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The Phone Call I’m Not Answering

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Department Of How To Talk To An Obscene Phone Caller

Dateline: Monday eve, post dinner. Feeling nostalgic (or just too lazy to flip channels), MH and I tune in to the end of Wheel of Fortune, just in time to see the winner getting to choose the category from which her “bonus” puzzle will be chosen (categories may include Things; What are you doing?; Food and Drink; Places; People….). The night’s winner chooses the category, What are you wearing?

That’s weird, MH muses aloud. That category could be interpreted as a question from an obscene phone caller.

Moiself was beyond gratitude for MH’s observation, because it brought back a memory I hadn’t thought of in years.

 

“Pat, I’d like to buy a vowel….”

 

Arguably the only obscene phone call   [1]  I ever received  [2]  happened a long time ago in a galaxy far far away…specifically, one Friday afternoon between 2-3 pm, at the private OB/GYN practice where I worked.

Background info (which figures into the story, trust me):

*  The practice belonged to a doctor (“Dr. B”   [3]  ) and nurse practitioner (“NP”), who on Fridays saw patients until noon or 1pm and took the rest of the afternoon off. The practice remained open until 5pm for staff to return and make phone calls, notify patients of test results, ready the office for the next week’s patients, etc.

* The practice had two telephone numbers – one which was listed/public (for patients, pharmacists, hospitals, other doctors…) and an “inside line” which was private, its number known and used by staff only. If the private line rang on a Friday afternoon it was typically a call from Dr. B, more rarely NP, asking for clarification of something from a patient’s chart, or would I please check to see if he’d left ____ at the office, or call in a prescription for Ms. ____ or reschedule the Tuesday morning surgery of Ms. ____ …..

*  I had a very warm, congenial, and joking relationship with Dr. B and NP.   [4]

That particular Friday had been very busy – the morning slipped into the afternoon before I’d even had a chance to look at the clock and realize that the last patient had left over an hour ago and I hadn’t taken a lunch break.  I hadn’t seen Dr. B or NP in a couple of hours and figured they must have left while I was readying the ultrasound room for the amniocentesis which was scheduled first thing Monday morning, or perhaps when I was helping the pharmaceutical rep who’d stopped by to restock our samples shelves.  Dr. B and NP never left without saying goodbye, so when the inside phone line rang I picked it up, figuring it was Dr. B calling to wish me a good weekend. The male on the line spoke in the voice Dr. B sometimes assumed – a muffled, drawn-out, dopey tone – when Dr. B was imitating a drunken doctor, or asking me to repeat information he found to be implausible or just plain silly.

Unidentified Male: Hellllooooo?

Moiself: Well, howdy! Where’d you get off to?

Unidentified Male: Hellllooooo(and something else I couldn’t quite hear).

Moiself: Yeah, I’m here. What’s up?

Unidentified Male: What are you wearing? 

Moiself: Oh, you know me – just the usual golfing attire.

Unidentified Male:  (heavy breathing, moaning and panting ensues…)

At that moment I espied a most quizzical-looking Dr. B standing in front of me across the desk counter, one eyebrow raised in a Mr. Spock-like fashion.  According to the office manager I stomped my foot and gave the telephone receiver quite the double take when I realized it was not Dr B on the other end of the line. I slammed down the receiver and ran to the nearby patient’s bathroom, where I washed my hands while alternately laughing and shrieking EEEEEWWWWWWW – I feel dirty! as I told Dr. B and the office manager about the phone call.

Neither the office manager nor Dr. B ever let me forget the incident. When for whatever reasons the office manager wanted to cut me down to size  [5]  she’d find an excuse to say to a patient,  “Robyn enjoys talking to obscene phone callers.” As for the good Dr. B, every now and then and seemingly apropos of nothing he would look at me and say, “just the usual golfing attire?”

 

If this don’t stiffen your putter I don’t know what will.

*   *   *

Department Of Conundrum Of The Ages

Dateline: Saturday, August 17.

Facebook: Let ____ know you are thinking of her on her birthday today!                                                   

Moiself:  But, I’m not!

But wait – technically I am because of the Facebook notice; that is, I’m thinking about the fact that I’m not thinking about it, which of course means that even for a moment I am thinking about it….

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [6]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes For a New Generation, by Molly Katzen

 Recipes:

* Grilled Ratatouille Salad

* Lime-Drenched Sweet Corn and Peppers

My ratings:

For Grilled Ratatouille Salad:

 

For  Lime-Drenched Sweet Corn and Peppers:

 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

 

Recipe Rating Refresher  [7] 

*   *   *

Department Of Without Eternal Vigilance
It Could Happen In Your Neighborhood

A friend turned that age this week   [8]   Which got me to wonder if there have been any Beatles fans who are so dangerously obsessive devoted that they insisted their grandchildren be named Vera, Chuck, and Dave?

