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The SCOTUS Justices I’m Not (Yet) Assaulting

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Department Of Any Questions, Stupid Or Otherwise?

 

 

Dateline Sunday 7:40 am; morning walk; listening to No Stupid Questions podcast, episode 98: Is Having Children Worth It?  The episode consists of hosts Stephen Dubner and Angela Duckworth discussing the various factors – from economic to personal to cultural and beyond – people weigh when considering parenthood.

About twenty minutes into the podcast the show’s producer announces a break:

“Before we return to Stephen and Angela’s conversation about modern fertility, let’s hear some of your thoughts on the subject. We asked listeners to let us know the factors that affected their decisions to have kids. Here’s what you said.”

The producer plays three phone recordings. The sentiments expressed by the second listener/commentator were, unfortunately and predictably, no surprise to moiself.   [1]

Second commentator:
“As of now, my husband and I are leaning towards remaining childfree…. What I’ve found really interesting is the very different experiences that we’ve had in sharing this news when asked.
I get asked very frequently, ‘When are you having kids?’ It’s just assumed.
And if I tell someone, whether it’s a close friend or a complete stranger — which is very frequent — that we don’t plan to have kids, I get really strong reactions, and they’ve really made me question the value that I’d bring to society as a woman if I’m not a mother….
Meanwhile, my husband gets asked about once or twice a year, and his manhood and value is never brought into question.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Or Morality, Schmality – The Ultimate Litmus Test On This Issue

Moiself  has plenty o’ thoughts – some of them even/arguably suitable for non-R-rated audiences – about the leak of the SCOTUS draft which indicates that the conservative (read: Republican-appointed) SCOTUS justices have plans to return our society to the medieval mores of governance by religious superstition and female chattel-dom repeal Roe v. Wade

 

 

Those thoughts I will share…later.  As in, in several weeks from now, when the hoopla dies down (perhaps) and we get a handle on what’s really happening, and when I have been dissuaded from my karma-generating plan to hire a team of Valkyries and Ninjas to kidnap SCOTUS justices Alito, Kavanaugh, Roberts, and Thomas, transport them to a secure back alley where the justices will have coat hanger wires up inserted their respective urethras to perform a D & C of their potential abortion causing,   [2]   sperm factory organs.

 

 

 

 

For now, consider this:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Applying Cognitive Behavioral Therapy To Moiself

Dateline: Sunday 7:50 am-ish, Oregon coast.  Returning from a walk along the beach. I turn around for one last glance,  [3]   pausing to gaze at the rising sunlight reflecting off the foaming waves, noticing how the retreating tide left a beautiful, reflective sheen to the green-gray sand…. Wait a sec – what is that awful, acrid smell, so early in the morning?

Looking behind moiself , I see a woman sitting on an Adirondack chair on the upper porch of a beach rental house across the street.  She is vigorously/alternately sucking on and exhaling the effluence from her cigarette; my instinctive disgust kicks in:

“It’s one thing to torment her own lungs, but holy self-pollution – smokers don’t seem to realize – or just don’t care – that their smoke travels, and torments *me,* even though I’m 30 feet away….”

 

 

Then I stop moiself, and recall a cognitive behavioral tenet I recently (re)heard:

If you can’t change your circumstances,
change how you think about your circumstances.  [4]

And I am struck by a wave of gratitude.

 

 

Both my parents were the only non-smokers among their respective siblings.    [5]   When I was in early grade school, having non-smoking parents seemed to be the minority experience for my peers…although not long after the Surgeon’s General’s landmark report on smoking and health was released, that began to change.

 

 

 

 

Looking back, I have to laugh at the naivete involved when I helped a friend, who was concerned about her mother’s health (she’d overheard her parents talking about how the mother’s doctor had advised her to quit smoking).  Friend and I conspired as to how we could get her mother to stop smoking.  As fourth graders, we knew nothing about the power of nicotine addiction, only the power of our preteen will:  we convinced ourselves that, by combing Friend’s house from top to bottom when her mother was out running an errand we could find and discard all of her mother’s cigarettes and cigarette lighters, and ta-da, she’d quit!  How can you smoke something that isn’t there?

 

“Look, honey, I found your last cigarette in the cat’s litter box.  Maybe you can skip your after-dinner smoke and we’ll watch ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ instead.”

 

Once again, I digress.

The gratitude which struck me: How lucky was I?  How lucky *am* I?

If moiself  had grown up with smoking parents, how likely is it    [6]    that I would have also fallen into that “filthy habit,” as my father called it?    [7]   And even if I’d managed to avoid becoming a smoker but had parents who were nicotine fiends, I would have had an increased risk of heart and lung disease from living with second-hand smoke.

And just like that, my annoyance dissipated ( like a puff of smoke? ), and morphed into a sense of gratitude.   [8]

 

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Marlboro Man Edition

I had a legless dog I named, “Cigarette.”
Every morning I took him out for a drag.

What does Han Solo put in his cigarettes?
Chewbacco.

My friend started punting his Marlboro packs – he’s trying to kick the habit.

Why are cigarettes like hamsters?
They are perfectly harmless until you stick one in your mouth and light it on fire.

 

 

*   *   *

May you feel grateful for unhealthy habits *not* practiced by those who raised you;
May you cultivate the ability to reframe your circumstances;
May the SCOTUS stay out of your respective lady and man parts;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Or, likely, to other female listeners, whether or not they have children.

[2] Abortions are caused by men – that is, unwanted pregnancies are caused by irresponsible male ejaculations… even the wanted pregnancies that must be terminated due to fetal abnormalities incompatible with life and/or maternal health issues, are also caused by men.

[3] Always say goodbye to the beach, every time you leave it.  Blow a kiss to the breakers; you never know when it will be the last time.

[4] If you can’t change your circumstances, work on changing the way you think about your circumstances, or how you frame your circumstances. Classic cognitive behavioral therapy advice, and one of the few things proven to help both your mood/attitude…which then may, even, eventually, help you to change your circumstances.

[5] My father smoked while in the army – cigarettes were part of a WWII soldier’s ration kit – but quit several years before meeting my mother.

[6] Three to six times more likely, as various studies show.

[7] He used that term privately, and not in front of our smoking relatives (which was, all of them) or friends or neighbors.

[8] And even a faint sense of pity for the nic-junkie on the beach house balcony.

The Destiny I’m Not Fulfilling

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Department Of Podcast Feeds I’m Deleting

 

 

I post frequently about the podcasts moiself  listens to (and this entire post, unintentionally, is devoted to that).  Recently I did a trial listen to a new (to moiself) pocast, titled,  Tell Me.

TM is hosted by actor/producer Ellen Pompeo, best known for her seventeen year stint as Dr. Meredith Grey on the TV show, Grey’s Anatomy.  I can’t remember how I heard of TM – most likely via an ad on a podcast moiself  already listens to – so I checked out the show’s website:

” …Ellen Pompeo sits down with a wide range of guests and celebrity friends who inspire her and who do extraordinary things. Through in-depth, candid conversations, Ellen shines a light on people and issues that are important to her and the world at large….
Ellen is also an outspoken activist for issues including equal pay for women in Hollywood and beyond, social justice, voting rights, and women’s rights.”

Hmmm. I’ve had the ass-tearing-with-boredom experience of trying out podcasts, supposedly highly-rated, which feature “celebrities” (read: comedians and actors) who seem genial enough and are good at their profession, and then the podcast consists of them talking with their friends…and the conversations between them and their fellow, A- and B-list celebs don’t hold my attention for long. It’s like being on the bus listening to Joe Schmo and Kathy Whoa sharing their in-crowd jokes, etc., only these Joes and Kathys have famous names…but you still don’t know them personally.  Despite how funny/talented they are on stage, they start with the seemingly obligatory Celebrity-Host-to-Celebrity-Guest podcast Intro ®, which is a session of mutual ass-kissing (“I love your work!” “And I love *your* work…!”)…and then…who really cares?

 

 

However, when I read about Pompeo’s activism I assumed that would be a prominent feature of her podcast, so I gave it a try.

In the past week I listened to three of her interviews…or tried to.  I couldn’t make it all the way through: in at least two of them, Pompeo and/or her guests brought up their “signs,” as in astrology, and chatted about their respective and supposed zodiac attributes (along the lines of, “Ah yes, as a Scorpio…” ).

 

 

I…just…cannot….

She’s off my feed now.  I’m still a Grey’s Anatomy fan, but I simply cannot take Pompeo seriously as a podcast host of “… issues that are important to…the world at large.”

“It turns out that astrologers can’t even agree among themselves what a given horoscope means. In careful tests they’re unable to predict the character and future of people they know nothing about except the time and place of birth.
Also, how could it possibly work? How could the rising of Mars at the moment of my birth affect me then or now? I was born in a closed room. Light from Mars couldn’t get in. The only influence of Mars which could affect me was its gravity. But the gravitational influence of the obstetrician was much larger than the gravitational influence or Mars.
Mars is a lot more massive but the obstetrician was a lot closer.”
( Carl Sagan )

 

 

In the year 2022, the idea that some people would give even a modicum of legitimacy to the medieval hokum that is astrology….

And yes, I realize a lot of people throw around astrology references in a casual, “fun” way and probably don’t take it seriously (or even understand what they are alluding to).  However, facts matters – or at least, they should.  Look around the world, read y’alls selves some history, and see what happens when people do not understand and misrepresent reality.

Again, I know, some folks play with the astrology thing for fun, but in the name of all that is rational, please, when someone asks, “What’s your sign?” the only polite response you should give should be:

 

 

If the sign-seeker is balks, kindly yet firmly refer them to The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark .   [1]   This glorious book, described by the LA Times as “a manifesto for clear thinking,” is an entertaining, accessible, thought-provoking read, in which Carl Sagan and co-author/science communicator/producer Ann Druyan

* describe the scientific method to laypeople;

* illuminate critical and skeptical thinking;

* teach readers how to employ skeptical thinking and rigorous questioning, and other methods to equip ourselves with a “baloney taction kit” to help distinguish between valid science and pseudoscience.

Enjoy this brief history (and debunking) of astrology by the late great astronomer and cosmologist, Carl Sagan.   [2]

 

“Dr. Yang, you will be taking over all of Dr. Grey’s surgeries until she stops refusing to operate on a Libra during the full moon.”

*   *   *

Department Of Destiny, Schmestiny

And one more thing. 

 

In two of the three podcast episodes I listened to, Pompeo’s guests were people she knew personally (former Grey’s actors), and she brought up with them a concept which was obviously authentic and important to her, but which (along with the astrology) also strayed into woo-woo/squishy territory:  destiny.

It’s hard to describe what she was trying to describe – in part because she was more enthusiastic than articulate about it, and in part because the subject itself is so subjective.  To do it justice would require me relistening to those interviews (and I have no desire to do so) .  Pompeo is not the first person to hold and express such sentiments, which go, basically, like this:

* Certain people come into your life, and you into theirs, because the two of you separately yet somehow reciprocally give off this kind of aura which attracts them; thus, you were “destined” to meet because of these mutualities  [3]….

Pompeo brought this up with her former co-star Patrick Dempsey, and as part of the proof that they were fated to meet and work together and be friends, she told him that they used to live down the street from each other, before they knew each other.

 

 

So, two actors, in an area (LA) where you can’t spit without hitting an actor or would-be actor – two people working in the same field, living near one another, ending up working together and ended up getting along with and liking each other, and therefore, it’s destiny?

Destiny; fate?  How about good fortune, brought about by coincidence?  Star-crossed lovers and even besties-for-life have a prominent place in literature and the arts, which loves the meet-cute and “meant-to-be” scenarios.  But in our non-fictional lives, when we step back and look at the facts and statistics, what we might consider destiny is in fact more accurately framed as a result of proximity or geography.

 

“My darling, geography hath conspired to bring us….nah.  Dialog coach, hello ?!”

 

The vast majority of people become friends with and partner up with people who live near them and are from the same or similar educational, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.   I have friends with whom I share deep intellectual and emotional connections and/or have profound commonalities of interests and perspectives, but we didn’t meet because we were destined to.  We met because we were in proximity; because, due to school or work or socia/neighborhood and/or or other activities, we encountered each other, and our relationships gradually grew from there.

My friend CC is a wonderful person and playmate and confidante, and I’m grateful for and have been enriched by her friendship.  But I do not think in the slightest that these things mean that we were destined to become friends.  If I were living in Hillsboro and she in Hanoi, or somewhere else across the globe, it is highly unlikely that the tides of fate/destiny would have brought us together.

