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The Pumpkin Spice Loincloth I’m Not Girding

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Department Of Autumnal Abuses

As delighted as I am to be able to wish y’all a (belated) happy autumnal equinox, as we enter this, my favorite season of the year, I am girding my proverbial loins for the onslaught of pumpkin-spiced products which flood the market at this time of year (and which one day may include nutmeg, cloves & cinnamon scented, loin-girding cloths).

Yo, y’all marketing types: Are there no other scents or flavors or ambiances associated with autumn – falling leaves? bales of hay? football cleats? – which can be exploited?

It seems you can’t spit (and moiself  has tried) without hitting a pumpkin spice candle, room deodorizer, latte, coffee creamer, soap, lotion, shampoo, syrup, dried pasta, yogurt pretzels, dinner mints, liqueurs…but wait – there’s more.

If the devil   [1]  came to your autumn housewarming party, his host gift to you would be a bottle of pumpkin spice vodka, and this:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of 2020 Has Been Bad Enough, But…
I  REALLY  DON’T  NEED  THIS  IMAGE  IN  MY  BRAIN,  OKAY?!?!?!?!

Dateline: last Saturday; early afternoon. I eject the exercise DVD I’ve been flailing about to working out with, and my TV reverts to…some old western movie.  As I return the DVD to its holder and begin to take off my shoes and socks, it’s apparently time for an advertisement break.  The images on TV change from Men on Horses ®  to a series of sad/frustrated/dispirited-looking men holding up various curved/sagging vegetables:  a curvy carrot, an arced cucumber, a badly bent banana….

It’s an advertisement for a treatment for Peyronie’s disease.    [2]

All together now: “I’m no prude, but….”

I find moiself  longing for the days when advertisements for undergarments couldn’t even mention which portion of the body the garment was for.

Remember when the makers of bismuth subsalicylate and other GI tract elixirs assumed that the public knew what their products were used for and did not reinforce the idea by showing us line dancers doing routines demonstrating which symptom they represented (e.g., Pepto Bismol’s Diarrhea Dame clutches her derriere)?

 

 

On second thought, more line dancers grabbing their butts!  Less bendy bananas!

*   *   *

Department Of It Was A Phenomenon Looooooooong Before It Had A Name

Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence…..

Men explain things to me, still. And no man has ever apologized for explaining, wrongly, things that I know and they don’t. Not yet, but according to the actuarial tables, I may have another forty-something years to live, more or less, so it could happen. Though I’m not holding my breath.

(Rebecca Solnit, in her essay,
Men Explain Things to Me: Facts Didn’t Get in Their Way.”)

After hearing yet another friend’s story of Yet Another One Of Those Workplace Encounters, ® I’ve been thinking of the origin of mansplaining.  As in, thinking that the woman who originated the term should get a Nobel Prize for Explicative Clarity.    [3]

The term “mansplaining” was inspired by, but not specifically used in, the 2008 essay by author Rebecca Solnit, which I’ve excerpted above.  Definitely a recommended read for anyone – make that, everyone –  whether or not you’ve ever mansplained, or have been on the receiving end of a mansplaination, or don’t understand what the fuss is about.

 

 

My friend’s story reminded me of another story, one that returns to me now and then, ever since I read it,  [4]  which was at least three decades ago.  The story, a brief recounting of a specific incident, was included in a writer’s longer magazine article on fatherhood.  I don’t recall the entirety of the article, but the gist of that one incident the Writer/Dad shared is forever burned on my brain.

Writer Dad (WD) was working in his home office one weekend when his five-year-old daughter, “Junie,” came inside to see him.  Junie had been outside with “Johnny,” a neighbor boy who was her frequent playmate. WD noticed that Junie seemed annoyed, yet also, oddly, thoughtful. 

“What’s up, Junie-girl?”  [5]  WD asked his daughter.

“I’m mad, Daddy-man.”

“I can see that.  Why are you mad,  Junie-girl?”

“I don’t think I’m going to play with Johnny anymore.  I don’t think I’m going to play with *any* boys anymore.  I don’t think I like boys.”

“Why is that?”

“Because they tell you things you already know.”

 “Oh…  Um…not all boys do this, right?”

Junie nodded.  “All boys.”

 WD tried to placate her with his best Daddy-man smile.
“Even me?” 

She paused before responding with a resignation beyond her years.
“Even you.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Mansplaining ‘Splained

On July 19, 2018 writer and designed Kim Goodwin came to the rescue on Twitter, with this post, followed by her brilliant diagram on the subject.

“I have had more than one male colleague sincerely ask whether a certain behavior is mansplaining. Since apparently this is hard to figure out, I made one of them a chart.”

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I saw an ad for burial plots, and thought, “That’s the last thing I need.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Blast From The Past Which In Some Ways Reminds Me Of The Present

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (okay; 1998), I was visiting my parents at their home in Santa Ana (CA).  On top of the pile of periodicals suffocating their coffee table was the latest issue of a popular weekly news magazine.  [6]   Bold, fiery red letters announced the magazine’s cover stor, which was along the lines of,

“1968 – The Year That Shook The World.

At that time, every other magazine and news outlet were doing stories on the 30th anniversary of 1968. I’d read several such stories, and was happy to see that magazine at my parents’ house, as it provided me with the opportunity to engage my mother in a conversation about 1968, which had been a pivotal year for people all over the world.

My mother wasn’t much for talking politics; even so, she sat down with me and began to reminisce.  She remembered the morning in early June when I came out of my bedroom, groggy-eyed and complaining about a very disturbing dream I’d had in which Bobby Kennedy’s helicopter was shot down in our backyard…  And I remembered how I looked up into her red eyes, realized that she’d been crying, and then she told me she and Dad had just learned that Senator Robert Kennedy had been assassinated the previous evening.

What with the assassination of MLK two months earlier, the nascent second wave feminist movement, the ongoing Vietnam War and student protests and civil rights protests and unrest around the world….. I recalled 1968 as the beginning of my political awareness, even as I recall my parents saying little if anything whenever I brought “things” up.

Mom admitted she’d used the “changing the subject” strategy when I’d wanted to talk about current events.  She said she thought it was her duty to protect her children from depressing information over which they had no control (although she didn’t protect us from reading the newspaper or watching the TV news).  Thus, even though she herself was very concerned about “everything that was going on,” she thought she had to maintain a sunny outlook for her kids and act as if everything was okay.  “But sometimes…” Marion Parnell shook her head. “That was such a difficult year.”

I remember, it was as if a shadow had crossed over my mother’s face, even though the So Cal sun shown brightly through my parents’ family room window.

Sometimes,” she murmured, “it felt as if the whole world was on fire…

 

 

What made me think of 1968 is some of the streaming I’ve been doing, of episodes of a particular classic television show.  History shows us that chaotic times often lead to the rise of dictators and  fascist supermen, who promise security in exchange for liberty.  As we presently deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and world economic insecurity, as well as the ramifications of *not* having every dealt with our country’s legacy of slavery and systemic racial injustice, and of having essentially ignored global warming with the resulting magnifying of wildfires and other “natural” disasters, all of this and more compounded by the political and personal corruption and gruesome lack of leadership by a puerile, tyrant-toadying excuse for a president and his sycophantic enablers, I’ve been seeking a nostalgia solace by watching reruns of a sketch comedy show which was launched during the chaos of 50 years ago.

Laugh-In (officially Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In) ran from 1968 – 1973; episodes are available via various streaming platforms, and I’m working my way through the seasons. Even as I’m (re)loving the episodes – for as much as the memories they bring back as well as the content of the episodes themselves – I’m well aware of the catch inherent for shows which strive to be topical: as you look back, the material is (of course and by definition) dated, and in some cases, even arcane.  But, that’s part of the fun, for moiself.

 

I’ve no doubt that my young adult children would be somewhat confused (even bored), in the And just why is this funny? vein, by the show…and I must admit that many of Laugh-In’s slapstick schtick, gags and punchlines fall flat in 2020.

My offspring have grown up in a time when TV shows announce what MH and I call The Five Major Food Groups ratings (MATURE SUBJECT MATTER- SEX – VIOLENCE – FEAR -ADULT LANGUAGE).  It is difficult if not impossible to have someone who wasn’t there appreciate the era in which Laugh-In began its run.  How do I adequately impart to them what simple, naughty fun it was for a 12-year-old, taking turns watching Laugh-In with her friends at each other’s houses, giggling over the fact that the show’s sex and drug references are going right over our parents’ heads (and probably ours as well)?