 

 

*   *   *

May you not be plagued with “When I’m 64” videos
when you have that auspicious birthday;
May you remember, when you turn 64 and  friends play “When I’m 64” for you,
to react as if you had NO IDEA that might happen;
May friends and loved ones remember your birthday sans social media prompts;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Obscene Telephone Call – is that even a thing anymore? For y’all who are too young to remember, an obscene phone call is a telephone call made to an unknown and/or unsuspecting victim, wherein the caller uses deception to gradually or suddenly pose questions about or make statements using explicit sexual imagery/suggestions and/or obscene language. The caller’s aim is to get the unsuspecting respondent to listen to material of an explicitly sexual nature, from which the caller derives sexual satisfaction.

[2] If there were others, I can’t remember them.

[3] Hoist your goblets, you who know what to do (certain friends invented a drinking game where one must take a sip of a [preferably alcoholic] beverage whenever moiself tells a DR. B story.

[4] Who were married to each other…although many of their patients didn’t know this, as they had different surnames.

[5] She sometimes gave off the vibe that she was envious of my collegiate relationship with our employers.

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

[7]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin would like this.  

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

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

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

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

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

[8] Happy birthday, Erndawg!

The Question I’m Not Understanding

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

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

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

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

“Come again?”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Deja Vu All Over Again

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

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

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

*   *   *

Department Of Things That Make Me Sad

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

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

* Economy/Jobs & Labor

* Civil Rights/Criminal Justice

* Democracy/Governance

* Healthcare

* Environment

* Education

* Family/Social Cohesion

* Foreign Policy

* Immigration

* Miscellaneous/Fun    [4]

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

Wait, WTF was that?!?!?!

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

 

 

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

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [6]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

 Forks Over Knives, edited by Gene Stone.

 Recipes:

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

My ratings, the same for all three: 

 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [7]

*   *   *

 

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

[7]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

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

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

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

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

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

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

The Style Points I’m Not Getting

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Dateline: last Thursday, ~ 7:30pm, Trivia night at MacGregor’s Whiskey Bar, Manzanita. It is round two of three, and my neighbor/friend/trivia partner JK and I are in a fierce battle for first place.

The category is Greek mythology, and the question is, “Who was the wife of Hades, god of the Underworld?” When I call out, “Melania!” a competitor on another team suggests I should get at least two points “for style.”   [1]

*   *   *

Department of SEE – IT’S NOT JUST ME!

From the Chicago Tribune review of, Godzilla, King of the Monsters (my emphases):

“Key non-human players in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” include Godzilla, whose head remains touchingly small for his body…

 

Godzilla, from the original movie.

 

Godzilla Shin,  from the 2016 film.

 

The latest. Why is his head shrinking?

 

*   *   *

Department of Complisults

Last week I hear the word used on a podcast, and it sent me down Memory Lane, so to speak: Complisult.

You know what it is, even if your first thought was that it’s just my spellchecker on vacation. You’ve likely had a complisult flung your way a time or two, by a frenemy [2]  or (more likely) a well-meaning, we-just-want-you-to-be-happy parent or other relative. They start out giving you a compliment, or at least saying something positive…which quickly morphs into critique, or even insult.

 

“So good to see you, my little sweetie! Let’s ask Mommy where your older, prettier, smarter sister is.”

 

Both of my parents, despite their otherwise loving natures, were adept at giving me complisults[3]  Two examples immediately spring to mind, even though these happened decades ago.   [4] 

Example the First

Dateline: unsure (the following conversation happened twice, once in person during a visit with my folks at their home, and once during a phone call.  Dialogue almost identical in both instances).

In answer to my parents’ How-is-it-going/anything new being published? query, I said I was happy to have a story of mine accepted for publication in a journal I’d long admired.

Complisulting parents: “That’s nice! Is it something we can actually find…how can we get a copy?”

Moiself (laughing):You should appreciate this – unlike my last six or seven stories, this journal has a national distribution, so you can go to a local bookstore that carries literary journals and ask….”

Complisulting parents: “Hey, did you that Connie Washington had a story in the Reader’s Digest? It’s so great that she’s writing for Reader’s Digest!”

“Connie Washington,” is the daughter of my parents’ neighbors.  I’ve known Connie since junior high school – she is also a writer, in a different field (journalism/nonfiction; mostly science reporting) from mine.

Like 99% of the pieces which appear in Reader’s Digest, Connie’s was an edited reprint, of an article she’d had previously published in a science journal. This is how RD has worked since its 1920s inception: its founder thought it would be a good idea to collect articles on different subjects from a variety of monthly journals, edit and/or condense them, and combine them into one magazine. The RD staff consists of editors; no writer technically “writes for” Reader’s Digest, as in, pens original material for them. No matter how many times I’d remind my parents of this fact, they never seemed to get it.

Moiself : “It’s great that her article is in there – I hear they pay well!  But, you do know Connie’s not actually writing for Reader’s Digest. As I’ve mentioned before, she’s currently a staff writer for Science Weekly and…”

Complisulting parents: “Well, now people will actually read what she’s written. Have you ever thought of writing for Reader’s Digest?”       

Moiself: “Okay; one more time:  no one writes ‘for’ Reader’s Digest. Also, RD doesn’t accept original short fiction….”