 

In other words, destiny is not destined.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Advice Of The Week

“I do suspect that many, many people would be much happier
if they did less, better.”

This provocative quote is from a podcast I’m *not* deleting – a podcast where I doubt I’ll ever hear anyone cite astrology. I’m referring to PIMA (People I Mostly Admire), and the advice comes from PIMA‘s recent episode, “Turning Work Into Play,” which features psychologist, author, and academic, Dan Gilbert.

Gilbert (described on the podcast as someone who went “…from high school dropout to Harvard professor”) brings an intriguing perspective to concepts of being “lazy,” and how to bring about joy, as illustrated by this excerpt from the podcast, where Gilbert is being interviewed by PIMA host Steve Levitt.  Levitt, like many academics, has had to teach as part of his university contract.  Levitt also, like many academics, prefers research to teaching.   [4]   Thus, Levitt has been intimidated by and/or found teaching to be a chore, and so he asked Gilbert how he seemingly excels at it (my emphases):

GILBERT:
“I would say that the reason I put so much time and effort into my teaching is because I’m lazy. And lazy people don’t like to work. Somewhere very early on in life, right around the time I dropped out of high school, I think, I decided I never want to work again. All I want to do is play. And what I discovered is that to the extent that you put your whole self into almost any task — even if it’s washing the dishes — it stops being work and it starts becoming play.

I wonder if I can wash the dishes by holding them in my right hand and scrubbing with my left hand. Is it faster if I do it that way? Is there an interesting way to stack them so that they dry faster rather than slower? Anything that you are creative and playful with is a joy…..putting your entire self into things turns it into joy.”

 

“Doing the dishes them with my left hand brings me almost as much joy as doubling up on my Prozac.”

 

LEVITT:
“So, you were the first person I’ve ever heard say so succinctly this idea that a 100% focus is associated with joy, no matter what the task. It’s implicit in a lot of, like, Eastern philosophies of enlightenment…. I think you’re probably right. And yet in my own life, I don’t do very much of that…. How did you figure this out?”

GILBERT:
“I probably have a talent you don’t. Which is, I can say ‘No.’ I can say, ‘No’ very easily. I say, ‘No,’ to almost everything. My guess is you say, ‘No,’ a lot, but you say, ‘Yes,’ too much. And as a result, you have seven different things you’d like to put yourself fully into, but you can only put one-seventh of yourself in, because you said, ‘Yes,’ to all of them.
So, early on, when I decided I want everything I do to be a joy, I realized I would only be able to do very few things. So, I just say, ‘No,’ to just about everything. And ‘Yes,’ to just enough that I can constantly be putting my whole self into the teaching or into an article. I mean, I’ve published a quarter of the articles most of my colleagues at my stage of career have published. Because I write very few articles. Because I’m not going to write one that isn’t just as beautifully written and as smart as I can possibly be at that moment. Because that brings me joy. And I’m lazy. I like joy.”

LEVITT:
“I always ask my guests when they come on to give advice. I think I just heard you give advice — which is maybe the single most important thing anyone can do is to learn how to say, ‘No,’ and to say, ‘No,’ much more often.”

 

 

GILBERT:
….I do suspect that many, many people would be much happier if they did less, better. Publish fewer papers and make them better papers. For God’s sake, publish one paper and make it a great paper. Not only will you be happier, but the world will be happier without all the crappy papers you didn’t publish. Reading this one that you put your heart and soul into, and everybody can tell you did because it’s just such a pleasure. Don’t you think the world would be better with fewer books that were better books? Fewer X that are better X? I’m not sure what you could substitute for X that wouldn’t be true.”

LEVITT:
“I think that’s right. And I have gotten better at saying, ‘No,’ but as you described my life — seven things that I do, each of them pretty poorly…. And it’s probably four too many. And I’ve yet to figure out how to get from seven down to three.”

GILBERT:
“…I know you can go from seven to three very easily. My guess is that when somebody says, ‘Steve, I’ve got this idea for a project.’ You go, ‘Wow, that would be really fun.’ And this is what we call ‘affective forecasting.’ You’re imagining how great it will be to do the project. And we know from a lifetime of research that there’s a whole bunch of things you’re not imagining. Particularly how it will impinge on all the other things you already said, ‘Yes,’ to.”

*   *   *

Department Of My To-Do List: One More Item To Check Off

Dateline: Sunday am, listening to No Stupid Questions podcast, episode 97: Are Women Really Less Happy Than Men?, which is about the supposed gender gap in happiness.

Midway through the podcast, psychologist and NSQ cohost Angela Duckworth   [5] read a teaser —  a quote from an article in The Guardian — that to be happier, women should “…give up on being good.”   [6]

Another entry on moiself’s  To-do list:  Give up on being good.

Check!

Happier!

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Happiness Edition

Why are horses so happy?
Because they live in a stable environment.

Why can’t tennis players ever find happiness?
Because love means nothing to them.

I’m so happy with my financial savvy – my credit card company calls me every day to tell me that my balance is outstanding!

What is the best blood type for happiness?
B positive.

 

*   *   *

May you make the world happier “…without all the crappy papers you didn’t publish;”
May you say “no” more often so that you can joyfully say, “yes;”
May you equip yourself with a baloney detection kit;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] And read it yourself, even if you consider yourself a good hokum detector and/or already know why astrology is bunk.

[2] And enjoy, as well as the facts Sagan presents, his distinctive speech patterns and intonations.

[3] Damn right, that’s a word.  Now…here…at least.

[4] Some of us may remember how disappointed we were in college, when we had such professors.

[5] Psychology professor and author of the book, Grit.  That’s why you recognize her name.

[6] This calls for another footnote.

The World Languages I’m Not Learning

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Department Of How Did I Not Know Until Now About This Song !?!?

Dateline: Monday am, 7:30 ish.  Morning walk/podcast listen: Clear + Vivid: Bette Midler: How She Became Divine.

 

 

The Divine Miss M herself was regaling host C+V  host Alan Alda with tales of her first European tour, and how the following ditty Midler performed on stage “…went down really well” in Germany.

(sung to the tune of the theme song of the movie, The Bridge Over The River Kwai) :

♫  Hitler…
had only one big ball
Goering…
had two but they were small
Himmler…
Had something similar
And poor old Goebbels
had no balls
at all.  ♫      [1]

I’d vaguely known about Hitler’s goofy gonads (he suffered from right-side cryptorchidism – an undescended testicle).  But the fact that this detail was woven into an anti-Nazi ditty delighted the spirit of the 11-year-old Girl Scout who still resides in me – the girl who wanted to sit in the back during the boring troop meetings and exchange bawdy jokes with the other so-inclined scouts instead of listening to yet another boring lecture on how we were supposed to be working on our camping merit badges.

 

“All in favor of skipping reciting the Girl Scout Promise and singing the Hitler song instead, raise your hands.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Podcast Citation

The most recent episode of the People I (Mostly) Admire podcast – website description: “Steven Levitt, the unorthodox University of Chicago economist and co-author of the Freakonomics book series….tracks down other high achievers and asks questions that only he would think to ask….” – had me hooked with the opening:

“My guest today, John McWhorter, likes to stir things up….
He’s a linguistics professor at Columbia university, author of over a dozen books, and has emerged as one of America’s most prominent public intellectuals. He’s an opinionated centrist, and chances are, whatever your politics, you’ll love his views on some issues, and despise his stance on others.”
(intro to People I Mostly Admire, episode 72: “Leaving Black People in the Lurch” )

 

 

 

I was immediately intrigued by the host’s description of his guest: “an opinionated centrist.”  Not being fond of political labels (at least for moiself ), I don’t consider moiself  to be a centrist.  Rather, I approach issues as a Does this make sense?-trist.” When some folks on The Far Left ® find out my liberal/religion-free/ flaming feminist viewpoints, they assume that I’ll tick off all their boxes on particular issues.  And when they find out that I do not, *they* get ticked off.

My intrigue-ears perked up for other reasons as well, including the fact that McWhorter is a linguistics professor.  Being a linguist, as in studying the cultural and cognitive development and application of languages, is one of my “if-I-were-to-do-it-all-over-again” professions.   [2]  Now, just because I maintain an interest in that area of study doesn’t mean that I have any current and/or particular skill in or aptitude for languages – far from it, as anyone who has heard me mangle the French language could attest to.  And while moiself  is on the subject I’d like to offer a shout-out to all you Parisian shopkeepers and restauranters who, despite the stereotype of the snooty French, were most patient and gracious with me when I was visiting your merveilluse ville and tried to order a pain au chocolat in every venue possible.

 

Let me guess, *elle demande* the entire tray, again?

 

Once again, I digress.

Back to the podcast opening.

Steve LEVITT:
“In your day job, you (McWhorter) are a linguist at Columbia University and you also moonlight as a commentator on American society, especially around issues of race. But I’d like to talk first about linguistics, because I suspect if we start on race, we’ll never make our way back to linguistics.”

Linguistics/ race – I wanted to hear it all.  Any author of a book called “Nine Nasty Words: English in the Gutter,” is all right by me. Then, after the first 15 minutes of linguistics talk, I was surprised by McWhorter’s choice in an answer to a certain question.

LEVITT:
So, English is obviously emerging as something of a world language, and that’s mostly for accidental, historical, social, political reasons. And in my very first episode of this podcast, I had Steve Pinker, the Harvard linguist, on. And I tried to get him to make a vote for what the best world language would be. I had no luck. He would not bite on that at all. Is that a question you’ll bite on?”

MCWHORTER:
” Hell yeah.
….If all of the world were going to use a single language, it should be not English….
Really, the language of the world should be Indonesian.”

 

 

Really.  He chose Indonesian.


MCWHORTER:
“…Not the way it’s written, but the way it’s typically spoken, where you have almost no suffixes, almost no prefixes. (Indonesian is) not a tonal language. It’s very low on throwing you with things like, what does ‘pick up’ mean?  You can pick up a disease; you can pick somebody up from school; speed is about picking up speed. Why deal with that? There’s very little of that. …. even though most people who don’t speak Indonesian would find it hard to learn just the words themselves….if you could pick up 500 of them, say 600 of them…the grammar would be very, very easy. You could make yourself understood. I would say it’s better. It’s easier for everybody — colloquial Indonesian would be the one.”

McWhorter’s quotes about the reasons why a language like Indonesian would be a better “world” language  [3]  made me think about Turkish, which I studied for a few days in an online course (until Putin’s aggressive assholery changed my travel plans   [4]  ).

Here are nine encouraging and refreshing observations I made during my brief foray into the Turkish language:

  1. Turkish is phonetic; thus, pronunciation is easy!
  2. Every letter in a word is pronounced!   [5]
  3. Each letter has only one sound!
  4. Two or more letters are never combined to make a new or different sound!
  5. Turkish contains no articles at all!
  6. It is also not a gendered language; nor is it tonal!
  7. There is no 7th observation!
  8. There are standard rules for making plurals!
  9. Word Order is set: Subject-Object-Verb. The verb is always at the end in written Turkish!    [6]

 

You’d spin with delight, too, if you spoke such a sensible language.

 

After twenty-five or so minutes of Fun With Words®,  podcast host Levitt ventured into topics where McWhorter’s opinions have made people who are prone to look for divergent poles line up into their default defensive positions…such as McWhorter’s book, Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America.

LEVITT:
“I was talking to a white friend of mine, someone who is deeply sympathetic to the anti-racist cause. And she said to me recently, ‘My daughter is friends with a Black girl in her nursery school class….and I’d like to invite that Black girl over to my house for a play date, but I’m afraid to because I don’t know the appropriate way to acknowledge my white privilege to the girl’s parents. And I don’t want to insult them by not acknowledging it.’

 To me, what a disaster – when kids can’t build friendships because parents are so paralyzed by fear of not doing the right thing.”

MCWHORTER:
“You know what? That woman is who I wrote Woke Racism for.
That is exactly what I mean. That is somebody whose heart is very much in the right place, but she’s so afraid of being called the dirtiest-name-other-than-pedophile in our current cultural vocabulary that she’s basically hamstrung.

After a while, it might be that you end up avoiding Black people because you don’t want to take a wrong step. And then you get accused of being a racist. And where does that get us?  To actually say, ‘What is the result of all this?’ is seen as somehow beside the point.

Rather, what’s considered important is smart people stating that racism still exists; racism is systemic. Now, what’s actually happening out on the ground, whether we’re improving Black lives by stating that, is considered subsidiary…..

