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The Events I’m Not Recording

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Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

It’s that time of year again. As has become a much maligned anticipated in our ‘hood, moiself  is hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.    [1]

Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?   [2]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Getting Nostalgic As The Year’s End Approaches

Yep; it happens. Thus, I checked out a sample of what moiself  was posting around this time, three years ago:

Department Of Authenticity

Next week I am hosting my annual Ladies Lefse Party. Well, once upon a time it was an annual event. After a hiatus of two years, following my mother’s death, I’m ready to get back in the saddle – or lefse griddle, that is.

 

 

After my paternal grandfather, a full-blooded Norski-American married to a full-blooded Irish-American,   [3]  died, my grandmother no longer felt up to making the lefse her husband had so adored and that she’d come to love as well.   [4]  My mother’s eldest sister, my late Aunt Erva, lived in Spokane, and after Erva’s husband died    [5]   Erva would drive south every year in autumn, ahead of the first Spokane snowfall, to spend the winter with her mother in Santa Ana. Thus, Erva assumed the mantle of lefse maker in our family. She made meatcakes (Norwegian-spiced meatballs, a traditional lefse accompaniment) as well.

Like many traditional ethnic dishes, lefse has foundational ingredients, and also variants in composition, preparation, and serving. Every family I’ve met who also “do the lefse thing” have their own favorite recipe which, of course, they consider the most authentic way to make and eat lefse.

I’ve been making lefse for longer than I can remember. I took Erva’s recipe and evolved it over the years (or made it “kooky,” as Erva would likely say   [6] ).  The lefse is still delicious, if dairy-free, and the “meat” cakes I make are now sans meat (a plant-based version, main ingredient either lentils or tempeh).  Back when I did eat (some) meat I used ground turkey when I made meatcakes, instead of Erva’s more traditional, pork-beef blend. But what with my using the distinctive/traditional spices  [7]  my parents, when they were  guest at my Christmas Eve table, said that they couldn’t taste the difference. Still, moiself  always felt my version was missing that certain tinge of maternal family authenticity, which, I came to realize, had nothing to do with the kind of ground meat used.  Here is the “flavoring” my versions of meatcakes have always lacked:

(1)  an overly crisp exterior (read: I didn’t burn them, which Erva did, without fail);   [8]
(2)  the ash from Erva’s cigarette.  [9]

 

What other key ingredients am I missing? One tablespoon repression, ¼ cup disillusionment with life choices….

*   *   *

Department Of Back To The Present

In a recent No Stupid Questions podcast (“Why Can’t Baby Boomers and Millennials Just Get Along?” SQ Ep. 76) The podcast’s subtopic, prompted by a listener question, was how phone cameras affect the way we experience live events; specifically, does recording them increase or interfere with your engagement of the events being recorded?  Both sides (recording an event leads to more engagement; recording an event leads to less engagement) were presented and briefly discussed.

I put videotaping – remember that? – in the same category (of phone camera recordings), because all-but-bygone technology was the recording milieu of choice when MH’s and moiself’s offspring  were in elementary and junior high school.  And I developed strong opinions then (surprise!) as to those recording devices’ deployment.

 

 

For three years in their respective late elementary school/early junior high years, our son K and daughter Belle attended the kind of school (Waldorf-y) which had a media policy – which translated into, basically, a Media Forbidden policy.  Computers and digital technology were not part of the early grades curriculum, as per the school’s conviction that such technologies are not age-developmentally appropriate until…

“… a young person has reached the intellectual maturity to reason abstractly and process concretely on his or her own, ​which is at around the age of 14. Society might challenge this principle, as many young children are well able to complete sophisticated tasks on a computer; the Waldorf perspective is that computer exposure should not be based on capability but on developmental appropriateness. While many applaud adult-like thinking in young children, we observe that a child’s natural, instinctive, creative and curious way of relating to the world may be repressed when technology is introduced into learning environments at an early age.”
( from Waldorf Education, FAQs )

The premise for the media policy, while seemingly extreme to some people, was (is) one that I found valid.  I mostly concur with this phrasing, from one Waldorf schoo’sl website (my emphases):

“…healthy emotional development and meaningful relationships with their environment and other people are undermined by encounters with media that separate children from authentic experience and promote a distorted, developmentally inappropriate, and consumerist view of the world.”

The technology and Electronic Media listed in our children’s school’s media policy included television, movies, computers, and all other video and audio devices, including cell phones, video games, and music/MP3 players. None of that was allowed in the classroom, and parents, while attending school events, were forbidden from recording their child’s performance in a school play, music recital, etc.  [10]

 

“Did, like, a teacher or someone say something?”

 

I was in favor of most – but not all   [11]  – of the aspects of the policy.  I particularly appreciated that policy when, during K’s and Belle’s school years before and after that three year Waldorf stint, I attended school student performance and/or presentation events and noticed that I couldn’t get a clear view of, for example, the stage, what with all the parents standing up/leaning over/jumping into the aisle – and by parents I mean, Video Dads ® – their various devices clicking and whirring as they conferred with their spouses…. Then, when I spoke to the vidiots parent videographers afterward about their child’s presentation, I realized that they didn’t seem to remember exactly what had happened, only that they had recorded it (“I’ll watch it when I get home,” one Photoparent actually said to me).

 

“Can you remind daddy what actually happened here?”

 

Apparently even the most visually and aesthetically challenged of us now have camera technology at our disposal – via our smart phones – which are the equivalent of the $14k Hasselblads Ansel Adams and other renowned photographers used in their day.   But, Some Of Us ® sometimes wonder whether the ease of taking sharp, professional-looking pictures paradoxically reduces their value (as in, now there are so damn many of them)?

Well before my offspring started attending the afore-mentioned, camera-free school, I had, with a few notable exceptions, mostly stopped taking pictures (with either my own or someone else’s camera).   I did this after realizing, one day while looking through a batch of recently developed pictures of some event I’d attended, that I’d mostly forgotten the experience I’d photographed.

I do use my phone to take pictures of a sight I find particularly noteworthy (or amusing). But sometimes, most of the times, I want to experience the experience in my heart and head, and not in my phone’s circuit board.

Case in point:  Dateline; two weeks ago, early on a Saturday morning.  Moiself  was returning from a walk, and as I strode by an empty lot between two houses I saw two adolescent male deer grazing amongst the manzanita and other shrubs covering the lot.

 

No deer were harmed, or photographed, during the typing of this story.

 

I slowed my pace; the deer looked up from their grazing and kept their eyes on me.  As my species is prone to do, I anthropomorphized, imagining the deer were the Jets and I was a member of the Sharks.   [12]  They radiated that flighty, adolescent male energy; they looked ready to rumble, and for a moment, I thought I’d better be careful lest one or both of them comes after me.  I assured them I was no harm to them; I’m just a biped passing by, going on my way.

Later that day, when I described the encounter to someone, they asked if I’d taken any pictures of the deer. It had occurred to me, but I decided against it, for three reasons:

(1) It – the movement of reaching into my pocket for my phone – might have startled the deer.  [13]

(2)  I was in the moment, as they say.  Yeah, a picture and/or video of the two deer’s heads, their eyes suspiciously following my every moment, would have been nice.  But I took, and stored, the picture here.

 

 

And again, here.

 

 

BTW, as you may have noticed, there is no third reason.  The first two are sufficient.

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Punz For The Day
Photography and Cameras Edition

I had to give up my career in photography.
I kept losing focus.

When using my smartphone to take pictures, I only think of its positive points.
There aren’t any negatives.

Q.  How does Santa take photos?
A.  With his North Polearoid.

Q.  Why are paparazzis like aggressive dogs?
A.  They may snap at any time.

I told my son that if he behaves nicely, I’ll gift him an action camera.
He said that’s Quid GoPro.

My new self-developing film camera is depressed and has mood swings.
I think it has Biopolaroid disorder.

 

That’s enough, thank you.

 

*   *   *

May you be in the moment more than you are in the picture;
May your finest pictures be in your head and heart;
May you annoy your Aunt Erva equivalent   [14]
with your kooky adaptation of a family tradition;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

[2] Moiself  missed including The Partridge Of The Week ® feature the past two weeks, in this blog.  Don’t worry; Keith and the little one may make another appearance.

[3] That was considered somewhat of a mixed marriage in Northern Minnesota; however, “Bapa” (my Irish grandma) told me that her husband’s parents would have considered it “worse” if he “had married a Swede.”

[4] No great surprise that an Irishwoman took to loving something which is essentially a potato tortilla.

[5] In late 1969.

[6] “Kooky” was Erva’s catch-all descriptor for things of which she did not approve, which could range from one’s choice of life partner to haircut or clothing to your career or political opinions . Deciding to open a boutique, which the wife of one of my cousins did, was, according to Erva, “a kooky thing to do.”

[7] Nutmeg; allspice; white pepper.

[8] She swore that’s the only way you could tell if they were “done.”

[9] More than once I “caught” Erva in grandma’s kitchen frying the meatcakes, a cigarette clenched between her lips, the cigarette’s inch long ash column precipitously dangling over the frying pan.

[10] Due to parental requests (read: pressure), parents were allowed to take a group photo of the students performing in a school Shakespeare play, but only after the play was over, and with the supervision of teachers and the play director making “not too many” pictures were taken and shutting down the picture taking session after three minutes.

[11] The exceptions included when a teacher of K’s 7th & 8th grade class, herself not a Waldorf fundamentalist, wanted to use a National Geographic video to enhance a subject that the class was studying.   She made the request of the school’s administration to allow the exception. The video was to be used as per what was the most appropriate use of such media – a use that both the teacher and the students’ parents had agreed upon –  as a supplement to – not a substitute for – the more direct personal/visual learning experience.  Still, the administration quashed the request.  Slippery slope, and all.

[12] You’re going to see the new, Spielberg-directed version of “West Side Story,” aren’t you?

[13] Nature Girl® that I am, I know that consuming as many calories as possible to bulk up for the upcoming scarcity of winter is the deer’s main focus now.  Moiself  causing them to unnecessarily expend those calories by making them feel that I might be a threat and so they need to bound away…not nice.

[14] Everyone has an aunt Erva, no matter what you call her.

The Language I’m Not Unlearning

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Department Of The Day After

 

 

No – that *that* day.

Moiself  hopes you found a less-than-traditional way to celebrate yesterday.

 

 

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Department Of How Come I Never Thought Of This Before?

This is fascinating… At least to moiself.

A recent issue of the podcast Freakonomics (“What’s Wrong with Shortcuts?”)  featured podcast host Stephen Dubner interviewing mathematician Marcus du Sautoy about du Satoy’s book, Thinking Better: The Art of the Shortcut in Math and Life. The author argues that, despite what we’ve been taught, the secret to success is not in hard work, it’s in figuring out and applying shortcuts to solve one problem quickly so we can then move on to another.  Mathematics; music, psychotherapy, politics – du Sautoy claims that shortcuts can be found/applied to practically everything.  But, not everything:

“When you’re going on holiday, I don’t want to shortcut the holiday, because it’s about spending time. The point is, I don’t want you to use shortcuts for everything and spoil something you enjoy doing.”

 

Actually, Mr. Generic Handsome White Dude who is probably a CGI creation, in real life, there are both.

 

C.B.T. (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) has been hailed by many psychologists as being a true breakthrough in mental health therapeutic modes, due to C.B.T.’s pragmatic and short-term approach to handling problems.  Podcast host Dubner noted that Du Satoy’s book dealt briefly with the idea of using shortcuts in psychotherapy, but seemed skeptical of its efficacy, as per the fact that the human psyche is complex and dynamic enough to reject the type of shortcutting that might work in other realms.  Du Sautoy’s response indicated he was at least somewhat in agreement (my emphases):

“… I think that (applying shortcuts) depends on the problem you’re facing…. I talked to Susie Orbach, who’s a psychologist, and she had this nice way of describing some of the problems that people are facing:  it’s hard to learn a language. It’s even harder to unlearn a language. “

 

 

Imagine trying to unlearn English (or whatever your first language is).

Some people come to therapy with ingrained ways of thinking from experiences they’ve had in childhood – the family  “language” they learned does not serve them well, and they need to “unlearn” that language and learn another one.  Such resetting of thought patterns and behaviors will not likely respond to drastic shortcuts.  However, the C.B.T. modality (of learning how to be aware of what your thought processes are) is, in itself, “…enough to short-circuit the algorithm which was always sending you into depression. You’re sort of stuck inside the system of the way you’re thinking. What C.B.T. often helps you to do is to take a step up and look at the way that thought process is happening and understand the trigger which always sends you down….”

 

 

Moiself is a longtime fan of C.B.T.   [1]   But what keeps coming back to me from the podcast is the concept of trying to *unlearn* your first or native language.  I realize the concept is used metaphorically in du Sautoy’s argument; nevertheless, I’ve encountered something like it throughout my life, in the correlated cases of watching people deal with the cognitive dissonance of trying to embrace reality while trying to stay within certain religious traditions and/or worldviews.

A personal example: I was raised within the “language” – both via the wider culture and in my own family of origin – of the Christian religion.  During one of the few conversations with my father I had (when I was an adult) wherein he asked about why I was not/was no longer a Christian, I briefly laid out the fundamentals of the faith, along with why and how I know that those religious tenets are not true and/or are not valid explanations of reality.  I then asked him a question he could not answer:

“How can I pretend to *not* know what I know?”   [2] 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Grinch Does Thanksgiving

The headline had remained on the online Oregonian newspaper feed for several days. I would scroll past it on my phone news app…and finally decided to check it out.

Big mistake; what kind of story was moiself  expecting, given the headline?

With a little help, hunter with cerebral palsy gets his bull elk

I’ll start again.

Perhaps moiself  should title this segment, Department Of the Make A Wish Foundation Achievement I’m Not Celebrating.

Even though I was reminded of that M-A-W organization (the kind of charity which helps dying/cancer-stricken/handicapped kids achieve their “dreams”) when I read about this “achievement,” the hunter in this story is a grown-ass young man, not a child.  My lip is still curling after reading about how this significantly handicapped man – who was apparently raised to think that it is a high achievement to hunt (read: stalk and slaughter) a magnificent creature, not as a way of putting food on his starving family’s table, but for “sport”   [3]  – was able to kill an elk thanks to a group of abettors, referred to in the article as his “guardian angels.”

The article is accompanied by a photograph of three masochistic killers “sportsmen” : the CP-stricken hunter in his ATV wheelchair, and two of his “angels,” one of which holds up the lifeless head of the elk by lifting its antlers.  Some choice excerpts from the article:

“On…the next-to-last day of his northeast Oregon elk season and despite severe impairment by cerebral palsy, DM (hunter’s name) pulled the trigger on the massive six-point Rocky Mountain bull he yearned for.