In each episode I’ve seen there are several sketches/jokes about political or cultural hot button issues at that time, which make me stop and try to remember the references (“Ooh – that guy was a Nixon cabinet member…?”).   Also, Laugh-In was not only topical culturally, but locally:  it was shot in So Cal (in legendary “Beautiful Downtown Burbank“), and the writers inserted regional references into their skits.  MH is  5 ½  years younger than moiself ; although he does recall watching Laugh-In it was the show’s regional references, and not its sex & drugs jokes, which confused him, as a seven-year-old Minnesotan.  Even today, watching the reruns with me (which he does only as a last resort; i.e. when I’ve commandeered the TV), why would he get – or care about – decades-old jokes about Sam Yorty (Los Angeles’ mayor during Laugh-In‘s run)?

It’s been fun getting reacquainted with my favorite recurring sketches and characters.  The Joke Wall; the Party; Tiny Tim, Wolfgang the German soldier (“Verrrrry interesting…”) ; Uncle Al the Kiddies’ Pal; Joanne Worley’s operatic complaints about chicken jokes and “Bo-oooooring!” and her never-seen boyfriend, Boris; Big Al’s Sports (and his “featurette tinkle”); Goldie Hawn’s giggling, vacant-eyed, Dumb Dora persona; “Here Come Da Judge,” The Farkel Family; Judy Carne’s Robot Theatre and “Sock-it-to me”…

 

 

Have there ever been a better-named pair of characters than Gladys Ormphby and Tyrone F. Horneigh?  [7]   And the worlds of television, cinema and theatre are forever in Laugh-In‘s debt for introducing us to Lily Tomlin.  Her best known Laugh-In personas are Ernestine and Edith Ann, but my favorite of Tomlin’s characters was The Tasteful Lady.

 

 

Re-watching these episodes decades after they were broadcast, it’s amazing to realize that, despite the show being considered progressive, bawdy, and outrageous for its time…how do I put this?  There’s no getting around how sexist much of the material was (but then, so was the country).  And Laugh-In was only slightly less dated on much of its racial and cultural content (the few references to Native Americans were especially, stereotypically, cringe-worthy).  But, that was then and this is now.  I’ll forgive the show almost anything, because it gave the world arguably my favorite comic dialogue, from Tyrone’s and Gladys’ “hereafter” sketch:

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you never contract a disease which can be represented by a droopy vegetable;
May we soon live in a world where we don’t have to ‘splain mansplaining;
May you always know what you’re here after;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Of course, the devil would not come to such a party because he doesn’t exist. Those who know moiself realize that the supposition of devils and/or evil spirits is something in which I do not believe.  Human behavior covers the spectrum – we do not need the supernatural to explain (or excuse) acts of cruelty…or kindness.

[2] As per those upright citizens of the Mayo Clinic, “Peyronie’s (pay-roe-NEEZ) disease is a noncancerous condition resulting from fibrous scar tissue that develops on the penis and causes curved, painful erections.”

[3] There is no such Nobel Prize, but maybe there should be.

[4] I think it was in Esquire magazine?

[5] As he recounted the story, he and his daughter had affectionate nicknames for each other (I made these up, as I can’t remember what they were).

[6] Time; Newsweek, US News and World Report were the big three – I think it was a copy of Newsweek.

[7] (pronounced “hor-NIGH”, to befuddle the censors)

The Saga I’m Not Ending

Comments Off on The Saga I’m Not Ending

Notice to new (or returning) readers: Welcome!


This week’s post will make a lot more sense…

 

 

Excuse moiself ?  I am not saying it will make *total* sense, so I see no need for the sarcastic intrusion….

I’ll begin again.

This week’s post is the second of a two-parter. It will make a lot more sense  [1]     if you read (or reread) last week’s post (here) first. That said….

 

 

I was in the fifth grade. One day my classmate Kelly told me her said she could invite me to her house after school to go swimming. I usually wriggled out of invitations which involved spending time inside Kelly’s house, which was…disheartening. It was dark, even in the summer, even with the lights on, and it was – I cringe today to think it, just as I did back then, but there’s no way around it – just filthy.  It reeked of old trash and cat urine; the one time I’d had a sleepover there I spotted cockroaches in the kitchen when Kelly’s older sister showed Kelly and I how to make fudge from scratch.

Kelly’s widowed mother, whom I liked (she was kind to me and told funny jokes, and knew all the words to my favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs), worked long hours as a hospital nurse. She apparently had neither the time nor inclination to clean house, and was unable to convince or command her three children to do so, either.  But Kelly’s backyard consisted of a swimming pool!  She was the only friend I knew who had one, and I eagerly accepted her invitation. I’ll need to go home, check with my mom, and get my swimsuit and a towel, I told her. Kelly suggested she ride on the back of my bike with me to my house to get my stuff, then we’d go to her place.

I peddled us toward my house, with Kelly perched on the bookrack attached to my bike’s rear axle. As we reached the main part of Martha Lane (ML) I updated Kelly about the ML kids’ war with the neighborhood cranks.

“That’s them,” I said, pointing to the Wagners’ house, when we were about 100 feet away. “The brown house up there on the left.”

“Can we sing it – let’s sing The Song!” Kelly begged me.  But without my ML crew to back me up, I was too chicken hesitant.  Then when we were about forty feet from the Wagners’ house, I noticed that their ever-present Cadillac was not in their driveway. I figured they were not home, and it was safe.

I slowed down, and told Kelly we could sing The Song, but not loudly.  Kelly teased me for my lack of vocal enthusiasm (“That’s not singing, that’s practically whispering“) as I peddled us past the Wagner house.

♫  We hate you Wagners/
oh yes we do….♫

When we got to my house my older sister, already home from her school and engrossed in homework, informed me that our mother had gone to the grocery store.  I decided not to tell her what Kelly and I had done. I wanted her approval, but thought Kelly would rat me out for being chickenshit and only singing The Song when I thought the Wagners weren’t home.  I told my sister to tell Mom that I was going to Kelly’s house. I put my swimsuit on under my clothes, Kelly hopped onto the back of my bike, and we headed off.

As I steered my bicycle out of our driveway a brownish-gold sedan crossed Pacific Ave into our cul-de-sac.  It caught my attention because it was not any of the neighbor’s cars (that I recognized) and was driving very slowly.  The sedan circled the end of the cul-de-sac, then drove right up alongside my bicycle as I stopped to check for cross traffic at Pacific Ave.

The driver was clad in a suit and hat which matched the color of his car.  He rolled down his window and signaled with his hand for me to come closer. I stood stock still, my feet planted on either side of my bike’s frame. He’s probably one of those perverts who tries to kidnap kids, I thought.  I began to calculate how long it would take Kelly and I to hop off of my bike and run back to my house.

“Are you the girls who rode a bicycle down this street a few minutes ago?” Sedan Man pointed up Martha Lane, in the direction of the Wagner house.

Kelly mumbled something to me. “Don’t talk to him,” I shushed Kelly.  I looked the man squarely in the eyes, trying to appear as savvy and tough as possible.  “He’s a stranger; we don’t know who he is.”

Sedan Man repeated his question. I could feel my bicycle frame shaking, and reached my hand back to reassure Kelly, who was trembling.  “Go away,” I said to him, “or we’ll call the police.”

“I *am* the police.” Sedan Man pulled a wallet from his suit breast pocket and held out an ID card which had his picture on it and a Santa Ana Police Department shield.

“That’s not a police car,” I said to Kelly.

“I’m a detective.”  Sedan Man waved his ID card.  He said was investigating harassment charges brought by the Wagners, and needed to speak with my parents. I should return home *now* he insisted, pointing toward my house.

“He saw where we came from,” Kelly whispered. She pleaded with me to return home.  We both got off my bicycle and walked back to back to my driveway as the man parked his sedan in front of my house. I was determined *not* to let him inside; I leaned my bicycle against the massive Japanese elm in our front yard and led Kelly up the front yard walkway to sit beside me n the concrete steps of our front porch – the entry no one in the family (and no one who knew us) used.   [2]   Sedan Detective Man followed us to the porch. He stood over us, with one foot on the walkway and the other on the porch’s bottom step, and began to question us.

He wanted to speak with my parents; where were they?  Would I go get them, or should he knock on the door?  I told him my father was at work and would be home after 7 pm, my mother was at the store and would be back any minute, and my older siblings were inside watching TV (I only had one older sibling but I wanted him to think there were a lot of people in my house). He asked the same questions of Kelly, who said nothing. She sat beside me, silently staring down at her shoes.

The Wagners were being harassed by the ML kids, Sedan Detective Man said. The police knew all about it, he added, and Kelly and I were “in serious trouble.” He demanded to speak to my parents; I replied as before: “My dad’s at work; he’ll be back after 7. My mom’s at the store;  she’ll be back soon.”

Sedan Detective Man turned his gaze to Kelly and asked about her parents.  I began to explain that Kelly didn’t live in this neighborhood; he jabbed his long, bony index finger in my direction, silenced me with a glare, and repeated his question to Kelly. She was obviously frightened as he pressed her for information.  She managed to squeak out that her mother at work. She was a nurse, and wouldn’t be back until her shift was over, around 11:30 pm…. her voice trailed off.

