where I am seated, and the server apologizes for this.  I don’t mind – I came to eat, not to watch a hockey game or whatever.

Near the end of my meal I glance up at the TV and see a headline on the bottom of the screen –a sentence moiself’s brain doesn’t register as being related to sports news:

Predators Hire John Hynes As Head Coach

PREDATORS have their own team ?!?!?!

I don’t follow hockey and have never heard of a sports team with that most unfortunate (IMHO) moniker, so for one gloriously short and moronic moment, I’m thinking that a group of priest pedophiles has hired a high profile lawyer…and what’s with those guys wearing ice skates in the background, and…oh…never mind…

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of “Best ____” End-Of-The-Year Lists

You can’t avoid reading about them, or even listening to them, if you are a radio or podcast listener. What with the changing-of-the-decade aspect to the year 2020, list-makers – from news pundits to music critics to podcasts hosts – have the chance to not only compile their best/favorite episodes of the year, but also of the decade. 

I recently listened to a Best Of TED Radio Hour podcast.  The Source of Creativity, which originally aired in 2014, poses a – if not *the* – prime question about creativity:

Is creativity something we are born with or can we learn it?

Questions like that make my brain hurt.

 

 

The episode featured excerpts from three different TED talks by three different speakers, on the subject of creativity.  “How do you get over writer’s block?” by musician Sting, gave way to Charles Limb, a doctor studying the way the brain creates and perceives music, who spoke on “What does a creative brain look like?”  By the time the third speaker, British education specialist Sir Kenneth Robinson, ruminated re “How do schools kill creativity?”   [2]  I found my mind wandering (this happens to us Creative Folks ® , you know) in the direction of contemplating my current/ongoing creative excursion: culinary pursuits.

I once heard cooking described as performance art. Those of you who know moiself, either personally or through this humble high tech scribble fest,  [3]   may recall that performance art is something I have totally trashed for which I have a little respect (“Oh, I see…you can’t actually do anything or make art, and aren’t willing to put in the discipline to acquire artistic talent and skills, but you can ‘perform’ a facsimile of it.”)  

Cooking as art?  Certainly, it can be.

 

 

Apart from the glut of television/streaming cooking shows, which can range from entertaining and motivating illuminations of craft/technique to dreadful, self-aggrandizing platforms for the host chef’s expansive and a blustering ego, I’ve never considered cooking, and the creation of meals and edible   [4]  delights, as a *performance* art. However, with my self-imposed sabbatical from fiction-for-publication-writing, I’ve come to see cooking and meal planning as a major creative outlet.

What I like about this particular art form is that it is recyclable and consumable.  When I experiment with a new curry combination I am not crafting an object  –  e.g., a painting or sculpture – to be a representation or an abstraction of a separate object or concept.   I am making the curry itself.  The dish will either be consumed and hopefully enjoyed, or ignored/disliked /discarded into the compost pile or garbage disposal…unlike the painting which may hang on someone’s wall until it migrates to the landfill (or the curry-themed short story collection which ends up on the remainders table at the bookstore).

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [5]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

The Silver Palate Goodtimes Cookbook, by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins

Recipe:  Nada.

Really. Flipping through the book’s pages, which I hadn’t done in years, I realized there was nothing I wanted to make.  Butter butter butter butter, and did I mention butter?

I keep this cookbook because a dear friend gave it to me and MH, along with the other Silver Palate cookbook, as a wedding present. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I would have – and did – make some of the recipes from the SP books.  But I don’t cook with those ingredients anymore. And didn’t feel like going through all the modifications to make the recipes palatable to my taste and health and sense of ethics….

About the latter: the SP cookbook recipes are dairy-and-meat-heavy, and this homey don’t play that game. It’s hard to address this issue without getting up on the you-know-what,

 

See?

 

…But please, watch the National Pork Producers Council’s chief veterinarian Liz Wagstrom squirm, during her interview on the latest 60 Minutes segment, “Is overuse of antibiotics on farms worsening the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria?”

