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The Studio I’m Not Touring

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Obsessive Attentive readers may recall my post last week; specifically, the rant thoughtful reflection about pretentious author interviews. It seems I was just scratching the ass surface of that subject.

Dateline: Last weekend was the annual Open Studios tour, wherein participating artists in our county (Washington) and Portland open their studios to the public. On Saturday afternoon MH and I had gone to four studios, to see a glass artist, a graphics/printing/letterpress artist, a metal smith, a mixed media craftsperson.

On Sunday I had lunch at a local pub with MH.  While we waited for our food to arrive MH read through the open studio event’s brochure, to see if there were more artists/studios we’d like to see that afternoon. The brochure contains a picture of a signature piece from each artist, along with a first person description of the artist’s history and work – basically, whatever and however the artist wishes to present themself to the public.

As I started to work on a crossword puzzle I heard a faint sound, almost a low moan, coming from across the table.

“Uh…you might want to read this artist’s statement.” MH’s expression was that of impudence mixed with nausea.

“You can read it to me,” I suggested.

“I don’t think I can stand to.”  He passed the brochure to me.  I began to read it aloud, but couldn’t finish the third sentence without hooting.

Growing up on three continents, I have been inspired by much of the world. I now live on 30 breath-taking acres in an old historic hunting lodge, capturing the beauty that surround me. My home studio is a destination in itself…

Moiself: ” ‘My whole life is a destination unto itself! How it sucks to be you, in comparison to me and the beauty which doth surround me…. “ And I thought fiction authors were at the top of the pompous pile.  I am nominating her for honorary author status….”

MH: “Read on. It gets worse.”

Moiself:  “Don’t you mean,’ it gets better?’ Because so far, this is fabulous.”

Turns out, we were both right:

 My home studio is a destination in itself, amidst the wine country of Oregon, with 360 degree views of rolling farm land, Mt Hood and surrounding vineyards.

Educated in Apparel & Textile Design, I was L.L. Bean’s first apparel designer in the 80’s, Nike’s first Apparel Innovation Director in the 90’s, and launched Niketown.com during the dot-com boom. I now teach pastel workshops, amd (sic) I am represented by 6 galleries along the west coast. I am a board member and an award winner of the NW Pastel Society and am published nationally.  [1]

 

 

 

yesiam

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things That Make Me Shriek At The Breakfast Table

Specifically, a thing which caused me to shriek My mother’s cousin!!! while reading the NY Times Arts section…which gave MH yet another reason to look across the table at me, his head slightly tilted and eyebrows raised in a quizzical manner.

 

 

confusedspock

Like this, I take it?

 

 

 

Yeah, like that.

I had been reading The NY Times review of the movie, The Snowman,  [2]    and began to explain my shriek to MH…

Remember the story I’ve told you, when I was in grade school, and one night at the dinner table my dad was teasing my mom about her name….

For the benefit of those not related to me or who haven’t heard the story,  [3] a wee bit o’ background info: my mother’s birth surname was Hole. [4]. Yes, Hole.  I sometimes teased her, about why her own mother didn’t keep her surname Moran but instead was willing to take on her husband’s…unique…family name: It really must have been love, or desperation….

Yeah, so, the story.  At the family dinner table, occupied as per usual by my parents and their four children (on this particular night oh-so-many years ago, my older sister, younger sister and I were all in grade school, and our brother was an infant):

After my father’s customary So tell me about your day query, we dove into yet another round of thematic banter. Our family dinner table dialogues tended to focus on one subject, which was never (or rarely) intentional or pre-planned, but rather tangential from something which had happened to one of the Parnell siblings  [5] at school. On that evening, I shared a story about a kid who had been teased on the playground about his name – the combination of his first name and last name made for some tease-worthy rhyme schemes.  [6]

Marion Parnell said she felt sorry for the poor boy. Growing up with her particular last name, she knew exactly how he felt:

“My father was always telling my sisters and I how, in Norway, Hole was a respectable, upper class, landowners’ name. I lost track of how many times he told us we should be proud of our  name. He just couldn’t understand how it was for us, because in America, it was just HOLE.  Oh, I heard it all the time, the jokes: ‘Look, here comes Marion Hole, hole-in-the-ground…don’t fall into a hole!’ “

(I had also lost count of how many times I’d heard about Hole-is-a-proud-Norwegian-name assurances, and had come to think that our maternal grandfather had made that up to make our mother feel better.  I’d never heard of anyone, of any ethnic background, with that name.)

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Still with me? You deserve The Order of the Pretty Purple Toe ® award.

 

 

 

 

My mother took little comfort from me telling her that her peers had been pretty lame in the joke department.  ” ‘Marion Hole-in-the-ground’? I can think of a lot worse things to do with a name like…”

Chester Parnell jumped in, to save me from embarrassing my mother. Or so I thought.

“Well, Robbie Doll, you know what your mom’s middle name is?”

“Yeah, I think so,” I said. “Alberta?”

“That’s right,” Chet nodded enthusiastically. “But you know, she was so beautiful, I never had any second thoughts about marrying an A. Hole.

This produced shrieks of delight from the three Parnell daughters – first from me (my shriek decibel count was boosted by my pride in being the first one to “get it”), followed a few seconds later by my older sister, and then by my younger sister, who probably didn’t get the reference but knew something hilarious must have been said by the way her older sisters and father were reacting.

Mom had that tense/amused, trying-to-be-a-good-sport look on her face.  Dad gazed across the table at her with impish affection – I knew something even better was coming up.

Chester B. Parnell: “Tell them about your cousin.”

Marion A. Hole Parnell (baring her teeth): “I don’t want to tell them about my cousin.”

Chet:  “Tell them about your cousin. What was his name?”

Marion: (muttering) “His name was Harry.”

Chet: “And it wasn’t a nickname – his real name wasn’t Harold? And he didn’t have a middle name – just a first and last name?”

Marion: “That’s right.”

Mom, of course, knew where this was heading. She tried to act as if she were miffed, but I could see the corners of her mouth beginning to twitch.

Chet: “And so his name was…?”

Marion (deep breath): “Harry Hole.”

Professional stand-up comics would kill to get an audience response akin to that which erupted that evening, in the smallest of venues, the Parnell kitchen dining nook.

You’re waiting for the segue, aren’t you?

Back to the present: moiself, reading to MH, from the NY Times review of The Snowman:

There are a couple of mysteries swirling through “The Snowman,” a leaden, clotted, exasperating mess…blah blah blah…Mr. Fassbender plays Harry Hole

 

 

 

CAMEL

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Reasons Why This Blog Is So (Relatively) Brief

There are reasons, but I can’t list them, right now. Suffice to say, they are…good.

 

 

happy sheep dance

 

 

I’ll be out of town most of the week…doing something really wonderful and fun and happy feet dance worthy.

 

 

dancing5

 

 

I may write about it later. 

 

 

 

dancing1

 

 

 

Did I mention that it’s good news?