But not without the help of a flock of good Samaritans.    [4]

Guardian angel 1: DM’s father and one of his primary caregivers, who takes Drew fishing and hunting, has developed a system for Drew to shoot a well-aimed rifle….

Angel 2: The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which issued DM his disabled fishing and hunting permit after completion of a hunter safety course…..

Angel 3: Youth Outdoors Unlimited of Moses Lake, Washington, which hosted DM years ago on a bear hunt and loaned him the same track and mechanical rifle system he used then…..

Angel 4: Facebook. Yup, social media. Monsey has a large following on the platform….”

The article goes on to list at least three more “angels,” including the veterinarian/cattle rancher who owns the ranchland where the elk was shot.

The picture I mentioned is repulsive (to me…I realize I’m living in a very different world and mindset from those who enjoy hunting).  Here is the only picture of a giant bull elk moiself  finds acceptable. What in the world possesses people to think that the life of such a magnificent animal – which is what attracts a hunter to it in the first place, the fact that it is alive – is best served by becoming a trophy, or a testament to some short-sighted asshole’s twisted sense of accomplishment?

 

 

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Department Of Message To The PR Department Of KenKen Publishing

…and any other KenKen puzzle books (which moiself  purchases on a regular basis).

 

 

Re your description on the cover of the books, “100 challenging logic puzzles that make you smarter.”  Not that you care what I think, but you have no objective evidence for that claim.

Q. In pop culture, it’s a popular notion that you can do puzzles to ‘train your brain.’ But, as an adult, can you actually do that? To improve memory and cognition?

A. “So, the answer to that is generally, ‘Yes,’ but doing puzzles improves your brain only in doing puzzles…. the way you think about that is like doing sports: If you do tennis, you’re not necessarily going to be good at doing football; you’ll just be good at doing tennis. But overall, doing tennis is helping your general physical abilities and making you sprier.”

(Ausim Azizi, chair of neurology at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine, interviewed in “Do Puzzles Really Train Your Brain,” The Philly Voice. )

Also, to make moiself  “smarter” is not why I buy KenKen books. I just like doing the puzzles.  But I suppose, from a marketing POV, “100 challenging logic puzzles that you just like to do” doesn’t quite cut it.

 

 

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Department Of Phrases Which Spark Memories 

It was a phrase or sentiment I had neither thought about nor heard in some time, until it was used by a long-time friend recently.  This made me think back to…

Dateline: over twenty years ago, when my in-laws were out from Florida, visiting moiself, MH, and our offspring.  I was driving my late father-in-law somewhere.  And by late I do not mean to cast aspersions re his timeliness – he wasn’t a tardy man – but late as in, he is now deceased.  But he was (obviously to y’all, as per this story…I hope) alive when I was driving him somewhere; I mean, I’m not the kind of person to schlep a dead in-law around in my vehicle….

Once again, I’ll start again.

So: moiself and MH’s father are out. I was driving; he was in the passenger seat of my car; we came to a stoplight; the car in front of us had a quite noticeable bumper sticker.

 

My ordinarily even-tempered FIL told me that whenever he saw a car with a sticker like that he felt like getting a big shovel of shit, dumping it on the car’s windshield, and exclaiming to the driver, “Look, it’s happening!”

He used a somewhat humorous tone when he made that declaration, but I could tell that it (the bumper sticker) actually upset him.  I asked him why he found the phrase/sentiment so irksome.  He said he thought it to be indicative of a negative, passive attitude about life.

I chewed on that that for a while, then told him that I had a very different reaction.  To moiself, shit happens is merely an…uh, earthier…form of the expressions and adages found worldwide, in many languages and cultures; e.g.,  “C’est la vie;” “Que sera, sera.”

 

 

Translation: shit happens simply (if scatologically) expresses the understanding that there will be things, good and bad and neutral, which will happen to us and which will be out of our control. This doesn’t mean that you therefore go through life as flotsam, simply drifting with the currents and tides of fate – of course not.  You do what you can, but it is realistic – and mentally healthy – to recognize that, ultimately, you are *not*  in control of everything.  Shit happens/que sera, sera: things can and will happen to you – things which may seem as an insult from the universe but which, in fact, are random and have nothing to do with you personally.

I think I was able to successfully communicate my POV.  Or perhaps the genial comments of understanding my FIL made were to thwart me from breaking into the theme song of my patron saint, Doris Day.   [5]

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

Punz For The Day
Day-After-Thanksgiving Edition

Q: What smells the best at a Thanksgiving dinner?
A: Your nose.

Q: What do you get if you divide the circumference of a
classic Thanksgiving dessert by its diameter?

A: Pumpkin pi.

 

*   *   *

May you understand that shit happens;
May you do strive to ensure that you are not the shit happening to someone else;
May you do your best to ignore Black Friday;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] To the point that I think, by comparison, most other forms of therapy are basically a waste of time.

[2]  Even though * he* was the one who brought it up, my sweet father responded with his go-to, five-word phrase of circumvention, which he employed whenever we were getting into conversational territory which made him uncomfortable: “Well, that’s enough about that.”

[3] And unless or until the Bull Elk in question, or any other animal so stalked, is armed with the high-powered weaponry of the human hunters (who must also, as their prey is, be naked) and agrees to participate with the human, in the hunting, it is the ultimate in poor sportsmanship to call hunting a “sport.”

[4] Certainly, not a Good Samaritan from the elk’s POV. And in the original Good Samaritan story, the Samaritan did not help one creature by killing another one.

[5] Yes, atheists can have a patron saint, and for a while, Doris was mine.

The Favor I’m Not Granting

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Department Of This May Stop Them From Asking

Moiself refers to Every Writer’s Favorite Situation ®  (insert appropriate, universally understood emojis of sarcasm).    [1]

Dateline: senior year of high school (mine; not yours). I wrote a regular, eponymous op-ed column in our school’s newspaper, in which I took a humorous approach to a variety of school-related issues.    [2]   Toward the end of the year, a school acquaintance approached me, asking for a favor…although, she didn’t exactly phrase it that way.  The way she presented it, it was more of an opportunity, for me.

She had been asked to write and then read something for an upcoming Important Occasion: a work party; a family reunion – for the life of me, I cannot recall *what* it was for, but that’s not pertinent. The thing is, she was supposed to write and deliver an amusing presentation.  And she wanted me to do it for her.

She said that she would give me some basic information – what it needed to be “about’ –  and then I could just whip it out, right?

“I just don’t know how to do that, but you’re so funny.
I can’t be funny, but you can be funny – it’s so easy for you.”

The way she spoke about it, it was if that complement from her would be motivation (and compensation) enough, for moiself – who would know that I had, once again, written something “really clever and funny.”

 

 

In her eyes, moiself  was a “natural” writer.  I’d just sit my witty ass down and the work would flow from my pen to paper. She did not acknowledge the time and effort it might take, and never mind that we were a couple of days from final exams.

Gently but firmly. I declined her brazen solicitation honorable request, in what turned out to be good practice for me, being the first of many such declinations.

Now, I *liked* this person.  She was the first of many people (friends; family; co-workers) over the years who, although they seemed to acknowledge my skills as a writer enough to covet those skills for a project of *theirs,*  did not value those skills enough to offer to compensate me for my work – nor even acknowledge that writing is, in fact, work.  It’s “work” enough that they did not want to do the project themselves or take the time  to acquire and hone the ability to do so, or were intimidated by it (“I just can’t write/I’ve never been able to write, like you can so easily.“)

 

)

 

Y’all probably wouldn’t think of asking your son’s soccer coach, who is a podiatrist, to fix your bunions for free (“I thought it might be fun for you – it’d be easier than our other surgeries, and you’re so good at it”), or try to wrangle a free housecleaning from your neighbor who works for Merry Maids.  But there’s something about knowing that someone works in an “artistic” field which brings out the mooch in otherwise well-mannered people.

Over the years, I’ve compared such stories with other writers (and artist friends).  We’ve come to the conclusion that because writing – particularly fiction writing, but not exclusively   [3] – is seen as one of the arts, and since “art” is perfunctorily lauded yet (the work behind the art) not respected financially, non-artists believe that any time a writer or artist is solicited for their work they should consider it (shudder) an honor to be asked.  Or, even more dreadfully, you get the exposure thing:

“We can’t offer payment, but you’ll get exposure –
we’ll make sure everyone knows it’s your work!”    [4]

 

 

 Noone understands better than Matthew Inman, aka, the mind behind The Oatmeal.

 

It doesn’t even matter to these freeloaders favor-askers, when you protest that you are a writer of fiction, not  ______ (grant proposals/term papers/college essays/office brochures – whatever their project).  In their (non-professional writer) eyes, you can whip up anything, at any time, right? 

 

How I’ve begun every story ever.

 

Moiself, when asked to advise upcoming/wanna be writers, has alerted them to this reality: Your writing and editing skills will be coveted by others, enough that they will ask you to do work  *for* them, yet not enough to be compensated *by* them.   

I can count on the fingers of one hand – if that hand had lost three fingers in a tragic panini press accident – the number of times someone has asked for my writing skills AND let me know the payment they would offer and/or asked what I would charge for the project they had in mind.  In all other cases, I quickly discovered the Favor Asker’s assumption was that I would work for free… (for them; for the honor of being asked; for “the exposure….” y’all get the drill by now).

 

 

What prompted this screed trip down Memory Lane is a recent Carolyn Hax column.  Carolyn   [5]  is the dean and queen of advice columnists, IMO – she could claim those titles from her writing ability alone, but she’s also keenly alert, has a remarkable sense of perspective balanced with compassion, and is excellent at recognizing and pointing out the problems behind the problems advice seekers *think* they are asking her about.

Moiself cringed with weary recognition to read this letter…then my spine straightened in right-on! triumph at Carolyn’s response.

Dear Carolyn: I am a writer by profession — meaning I get paid to do what I do. I am constantly asked to edit someone’s community newsletter, write something about someone’s kid who plays lacrosse to send to college coaches, or write someone’s family Christmas letter. (I hate those things, but anyway.)

When I quote my hourly rate, I get the hurt look and, “Oh, I thought you’d just do it for me as a friend,” or — in the case of a newsletter — “Oh, I just thought it would be fun for you; it is a good cause and probably would not take much time.”

I keep quoting the hourly rate but it is the sad and hurt reactions that bother me. How to draw the line so that people do not see it as a rejection? I have even tried a slightly discounted friends-and-family rate but the problem persists.— Writer

Writer: The sad and hurt reactions bother me, too, but not for the same reason.

These people have just been reminded they’re asking you to work for free, and they think “no” is the wrong answer? Come on, people.

Go ask for free haircuts, housecleaning and brain surgery, and get back to me.

Or don’t. As a society, we’re not exactly at peak manners right now.

Your answer is fine; you are reasonably treating them as polite people looking to hire you for skilled work, and you’re responding accordingly. The burden of their cheek is on them.

But if these exchanges gnaw at you, then, sure, shift your answer a bit: “Thanks for asking. Are you offering a job or asking a favor?” So when they say, “Favor” — blowing through the sawhorse of a hint you just dragged across that road — you can say, kindly, “I’m sorry — if I agreed to those, then that’s all I’d ever do.”

*   *   *

Department Of Oh Yeah, There’s That Holiday Next Week

Ah, yes, and what to cook, which can test the patience of even the most ardent welcomer-of-Thanksgiving.  I’ve been reading that this feeling is common to many if not all contemporary hosts – not  just us plant-based eaters – as we keep in mind our guests’ various dietary preferences, allergies, likes and loathings….

 

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

From Ken Jennings, the man most people know as the winning-est Jeopardy contestant ever, has written several books on humor…the very idea of which, for some reason seems funny in and of itself, to moiself.   I’m currently reading his book Planet Funny: How Comedy Took Over Our Culture.  In the chapter dealing with the history of satire, snark, and ironic detachment (SSI)– specifically the rise, use, and overuse of that and in standup comedy, television shows and other entertainment – and even in protest movements against the government authoritarianism – Jennings has a segment titled “Outgrowing Snark.”  For a lifelong practitioner of SSI,  moiself  found his observations to be both obvious and insightful (my emphases).

Irony as a literary device, as something to observe, is fine. But as a way to live your life? Cloaking every thought, word, action with the implication that you might not mean any of it? That’s a pathology.

Unless ironic distance is the only way to keep government authorities off your back, it shouldn’t be the only pitch in your repertoire. The occasional curveball is only effective if you can throw a fastball and a changeup as well. “A Modest Proposal”    [6] is funny and effective, but let’s not pretend it accomplishes all the same things that a heartfelt plea for starving children would. You don’t always get to the same place by taking the opposite route.

In an age of irony, it will always be a temptation to use it as a cop-out, because it’s easier to smirk at things than solve them.

( excerpt from Planet Funny: How Comedy Took Over Our Culture,
Chapter 7: “Bon Jovi, come Home.”)

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Identifying With A Former Beatle

This something-I-never-thought-I’d-do moment came when I was listening to a recent Fresh Air interview with Paul McCartney.  Sir Paul is making the interview rounds, plugging his  two recent projects: the upcoming release of the Peter Jackson-directed documentary, The Beatles: Get Back, and the book The Lyrics .[7]  

 

 

As McCartney reminisced with FA host Terry Gross, who played clips from some of the Beatles’ well-known songs, I was once again reminded of, inarguably, [8]  the best – as in, the most sheerly unadulteratedly exuberant – opening to a rock n’ roll song ever: McCartney’s count off that begins I Saw Her Standing There.

 

 

Once again, I digress.  Here’s where the identification-with-a-former-Beatle comes in.  Terry Gross was asking McCartney about his age (he’ll be 80 next June), something he says he finds rather astonishing, considering how he feels:

“Hey – I can’t believe I’m a *grandparent.* I mean, like… I’m 25 years old, actually. I just look older and… I think my birth certificate was falsified.”

Bingo.  I have that feeling all the time, as though my age-on-paper has nothing to do with me.  In so many ways, I still “feel” like I’m twenty-five.  I’ve a way to go before I get to Sir Paul’s age, although the “facts” (and my mirror) remind me that I’m most definitely not 25…or even 45, or even….

 

 

*   *   *

PunZ For The Day
Beatles Edition

I’m obsessed with buying old Beatles albums.  My friends say I need help, but
I’ve already got that one.

How did the Beatles’ new skillet introduce itself to them?
“I am the egg pan.”