The episode focuses on how and why public health officials investigating a drug-resistant salmonella outbreak were thwarted from visiting farms that provided pigs to contaminated slaughterhouses. Watch the veterinarian squirm on camera; try to imagine the idealistic young person interested in science and animals that she likely once was, now reduced to alternately shilling like a snake-oil salesman (she’s a veterinarian working for a pork lobbying group, for fuck’s sake) – and deflecting like a politician, for the unethical and barbaric factory meat industry.  Watch, and for the 659th time (if you’ve been paying attention) ask yourself, Do I really want to support the cruel and corrupt system that is industrial farm meat production?

Once again, I digress.

I keep these SP cookbooks in my collection, and always will.  They still make me happy, just to see them up on the shelf, and think of the good times with the person who gave them to us.  So, I appreciate the books and the people they remind me of…and I move on to the next cookbook in the list:

Tahini & Turmeric, by Vicky Cohen & Ruth Fox

Recipe: Saffron-infused Cauliflower Soup with Sumac Oil

My rating: 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

 

Recipe Rating Refresher  [6] 

*   *   *

Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

It’s that time of the year again. As has become a tradition much maligned anticipated in our neighborhood, moiself will be hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.   [7]   Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

Of course you can.

We’ve come full circle: say goodbye to the Partridges in my pear tree until later this year.

*   *   *

May your new year be filled with good puns (that is not an oxymoron)
and bad puns (that is not a redundancy);
May your musings on the source of creativity not stifle your imagination;
May you hold gentle thoughts for young men whose job it is to approach older women with
something for your face;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Presumable to moiself as there is no one else in the vicinity.

[2] This talk had a rather provocative title, as it starts with an assumption, not a fact, as a given – that schools *do* kill creativity, and thus the issue is *how* schools do that, not if they do or don’t.

[3] Aka, blog.

[4] ‘Tis unfortunate, IMHO, that because the term edible has come to be associated with cannabis use (at least in this weed-legal state), I feel compelled to add a disclaimer: my edibles are not “edibles.”

[5] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[6]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who’d eat anything, would like this.
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

[7] In our pear tree.

The Question I’m Not Understanding

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Department Of Memories Apropos Of Nothing,
Which Nevertheless Arise In The Middle Of The Night

Dateline: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, when I worked in an OB/GYN practice near Stanford Hospital.

Moiself  had been with the practice about four months, and had begun to be familiar with the regular patients and would often know, without having to look at their chart, what they were in for (when they had an appointment) or what they were calling for.

We had a patient from Persia – i.e. Iran  [1] – who had been trying to get pregnant, without success, for almost a year, and she and her husband had begun the initial rounds of fertility testing. One morning we received a phone call from the husband. The office manager answered the call and handed it off to moiself, since I was the health educator/medical assistant. The man’s English was very heavily-accented; I had to ask him three times to repeat his name. The office manager recognized the name when I spoke it aloud – Mr. Mizrahi, what may I help you with? Excuse me, what was that?  She listened to the brief conversation with increasing shock and disbelief and waved her arms to get my attention as I walked toward the massive Wall of Charts ®, searching for the wife’s records. The office manager had surmised what Mr. Mizrahi was calling about; she banged her forehead against her desk when she heard me say, to a man who was asking for the results of his semen analysis,

“Come again?”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Deja Vu All Over Again

Every morning at breakfast I do a cryptogram puzzle   [2]  from my Cryptogram-A-Day Book. This particular book of cryptograms consists of thoughts from philosophers, scientists, and other “great thinkers,” and proverbs and adages and sayings from the fables of Aesop to the koans of Zen Buddhism.  Twice within four days, my first thought, upon solving the respective quotes for August 4 and August 8, was, “Gee, I wonder why this one reminds me of #45?   [3]

“The greatest of faults is to be conscious of none.”
Thomas Carlyle

“Wise men talk because they have something to say;
fools talk because they have to say something.”
Plato