 

 

dancing4

 

 

*   *   *

May you also be afflicted with Happy Dancing Animal Syndrome ®;
May you always remember, should you be called upon to compose one, that someone, somewhere, is actually reading your author/artist’s statement;
May a pun or naughty innuendo resulting from the combination of your first and/or middle/and or surname(s) cause someone to pee their pants with mirth;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] The artist who seems more than a bit taken with herself does do nice work, according to another artist friend of ours (who was equally amused/repulsed by the bio, but said she did enjoy that artist’s actual art).

[2] Because, having seen a preview of it recently, I had no intention of seeing the movie. I never read reviews of movies I intend to see. Just a thing of mine – I don’t want to be prejudiced, or figure out the spoilers.

[3] The latter group would not include anyone within a twenty mile radius of my dining table.

[4] Which is why, once my feminist worldview began to develop, I told her it was completely understandable that she never even considering retaining her birth name upon marriage

[5] Which translates into, usually moiself. Things were always happening to moiself.

[6] And although I remember with vivid clarity the conversation that ensued from me sharing that story about the kid being teased re his name, to this day I cannot recall what the kid’s name was – something along the lines of Bart Katz, which of course got turned into Barfing Cats or Fart Cats or the like.

The Natural Beauty I’m Not Protecting

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“I hope you’ll display it as a reminder of the natural beauty you’re protecting.”
(Note on a card sent,  along with a paper Christmas ornament, by The Nature Conservancy, in a three page won’t you contribute? solicitation.)

MH and I give a lot of thought to which charities we support. We donate to organizations we deem effective, whether on a local or global scale, in supporting our “favorite” causes. Over the years we’ve added some causes/organizations and deleted others, the latter action usually taken due to what we see as a misuse of our donations. For example, if we received waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too many requests for additional contributions, including being dunned for “annual” dues/membership fees starting at seven months before the end of when our membership expires year, it’s buh-bye to that one.

One such charity was Nature Conservancy. We supported them for years, and then we didn’t. They do some really, really good work – who isn’t for preservation of natural lands and restoration of habitat for endangered species? – but the constant appeals for more, accompanied by trinkets we neither wanted nor asked for, including their latest we’d love to have you rejoin appeal, [1] remind me of why I decided our conservation $$ would be better spent elsewhere.

 

 

 

ornament

 

An unsolicited holiday ornament wrapped in plastic, made in China. Now, there’s some mighty fine stewardship of the earth’s resources.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Every Cart Tells A Story

My computer calendar gave me a pop-up reminder: time to change out the emergency water supply in the garage. [2]  Two days later I was standing in the unusually long line at the store,  [3] bored outta my gourd, checking out the items in other people’s shopping carts. I began a game I’ve played for years: concocting a story about strangers, my fellow shoppers.  Their age, jobs, educational and marital status, state and/or country of origin, likes and dislikes – even their political opinions – I make up a profile of them, based on what they have in their shopping carts.

Before long I considered the thirteen items in my own cart – twelve water jugs and a stick of antiperspirant – and wondered what would my story be, to someone playing a similar game?  [4]

This middle-aged, sweaty white woman is very, very thirsty.

 

 

 

cart

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Department Of Things That Give Me Hope Re The Resilience Of The Human Spirit

The good folks who gave us that most refined parlor game, Cards Against Humanity, have now given us yet another reason to go on living: they dug a really, really big hole, into which money was thrown. Check it out at https://www.holidayhole.com/

 

*   *   *

Department Of Shoot Me Now And Get It Over With

Forget water boarding – if you ever want to see me with my spirit totally broken,  [5] force me to sit through a Singing Christmas Tree ® performance.

And yes, I have been to such a thing. Twice, when I was young. Whenever I had to picture the concept of hell (a concept adults seemed to believe in, or at least find useful, but which I thought was rubbish), I flashed back to those horrifically perky, Lawrence-Welk-on-Quaaludes-and-acid, holiday “concerts.”

 

singing-tree

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Department Of And Then There’s That

Hoping for the best the best doesn’t exclude ignoring reality.

Specifically, I refer to my pondering (read: dreading) what will happen after January 20, 2017. Many Democrats and select Republican non-trolls have been making noises re working together with a PuJu [6] administration on what might be considered nonpartisan, everybody-wants-this-done issues.

Now, I’ll be one of the first to commend the actions of everyone involved in finding ways to, say, fix our crumbling bridges/update our infrastructure and reform/simplify our tax code, etc. Still, any such accomplishments will not erase the fact that we’ll have a boorish, narcissistic, knowledge-incurious, unrepentant racist and misogynist as head of state.

 

 

disappointed

*   *   *

We have reached the seventh circle of the hell I don’t even believe in.

I was listening to a podcast of a Freakonomics radio show, the 11-16-16 episode, How To Make A Bad Decision. The hosts and guests were discussing a research paper, Decision Making Under the Gambler’s Fallacy.   The paper’s authors analyzed decision-making within three different professions – baseball umpires, loan officers, and asylum judges – to see whether those professionals were likely to fall prey to the gambler’s fallacy.  [7]  

The podcast included an interview with professional baseball umpire Hunter Wendelstedt, who talked about the application of technologies such as the PITCHf/x system [8] and instant replays of close plays as ways of checking an umpire’s calls. Not all umpires are enamored with the technologies and the resultant second-guessing/undermining of their authority, but Wendelstedt was a supporter:

“… these pitch systems got into place, it’s been a great educational tool for us….it really helps us become a better-quality product for the game of baseball.

 

 

really

 

The world is indeed ending not with a bang, but with a whimper.

I completely lost interest in the rest of the podcast after hearing that quote.  I beg of all sentient beings:  Never, ever, refer to yourself, or any other human being, as a product.

Unless in your case the human being thing is just an act and you actually happen to be a can of Cheezey-whiz.

*   *   *

The Toes I’m Not Spreading

Balance; calm; equanimity, toe envy….

Wait a sec. Of all the elements one might pursue or experience in a yoga class, envy of any kind – well, it’s just not yoga.

Still, there I am, in my yoga class, glancing around to see my fellow yogis seemingly effortlessly widen their lithe, long, supple little piggies when the instructors suggests we spread our toes to help us balance in tree pose. Meanwhile, my puny, span-challenged podiatric digits spasm with the effort.

Stub toes [9]  is just one of the milder epithets which have been applied to my toes over the years.  Some folks have refrained from outright name-calling, but still have obviously noticed my phalange deficiencies. One afternoon in high school,  the dance teacher substituted for our field hockey coach (who was called away for some emergency) during warm-ups. Dance Teacher decided to teach us hockey ladies some exercises which, she said, would increase our flexibility. DT asked us to remove our shoes and socks, stand barefoot on the gym floor, feet approximately 18 inches apart…

“Now, everyone spread your toes…” DT patrolled the rows of smirking field hockey players (we needed stamina, not flexibility, so why weren’t we doing our warm-up laps?), checking everyone’s deportment, berating this girl’s posture and that girl’s stance. She came to me, looked downward, and scowled.

“Widen your toes!” DT insisted. She then pointed to the feet of the girl standing beside me, as if to inspire me, for that girl’s lengthy, prehensile toes looked as if they would enable her to hang upside down from a tree branch.