Did you hear that it’s tricky selling Beatles albums in some Scandinavian countries?
Apparently, when asked if they’d buy any of the group’s albums, a Swede wouldn’t.
But, a Norwegian would.

What did the Beatles eat when they were in India?
Naan, naan, naan, naanaanaanaan….

 

I’d rather poke my bleedin’ eye out than listen to anymore of this.

 

*   *   *

May you never ask artists to work for free;
May you solve as many problems as you smirk at;
May you get up and dance when you hear, One-two-three-FAH!;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] I’m not sure that there are any – hey, you emoji artists, get to it please. And we’ll expect you to do it gratis.

[2] Titled, “Parnal Knowledge.” Yeah, I know.  But what many don’t know is that title was suggested by my paper’s editor, who was also my friend, and who was known for being more…genteel, shall we say, than moiself, which led many mutual acquaintances to refuse to believe that the column’s name was her idea.

[3] I know of writers specializing in journalism and other non-fiction/expository writing who’ve had the same experiences.

[4] Except for that classmate I mentioned – when I questioned her further I found out she’d intended to read what I’d (might have) written, as if it were her own work – with no attribution for moiself   (“I’ll tell someone, if they ask,” she said).

[5] Moiself  likes to think that, had we met, we’d be on a first name basis.

[6] Arguably Irish writer Jonathan Swift’s best known work, “A Modest Proposal” (originally published anonymously in the early 1700s)  was a satirical essay which viciously commented on England’s exploitation of Ireland by using the reasonable tones of an economic treatise to proposes that Ireland could ease poverty by butchering the children of the Irish poor and selling them as food to their wealthy English landlords.

[7] A copy of which now sits on my office desk.

[8] As in, if you’re going to argue with moiself about this, just don’t.

The Advice I’m Not Giving

4 Comments

 

Department Of Groovy Natural Phenomena
Part One Of Two In This Post

King tides; we got ’em.  The first of the season along the Oregon coast are today through Sunday, coinciding with overlapping storm fronts and high wave warnings.

Magnificent to observe – from a safe distance, y’all.

 

 

*   *   *

And Speaking Of Groovy Natural Phenomena…

What would ushering in the holiday season be without The Dropkick Murphys?

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of More On Stormfronts

Dateline: earlier this week. Moiself  saw a post from a FB friend, in which they announced that it was their son Oden’s   [1]  birthday…and that they would be celebrating without him, as he is in another state and wants nothing to do with his parents and is “angry angry angry.”

There are few relationships sadder than those involving parent-child alienation. The emotional part of me took hold first.  I wanted to message them privately, until the rational part of me said:

 

 

As in, WTF are you – moiself  – thinking?

Because my message would have been along the lines of:

“Oh, ____ (friends’ names) I am so sad to read this…and the fact that I’m reading this on social media makes me even sadder.
Is Oden on Facebook?  Will Oden’s seeing or becoming aware of this post help him to be less angry?”

Of course it won’t help. Nor would my rhetorical question to them have been of help, no matter how many times I would have tried to “gently” rephrase or reframe it.  And I refer to this hypothetical question as rhetorical, because I can’t think of a sensible reason for someone to believe that making such a public statement  [2]  would help their cause of reconciliation.  Unless…

 

 

duh and ahhh, unless reconciliation is *not* their cause (at this point).  Rather, the only cause I can think of which would be served by such an announcement is to receive pity/sympathy from their friends and family – reactions which could have (should have, IMHO) been garnered privately, by speaking or messaging personally with those who are aware of the long, complicated, parents-child relationship here, rather than by exposing the already-alienated-and-angry son to public scrutiny and even shame.   [3]

If feeding the parents’ sense of martyrdom heartache was the true purpose of the post, then, well-played.

It’s still sad.  No matter what.  I wish that seeing a picture of a *Baby Sloth Wearing Magic Pajamas Of Reconciliation* would make it all better, for everyone.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yeah What He Said

Moiself  occasionally checks comedian and author and TV host Bill Maher’s “New Rules” segment, and his one last week, Rule: Words Matter , was a doozy.  Maher starts out proposing that instead of putting bibles in hotel rooms people should put dictionaries,

“…because apparently, nobody knows what words mean anymore.”

Maher goes on to illustrate one of my pet peeves – the fact that you dilute the importance of words when you misunderstand and misuse them.  And I couldn’t have given a better example of misusing/redefining than the cringe-worthy one Maher provides. It involves a standup comic, some of whose work I have listened to and liked, commenting on the standup special of another comic, some of whose work I have listened to and liked (and some…nah).

I refer to Hannah Gadsby commenting on Dave Chapelle.

Chappelle, who above all else seems to (consider himself to) be a free speech advocate, is once again testing the limits of that in his new streaming special on Netflix. Certain remarks he has made in the special have raised the hackles of many in the LGBTQ community.  [4]

 

“Dave Chappelle does not make it easy.
He is one of the most brilliant stand-up comics in the business. But he also makes a sport of challenging his audience — putting ideas in front of them that he knows are uncomfortable and unpalatable to those invested in modern notions of how to talk about feminism, gender, sexual orientation and race.
Sometimes, he does it to make a larger point. But at times, especially during his latest special for Netflix, ‘The Closer,’ he also seems to have a daredevil’s relish for going to dangerous places onstage and eventually winning his audience over — regardless of what he’s actually saying. “
(“For Dave Chappelle, punchlines are dares. His new special, ‘The Closer,’ goes too far.”
( NPR, Morning Edition, Tv Review 10-5-21 )

Australian standup comic Gadsby, a lesbian who often features LGBTQ issues in her routines, characterized Chapelle’s special as “…hate speech dog-whistling.”

 

 

Maher points out the glaring misuse of two terms which essentially cancel each other out:

” ‘Dog whistle’ refers to when someone puts something in code because they’re afraid to come out and say what they really think.
That’s what you get from Dave Chapelle –
he’s afraid to say what he really thinks?”

Maher also on touches on my second semantic pet peeve: attaching “-phobic” to any reaction you don’t like.

“…and it’s not hate speech, just because you disagree with it.  Nor is it phobic.  Phobic comes from a Greek word meaning something you fear irrationally, like spiders, or germs. But now it is used as a suffix for something you just don’t like.I’ve been called ‘commitment-phobic.‘  No, I don’t *fear* commitment, I just don’t want any.  Other people do; great!  I don’t call them, ‘single-phobic.’

….And if I talk about how wrong I think it is to force women to wear a beekeeper’s suit all day, that’s not Islamophobic – I just don’t like it.”

 

Objecting to this is not Islamophobia, it’s forcing-women-to-wear-burial-shrouds-while-they’re-still-alive ophobia.

 

“A phobia is a persistent, excessive, unrealistic fear of an object, person, animal, activity or situation. It is a type of anxiety disorder.
A person with a phobia either tries to avoid the thing that triggers the fear, or endures it with great anxiety and distress.
( “Phobia – what is it?” Harvard health a-z.edu )

For those who fling the –phobic suffix with Woke®  impunity: y’all ever met a person with an actual phobia and seen that phobia manifested?  [5]   True phobics endure debilitating symptoms that can mimic a heart attack.  It is a frightening, humbling thing to see.

If you’re gay and someone disagrees with you, about LGBTQ-related public policy or personal relationships – or if he flat out say that the idea of a gay “lifestyle” (translate: sex) makes him uncomfortable, he is just that – uncomfortable…or perhaps immature or ignorant or close-minded or whatever. But unless he slobbers and hyperventilates and screams and has to run out of the grocery store when Ru Paul enters, he is not (homo- or trans-) *phobic.*

If you’re a woman and, come time for the annual extended family Thanksgiving gathering, your strip joint-frequenting cousin Bubba Bocephus argues with every feminist principle you espouse, and freely and loudly expresses his opinion that women’s places are in the kitchen and bedroom as he tells jokes belittling his female co-workers, it is possible that Bubba actually hates women.  But unless he exhibits behavior that indicates he has an irrational, anxiety-producing *fear* of any female relative at the gathering, he is not a “gynophobe.”  He’s a misogynist asshole.

 

Moiself’s screams upon encountering Ru Paul at the grocery store would be those of sheer delight.

 

Related (moiself  sez) to the misuse or “rebranding” of certain words and terms is safe spaces, a concept I find ominous, and even the opposite of “safe.”  Those school boards trying to outlaw any form of Critical Race Theory being taught, or even mentioned, in schools?  They took a page from the far left playbook: they’re trying to keep students (read: white students) “safe” from the reality of the USA’s history of systemic racism.

Ever since I first heard the term safe spaces I’ve had an almost visceral loathing of it (but, I am not safe spacephobic). This is because I think that institutions – in particular universities, which are supposed to challenge and enlighten – being asked or even required to produce “safe spaces” produces just the opposite, and stifles development of one of the most important human qualities higher education should aspire to engender: strength of character, along with the character-building-and-expanding skill of being able to listen to and consider opinions you disagree with, or even find offensive.

 

 

And now I know why I have this reaction, thanks to the series of talks I’ve been listening to (“The Stoic Path,” via this meditation app) .  In the episode, “The Upside of Negative Thinking,” stoic philosopher William B. Irvine puts a name to perhaps the most vital yet an underappreciated part of our body’s defensive systems:

“Most people are born with an immune system.  But for it to be maximally effective it has to be developed, and the best way to develop it is by exposing it to germs.  Suppose then that you’re a parent, who wants her child to grow up strong and healthy.  You know that germs cause illness. The obvious thing to do would be to keep your child’s exposure to germs to a minimum. If you acted on this reasoning, though, and tried to raise your child in  a germ-free environment, you had better be prepared to keep him there for the rest of his life.  Otherwise, as soon as he stepped into the real world, his underdeveloped immune system would likely be overwhelmed by germs.
So what’s a caring parent to do?  As paradoxical as it may seem, she should expose her child to germs, but in a controlled fashion….

The Stoics didn’t know about the biological immune system…but they did intuit the existence of what I am calling a psychological immune system.  Whereas your biological immune system protects you from sickness caused by germs, your psychological immune system protects you from experiencing the negative emotions triggered by life’s setbacks.

Consider the following scenario: suppose that parents, in order to reduce the number of negative emotions that their child experiences, worked hard to prevent bad things from happening to him. They never shared bad news with him; never criticized or insulted him and did their best to prevent other people from doing so.  And whenever a problem arose in the child’s life they would deal with it on his behalf.  Although these parents might have the best intentions in the world, those intentions would likely backfire.  Their child’s psychological immune system would end up dysfunctional; indeed, he would be the psychological equivalent of a bubble boy.  He would be hypersensitive to comments other people made; he would be angered and frustrated by the smallest setbacks, and he might burst into tears upon hearing bad news. 

Caring parents…will take steps to develop their child’s psychological immune system… Their goal is for the child to be emotionally ready to face the imperfect world into which he will emerge in a few year’s time.  He should able to hear bad news, criticism, and even insults, without getting overly upset. And when he encounters a setback, he should be able to calmly and coolly set about to overcoming it.”

 

If only our psychological immunity could be so easily boosted.

 

Ponder this:  Allowing yourself to be exposed to contrary, harsh, even insulting thoughts, words, and opinions is the psychological equivalent of getting a flu shot.

As he expands on the concept of psychological immunity, Irvine considers how the Stoics would respond to “hate speech.” (my emphases):

“One of their (stoicism’s) key psychological insights is that what harms you the most when you’ve been insulted, maybe by a racist or a sexist, is not the insult itself, but your reaction to that insult….

We are presently in the midst of a great human social experiment involving hate speech. The Stoics’ advice for targets of such speech is to toughen themselves up; they need to strengthen their psychological immune system.…
Lots of people reject this advice out of hand. Instead of encouraging people to toughen up, they tell them that they have every reason to be upset.
They might also provide them with “safe spaces’ in which they can recover from understandably devastating insults.

The stoics would argue that dealing with hate speech in this manger inadvertently  undermines people’s psychological immune systems. Even worse, such actions can trigger a kind of downward spiral with respect to hate speech:  the more people are protected from hearing offensive remarks, the more upsetting they find those remarks, and the more upsetting they find them, the more protection they need.  The target of hate speech can thereby end up as the psychological equivalent of the Bubble Boy.”

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Mama Nature’s Psychedelics

Last Saturday and Sunday, we Oregonians had the rare opportunity to witness the aurora borealis, aka, the northern lights.

“A storm that started more than 92 million miles away is sending a spooky light show to skies above the Pacific Northwest…. a powerful solar flare left the sun on Thursday. Now charged particles are heading toward Earth… That’s likely to result in visible aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, in areas where the lights are rarely seen.   The ghostly night-sky phenomenon, which at its brightest can fill dark skies with glowing, dancing sheets of translucent green and purple lights, occurs when electrons from the sun’s solar flares collide with the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere….     ( opb.org )

Of course, light pollution in our area (Portland Metro)  bscured any view MH and I and other “space enthusiasts” might have gotten.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Atmospheric Phenomenon Providing A Memory Segue

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away – when I was pregnant with That Who Would Become MH’s And My First Offspring ® –  moiself  made the mistake of sharing some of my baby-naming ideas with my mother.

We now pause for the following announcement.

Hear me, ye who are newly pregnant: do not share your baby name ideas with anyone other than your partner, unless you are actively seeking input (read: criticism) as to your choices.  Because if anyone, especially the expectant grandparents, think there is a snowball’s chance in a California wildfire to change your mind, they will try.  As a Stanford Hospital employee (the records clerk responsible for recording the newborn’s name on vital documents) told me, “Don’t tell *anyone* the name until it’s on the birth certificate – because until it’s on the certificate, *someone* will try to get you to change it to a name they think is sooooooo much better….”

 

 

The afore-mentioned mistake happened during a phone call with my mother, a few days before I’d received my amniocentesis results.  Since my mother had asked I said yes, when we are contacted with the amnio results we would want to know everything, including the 23rd chromosome pair arrangement.  MH and I had just begun to think about names; if the test showed we’d be having a girl, one of the names I was considering was Aurora.

I liked Aurora for several reasons. It can be a tough world for girl-childs, I told my mother, and being named for an awe-inspiring natural phenomenon – the aurora borealis! – is a sign of strength.  Also, Aurora Dupin, the real name of the author George Sand, was a trail-blazing, stereotype-defying, 1800s French writer….    [6]   Aurora was my front runner for a girl, and if we chose that name we’d probably call her “Rory.”

My mother, born of Irish-Norwegian peasant stock, had royal blood when it came to her ability to indirectly express negative feelings rather than openly address them.  Thus, my family’s Queen of Passive Aggression made her standard, “Oh, that’s interesting,”  response to my Aurora story…which rolled right past me until she telephoned the very next day, and the following exchanged ensued.