*   *   *

Department Of Things That Make Me Sad

“New technologies – robots, software, artificial intelligence – have already destroyed more than 4 million US jobs, and in the next 5-10 years, they will eliminate millions more. A third of all American workers are at risk of permanent unemployment. And this time, the jobs will not come back.”
(Andrew Yang, former lawyer and internet/healthcare/education entrepreneur, philanthropist, founder of Venture For America, and Democratic presidential candidate)

Check out, if you haven’t already, the Andrew Yang For President website.  Specifically, check out the menu heading for his policies.  Yang has the most detailed proposals on the widest variety of issues that I’ve ever seen from any (would-be) public servant, from reducing student loan burden to campaign finance reform to modernizing military spending to “reverse boot camp” for returning GIs to border security and immigration reform…so many, that they are divided into topical groups:

* Economy/Jobs & Labor

* Civil Rights/Criminal Justice

* Democracy/Governance

* Healthcare

* Environment

* Education

* Family/Social Cohesion

* Foreign Policy

* Immigration

* Miscellaneous/Fun    [4]

Unlike so many other candidates (and this is, I’m sure, directly related to his background in business and education and NOT politics), Yang just doesn’t have call out problems, he offers solutions, which he backs with evidence.

I first heard of Yang in January, when he was interviewed on the Freakonomics podcast “Why Is This Man Running For President?” (#362, 1-9-19).  He reminds me of a Paul Revere figure, riding through the streets and calling out to us…essentially alone…because no one else sees that The British Are Coming – in this case, “The British” are, among other issues, the impending crisis re jobs lost to AI/robots and automation. Yang’s clear-headed reasoning and innovative (yet common sense, when you think about it) proposals got me to change my mind on the UBI (Universal Basic Income) concept – a concept that is so misunderstood and therefore unlikely to fly with the Average Joe ®  [5]   that Yang himself tacitly acknowledges this by calling his proposal the “Freedom Dividend.”

So, whence the department of things that make me sad? Because I know what’ll likely happen. When people from outside the Republican-Democrat duopoly , people with valuable experience, clear thinking, fresh ideas re complicated dilemmas, and no history of entangled agendas analyze our questions and offer feasible answers, we tend to dismiss them as dreamers and their ideas as impractical.  We say we want people who’ll tell us the truth and find bold yet workable solutions, but it seems most of us really can’t handle it.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things That Make Me Sad
In Ways That The Word Sad Just Can’t Cut It

August 3, another day, another mass shooting, another long time/treasured friend suffers the death of a child…

Wait, WTF was that?!?!?!

How shamefully easy it is for moiself  to be so matter-of-fact about the former and so distraught by the latter. The mass shooting (excuse me, make that plural) last week barely registered in my mind as I was trying to comprehend the shock and grief of dear, longtime friend SGD, as she and her husband and daughter mourn the unexpected death of their 28 year old son and brother.

 

 

Remember, I told son K and daughter Belle, although I’m usually not a stickler about most Life Things ®, please get this Rule Of Life thing correct: you’re supposed to bury us, not the other way around.

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [6]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

 Forks Over Knives, edited by Gene Stone.

 Recipes:

* Avocado Dressing
* Cucumber Tomato Salad
* Red Potatoes and Kale 

My ratings, the same for all three: 

 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [7]

*   *   *

 

May  we remember to talk only when we have something to say;
May we not ask for the truth unless we are prepared to deal with it;
May we all, once again and forever, remember to love ’em while we got ’em;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] During that time (mid-late 1980s), due to the volatile US-Iran political relations – or just a strong cultural preference – people from Iran would often refer to themselves as Persian, rather than as Iranian.

[2] A cryptogram in this sense is a word puzzle consisting of a short piece of coded text – substitution cypers, where each letter is replaced by a different letter.

[3] Aka D—– tRump, our Commander in Disbelief Chief.

[4] My favorite category, which includes such topics as “The Penny Makes No Cents” (the reasons, from environmental to practical, to get rid of pennies), “Robo-calling Text Lines” (a one step method to report Robo Callers to the FCC), and “Making Taxes Fun”….

[5] a Joe that is likely to reconsider UBI when he loses his retail/truck driving job to online shopping/self-driving trucks and robots and drones and….