“I am,” I replied. “This is as wide as they go.”

DT bent over, reached her hand down toward my foot, and made a clucking noise of patronizing sympathy. “I see, she sighed, and moved on down the line.

Flash forward to a couple of years later: I am in an athletic footware store, to purchase a new pair of running shoes. I am a regular customer of the store and know what size I wear, but the store’s new (to me) salesperson insists I remove my shoes and socks and step on the store’s shoe size measurer-thingamawhoowhooy-gadget. [10]

 

 

shoesize

You know, this thing.

 

 

Wow,” he gasps, as I comply with his request, “your toes are really short!” He crouches for closer inspection; I resist the urge to suddenly feign a spasm and kick him in the teeth.

“You know,” he looks up at me earnestly, “if your toes were normally proportioned to your feet, your shoe size would be one or even two sizes larger.”

Guess which salesman didn’t get that commission?

BTW – I rock at tree pose. Stub toes and all.

 

 

treepose

*   *   *

May you rock at your balance poses;
May your cart tell a noteworthy story;
May you dig a really big hole for any reason you chose;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] What could their financial/donations manager possibly be thinking? “Sure, they left us five years ago, but this paper ornament will bring them back!”

[2] Every six months I buy 12-one gallon jugs of water, swap them out with the supply already in the garage, and use the older supply for watering plants, etc.

[3] It’s the Monday after the Thanksgiving weekend; these people are already out of leftovers?

[4] Whom am I kidding – like anyone else would be playing that game, or looking up or around or anywhere but down, for that matter. Everyone else in my line, and in all the adjacent lines (Yep, I checked) was looking down at their cellphone…waiting for it to hatch a rare three-toed pygmy sloth dragon, or something equally significant, judging from the rapt expression on their face.

[5] If you did desire such a thing, that would make you a miserable little shit, wouldn’t it?

[6] aka Putin Junior, as I cannot bear to type his (allegedly real) name.

[7] The Gambler’s Fallacy is an erroneous  understanding of probability – the belief that the chances of something happening with a fixed probability, i.e., rolling 10 even dice in a row, become higher or lower as the process is repeated.

[8] A pitch tracking system which tracks the velocity, movement, release point, spin, and pitch location for every pitch thrown in a baseball game.

[9] Thanks, Mom!

[10] There must be a name for that device.

The Inspiration I’m Not Becoming

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Department Of With Friends Like These Who Needs Haldol

I recently received this email from my observant, always-pointing-me-toward-a-good-deal friend, SCM:

I’m just immature enough to giggle and consider buying these (I normally use .38 mm point pens and am convinced smaller is better—but perhaps not when the product is called Dong):

Being the more mature partner in our friendship, I of course had to make the purchase, sans giggling. I can honestly report that life is now…just… enhanced, in some incalculable way, when I whip out my Dong at lunch to do my crossword puzzle or KenKen puzzle.

 

dongpen

*   *   *

Speaking Of Other Pastimes That Mitigate The Need For Antipsychotic Medication

While you’re reading this, it is possible I am attending the Oregon Potters Association’s annual whoopdedoo.[1] The Ceramic Showcase, which is “the nations’ largest show and sale of handmade pottery, sculpture, garden art, home accessories and other creative clay work,” is running through the weekend at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland.   If you are a budding or veteran potter, or a collector of ceramics in particular or an admirer of art in general, or if you just need a new scrambled egg bowl, you owe it to yourself to see this show.

And sometimes, as what happened to MH and I two years ago, you find out you really need a bird-headed zipper face objet d’art to add some mojo to your hallway.

 

zip

*   *   *

Department Of Apropos Of Nothing

Have y’all heard the phrase, inspiration porn?

The term, coined by the late [2] journalist, standup comedian [3]  and disability rights activist Stella Young, describes the patronizing experience common to many disabled people who hear themselves called “inspirational” when they accomplish things able-bodies people take for granted; thus, they are or have become inspirational mainly or solely due to their disability.

Young writes, “Let me be clear about the intent of this inspiration porn. It’s there so that non-disabled people can put their worries into perspective…It’s there so that non-disabled people can look at us and think ‘well, it could be worse… I could be that person.’”

In other words, inspiration porn paints people with disabilities as nothing more than modern-day Tiny Tims—pitiable people who help us put our own problems into perspective while making us smile with their courageous outlook on life. The problem with this is twofold: It not only assumes that disability automatically equals hardship, a tragedy that must be overcome, but it also incorrectly assumes that disability can actually be overcome with a smile and a little bit of determination.
(from Salon. Com, 2-2-15, “Inspiration porn is not ok: disability activists are not impressed with feel-good Superbowl ads“)

 

The first time I listened to Young’s TED talk on the subject, I’m Not Your Inspiration Thank You Very Much, I was, well, dammit, inspired…which of course immediately made me feel guilty. [4]

One of the reasons for my guilt was that Young’s talk reminded me of the time, many years ago, when someone asked me to name my biggest fear. My truthful answer was, [5] I fear being someone who inspires people.

Translation: I have never been praised for/accused of being an inspiration to others; therefore, if someone says that I have become “an inspiration” to them or others it likely means I have met with a devastating accident/injury/illness. As in,

“Robyn is such an inspiration. If she can ____
 (recite the alphabet;
tie her shoelaces without passing gas;
string three multisyllabic words together without aspirating her drool…)
then anyone can! 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not

Our dryer plays the harmonica.

That is, when it is in use, our clothes dryer sometimes produces a noise as if it were a harmonica player doing a sound check before a concert…if said harmonica player were a novice and the sound check consisted of the same note, blown at irregular intervals. [6]

International Person of Mystery ® that I am, I find this intriguing…or I used to, until I googled the phenomenon. Instead of what (in my mind) would be a logical response to my search (along the lines of, what a stupid question-have-you-tried-thinking-about-string-theory-or-something-more-profound?) I found…links.

It seem ours is not the only clothes dryer [7] with this talent. And I do consider it a talent.

Although I think it needs…something more. More cowbell?!

 

 

 

*   *   *

In last week’s post I mentioned my son K’s trip to Iceland. As of Monday eve K is back to the States safe and sound, and survived his partaking of the putrid slop that puts the concept of national culinary pride to shame country’s national delicacy, Hákarl.

K hasn’t exactly been Mr. Travelogue when it comes to recounting his adventures. My favorite comment of his, in response to MH and I asking him about his impression of the country:

“The (tap) water tastes like eggs and the showers smell like omelets.”

A nano-seconds worth of double take, then, aha, of course:  Iceland is an island/country that’s basically the tip top of a volcano.

And there’s nothing like a sulfur-infused beverage to wash down a mouthful of festering fermented shark meat.

 

Another Icelandic gourmand celebrates his culinary heritage.

Another Icelandic gourmand celebrates his culinary heritage.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things I Missed

And she thinks of herself as a progressive!

And she thinks of herself as a progressive!

 

Earth Day! It was last Friday, and there was not one mention of it in this space.

My shame knows no bounds.  I’ll try to think of something entertaining and Earthy to make up for it.