“I’ve been thinking about your baby name choice,” my mother said.
“Do you know that the ‘R’ sound is the hardest sound for children to make – it’s usually the last consonant they learn to pronounce correctly.”

I asked her if that was a statement or a question, then reminded her that, yep, as one of the THREE of her four children whom she saw fit to give R names – ahem! – I was familiar with that phenomenon.  I thought it was kinda cute that I was called ‘Wobyn’ by toddlers, my peers, kids I babysat – and even by my younger siblings, ‘Woofie’ (Ruthie) and “Wobert’ (Robert) – until they were old enough to master that devilish R consonant.  So, her point would be…?

“I want you to go stand in front of a mirror,” she said.  “Then look at your mouth, and what happens to your face, when you say, ‘Rory.’ “

 

 

Holy fucking non-issue, moiself  marveled.  She’s apparently/actually done this. She stood in front of her mirror, and did this.

I concentrated on keeping my tone as gentle as possible (more gentle than she deserved), but also as firm as the reply demanded:

“Mom, I want *you* to go stand in front of a mirror,
and look what happens to your face when you say, ‘Buttinsky.’ “

There were no further baby name suggestions (or discussions) between us.

 

K, and the freshly hatched Belle. “K, I’m happy you are who you are, even as I want you to know you would have made a fine ‘Rory.’ “

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Baby Names Edition

Seriously, you’re going to name your son, Almondine?
That’s nuts.

Seriously, you’re going to name your daughter, Cintronella?
That’s repellant.

Seriously, you’re going to name your baby, Insurrection?
That’s revolting.

Seriously, you’re going to name your baby, R.E.M.?
You must be dreaming.

Seriously, you’re going to name your baby, KenKen?
That’s puzzling.    [7]

 

*   *   *

May you, some day, be able to see both the aurora borealis and king tides;
May you never have an occasion to look in the mirror and say, Buttinsky;
May the Baby Sloth Wearing Magic Pajamas Of Reconciliation be of comfort to you;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Not his real name.  Not even close.

[2] And as far as this public statement of mine (blogging about this) goes, moiself  is 99% certain they do not read this blog.

[3] for holding a grudge against his parents, who are just sitting there, posting alone in the dark, oy vey….

[4] Disclosure: I have not watched the special in its entirety; just clips.

[5] I have seen several phobic reactions, including this memorable one:  I had to help a friend to the floor and raise her legs, when she began to hyperventilate at just the suggestion that my child might consider getting a pet tarantula (and keep it in the garage, in a covered terrarium, when the spider-phobic friend came over, so she would never see it).  She was horribly embarrassed by her reaction, which she realized was over the top and irrational…but that’s what makes it a phobia.  Quite different from the many people who don’t like spiders or “bugs” but who don’t turn into a quivering mass of quasi-sentient protoplasm at just the *mention* of them.

[6] who, like most if not all women writers of that time, had to use a male pen name in order for her work to be published.

[7] Yeah, but KenKen is the best puzzle, ever.  Sudoku, in comparison and in MHO, is like watching paint dry.

The Holiday War I’m (Still) Not Declaring

1 Comment

Department Of Here They Come

Halloween (aka All Hallow’s Eve); Samhain; All Saint’s Day; El Dia de los Muertos; Mischief Night, Diwali

In the USA and in northern hemisphere countries around the world, there are multiple holidays with a relationship to “our” Halloween.  The relationship is as per the time of year and/or the theme, underlying beliefs, customs or origins of the various celebrations.

Many of these holidays originated as dual celebrations, acknowledgments of times of both death and rebirth, as celebrants marked the end of the harvest season and acknowledged the cold, dark winter to come.

And after Halloween, the holiday season really gets going.

*   *   *

Department Of Life Is Tough But It’s Even Tougher If You’re Stupid
Chapter 22467 in a (never-ending) series

“The idea of a “War on Christmas” has turned things like holiday greetings and decorations into potentially divisive political statements. People who believe Christmas is under attack point to inclusive phrases like “Happy Holidays” as (liberal) insults to Christianity….

Christmas is a federal holiday celebrated widely by the country’s Christian majority. So where did the idea that it is threatened come from?

The most organized attack on Christmas came from the Puritans, who banned celebrations of the holiday in the 17th century because it did not accord with their interpretation of the Bible….”

(“How the ‘War on Christmas’ Controversy Was Created,” NY Times, 12-19-16)

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of If Something Seems Familiar, That’s Because It’s Time For
My Annual Holiday Traditions Explained ® Post

What do vegetarians, vegans, non-meat and/or plant-based eaters
do on Thanksgiving?
( Other than, according to your Aunt Erva, RUIN  IT  FOR  EVERYONE  ELSE.   [1]  )

The above question is an existential dilemma worthy of Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, who wrote eloquent discourses on the subjective and objective truths one must juggle when choosing between a cinnamon roll and a chocolate swirl.   [2]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I’ll Take Those Segues Where I Can Find Them

Four weeks from today will be the day after feasting, for many of us. Then, just when you’re recovering from the last leftover turkey sandwich/quiche/casserole/enchilada-induced salmonella crisis and really, really need to get outside for some fresh air, here comes the Yule season. You dare not even venture to the mall, lest your eardrums be assaulted from all sides by Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, Feliz Navidad, ad nauseum.

This observation provides a convenient segue to my annual, sincere, family-friendly,  [3]

Heathens Declare War On Christmas © post.

 

 

As to those Henny Penny/Chicken Little hysterics proclaiming a so-called “war” on Christmas, a rational person can only assume that they are not LGBTQ, or Jewish or a member of another minority religion, or an ethnic minority – in other words, they’ve never experienced actual bigotry (or actual combat). If they had, it’s likely they would not have trivialized discrimination (or war) with their whining.

The usage of “Happy Holidays” as an “attack on Christianity” is an invention of right-wing radio talk show hosts.  Happy Holidays is nothing more nor less than an encompassing shorthand greeting – an acknowledgement of the incredible number of celebratory days, religious and otherwise, which in the U.S. is considered to start in October with Halloween and November with Thanksgiving (although our Canadian neighbors and friends celebrate their Thanksgiving in October) and extends into and through January, with the various New Year’s celebrations.

It is worthwhile to note that while many if not most Americans, Christian or not, celebrate Christmas, there are also some Christians who, on their own or as part of their denomination’s practice or decree (e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Worldwide Church of God), do not celebrate Christmas   [4]   (nor did our much-ballyhooed forebears, the Pilgrims).  Also, the various Orthodox Christians use calendars which differ from most Protestant and Catholic calendars (a biggie for them at this time of the year is the Nativity of Christ, which occurs on or around January 7).

Happy Holidays — it’s plural, and for good reason.  It denotes the many celebrations that happen during these months.  People in the northern hemisphere countries, from South Americans and Egyptians to the Celts and Norskis, have marked the Winter Solstice for thousands of years, and many still do.  And some Americans, including our friends, neighbors and co-workers, celebrate holidays that although unconnected with the winter solstice occur near it, such as Ramadan, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

 

In 2022 the Chinese (lunar) New Year begins on Feb. 1

 

Most folks are familiar with the “biggies”- Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day. But don’t forget the following holidays, many of which we’ve learned about (or celebrated with) via our children’s teachers and fellow students, and our neighbors and co-workers.

* The Birth of the Prophet (Nov. 12) and Day of the Covenant (Nov. 26) are both Baha’i holy days  (our family has had Baha’i teachers and childcare providers and neighbors).

* St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6)

* Bodhi Day.  Our Buddhist friends and neighbors celebrate Bodhi Day on December 8 (or on the Sunday immediately preceding).

* Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec 12)

* St. Lucia Day (Dec. 13) Our Swedish neighbors and friends celebrate St. Lucia Day, as did Belle’s and K’s school, when they were in grade school (Belle, as the oldest 3rd grade girl, got to play St. Lucia).

* Bill of Rights Day (Dec 15) and Forefather’s Day (Dec 21)

* Pancha Ganapati Festival (one of the most important Hindu festivals, Dec. 21st through the 25th,  celebrated by many of MH’s coworkers)

* The Winter Solstice (varies, Dec.  21 or 22)

* Little Christmas Eve (Dec.  23) Celebrated by my family, supposedly a custom of the small Norwegian village of my paternal grandfather’s ancestors.

* Boxing Day (Dec. 26), celebrated by our Canadian-American and British-American neighbors and friends.

*Ramadan and/or Eid, the Islamic New Year (as Islam uses a lunar calendar the dates of their holidays varies, but these holidays are usually November-December)

* The Chinese New Year.  I always look forward to wishing my sister-in-law, a naturalized American citizen who is Cantonese by birth, a Gung Hay Fat Choy.  (The Chinese Lunar calendar is the longest chronological record in history, dating from 2600 BCE.  The New Year is celebrated on second new moon after the winter solstice, and so can occur in January or February).

That is not a complete list. See why it’s easier to say, “Happy Holidays?”

The USA is one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world.  To insist on using the term “Merry Christmas” as the all-encompassing seasonal greeting could be seen as an attack on the religious beliefs of all of the Americans who celebrate the other holiday and festivals.  At the least, it denotes the users’ ignorance of their fellow citizens’ beliefs and practices.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Did You Know…

…that the Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that, “the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.”   [5]

Because of its known pagan origins, Christmas was banned by the Puritans, and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts until 1681.   [6]

 

 

“Do you celebrate Christmas?”

We Heretics/apostates non-Christians Happy Heathens often hear this question at this time of year.  The inquiry is sometimes presented in ways that imply our celebration (or even acknowledgement) of Christmas is hypocritical.  This implication is the epitome of cheek, when you consider the fact that it is the early Christians who stole a festival from our humanist (pagan) forebears, and not the other way around.

Who doesn’t like a party, for any reason? And we who are religion-free don’t mind sharing seasonal celebrations with religious folk – sans the superstition and government/church mumbo-jumbo –  as long as they accept the fact that the ways we all celebrate this “festive season” predate Christianity by hundreds of years.

 

 

Early Roman Catholic missionaries tried to convert northern Europeans to the RC brand of Christianity, and part of the conversion process was to alter existing religious festivals. The indigenous folk, whom the RC church labeled “barbarians,” quickly discovered that when it came to dealing with missionaries, resistance is futile. The pagans intuitively grasped the concept of natural selection and converted to Christianity to avoid the price (persecution, torture, execution) of staying true to their original beliefs.  But they refused to totally relinquish their traditional celebrations, and so the church, eventually and effectively, simply renamed most of them.    [7]

Pagan practices were given a Christian meaning to wipe out “heathen” revelry.  This was made official church policy in 601 A.D., when Pope Gregory the First issued the now infamous edict to his missionaries regarding the traditions of the peoples they wanted to convert. Rather than try to banish native customs and beliefs, missionaries were directed to assimilate them. You find a group of people decorating and/or worshiping a tree? Don’t chop it down or burn it; rather, bless it in the name of the Church.  Allow its continued worship, only tell the people that, instead of celebrating the return of the sun-god in the spring, they are now worshiping the rising from the dead of the Son of God.

( Easter is the one/odd exception, where a pagan celebration was adapted by Christians without a name change. Easter is a word found nowhere in the Bible. It comes from the many variants (Eostra, Ester, Eastra, Eastur….) of a Roman deity, goddess of the dawn “Eos” or “Easter,” whose festival was in the Spring.)

The fir boughs and wreaths, the Yule log, plum pudding, gift exchanges, the feasting, the holly and the ivy and the evergreen tree….It is hard to think of a “Christmas” tradition that does not originate from Teutonic (German), Viking, Celtic and Druid paganism.   [8]   A celebration in the depths of winter – at the time when, to those living in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun appears to stop its southerly descent before gradually ascending north – is a natural instinct. For thousands of years our Northern Hemisphere ancestors greeted the “reason for the season” – the winter solstice – with festivals of light and gift exchanges and parties.  The Winter Solstice was noted and celebrated long before the Roman Jesus groupies pinched the party.

But, isn’t “Jesus is the reason for the season”?

The reason for the season?  Cool story, bro.  Since you asked; actually, axial tilt is the reason for the season.  For *all* seasons.

 

 

And Woden is the reason the middle of the week is named Wednesday.   [9]   My calling Wednesday “Wednesday” doesn’t mean I celebrate, worship, or “believe in” Woden.  I don’t insist on renaming either Christmas, or Wednesday.

 

“Now, go fetch me the brazen little sheisskopfs who took the Woden out of Woden’s Day!”

 

The Winter Solstice is the day with the shortest amount of sunlight, and the longest night. In the northern hemisphere it falls on what we now mark as December 21 or 22.  However, it took place on December 25th at the time when the Julian calendar was used.   [10]   The early Romans celebrated the Saturnalia on the Solstice, holding days of feasting and gift exchanges in honor of their god Saturn. (Other major deities whose birthdays were celebrated on or about the week of December 25   [11]   included Horis, Huitzilopochtli, Isis, Mithras, Marduk, Osiris, Serapis and Sol.)  The Celebration of the Saturnalia was too popular with the Roman pagans for the new Christian church to outlaw it, so the new church renamed the day and reassigned meanings to the traditions.   [12]

In other words, why are some folk concerned with “keeping the Christ in Christmas”   [13]  when we should be keeping the Saturn in Saturnalia?

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
The Approaching Holiday Season Edition

What is a jack-o’-lantern’s favorite literature genre?
Pulp fiction.

My family told me to stop telling Thanksgiving jokes right now,
but I said I couldn’t quit cold turkey.

My cousin is terrified by all of the St. Nicholas displays at the shopping mall.
You might say she’s Claustrophobic.

 

I told you not to encourage her.

*   *   *

Whatever your favorite seasonal celebrations may be, moiself  wishes you all the best.

May you have the occasion to (with good humor) ruin it for everyone else;
May you find it within yourself to ignore the Black Friday mindset;
May you remember to keep the Saturn in Saturnalia;
…and may the fruitcake-free hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] You have an Aunt Erva, somewhere.  We all do.

[2] Damn right I’m proud of that one.

[3] Well, yeah, as compared to the usual shit I write.

[4] And a grade school friend of mine, whose family was Jehovah’s Witnesses, considered being told, “Merry Christmas” to be an attack on *her* beliefs.

[5]Increase Mather, A Testimony against Several Prophane and Superstitious Customs, Now Practiced by Some in New England” (London, 1687).  See also Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday,” New York: Vintage Books, 1997.

[6] Stephen Nissenbaum, “The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday.”

[7]Paganism in Christianity.”