“What about your father? Hey, look at me when I’m talking to you. Tell me how I can contact your father – I need to speak with him.”

Kelly briefly raised her head.  “My dad…” she lowered her eyes. I could see her chin begin to quiver.

“‘My dad…'” The detective mocked Kelly’s high-pitched, quavering voice.  “Your dad, what? You have a dad, right? I need to speak to him.”

Kelly hugged her knees to her chest and shook her head, almost imperceptibly, as if she had a nervous tic.

“What does that mean – I can’t speak with your dad?  Why?  Is he out of town?  Did he leave you and your mom – are your parents divorced?”

A tear dribbled down Kelly’s cheek and dropped onto her knee. I thought I might explode with suppressed rage, and just for a moment wondered how much time I would get “in juvie” for head-butting a detective’s nutsack.

“Stop it,” I muttered to Sedan Man, through clenched teeth.

Like a school bully or a shark smelling blood, the detective homed in on the perceived weaker target. He kept pressing Kelly, who was visibly shaking at this point.

What about your father – when is he available? I can’t wait until midnight to talk with your mother. Tell me where your father is – why won’t you look up, are you ashamed of him….

Kelly let out a low moan, and began pinching the skin of her forearm with her thumb and index finger.

I interrupted the detective with all of the, *none-of-your-fucking business,* fifth-grade gravitas I could muster.

“You can’t talk to her father. He’s dead.”

Several years earlier Kelly’s parents had separated, and her father moved out of the family house to an apartment.  The day after Kelly’s mother went to his apartment and confronted him with proof of his infidelity, Kelly’s father shot himself in the head.

The detective, of course, had no way of knowing this.  Even so, Kelly’s distress was evident, and he continued to badger an anguished child.

Well, why didn’t you say your dad had died?  Why didn’t you just….

At that propitious moment, our station wagon pulled into our driveway. My mother left a sack of groceries in the passenger’s seat and walked toward us, a look of polite confusion on her face as she beheld a strange man standing over her daughter and her daughter’s friend – all three of them on the front porch, where *nobody* went.

The detective’s entire demeanor changed with an adult present, which made me despise him all the more.  His malevolent mien morphed into one of professional solicitude, and he introduced himself to my mother with a smile and a doff of his hat.

I inched closer to Kelly, wanting to comfort her without embarrassing her – I could tell she did not want my mother to know that she’d been crying. Meanwhile, the two adults talked, at first as if Kelly and I were not present. The detective informed my mother of the situation; she listened, then asked me if Kelly and I had sung The Song. I looked her in the eye and said that we had, but we thought the Wagners weren’t home, and…. She put up her hand, motioning for me to stop talking. She told the detective that yes, the neighborhood children had perhaps taken their pranks too far, but did the detective know what the Wagners had done to egg them on? And Kelly did not live on Martha Lane, and had nothing to do with….

I was amazed to hear my mother speak to the detective.  She was a shy person, introverted with strangers, particularly male authority figures – and back then all males were authority figures (or acted as if they were) to all women.  My mother had heretofore never displayed anything I would have mistaken for a spine; it must have taken a lot for her to stand her ground with that man.  He asked more questions of her, all of which she politely but firmly deflected. She told him that he needed to speak with her husband about the matter, and if he’d give her his business card she would have her husband call him.

The detective left his card with my mother and left our street with me throwing silent curses at his butt-ugly, doggy-doo-colored sedan.  My mother asked me to take the groceries inside and set the table for dinner, and said she’d give Kelly a ride home. I never found out what, if anything, she and Kelly talked about on the ride; the next day at school both Kelly and I pretended that the previous day had never happened.

That evening, mere minutes after my father got home from work   [3] and had spoken with my mother, I stood with my back to the living room wall, listening to my father as he spoke on the kitchen telephone   [4] with the detective. 

My father prided himself on his diplomacy, which was in full force that evening. He was firm and reasonable, considerate but not quite conciliatory. What follows is his end of the conversation, from memory, as paraphrased by moiself . He started with introductions and personal chitchat, deftly and swiftly gleaning that the detective also had teen and preteen children.  He told the detective that

“the neighborhood teenagers”  [5]  had taken things a bit too far, but the police likely did not know all the facts.  I will declare the Wagners and their house off-limits to our family and will spread the word among the other Martha Lane parents, but I also need you to realize something:  the children’s behavior is immature to say the least, but these are *kids.* What is Mr. and Mrs. Wagner’s excuse – who are the “adults” in this situation?  It is unlikely the Wagners have admitted to you their *years* of harassment of the neighborhood (both children, and their parents).  The Wagners played an equal part in this vendetta – in fact, it began with them.  If you would interview other families in the neighborhood you would find out about that. And both you and I, as parents, know that when adults hassle kids past a certain point, even good kids will fight back.”

After speaking with the detective, my father telephoned Mr. Wagner.  He told Mr. Wagner that the kids were in the wrong; Mr. Wagner told my father that Mrs. Wagner was suffering health effects from being harassed by the neighborhood children, and agreed that things had gotten out of hand.  It was interesting to listen to my father saying something that, if you didn’t know the context, would sound nonsensical:  the children should “stop their singing their songs” and that perhaps everyone, the children of Martha Lane and the Wagners, could just steer clear of one another?

After an unusually silent dinner time my parents excused my younger sister from the table and asked her to take our toddler brother to the living room to watch TV. My parents remained at the kitchen table, and spoke privately with my older sister and I.  My father did most of the talking.  In a serious but not angry manner, he told us what had transpired with his phone calls (I said nothing about my eavesdropping).  We were to stop all contact with the Wagners, and inform our friends that the Wagner house was a demilitarized zone – off limits to all; no exceptions.  The Wagners agreed to drop their harassment charges, but were prepared to reinstate them if there were any more “incidents” (the detective told my father that the case would remain open for a couple of weeks to “see how things go.”).

Later that evening my father phoned several of the neighborhood children’s parents and explained the situation to them. He asked them to spread the word to other parents: the children of Martha Lane are to act as if the Wagners do not exist.  And, that was that, my parents said.  It’s over.

Except that for me, it wasn’t.  Unbeknownst to my parents or siblings, I cried myself to sleep that night, and for weeks afterward.

 

If only she’d had a baby sloth to hug.

 

It’s funny to me, in retrospect, how adults neglect to explain How Things Work ®  to children, because their adult minds don’t go down all the paths that a child’s mind will take.  I thought I had a criminal record! And that it would follow me the rest of my life!  That made me feel frightened, anxious, hopeless…and fence-kicking, hornet-spitting, furious.

I feared my parents were disappointed in me, and me alone. And I was steaming angry about the fact that the majority of the “harassment” tactics had come from the older kids  –  teens, like my sister, The Consummate Good Girl/Model Child ®.  My sister and her friend made up that damn stupid song, had sung it with their friends “at” the Wagners, then taught it to me and my friends and urged us to sing it whenever we could….and guess who got caught?

In my family’s script my older sister was The Good Child ®  –  polite and obedient and respectful of authority, while I was the imp/rabble rouser/mischief-maker.  But family roles and labels (“this is the smart one, and this is the clever one, and this is the sweet one…”)  are always far more complicated than surface perceptions.  *I* knew, from personal experience, that my sister was not the goody-two-shoes her teachers and parents thought she was.  But the fact that she and her friends could “get away” with what had happened while I was implicated – that was typical.

There is nothing like the righteous indignation of a wrong adolescent. I avoided fully considering my own culpability in the Wagner harassment by focusing on (what I thought was) the colossal injustice done to me – and poor Kelly, by association.

But, I digress.

 

 

I didn’t sleep well for weeks after the visit from Undercover Detective Asshat.  My throat would tighten and my fists would clench whenever I saw a sedan that reminded me of that detective’s car – and every such vehicle was, to me, potentially an unmarked police car… and, BTW, unmarked cars for police?  How unfair?!?! Detectives must be a slimy bunch, to sneak around like that….

My reaction was only slightly less volatile when I saw a regular, black and white police car cruiser; I held a silent but deadly   [6]  grudge against cops.

How that plainclothes detective had treated Kelly – those memories and feelings stayed with me for years.  However, time eventually did what time eventually does, and by high school I had gotten over my indignation.

But here (yes, after all this) is what prompted my telling of this My Encounter With The Police ® story:  judging from the reactions of many (white) people to the Black Lives Matter movement, some folks just don’t seem to understand the simple yet profound idea that people’s experiences color and inform their perceptions.

I got over what had happened with that vile, abusive, unprofessional detective – I was able to navigate through the world and let go of my anger – in part because during the ensuing years I had few if any encounters with “law enforcement officers.”  I was able to see the incident as just that – an incident; an aberration.

I was a white girl.

All the “players” in the My Encounter With The Police ®  story were white.