Nope; nada.

How’s about something Eartha, instead?

 

eartha

*   *   *

May your home appliances serenade you;
May you be an inspiration…or not, as you choose;
May your showers be redolent of your favorite breakfast food;
..and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Not the event’s official title.

[2] Sadly, late as in recently deceased, not as in habitually tardy.

[3] Let’s just make that “comedian,” seeing as how in Ms. Young’s case, although she did perform on stage it was from a wheelchair and she wasn’t technically standing up…a joke that, I like to think, she would have appreciated.

[4] Yep, it’s all about moiself.

[5] And still is…sort of.

[6] Kind of like a less nasal version of Bob Dylan’s current vocal stylings.

[7] DAMN!! I was hoping for an American’s Got Talent gig.

The Question I’m Not Posing

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Department of Just Sayin’

Last week NPR’s Science Friday program contained a segment with a provocative premise. The segment featured an interview with “game researcher” Katherine Isbister, who makes the case in her book How Games Move Us that “…games can push us into new emotional territory.” According to Isbister, new video game designers are now crafting games that can make players more empathetic, by, e.g., putting players in the shoes of food cart vendors, immigrants seeking asylum, caretakers for someone with a terminal disease….

Isbister talked about how the designers of these “feel-good” video games write scenarios that encourage players to work together to solve problems, and how the designers also “harness character design, game mechanics, and movement to craft rich emotional experiences for players.”

Okay; sure, they do that. As do the designers of other scenarios that might be termed “feel-bad” games.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for a video game that might encourage greater empathy in its players. But, listening to the interview, I sensed an elephant in the room that didn’t get its turn to trumpet. The host [1]  blew it by not asking a question/raising an issue that seemed obvious, IMHO.

The question/issue is in the That train runs both ways category.

 

But not like this.

But not like this.

 

Back when the industry was in its infancy, players and proponents of video games reacted with a combination of dismissive scornfulness and furious defensiveness when anyone – from psychologists to Concerned Average Citizens ® – dared to pose the question of whether playing a violent video game [2] might foster aggressive behavior, or at least dull players to the consequences of real life, anti-social behavior.

I remember well the indignant self-righteousness of video game-playing friends, colleagues and family members who were asked to even consider the possibility that violent games might induce violent thoughts:

Games don’t change how you feel. Thousands of kids play shooter video games – I play shooter video games – and we don’t go out and snipe students at the school playground. [3]

True, such a simplistic correlation (violent game = violent acting out) was likely an exaggeration. But now, smiley happy game = smiley happy people? Y’all can’t have it both ways.

If you are now saying video games can promote empathy and craft other “emotional experiences,” you are acknowledging that games can influence a person’s emotions, from which thoughts and actions spring.

 

Just watch me help that cancer victim get her chemotherapy right now, or I'll show her the meaning of a terminal diagnosis!

Just watch me help that cancer victim get her chemotherapy right now, or I’ll show her the meaning of a terminal diagnosis!

 

 

Violent video games alone likely didn’t cause (name redacted) to go on his rampage. But these games aren’t harmless, either….
My colleagues and I found that typical college students who played violent video games for 20 minutes at a time for three consecutive days showed increasingly higher levels of aggressive behavior each day they played….studies show that violent video games increase aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure), and aggressive behavior. Violent games also decrease helping behavior and feelings of empathy for others. The effects occurred for males and females of all ages, regardless of what country they lived in.
“Do Violent Video Games Play a Role in Shootings?”
Brad Bushman, Ph.D., psychology professor specializing in “the causes, consequences, and solutions to the problem of human aggression and violence,” and author of “Why do people deny violent media effects?”

 

Both “good” and “bad” video games use similar techniques for attracting and holding the interest of their players. There is no magic formula for emotional manipulation, which would allow feel-good video games to stimulate positive emotions while preventing feel-bad games from stimulating negative emotions. That’s not how our limbic system works.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Parent Fail

Has there ever been a task, performance, assignment, an approaching life event, at which you anticipated you’d be superb – or at least competent – and then when it came time to get down to it, you massively sucked?

Last week I wrote about an April Fools’ Day joke I considered playing on a student driver… which got me to remembering that which I am about to confess: I was a lousy “teacher” for my own two student drivers.

Yes, I was an Awful Parent Driving Instructor. It was a role I had actually (as in, positively) anticipated. I thought I would be calm and positive mentor; I thought I would be the one to Set. A. Good. Example. ©

Instead, I was one of the worst things a driving teacher can be – nervous – which totally took me by surprise. My nervousness was evident, [4] and did not promote confidence in my student drivers. But my apprehension was not without cause. In my defense, as I was later to tell both son K and daughter Belle,

I take it personally when my own offspring are trying to kill me.

Who knew giving my mother an anxiety attack could be so much fun?!

Who knew giving my mother an anxiety attack could be so much fun?!

 

 

Fortunately for my children, MH was a (comparatively) calm and patient instructor.

MH and I also thought it worthwhile for our student drivers to have other professional/adult instruction, and forked out for lessons for each of them with a local driving academy…an act ($$$) which made me appreciate growing up in California when I did, when mandatory driver’s education was part of the public high school curriculum.

The driver’s Ed class was included in a class called State Requirements, which most students took during their sophomore year. With its massive/ pervasive car culture, California thought it in the best interests of the state to have students enter the driving world with a modicum of driving experience and education.  Apparently, many other states’ public education systems used to have such a requirement, but some states have dropped or drastically cut back on offering driver’s ed (and some states have none at all), due in large part to the perpetual bugaboo known as Budget Cuts.

A moment of silence please, while We Oldsters recall the days of (what we thought were) adequate school funding. [5]

 

silence

 

 

Thanks to the State Requirements and Driver’s Ed classes, not only did I and my high school peers have a common reference frame of how to drive, we also shared a legendary cultural touchstone: having to sit through don’t-reason-with-’em-just-scare-the-shit-out-of-’em documentaries like Red Asphalt.

Red Asphalt was astutely described by the Los Angeles Times‘ reporter Martin J. Smith as “The Reefer Madness of driving.” I think of it and others like it as a car accident snuff films –  ” horror shows of vehicular ultraviolence,” Smith wrote, “intended to scare the bejabbers out of fresh-faced and obliviously immortal teen drivers.”

“Red Asphalt” — the title says it all — is the flip side of California’s carefree car culture. ‘What you’re about to see is not going to entertain you,’ warns the host…. ‘There are scenes of human suffering and death in stark reality..’
Thus welcomed, you’re off on a joyless ride of grim highway fatality statistics, hectoring commentary about driving safely and bona fide hurl-your-cookies gore….you’re likely to come away with three unforgettable impressions:

* Driving at more than 10 mph is a seriously bad idea.
* Anyone who ever lobbied against seat belts and air bags as standard equipment should be arrested, tried and executed, ideally all in the same day.
* Not even George Romero has come close to replicating the sight and sound of human viscera being hand-scooped off damp pavement and into a plastic bag.