[6] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook 9at least) one recipe from one book.

[7]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin (a character in The Office who would eat anything) would like this.  

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

The Ears I’m Not Growing

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Department Of Best Answer Ever To That Particular Question

Dateline: Wednesday afternoon, Tacoma, WA. The chef of a hotel/restaurant establishment had acquired a whole halibut, weight approximately 60 lbs.  My daughter Belle is his Kitchen Assistant/Assistant Manager.

Chef:  Do you think you can skin a fish?

Belle: “Let’s find out.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Need To Grow More Ears

It’s no wonder that the phrase “everyone has a podcast” has become a Twitter punch line…  podcasts — with their combination of sleek high tech and cozy, retro low — are today’s de rigueur medium…. There are now upward of 700,000 podcasts, according to the podcast production and hosting service Blubrry…. There is also a compendium, published by Podcast Junkies, titled “The Incredibly Exhaustive List of Podcasts about Podcasting.
(NY Times 7-18-19, Have We Hit Peak Podcast )

 

*   *   *

Department Of Why Terry Gross (Or Any Other Interviewer)
Is In No Danger Of Losing Her Job To Moiself

 

Good to know – now I can sleep at night.

 

Subject:  the Fresh Air  interview with TV critic Emily Nussbaum. In the interview, TG talks with her guest about Nussbaum’s recently released collection of essays, “I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution.” The book includes a provocatively titled essay, described by TG as

…one of the most interesting essays I’ve read, that is about,
“What Should We Do With The Art Of Terrible Men?

 (excerpt from the interview edited by moiself for length, my emphases):

GROSS: So you make the point… decent people sometimes create bad art, and amoral people can and have created transcendent works. Was there a period where you just thought the answer was simple – judge the work, not the person?

NUSSBAUM: Yes….I’ve been thinking a lot about this because…when I was in college, I specifically had a strong sense of resentment at the idea of any kind of censorship…the feeling that I had about it was, you can’t tell me what I can look at.
And I had this general sense that I really wanted to expose myself to the broadest range of art – anything – even if it would shake me up or upset me or traumatize me....I feel like that shaped my attitudes as a modern person….

Now then.

Moiself realizes that hyperbole is the default mode for many writers and other artsy folk when talking about their work,  [1]   and that such people often take a license with certain words, especially when talking about their artistic sensibilities. Still, I kept waiting for TG to interrupt her guest, with at least some variant of the gut-reaction question that immediately sprung to my mind when I heard Nussbaum say that she’d wanted to expose herself to art which would traumatize her.

traumatize verb (trau·​ma·​tize | \ ˈtrȯ-mə-ˌtīz  also ˈtrau̇-  \ )

Definition of traumatize
: to inflict trauma upon.

trauma noun (trau·​ma | \ ˈtrȯ-mə  also ˈtrau̇-  \ )

Definition of trauma
: an injury (such as a wound) to living tissue caused by an extrinsic agent
: a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury

Really?

I wanted to ask Nussbaum the not-quite-rhetorical questions which might have made her storm out of the interview in righteous indignation, due to their implied criticism of her word usage and comprehension skills:

“Uh…do you know what the word traumatize means?
Have you ever actually been traumatized – not just upset, but traumatized?  My guess is no, or you would not use the word so…unceremoniously. 

I mean, who in their right mind wants to be traumatized, for their personal artistic growth, or for any reason?

 

 

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?   I enjoyed the interview.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things Every Podcaster Should Know
Aka, Reasons To Stop Listening To A Podcast

I frequently write about podcasts I listen to, and sometimes recommend certain episodes or a podcast that on the whole I find interesting, provocative, entertaining or combination thereof.  I get recommendations for podcasts to add to my feed from MH, and a few friends, and of course, the podcasts themselves. With 700,000 out there (to cite the NY Times article) I should have plenty of material to choose from, when, for example, I’m out of new episodes  [2]  but want to listen to a podcast when I’m exercising or doing some other kind of brain-dampening task.