What if I had been Black, or Latina?  Would the detective have shown as much deference to my mother if she were Mexican-American?  Would he have been as respectful and agreeable to my father, who argued for considering the perspective of the “harassing” children, if my father had been a Black man? What if all of the neighborhood children had been a different “shade” than the Wagners – would the detective have agreed to drop the investigation?  What if the Wagners had been Black – would their complaints have been investigated, or even given serious consideration?

Knowing what I now know now, the answers to all of those questions would be a regrettable but accurate, Are you fucking kidding me?  No.

As I passed from grade school  [7]   through junior and then high school, I slowly came to realize that my darker-skinned peers had many more negative experiences with the police, and for matters far more trivial than “singing that song” and with far different outcomes than my family had experienced (“It’s a crime, you know, to drive while Mexican,” my “cruiser car” buddy GS, a Chicano, once joked to me).

Your experiences shape your perceptions.  Too few white people are beginning to consider that idea, vis-à-vis Black and Brown people and the police and other governmental forces; fewer still are able to summon the introspection necessary to examine their visceral reaction to the complex ideas and realities behind concepts like, Defund the police.

And for those of us in this better-late-than-never category, I’ll apply my dinner party analogy. Specifically, how I feel about guests whom I looked forward to seeing (that’s why I invited them: I don’t ask people to dinner if I don’t like them), and they showed up…eventually:

Welcome to the party y’all!

You’re hours late; you missed the appetizers and first courses
and the entrée and we’re halfway through dessert…
but it’s great to see you and we’re happy
you showed up in time to help with the dishes.

*   *   *

May you be a helpful voice in the Defund the Police conversation;
May you discern when to use your voice and when it’s better to listen to other’s voices;  [8]

May you always arrive in time to help with the dishes;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] If you don’t know or remember the significance behind the phrase “the ML kids’ war with the neighborhood cranks” then there’s no point in reading further without reading the previous post.

[2] Friends and family used the side entrance to our house, which led to the kitchen. If someone knocked on our front door that was a giveaway that it was a stranger, or a solicitor.

[3] About 5:20p and not after 6p, like I’d told the detective. Yep, I lied to the creep.

[4] Which was, at the time, our only telephone.

[5] my dad’s words. Although Kelly and I were preteens, it was the older kids who had instigated the anti-Wagner campaign,

[6] You knew I had to get a fart reference in the story,  somewhere…somehow.

[7] A story like this should have more footnotes. Or, less.

[8] As in, the voices of other people, not the voice you may hear in your head that sounds like your demon uncle ordering you to vote for anything wearing a MAGA hat and then strangle a baby hamster.

The Fond Childhood Memories I’m Not Reliving

1 Comment

 

Department Of Now I’ve Seen Everything

Dateline: Wednesday, circa 4pm, outside a grocery store.  A woman who exited the store ahead of me scurries to a spot around 30 feet from the store’s exit door. She pulls a cigarette and lighter from her purse, pulls down her mask and lights up.  She proceeds to take several long, desperate drags of the cigarette, pulling her mask up inbetween, in a bizarre ritual: lower mask; suck on her death sticks; exhale; raise mask; wait five seconds; repeat.

Lady, just take down your mask, go into a filthy public restroom, run your bare hands over every surface and then touch your hands to your face and mouth and rub your eyes. Get it over with.

Celebrities like Ben Affleck won’t let a pesky pandemic stop their slow suicide, so why should she?

 

*   *   *

Department of Yep, This.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of My Defund The Police Story

In the ongoing Defund the Police ® debate, some folks declare that an alternative phrase for police reform is needed. It seems that too many (white) people read or hear “defund” and lose their shit react defensively.  They interpret “defund” as doing away with police forces entirely, instead of the how the term is used by reform activists: as shorthand for reallocating funds from police departments to non-policing forms of public safety and community support, (e.g. social, mental health, housing and education services).

Moiself  has heard this defensive reaction explained along these lines:

White people get defensive and even frightened at that notion (doing away with police) because white people associate police with security, in ways that communities of color, because of their collective history with aggressive and discriminatory policing, do not.

Sometime in the late 1970s-early 1980s, I read a feature article in a So Cal newspaper about police officer recruitment.  Police chiefs were just starting to realize that for community policing to be effective the police force needed to be representative of all members of the community.  Given the rising number of Vietnamese immigrants in So Cal, local police departments were trying, and mostly failing, to recruit Vietnamese-Americans.  The reason for that failure was not apparent to the majority white police staff, until a cultural liaison enlightened them:

The police forces in Vietnam, and several other Asian countries, were considered to be corrupt, and the average Southeast Asian immigrant’s contact with them had been unpleasant.  Thus, young Asian men   [1] who might have been interested in being recruited were discouraged from doing so by their parents, who thought policing a dishonorable profession.

There’s a very basic lesson here: your experiences color your perception.

 

 

Yep, that seems evident on a Psychology 101 level. Moiself  thinks it’s a bit more far-reaching than that, and ties into the Black Lives Matter movement in a variety of ways and from a variety of perspectives…including the one I am about to share here.

Little known fact about moiself :  from about my 5th to 8th grade years, I hated and feared the police. I held particular fear and loathing for men I suspected were undercover cops in unmarked cars. This is because of an experience I had….

Translation: there is a story to be told.

Key elements of this story (“The Wagner Incident”) became much beloved by my family as the years past.  My parents in particular loved for my older sister and I to recall the tale, and I always obliged.  However, most of my family never knew that I was actually quite traumatized by what happened.

There is (unfortunately or yee-haw! depending on your enjoyment of background information) stage-setting to be done, for this Drama of Shakespearean Importance.   [2]

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, my family lived in a house on Martha Lane in Santa Ana (CA).  Martha Lane extended west from a major thoroughfare down to a cross-street (Pacific Ave.) which led to the local community college.  [3]  Across Pacific Ave., Martha Lane continued as a cul-de-sac, where my family’s house was located.    [4]

The Wagners were an older couple   [5]  whose house was on the main part of Martha Lane (ML).  The Wagners had gained a reputation – not a good one – among the other denizens of ML.   Mr. Wagner, occasionally accompanied by Mrs. Wagner, walked their massive dog twice daily around the neighborhood.  They made of one or two loops around the main portion of ML (they did not cross the street to the cul-de-sac), and they let their dog defecate on other people’s lawns. They made no attempt to pick it up the droppings or at least “curb” their dog; they let him go where he wanted to go.   [6]  

Some of the neighbors began to come out of their houses and speak to Mr. Wagner as he made his rounds.  At first they politely suggested – then, as time passed and the poop accumulated, they increasingly and more frustratingly demanded – that the Wagners’ dog should do its doggie business at their own home, and not foul other people’s property.  The Wagners ignored all such requests, with Mr. Wagner on a couple of such occasions responding with strongly-worded suggestions as to what the other homeowners could do with his dog’s “business.”

Petty, inconsiderate neighbor shit, so to speak, right? Nothing either novel or earth-shattering.

 

 

There were other actions the Wagners took that, looking back, seemed almost intentionally aimed at making them the scourge of the neighborhood.  It was as if the Wagners got some kind of petty pleasure in taunting their neighbors, in particular, the Young People ®.  I can find no other explanation for their behavior.

As a Girl Scout, moiself  had the twice-a-year fundraising duties (which I loathed) of going from house to house in my neighborhood, peddling Girl Scout Cookies in the spring and Girl Scout Calenders   [7] in the fall.  The Wagners did not have a no soliciting sign on their porch; nevertheless, the first time I rang their doorbell on behalf of the Scouts I received a very snooty dismissal from Mrs. Wagner, when a simple, “We’re not interested” would have sufficed.  The second (and last) time I approached their house as a Girl Scout (having forgotten about the first incident, since six months had passed), Mrs. Wagner apparently saw me coming, and couldn’t wait until I set foot on her porch to reject my sales pitch.   Before I’d taken three steps from the sidewalk to her driveway her front door flew open and she came barreling out of her house.  Her voluminous bat wings shook along with her index finger, which she waggled at me while she bellowed about how she didn’t want to buy anything.

I fled the Wagner driveway with as much dignity as I could muster.  Later, I compared stories with other neighborhood kids, whom, I discovered, had experienced similar treatment when they were seeking donations for, say, a school paper drive or other charities.  The next time I had to do my GS soliciting I remembered my lesson, and as I left the porch of the house *before* the Wagners’ I proceeded on to the house *after* the Wagners’.  As I did so, Mrs. Wagner once again came charging out of the house into her driveway – how strange, I later thought, as she must have been sitting by her front window, just waiting for…what?  For a youngster to yell at? – and proceeded to berate me. Apparently, I was a stand-in for all the neighborhood children, as she began her rant with, “YOU KIDS….”  I hadn’t even made the slightest indication of stopping at her house – I was just walking past it, on the sidewalk!