(“Thrills! Nausea! Bad Acting” by Martin J. Smith,  Los Angeles Times, June 21, 2006)

 

hellshighway

 

 

Red Asphalt, and another documentary called Signal 30 , used a combination of real footage taken by firefighters and other first responders and horrendously acted re-creations to depict the deadly consequences of speeding, negligent driving and/or failure to wear your seat belt – AND LEMME TELLYA, THOSE IDIOT DRIVERS ALL DESERVED TO DIE. [6]

The movies’ graphic images included ghastly scenes of mortally wounded and dismembered bodies, the screams of gravely injured and dying drivers and their passengers trapped in multiple vehicle pileups, and – my favorite, from Signal 30 – the footage of the charred remains of a driver who’d tried to race a train to railroad crossing.

I recall that only one student had to make a hasty vomit retreat during my Driver’s Ed class showing of the latter film. [7]

 

*   *   *

 

Department Of Trying To Find A Segue From Bloody Bodies to Blue Berries

Aka, The Frozen Blueberries I’m Not Buying

Oh wait – but I am.

I hate it when I lie to y’all.

Last week, for the first time in three years, I bought frozen blueberries from the grocery store. Three to four times a week I have blueberries and raspberries with breakfast, and for the past three years by the end of summer our garage freezer is full to bursting with bags of our homegrown blueberries and raspberries.

However, last season’s hotter-earlier weather [8] was one of several factors which led to our blueberry bushes being a bit skimpy on production. The raspberries were smaller than usual and not as prodigious, but I still have enough in the freezer to last until this summer’s crop is ripe for the picking.

 

berries

*   *   *

May you recall with fondness (or at least tolerance, if not abject pity)
those who taught you to drive;
May the games you play foster the mental equanimity you seek;
May your berries be bountiful…
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] I’m talking to YOU, Ira Flatow.

[2] that is, a game where the objectives include murder/rape/robbery, ala Death Race, Mortal Kombat, Grand Theft Auto, etc.

[3] Ah, but at least one person did. I remember reading of about the many disturbing hobbies of Brenda Spencer, the infamous “I don’t like Mondays”‘ elementary school shooter (who also carries the dubious distinction of being one of the few such female shooters), which included, according to interviews with friends and neighbors, being obsessed with playing violent/shooter-type video games.

[4] “That’s a person in the crosswalk – DON’T RUN THEM OVER.”

[5] No footnote here; we’re still doing the moment of silence thing, okay?

[6] Good thing we didn’t have to rely on violent video games back then to provoke such feelings.

[7] Apparently, as per one driver’s ed teacher I spoke with, at least two scared straight barfers was the norm per screening of that film.

[8] Which we didn’t anticipate and forgot to account for when scheduling starting up our automated yard watering system.

The Definition I’m Not Making Up

2 Comments

 

Department Of They Gave You A What?

Last week marked MH’s 25 years with The Company That Shall Not Be Named Right Now. Twenty-five years. It’s difficult to wrap my mind around that, until I look in front of me and to my left. Hanging from the walls of our home office are just some of the framed awards for product design and launching, and plaques for the patents MH and fellow various team members hold.[1]  I read the dates…yep…it’s been that long.

When MH had been with TCTSNBNRN for five years, his then-manager took MH’s entire work group out to a Very nice restaurant © for lunch. For this auspicious occasion – a quarter of a century of creativity, loyalty, [2] diligent, sometimes family-life sacrificing or altering work – MH’s now-manager provided cupcakes for the work group, and a cake for MH.

From Safeway.

A single layer, 7 inch diameter, $8.99 cake. [3]

 

No, Martha, it's not.

No, Martha, it’s not.

 

Can you say, appreciation-fail, boys and girls?  I knew you could.

MH stayed up late last Sunday, baking a double batch of his family specialty: kringle, Norwegian pretzel-shaped buttermilk cookies. On Monday he emailed every person in the company (well, those who are still with TCTSNBNRN) with whom he’d worked over the years, thanked them for their help and camaraderie, and invited them to stop by his workstation so that he could thank them personally and share some cookies.

I’m thinking, How sweet that is! How classy is that?  – thoughts I hope will, eventually, push Twenty-five years and they gave you a !#?@% cake?!?! out of my mind.

 

kringle

*   *   *

Department of I Lie Because I Say I Care (But Still, I Lie)

Many centers across the country provide what mainstream medical experts say are misleading accounts of rare abortion complications, and of disproved longer-term effects….. at least one brochure in the facility flatly says that abortion causes “an increased risk of breast, cervical and ovarian cancer.” …. But the National Cancer Institute states that “women who have had an induced abortion have the same risk of breast cancer as other women,” and that abortion has not been linked to other cancers, either.
(from the front page article, Pregnancy Clinics Fight For Right to Deny Abortion Information, NY Times 2-11-16)

CPCs (“crisis pregnancy centers”) have been prevaricating their asses off for as long as they have been in existence. When I worked at Planned Parenthood I was both amused and astonished at the stories I heard from women who had visited a CPC, about what had been presented to them as factual information. [4]

My favorite such story: Rachel [5] was told by a CPC “counselor” that during a physical exam a doctor could tell just by looking at a woman’s cervix if a woman had ever had an abortion (lie #1), and thus, because most doctors are adamantly opposed to abortion (lie #2) if Rachel had an abortion, for the rest of her life doctors could refuse to treat her (lie #3) or, even if Rachel found a doctor who deigned to see her as a patient, that doctor would give Rachel substandard care (lie #4).

Four whoppers in one sentence – that’s gotta be the record for a non-politician.

I’ve long considered the Right to Life moniker to be a misnomer. The removal of just one consonant would reveal their justification of their zealotry: Right to Life = Right to Lie.

*   *   *

WTF Spock

 

TWENTY FIVE YEARS AND HE GETS A FUCKING CAKE.

 

*   *   *

Yesterday was the seventh anniversary of the death of “Chet-the-Jet,” my beloved father.  Back in September, when we were discussing the passing of MH’s father, my friend SCM remarked about how it was a milestone event for our family: the first time our son K and daughter Belle had to deal with the death of a grandparent.

Uh, actually, I reminded her….

SCM was horrified by her omission (I wasn’t). It was an honest and completely understandable mistake, as per this comment she made when she apologized. I found her observation quite touching:

You speak of him so often, it’s as if he’s still alive.

 

May 1978, Chet Parnell, celebrating his and Marion's 25th wedding anniversary.

May 1978, Chet Parnell, celebrating his and Marion’s 25th wedding anniversary.

 

*   *   *

angryman

 

TWENTY FIVE YEARS AND HE GETS A FUCKING CAKE. AT LEAST YOUR FATHER GOT A TROPHY.

 

 

*   *   *

Happy Year of the Monkey

monkey-year_3551486a

 

I find it suitable that I was born in a Year of the Monkey, as You little monkey! was one of several endearments my father bestowed upon moiself, his second-born child.

At my Qigong class this week, someone posed a question about the lunar zodiac calendar: What does it mean, to be born in the year of the monkey? I told her I could ask my SIL, who is Chinese, who’d likely say, “Nothing; it doesn’t mean a thing. It’s a superstition.”