And yet, that’s the situation that I saw us slipping into starting after the hideous murder of George Floyd. I saw us dealing with a kind of semaphore, where we say things and we say things and we say things, and what we’re really doing is fostering a kind of general guilt and engaging in a kind of passion play…. But the result is not anything that any civil rights leaders of the past would have recognized as meaningful. We need to get back to doing the real thing.”

 

Fine; you’re awake. Now, make the bed and start cleaning up the mess you left in the kitchen.

LEVITT:
“I always ask my guests to give advice to my listeners. And I’m curious what advice you would give to young people trying to build a good life for themselves.
And would you give the same advice to a young white person and a young Black person?”

MCWHORTER (my emphases):
“… at this point, in the way our national dialogue goes, I would say this to kids of any race: Distrust your impulse to suppose that people who don’t think like you are either naive or evil.

It’s very easy to think that if they don’t think like you. It’s either they don’t have the facts that you have, or if they do have the facts that you have, there’s something sinister about them. They’ve got motives that they’re not quite letting onto.

And the sad thing is that these days, young people are being taught to think that way by an awful lot of grown-ups.

It’s an easy misimpression to fall into because we tend to be binary thinkers. But with any debate that’s uniquely challenging or frankly, interesting, about which you might argue, that’s different from decreeing that people are either stupid or bad. And that’s what a diverse and large society is all about. That’s what diversity of opinion is.”

Moiself  highly recommends that y’all’s selves listen to the entire interview, and pay attention to McWhorter’s insightful analysis re how “3rd wave anti-racism” (a term he borrows from the feminist movement) “is a religion.” It’s guaranteed to offend at least a few third wave anti-racists and religionists.  Now, that’s my kind of a podcast guest.

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Woke Politics Edition

Why were environmental activists protesting outside the elementary school?
That heard a rumor that the kids were singing, “Rain, rain, go away.”

What do you call a woke Star Wars droid?
R2-Me2

Did you hear about the laundromat manager who had her Facebook account cancelled?
FB monitors read that she told her customers to separate the whites from the colors.

One night I dreamt that I was a muffler…
I woke up exhausted.

 

“There’s woke jokes, and then there’s woke jokes.”

 

*   *   *

May you choose meaningful action over virtue-signalling;
May you have fond memories of your bawdy joke-telling, scout-meeting (or the equivalent) ignoring days;
May you enjoy singing the song about Hitler’s balls;    [7]

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Yes, this is the first footnote of this blog.

[2] Which would also include neurobiologist and astronaut.

[3] Better than, say, English, with its jumble of grammar, spelling, and pronunciation variants.

[4] We (MH and I) had planned a trip to Turkey in late May-early June.  Maybe…next year?

[5] With one exception – ğ, lengthens the sound of the vowel preceding it.

[6] Spoken Turkish allows for some flexibility.

[7] You know you’re going to hum it, at least once, if only to yourself.

The Hotel I’m Not Bonking

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Department Of The Fail-Safe Therapy Tool For Kids Of All Ages

 

 

Before I commence to deal with some Serious Subjects ® , I’m going to play for a few seconds with the farty putty (aka, “noise putty”) device MH got me as a Christmas stocking stuffer.  ‘Tis such a primal amusement, and also an effective stress reliever.  I think the American Psychological Association should recommend it to their counselors, to have on hand for sessions that get really intense:  “It’s time for a farty putty break.”  😉

Lest you think moiself  jests about its therapeutic applications, feast your eyes on this, from the National Autism Resources website (my emphases):

“Kids of all ages love to play with noise putty! It has an unusual squishy texture that you can squeeze between your fingers. Push it back into its jar and listen to it make funny, gastronomical sounds. Use it to work on fine motor skills….”

And not to worry, for y’all who consider yourselves to be technically-challenged.  It even has handy-dandy instructions:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Not Up To Their Previous Standards

Moiself  is referring to the latest installment of Serial, the Peabody award-winning investigative journalism podcast (developed by This American Life)  which made a name for itself in the past ten or so years with its episodic, documentary-style presentation of compelling non-fiction stories.  Past seasons included an investigation of the 1999 murder an 18-year-old student at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore, and an in-depth look at what happened to Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, an American Army soldier who was held for five years by the Taliban, then charged with desertion.

The Trojan Horse Affair, Serial’s latest installment, claims to take a closer look at the 2013 scandal in England which involved claims of a conspiracy to introduce Islamist tenets into several schools in Birmingham – claims which were set out in an anonymous letter  [1] sent to Birmingham City Council.  TTHF is hosted and reported by American veteran producer Brian Reed and a novice journalist, Hamza Syed, a British doctor-turned-reporter from Birmingham, England.

 

 

“This is my first story as a journalist. I don’t plan for it to be my last story as well, but given what’s happened in the years I’ve been working on this, it probably will be.”
( Hamza Syed, from his interview on NPR’s Fresh Air 2-15-22)

Syed’s provocative quote, and my enjoyment of Serial’s previous installments, got me interested in listening to the series. After having done so, I’ve concluded that if, indeed, TTHA turns out to be Syed’s last story as a journalist it won’t be because of his concerns, both overt and implied, of anti-Muslim prejudice against him.  It will be because he proved to be a lousy reporter.

Besides displaying a rather volatile temper, Syed made a major faux pas which cast doubt on the integrity of his methods and motives, and on his ability to distinguish between his personal identity and an investigation’s subject matter.

“Long story short” territory:  In a latter episode of the TTHA series (# five or six, I think, of eight total episodes) it was revealed that, at one point in Syed’s and Redd’s investigation, Syed, frustrated with being unable to get sources to confide in him, played the Muslim card:  [2]    Syed wrote a letter to a potential interviewee (a Muslim man), saying he has never believed the accepted narrative around the case, nor many of the people involved in the investigations around it, and that his (Syed’s) identity as a Muslim takes precedence for him in his investigation.

MH and I each (separately) listened to the podcast, and each of us had similar, jaw-dropping reactions to what Syed had done.  Given the opportunity to provide feedback to Syed, I’d have phrased my reaction thusly:

Why should I take *anything* from you seriously, when you’ve just admitted that you do *not* have journalistic integrity at heart, in a story that especially demands it?

Like the evangelical creationist who admits he views science through the lens of how he interprets Christian scriptures, you have told a person – from whom you are trying to get information – that, like him, you are ultimately and firstly a Muslim.

Now, were you lying to get him to trust you? Or were you telling the truth?  Either way, I can take nothing you say or do as if it were coming from a serious journalist striving for truth, integrity, and objectivity.

Despite our respective shock and disgust at what the reporter had done, both MH and I found the TTHA story intriguing, and continued to listen to the rest of the series. But we weren’t the only ones to have an issue with it, and with more matters than its rookie journalist’s whopping boner of a tactic. There was also the assumption the series seemed to take, from the beginning of the podcast: that anti-Islamic sentiment was behind and/or ultimately responsible for  *everything* in the scandal.  Accusations (including incidents of verifiable and disturbing behaviors   [3]  )  about sexism, anti-LGBTQ teachings, and child abuse on the part of some Muslim men – alarms raised by Muslim women – were mentioned in several TTHA episodes, in marginal ways, then dropped.

We weren’t the only ones who were disturbed by this. To quote only one critique:

“The Trojan Horse Affair presents a one-sided account that minimizes child protection concerns, misogyny and homophobia in order to exonerate the podcast’s hero…  In doing so, it breaches the standards the public have the right to expect of journalists, with cruel consequences for those it uses and abuses along the way.”

( “The Trojan Horse Affair: How Serial Podcast Got It So Wrong,”
Sonia Sohad, The Guardian 2-20-22

 

Shaka Ssali is a (recently retired) Uganda-born journalist.

 

*   *   *

Department Of How Other Journalists Are Getting It So Right

What comes to mind when you read the words of a critic and writer at The Washington Post, who called an Academy Award-nominated film “…the most inspiring journalism movie — maybe ever”?

Are you thinking of the award-winning  All The President’s Men, or Spotlight?  Or The Post, or The Killing Fields, or….?

Nope.  The WAPO writer refers to a documentary (among five nominees for this year’s Academy Award for best documentary feature) which takes place in India.

 

 

Indian politicians would have you believe that their country is a major power in the modern, 21st century world, yet they do the bare minimum to change aspects of their culture which hark back to 1500 BCE, when the caste system was established.

 

 

The good news:  in India, one of the most dangerous countries in which to practice journalism,   [4]   there is an astoundingly brave and persistent group of reporters committed to the ultimate tenet of good journalism: holding the powerful to account.  What’s amazing about this group is that is it composed of people with inarguably the least amount of power in their country:  Dalit (the lowest caste, aka “untouchables”) women.

Writing With Fire is the documentary which tells the story of these reporters and their newspaper/news outlet, Khabar Lahariya (translation: “News wave”).  Moiself   urges you to see it (streaming on Amazon, and available via other venues).

 

 

” In India’s millennia-old caste system, Dalits fall entirely outside the structure. Once pejoratively referred to as ‘untouchables’…over centuries Dalits have remained oppressed by tradition and the rest of Indian society.

‘I tell my daughters, their caste identity will always follow them. This is how our society is structured, but it’s important to keep challenging the system,’ says Meera Devi, the outlet’s chief reporter who is the main protagonist of the film.

But day after day, the women defiantly expose sexual violence against women and the corruption of illegal mining operations in rural India.

‘We don’t trust anyone except you. Khabar Lahariya is our only hope,’ the husband of a woman who has been repeatedly raped by a group of men in their village tells Devi in one of the rare moments in the film in which a man acknowledges the organization’s value and impact.”

(“Opinion: The most inspiring journalism movie — maybe ever”
Jason Rezian, The Washington Post, 2-1-22 )

Writing With Fire has a bajillion   [5]   story levels to it (other than that of the newspaper itself and the stories it covers), including the reporters’ uphill battle against centuries of patriarchy, and gender and caste prejudice.  It’s also an excellent briefing on what makes a good journalist, in any culture.

Some standout moments of the film, for moiself , include:

* Two of the reporters, while preparing a meal, are discussing questions they will be asking of participants in an upcoming election. One reporter asks the other,“Tell me something honestly, why do we call our country ‘mother India?’ Why celebrate the country as a mother?…. I get very irritated watching the celebrations on TV glorifying our democracy. But where is the democracy? Neither are we a democracy, nor are the women free.”

* Later in the documentary one of the more the most promising young journalists of Khabar Lahariya is interviewed about her having to leave the newspaper. She’d spoken earlier about not wanting to succumb to the pressure to get married, and about what happens to women in her society.  And then…

“What can I say? At one point I thought of not getting married at all. Many things were on my mind. So I thought, why get married? But I’m under a lot of pressure. I need to protect my parents, because being a single woman is not an option here.

People are questioning my integrity as well as my family’s. They were saying that they (her family) want to live off my earnings, ‘…and at night your daughter…’
 It tortures the family and creates a lot of tension. So I realize marriage is inevitable. I don’t want to be the cause of my family suffering.
Let’s think that whatever will happen will be for the best. Things have a way of working out, and that’s what I’m hoping for….”
  (She pauses, shakes her head, holds back tears)
“I’m finding it difficult to speak anymore.”    [6]

 

 

The film depicted scenarios both horrendous, and uplifting, depressing and emboldening, What affected me the most? It wasn’t…

* the husbands and families of these brave journalists showing lackluster (if any) support for their work;

*  the frustrations of the reporters trying to learn and use digital technologies when most of them have never been able to afford a cell phone, and then, when they are issued smart phones and/or touchscreen tablets by the newspaper, they can’t charge the equipment because their homes lack electricity;

* the rising influence of the Anti-Muslim bigot Hindu nationalist, Prime Minister Modi, and the prevalence of his inflammatory rhetoric using that most unholy of alliances – politics and religion;

* the danger and threats (physical, emotional, and sexual) the women face; nor the way way sexual slurs are used to try to cow and humiliate them and their families…  

One small, domestic scene really got to me, probably because I took it to be illustrative of what these reporters, as women in a seemingly women-denigrating culture, have to deal with: with the should and should not limitations all women face, in a world still dominated by patriarchal attitudes.