 

At least she wasn’t armed with a garden hose.

 

Sharing and comparing stories – that’s what kids in a ‘hood do. As the years passed the older kids began to compile a hefty dossier of Wagner Incidents, many of them involving the holidays.  A few neighbors told about “Christmas incidents,” stories I cannot now recall,   [8]  and every July 4 we heard about how the Wagners did their own fireworks in the street in front of their house, then loudly complained if their next door or across-the-street neighbor’s – in particular, their neighbor’s children or grandchildren – did the same…or just yelled at teens who were walking on the other side of the street, on their way to a friend’s family’s fireworks party.

October 31 seemed to bring out the worst (or weirdest) in the Wagners. On Halloween night the Wagners always turned their porch light on and hung Halloween decorations on their front door, then were randomly and mystifyingly rude to the kids who rang their doorbell.  In our neighborhood the trick-or-treaters tended to go in groups of four or more children; the Wagners would often single out someone in your group, make disparaging remarks about a costume they didn’t like, then give candy to some kids and not to others.  Sometimes, as if on a whim, they would answer the doorbell, refuse to give candy (from the big jar they had on display) to anyone, and shoo your entire group off their porch.   [9]

 

 

Like many grade school-aged children, I found the world of adults both baffling and boring. Unless a home contained children of my or my siblings’ ages, I didn’t pay much attention as to who lived in what house on my block. It took a couple of years for it to sink in:  you don’t go to the Wagner‘s house for Halloween…or anything else.

Can you guess what kind of attitude among the neighbors, in particular among the youth of Martha Lane, was engendered by the Wagners, toward the Wagners?

 

“I knew you could, boys and girls.”

 

There were many more incidents that my older sister and her friends shared with moiself and my friends. Slowly but surely, a vendetta arose. The older kids in the neighborhood had had it with the Wagners, and conspired to tease them at every opportunity. 

My older sister and her friend rewrote lyrics to the tune of, “We Love You Conrad,” (a song from the Broadway musical, Bye Bye Birdie): 

♫  We hate you Wagners
Oh yes we do
We don’t hate anyone
like you
When you are near us,
P.U.!
Oh Wagners we hate you.  ♫

 

 

Yeah; I know – hardly cutting-edge satire. Still, I thought my sister and her friend were so clever when sang me that song, and they were obviously proud of themselves.  They taught the song to all the neighborhood kids, and made us all vow to sing it at any Wagner-sighting opportunity.

Things escalated, as they say, from there. 

Early one hot summer night a bunch of us ML kids were hanging out on the corner of Pacific and ML, negotiating which chase/tag game we would play that evening (Green Monster? Hide n’ Seek?)  We spotted Mrs. Wagner up the street, identifiable from even 200 feet away by her towering, glow-in-the-dark white beehive hairdo and imperious, waddling stride.  She was walking her dog, and one of us in the group – I can’t remember who but it might have been me or my older sister – had the brilliant idea to begin humming the Miss America theme song:

♫  There she is…Miss America…
There she is, your ideal…. ♫ 

Silly stuff – hardly the material of celebrity stalking lawsuits.  Even so, it apparently put a burr under Mrs. Wagner’s saddle (or that ridiculous beehive).  Unbeknownst to us kids, when Mrs. Wagner returned home she told her husband what we kids had done, and he called the police and insisted they open a harassment investigation.

We hummed the Miss America song  – that’s what put them over the edge?  We didn’t even sing the words.

 

 

Also unbeknownst – to me, at that time – were other incidences of kids taking revenge on the Wagners.  Some older teens who lived on the main section of ML had, with their parents’ knowledge and approval, saved some of the “droppings” the Wagner’s dog left on their lawn.  After accumulating several days’ worth, the kids delivered shovelfuls of feces to the Wagner’s lawn.  When this failed to deter Mr. Wagner from his dog walking/dumping, on July Fourth one family’s teenage son played the proverbial, flaming-sack-of-poop prank on the Wagner’s front porch.  [10]  

That and other incidences enabled the Wagners to convince the police to open a harassment file…or a case…or whatever it was.

 

“Martha Lane Kids v. Wagner” ? – what is this bullshit, Danno?

 

So.  This “case” was going on, without my knowledge.

Then, one day….

 

 

I’ve always wanted to say that.

The story continues, in next week’s post.

*   *   *

May you get to say something you’ve always wanted to say;
May you be mindful of how petty neighborhood disputes can escalate;
May you bear with me until next week;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] And it was only men who were being recruited, at that time.

[2] A slight exaggeration.

[3] The imaginatively named, Santa Ana College.

[4] Those two portions of Martha Lane no longer exist. Under eminent domain, the community college took over the properties in the early 1980s. In archetypical, SoCal development fashion, the area where my family house once stood is now a parking lot.

[5] In their late 60s – early 70s?

[6] Do people still use that term?  For the young ‘uns who may be unfamiliar with it, to curb one’s dog involved pulling it off the curb – away from someone’s  lawn or sidewalk – and making it poop in the street gutter.

[7] Anyone remember those?  The Girl Scouts stopped selling them in 2008.

[8] The Wagners scared off Santa’s reindeer with a shotgun?  Nothing would surprise me.

[9] But they would leave the porch light on – the universal sign of “open for business” for trick-or-treaters – and answer the doorbell when the next group of kids came by.  Yep, we watched, to see what happened.

[10] He filled a brown paper bag with the Wagner’s dog’s droppings, put the bag on the Wagner’s front porch, set it afire, rang their doorbell, and hauled ass up the block.  And yes, when Mr. Wagner answered the doorbell he attempted to stamp out the flames….

The Future Vice President’s Campaign I’m Not Consulting On

Comments Off on The Future Vice President’s Campaign I’m Not Consulting On

Department Of Yet Another Silver Lining

The Democratic convention’s pandemic-mindful/physical distancing states’ roll call (in its entirety, here ) – how delightful was that?   The usual political party convention roll call, with the delegates dressed basically the same (we can wear three colors – can you guess what they are?) and wearing those ridiculous straw boater hats, some of which look to be made of styrofoam….it’s beyond boring.

Well hellooooo, ladies.

 

Moiself  sez let’s do it this way from now on, pandemic or not. We got a brief glimpse into the states’ – and US territories’ – terrain as well as character,  [1]  with a few surprises, too.  Rhode Island calamari – that’s even a thing? Who knew?

*   *   *

Department Of Which Is The More Accurate Adjective?

What the radio podcast host said:
” (name)…is a board-licensed professional counselor.”

What moiself  heard;
“(name) …is a bored, licensed professional counselor.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of If Given My Druthers, I’d Like To
Leave The Civics Lesson To Someone Else

What, BTW, are druthers?  In the various idiomatic expressions which use the word, it does seem to be a positive thing. Do I have to wait to be given them, by someone else, or can I get or earn them on my own?   [2]

If it were in my power, I would give all of you your druthers. Wouldn’t it be great if druthers turned out to be something like this:

 

 

Once again, I digress.

Moiself  is thrilled with Joe Biden’s choice of a running mate.  During the Democratic debates, a California friend (MM) and I were exchanging ideas/compliments about the various candidates. In MM’s opinion Sen. Harris, besides being experienced and intelligent and a razor-sharp questioner during Senate hearings, was also not the kind to put up with crap or betrayal – “She’ll put a shiv in you,” MM wrote admiringly.  We both agreed that was a talent sorely needed when dealing with the petty viciousness and mendacity of the Republican congress.  [3]

One of the many, many other things I like about Senator and Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris is that I don’t know a thing about her religious/spiritual and/or worldview beliefs.  And I’d like to keep it that way.

Except of course, the Republicans will not stand for that. Even the (secretly) religion-free among them must grovel to the altar of right-wing Jayyy-suuuus  lovers.   #45 figured this out when he was laughing all the way to the bank (or golf course), passing church after church along the way, metaphorically thumbing his nose at them even as he was snickering about how easy it was to bamboozle the congregants.

 

 

The Republicans will look for every opportunity, during the election and debates,  [4]   to play their piety cards and jab Biden and Harris about their beliefs.  Biden has already fallen into that trap –of talking about his own faith rather than telling those who ask that it’s none of their business as the USA is not a theocracy, and let’s get back to the issues….

Thus, I humbly offer my advice to Ms. Harris – the advice she didn’t solicit from me   [5]  but which I hope she takes:

Don’t fall for Pence’s religious rhetoric claptrap, and make him sorry if he even asks. I know you’re capable of going all prosecutorial on his ass…even though that tactic, if you employed it, would make your advisors reach for the smelling salts as the white evangelicals would clutch their pearls and gasp in horror at The Angry Black Bitch Atheist (whether you are or are not the fourth, you’d definitely be pegged as the first three).  So, yes, I understand how you must go for discretion.