From what I know of my brother’s delightful wife, she holds no superstitions – not those from her country of birth, nor those of her adopted country. She does, however, honor and acknowledge celebrations of culture. Thus, when I emailed her Gung Hay Fat Choi wishes on Monday, she winkingly told me that wearing red would ensure good luck during the coming year.

On Monday I did indeed wear red. I also visited Uwajimaya, my favorite Asian supermarket, and returned home with the fixings for a Lunar New Year dinner: veggie spring rolls; cucumber peanut salad; hot and sour fish ball soup…and this Indonesian snack, from a company whose marketing department needs a translation lesson.

 

titi

*   *   *

 

TWENTY FIVE YEARS AND HE GETS A FUCKING CAKE.

 

sob

*   *   *

Happy Darwin Day!

Today, February 12, we honor one of the greatest scientists ever, Charles R. Darwin (Feb 12, 1809 – April 18, 1882).

 

Yeah, thanks, but over one hundred and thirty years dead and I don't even get a cake?

Yeah, thanks, but over one hundred and thirty years dead and I don’t even get a cake?

*   *   *

 

The story I’m currently working on involves a character who regularly thumbs through an actual (vs. online) dictionary. Thus, I am doing the same, an activity which brought back a fond memory.

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, MH [6] lived in San Jose and I in Palo Alto. One weekend fairly early on in our dating relationship, MH hosted a game night at his apartment. MH and I and a group of about eight friends were playing a word game called Fictionary. [7]   When it was my turn be to Selector (the player who provides an obscure word for which the other players would have to make up a definition), I opened MH’s dictionary to a random page, and was immediately struck by the top of the page heading – you know, the one in a dictionary which lists the first/last words on the page:

blowjob/bluff

Now, I can’t honestly remember what the second word was, but I’ll never forget that the first word was blowjob. And, of course, I had to share my discovery with the other players – most of whom, as I seem to recall, were from our church’s young adults social group. [8]

 

dictionary

 

MH, who hitherto had no knowledge of that page’s heading, seemed mildly embarrassed that he was in possession of what I subsequently and for all eternity referred to as The Blowjob Dictionary. Or perhaps his embarrassment came from the fact that his girlfriend couldn’t stop pointing this out to anyone who would listen.

Blowjob?!  At the top of the page?! “Blowjob” is at the top of the page and no editor or publisher caught it? You have a BJ dictionary [9] This is amazing…a mild-mannered engineer with a Blowjob dictionary, who knew?!  No, I am so not making this up – look, it’s right here, it says, blowjob….

Reader, he married me.

 

*   *   *

 

TWENTY FIVE YEARS AND HE GETS A FUCKING CAKE.

 

Of course, it could have been worse (or better, depending on your POV). He could have received a package of

 

titi2

*   *   *

May your significant anniversaries and accomplishments receive worthy acknowledgements;
May the calendar and lunar year bring you health and happiness (and interestingly titled snack foods),
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] The framed awards ones having to do with microprocessor design are like works of art.

[2] He has been head-hunted over the years, by other companies.

[3] Yes, the price tag is prominently displayed on the plastic cover

[4] Other equally horrific/entertaining stories came from my fellow PP clinic workers, several of whom had undertaken to do their own “undercover” sessions by going to a CPC and pretending to be pregnant, to experience firsthand what kind of (dis) information they would receive.

[5] Pseudonym.

[6] MH, as regular readers of this blog know, stands for My Husband, who of course was not in fact my husband at the time of this incident, but the privacy acronym stands.

[7]  Fictionary is a game in which players guess the definition of an obscure word. One player selects and announces a word from a dictionary. After the other players confirm that they indeed are not familiar with the word, they each make up a fake definition for it, while the Selector writes down the dictionary definition. The Selector collects the fake definitions, reads all definitions aloud, and players vote on which definition they believe to be correct. Points are awarded for correct guesses, for having a fake definition guessed by another player.

[8] Yes, happy heathens MH and I met at a Lutheran church. Now, there’s  a story for another time.

[9] Actually, I think it may have been American heritage?  I wish I could remember the name and the edition…I’d pay good money for that one…which for some reason never made it the the marital assets, when we combined households.

The Money I’m Not Making

1 Comment

 

And The Fun Continues: #562 in the Series of
Why I Think Anyone Who Can Be Discouraged From Writing Should Be

I just loooooooooooove getting what I refer to as No shit? communiqués from my various professional membership associations. The most recent (my emphases):

Dear Authors Guild Member,
Earlier this year, we conducted our first member survey since 2009….
Overall, the survey results (
click here) showed that author incomes are down, hybrid authorship is up, and authors are spending more time marketing than ever before. In short, the business of authorship is both more varied and less profitable than just six years ago.

*   *   *

Department of So, Where Are You From?

Author Taiye Selasi explores themes of multiple perspectives, cultures and identities in her writings.  Daughter of Ghanaian and Saudi Arabian parents, Selasi was born in London, raised in Boston, lives in Rome and Berlin, and has herself been described as a “study in the modern meaning of identity.”  I recently listened to a podcast of her TED talk she gave in October 2014, and was intrigued by her proposition that we change that most fundamental of identity questions.  

“The difference between ‘where are you from’ and ‘where are you a local’ isn’t the specificity of the answer, it’s the intention of the question. Replacing the language of nationality with the language of locality asks us to our shift focus to where real life occurs.”
 Taiye Selasi, Don’t Ask me Where I’m From, Ask Me Where I’m a Local

 

globalid

 

Some people think where you are from must encompass your home’s location during some emotionally crucial/formative years, a location which always defines you. Thus, my mother will always be “from” Cass Lake, MN, even though she’s lived the past 59 years in SoCal.

I derive much petty amusement from watching MH handle the where-are-you-from question. Even after all these years, MH often seems genuinely confused as to how he should answer. He usually offers a brief accounting of his life’s geographical litany: ages 1-10 in Minnesota; family relocation to central Florida ages 10-18; college years in S. California, post-college/young adulthood/newly married years in N. California; the past 24 years in Oregon….

When asked the same question, I say that I am from Oregon. Although I was a native-born Californian, [1] Oregon is where I live. It is the first place where I, as an adult, chose to be.

Although when the question is phrased, “Where did you grow up?” my honest answer is (or should be), I’m still working on that.

So. Where are you from? And where are you a local?

 

oregon

*   *   *

Sunday Texts: The Offspring Chronicles

Daughter Belle, she of the previously mentioned Frankenfinger, attends the University of Puget Sound, a college that requires freshmen and sophomores to live on campus. Belle lived in a dorm her first year, and this year she and five other sophomores reside in an on-campus house. Her room and board includes a campus meal plan, and while she gets most of her meals at the school’s cafeteria and other eateries, she also enjoys the benefits of house living, as per the following picture and text she sent me last Sunday.

 

belellunch

 

Belle: Grilled Brie sandwich and grilled chicken. I love having a kitchen.
Honestly like the best lunch I’ve ever had.
Moiself:  yum yum
Belle: Mom, remember when in France you ate that chocolate and then started swearing for like 5 minutes? That’s this sandwich.