The scene took place early in the morning.  Meera Devi, who like her Khabar Lahariya peers has worked all the previous day (and well into the night), is braiding her daughter’s long hair before school.  Like all of her married reporter peers, the vast majority (if not all) of household tasks fall upon Devi, even as she works full-time out of the home.  Her daughter is insisting on two braids (“plaits”), as Devi wearily (if good-humoredly) grumbles about not having time for that…one plait should be enough.  But the daughter pleads, telling her mother that she will be (and has been) scolded at school if her mother doesn’t do her hair in two plaits, “…because teacher says all girls should have two plaits.”

All girls should….
All girls are ….
All girls must…
All girls should never….

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of International Relations

MH and moiself  are doing some much anticipated traveling overseas this summer.  For some of the travel we’ll be in a Scandinavian tour group.  The tour begins in Stockholm; following savvy traveler advice, I booked us rooms in a Stockholm hotel two days ahead of when the tour begins, so that we can adjust to the time difference and all that pickled herring and Swedish chefs, etc.

Moiself  got an English translation while booking online, but the confirmation the hotel emailed to us was in Swedish.  It began with a cheery greeting which I was mostly able to figure out, except that I transposed two letters in the fourth word, which made for an interesting impression/translation: “Tak För Din Bokning!”

Me, to Moiself:
” ‘Thanks for the bonking ?!?!? ‘
Wow – this really is an all-service hotel!”

Moiself:
Ahem, that’s, bokning.  [7]

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Swedish Edition

Swedish inventors have created cyborgs which are hard to distinguish from real humans.
Critics are concerned about the use of artificial Swedeners.

Why does the Swedish military put barcodes on their ships?
So when the ships return to port they can scan da navy in.

My neighbor drones on and on about his notoriously unreliable Swedish sports car…
It seems like a great big Saab story to me.

Did you hear about a new Broadway show that combines magic with Swedish pop songs?
It’s called ABBA-Cadabra.

 

Mamma Mia, there she goes again.

 

*   *   *

May you enjoy the therapeutic applications of “funny, gastronomic sounds;”
May you watch Writing With Fire (then maybe Spotlight and other journalism-themed movies) and appreciate the absolute necessity of a free press to a vital democracy;
May you put on ABBA’s “Waterloo” and dance around your living room
(you know you want to);
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] Which was later deemed to be a hoax.

[2] About which he was confronted, and chastised, by Reed.

[3] Including sexual abuse of a 14 year old girl by one of her male teachers.

[4] Over forty journalists in India have been killed since 2014.

[5] Fortunately, the reporters of Khabar Lahariya, constrained as they are by sound journalistic principles, would never stoop to using such sensationalistic exaggerations as those employed by moiself.

[6] Later still there is footage of her at her wedding, in her wedding finery.  Moiself wanted to cry; I’ve never seen a more downhearted looking bride…or woman in almost any situation, for that matter.  But, in the documentary postscript, it was reported that she had rejoined the newspaper several months after her marriage.

[7] Uh, that would be, booking, as in, booking a room with them.  Nudge Nudge wink wink.

The Parties I’m Not Yet Hosting

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Department Of Getting This Out Of The Way

Since it would likely cause too much political turmoil for a legitimate government to engage in “regime change,” is it too much to suggest that some Russian patriots lay down their lives for A Greater Cause ® and take out their rapacious, rampaging, rat-faced ruler?

And while they’re at it, maybe they could do something about our own Tangerine Traitor?

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Just Can’t Help It

If the aforementioned Russian patriots found a way to grind their leader into a pâté and spread him atop a cracker, would that be Putin on the Ritz?

 

The preferred final resting place of despots worldwide.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Well You Didn’t Have To Agree So Damn Quickly

It happened.  Again.

Dateline: last week; later afternoon; grocery store;  picking up soy milk, olive oil, apples, avocadoes, lemons, garnet yams, and other items for dinner.  It is a blustery day; I have a coat and scarf, my usual wide brimmed rain-or-shine hat, and a mask of course, all of which left little of my face exposed.  The checkout cashier gives me a careful look as she picks up the bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from my basket.

Cashier (holding the bottle above the scanner, but not scanning it):
“May I see your ID?”

Moiself (pulling my mask up and my scarf down):
“Is this the neck of someone under 21 years old?”

Cashier (takes a look, scans my wine):
“Ha!”

 

 

*   *   *

 

Everyone take a deep breath. The frivolity will return after this important message.

 

*   *   *

 

Department Of If You’re Human, Please Read This

“In the throes of loss, people reach for certainty and control. My patient’s wife asked me what percentage of people as sick as her husband had survived and whether a risky therapy could promise life. I couldn’t offer her easy answers, only a willingness to stay and listen. Together, we wrestled with the burn of uncertainty. She shared photos of her husband over Zoom. They had sailed and cooked and taken selfies on the beach. Her photos said what words couldn’t. This is the person I have lost.

Earlier in my career, looking closely at this particular kind of pain was as blinding as looking at the sun. I distracted myself afterward with S.N.L. marathons and slabs of chocolate cake. Eventually, I realized that it wasn’t my job to protect people from their grief or to solve it.

I have learned to look when I want to look away.
I have chosen to stay when I’d prefer to run out of the room and cry. The prelude to compassion is the willingness to see.”

(Dr. Sunita Puri; my emphases)

 

 

If you’re over age twenty and live alone on a desert island, perhaps you have not yet had that choice – to stay, or run out of the room and cry.  Perhaps you have not yet had to grieve that inevitable, most human of losses: the death of a loved one.  For the rest of us, I recommend this essay:

We Must Learn to Look at Grief, Even When We Want to Run Away.

This brief, down-to-earth yet stunningly profound guest essay appeared last week in the NY Times.  Written by Dr. Sunita Puri, the essay begins with the story of a patient dying from COVID-19, and Dr. Puri’s relationship with the patient’s wife. The insights imparted by Dr. Puri, who is a palliative medicine physician, go beyond any particular diagnosis.

“I don’t believe in ‘moving on’ and ‘finding closure.’ This language distills the messy complexity of grief into tidy sound bites and asks people to leave something behind, bury it or lock it away. The challenge for my patients and their families is the challenge for all of us: Can we instead move forward with grief?
Can we find a way to integrate loss into life, to carry it with us? Can we feel tragedy together, without an artificial line between those who are ready to move on and those who can’t see a way out?”

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

 

Department Of The Ghost Of Potlucks Past

As we near the end of mandatory indoor masking regulations, moiself  is thinking of the gradual return of social gatherings.  For our family such events will be small, at first…which has got me to daydreaming about our parties of yore.

We (MH and I, and offspring K and Belle, when they were still in the nest) used to host potluck dinners for family/neighbors/friends.  On a semi-regular basis (every 6 months to a year) we could host twenty to thirty people to feast and frolic.

The potlucks were themed; guests were asked to bring a dish having something to do with the theme.  There are some parties whose themes moiself  can’t recall and whose invitations I didn’t save (DAMN!); others, I will never forget.

Here is a sample of the themes, plus a brief description of what kind of foods/dishes guests were asked to bring. 

 

 

 

* Cusina Obscura
(foods of the “minor” or lesser known countries and/or cuisines, instead of the usual dining out suspects {Italian; French, Thai; Mexican. For example, find/make something Burmese instead of Chinese; Finnish instead of Swedish; Samoan instead of Hawaiian;) Uruguyan instead of Brazilian….)   [1]

* White Trash Food
(food you at one time liked and ate but now might be ashamed to admit it; e.g., a Wonder Bread mayo potato chip sandwich.  Basically, this gathering was a haute cuisine nightmare…and judging from the guests’ feedback, one of our most popular themes.
Our party’s centerpiece was a bottle of Pepto Bismol.   [2]  )

* The Dung Beetle Café
(food items must be round, or “rollable”)  [3]

*  All Things “P” Party
(all foods/dishes must have a word/ingredient beginning with the letter P)

* Better Red Than Dead
(food must be…wait for it…red. In some capacity.    [4])

 * Halfway to the Holidays
(party held in June; bring a dish which, to you, fairly screams fal-la-la-la-la/ yule/Christmas/Solstice whatever winter holiday you celebrate)

* PuPu Potluck
(as in the Hawaiian pupu platters – an all appetizer foods potluck )

* The Next Party
(inspired by a regular potluck party guest, who, when he encountered me at the grocery store or some public arena, asked,
“Isn’t it time for your next party?”   [5] )

 

 

Our friend BW, a regular potluck guest and gourmet chef with quite the cookbook collection, “gifted” us with this cookbook – along with a platter of the adore-mentioned potato chip sandwiches – when he attended our WT Foods party.

 

 

Here is a variant of our “standard” potluck party invitation (All Things “P” Party):

Potluck; Parsnips; Pickled peppers; Pasta; Peanuts; Pizza; Pesto
Pomegranate; Party; Porcini; Pirates; Parmigiano….

Do you pick up a pattern?  Perceptive person (or plural) that you are, you are invited to help us celebrate the glorious 16th letter of the alphabet by attending our
All Things “P” Potluck Party
Saturday October 7, 6:30 pm

Celebrate your culinary P-osity by bringing a dish to share with fellow potluck partakers.  This may be just the occasion you were looking for to dust off that recipe for Paprika Plum Pudding or Peruvian Pork Patties, or Papa’s favorite Purée of Prunes & Peas.

Your lovely and talented hosts will provide their usual combination of:
* joi de vivre and schadenfreude;
* plates, napkins, and tableware;
* restrooms sanitized for your protection;
* a motley assortment of leaded and unleaded beverages
(including Pepto Bismol for the prunes & peas partakers).

And yes, there will be Prizes awarded.  For…something.    [6]  

Here are just a few of the fabulous people who will  (not)  be attending the potluck:

-Monty Python’s Michael Palin
-Pancho Villa
-Dolly Parton
-Regis Philbin
-Sydney Poitier
-Plato
-Pandora
-Jean Luc Picard, Captain, USS Enterprise
-Emily Post
-Pocahontas
-Pongo the wonder chimp (Cheetah’s stunt double from the original “Tarzan” movies)

RSVP to _______.  Directions to our house, potluck suggestions, and personal hygiene tips will be provided upon request.

 

Actually, we were relieved Ms. Post could not attend the gathering, as we’d heard she was somewhat of a party pooper.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Dinner Party Edition

Where does a baseball catcher sit at a dinner party?
Behind the plate.

I was so happy when son stopped chewing on his boogers at dinnertime.
He’s no longer a picky eater.

I invited a couple of Vikings to dinner, and they kept tapping on the table and laughing.
When I finally asked what was so funny, they said,
“You wouldn’t get it; it’s Norse code.”

My husband was mortified when I mentioned his underwear at a dinner party.
It was a brief conversation.

My cannibal neighbor showed up two hours late to my dinner party.
I gave him the cold shoulder.

 

Can we please extend cancel culture to cannibal jokes?

 

*   *   *

 

May you enjoy a gradual return to social gatherings;
May you learn to look at grief, even when you’d rather run away;
May being the subject of bad puns someday be enough
to depose Russian war criminals;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] Our friend’s young adult son brought live meal worms to this event, which he sautéed, on a pan on our stove, in garlic and olive oil.  Not every guest was game;  I tried them  (after my third glass of champagne).

[2] This theme was inspired by a “white trash dinner” contest a group of fellow dormies and I had in college, one night when we were bored and looking for an excuse not to do homework.  (the one Native American, one Black, and one Philipino dormies in attendance asked for special dispensation for their contest entries to be considered White Trash ® ).  We shared stories of foods our respective families served, a dish which we’d grown up eating, but which embarrassed and/or horrified us to think of it now.  Then we all voted on which was “best” (read: worst).  My entry was my family’s fried Spam slices topped with Velveeta.  Guess who won that contest?

[3] Motivation for this theme came via a dinner I made which my offspring thought was too challenging to their palates (think of Thai curry when they wanted pizza), which led me into a good humored tirade about how, when I was a kid, I loved the opportunity to try new foods…and that they were lucky to have me for a mom:  “If I were a mother wolf I would be regurgitating your dinner for you…or, what if we were a family of dung beetles, and night after night it was the same thing:  ‘Hey mom what’s for dinner?  Oh, boy, dung balls again!’  “

[4] Surprisingly, we did *not* get 15 dishes featuring tomato sauce.  People used their imagination: red beans & rice; beet juice risotto; Red Hot Chili Pepper layer cake…. and our fear that we might end up dining on nothing but cabernet and ketchup was for naught.

[5] But I can’t remember what the food theme was.

[6] We usually had potluck party guests take a quiz, which I prepared, containing multiple choice questions having something (widely interpreted) to do with the party’s theme.  Prizes were given out for the high (and low) scorers.