I also hope you don’t mumble platitudes about respecting everyone’s faith journey (although I understand there will be pressure to do so). When – not *if,* as religion will definitely be an issue – the subject of a paticular candidate’s religious beliefs are brought up, don’t ignore it.  Instead, candidly and assertively steer away from the subject, every time it happens, and every time reminding us of why you are doing so:

We are electing presidents and vice presidents here,
not popes and pastors and vicars and decans – or rabbis, imams or mullahs, Zen masters or Lamas, pujaris or gurus….

 

I know, this is important…I’ll ty to stay alert.

 

American citizens hold a diversity of religious opinions. The candidates elected will be the President and Vice President for all the people, including the growing percentage of atheists, agnostics, humanists, Freethinkers Brights – aka, to pollsters and scientists, as the “Nones,” as in, we Americans who are religion-free and/or claim no religious affiliation.

Polls and studies reveal that 23 to 26 % of the US population – approaching one out of every four people – claim “none” for their religion, despite facing open hostility and discrimination from religious believers (and incurring a political liability as well, if they run for office).  And scientists note that these 23-26% figures are conservative estimates.

“…psychologists…contend that there may be far more atheists than pollsters report because “social pressures favoring religiosity, coupled with stigma against religious disbelief…, might cause people who privately disbelieve in (god[s])  to nonetheless self-present as believers, even in anonymous questionnaires.”


To work around this problem of self-reported data, the psychologists employed what is called an unmatched count technique, which has been previously validated for estimating the size of other underreported cohorts…. (Using a) Bayesian probability estimation to compare their results with similar Gallup and Pew polls of 2,000 American adults each…they estimated, with 93 percent certainty, that somewhere between 17 and 35 percent of Americans are atheists, with a “most credible indirect estimate” of 26 percent.


(“The number of Americans with no religious affiliation is rising,”
Scientific American, 4-1-18 )

As a former prosecutor you, Senator Harris, are aware of the average person’s cognitive capacities, so I’ll trust you to condense those statistics into something debate-attention-span appropriate.

After doing so, please give a brief reminder – more like a civics lesson, considering how many Americans know next to nothing about the history of our country’s secular roots – that the USA was the first country to have a totally god-free constitution.  “God” – anyone’s god  – is not mentioned in the US Constitution (nor is Jesus, nor Christianity), not even once.  Religion is only mentioned twice, and then in exclusionary terms: in the First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”), and in Article VI, which declares that “…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

And do this – remind folks of the facts – Every. Time.

 

 

There will be some ignoramuses (most likely your debate opponent), even among otherwise seemingly articulate members of the press, who will confuse the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution, and will quote the former:

“But wait, what about the part where it says,
‘”We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights’….”

Here is, yet again, another opportunity for education. Remind the populace of the difference between the two: The Declaration of Independence (an “apology” and call to arms for the American revolution);  and the Constitution of the United States (the new nation’s governing document).

You may also want to be prepared for when some idiot sputters about how his dollar bills say, “In God We Trust”…which he probably doesn’t know was not added to our currency until 1957, during the Commie/Red Scare era:

 

 

…and then he may continue on as how the Pledge of Allegiance contains the phrase, “Under God”…except that until relatively recently, it didn’t:

The Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy… (who) had hoped that the pledge would be used by citizens in any country.  In its original form it read:
“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands,
one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
In 1923, the words, “the Flag of the United States of America” were added:
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America
and to the Republic for which it stands,
one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
In 1954, in response to the Communist threat of the times, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words “under God,” creating the 31-word pledge we say today.
Bellamy’s daughter objected to this alteration.
(“The Pledge of Allegiance,” Historic Documents, usdocuments.org)

You will likely also encounter shade from the historical yahoos who will crow about how the USA was formed as a “Christian nation.” Not only does Constitution make no such claims, we have the confirmation to the opposite, declared and signed by the very founding fathers of our country and the framers of the constitution, in the 1797 Treaty of Tripoly – which was sent to the Senate (by President John Adams).  The entire treaty was read aloud on the Senate floor (including the (in)famous words in Article 11; copies were printed for every Senator; the treaty was ratified by a unanimous vote of all 23 Senators. They knew what they were doing:

Treaty of Tripoli, article 11

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”   [6]

All this history should be enough.  Of course, it won’t be.

So, please, get the message across…in your own astute, succinct way.  Perhaps, a more prime time-palatable version of the following?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Fun With Nature’s Wacky Reproductive Scenarios


“Some sharks give live birth from two uteruses — and that’s not the weirdest part.”

Dateline: earlier this week, listening to a Curiosity Daily podcast. CD is one of my favorite podcasts.  As per their website:

The award-winning Curiosity Daily podcast will help you get smarter about the world around you — every day.
In less than 10 minutes, you’ll get a unique mix of research-based life hacks, the latest science and technology news, and more.

I’m not sure how much smarter CD has helped moiself  to get, but I’m certainly entertained, and armed with interesting trivia facts, by each episode.

A recent segment on sharks which have dual uteri caught my eye (ear?).  The takeaway: many shark species have multiple uteri and give birth to live baby sharks, which hatch from eggs in the uteri.  Before being expelled, the baby sharks which hatch first swim between the uteri, and eat the eggs of their un-hatched siblings, so they can grow faster. In one species, multiple free-swimming baby sharks hatch at the same time and fight to the death inside their shark mom’s uterus.

 

“Congrats, Mom, it’s a boy…I mean, a girl…uh, make that, a cannibal.”

 

For some petty reason, I enjoy the idea of anti-choicers – most of whom hold a conservative religious dogma which says that their god creates and directs all life (so guess who’s responsible for this preborn carnage?) –  cringing at these facts…even though sibling predation – “siblicide” –  is not unknown in other animals (e.g. the newly hatched chicks of some bird species will attack and eat their smaller siblings, or push them or any unhatched eggs out of the nest).

As with every CD episode, at the end of this one the two hosts recapped what they’d learned.  The male host, whose wife is pregnant, said that he’s been feeling his wife’s belly when the fetus kicks her, and now he’s thinking how “…that is really mild, compared to what sharks do.” He then declared, “I’m glad I didn’t marry a shark.”

 

“Oh, honey, can you feel them fighting to the death?”

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Presidential candidate Scissors was forced to withdraw from the race
after failing to find anyone who would run with him.

 

“Do you see what humor they have to put up with, in a so-called ‘free’ society?”

 

*   *   *

May you support politicians in remembering and upholding our country’s secular foundation/roots;
May you have yet another reason to detest that insipid “Baby Sharks” song;
May someone surprise you with the gift of druthers;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] But California should have had a surfer boy standing between those two women.

[2] I could Google this, I know, but sometimes, it’s just more fun to wonder.

[3] Then added that, as much as he admired President Obama, “that was a talent Obama lacked.”  (moiself  ageed).

[4] Are we even going to have debates, this year?

[5] Or, maybe she *did* and her email got caught in the spam folder.

[6] At the time of the Treat, Mediterranean Sea traffic was largely controlled by pirates from the North African Muslim states of the Barbary Coast.  Many European seafaring countries paid a tribute to the Barbary Sultans in exchange for safe passage through the Mediterranean. After the American Revolution, the US was no longer covered by British tribute treaties. The U.S. decided to form tribute treaties with the Barbary States, and given the history of The Crusades, assure the sultans that the US was not going to use the excuse of Christianity vs. Islam to go to war with them.

The Speech I’m Not Policing

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Department Of The Optimism I Wish I Held

“His recent book Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis, could hardly be more timely.
And it has a fascinating twist, seeking links between how individuals deal with crises – with insights from his clinical psychologist wife – to how nations succeed or fail when confronted with a crisis.”

That blurb is from the description of “How It Can All Fall Apart,” a recent episode of Alan Alda’s Clear and Vivid podcast.  Professor, historian, and Pulitzer Prize-winning popular science author Jared Diamond (“Guns, Germs and Steel“) was Alda’s guest.

As with many podcast guests, Diamond had a new work to promote (the above-mentioned book, which just may join the ever-expanding pile of *read-this-and-you’ll-be-a-better-or-at-least-smarter-person* tomes by my nightstand).  What I found most captivating about the interviews Diamond has been giving is the cautious optimism he expresses about what positive awakening may arise from the COVID-19 crisis:

…if there is a solution found, a majority of people may finally realize that *global problems require global solutions,* which could result in the setting aside of political differences and working together to find solutions to problems from which  no artificial barriers of borders or international politics can shield us  (read: Global Warming/Climate Change.

I wish I could believe Diamond is right.  The USA should, of course, be a leader in this and other issues.  Instead, it may take our country many months – how long until the election? – to be able to fully get on board in this matter.  Chief Little Bunker-Bitch [1] I mean, that festering gallstone of a human being – okay; remember, we’re going for the spirit of cooperation – our pathetic excuse of a leader…  I’m sorry, world, but the truth is….