*   *   *

Sunday Texts: The Journey Continues

No pictures accompany the following text exchange, but perhaps that is for the best.

Son K graduated college in May and is living at home while he researches grad school and seeks a job in his field. [2] He works in food service at the Oregon Zoo and hosts epic D & D and/or Settlers of Catan games on Sunday afternoons, when our dining room is taken over by NerdCon Hillsboro is host to a group of delightful young men and women.

Once again, I digress.  Back to last Sunday’s text exchange(s), this time with K, who was manning one of the Zoo’s food kiosks.

 

K: So this Russian guy, as I was getting his order, was asking how I liked my job, and then once (his order) was done he asked me for a pen and paper and wrote down his name and number, and said to call him and that in 2 years I’d be free.
What the fuck.
Moiself: WTF, indeed.
K: For half a sec I was like, is this a KGB recruiter?
Moiself: Aren’t you glad you got called in to work today? Otherwise, you could’ve missed your chance at freedom.
K: It’s busy, though. Espresso drinks out the butt.
Moiself:  Is that how people are ordering their drinks today?

K wonders if there could be an amusing story behind the offer, and is considering calling the Russian dude (“Petrov,” who indeed left his name and number [3] ).  But, from a pay phone, or some other anonymous device.

 

American play cards right, have big future in Siberian coffeehouse.

American play cards right, have big future in Siberian coffeehouse.

 

*   *   *

Department of Reasons To Do Something

Beginning Last Friday, the day after the horrific shooting at a community college in Oregon, there were the usual, sad, frighteningly familiar [4] calls for “something to be done” in various media venues. I saw numerous postings of the following on Facebook:

I do not want to hear one more politician say that their “thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”
For the love of God, do something!

Now then.

Ahem.

I know people use all kinds of expressions that have become a part of our cultural lexicon, expressions which are not meant to be taken literally. When someone smiles at me and says, How ya doing? I understand their question is in fact a form of greeting, and that they do not intend me to reply with a recitation of exactly how I am doing. When my public sneezes elicit Bless you! from bystanders I understand that to be kneejerk cultural nicety response, not a literal sanctification meant to protect me from evil spirits my body may have expelled by the sneeze. [5] 

But, For the love of god, do something!  Well, that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.

 

And so is this.

And so is this.

 

Attention, god lovers: [6] It seems that those who claim to love a god do consider praying to be doing something…when the reality previously addressed in this blog is that although it may provide you with the comforting illusion of having done something, prayer does Absolutely. Nothing. Of. Substance.

Do something, by all means. But not for the love of your imaginary friend – a deity whom you petition, thus implying you think said deity is capable of action, despite the fact that said god did nothing  as magazines were being loaded into guns’ chambers and as bullets were being pumped into flesh…. This god whom you think exists did nothing to prevent or ameliorate the situation about which you pray, a situation for which you now beseech others to do something for the love of this same, bystanding, worthless, impotent god, which (by definition, for an omniscient, omnipotent being) created the situation in the first place.

Do something for the love and welfare of your fellow human beings. Do something because it is the right thing to do, because you yourself are human.

*   *   *

Department of Things That Wake Me Up at 3 am To Scribble on the Notepad I Keep in the Bathroom
and Then I Have To Decipher the Scribbles in the Morning, What the Heck Am I Thinking?

This is what I was able to decipher on Wednesday morning (disjointed flow/grammar as is):

After reading singer Jewell’s memoir Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story, I was once again reminded that I do not have the combination of personal/emotional turmoil and look-at-me-express-my-innermost-feelings! desire do what, it seems, one must do to make a living in this field. [7] That is, considering what one must do as a “artist,” especially or particularly in the Sensitive/Confessional Poet/Writer/Composer ® vein, wherein one’s guts are put on display; wherein one must have the stones or audacity to think that people will or should be interested enough to pay $ to read or listen to such gut-chronicling….

The memoir (well, part memoir/part self-help book is what it reads like) reveals an odd combination of the author/singer/songwriter’s curiosity, sensitivity, self-reflection…and near debilitating gullibility. Her self-examination helped her survive what could be the dictionary definition of a turbulent childhood (and quasi cult-member young adulthood).

I get the urge to write down one’s thoughts and feelings, to catalog and record such as a process of analysis, of finding meaning – to make sense of one’s life, to one’s self.  But to share those most personal thoughts and feelings with the world (including, yep, people like moiself, reading her book)? That, I do not get. I am, simply and dispositional-ly, not ____ (naïve? arrogant? generous? self-aggrandizing? narcissistic?) enough to even entertain the desire to do so, never mind believing that anyone outside a small circle of family and friends would or should find it of significance.

Also, it helps to be young and pretty.

 

*   *   *

May you do the right things for the love of the right reasons,
May you be surprised by fine lunches and random Russian encounters,
May you remember where you are from and appreciate where you are a local,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Not all that common, in that day. CA, like much of the West, was a place of migration – everyone’s families were from somewhere else.

[2] If you know anyone who’s hiring someone with a B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology, do give a shout-out in this direction.

[3] Not his real name (which was something equally Russian-identifiable). I never know what kind of agents may be reading this blog.

[4] I find it disturbing, that we (in this country) are becoming so accustomed to the ritual: mass shooting, call for action re guns and/or mental health services, Obladi Obladah life goes on until the next “incident.”

[5]  One of several ancient meanings behind the sneeze-blessing practice…nor do I assume the utterer is a Christian obeying Pope Gregory I’s edit for litanies and supplications for their god’s blessing as protection from the Black Death (sneezing was seen as the initial onset of the plague).

[6] Yeah, listen up. Like my blog is the first reading material god-people reach for in the morning, after Guideposts.

[7] Like I needed to read a book to know that – balancing my business checking account is a monthly reminder.

The Work I’m Not Imitating

Comments Off on The Work I’m Not Imitating

As I’ve occasionally carped about mentioned in this space (here, and here and here, to list just a few spaces), I often find writers guidelines [1] to be obtuse, pretentious, long-winded bunk.

 

nymphpng

 

However, I sometimes have the good fortune to stumble across a gem like the following, discovered while checking a clearing-house type website for literary journals seeking material (my emphases):

The James Franco Review Call for Submission

The James Franco Review is seeking fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. (snip snip)….
We aren’t looking for work that imitates James Franco’s work or satirizes—writers need not be so cruel.

I did not send them anything, but I did take the time to savor the metaphorical breath of fresh (and not hot) air.

*   *   *

Speaking of clearing the air….

Which I wasn’t. Not to get all technical, but I was writing, not speaking. I was also trying for a segue. Bear with me.

 

That's not me on the right, but if it was, then the picture would be Bear with me.

That’s not me on the right. If it were, then the picture would be Bear with me.

 

Last week BBC News Hour reported on a story about researchers in Germany and Saudi Arabia who found that “….pollution levels over several major cities in the Middle East are dropping and have concluded that it is due to economic and political unrest and war.” It seems that the chaos of war and instability leads to a lowering of economic standards in many cities, which means that less fuel is burned by cars or used in electricity production.