The Job I’m Not Dressing For

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Department Of Preview Of Coming Attractions

I went to a career advancement program at work, where I was advised,
“Dress for the job you *want,* not the job you *have.*”
Great!” I thought.
The next day, they fired me for violating the dress code at the bank.
Hypocrites.  How am I ever going to become a sumo wrestler now?

 

*   *   *

Department Of Mysteries Of The Mind
Chapter 82 In An Ongoing Series.

How is it possible for me to love the song, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” even as moiself  loathes the supposedly classic movie it references?

Admittedly, it’s been years since I watched the film.  I recall finding it an overrated snooze fest; also, the inclusion of an appalling ethnic stereotype character erased, for moiself, any possibility of enjoying the performance of the gamin-like ®  Audrey Hepburn.  [1]

And, yes indeedy-doo, I am aware of the pitfalls of employing the standards of today to judge the art of yesterday.  But, holy fortune cookie on a chopstick! – the movie was release in 1961, not 1916, and it had Mickey Rooney playing Hepburn’s buck-toothed, nearsighted, Japanese landlord (“Mr. Yunioshi”).

Effin’ MICKEY ROONEY?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Classic Bits Of Advice That Are Soooooo Not True

Such as the following, from a great English writer and social critic who wrote so movingly about the human condition, you think he’d know better.

“Ask no questions and you’ll be told no lies.”
( Charles Dickens )

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Do You Think They’ll Even Care (Or Read It)?   [2]

Dateline: last week, Thursday.  After listening again, to a repeat episode of one of my regular/favorite “science info” podcasts,  and being, annoyed, again, by the same thing that annoyed moiself the first (and second) time I heard it, I had to write to the podcast hosts.  [3]  Except that the podcast website provides no way to do that.  Thus….

Dear Curiosity Daily Hosts Cody Gough and Ashley Hamer,

Regular listener of CD here. Love the science; loathe the hyperbole.

As in: CD’s recent rebroadcast of the episode, Giant Cheese Race, “Morning You,” Consciousness-Altering Eye Contact. Specifically, the script for the Morning You segment.  It bothered me then (when it originally ran, in 2018), and it bothers me now:

“…A massive new study says…that you are a totally different person in the morning than you are at night.”

No. And, no no no.

I am certain that’s not what the study (if it claims any relation to scientific validity) says.  Remember, words impart meaning, which is why we argue over their usage.

A “Tweet analysis” study (geesh; really?), even a so-called massive one, did not discover a “total” change in personhood. Rather, it indicated that there could be a difference in some peoples’ moods, focuses, and vocabulary usage over the course of a day.

No earth-shattering discovery there. Altering interests and focuses over the day do not transform you into a “totally different person.”

If you were a *totally* different person, that would be something along the lines of, you woke up as a lonely 50-year-old male Ukrainian airline pilot obsessed with learning to play the didgeridoo, and went to bed as a gregarious 13-year-old female Guatemalan ballet dancer who’s planning to run for 8th grade class president.

Sincerely (if not totally) yours,

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Memory Lane
Sub-Department Of Not My Finest Moment of Being A Supportive Sibling

Recently I had cause to think back upon a childhood memory: the one big rebellion of my older sister (N).  I shared it with daughter Belle…and now, with y’all.

 

 

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…okay, in Santa Ana, CA.  I was in the second grade, my sister, your Aunt “N,” was in grade 4.

One night, with our family at the kitchen table, N did something astonishing (for her): she cleaned *most* of her plate (she always ate everything on it), but refused to eat a certain portion of her dinner.

I can’t remember exactly what it was that she didn’t eat – a new vegetable, or side dish?   [4]   The thing was, N, the stereotypically good/obedient first child, refused to take a bite and try it.  And that was sooo un-N-like, which is probably what irritated my parents the most.  They decreed that N had to remain at the kitchen table; she had to stay seated until she sampled __ (whatever it was).  She stayed at the table, but refused to take a bite.

I was fascinated by this.  I remained sitting at my usual place beside her on the table, while Mom and Dad and my younger sister RA (this was before your uncle, RS, was born) cleared their plates and went to the living room to watch Gilligan’s Island, which just happened to be one of N’s favorite TV shows. The following conversation ensued (transcript approximate; not verbatim):

Moiself:
Gilligan’s Island is about to start.”

N:
“I don’t care.”

Moiself:
“Mom and Dad said you have to stay at the table until you finish eating.”

N:
“Then I’ll sit here, all night.”

Moiself:
“You’re really gonna sit there, all night?”

N:
“I’m gonna sit here forever.”

Moiself:
“Oh, okay.”  (a pause of several seconds.)
“Then, can I have your room?    [5]

N:
“Fine; I don’t care.”

I can’t remember all the details of the aftermath; indeed, N was still sitting at the kitchen table when my parents informed RA and I that it was our bedtime (earlier than usual, and I was pissed by that.  I thought that they were going to argue with N or something and didn’t want us to see).  I had to go to bed in my own room; in the morning, it was obvious N had gone to bed at some point and did not stay at the table all night.

Years later, when I asked N about the incident, she said she didn’t remember it, and Mom and Dad are both gone so I can’t ask them:  Well, did she take a bite, or didn’t she?  It certainly made an impression on me – N  (not me, for once) getting in trouble and being willfully disobedient.  What I also remember is how much power it gave N, even if only temporary.  Her refusing to take even one measly, No Thank You Bite ® drove my parents nuts.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Faith-Based Lack-of-Initiative

“Portland mayor’s top adviser proposed massive, militarized group shelters as step in ending homeless camping….”
( The Oregonian, 2-11-22 )

Moiself  recently saw the above headline about the latest proposal possibly being considered by Portland’s mayor – a proposal that likely will go nowhere/do nothing re the city’s ongoing homeless/street camping problem.

There is a seeming intractability to this multifaceted issue, where no one can agree on what to do without infringing on someone’s “rights.”  Moiself  leans toward the rights of taxpaying homeowners and renters to *not* have to live next to, and among, hazardous waste sites, [6]  nor abide pollution and fires and destruction of wetlands, wildlife corridors and other protected wildlife habitats directly resulting from homeless encampments.  [7]

I am not impressed with the assertion, made by well-meaning but ultimately misguided (IMO) folks, that a mentally ill and/or addicted/substance-abusing person has the “right” to wander the streets, muttering gibberish, panhandling ( which can devolve into threats and aggression, demand and extortion   [8]  ) eating from dumpsters, defecating on the streets, and dying of hypothermia.

And it got me to thinking…about all those churches.  Specifically, all those church buildings and the real estate they own and (occasionally) occupy.

 

 

Some religious buildings are rather modest; others, particularly those belonging to the evangelical “mega” churches, are more like compounds which could house a small country.  Speaking of housing – the majority of churches buildings, no matter their size, lie unused most of the time. Except for a few Sunday services and a couple of mid-week bible studies, youth group meeting or other gatherings, they basically serve as a social hall for their members.

 

 Ariel photo of Pastor Joel Osteen’s $10.5 million dollar home, which is a 17,000 square foot compound on 1.86 acres.in River Oaks, a wealthy Houston suburb (Osteen also has another house, a $2.9 million mansion in Tanglewood, another Houston suburb).
“The property boasts loads of unique and luxurious features which span across the large mansion, including 6 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, 5 open wood fireplaces, 3 elevators, a 1 bedroom guest house, a pool, and a pool house.”
( Backstage: Joel Osteen’s house)

Criticizing the hypocrisy of the wealthy evangelical preachers is like shooting low-hanging fish in a fruit barrel. Preachers like Joel Osteen, known for peddling the Christianity “prosperity gospel” (translation: high on prosperity – for the leader/preacher, and low on gospel), is one of the wealthiest, and thus, lowest…uh, hanging.

But I’m holding all Christian churches, and Christians, responsible for the following observation of moiself:

If Christians took their faith seriously, there would be no homeless problem.    [9]

(I’m not ragging on dealing with other religions right now, although regular/longtime readers of this blog know that I do not hesitate to do so.  But the subject here is homelessness in the USA, where Christianity is the dominant religion among those who claim a religious affiliation. )

 

 

Christians, in particular those prone to a conservative, evangelizing theology, like to proclaim to non-Christians that, “Jesus/god loves you and has a plan for your life!” even as they conveniently ignore the plans that *their* god supposedly gave to believers in their own so-called holy book:    [10]

“Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’
‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.’
‘Which ones?’ he inquired.
Jesus replied, ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.’
 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
( Matthew 19:15-21 )

“…For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.
They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ …Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
(Matt: 25 42-45 )

 

 

Jesus could identify with the homeless in His itinerant ministry.
In Matthew 8:20, Jesus states that even animals have a place to call home, but He had nowhere to lay His head.
He stayed in the homes of whoever would welcome Him and sometimes outside.

God expects His people to help those who are homeless. The Law directly addressed care for those in need. In Leviticus 25:35 God commands His people to help support those who have no home and cannot support themselves: “If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.” (see also Deuteronomy 15:7–11). The Lord rebuked those who kept the outward form of religion yet did not care for the poor: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen . . . to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58:6–7).
(“What does the bible say about the homeless/homelessness.” Gotquestions.org )

Conservative/prosperity gospel practitioners of Christianity seem to take literally only a few scriptural injunctions which have to do with sex (i.e. those which they think don’t apply to themselves).  But Jesus’ many admonitions to his followers re helping the poor and not amassing treasures on earth?  Nah; those have nothing to do with them.  Obviously, JC meant for his followers to take *those* commands figuratively, as in this amazing rationalization, which I’ve actually heard from more than one Christian (when I’ve questioned them re their obvious comfort with acquiring wealth while so many in their community are impoverished):

“What the Bible means is that we should tend to a person’s *spiritual* (not financial) poverty, since material possessions ultimately don’t matter.”

Cool story, bro. Just one problem:

“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’
but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”
(James 2:15-16)

 

 

*   *   *

Punz/Jokez For The Day
Hypocrisy Edition

My pastor told me that my generation can’t live without technology.
I called him a hypocrite and unplugged his life support machine.

When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bike,
until I realized the Lord doesn’t work that way.
So I stole one and asked him to forgive me instead.

My priest is such a hypocrite.
He called my friend a hero for donating a kidney,
but when I turned tried to donate ten, he called me a monster.

 

 

*   *   *

May the job you want be the one you’re dressing for;
May you not rely upon iron age scriptures to discern and solve
 twenty-first century problems;
May you watch a better, if lesser-known, Audrey Hepburn film    [11]
(than “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”);
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Gamin is the word many movie critics seem to think one is required by law to use4 when commenting on Audrey Hepburn.

[2] I mean, would *you*?

[3] Who are also the writers of many (but not all) of the show’s segments.

[4]  Which hardly seems likely, as I can count on the fingers of less than one hand the times my mother added anything new to the standard rotation of dinners she cooked.

[5]  RA and I shared a bedroom; I dreamed of having my own.

[6] When homeless encampments move and/or are relocated, the resulting cleanup, with the combination of human waste, drugs, needles and other drug paraphernalia, has been likened to dealing with EPA toxic sites.

[7] “…the environmental impacts of homeless encampments in parks and green spaces…include erosion, destruction of native vegetation, debris accumulation, water quality issues, habitat destruction, public health issues (including hypodermic needles and possibly E. coli fecal coliform bacterial contamination of the creek and its tributaries), and discouragement of public use of parks and green spaces. ” (Environmental Damage and Homeless Camps, Thornton Creek Alliance )

” Environmental experts say, in the case of multiple protected Portland habitats, the damage is done, and it could take years to repair….because, months ago, those habitats went from safe havens for wildlife to hotspots for homeless campers.”( “Homeless campers damaging protected wildlife habitats, experts say,”)

[8] Some street beggars set themselves in such a way as to block your passage unless you give them money, or essentially extort nearby businesses – e.g., setting themselves up by the entrance to a café, and letting the cafe staff know that they will be there, harassing and scaring away would be customers, unless they get a certain “contribution” (read: unless the café staff pays them what amounts to a toll). 

[9] and not even, “literally.”

[10] Unless otherwise specified, the wording in the biblical passages is from the English language “The New International Version” of the Christian bible.

[11] Like, “Wait Until Dark.”

The Department I’m Not Defunding

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Department Of First Things First

Hard to imagine that, in this picture, my father was younger than I am now and I was younger than my daughter Belle is now

Gone from this earth; always present in our hearts and minds. Chester (“Chet the Jet”) Bryan Parnell died this evening, thirteen years ago.