Stuff You Should Know was one of those recommended podcasts (but, recommended how/when/by whom, I forget).   SYSK is produced by two of the writers from How Stuff Works – hey, I like knowing Stuff ®!  I figured it would be a match.

I tried it, over a year ago, for a couple of weeks, then deleted SYSK from my podcast feed. I just couldn’t get past the hosts’ voices/vocal mannerisms, interplay and attitudes, which I found too casual, too seemingly non-scripted, and just plain irritating. It was if the show consisted of two slacker dudes who’d stumbled upon some recording equipment, and “…Like, hey, we can do a podcast.”

A couple of weeks ago, on a day where I was listening to music while picking berries and also weeding the blueberry and raspberry patches, I decided I wanted to listen to a podcast..but, alas, there were no new podcast episodes on my phone (even podcasters, it seems, take summer vacations and play reruns).  Too lazy to do research to check out a new podcast, I thought I’d give SYSK another chance. For several days in a row I listened to a few SYSK  episodes, and realized I still found the hosts’ voices and general show construction to be annoying. However, such irritations could be overlooked, I thought, should the show’s content be interesting enough. And it was, for a few days.

Then came the episode, What Makes a One Hit Wonder?  How could that not be entertaining? A fascinating and nostalgia-invoking phenomenon, a One Hit Wonder classically refers to a singer and/or band, either newbies or long time musical veterans, who have one hit song, but without any comparable follow-up hits. The hosts were shambling along with their ruminations, including the psychology of OHW ( is it better to have had had a hit and then fade away and deal with the subsequent ego blows, or not have had a chart-topper at all…)

All fine and dandy, until they decided to apply the One Hit Wonder ® label to other genres. Like fiction writers…like, Harper Lee and J.D. Salinger.  Or, to use the SYSK hosts’ oh-so-literary introduction, “Uh, what about books?”

They proceeded to ramble back and forth about how Lee and Salinger were known for one great book each – respectively, To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye – but then (according to the hosts) those writers just kinda faded away, and no one knows why[3]

Both authors, Lee and Salinger,  egregiously mischaracterized by SYSK as One Hit Wonders, in fact left quite the public paper trail when it came to their respective decisions to remove themselves from the public eye.

I don’t know if anyone has an answer, why she never wrote again.
(SYSK host, on Harper Lee)

Actually, many, many people have “an answer” and “know why,” and you (SYSK hosts) could too, if you’d bothered to do the slightest bit of research instead of just pulling some book titles from your ass off the tops of your heads and essentially saying, These are the only books we know of by these authors, so they are examples of literary one hit wonders.

Although she wrote articles before and after To Kill a Mockingbird, the publicity-shy Lee refused subsequent publishing offers, famously saying that “she’d said what she wanted to say” (in a previous blog post, I wrote about my disgust when Lee was mentally incapacitated and a subsequent TKAM  book was published without her permission).  [4]

Both before and after the life-altering (and privacy-destroying) success of Catcher in the Rye in 1951, J.D. Salinger authored several novellas and short story collections. He was a prolific writer. His popular Franny and Zooey stories spent 26 weeks at the top of The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers list in 1961-62. One hit wonder? Pleeeeze.

Inexcusably sloppy “reporting.” Yo, Stuff You Should Know, here is some stuff you should really, really know: don’t pull something out of your ass as if it’s a fact, or if you think it illustrates another point you were trying to make, when you haven’t actually investigated it.  Do your research, or turn off your microphone.

*   *   *

Department Of Those Who Deserve Airspace

No surprise, I (once again) deleted SYSK from my podcast feed. And then, there are the podcasts which have earned my loyalty.  Including the entertaining if inaccurately titled, Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone.   [5]

Moiself highly recommends the most recent episode (#54, on Writer’s Block). The Nobody… episodes always feature something to do with the title (Poundstone and cohost Adam Felber interview an “authority” on various subjects of interest to Poundstone), but my favorite parts of the podcasts are the recurring segments, such as Poundstone’s and Felber’s movie reviews, which consist of them recommending whether or not listeners should see a currently released sequel movie by reviewing the original movie (or a totally different movie that Poundstone declares has something in common with the sequel).