What a wonderful if totally unintended byproduct of madness, I thought, in that making-lemonade-from-lemons way of mine. People with respiratory diseases suffer and die due to air pollution. People with weakened immune systems and other health disorders, as well as all of us Average Citizens ® , experience diminished quality of life due to pollution. As per the EPA:

“Scientific evidence indicates that ground-level ozone not only affects people with impaired respiratory systems (such as asthmatics), but healthy adults and children as well. Exposure to ozone for 6 to 7 hours, even at relatively low concentrations, significantly reduces lung function and induces respiratory inflammation in normal, healthy people.”

And from the World Health Organization:

“Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health. By reducing air pollution levels, countries can reduce the burden of disease from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma… Ambient (outdoor air pollution) in both cities and rural areas was estimated to cause 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012. Some 88% of those premature deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries, and the greatest number in the WHO Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions.”

However.

After reading the story’s provocative premise and before continuing with his report, the BBC announcer made some toss-off remark about how he hated to highlight such a “trivial” point (as reduction in pollution), given the effects of war and instability.

A reduction in pollution – read: air poison – is trivial?

I wanted to reach through my car radio and slap him.

 

 

 

Sorry to bother you with something so trivial....

Sorry to bother you with something so trivial….

*   *   *

Department of More People I Want To Slap

yucky

 

Late last week much of Oregon west of the Cascades Range was blanketed by smoke from fires burning in Oregon and Washington east of the Cascades.

I’ve lived here for almost twenty-five years. My brain can’t remember ever seeing (or smelling or tasting) pollution that bad, in this area, but my lungs and bronchial tubes did provide me with a sensory memory: the tightness under my sternum was a flashback to being a child of So Cal in the 60s and 70s.

I remember well (and would like to forget) the days of Smog Alerts, when PE classes and athletic practices were cancelled and/or held indoors and some parents kept their kids home from school and all citizens were advised to restrict physical activity and refrain from driving if possible. [2]  Hospital ERS and doctors offices reported being clogged with the most vulnerable patients (the elderly, and young children) who experienced shortness of breath and headaches, and I felt a distinctive “catch” in my chest when I tried to take a deep breath.

I also remember that it got better. The air quality, that is.

 

Surf's up...down there, somewhere.

Surf’s up…down there, somewhere.

 

Many years ago, during a daytime flight to visit my So Cal family, K and Belle expressed alarm as our airplane made its descent toward the Orange County Airport. [3] “What’s that?” K asked, as he pressed his nose against the airplane’s window. “Yeah,” Belle chimed in. “What’s that brown stuff we’re flying through?”

“It’s the air,” I replied. “Or, at least, what passes for it, here.”

I proceeded to inform my offspring that, believe it or not, it had been worse when I was their age. [4] Although there are twice the amount of people and vehicles in So Cal now then when I was living there, the air, while not clean, is cleaner, thanks to the enactment of strict emission standards.

Here’s where the slapping part comes in: ere’s where the I remembered how furious I was when certain redneck relatives of mine bragged about how they’d removed the catalytic converters from their emissions-belching vehicles, because no gummint agency (cough, rasp, hack) was gonna tell them (wheeze, pant, snort) to sissify their muscle cars.

*   *   *

Yet Another Way To Clear the Air

Or at least, your sinuses.

I mean of course, by consuming roasted peppers. This is the season where you may be fortunate enough to acquire Padrón peppers from your farmer’s market, your CSA or even your local grocery store.

 

The pretty, "before" picture.

The pretty, “before” picture.

 

Padrón peppers are sometimes sold alongside shishito peppers.  How to tell the difference? The two varieties look almost identical. A Produce Dude ® told me that the two are often confused, even among farmers. The shishitos may seem to have a shinier surface and are a bit longer and twistier and “ridgier” than Padróns.

Both peppers are generally milder than jalapenos. No matter; they’re both tasty, with slight differences in flavor. [5] After discovering and then playing around with them, I don’t make ’em any other way than by using the following the skillet dry-roasting method.

Dry skillet roasting requires just three ingredients

(1) Padrón (or shishito) peppers, intact [6]
(2) your best/most flavorful sea salt

(3) your best olive oil
(optional – the oil’s not for cooking the peppers, but for seasoning them afterward)

and five pieces of equipment

(1) a large cast iron skillet (or comal)
(2) tongs
(3) an oven mitt (that pan is gonna get hot)
(4) a shallow (but not callow) serving bowl
(5) okay, it requires only four pieces of equipment

Get your skillet good and hot (a drop of water should wiggle and dance on its surface and evaporate almost immediately). Add the peppers, in batches if you have a lot – don’t crowd ’em, they should be in a single layer. Sear peppers ~ 1m on all sides. They may wiggle-dance just like the water droplets, which is just too cute.

 

Actually, this is just too cute. But not edible.

Actually, this is just too cute. But not edible.

 

Use the tongs to turn the peppers as they roast – you want the skin to blister. [7]  When they are roasted to your liking, tong-transfer them to the serving bowl, drizzle ’em with the oil (if using), [8] sprinkle with sea salt, and serve: hold by the stem and eat the rest of the pepper. You may want to take a test bite first. (Padróns vary in hotness; some folks say the larger peppers are hotter. [9] )

 

The yummers "after" picture.

The yummers “after” picture.

 

*   *   *

Department of That’s What He Said

MH and I usually do the NY Times Sunday crossword together during lunch. This past Sunday MH decided to get an early start. As I was cleaning up my breakfast dishes he read aloud one of the clues that, he said, was stumping him, even though the answer was only four letters long.

Clue:  “When repeated, an aerobics class cry.”

I did not spew an immediate solution, and so MH wrote in what was, to him, the only logical answer:

“Stop.”  [10]

Please, please make it stop.

Please, please make it stop.

*   *   *

May your personal and professional guidelines be down-to-earth,
May your air be breathable,
May your peppers be wiggly and tasty,
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1]  a set of guidelines from a literary journal or publisher that specify their requirements for material from writers, including the length, categories, format and styles of articles they seek, rights purchased and compensation rates, appropriate editors or other contact persons, how to submit work (query first or send full ms.), etc.

[2] Which, for a Southern Californian of that day, would only be possible if they’d lost both arms in a pesky meat grinder accident.

[3] Aka The John Wayne Airport. The name change in 1979 still frosts my butt. Airports should be named for their location, not for a wealthy movie star whose only connection to the airport was grousing about the airplanes flying over his Newport Beach mansion.

[4] And we had to walk to school with barbed wired wrapped around our feet to get through the six foot snow drifts in winter…or was that my mother’s story?

[5] After roasting, Padróns have a light smoky taste, while shishitos may seem slightly sweet/herbal/floral.

[6] Intact as in whole peppers with their stems, not intact as in, with all their boy parts still in one piece.

[7] the padrón’s skin, hopefully not yours, because you’re using the mitts to handle the hot pan, right?

[8] This is optional. They are delicious just dry-fried and tossed w/salt.

[9] Some folks have been known to be wrong.

[10] The answer was, “step.”

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