 

Moiself was home from college for a Christmas visit.  I remember how proud Chet was that he could still lift me in his arms (and that I would consent to him showing off by doing so).

 

*   *   *

Department Of One Solution To A Seemingly Unsolvable Problem?

“The rift between police and Black Americans can feel impossible to bridge.  But in his work with police departments across the U.S., Yale psychologist Phillip Atiba Goff has found novel ways to address the problem.”
(Hidden Brain website)

Okay; everybody drop what you’re doing right now – unless you’re doing something really important, like making me dinner. Whether you have ever (or never) had any encounters with police officers, or you y’all’s own self are a police officer, please listen to this podcast episode:  Hidden Brain: Changing Behavior, Not Beliefs

HB host Shankar Vedantam:
“I find it fascinating that you’re effectively addressing problems related to racial disparities in policing, without accusing police officers of being bigots.  There’s very little finger-pointing in your work, right? “

Goff:
“In my day to day when I’m talking with law enforcement, when I’m talking with communities, when I’m talking to my team, we talk about racism a *whole lot.*  What we *don’t* talk about is whether or not you meant to (a cop acting in a way that promotes racial disparity), or are ‘a good person.’

We don’t talk about ‘character,’ almost ever.  But everybody who can answer the question, ‘Would you like to kill fewer people – would you like to be engaged in less racial disparity?” with a ‘Yes, I would like to do that morally obvious thing,’ there are things that can be done.  But we don’t have to talk about racism the way most people talk about racism, because the way most people talk about racism is what kind of person you are, and I have found that to be almost entirely irrelevant to making the problem get better.”      [1]

 

 

Psychologist Goff says the key to changing policing disparity and lowering incidences of police using unnecessary force is focusing on the *behavior* of officers, not on their *character.*  Whether or not a person holds entrenched/racist beliefs is subjective, difficult if not impossible to assess – how do we really know what is in a person’s mind?   [2] –  and ultimately impossible to screen for (truly racist applicants would learn how to “lie”, on both tests and in interviews, if they were determined to join the police force).

And whether or not an officer aspires to be a card-carrying Klansman or considers himself to be the reincarnation of Mr. Rogers is not the issue – his behavior is. And his behavior is directly influenced by his training, which colors his perceptions (even when the officer is a POC    [3]  ) of what kind of persons and situations are inherently dangerous.

Goff and others studying the situation point to the fact that it is the police officer’s behaviors, not indiscernible attitudes or “character,” which cause problems.  Goff argues for DE-escalation, not defunding, for police. He calls for changing the training for officers and for those who deploy them, including recognizing situations where employing officers with badges and guns should only be a last resort and not a first response (i.e. most traffic infractions and mental health calls and neighborhood disputes).

 

We should all be so lucky as to de-escalate by partaking in a relaxing foot soak with Mr. Rogers.

 

The character of police officers involved in, for example, the shooting of an unarmed Black man, is impugned or assumed: “The officers must be racist!  That may or may not be the case, but Goff argues that we should focus our attention on what we can measure and alter, rather than what the officer’s “character” might be, which we can only presume.  We should look at the behavior involved, including:

* how officers are trained to react a certain situations

* knowledge of the fact that certain situations predispose the officers to respond more violently and/or fearfully: such as, the foot chase and high speed auto chases.  And even – especially, as it turns out – the lowly, “routine” traffic stop.

“Thanks to police culture and training, many officers have been conditioned to believe — *wrongly* — that traffic stops are high-risk, the report explains. (Research has indicated that the chances of a police officer being killed during a traffic stop are actually less than 1 in 3.6 million.) The high-risk mindset leads to overreaction and hyper-violence against people who are not a threat.

‘All [officers have] heard are horror stories about what could happen,’ Sarah Mooney, assistant police chief in West Palm Beach, told the Times. ‘It is very difficult to try to train that out of somebody.’  ”
( “New Report Details How and Why Routine Traffic Stops Turn Deadly,”
NYmag.com  )

 

The first time moiself  heard or read about the call to, “defund the police” I expressed my concern that the term was *extremely* poorly chosen.  It is fear-inducing for many if not the majority of citizens, and likely to put police officers on the defensive and refuse to listen to rational calls for reform.

One acquaintance shared her opinion that “…it doesn’t actually matter (what phrase you use) because they (police departments) are going to disagree no matter what you call it.”

Maybe…?  With a large, mmmmmmmm.

Second thought:  No; it does matter what you call it.  Because, words and phrases both carry and impart meaning – that’s the whole point of arguing about them.

And the meaning of “defund the police” is different from the desired outcome for police reform, which is not slashing essential police budgets, but reassigning and re-delegating certain tasks police have had to handle. These specific tasks are those which police officers and departments across the nation have complained about for decades – tasks that have been defaulted to police to handle, despite police lacking the training or mandate to handle them, e.g., the post deinstitutionalization mental health crises.

“When a person has a mental-health crisis in America, it is almost always law enforcement—not a therapist, social worker, or psychiatrist—who responds to the 911 call. But most officers aren’t adequately trained to deal with mental-health emergencies. And while laws intended to protect civil liberties make it exceedingly difficult to hospitalize people against their will, it is remarkably easy to arrest them.

As a result, policing and incarceration have effectively replaced emergency mental-health care, especially in low-income communities of color. In many jails, the percentage of people with mental illness has continued to go up even as the jail population has dropped. Today, nearly half the people in U.S. jails and more than a third of those in U.S. prisons have been diagnosed with a mental illness, compared to about a fifth in the general population.”

(“The Truth About Deinstitutionalization,” The Atlantic )

 

 

The mental health issue is arguable the most complex, with almost all sides involved in the discussion admitting that there is a huge problem, but offering no doable solutions…other than agreeing on the fact that the vast majority of mental-health related calls to emergency services should not involve or be handled by police.  But there are several less complicated fixes to other issues that could make a big difference in racial disparities in policing.  One of these fixes involves simply reducing the amount of unnecessary citizen-police encounters in non-life-threatening situations.

There’s no reason for badges-and-guns officers to be involved in citing minor traffic infractions, non-violent mental health crises “checks,” or policing petty neighborhood disputes, when community resources – e.g. trained mediators, mental health professionals, road cameras or even 1920s-style “traffic vigilantes” [see below] – could be used.

Some cities and police departments recognize this, and are advising their police officers to “no longer pursue drivers for low-level traffic infractions — including expired plates and broken headlights — unless related to an immediate safety threat.”    [4]  These recommendations are due in part to studies showing wide racial disparities in traffic stops, including one massive study cited by Kelsey Shoub, a professor of political science at the University of South Carolina, which analyzed data from twenty *million* traffic stops. The study’s data provided “…few big takeaways,” Professor Shoub said, “…and the first two are probably not surprising.”

“The first is that DWB (‘driving while black’) is very much a thing; it’s everywhere and it’s not just a North Carolina or a Southern problem but across the United States.  ….The second thing is that it appears to be more systemic than a few ‘bad apple’ officers engaged in racial profiling.”

Significant findings from Shoub’s and her colleagues’ analysis of the study’s dataset include:

* Blacks were 63 percent more likely to be stopped even though, as a whole, they drive 16 percent less. Taking into account less time on the road, blacks were about 95 percent more likely to be stopped.

* Blacks were 115 percent more likely than whites to be searched in a traffic stop (5.05 percent for blacks, 2.35 percent for whites).

* Contraband was more likely to be found in searches of white drivers.

“So, black drivers were stopped disproportionately more than white drivers compared to the local population and were at least twice as likely to be searched, but they were slightly less likely to get a ticket,” Shoub says. “That correlates with the idea that black drivers were stopped on the pretext of having done something wrong, and when the officer doesn’t see in the car what he thought he might, he tells them to go on their way.”

(“Racial disparities revealed in massive traffic stop dataset.”
U of SC post, 6-12-20 )

 

 

A driver speeding 100 mph through red light after red light? That person is a danger to everyone – go get him, asolutely. But having and guns-and-badges officers pull someone over for expired registration tags or for failing to properly signal a right-hand turn or exceeding the speed limit by 5 mph? Use capture camera footage or whatever – send them a ticket in the mail, but only escalate when absolutely necessary.

“Traffic stops are the most common form of police-citizen interaction, but for many citizens, they are also the most dangerous.

Although many people view traffic enforcement as a basic aspect of policing, this has not always been the case….

How traffic enforcement evolved over time
Traffic enforcement has been a responsibility of policing since the invention and wide use of automobiles and other vehicles. Cars were seen as dangerous, and originally, there were no rules or regulations governing their use. Outraged over accidents and other safety concerns, civilians demanded public safety support, despite law enforcement’s own lack of automobile use.

Traffic enforcement started in the 1920s with ‘traffic vigilantes’ who regulated driving by handing out tickets, keeping track of license plates, and following high-speed drivers. As police gained access to more technology, this role increasingly fell to them. Since then, police have used traffic stops to stop, detain, and search people they believe are engaging in criminal activity.

Traffic stops are now one of the most common acts of policing. Officers engaged in traffic enforcement have the discretion to decide whether to stop a driver based on a long list of potential violations, including not using a turn signal early enough, not using headlights on a cloudy day.… Officers have further discretion in how the stop is handled, including whether they will conduct a search of vehicle, issue a citation, arrest the driver, or let them go.

The deeply entrenched racial disparities in traffic enforcement and the continued killing of Black drivers show that regardless of intentions, the harms of traffic stops far outweigh any potential public safety benefits. Traffic stops result in neither increased trust in the police nor increased perceptions of safety among community members, and they often have the opposite effect.”

( “Police Traffic Stops Have Little to Do with Public Safety,”
Urban Wire: Crime Justice and Safety )

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Cops Edition

Yesterday I saw a police officer wearing a pilot’s uniform.
I thought it was odd; then I realized he was one of those plane clothes cops.

There’s a mysterious crime spree going on at our local IKEA.
The cops are having a hard time putting the pieces together.

Police officer: “I’m arresting you for downloading all of Wikipedia.”
Suspect: “No, wait! I can explain everything!”

I got pulled over by a cop who asked me if I had a police record.
I said, “No, but I’ve got a Sting CD.

 

What’s all this about Police brutality?

*   *   *

May you remember that what you call something matters;
May you find another term for “defunding the police;”
May you get out that old Police album – or picture of a departed loved one – and appreciate
how the gifts of the past can enrich the present;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] The first footnote is not actually a footnote.  This does not bode well for the completion of my Ph.D.

[2] We may have legal standards for proof of “intent,”  but such standards are legal – not scientific – constructions.

[3] “Racial bias isn’t necessarily about how a person views himself in terms of race, but how he views others in terms of race…. In the case of police, all cops are dealing with enormous cultural and systemic forces that build racial bias against minority groups. Even if a black cop doesn’t view himself as racist, the way policing is done in the US is racially skewed — by, for example, targeting high-crime neighborhoods that are predominantly black.  These policing tactics can also create and accentuate personal, subconscious bias by increasing the likelihood that officers will relate blackness with criminality or danger — leading to what psychologists call “implicit bias” against black Americans.  Combined, this means the system as a whole — as well as individual officers, even black ones — by and large act in ways that are deeply racially skewed and, potentially, racist.  ( excerpts from ” How systemic racism entangles all police officers — even black cops,” Vox  )

[4] “Portland police halt minor traffic stops, citing disparity.”  Abc news.

The Five Star Rating I’m Not Giving

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Department Of All Of Us Probably Already Know This…
Why Five Ratings Are Almost Meaningless

Dateline: last week; 7:45 am-ish;  [1]  returning from a morning walk; listening to a podcast. At the end of the episode one of the podcast hosts says, without a detectable tinge of shame as per the audacity of her blatant hyperbole-scrounging:

“…if you like this podcast please, go online and give it a five-star rating.”

I do like the podcast.  But, as I understand it,  a five star rating means that the rating system being referred to goes from one to five stars.  Now, moiself  can like something and give it three or four stars instead of five.

Why not sign off with, “If you like our podcast please consider writing a review of it on ____.”  Don’t tell me how you want me to rate it; you might as well just write all the reviews yourself.   [2]   If all the reviews are five stars then five stars isn’t anything special.