During the end of episode 54, host Poundstone and her cohost and producers and writers put on another of their recurring segments: the radio skit, Ken LeZebnik’s America, in which a squabbling family goes on a road trip to some obscure yet significant location in the USA. This week the trip was to Clayton, NY, home of Thousand Island Dressing ®  . The mother and father take turns enthusing and griping in the front seat, while their obnoxious kids Timmy and Nelly argue in the back seat.  After an unfortunate stop for some food covered in Thousand Island Dressing® , followed by an even more unfortunate drive on a curvy road…Nelly’s fearful prediction comes true, as her brother Timmy begins to upchuck. All. Over. The. Car  . [6]

The sound effects begin at roughly 1:03:12 and go to 1:03:40, increasing in over-the-top authenticity, which matched my increasing amusement.  I haven’t laughed that hard – until I cried, literally – since the last time I saw the trying-on-bridesmaids-dresses-after-getting-food-poisoning scene in Bridesmaids.

 

Wouldn’t you rather see a cute sloth picture than a boy getting carsick?

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [7]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

The First Mess Cookbook, by Laura Wright

Recipe:  this is embarrassing…I cannot remember the name of the recipe I made from the book…

 

 

…and the book is in another locale, so I can’t look it up.  But, uh…I remember I liked it (and can recommend the entire cookbook)!

*   *   *

May you enjoy a life-enhancing, “let’s find out” experience;
May you take petty enjoyment from hearing juvenile barfing sound effects;
May you seriously rethink any desire you have to be Podcaster # 700,001;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] Which is why Fresh Air’s interview with writers – especially fiction writers, ahem – tend to be my least favorite shows.

[2] I don’t listen to every episode of every podcast, and sometimes delete without listening the episodes whose topics and/or guests I find uninteresting or “unworthy” in some other aspect.

[3] Not a verbatim account – I tried to find a transcript of the show (without forcing myself to listen to it again), but they offer no transcript on the SYSK website. When you have a rambling show, seemingly unscripted, I guess there isn’t much of a call for transcripts?

[4] Since the 1960 publication of TKAM, Harper Lee notoriously – and more importantly, consistently – refused to submit any of her other writings (or even admit that she had any) for publication. She said what she had to say on the subject, was her patient if terse response the few times she bothered to answer critics or fans who wanted “more.” If that wasn’t plain enough, she vowed that, “as long as I am alive any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood.”

[5] I listen to her, and, as Jesse Jackson would put it, I AM somebody!

[6] His vomiting is so wild and copious it cannot be contained in the roasting pan the ever-practical mother, voiced by Poundstone, brought along for just that purpose.

[7] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

The Summers I’m Not Forgetting

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Department Of My Daughter Is Better Than Your Daughter

Because your daughter didn’t hand paint these cooler-than-cool Vans high-tops for me!

Knowing of my fondness for cephalopods, and orange and purple, Belle designed and painted these, which I received in the mail this week as a belated Mother’s Day gift. Am I lucky – and is she talented – or what?

*   *   *

As I am writing this (Thursday afternoon), the second of the first round of the Democratic Party Presidential Candidate’s debates is just a couple of hours away.  Here’s my summation of the first debate, which was held Wednesday:

Of this Gang of Ten, there was just one candidate (whom I shall not name) who disappointed me: it was the guy who, although an experienced and seasoned politician, when the camera was first turned on him looked confused and a bit alarmed, as if he were trying to remain calm despite knowing that a weasel was crawling up his pant leg.

Other than that, I thought everyone had their moment(s) to shine, and that lesser known candidates, e.g. Hawaii military veteran Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, did particularly well.

So many people! So many ideas! So many white men ( I mean of course, so many men of pale color ) ! So much energy, and even smarts, and dreams and reality checks…instead of being frustrated by the sheer number of candidates I feel energized. There is a lot of passion and talent out there, whether or not it gets translated to The White House, I hope those people apply themselves in other areas of public service.

Moiself posted a version of these comments on Facebook, and although friends ventured a couple of guesses, no one has yet identified weasel up-the-pants dude.