[8]  “Learn not the way of the heathen…their customs are vain, for one cuts a tree out of the forest…they deck it with silver and gold…” Jeremiah 10:2-5

[9] Wednesday comes from the Old English Wōdnesdæg, the day of the Germanic god Wodan (aka Odin, highest god in Norse mythology and a big cheese god of the Anglo-Saxons until the seventh century.)

[10] The Julian calendar, adopted by Julius Caesar ~ 46 B.C.E., was off by 11 min/year, and when the Gregorian calendar was established by Pope – wait for it – Gregory,  the solstice was established on 12/22.

[11] The Winter Solstice and the Origins of Christmas, Lee Carter.

[12] In 601 A.D., Pope Gregory I issued a now famous edict to his missionaries regarding wooing potential converts: don’t banish peoples’ customs, incorporate them. If the locals venerate a tree, don’t cut it down; rather, consecrate the tree to JC and allow its continued worship

[13] And nothing in the various conflicting biblical references to the birth of JC has the nativity occurring in wintertime.

The Dream I’m Not Living

Comments Off on The Dream I’m Not Living

 

 

Department Of The Words I Never Thought I’d Want To Say to George Takei:

 

 

Or at least, George, you’re acting like one.

From common folk to Star Trek nerds fans, most sentient US citizens know about William Shatner’s ride into space last week.  Many of us in the latter category (ST nerds) also know about the long-standing feud between Shatner and his ST:TOS co-star, George Takei.  A brief summary of the childish spat:

Takei  [1]  has long held grudges about Shatner. The former Lt. Sulu has told stories which revolve around his perceptions that Shatner was a self-centered ham,  [2]  and that Takei and other supporting cast members resented playing second fiddle(s) on the show. Over the years and in his biography (which moiself  has read) Takei has presented a plethora of mostly petty incidents justifying (in Takei’s opinion) his resentment of Shatner.  Many of the stories ring true; however, IMHO, they are hardly relevant to the present moment.  The series (and films) were over *thirty to fifty years* ago.

Here’s the thing: a second fiddle is what Takei was hired to play.  The Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy characters were the show’s triumvirate, and Shatner was hired as the star of the show – the captain of the USS Enterprise.  It is a tribute to the actors playing Uhura, Scotty, Sulu and Chekov, that they became so beloved, given their minor roles and the fact that, unlike Kirk, Spock and McCoy, their characters were *not* in every episode of the series.  Uhura, Scotty, Sulu and Chekov (and Yeoman Rand, Nurse Chapel, and others) – those roles were written and cast as *supporting* players.

 

 

But Takei (second fiddle row, far left, in the above picture) can’t seem to step out of his anti-gravity suit and rise above it all.

“William Shatner’s brief trip to outer space this week wasn’t the final frontier in his grudge match with former co-star George Takei…..Takei, who played Hikaru Sulu to Shatner’s Capt. James T. Kirk in the iconic TV series and films, fired the latest blast in the pair’s decades-long feud Wednesday. This time, he criticized the 90-year-old’s Wednesday flight aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space capsule, which gave Shatner the honor of being the oldest person to launch into space.

“He’s boldly going where other people have gone before,” Takei, 84, quipped…riffing on the series’ catchphrase (and a number of headlines about Shatner’s 10-minute voyage.)

Upon returning to Earth Wednesday, Shatner was moved to tears over the ‘profound experience’ Bezos gave him and was surveying ‘the enormity and the quickness and the suddenness of life and death.’

Takei put it more bluntly: ‘He’s a guinea pig,’ he said.  The outspoken actor and prolific Twitter user then threw even more shade at Shatner’s physical fitness and age.

‘Ninety years old and it’s important to find out what happens,’ he added, noting that Shatner’s advanced years will ‘show a great deal more on the wear and tear on the human body’ and that ‘he’ll be a good specimen to study’ — a specimen ‘that’s unfit.’ “
(“Beam him down, Scotty: George Takei isn’t impressed by
William Shatner’s space trip.”  LA Times 10-14-21 )

 

Sharpening your claws much, George?

 

Mr. Takei, I think you owe Mr. Shatner an apology.  Why did you feel the need to pitch snark?  Why is your opinion relevant at all – why should it matter what *you* think about *his* trip to space?  Your comments make you look petty, jealous, and attention-seeking.  Why not be gracious – if you have to say anything, why not wish him, or anyone in that situation, the best?

And the not-so-thinly-veiled fat jokes?

 

 

Mr. Takei, I’ve admired you for your advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ issues – even as you came to it very, very, very late in the game   [3] –  and your involvement in raising awareness re the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII.  That’s still and all good.  However, your advocacy for those or any other noble causes in no way gives you an impunity shield for acting like a dick.

Shatner, of course, fired back after being attacked. And in this case, I think Captain Kirk’s shade laser topped Lt. Sulu’s dick torpedo:

 

 

Mr. Takei, is this how you want to be remembered?  Yeah, Shatner is old (wow, thanks for pointing that out), but so are you. It’s likely that neither you nor Shatner will live very much longer.  What if Shatner died next week, and your ungenerous, uncalled for critique of his space ride turned out to be the last public words you’d spoken about him?

Your and Shatner’s combined ages are 174; your vindictive verbal volleying makes the figure seem more like 24.  Whiny juveniles, still bickering over who did what to whom on the playground ( Did not! Did so! ).

Get over it.  Please, grow up and shut up.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Living Someone Else’s Dream Life

Moiself  is continuing my commentary on the series of talks about the practice of Stoicism – “The Stoic Path,” by William B. Irvine – which I’ve been listening to, from Sam Harris’ “Waking Up” meditation app.

As I am learning, part of the stoic path toward emotional equanimity involves engaging in something called negative visualization, which I’ll deal with more in next week’s post.  Although the episode for my comments this week, “You are Living the Dream Life,” also utilizes a form of negative visualization.

Yep, that’s me – I’m living the dream life.

 

 

It’s strange for us to consider that we are living the dream life. The thing to realize is that we likely are…only, it’s someone else’s dream. The idea is to get us to appreciate what we have.  As I tried to periodically remind my offspring,  happiness/contentment comes *not* from getting what you want, but wanting what you get.

When we are in the midst of life’s everyday tribulations, from minor irritations (an overdue utility bill) to major events (a burst water pipe causes our house’s floor to collapse; our spouse develops a serious illness) it’s easy to snort at the idea that we should consider ourselves fortunate (“count our blessings”).  It’s easy to *not* consider the fact that someone, somewhere around the world (possibly even in our own community) could look at what we might dramatically think of as our nightmare, and to them, it’s a dream.  We have a roof over our heads, an abundance of material possessions, indoor plumbing, antibiotics, and a palm-shaped device which helps us communicate with others, watch cat videos, and search the sum of human knowledge.

 

 

I’m certain that moiself  doesn’t fully understand the concept of negative visualization, because my first thought when I head the terms was, I don’t want to engage in this – I get enough of it from the daily news.   I don’t want appreciate what I have by imagining how things could be worse.  My “writer’s mind,” (imaging and trying out all possible scenarios of a story) already tends to go in that direction, thank you very much.  But, moiself  supposes, if negative visualization were done intentionally – as part of a meditative practice to give you perspective on present circumstances – it could be quite useful.

I was reminded of my own experience with living the dream – someone else’s:

Dateline: a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (late 1980s).  My housemate and I are living in a rented cottage, situated behind the landlord’s son’s house, in Palo Alto.  My bedroom is the slant-floored, enclosed (and un-insulated) back porch of what was originally constructed as a one-bedroom cottage.  The cottage’s kitchen (the kitchen closet, LP and I call it) literally cannot accommodate two people standing side by side.

 

Ours had a smaller yard but better siding.

 

My housemate is also my friend; we are both “foodies,” and regularly get together with another friend, PF, for theme dinners, which we take turns hosting.   [4]   On this night PF is hosting; she has chosen a date where her “roommates” are out.  For the past year PF has been living with her sister’s family (sister,  husband, two teenaged daughters), in one of the wealthiest of Bay Area suburbs (Atherton).  PF’s sister’s house, a large, craftsman-style, three story mansion filled with art and artifacts collected from her sister’s travels, is stunningly beautiful.  LP and I can barely hide our admiration – or control our drool – as we survey its spacious, well-appointed kitchen.

A couple of hours into our dinner, as we begin to clean up the kitchen, PF’s sister and her family return to their home (from whatever activity they’d been doing which got them out of the house and gave PF the chance to invite friends over).  PF introduces us to her sister’s family.  They are all beautiful people, strikingly attractive in both physique, visage, and personality.  PF later tells me (I had to ask) that Sister and Husband have a great relationship and truly are each other’s best friend.     [5]

Oh, really? That’s too bad so nice.

Petty, petty moiself  had hoped for a cliché, along the lines of, money can’t buy happiness.  I wanted to see that these are people who are rich in things, but miserable (or at least lacking) in their personal relationships.  Nope.  Looks like they got it all.

As LP and I help PF clean up our dinner dishes, I engage in friendly conversation with PF’s sister, who excuses herself after a few minutes to join her husband in their study.  She and her husband are going to plan their next vacation to Peru.

On our drive back to our cottage, LP and I engage in stunned conversation about what we’ve just seen: The Good Life ®, which we so obviously do not have.  I silently compare our friend’s sister’s evening activities with what awaits me when I return home: turning on the miniscule portable electric heater I purchased which (barely) keeps the container of hand lotion in my room from freezing.

LP and I begin listing everything PF’s sister has which we are lacking, followed by our mutual reassurances that, although we are not wealthy (and, in fact and especially in my case, barely making ends meet), “we are rich in love.”

“Could you believe that kitchen? They’re not even professional chefs.”

But, we are rich in love.

“And that bathroom, with the clawfoot tub, and the…”

Yep. We, however, are rich in love.

“And the view out the window, with their orchard and the hills and…”

We are rich in love.

“And they’ve been married over twenty years,
have two teenagers, and they look that good
and still banter and flirt with one another…”

LP begins to rattle off a list of our family and friends who value us, until moiself  feels compelled to point out the obvious:

“Yes, we have family and friends who value us; we are rich in love.
They, too, are rich in love…and, they’re rich.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Seasonal Scenery

It’s too beautiful a day to be inside and write; moiself  needs to get outside and kick through some leaves.  I suggest y’all do the same, right now.

 

 

Except, what if you’re living somewhere without quick access to the deciduous foliage show of autumn (like the above, which I can see out my window)?  Maybe you’re in the Southwest, and the plants surrounding you don’t have leaves.  Maybe the flora adjacent to your locale consists of chollas, saguaros, barrel cacti, prickly pears? 

Do cacti have any kind of seasonal shedding of their…uh, they don’t have leaves, so I guess it would be, their spines?

 

 

I’m trying to imagine that scenario:

Moiself  (or yourself), living in the Arizona desert, calling out to a friend:

“Would you look at that pile of spines underneath the saguaro grove?!  What a stunning panoply of…uh, browns and tans. Don’t you want to just wade through them, to get into the Fall spirit?

(kick kickOuch!
(kick kick) Yikes!
(kick kick shuffle shuffle) Oooh, that smarts!”

I suggest y’all do the same, right now.    It occurs to me that I’ve given you Southwestern and/or desert dwellers advice that you can’t follow.  Well, that’s what you get for living in a state where you have to steal other people’s water.    [6] 

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Rich People Edition

One hundred years ago everyone owned a horse, and only rich people had cars.
N
ow, everyone has a car and only rich people have horses.
My, how the stables have turned.

The genie asked, “What’s your first wish?”
Cathy exclaimed, “I wish I was rich!”
The genie said, “Okay; granted. What’s your second wish?”
Rich exclaimed, “I want lots of money!”

What do you call a rich European architect who goes bankrupt?
Baroque.

What do you call wealthy garbage men?
The Filthy Rich.

What do kind of nuts do rich people wear on their feet?
Cashews.

 

*   *   *

May you remember what it’s like to kick through a pile of autumn leaves;
May your dream of living the life you dream of living not be a dream;
May George Takei survive a successful surgery to remove the proverbial burr
from under his saddle of resentment;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] along with several of the ST:TOS supporting players

[2] Imagine, anyone saying that about an actor.

[3] Not until he was 68, and such a revelation couldn’t really harm his career.

[4] One of the themes was “Food you might  be embarrassed to admit you love.” I made my grandmother’s salmon loaf.

[5] PF did express some concern that her nieces were growing up not realizing what advantages they had and were taking their good life for granted.

[6] OOOOOH, throwing some shade down there.  I *do* have friends who are dear to me, who live in Arizona.

The Binary Thoughts I’m Not Thinking

2 Comments

 

Department Of I’ve Told You Before, I Can’t Make This Up This Shit

“Michael Flynn, the former national security advisor under Donald Trump, claimed during an appearance on a conservative radio program that COVID vaccines were being added to salad dressing….
‘Somebody sent me a thing this morning where they’re talking about putting the vaccine in salad dressing…..’ said Flynn.
‘These people are seriously thinking about how to impose their will on us in our society and it has to stop,’ he added. “

( “Michael Flynn claims salad dressing is being infused with COVID vaccine,”
The National Post, 9-23-21 )

 

With the right vinaigrette, I could RULE THE WORLD !!

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Blast From The Past

Fortunately, I don’t need a really big time machine to go back only two years…

 

 

…to December 2019, when I first blogged about the yogic tradition of performing 108 sun salutations to mark the change of the season (solstices and equinoxes):

Department Of If My Hamstring Muscles Are Still Sore After 36 Hours,
Have I Reached Enlightenment?

Yoga Class:
“Why 108 Sun Salutations?”

Yoga Teacher:
“It’s an auspicious number in yoga; I know 108 sounds like a lot…”

Moiself:
“That’s because it is.”

Last Sunday (12/22/19), to celebrate the winter solstice, my yoga studio held an “Om-a-thon,” which is what Someone In Charge Of Marketing ®  called an hour and a half class consisting of 108 Sun Salutations.  A sun salutation, for you non-yogis, is a yoga exercise incorporating a sequence of nine or more linked asanas, or yoga poses/postures. The asanas are linked by the breath – inhaling and exhaling with each movement – and Sun Salutations involve moving from a standing position into Downward and Upward Dog poses and then back to the standing position, with many variations and modifications.

Why 108? It’s apparently an auspicious number (in the parts of the world where yoga originated), for many reasons.  Non-woo reasons include the fact that the distance between the Sun and Earth is roughly 108 times the Sun’s diameter and ditto for the ratio of the moon’s diameter and the distance between the moon and earth – scientific realities not likely surmised when the originators of yoga decided 108 was a magic special number.