Repeat after me, class:  if everyone gets a trophy, no one *really* got a trophy.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Breaking News…

I do not refer to retirement of Tom Brady.   C’mon, who ( certainly not moiself ) gives a FF about a multimillionaire football player, simultaneously the winning-est and cheating-est in his sport, hanging up his helmet (thus stopping both the winning and the cheating, I presume).  Yeah, sure – make an announcement.  But over and over….

Once again, I digress.

The breaking news to which I refer is is is Re Whoopi Goldberg getting suspended from The View over her comments that The Holocaust was “not about race.”

And why, you may ask, were the hosts and/or guests of The View talking about the Holocaust?  I didn’t see the show; apparently the subject was a Tennessee school districts’ banning of the holocaust-themed graphic novel, Maus, and the subject took off from there.

 

 

And yep, when I read what Goldberg said I thought, Whoa; she blew it.  But when I read her explanation/apology – about how she thinks of race – I realized that there’s more to it that meets the eye…or ear.

“In a later appearance on Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show on Monday, Ms. Goldberg apologized, explaining that, as a Black person, she thinks of racism as being based on skin color but that she realized not everyone sees it that way.”
(ABC Suspends Whoopi Goldberg Over Holocaust Comments)

On The View Goldberg posited that The Holocaust was about “man’s inhumanity to man,” and that since “these are two white groups of people” (Germans and Jews) The holocaust “was not about race.”  Apparently she didn’t realize how much and specifically the Nazis considered the Jews to be a race, even if scientifically that isn’t true.

IMO, one of the greatest errors in cultural anthropology was the creation of the term, “race” (yet another gift to civilization from the British, who considered the Irish to be an inferior race).  If I ruled the world, we’d get rid of that classification.  There are no races, save for the human race – with a variety of ethnicities and cultures….

However, the Nazis didn’t know or care about *other* definitions of race. And like many – if not the majority – of us, it seems that Goldberg knew *what* the Nazis did, but not the reasons  *why* they did what they did.

And if moiself  may digress for a moment, it’s funny (to me) to be writing that word – Whoopi’s last name – in terms of this discussion.  The EGOT-winning actor/comic/author talk show host, Whoopi Goldberg, was born Caryn Johnson, and chose a Jewish surname for her professional name.  Holy meme confusion – and now, with this brouhaha, does this mean that Caryn who became Whoopi has become a Karen?

 

 

Not for a moment do I think Goldberg is antisemitic, or racist against Jews.  I do think that, like so many of us, she was either ignorant of and/or misinformed about the Nazis’ justification for their “Final Solution“:  i.e., she mistakenly thought it was religious or cultural prejudice which drove the Nazis.  Indeed, Nazi speeches and literature were peppered with the language of Christian Nationalist hatred of the non-Aryan/non-Christian, but their primary, anti-Jewish focus was the Jewish “race,” not religion.

The Holocaust seems to be, in some cases, fading into the pantheon of Really Bad People In World History.  People remember that the Nazis were the baddest of the bad – they killed 6 million Jews and 5 million other people belonging to groups they didn’t like – but forget (or never fully knew in the first place) the ideology behind why they were the baddest of the bad.

* Hitler and other Nazi leaders viewed the Jews not as a religious group, but as a poisonous “race,” which “lived off” the other races and weakened them.
* …the Nazi Party…political agenda…embodies racism. It demands racial purity in Germany; proclaims Germany’s destiny to rule over inferior races; and identifies Jews as racial enemies.
(excerpts from Holocaust Encyclopedia: Nazi Racism)

*  The Holocaust saw Nazi Germans systematically persecute Jews on the basis of an ideology that saw Jewish people as an inferior race and a threat to other races.
* The Nazis, and Hitler, went to great lengths to describe and define Jews as a race.
(Politifact, “Goldberg wrongly claims the holocaust was ‘not about race.’ ” )

Goldberg’s misassumption that The Holocaust was not about race is a historical oversight and/or educational mistake, easily correctable.  So, why suspend her?

During her appearance on Steven Colbert’s show, Goldberg further explained, re her Holocaust remarks, 

“I feel, being Black, when we talk about race it’s a very different thing to me….
But I thought it was a salient discussion because, as a Black person, I think of race as being something that I can see.”

 

 

That is a very important, very revealing statement, and (to me) also very understandable.  Goldberg is not the first person who, having experienced racism herself, has (perhaps unintentionally) played a variation of the “My people have it worse” or the “*That’s* not racism; lemme tell you what is racism” card.

I’d love to hear that issue discussed in depth.   And I think it would be beneficial for everyone who was there during the discussion (whence Goldberg’s initial remarks) to hash it out on the same “air,” so that, for example, the historians and Holocaust experts who called Goldberg to task could share their information and viewpoints with her, and the other hosts, and the audience. After all, isn’t the show she was suspended from called, The View?

*   *   *

Department Of Gung Hay Fat Choi, y’all.

 

 

Earlier this week I and MH were up in Tacoma, where our daughter Belle made us a Yummers ® Lunar New Year feast.  Moiself  used to refer to the celebration as The Chinese New Year, ®  because that’s how I knew about it via demographics.   [3]  However, many cultures and countries other than China celebrate The Lunar New Year, and ’tis likely the Tibetans and Koreans don’t care for the *Chinese* new year label.

Moiself  doesn’t, of course, “believe in” Chinese astrology, any more (or less) than I give credence to the silly, pre-scientific, superstitious idea that the month/date “alignment of planets and other celestial bodies” (i.e., the western zodiac) on the day of one’s birth has anything to do with one’s basic personality traits and fortune.  But, hey, (almost) any excuse for a celebration is fine by me.

*   *   *

Department Of Monkeyshines

Dateline: Monday, 6:15 am-ish.  MH and I arrived in Tacoma yesterday, for a few day’s visit with daughter Belle.  We’re up early this morning because Belle wants to do the annual “monkeyshines” search.  In Tacoma, around the time of the lunar new year, certain glass artists hide little baubles (monkeyshines) around in public places in city parks and other accessible areas.

 

A monkeyshine in a tree.

 

MH and moiself  are staying for three nights at the McMenamin’s Elks Temple  hotel, where I have stayed several times over the past three year.   [4] .  It’s a typical McMenamin’s joint – quirky and fun, good food and drink and entertainment and unique ambiance. My one gripe: There is no good parking for overnight guests at or around the Elks Lodge.  As their web site says:

“Elks Temple is located in downtown Tacoma, and parking options vary…”

Read: We’re in downtown Tacoma, and your parking options suck.

Downtown Tacoma, like many big cities, is plagued by street crime. There is metered parking in some of the streets surrounding The Elks Temple, a paid lot a few blocks away, but no dedicated hotel parking.  So, if you’re staying at the hotel and are lucky enough to find a nearby parking space, you have to move your vehicle every two hours (until 6 pm, when meter hours are over and start again at 8 am). If you go anywhere and come back in the early evening (after 6pm), when the lodge is jumping with its variety of its bars and restaurants and music options being patronized by non-hotel guests, you will not find a space near the lodge, until possibly late at night.  Which was the case when we arrived on Sunday.

After we spent some time with Belle, we tried to check in to the hotel but were unable to find any parking.  MH circled the building several times, finally let me out to check us in, then found a parking spot a block and a half away, up a hill, within eyesight of the hotel.

Back to the dateline, Monday am:  we leave the hotel early, get in the car, and as we are driving to pick up Belle at her apartment, we hear intermittent rattling sounds coming from the back of the car.  I say, “Did you pack a box of gravel?” to MH, who was driving.  I was somewhat serious, as the rear of the car had been packed with tools and lumber for a project of Belle’s, but we’d cleared the car of all of that the previous night, leaving it all in her apartment, emptying our car save for three bags of emergency supplies. MH replied, “Noooooo….”  He looked in the rear view mirror, and barely stifled a gasp.   “But our rear windshield is smashed.”

 

 

MH pulled over, and we got out to see what we hadn’t noticed when we got into the car.  Indeed, the rattling sound we’d been hearing were the sounds of the pieces of safety glass, which were still attached to the remaining edges of (what had been) the rear windshield, dropping down onto the inside/back of the car.

At first we thought nothing was missing; no one seems to have gotten into the vehicle or rifled through the glove compartment or anyplace else.  The idiot(s) who did it just smashed and moved on, as far as we could tell.   [5]    This very thing happened to Belle a few years back, when she lived four blocks up from the hotel: some street asshole disturbed soul one walked along one night, smashing the side and/or rear windows of every other car he passed (but didn’t stop to steal anything from any of the cars).  Not long after that, someone did a similar thing in her neighborhood, stealing from the first car whose window he smashed, then smashing the windows of the neighboring cars…just because he could.

 

 

Seriously.  Apparently this is not an uncommon crime in Tacoma. Lovely.

As you might imagine, this put a damper on my monkeyshines-looking-for spirit.  While MH and Belle searched Wright Park in the dark, I half-heartedly followed along, using my cellphone flashlight to look into trees and monument nooks and crannies while phoning various Tacoma car dealerships and auto shops.

 

The Wright Park Lions.

 

I found an auto glass repair shop which squeezed us in for an emergency “wrap” of the rear window space, but they did not have the necessary glass to replace the windshield.  Summary of my many calls: Y’all know all those empty shelves and spaces you see at the supermarket and other stores? The car parts industries are having the same supply and shipping problems.  As of this writing I am back in Hillsboro, with an appointment to have the rear window of my car replaced…sometime…pending the arrival of the part.

 

Maybe someone finally took issue with my bumper stickers.

 

MH and Belle and I went out to breakfast, circa 9 am, after our monkeyshines search.   [6]    I informed our son K about our crime victim status, via text, while we were waiting for our food to arrive, and ended with, “Well, at least I’m handling it better than I would have 20 years ago.”

K’s response:
“How would the Robyn of 20 years ago have handled it?”

Moiself:
 “With much more profanity.”    [7]

 

Coda the first:  at the aforementioned restaurant – Shakabra, which I highly recommend if you’re ever looking for a yummers breakfast in Tacoma –  when our waiter greeted us with the standard (but sincere,  moiself  truly believed), “How’s everyone doing this morning?” I decided to answer him truthfully.  I said something along the lines of “Ok, except for having our rear windshield smashed this morning….”  He shook his head in sympathy and disgust, and said, “I’m sorry; I hear that happens a lot in Tacoma.”

Coda the second:  Later the next morning, MH and I were discussing what to bring back for K, who was watching our two cats in his Portland home while we were up visiting his sister.  We both brought up getting him a t-shirt from the vast McMenamins collectionmoiself  suggested we ask the Elks Temple staff if we could special order a shirt with McMenamins’ iconic Hammerhead Ale logo, with the hammer striking a car windshield….

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Automotive Edition

I have a sad tale about a European car… never mind.
You don’t want to hear my Saab story.

When we were kids, my cousins used to stuff me in a car tire
and roll it down a big hill.  Ah yes; those were the Goodyears.

A thief stole the wheels off my car last night.
I’m working tirelessly to catch him.

 

“Don’t you think I’d make her stop if I could?”

*   *   *

May you handle adversity better than you did 20 years ago;
May you have a stupendous Year of the Tiger;
May you rate this blog nine out of five stars;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Not Amish.

[2] Already happening, I’d bet.

[3] Most of the people I’d known who celebrated it were of Chinese ancestry, and my SIL was born and raised in Canton.

[4] Although MH has visited the Elks Temple – Belle used to work there – this was his first time staying overnight at its hotel.

[5] Two days later, the morning we drove back to Oregon, we were transferring our car’s items – which we’d put in Belle’s apartment for safekeeping – back to our car, and discovered that one of our car’s emergency bags was missing.  So, the window-smashing asshat got a black bag filled with earthquake and other disaster emergency supplies.

[6] We – ahem, make that, moiself – did find one!  It was a white marble with an orange streak, hidden in the curled tail of one of the Wright Park Lions statues. Not a true monkeyshines, but Belle said it counts:  “In addition to glass balls, Monkeyshine items include marbles, ceramic medallions, teacups and ornaments made by Tacoma artists.”  (Hunting for Art and Community in Tacoma: the Monkeyshines Project))

[7] Note the subtle indication that there was not a complete lack of cussin.’

The Shows I’m Not Watching

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Department Of I Dare You To Listen To This Without Crying

The 11th: A Letter From George

I need to rephrase that, because moiself  *wants* you to listen to this Radio podcast, even though it will make you cry.  [1]   Because a person you love, maybe even your own self, is either walking in Matt’s shoes, or will be, someday.