My lips are sealed…which is a good thing  because my teeth are sharp. Now, point me back toward the podium.

*   *   *

I smelled them before I saw them, at a Manzanita Farmer’s Market fruit stand. I was in line for the black cherries; prior to that memory-inducing olfactory alert, I didn’t even know apricots were available. 

The Santa Ana (Southern California) home I lived in for the first 18 years of my life  [1]   was simple and small, but had a backyard which was a child’s summer paradise: a large, oval expanse of grass, bordered on three out of four sides by trees, trees, and more trees.

Is that reminiscence I smell?  Well, she is the driver…close your eyes and it’ll be over soon.

Behind the garage was a sticky-sappy pine tree, from whose hefty, needly canopy we could gain access to the top of the garage (which was a parentally forbidden, and therefore highly desirable, destination). Climbing even higher, we could spot the Anaheim Stadium halo which lit up whenever Jim Fregosi or another Angel ballplayer hit a home run, or see the fireworks show put on by Disneyland every summer night at 9:30. In the way back of the yard, by the fence bordering the fields belonging to “SAC” (Santa Ana College) were four apricot trees. Two more apricot trees grew on the east side of our backyard, and on the west side were a plum tree (also climbable and much less sticky than the pine tree), a lemon tree, and a pomegranate bush.

I grew up taking tree-ripened apricots for granted. My sisters and I would set up a croquet course on the backyard grass, and when I got to the rear stake of the course I’d reach up into the limbs of the nearest tree, find a ripe apricot, take a bite, and continue my turn.

Why fresh apricots have not become the go-to fruit for summer desserts has always been a mystery to me. Their flavor rivals (surpasses, IMHO) that of peaches and nectarines and other pit/stone fruits; apricots are both sweet and tart (“nectarous” as per one apricot-o-phile). Also, there is no easier fruit to work with:  [2]  you don’t have to peel them, and unlike peaches, the pit easily slips out when the apricot is ripe. Get your paring knife and just bisect the apricot along what I call its butt-crack line (or “clivage du derrière” as Julia Child would say),  [3] flip out the pit, and you’re good to go.

My birthday is in December; I never much cared for birthday cake but it seemed to be de rigueur –  you have a birthday and gawddammit, they’re gonna serve you cake.  One year, in one of her greatest feats of parenting, my mother surprised me by baking a “fresh” apricot pie for my birthday, made with apricots frozen minutes after she’d picked them the previous summer. She’d remembered something I’d forgotten – how, during that summer when she and I had made an apricot pie together, I’d gone on and on about how much I loved apricot pie and it was my favorite dessert and who made up the dumb rule that you have to have cake on your birthday….   Later, while canning apricots, she saved a batch of fresh apricots – she halved and pitted them and hid the plain, raw apricots in a couple of bags in the freezer (“I didn’t even know if that would work,” she said), and five months later I got my surprise birthday pie. From then on, it was apricot pie for me, every birthday…also a “homemade” Devil’s Food cake with vanilla icing  [4] – for the family members who just had to have cake.

I pity the fo – 

Yes…thanks, Mr. T, but as I was going to say, I pity the folks who have never tasted tree-ripened apricots, and who have only had access to the dried kind.

Apricots – which, BTW, my family pronounced using the long a version (APE-ri-cots) and which to this day sounds funny or pretentious to me pronounced with a short a (dictionaries lists both pronunciations as correct) –  are not a common fruit in terms of commercial availability.  Is it because they are difficult to grow – perhaps apricot trees are persnickety when it comes to climate and soil requirements?  To this day, even on the rare occasions moiself is able to find apricots in the grocery store or farmer’s market, I cannot bring myself to purchase them unless I can smell their apricot righteousness from three feet away.  Those undersized, rock-hard apricots found in most stores – which I once actually talked a stranger out of purchasing – are a pitiful substitute for the real thing.   [5]

Longtime observer of human behavior that moiself is. I am aware that my recollections of the delights of tree-ripened apricots is likely elevated by association with parallel pleasant memories. I can live with that.