 

 

Ok.  How shall moiself  put this? If you know even a smidgen of #45’s personal, business and political history, you also know that the one comment any teacher would *not* write in the report card of his life is, “Plays well with others.”

*   *   *

Department Of Since You’ve Asked

Inquiring Minds:
“What is your diagnosis of the greatest problem facing humanity?”

 

 

All-righty then, to rephrase:

“What would you say is humanity’s biggest mistake, or weakness?”

Moiself:
Humanity’s *blunder grande* is our misplaced faith in certitude, vis-à-vis both our factual knowledge and our sense of ethics.   [2] 

Giving the probabilistic nature of our world (including our very existence as a species), strength and resilience lies in people who are able to see and act on the grays in life, instead of labeling everything either black or white.

Fly your gray banner; keep open to the possibility that you may be wrong, but don’t let this entangle you in the morass of uncertainty that some use as an excuse for inaction (“Since we can’t know for certain then we can’t know at all”).

Wow. That’s a lot of profundity for one keyboard to spew.  I need a beer.

 

“Don’t waste it on her; she doesn’t even drink beer.”

 

*   *   *

 Department Of Terms Worth Picking A Few Nits Over

I’ve written in the past (and given our current “cancel culture”   [3]  and the unfortunate, seemingly liberal-led trend of looking under every verbal rock for aggrievements, I will likely have cause to write again) of my disdain for people who criticize/judge/assume they know the opinions of other people who don’t use the “proper” or “accepted” terms in discussing social issues.

Moiself  deplores the censoring of ideas and the alienating of allies which results from when you focus on *how* someone says something, versus paying attention to *what* they are trying to say (i.e., confusing style with substance).  But, language is tricky. None of us can accurately claim to be an expert of verbal and written communications, which are the conduit between our forming ideas and our expression of them.

 

 

The choices we make matter, as do our words, which both express and influence our ideas and worldviews. I try to view each case separately recently, I’ve learned of a couple of centuries-old terms which moiself  thinks are very much worth changing, for the important reason of the terms’ subtexts.

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for creating the 1619 project at The New York Times, which tracks the legacy of slavery.  In Terry Gross’s Fresh Air interview with journalist Hannah-Jones, (which I referred to in a recent blog post as influencing my opinions about reparations for slavery), TG asked Hannah-Jones about why she uses the term “enslaved person” and not “slave” in her writing (my emphases):

“It was very important in the 1619 Project and whenever I write about this, to not use language that further dehumanizes people who every system and structure was designed to dehumanize.

I think when we hear the word “slave,” we think of slavery as being the essence of that person. But if you call someone an enslaved person, then it speaks to a condition. These people were not slaves. Someone chose to force them into the condition of slavery, and that language to me is very important, as is using the word “enslaver” over slave owner because these people didn’t have a moral right to own another human being, even though the society allowed it, and I think it needs to be active, that this was an active system of people choosing to treat other human beings as property.”

 

I think this change in terminology is adoption-worthy and will henceforth try to consistently to use those words.  If someone comments on it (“I’ve noticed you say, ‘enslaved person’ and ‘enslaver’ instead of ‘slave,’ and ‘slaveowner’ “),  then there is an opportunity for dialogue.

However, I will not turn into a member of the Speech Police, and hope that other Well-Meaning People ® act accordingly.  Joe Dude who seems open to the idea of reparations for enslaved persons is a potential ally; don’t turn him off if he starts to say, “I realize there is validity in reparations for descendants of slaves…” by jumping in with a correction, no matter how well-meaning: “Whoa, Joe – the proper term is, ‘enslaved persons….’ “

In these Twitter Mob Times ® it so easy to criticize *how* someone is expressing an idea that we often neglect to listen to *what* they are trying to say.  When it comes to style vs. substance, go for substance. Every Time.

 

“There’s the guy who said ‘disabled’ instead of “person with a disability’ – let’s get ’em!”

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Things We Leave Behind For Others

One day in 1961, the famous physicist Richard Feynman stepped in front of a Caltech lecture hall and posed this question to a group of undergraduate students:
“If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence was passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?”

….we posed Feynman’s cataclysm question to some of our favorite writers, artists, historians, futurists – all kinds of great thinkers. We asked them, “What’s the one sentence you would want to pass on to the next generation that would contain the most information in the fewest words?”

(Radiolab, The Cataclysm Sentence,)

 

One of my favorite Feynman quotes. If you want to know what his “cataclysm sentence” was, you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

 

I thought about that question for several weeks after hearing that podcast.The answers given, by Feynman and others, could be rephrased as, What would you leave behind for others?  My cataclysm sentence, which needs some serious editing, would have something to do with embracing embrace curiosity; try to understand reality and do not be satisfied with stories that purport to assuage your fears about what you don’t know….

One day during one of my early morning walks, I put those What would you leave behind for others? thoughts on hold, and have yet to return to them.  I was crossing a residential street, mulling those profound thoughts, and I noticed two brown plops, and a brownish line of…ick…stretching from the center of the street to the gutter, and then up on the sidewalk, for a total plop-streak of about 20 feet.   Moiself  realized it was a series of feces droppings, from a doggie which was evidently on the move.

 

 

Not wanting to fall into the trap I just wrote about – making up stories for that what you don’t understand – moiself  nevertheless used my powers of deductive reasoning to come up with the most likely scenario: dogs, when they’re on their own or are being led by a human on a walk or run, stop to squat when they defecate.  Why was this dog in such a hurry that it could not do so?  It was either being chased by something…or being pulled by someone.  I realized that the speedy early morning jogger I’d passed earlier, on that very street, her leashed dog trotting a good ten feet behind her, was the likely source.

And it made me wonder about how many of the countless dog-accompanied joggers and cyclists I’ve seen consider themselves to be responsible owners and the kind of people who always pick up after their dog… Except, when you’re moving at those speeds, essentially forcing your dog to run with you, it has to “go” on the run,  [4]  and since it is trailing behind you, you don’t see what is happening….  And you run or cycle merrily along, blissfully ignorant of the shit trail you have left behind, for others to deal with.

 

Book ’em, Danno.

*   *   *

Whaddya think, is there some kind of life metaphor in all that crap?

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

You shouldn’t fart in an Apple store; they don’t have Windows.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Just One More And Then I’ll Stop, I Promise

My dad burst into my room and said, “Wanna hear a joke?”
He proceeded to fart for a whole minute, then said,
“Sorry; that was a long-winded story.”

Okay; make that, just two more.

After letting out a trumpet of a fart the toddler stopped, gasped,
looked up at her mother and said, “Did you just hear that elephant?”
She’s going to be a great dad someday.

 

 

*   *   *

May you be mindful of what you leave behind;
May you recognize and celebrate life’s gray areas;  [5]

May you have the optimism to believe that a world which produces fart-dad joke combos
can come up with a cure for a pandemic ;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] For those of us who love our country and thus cannot bear to use the given name of the man who shits all over it, this is one of the milder monikers we use.

[2] Aka, “right” and “wrong.”

[3]  As per dictionary.com, cancel culture refers to “…the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive. Cancel culture is generally discussed as being performed on social media in the form of group shaming.”

[4] I have seen  more than one dog, running alongside its jogging/cycling owner, stop to squat and then get jerked/dragged along by its leash, while its owner kept on going.

[5] Except for those involving dreadful novels with “shades of” in the title.

The Reality Show I’m Not Watching

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Department Of Peculiar State Mottos

 

 

I love my state, despite its having these three flaws:

(1) the 46th ugliest  [1]  state flag in the USA (it violates at least one of the Five Basic Principles of Flag Design, as per the North American Vexillological Association,  [2]

(2) as well as one of the more perplexing state mottos.

(3) There is no third flaw.

Who was the person who first decreed, “States must have slogans – oh, wait, let’s call them, ‘mottoes!’ ” ? Who convinced others in the government that, with all the to-dos which come with qualifying for statehood,  motto-composing is a good use of time?  That person is lost to history.

Moiself  (motto: “It’s my blog, so there.”) decrees that there are four states vying for Worst State Motto award.  Besides Oregon, they are:

* Connecticut (“He who transplanted sustains.”)

Oh, yeah. That goes without saying.

* New Mexico (“It grows as it goes.”)

Imagine what the NM motto committee was smoking when they thought up that one.

* Maryland (“Manly deeds, womanly words.”)

 

 

Oregon’s state motto is in Latin, because the same doofus who sent out the, “Every state must have a motto” memo also apparently added, “…and if you can’t think of anything profound or at least plausible to say, say it in Latin.”

Thus, Oregon’s motto: Alis volat propriis. Which translates as…

She flies with her own wings.

 

 

Many Oregonians do not know what our state’s motto is. And when they find out, their reaction is not what moiself  imagines was the goal of the motto committee:

WTF does that even MEAN ?!?!?