There are plenty of woo reasons for venerating the number 108, and the teacher leading the class mentioned a few of them: there are 108 Upanishads (a series of Hindu treatises ca. 800–200 BCE); there are 108 beads in a mala (a meditation tool, an idea early Christian/Catholic missionaries stole “adapted”  from the Hinduism & Buddhism, and morphed into the Catholic rosary beads    [1]     ); there are nine planets and twelve astrological signs, and 9 x 12 = 108   [2]….

Oh, and most significantly of all, a Uno deck contains 108 cards. That’s gotta be a sign.

҉       ҉      ҉


That was then; this is now.  On Wednesday I celebrated the Autumnal Equinox by doing 108 Sun Salutations at home.  How does one keep count, inquiring minds want to know?  Moiself  has a glass bowl, containing 108 small, smooth glass beads, which I keep on the dining room table. Four times a year, when I’m doing the 108 Sun Salutations (Winter Solstice; Vernal Equinox; Summer Solstice/ Autumnal Equinox) I dump out the bowl in front of my yoga mat.  At the end of each sun salutation I move one bead into the bowl.

 

 

This year I decided to do 109 sun salutations, adding my avatar (visible in the above picture) to the bead count.  It just felt like the right thing to do, and if we’re going for auspicious numbers and all, 109 is a prime.    [3]

*   *   *

Department Of Is This Either/Or…On Or Off?

Dateline: Saturday 7 am-ish, walking along a totally deserted beach – deserted in terms of fellow bipeds.  There is a light rain falling, a welcome change after a previous night’s wind/raid downpour/power outage.  Leaving the house, moiself  noticed the wind had skejewed my yard sign, which I straightened up before heading down to the beach.

I mention the yard sign because the podcast I was listening to reminded me of the sign, in a way the podcast host and producers likely didn’t intend (nor would care about, I’d imagine).  Moiself,  however, found it a fun coincidence.

The podcast, No Stupid Questions (co-hosted by research psychologist Angela Duckworth [author of Grit]  and Stephen Dubner [co-author of the Freakonomics books and host of the Freakonomics podcast] ), is one I’ve mentioned several times in this space.  This episode of NSQ, “How Can You Escape Binary Thinking?”,  made me smile from the moment I heard the title.

 

 

Angela Duckworth:
“One of my life goals is to help people *not* binarize so much…. It turns out that for almost everything that psychologists study, including things that seem categorical, they really are continuous…and you do have to, at the end of the day, either allocate a therapist for this person or not, based on a diagnosis, but if we all *knew* that the underlying phenomena were continuous for *most* things, in psychology and maybe most things in life, that would be an advance.”

Stephen Dubner:
“Plainly, there is value in binary thinking. Literally, the fundamental building block of computing, as far as I understand it, is the bit, which is short for binary digit, which is either a zero or a one, and the reason that’s useful is that it makes it easier to do huge computation, which means you require less circuitry, less cooling, things can be smaller, things can be cheaper…

AD:
“It’s a massive data compression.”

SD:
“Yeah! So, it is a heuristic for computers, but I’d like to think maybe this is one way we could be better than computers, is not having to compress.  On the other hand, I am a fan of what I believe is called, generally, categorical thinking.  I just want more categories than two….

(excerpts from NSQ episode cited above)

Although I concede its utility in certain areas, I’m not a fan of binary thinking.    [4]   The yard sign I’d previously mentioned was a product of my distaste for that kind of thought.

 

 

An employee of the sign shop where I had my yard sign designed and printed asked me if I was critiquing “those other yard signs.”  I told him that my sign was 95% just for the fun of it…and, yeah, maybe, 5% satirizing “those others:”

 

One “The Others” variant

 

I agree with most of the sentiments expressed by the variants of Those Other Signs ® …but not all of them.  There are so many complexities and nuances to the positions alluded to in various versions of Those Other Signs ® I’ve seen.  In an ideal world, I’d hope that if my neighbors wanted to know my thoughts on certain issues, instead of having to read my lawn signage and extrapolate from there, they’d ask me, and we’d have a thoughtful and civil discussion about it.

 

Yep; happens all the time.

 

For example, as per illegal/undocumented immigration.  A line like, “No Human Is illegal” is a form of data compression.  No human is illegal – what does a particular person mean, when they say or write that?  Certainly, it is a pejorative to refer to a person as illegal – is that what they are objecting to – the un-charitableness of referring to a person as “an illegal?”  Also, and just as certainly, some people do things that are illegal, including violating the immigration laws of a country.  So, what is it that the no human is illegal line is conveying or signaling to others – your position on immigration, or your concern with word choice when referring to a person who is in a country unlawfully?

Binary thinking; data compression. I didn’t have the words for it when I was younger, but the first time moiself  ran across these terms I thought, *That’s* why I never felt at home a political party – the world is so much more complex than left and right.

Alas, binary thinking/data compression seems to be the norm for politics.  “You either agree with all of these things (insert your political checklist and/or party platform) or you’re not with us,” or, expressed in another way, “You must *disagree* with *everything* promoted by The Other Side ®, or you’re not with us.”

Zero or one; on or off. Data compression is great for computing, but can be disastrous for human relations. Very few people are completely ‘”on or off,” “this or that,” as per anything. To think otherwise is to opt for the safety of categorization versus risking seeing (and dealing with) complexity.

Lest y’all think I am perfectly consistent on avoiding the pitfalls of binary thinking…

 

 

…I recognize that moiself  has my own litmus tests when it comes to certain issues. I’ve had some interesting discussions with a few people who’ve called themselves feminists but who are also anti-reproductive choice – as in, not only do they say that they personally would not have an abortion under any circumstances, they would go further and deny the choice for others.   [5]   I have not decreed to them that an anti-choice feminist isn’t actually a feminist, as I am not the boss of that word.   [6]    I have presented my take on the matter:  people make decisions all the time, about matters trivial and momentous – decisions that I sometimes don’t like or vehemently oppose.  This is part of living in a pluralistic society.  But when it comes to this particular issue, I’ll go all binary on your ass:  you either support a person’s bodily autonomy, or you don’t. 

*   *   *

Department Of What I’m Listening To…
(Sub-department Of Not That You Care….)

This would be Lindsey Buckingham’s new, self-titled album.

I mistakenly watched a rerun of a recent Stephen Colbert show where Buckingham was the musical guest – the “mistakenly part was watching the show right before bedtime.  The energy of the song Buckingham played was so infectious and the melody/lyrics so catchy, I could not get to sleep after that.

The song (“On the Wrong Side“) seems to be a meditation on looking both backward and forward, with references to life in a touring band (Fleetwood Mac’s halcyon days, I assume) and living in the present, acknowledging the passage of time.  Not the lightest of subjects, yet the rumination is encased in an incredibly catchy pop rhythm and melody, with soaring and layered harmonies. ‘Tis a song that could easily be mistaken for a new Fleetwood Mac single. 

♫  Waitin’ for the night to come
Waitin’ for the moon to rise
Wondering just what have I done
That I never realized

Time is rolling down the road
Love goes riding in a hearse
We were young and now we’re old
Who can tell me which is worse  ♫

Buckingham’s solo work reveals just how much he brought to Fleetwood Mac, and how so much of the band’s sound   [7]  was due to his influence and contributions.

I dare you to listen to On the Wrong Side and then *not* walk around having the chorus stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

♫  I’m outta pity/I’m outta time
Another city/ another crime
I’m…
on the wrong side… ♫

 

 

 

*   *   *

Q & A Punz For The Day
Popular Music Edition

Name a rock group where none of the members sings or plays music.
Mt. Rushmore.

What kind of music do bunnies like?
Hip Hop.

Why did the hearing-impaired jazz musician bring a sweet potato to rehearsal?
He thought he’d been invited to a yam session.

How many guitarists does it take to play Stairway to Heaven?
Apparently, all of them.

 

Sorry about the bicycle wheel, but I couldn’t find any yams.

 

*   *   *

May you eschew most forms of binary thinking;  [8]

May you enjoy listening to at least one song from Lindsey Buckingham;

May you embrace your humanity by holding fast to at least one binary opinion;    [9]

…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Although the Catholics halved the number to 59 beads, in perhaps an effort to claim originality or refute charges of plagiarism.

[2] Except of course/again the originators of such superstitions did not know there were nine planets…and now we all know (though some of us refuse to accept the fact) that there are not nine planets, but eight.  And longtime readers of this blog can likely surmise what I think of astrology.

[3] A prime number is a whole number which is divisible only by itself and 1.

[4] Binary thinking (urban dictionary): “Denotes a system of thought that predominantly considers things in an “either, or”, “right, wrong”, “black, white” way, ignoring any subtleties or consideration of third or more alternatives.”

[5] As in, they support making abortion illegal, or at least highly restricting its availability.

[6] Yet.

[7] In that particular configuration during 1975 – 1987, when he and Stevie Nicks joined.  There have been many, many personnel configurations in the band’s fifty-plus year history.

[8] Except when it comes to black licorice: you either hate it (correct!) or love it (so very, very, wrong).

[9] Like, the one about black licorice.

The Maze I’m Not Navigating

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Department Of Veracity For Sale
Sub-department Of The Suspect Authenticity of User Reviews

This was underneath a peel-off sticker on a product I recently purchased from Amazon:

 

 

Yeah. It’s not so much that they are trying to bribe me, but do they really think my integrity can be bought so cheaply. Considering what the product cost, a 50% refund means they think moiself  – any of their buyers – can be had for $6.99?    [1]

*   *   *

Department Of I Was Not Made For This World

As I was writing this post, I received an email notification from my blog host platform:

purplesheepsbladder@nunchucks.com  just started following you at https://theblogimnotwriting.com.
They will receive an email every time you publish a post. Congratulations. “

 

 

Moiself  has received these notifications one to five times per week, ever since the “birth” (or onset…although that sounds like symptoms of a disease) of my blog, some nine years ago.  So, to get the approximate number of followers of this blog…do the math, if you’re interested.  I, however, am not, so I won’t.

“In social media, a follow represents a user who chooses to see all of another user’s posts in their content feed. Getting users to follow their accounts is a primary objective for online businesses with a social media presence.”
( “What is ‘following’ and what does it mean on social media?” bigcommerce.com )

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,    [2]   I had a conversation with a friend (who also wrote a blog), which went something like this:

A Blogging Friend ® :    [3] “How many people follow your blog?” 

Moiself:
“Huh?”

ABF ® :
“Follow your blog – readers who subscribe to get an alert so that they can read it on a regular basis.”

Moiself:
“Yes, I know what it means. I was “Huh”-ing you because I don’t know how many people follow my blog.”

ABF ® :
“Well, you know you can find out by checking your blog post, the administrative page, under stats, and….”

Moiself:
“Yep, I know about that option. I just don’t care about the numbers;
so, what would be the point in knowing?
That’s not why I write it.”

ABF ® :
“But aren’t you curious?”

Moiself:
“About many things, but this?  Nope.  Although, *you* obviously are.”

ABF ® :
“No, really – don’t you want to know?”

Moiself:
“If I did, I would.
Okay: I assume my blog has fewer followers than someone who posts cat-fart videos on YouTube, and more than my dead grandmother
– oh yeah, who doesn’t even blog, so there’s that….
Besides, where I come from, knowing that people are ‘following’ me – that’s not a good thing.”

ABF ® :
” ?!?!?!?!? “

‘Tis a sad thing, to see an otherwise witty person not get the joke.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Hahaha – That’s Not Funny

Content Warning: Yes.

 

 

Moiself  showed this picture (from a social media post) to MH. We both found it mildly amusing, and also mildly annoying. The picture’s caption flaunts the inherent ageism that people posting pictures and memes are seemingly okey-dokey with.  We bantered about the fact that most people seem to have no problem making fun of the cognitive deficits that a minority of people experience as they age, thus reinforcing that stereotype of the Doddering Elderly.  Whereas, making fun of the cognitive deficits experienced by the majority people with certain, non-age-related, genetic conditions, life situations and/or circumstances is a big NO NO NO NO what’s wrong with you?

“What do you think would happen,” MH wondered aloud, “if, instead of making fun of ‘old people,’ the picture’s caption read, ‘Corn maze for retards’ “?

 

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Don’t listen to that doddering old goat – the following is, in fact, something quite similar.

Department Of If I Ran The World…
This Would Be The First “Ism” To Be Dealt With

Translation: dealt with = “cured.”  I’m talking about   [4]  the ism of ageism.

Synonyms & Antonyms of old (Entry 1 of 2)
being of advanced years and especially past middle age

Synonyms for old
aged, aging (or ageing), ancient, elderly, geriatric, long-lived, older, over-the-hill, senescent, senior, unyoung

Words Related to old
centenarian, nonagenarian, octogenarian, septuagenarian, sexagenarian, oldish
adult, grown-up, mature, middle-aged, pensioned, retired, superannuated, matriarchal, patriarchal, venerable, anile, decrepit, doddering, senile, spavined, tottery,  [5]   overage (also overaged)

Phrases Synonymous with old
long in the tooth, of a certain age
dating or surviving from the distant past

Synonyms for old
age-old, aged, ancient, antediluvian, antique, dateless, hoar, hoary, immemorial, venerable
( Merriam-Webster thesaurus, entries for “old” )

Dateline: Several months back; a gorgeous spring afternoon; sitting with friend CC on her back porch overlooking her and her hubby’s pastureland.  We are having one of our regular, COVID-distance-safe, takeout-Thai-lunch-and-chat sessions.  As we look out at the farmlands behind CC’s pasture  [6]   we chew the proverbial fat   [7]   about everything from family stories to political opinions.   As per the latter, we basically (and succinctly!) solve the problems of the world, as long-term friends are wont to do.

CC and moiself  spoke of our mutual pleasure at our reactions to the new Presidential administration – of how refreshing it is to (once again) have a national leadership team which is too busy trying to do good to have the time (or inclination) to snipe at critics on social media.

 

Joe and Kamala and cabinet – this hamster thumb’s up is for you!

 

We were pleased and surprised by what a fine job Joe Biden is doing, and surprised to realize the source of our surprise, which came from the fact that each of us had not wanted him, at first, to be the Democratic nominee.   It’s not that we thought Biden was unqualified or didn’t have good ideas – far from it!  It’s that we wanted him and the other members of his age group to hand things to the younger folks. His generation had done their share; it’s time to move on.

It was, simply and ultimately, about his age.  It was ageism.

And there we were, both pleased and embarrassed to see what he is doing.  He’s diving right in, being quiet and mostly not having press conferences because there are so damn many problems to fix and he’s in there doing it, working the system with the knowledge he’s acquired after years in Washington, with a sure and steady hand….  Being pleased about that is obvious; the embarrassment came from the fact that his commitment and passion for this job – fixing the country – might have been denied the country, if ageist biases, like the ones we both held, had prevailed.