The pot of gold at the end of my rainbow.

*   *   *

Department Of Writing Bad Jokes For A Good Stand-Up Comic

Not that that he asked me to do so, but…Ramy Youssef, are you listening?

Background: Ramy Youssef is an Arab-American (Egyptian descent), a Muslim, and a stand-up comic who plays a not-so-disguised version of himself on the hulu show, Ramy.

Dateline: Wednesday, circa 7:30 am, out for my morning walk; listening to a Fresh Air podcast. Host Terry Gross is interviewing Ramy Youssef; they are discussing a variety of topics specific to Youseff, such as being a stand-up comic who is an Arab-Muslim-American and, how, when he was younger, he realized his name is similar to Ramzi Yousef, one of the terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993

So, here’s my story for your next act, Ramy: you can riff on how, with your Arab-Muslim background, using the standard jargon for comics in, say, mentioning a previous performance that was not well received by the audience, could be a little dicey for you.  Specifically, you probably shouldn’t open your act by bounding onstage and saying,

“Hi, I’m Ramy Youssef, and last night I bombed in New York.”

You’re welcome.

It’s yours, Ramy, if you like. I’m expecting no residuals; attribution would be nice.

*   *   *

Department Of Natural Selection

Dateline: Monday morning circa 7:40 AM. I’m walking past a field and hear a rustling in the grass.  Looking down and to my left I behold a very excited/animated and scrawniest squirrel I’ve ever laid eyes upon. It is clearly alarmed by my presence, but instead of merely turning a few degrees in any direction and scampering away from me it runs in the same direction– it attempts to “flee” by paralleling my path. It turns its head toward me every few seconds, a look of terror on its scrawny face when it sees that I am still “following” it…then there is a small but audible thunk when, during one of those head turns, it runs headlong into a fence post.

The squirrel bounces off the post, careening toward a tree just behind the fence post. As it scampers up the tree I see it has the skinniest, most pathetic excuse for a tail I have ever seen on a squirrel.

Kinda like this, only worse.

Is it genetic, I wonder, or a disease, or maybe the result of being low on the squirrel totem pole (i.e. the tail has been “picked on” by more dominant squirrels)?

Feeling only slightly guilty for my laughter, I continue on my walk. Nope, I think to moiself, that one’s not gonna win the breeding lottery.

*   *   *

Department Of Is This The Sweetest Thing Or The Saddest Thing…Or, Just A Thing?

Dateline: Oregon coast, an early Friday evening.  I am walking up the main street of Manzanita. Walking toward me is a family:  a mother and six-ish year old daughter in front, followed by a father and middle grades-ish age son.  I catch a snippet of conversation as they pass me on the sidewalk: the mother leans sideways toward/speaks softly to her daughter, who has a crestfallen look on her face:

“I don’t know, sweetie, sometimes brothers get to be a certain age
and they just don’t want to hold your hand.”

 

This is why all brothers should be baby sloths.

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [6]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:
 Classic Indian Cooking, by Julie Sahni

Recipe:  Gobhi Moong (Mung Bean and Cauliflower Stew)

My rating: 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [7]

*   *   *

May you cherish whatever is your equivalent of an apricot memory;
May you always want to hold your brother’s or sister’s hand;
May you remember that calmly dealing with weasels is
an essential presidential qualification;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Save for two years in San Diego (my kindergarten and first grade years), due to my father’s job transfer, which my parents knew was temporary; thus, we rented out and later returned to our Santa Ana house.

[2] Okay, maybe blueberries are easier.

[3] Okay again, that may be a lie.

[4] In our family, and in 99.999% of families in the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s, I’d wager, “homemade” translated into using a Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines or other cake mix. No one made cakes from scratch. Alternatives were “boughten” cakes,  which were found in in the grocery store bakery.

[5] Yep, I’m the nut who judges your produce selection.  The guy said he’d never had an apricot before and I didn’t want him to have a bad first experience, so I steered him toward a u-pick farm instead.

[6] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[7]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin (a character from The Office who eat anything) would like this.  

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

 

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