Substitute Saturday Evening Post, or other old timey magazines – or even Time and Newsweek – for Reader’s Digest in Have you ever thought of writing for Reader’s Digest?”

With every publication of a story of mine, my parents would offer congratulations, then find ways to remind me that the venues publishing my works weren’t a part of their world (translation: not important).

Complisulting parents: “You really should consider sending stories to Reader’s Digest. And what’s that big magazine we saw at the market the other day – with the glossy cover pictures – Omni or something? That looked interesting.”

My parents were the last people from whom I’d even consider seeking where-I-should-be-sending-my-work advice: their knowledge of the publishing world was bupkis, and their familiarity with literary fiction even less. Naturally, therefore, they were generous (surprise!) with unsolicited ideas as to where I should send my work, suggesting venues which were always inappropriate (and sometimes, unintentionally, amusing non sequiturs)…forcing me to reply with a never-ending series of reality checks:

“Uh…that magazine went out of business five years ago.”

“That journal no longer publishes fiction.”

“That magazine publishes genre fiction; you know I don’t write ____ (sci-fi; Harlequin Romances; vampire murder mysteries….)

“That journal only publishes staff writers or agented writers – no unsolicited material.”

“Holy crap for not paying attention  [5] – since when, as in, never, has US News and World Report  ever published fiction?!”

 

“Yes, honey, Winnie-the-Pooh is a nice story, but if the author was a real writer he’d have chapters of it in Reader’s Digest.”

 

Example The Second

I was a single adult for a long time (I was 31 when I married MH).  Despite having a couple of mostly great beaus along the way   [6]  I thought being a singleton would be my permanent state, which was fine by moiself.  When my parents observed that my goals in life seemingly did not include finding a partner in life, my father took every opportunity to mention to me that his marriage and children were his greatest joy and achievement.

Although they never directly criticized my remaining single, during our weekly phone calls it became evident that such a status – one I viewed as fitting and natural for moiself – was somehow seen by my parents as a loss (or even aberration).

Complisulting parents: “And what did you do this weekend?”

Moiself: “Saturday I went to the San Antonio Wilderness Preserve, and saw….”

Complisulting parents: “Another hike? That sounds fun. We saw Margaret Denton’s parents in church. Did you hear that Margaret and Tom Crocker are engaged?”

Moiself: “I didn’t; no surprise, though. Congratulations to them.”

Complisulting parents: “Have you thought of doing something different with your hair?  There were so many boys who admired you in high school….  [7]

My parents (of course), saw themselves as nothing but loving and supportive, and well-meaning…and they mostly were – moiself was fortunate in that regard, I know. Still, the doubts/insecurities inherent in complisults managed to lodge in a corner of my brain, and came back to haunt me in later years.

Is it something in the parental DNA, a gene for undermining one’s offspring? I imagine Vincent van Gogh   [8]  showing his parents his Sunflowers paintings:

Oh, Vinnie, how nice – so colorful…have you ever thought of trying this and sending it in – you could get into professional art school!

*   *   *

Department Of Firsts

Dateline: Tuesday 6-14-19, 2:41 pm. I got my first Mandarin (or Cantonese?   [9] ) voicemail on my cellphone.

Can you tell this has been an exciting week for me, or what?

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [10]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

Café Paradiso Seasons, By Denis Cotter

Recipe:  Rigatoni with arugula, broad beans, cherry tomatoes, olives and fresh cheese

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher    [11]

*   *   *

 

May strangers offer to give you style points (but leave no Mandarin messages on your phone);
May your head stay in proportion to your body, should you become a monster movie star;
May your complisults be few, but memorable;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] The correct answer was Persephone, which none of the teams got. JK and I took second place, losing by only one point….so those style points would have come in handy.

[2] “Frenemy” is a portmanteau of “friend” and “enemy” – an oxymoron noun meaning a person with whom you remain somewhat friendly, despite said person acting  competitively with you and/or cutting you down, betraying and/or insulting you at  any opportunity.

[3] I can’t speak for my other siblings, but I’m sure they have received at least a few.

[4] Seeing as how both of my parents are deceased, there are no recent examples. But if either were still alive and somewhat cognizant….

[5] Okay, I left that comment out.

[6] And one neurotic headcase… I thought I had escaped that fate which seemed common to so many of my peers, but it seems that there’s always at least one toad you have to kiss….

[7] Those mystery admirers remained unnamed, but I’ve little doubt that, in my parents’ mind, they included the ones who would telephone me in the early evening and have hour long conversations about how they had a crush on one of my friends.

[8] One of the most influential artist the world has seen, who sold only one painting in his life – and since it was his brother who bought it (this was so that van Gogh could honestly say, as per the requirements an art show he was trying to get his works displayed in, that he was a “professional” artist) that doesn’t count.

[9]   Where is my sister-in-law – a native Cantonese speaker – when I need her to translate?

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

[11]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

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

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

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

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

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

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

The 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

*   *   *

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

*   *   *

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!

 

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[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.

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