And that led to our conversational “tour on ageism.” We spoke of our own issues and challenges with the physical aspects growing older (while acknowledging that the things we complain about are actually privileges denied to many   [8]  ). We’ve both become beyond frustrated with the way aging is portrayed in – well, in *everything,* from literature and film and media to medicine to product marketing.  This has always been especially true for women; however, men are starting to get more of it, too, when it comes to the detestable, “anti-aging” label which is attached (as if it “stopping aging” should be a desirable, attainable goal) to every sort of thing which can be merchandised, from clothing to vitamins to exercise equipment and regimens to, of course, cosmetic products and surgical procedures.

 

Allow me to introduce you to the ultimate anti-aging products.

The only sure-fire, anti-aging product is death.  Wrinkle cream, shrinkle cream – die now, at age 59, and you’ll never look like you’re 60! 

Reality smackdown:
No matter what your age, you are older today than you’ve ever been,

and are younger today than you will be tomorrow.

 

…just thinking about that.

 

“It’s not that aging is wrong, it’s just that people will judge you and treat you differently if you look old,” is the advice I have actually heard (translation: ” ‘Other people,’ but, uh, not me…the one who is telling you that your gray hair and wrinkles need erasing”). And, gawddammit, that is (at least partly) true…but it’s not going to change if these Judging People don’t have positive models of those who gracefully accept getting older sans product intervention.

The stop-aging/anti-aging product world has learned from criticism: recently, most of its advertising (that moiself  has seen) takes the proactive approach, emphasizing the “be the best that you can be/look the best you can, at any age!” messaging.  That’s a tiny step up from “Your naturally graying hair makes you look like a hag;” however, it still conveys the undercurrent message, which is that “looking your age,” which is whatever you look like at whatever age you are, is not a good thing.  Those wrinkles that you earned, the gray hair, all of the physical changes which are the natural, inevitable result of being alive – get rid of ’em!  You don’t want to look “old,” because in our culture equals incompetent, senile – and, and creepiest of all, in a way – ugly. Old equals ugly.

I’ve seen many movies (back in the movie theater, yay! ) this summer, and also, during the previews, several trailers for a M. Night Shayamalan movie, which I’ve decided to put on my fuck no no thanks list.  The movie is being marketed in the horror genre. Just the title alone is insulting – I mean of course, so descriptive.  As in, what could be more horrifying than…becoming this:

 

 

A Curiosity Daily podcast I’d recently listened to presented studies showing that younger people who saw themselves as advocates for equality are most likely to hold discriminatory views re older adults.  Yep, it turns out that those often involved in fighting, say, racism and sexism (and such people are in their twenties, thirties and even forties) are likely to discriminate against older folk because they view the oldsters through the lens of their own ageism – they think that people older than themselves are more likely to be racist and sexist.

 

 

“Social justice movements, such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, have done huge amounts to address racism and sexism in our society…. However — and this is a big however — people who are keenest to advocate for women and racial minorities harbour more prejudice against a group that reports almost as much US workplace discrimination as these two: older people….
Ageism is so condoned in American culture that many do not see it as an ‘-ism’, in the same manner of other forms of prejudice…
…people who scored higher on (egalitarian advocacy study tests) scale were more disapproving of racism and sexism but also more likely to endorse ‘Succession-based ageism’ — the idea that older people should step aside to improve younger people’s job opportunities…
… researchers found that the more that (study participants) endorsed egalitarian advocacy, the more money they wanted to go to women and racial minorities — and the less they wanted to go to older people. Questionnaire results showed that this was driven by a belief that older people block women and racial minorities from getting ahead….this research suggests that when it comes to egalitarianism, equality for all may only mean equality for some….”

( “Advocates Of Equality For All Are More Like To Show Prejudice Against Older Adults At Work,” The British Psychological Research Society Digest, 3-4-21 )

 

 

Oy, the futility of it all. Ageism, in moiself’s opinion, is the stupidest of the isms.  It should be the one discrimination which is in everyone’s self-interest to combat.  So, why don’t we?  It seems that everything else which divides us – country of origin, religious and worldviews, political affiliations, culture, gender, sexual orientation – cannot be fully reconciled, and I have heard people (well-meaning, sincere, actively-working-for-the good-for-all people ) despair that, ultimately, there is no commonality. But, there IS.

White and black; female and male; hateful redneck third generation Texan and hopeful Latino immigrant; blustery climate change denier and introverted renewable energy supporter; nattering homophobe and flaming drag queen – we all have one commonality: We will all be Old People ®  someday.

Only death will relieve or prevent you from joining The Senior Set ®, that denigrated demographic.  Thus, it is in everyone’s best interest to work to eliminate the stereotypes of old age.  One of the most effective ways to do that is to make sure that vibrant aging minds and bodies still have vibrant and ample opportunities to contribute to society.

 

 

If, as a young person, you do not see people decades older than you being ( or, being *allowed to be* )  active and engaged members of any and all professions; if all you see of “the elderly” is images of people being warehoused (whether in their own homes or in golf course-infested retirement communities); if you can’t joke about someone’s gender or ethnicity but sharing a meme about feeble-minded old dudes who can’t navigate a corn maze always gets a laugh – well then, of course, what will you think?

One of my solutions:  Unless it can be scientifically demonstrated that no one over age 65 can continue to be, for example, an airline pilot, get rid of age-related mandatory requirement.  *Do* require training and testing, not forced departure, for certain jobs at a certain ages.  It’s no secret that certain physical capabilities and mental facilities can decline in some (but not all) older people.  And there are ways to test for these deficits, ways that, unlike mandatory retirement regulations, do not discriminate.  A lot of the removal of people from physically and mentally taxing jobs is voluntary; for where it’s not, yearly/periodic training or retesting could help weed out those who are no longer performing at the proper capacity for their particular profession.

Consider The Notorious RBG, who even months before her death from pancreatic cancer – hell, who, even from the grave – could run intellectual circles around SCOTUS colleagues decades younger than herself.  ( Yeah, I’m talkin’ *you,* Brett “I like Beer” Kavanaugh and Amy Originalist Conehead Coney Barrett.) .

 

 

Two of my cousins (both now deceased) were firefighters in LA County.  Years ago, when there’d been some public consternation about firefighter recruiting and testing requirements, firefighter/EMT cousin TTB told me the following story: TTB’s captain had surprised his crew one afternoon by ordering the crew – all of whom were at least fifteen-year veteran firefighters – to take the physical abilities testing given to recruits.  The crew, like all firefighters, participated in regular training drills, but the captain without warning made them do the grueling physical test give to wannabe firefighters. Almost all of the veterans failed.   [9]  Yet, they were good at their jobs. Should they have been fired/dismissed on the spot?  Just the previous day, the crew had responded to a fire and a medical emergency, and had done everything that needed to be done, in each case.  Apparently, their lack of peak/youthful brute strength was more than compensated for by their years of experience.

Also, the strapping young man who easily passed the physical challenges tests at age 21 might not be able to do so again, even at the relatively young age of 32 (like my cousin; see footnote). But if the skills testing is not done across the board (i.e., is only given to people above a certain age), by virtue of his youth, he may be allowed to continue on the job for which, according to that test, he is no longer qualified…or, it just might be that his experience will outweigh the somewhat random application of a physical skills test.

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Reverse Ageism Edition

Why do Generation Z-ers always type in lowercase?
Because they reject capitalism.

Why are today’s youth are so odd?
Because they can’t even.

Why does Santa Claus outright refuse to employ any Gen Y’ers to work as elves?
There are already too many snowflakes at the North Pole.

What do you call a bird that likes avocado toast?
The Millennial Falcon.

 

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

*   *   *

May you have fun getting lost in a corn maze, no matter your age;
May all of your product reviews be kickback-free;
May you, if you so desire, have people “following” (and not stalking) you;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Now, triple that and then we’re talkin.’

[2] Or maybe…like…six years?

[3] The friend was over a decade younger than moiself …which might be considered significant, given the topics which follow.

[4] Okay; actually, I’m writing it.  Picky, picky.

[5] Okay; these words are pejorative, but I really do like the sound of, “tottery.”

[6] Our conversation is punctuated by a neighbor farm’s loquacious bovine, whom I have nicknamed B4: Bill the Boisterous Bellowing Bull.

[7] Monosaturated, of course.

[8] We both have friends and family who have died “young”…how we wish they could have lived to complain their aching joints and wrinkled skin….

[9] Including my cousin, who had a pot belly the most calorie-seeking, nearing-hibernation-bear would have admired.

The Butt I’m Not Kicking

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Department Of You Want Me To Pay Extra So You Can Kick My What?

‘Tis a sheltered life I have led. Until now.

Dateline:  Monday, 4pm, in a local Regal Theater Cinema complex, seeing the movie “Free Guy,” in the “ButtKicker recliner seating” theater.  Although that cinema complex has had one theater designated ButtKicker for several years, moiself  had never seen a movie in the BK theater.  I’d always assumed that the BK label meant that it was a theater equipped with a particularly loud sound system…which I don’t care about.  The reason I chose that theater (and paid the extra ticket charge) was because it was my only choice, for the particular time slot I had that day, to see a movie.

It turns out that the BK experience was not just loud, but… juddering.   [1]  The ButtKicker Recliners ®  are not, as I initially thought, a Regal Theater marketing gimmick, as moiself  discovered when I got home and did a little web snooping.  It’s an actual Thing ®.  As in, a thing you can purchase and install for your own home movie theater.   [2]

“Get ready for the most fun you’ve ever had watching a movie at home. Feel all the action and excitement – just like being at a 4D special effects theater. ButtKicker® 4D brings family movie-time to life. Using patented technology, ButtKicker products connect to your couch or chairs and send the FEELING of special effects, explosions, rocket launches, racing engines, music and much more right through it and the viewers. It’s a new, immersive dimension in home entertainment.”
( “Bring Your Theater to the Next Level,” Buttkicker Home Theater )

Because, who *wouldn’t* want to send “…the FEELING of…rocket launches …right through it.”  As in, through your chairs or couch, and thus, your butt.

 

“Take *that,* you pretentious cinephile!”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Do These People Know How To Party, Or What?

Fun stuff this week in our household! Including:

*taking 14 year old Nova to her veterinary appointment, for a well-kitty exam plus getting her up-to-date on her rabies, Feline Leukemia and FVRCP vaccinations;

* a visit from the Varmint Control Guy, to do roof repairs to fix the damage a squirrel invasion ( previously histrionically kvetched written about in this space ) had done to our roof and eaves;

* MH’s first COVID-19 test…

*…which he had to do before starting the oh-so-circumspectly named Bowel Prep Kit

*… to clear the landing field, so to speak, in preparation for his routine colonoscopy, which was scheduled the day before his birthday.

 

Nova, leaping (sleaping?) for joy, knowing MH can go back to eating high fiber foods just in time for his birthday.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Post-Procedural Updates

Background info: MH has never been able to roll his rs, which is the main reason, he told me many years ago, that he took German as a foreign language in high school.  He’d thought Spanish would be more useful/practical, but he simply could not roll his rs as is required for the correct pronunciation of many Spanish words, and he was somewhat intimidated/embarrassed by his lack of being able to perform that particular linguistic feat.  And it’s true: over the years, I’ve tried to get him to do it (or trick him into it), and he simple cannot roll his rs.

Dateline: Thursday, 10:50 am. MH is back home after his colonoscopy.  He thinks he’s fine, but it’s obvious to moiself  that the effects of the Versed (the sedative used during the procedure) are still reigning.   [3]  He’s…goofy

He stands at the kitchen counter, looking at the color printout he was given at the hospital, which includes a map of the lower intestines. He begins reading off the “map sites” to me:

MH (in a voice much higher than his usual range):
“The ilium!
The cecum!
The rrrrrrrrrrrectum…”

Moiself:
What?!?!?!  Holy crap; did you hear yourself?!  You rolled your rs!

MH (in miffed toddler mode):
“No I didn’t.”

Moiself:
“Oh yes you did!”

He proceeds to say “rectum’ over and over, drawing out the r sound without rolling it.  But for one glorious, Versed-induced moment, them rs were rolling like a river.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of My New Slogan

Which is…well, it’s not exactly a t-shirt or bumper stucker worthy maxim, or a…

 

 

Okay, its’:

Don’t Drop The H.

This random thought, brought to you by moiself , was sparked by my listening to a podcast in which the guest was consistently *not* pronouncing the first letter in certain words which began with h. For example, he spoke of doing experiments on umans instead of on humans.

Really, y’all: what’s with the dropping-the-h thing, moiself  has long wondered? It’s a perfectly respectable letter and I assume it’s there for a reason.

We’ve all either noticed this pronunciation peculiarity or are ourselves the perpetrators of it.  Although I have not studied this phenomenon scientifically, my anecdotal recollection is that “h-dropping” (and it is a thing –  it has its own Wikipedia page!), by those who do so, occurs most often when the word beginning with h is followed by the vowel, u.  Favorite example: I once heard someone complain that his date did not appreciate his “uge sense of umor.”

All right now, class:

 

I am a human being, not a uman being.
I cook with herbs, not erbs.
I live in a house, not in a ouse…

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of As Seen On TV As Mentioned Last Week:
Driverless Cars Ruminations

As in, moiself  ruminating on driverless cars, and not the other way around.   [4]

My Subaru Outback has Eyesight Driver Assist Technology ®,  which consists of a variety of features, including

* Pre-Collision Braking
* Pre-collision throttle management
* Lane keep assist and sway warning
* Rear/backup cameras
* Side view cameras (“blind spot” monitoring)
* Adaptive cruise control

Thus, in a (very) small way, moiself  has become at least marginally acquainted with the technologies which will be more fully employed in what we refer to as driverless cars and/or self-driving vehicles….  Although, the latter term seems somewhat problematic to moiself , as it makes me ruminate on the sentience of automotive vehicles…   [5] 

 

A car driving itself?  No problem. but nothing can replace driver initiative when it comes to bumper sticker adornment.

 

Yet again, I digress.

So, yeah: contemplating the technologies needed for driverless cars is neither foreign nor unimaginable to me, even though, as per my experience with what is state-of-the-market, some of these technologies have a way to go in terms of fine-tuning.  For example, my car’s brakes have automatically engaged – a tad too vigorously for my nervous system – when I’ve been backing into my driveway and my car’s sensor system thinks that the neighbor’s tree branches dangling harmlessly over the fence are a dangerous obstacle and my car must be brought to a complete stop RIGHT NOW.