Matt is the grieving man who is interviewed in this The 11th: A Letter From George  podcast, which, as per the Radiolab website, is part of a series

“… of mini pep talks designed to help us all get through this cold, dark,
second-pandemic-winter-in-a-row.
But this is about someone trying to get through something arguably much more difficult, something a pep talk can’t solve, but that a couple friends — and one very generous stranger — might be able to help make a little more bearable.”

 

 

In the interview, Matt tells how he wrote about his loss and grief to a man who was, essentially, a stranger, after a friend had given Matt an excerpt from a book by this stranger, the author George Saunders.  Matt found Saunders’ writing touching, and beneficial in that it wasn’t cliched:

“….he didn’t say it was going to get better;
he didn’t expect me to think that it was going to get better.
All it was, was just making me feel that the way I’m feeling is okay.”

Matt read from the letter he wrote to Saunders:

“Hello.  I just lost my fiancé two weeks ago, and she was buried last Saturday. She was 29; we had just moved into our first house together and we were about to start our life. A friend send me an excerpt from your new novel and I keep it with me always…. I don’t even know if anyone will see this, but I just want you to know that you have helped me.  I don’t even know what to do anymore, so thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve never experienced loss like this, and the only thing that’s keeping me from taking my life is that I know what it does to others. Be well.”

To Matt’s surprise, Saunders wrote back. 

“Dear Matt. Oh, I am so so sorry for your loss.
That must be just unspeakably difficult….
I don’t really know what to say, except that someone told me this recently: that grief is a form of praise.
You are praising the wonder of the person you lost. The great pain you are feeling means great love.  I can’t imagine that helps, but it is true.
It is like cause and effect, you really saw and knew and cherished her – that’s what your grief is proving
, and proving that she was wonderful, and that you appreciated that….”   [2]

 

 

Saunders later reached out to Matt on social media, to check in with him.  Their correspondence is beyond touching.

You deserve, and probably need ,  [3]  a good cry, followed by a good uplift.  You’ll get both if you listen to that episode.

*   *   *

Department Of Not The Murder Mystery Show I Was Expecting

 

Trigger warning: The following contains references to a “fact-based” TV series about murdered family members.

Dateline: two weeks ago, MH and I began watching A Confession, a six part BritBox series currently streaming on various services.  I knew next to nothing about it; I thought it was going to be a typical murder mystery.  But there wasn’t much of a mystery: the person who *seemed* to be the obvious perpetrator *was* the perpetrator.

Moiself  only made it to the first part episode three when I realized where the series was headed.  Despite the stellar acting and writing, I had to get up and leave the room.

 

 

It’s not a genre I spend a lot of time watching (or reading); still, it seems to me that in the typical murder mystery, the murder itself is or becomes almost a side note, to get the plot rolling to focus on

* the investigation and the antics of various law enforcement stock characters
(the jaded veteran, the /overenthusiastic but naive new recruit, etc.);

* the machinations of the legal/criminal justice system;

* what the crime and/or its investigation says about the larger culture.

The victim and family are not the primary focus.  In many cases where the story is an adaptation of a murder/mystery novel, you don’t even care about the victim, who is portrayed as an unsympathetic character, thus sparking the whodunit intrigue (“Whodunit?  The dude was a devious, hateful SOB – everybody who knew him had reason to dunit to him.”)

But A Confession, during the second episode, began to home in on the aftermath for the murdered young women’s families – their profound sorrows, horrors, regrets; their wrenching questions which will never be answered.  This change in focus is a change I welcome for the genre…in theory.  In practice, it turned out I was unprepared, and it proved to be too much for moiself  to continue watching.

 

 

Perhaps because the subject personal is to me, I can’t help but wonder:  do people who write these stories actually have close friends or family members who have been killed? I’m not talking about the classic or typical murder mystery series, many of which (e.g. the genre’s novels by Agatha Christie; Sayers, Grafton’s “alphabetical series”  [4]   )  seem to be almost…comical is not quite the word I’m looking for, but the tone is definitely light.  

But A Confession was quite dramatic and realistic,   [5]  in terms of showing the overwhelming emotional consequences haunting a murder victim’s family and friends.  And thus, my wondering:  would anyone who has experienced this kind of a tragedy write such a story for…entertainment? And that’s what it is, isn’t it?  We are watching a story about murder, to…pass the time, and amuse ourselves?  Even if “fact-based,” the stories are not documentaries; we’re not watching them for edification, or to be informed as to, say, how we can avoid serial killers. And that proposition seems odd, to me.

Confession A: I was riveted to “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” the HBO documentary based on the book of the same name, about the serial rapist and murderer known as the Golden State Killer.  Even though I knew what happened and how it ended,  [6]  moiself  still wanted to see the portrayal of (at least partial) justice done, as I felt a connection to the story.  I was in college near the area where the GSK started his crime spree – back then he was known as the East Area Rapist ( moiself  previously blogged about his capture).

Confession B: Silence of the Lambs is one of my all-time favorite movies – although I’ve no doubt it would *not* be if it were a true story.  Still, are A and B hypocrisies, or inconsistencies, on my part? 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Watch This Instead

That would be the National Geographic documentary, The Rescue.

You are likely at least somewhat familiar with the against-all-odds, how-the-hell-didn’t-they-all-die ?!?!?, amazing true story The Rescue tells. If not, here’s a teaser:

One day in June 2018, members of Thai boys soccer team and their coach went for a hike in the Tham Luang cave.  Most of the boys had been inside the cave before – exploring it was something of a local rite of passage, and they wanted to go further inside than they’d gone before, as part of a team-building exercise.  (Two team members, who were tired and/or not feeling well did not go into the cave).

The cave became flooded; rising waters from sudden torrential rains blocked the exit and trapped twelve boys (ages 11 -16) and their 25-year-old coach when they were 2.5 miles from the cave’s entrance.  Despite heroic efforts by Thai Navy SEAL divers,   [7]  search and rescue efforts were obstructed by the rising waters and strong currents within the cave.  Having no contact with the trapped party for a week, Thai authorities summoned British rescue divers specializing in cave diving, who found the group alive, trapped on a cave ledge.  But how the heck were they going to get them out?  An international rescue operation was mounted….

 

You’ll feel baby-sloth-heart-warmed, after watching this inspiring story.

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Flawless Segue To Yet Another Content Warning:

 

 

Department Of Next Time, Why Not Adopt An Egalitarian Mixed Breed?

Did you know that at least 60% of Golden Retrievers will develop cancer, and that cancer is the leading cause of death in all but 11 purebred dog breeds?

Calling all dog lovers:  please consider boycotting watching the Westminster Kennel Dog Show, and all other such grotesque spectacles which celebrate the dog “breed standards,” which contribute to people’s preference for purebreds, which is responsible for the lack of genetic diversity within “pure” breeds and the resulting decline in the health of such dogs.

Holy doggy-do disposal device – think about it: the very term “purebred” reeks of…well, privilege (and even canine racism, one could argue).

And remember, the  so-called “royal” families around the world have shown us what inbreeding can lead to.

 

 

“By age five, for example, half of all King Cavalier Spaniels will develop mitral valve disease, a serious heart condition that leaves the dogs susceptible to premature death. By the same age, up to 70 percent will suffer from canine syringomyelia, a debilitating neurological disorder in which the brain is too large for the skull, causing severe pain in the neck and shoulders, along with damage to parts of the dog’s spinal cord. And although Cavaliers may be a particularly obvious case of purebreds with problems, they aren’t alone. Most purebred dogs today are at a high risk for numerous inherited diseases….

For almost 4,000 years people have been breeding dogs for certain traits….But the vast number of modern breeds—and the roots of their genetically caused problems—came about over the past two centuries, as dog shows became popular and people began selectively inbreeding the animals to have specific physical features. Over time the American Kennel Club (AKC) and other such organizations have set standards defining what each variety should look like. To foster the desired appearance, breeders often turn to line breeding—a type of inbreeding that mates direct relatives, such as grandmother and grandson.”
(“Although Purebred Dogs Can Be Best in Show, Are They Worst in Health?”

Scientific American )

Because some humans think it’s cute for a dog to have, for example, a smashed-in face (ala the pug and bulldog varieties), dogs have been bred to emphasize features and traits that humans find adorable but which are in fact genetic disorders and malformations.

 

That’s shocking…but, what about cats?

 

The multi-exotic-breed-mania has infected the cat world to a lesser degree.  You don’t see the extremes in domestic cats:

*  43 – 71 recognized breeds (depending on what authority you listen to) ranging in size from a 5 lb Singapura to a 20 lb Main Coon

that you do in dogs:

* 360 recognized breeds, ranging from a 4 lb Chihuahua to a 300 lb English Mastiff.

Many veterinarians, biologists, cat breed associations, and other animal lovers want to keep it that way.  Noting that it is cruel to breed animals with genetic deformities intentionally, they protest the breeding of The Munchkin (aka “sausage cat”), a relatively new breed of cat characterized by very short legs caused by a genetic mutation.

While many people think Munchkins are cute (and call them the “wiener dogs” cats), their stunted limbs impact their mobility – they struggle to run and jump, and suffer from back and hip problems similar to those experienced by short-legged dog breeds.   [8]

 

Cute? Sure, if you think animals should be bred for debilitating and painful deformities to amuse you.

 

“Much controversy erupted over the breed when it was recognized by The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1997 with critics voicing concern over potential health and mobility issues.    Many pedigree cat associations around the world have refused to recognize the Munchkin cat due to the welfare of the breed and severity of the health issues,  including the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy.
(Wikipedia, Munchkin cat entry)

“Andrew Prentis, of Hyde Park Veterinary Centre has warned that it’s cruel to breed the cats knowing of their physical defects.  He said: ‘The cat in its natural form has evolved over thousands of years to be pretty well designed and to be very efficient, healthy and athletic.  The idea that someone wants to breed them to have effectively no legs and for entirely cosmetic reasons is very disappointing.’ …

A spokesperson for PETA told Metro.co.uk: ‘Let’s leave cats be and admire them for their natural selves. They’re not bonsai trees to be contorted into unnatural shapes on a selfish whim.

‘The demand for ‘designer pets’ is fueling cruel breeding practices that cause animals to suffer from painful, debilitating conditions such as lordosis, whereby their spinal muscles grow too short, meaning that the spine arches inwards, because their bodies are unnaturally long. People who buy them view them in the same way one might a designer handbag – and once the novelty wears off, many animals will inevitably be abandoned, putting extra strain on already overburdened shelters.

‘And while breeders continue to profit from churning out felines with genetic mutations, thousands of healthy, highly adoptable cats languish in shelters, just waiting for someone to take them home.’

( excerpts from “Vets are warning animal-lovers to stay away from the cruel trend
for so-called sausage cats.”  UK Metro )

Please, please, next time, adopt a mixed-breed, aka, a mutt.  If the demand for “pure” breeds (and “designer” breeds   [9]  and hybrids   [10])  goes away, so will the supply.

  

We’ll see you at the shelter!

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Royal Inbred Family Edition

The 17th century French royalty depleted their treasury…
I guess you could say they were baroque.

What was the Russian royalty’s favorite fish?
Czardines.

My dentist told me that I am a royal descendant!
I get my crown next week.

What member of the royal family should always carry an umbrella?
The Reigning Monarch.

 

*   *   *

May you advocate for the mutts of this world;
May you appreciate the heroic efforts of rescue divers
(while not being reckless enough to need their services);
May you forgive yourself for enjoying Silence of the Lambs;   [11]

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] If it doesn’t, then there’s something wrong with you.  Yes, that’s judgmental of me, but here, in this space, I am The Judge.  What, you didn’t get the memo?

[2] Excerpts from Saunders’ response (my emphases).

[3] Yeah, presumptive of moiself, isn’t it?

[4] “A is for Alibi…”B is for Burglar”… “C is for Corpse”….

[5] From what I saw, which, again, is why I couldn’t watch the series to its conclusion.

[6] I’d read the book.

[7] One of whom tragically died during an attempted rescue.

[8] (e.g. dachshunds and corgis, which were also bred for a naturally occurring but distorting and potentially crippling genetic mutations)

[9] For example, labradoodles, whose creator later lamented his decision to create the breed, saying, “I opened a Pandora box and released a Frankenstein monster.” (“Health Problems in Labradoodles.”)

[10] Four Facts About Hybrid Dogs Unethical Breeders Don’t Want You to Know

[11] Which is a finely crafted film, from writing, directing, acting, cinematography and soundtrack – the whole cinematic enchilada.

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.

*   *   *

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.

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