Ah…but it’s looking out for me, how sweet.

 

“Who’s a good girl?!”

 

I haven’t seen any 2021 reports on the subject, but have read studies from the past couple of years which show that the majority of Americans fear the idea of riding in autonomous driving vehicles. It seems to moiself  that the more complete technology of “driver assist” sensors et al is bound to happen, and I am okay with, or as least accepting of, the inevitability of a driverless car future.  And, realizing that moiself  holds this attitude surprises moiself, as I am someone who has *never* used the cruise control feature of a vehicle I am driving.   [6]

It would be easier for me to fully accept driverless cars if everyone has them (for some reason, the idea of half the people on the road being in “driverless” cars and half doing it the old way…it creeps me out).

And I often wonder what will the greater “We” will accept, in terms of mistakes, from this particular technology?  Of course, there will be accidents involving and/or caused by autonomous driving cars.  I have a feeling most of them will be similar to the kinds we already have, from the minor fender benders, backing into a trash can…  Then again, some will be horrific and will involve loss of life: driving off of a cliff, running a stop sign and t-boning another vehicle….

Just like the kind of accidents we fully/allegedly sentient human drivers have been getting into, for over 100 years.

Another consideration:  a driverless vehicle will never have the excuse of

* driving drunk and blowing through a stop sign;

* passing out and running off the road and hitting and killing a child,
due to the driver experiencing a diabetic coma or other medical emergency;

* being distracted by kids bickering in the back seat;

* being Bubba Redneck, who purposefully tail-gates the car in front of him and causes the driver (whose Greenpeace sticker inexplicably irritates Bubba)
to become intimidated and lose control of his vehicle;

* falling asleep at the wheel;

* trying to compensate for a small penis impress the ladies and/or his homies by engaging in illegal street racing;

* running a red light while texting;

* simply overestimating its own ability to negotiate this turn/these streets under these conditions/at these speeds….

 

 

A prime example of the Dunning-Kruger effect is how drivers rate their own competence. It’s the human thing to do, apparently, to think that we are better driver than we are. Study after study shows that the overwhelming majority of American drivers rate themselves as cautious and safety-conscious and “above average” as drivers.  Yet, despite this…

“…there are approximately 10 million car crashes every year in the US alone.  That’s about 27,000 per day, or about 19 crashes every single minute of the day, every single day. Yikes. In these, about 35,000 people are killed every year.  That’s just under a hundred people a day, killed in car crashes.  Another 6,500 people are seriously injured in crashes each day.
So, if the overwhelming majority of road users are better than average, why are so many crashes still happening?
Part of the answer is likely due to the Dunning-Kruger Effect, which is a cognitive theory which hypothesizes that incompetent people lack the self-awareness to identify their own incompetence.”
( Driving and the Dunning_Kruger Effect, moderndriver.org )

It’s easy to ignore the reality that we are, in so many ways, at the mercy of the skills of the other drivers around us…and that we tacitly accept that risk every time we back out of our driveway, whether we are embarking on a 1000-mile road trip or a half-mile errand to Home Depot. We may be doing fine; we may be alert and paying attention and obeying all the rules of the road…and along comes the naive and cocky, speeding teenage driver, or the “been-driving-for-60-years-and-never-had-an-accident” grandpa who confuses his car’s brake pedal with its accelerator, or the average Joe or Jane in his or her prime (read: you or me) who, for whatever reason, is momentarily distracted…and we’re lucky if all we get out of the encounter is a fender-bender.

The idea of being in a self-driving car, as a passenger, can fill me with dread, anticipating situations over which I have no control.  The idea of working my crossword or KenKen puzzle, then looking up and seeing my self-driving car veer off the road onto a sidewalk, or not decelerating for the pedestrian in the walkway – that gives me the willies.  However, I’ve already experienced that situation…or at least, I have a comparison.  And so do you.  Perhaps we just need to reframe our references?

We’ve all, already, had our driverless car situations, but didn’t frame them as such.  Sitting in a car’s front passenger or backseat (as in, we are a passenger in the car, and not the driver), we have had to watch as the driver does, or is about to do, something frightening or dangerous, and we are not at the controls and all we can do is white-knuckle our armrest and yell, “Look out!” or “Stop!”  Or, in the case of teaching your own teenaged offspring to drive, you hear yourself screech, “WHAT the fuck are you doing are you trying to kill us all?!?!?!”) calmly yet urgently advising, “You’re going to need to drastically slow down to negotiate this hairpin curve ahead….”

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Automotive Edition

I accidentally drove my Outback into the river. Now it’s a Scubaru.

Two French cheese trucks were in a head-on collision –
there’s da brie all over the road!

What do you get when dinosaurs crash their cars?
Tyrannosaurus wrecks.

My Norwegian cousin works as a prostitute.
You might say she’s a Fjord Escort.

Jimi Hendrix broke his guitar in a car crash.
Yep, the accident was a Fender-bender.

 

*   *   *

May you, at least once in your life, have a juddering cinematic experience;
May you come to terms with a “driverless” future;
May you always pronounce the damn h;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Which is a good word that deserves to be used more often than it is.

[2] Should you have a few thousand dollars you need to get rid of.

[3] I suggested he go upstairs and sit or lie down, as he was rather wobbly standing.  He wanted to go up the stairs by himself; I insisted he hold on to the handrail, which he did, while vaulting up the stairs two at a time.  When I snapped at him to slow down he said, “It feels better this way!”

[4] Who cares what driverless cars think about *me*?

[5] As in, do they know they exist?  If a car is self-driving, does it have a sense of “self”?

[6] For a variety of reasons, including reading studies that show that cruise control actually raises crash risks, and reading about several accidents caused when cars’ cruise control mechanism “stuck,” including this horrific one… and also, I think it keeps me more awake and engaged by having to keep my foot on the throttle, and brake.

The Drug Test I’m Not Failing

Comments Off on The Drug Test I’m Not Failing

As the Tokyo Olympics Games enter the final week, I’m realizing I will soon be going through the withdrawal I experience every two years, after watching two-plus weeks of (summer or winter) Olympics events.  I’m not normally a frequent televised-sporting-events fan, but moiself  does enjoy The Games ®.

As always, besides the events themselves, I find interest (and sometimes, petty and/or snarky entertainment) in “the human drama of athletic competition;”  that is, the stories behind the stories.  Does anyone else remember the ABC Wild World of Sports intro?

 

 

In the second week, with track and field events predominating, moiself  is thinking about a conversation I had with daughter Belle, several weeks back, about how the USA’s track star Sha’ Carri Richardson received a suspension for testing positive for marijuana, and thus would not be participating in the Olympics.

Belle was peeved that Richardson would not be able to compete, due to what Belle sees as an unfair and archaic drug testing system.  I mentioned that Richardson’s competitors might also be disappointed in Richardson’s absence from the games.  As I understand it, when you’re at the top level of your sport you want to compete against the best.  Also, whatever your accomplishments, you don’t want an asterisk next to them (as in, ” * ___ won the gold medal for the 100-meter race, but the favorite ____ was disqualified”).

We agreed that athletes should be tested for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs; definitely-absolutely-go-for-it.  But Belle and I had fun wondering back and forth about why athletes are tested for alcohol and marijuana.  Perhaps I don’t know enough about the subject, but it seems to moiself  that weed and booze, with their relaxant and depressive properties, would diminish, not enhance, athletic performance.  And really now: in what sports could marijuana be considered a performance enhancing drug? Competitive eating? Belle suggested.

You’d think athletes would *want* their rivals to get the munchies before competition: here comes Richardson, strolling across the finish line in last place, giving the other racers a, “What’s up with all the hurry?” look as she heads for the pizza roll vendor….

 

“I’d like to thank my coach, and my training partner, Maui Wowie.”

 

So, lobby to change the Olympics’ drug testing rules, if you think it would be worthwhile to do so.  Until then, it would be unfair to other athletes to make exceptions for some and not others, in terms of how existing drug rules are applied.  [1]

Also, the athletes know full well what they will be tested for.  My advice to them   [2]  is, don’t act surprised and/or disappointed if you used a banned substance and then get caught.  Take responsibility.  Don’t play dumb when you’re not.

*   *   *

Department Of Levar Burton, Please Reconsider And/Or Retract

We must believe in luck.
For how else can we explain the success of those we don’t like?
( Jean Cocteau, French novelist and director)

The acknowledgment of luck, circumstance, and “accidents” in our lives (and in the universe) is one of the hallmarks of wisdom, maturity, and humility.  Sure, sometimes the cream rises to the top all by itself; sometimes, someone achieves fame and fortune not because they were the most talented writer/actor/scientist in the room, but because they were the *only* writer/actor/scientist in a room that needed their skills At That Very Moment…or they just happened to be in the right room at the right time, with the Right People to notice and promote them.

To some degree we can choose how we respond to luck, happenstance, and accidents, but we can neither totally nor consistently control nor predict these accidents (which is why such things are called…all together now…accidents).

On the first bumper sticker (or, maybe it was a chariot sticker) known to humankind, an ancient philosopher wrote a vulgar yet tersely wise summary of the existential acknowledgement of the fact that life is filled with unpredictable events: 

 

Yet, some folks just don’t seem to get this.

Dateline: Wednesday 6:50-ish a.m., warming up my on elliptical exercise machine while listening to comedian Tig Notaro’s “advice” podcast, Don’t Ask Tig.  Tig’s guest was producer-actor-writer Levar Burton, best known for his role as Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and for being host of the beloved PBS children’s series, Reading Rainbow

Moiself  has always enjoyed Burton’s work.  Thus, my WTF ?!?!?  indignation when he said something in the capacity of advice-giver on the podcast, something which made me want to dust off my old Asshat Of The Week award and bestow it upon him.

 

Asshat Of The Week.  Just waiting for the right recipient….

 

Burton and Notaro were responding to a letter from an advice-seeker when he flung this:

“I have had to learn over time that there are no accidents in the universe – that everything has purpose.”

 

 

The rest of Burton’s advice, about being mindful of one’s patterns and intentions, etc., would have been fine.  But he had to insert that boner of a bogus bromide.

“There are no accidents in the universe – everything has purpose.”

No, Mr. Burton, that is not what you have “learned* over time” – that is what you inexplicably *believe.*  Not only do you have no evidence for that belief, I would think that, looking around the world – excuse me, the UNIVERSE (using Geordi LaForge’s electromagnetic scanning VISOR, if necessary) – with a truly open mind, you would have to admit that there is quite the evidence to the contrary.

 

 

There are accidents, or random incidents, in the universe.  All. The. Time.  Call them what you will; there is happenstance/luck/circumstance.  The “purpose” of the series of tornadoes which struck Tennessee on March 2-3 2020 was not to kill the 25 people that they did; the tornadoes were accidents/incidents which occurred due to the particular combination of topography and weather patterns which spawn any tornado.

That execrable “There are no accidents in the universe” statement to the contrary, you’ve always seemed to moiself  to be intelligent, curious, and kind. Thoughtful person that you seem to be, have you neglected to take under consideration the logical conclusions of such there-are-no-accidents beliefs?

Dude: the denial of accident/chance/luck/circumstance is Blaming The Victim 101.

What about that woman who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was attacked by a serial rapist? What purpose did it serve; what part did she play in it, or what lesson did she need to know – after all, if there truly are no accidents then everything happens “on purpose;” i.e., for a reason.

And the historical and ongoing oppression of people of color? You spoke briefly of experiencing racism in your life, but you also mentioned something indicating that you believe in “karma,” so then, there’s no accident there. You were born into an oppressed minority, through no choosing of your own…or….?  Did you, do you and other people who have experienced discrimination, somehow have something to do with it?  That’s what the philosophy of karma would say: that subconsciously or otherwise people choose their fates.  [3]   And since there are no accidents and everything has a purpose, what greater purpose (for those enslaved) did the enslavement of millions of people serve?

I’ve written about this before (most extensively, here) , and likely will again, as the “everything happens for a reason” horseshit philosophy is blithely held and repeated by too many otherwise non-rational well-meaning people.

 

Thank you for your attention. We now return to our regular programming.

 

*   *   *

Department Of a Memory Seemingly Apropos Of Nothing…

But it’s always *something,*   [4]  isn’t it?

Whatever the prompt (or whatever Levar Burton might say is its “purpose”), I am grateful to recall the incident.

Dateline: 7-24-2015. The memory is from the day when a friend and I made some hastily scrawled protest signs and did an impromptu picketing of the anti-choice protesters who themselves were picketing outside of Portland’s Lovejoy Surgicenter.

Our adventures were recounted more extensively by moiself  in this blog post; the specific remembrance I’m referring to was when my friend and I entered the clinic after the protestors had left, and chatted with a few members of the (all-female) clinic staff. This blurb still deserves the title I gave it six years ago:

Department of Possibly The Best Answer to a Question, Ever

We stayed until the Antis left, then entered the clinic. The Ladies of Lovejoy got quite the kick out of our signs and expressed their gratitude for our support. We chatted with them for several minutes, trading protester stories and shop talk.   [5]

As per the latter, one of the clinicians mentioned that the clinic had expanded services to include male healthcare, and that she “really enjoys” doing vasectomies.  I, of course, had to ask her why she found vasectomies so enjoyable.  After working with women’s health all day, she said,
“It’s a nice change of scenery.”

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day
Vasectomy Edition

What do a Christmas tree and a vasectomy have in common?
The balls are only ornamental.

What do you call an artist who had a vasectomy?
Seriously, does anyone know?  I’m drawing a blank here.

Is there much difference between a man who’s had a vasectomy and a man who hasn’t?
Yes, there’s a vas deference.

Most men can take having a sore arm or leg.
But a vasectomy? That’s a whole different ball game.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you enjoy the human drama of athletic competition ®;
May you understand and accept the reality of luck and circumstance;
May you always appreciate a change of scenery;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Richardson claimed she used weed to cope with receiving the news of the unexpected death of her biological mother.  I that’s the case, I’m wondering why she didn’t alert officials before she was tested, along the lines of, “BTW, I used this substance for this reason,” to try to explain or at least warn them that she wasn’t trying to sneak anything past them.

[2] Which they clamor for, night and day…it gets soooooo annoying.

[3] The karmic premises of cause and effect: “each action  (as well as a person’s thoughts and words) a person takes will affect him or her at some time in the future,” and “like causes produce like effects”

[4] Even if you don’t recognize the trigger at the time.

[5] A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I worked in women’s reproductive health care, both in a public clinic setting (Planned  Parenthood) and in a private OB/GYN practice.

 

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