The general consensus of historians and People Who Try To Care About Such Things ® is that the motto is meant to convey a sense of Oregon’s “tradition of independence and innovation” (e.g., the nation’s first bottle bill, the public beach access bill).  [3]  So yeah; there’s that. But, couldn’t it have been phrased in a more accessible way (“Oregon: pick up your trash and get off our lawn beach.“)?

On the other hand, it could be seen as reassuring to residents of other states: if you meet an Oregonian and she looks like she’s about to takeoff, don’t worry – she has too much pride and self-reliance to steal *your * wings.  So sit back, relax, and enjoy the air show.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Best Song Couplets, V. 2

♫  The weeks went by and spring turned to summer and summer faded into fall/
And it turns out he was a missing person who nobody missed at all.  ♫

( from “Goodbye Earl,” the [band formerly known as the] Dixie Chick’s
ode to taking revenge on an abusive husband )

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Seriously, You Need A List For This?

On Monday, an ad with this headline appeared on my FB feed:

“Five Tips For Wearing Less Makeup.”

The ad’s headline accompanied a picture of an attractive Woman Of A Certain Age ®, which made me think the ad’s content could be along the lines of the standard advice that women who wear makeup should tone it down as they age…or perhaps the ad was related to the COVID shelter-in era, with people not wanting to deal with their usual routines?

I didn’t click on the ad, but instead of just scrolling by, I stared at the inane headline which had caught my eye, and repeated to moiself   the Five Tips For Wearing Less Makeup I would give, gratis, to anyone who asked:

1. Wear less makeup. 2. Wear less makeup. 3. Wear less makeup.
4. Wear less makeup.
5. Set your smartphone’s alarm reminder: Wear less makeup.

*   *   *

Department Of, Once Again, Reality Outdoes Fiction

You cannot make up a line this…rich.

Context:  MH and I, watching a Netflix show, Indian Matchmaking:

“Matchmaker Sima Taparia guides clients in the U.S. and India in the arranged marriage process, offering an inside look at the custom in a modern era.”

I thought at first the show was fiction, then, a documentary, then, after two episodes, I said to MH, “This is a reality show, right?”  (Translation: “We can’t watch it anymore. We don’t watch Those Kind of Shows. ® “)

The line in question came from an Indian-American woman, who spoke with snort-worthy distain about rejecting a man who wasn’t as travel-knowledgeable as she:

“He didn’t know that Bolivia had salt flats.”

 

 

 

That particular woman was one of the matchmaker’s clients featured in the two episodes we watched. She was in her mid-30s, a lawyer, very busy, a world traveler when not working.  Once she’d agreed to matchmaking services ( via evident pressure from her mother and sister ) she began noticing how her married female friends actually spent a significant amount of time with their husbands – an idea which seemed to disgust her. And she found excuse after excuse to object to any matches the matchmaker suggested.

Her predicament led to this tender exchange between me and my life match:

Moiself: “Why is she doing this?  She so obviously doesn’t want to be married.”

MH: “She doesn’t need a husband, she just needs a vibrator.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Convoluted Path Of Memories

Dateline: last Saturday.  I posted on Facebook a list my Swenadian   [4]  friend had sent me: five anecdotes with the theme of memorable, embarrassing misstatements. I actually remember reading (in a newspaper) about the fifth one:

What happens when you predict snow but don’t get any? We had a female news anchor, the day after it was supposed to have snowed and didn’t, who turned to the weatherman and asked,
“So, Bob, where’s that 8 inches you promised me last night?”

 

 

One of the main reasons I tell my stories or share the stories of others is because of what I call the 99% reaction motivation: ala the *I’ll-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours* approach to life, sharing a story almost always prompts others to share their similar stories. Whether it’s an anecdote of a major parental fail I pulled, or imparting someone else’s  *yes-she-really-said-to-the-handsome-golf-pro-that-she-liked-playing-with-men’s-balls* tale, I know that I will soon hear from a buddy about her worst mothering incident (which makes me feel better about mine), or a face-palming moment of their own which will make me laugh harder than the original story.

It’s what I live for.   [5]

Given the number of writers and reporters I know, I was certain that the last of the Five Embarrassing Misstatements stories would generate   [6]  a story in response.  What with newspaper editors asking for copy in terms of inches of print space (“I need six inches for the op-ed….”) I knew my journalism buddies would have similar stories. Sure enough, SDH, a comrade since our junior high school days, posted a doozy.

The next morning at breakfast, MH mentioned SDH’s story, which sent me on a memory flashback. I think about my high school journalism friends often – even posted about them six years ago. Since it’s summertime, I’ll indulge moiself  with a bit of a rerun:

(5-16-2014, excerpts from The Tattoo I’m Not Explaining )

I am currently reading Weedland by Peter HechtSubtitled Inside America’s Marijuana Epicenter and How Pot Went Legit, the book, as per one blurb, is “essential reading for anyone who is a fan of California’s most lucrative agricultural product.”  Which, I am not.  However, I am a fan of Peter Hecht.

I’ve known (and admired and adored) Pete since junior high school.  He was one of my buddies from a group of friends and acquaintances I still think of as the high school journalism gang.

The Write Stuff

Neither K nor Belle have ever brought home (nor even mentioned, sans my prompting) their high school’s newspaper. They both know I’d written for my school paper.   [7]  They know it was a “real” newspaper, with separate pages (and editors and reporters) devoted to news stories, editorial/opinion pieces, entertainment/feature and sports writing. They know that when The Generator, Santa Ana High School’s award-winning biweekly newspaper, was distributed in the school’s classrooms, the teachers and students stopped what they were doing and read it, cover to cover.  They know that students’ parents also read the high school newspaper, and that The Generator ran stories with enough substance to garner parental interest… and complaints.

(“I can’t believe what your reporter/ smart aleck columnist ____ wrote about! That’s no subject fit for a high school newspaper!”)   [8]

 

 

They know all of this because of the stories I’d told them.  And they could not bear to disappoint me when it came to their own school’s pitiful excuse for fishwrap newspaper.

Son K, ever the diplomat, laid it out for me after my third or fourth Why-don’t-you-ever-bring-your-school-newspaper-home? whine petition.

“Mom, our school’s newspaper sucks.
It’s embarrassing…nothing in it but rah-rah stories…
No one reads it and no one cares.”

Think back to your high school history, chemistry, English, or PE classes:  how many of those classmates went on to become historians or chemists or English teachers or pro athletes?  It still amazes me to think of how many of my peers who wrote for The Generator went on to pursue careers in journalism in one form or another. Along with Peter Hecht, there are:

* Scott Harris, former Los Angeles Times and San Jose Mercury reporter/columnist, Scott is currently one of “The Expat Files” contributors, living in/freelancing from Hanoi;

* Janis Carr, longtime Orange County Register sportswriter;

* Tim Ferguson, – Wall St. Journal reporter and current Forbes editor;

* Victor Cota, reporter for the Orange County Register 

* Phil Blauer, So-Cal area news anchor;

* Deborah Franklin, “my” editor,  [9]  whom I greatly admire for finding a way to combine her two loves, science and journalism.  Instead of (as the dubious voices advised) dumping one to concentrate on the other, Franklin became a science and medical reporter. Her works appear in a variety of venues, from VIA to NPR to Scientific American.

…and oodles of others I’m probably forgetting.  [10]

 

Three of those previously mentioned: Back row: the striped shirt and boyish-grin belong to Tim Ferguson; front row: L, Pete get-a-load-of-that-1974-hair Hecht; R Scott Harris, who was engaged in a campaign to get me to leave student government (“The BOC”) and join The Generator staff, which almost excuses his scribbled commentary;
second from R, Janis Carr.

 

Back to the breakfast table of the present: After MH told me about reading SDH’s story, I told him how delighted I was that SDH had shared it, then repeated two observations I’d made many a time: (1) I am amazed at how so many of my high school peers went on to have long careers in “actual” journalism, and, (2) of all the different sub-groups I was involved with in high school – the “gifted’ academic program; athletics; student government; the school newspaper – it is the journalism group I think of most frequently, and most fondly.

I got a good-natured, well-of-course-and-duh-you-are-all-writers reaction from MH the first time I told him that.  This time, his expression was open and interested, beyond mere tolerance mode to an actual, tell-me-more-of-what-you-mean way.

 

Yes, almost exactly like this.

 

And so, I did.

What was so great about that group was that, although they were all different, unique students, definitely not cut from the same “cloth,” politically or personally or socially or emotionally, they were all really…. *smart.*

They were intelligent, if not necessarily in the academically-gifted-program way (most of them were not enrolled in our school’s ‘s gifted program)…but it was more than that.  They were informed and inquisitive; they were both interesting, and interested – attentive to people and events and ideas outside of themselves…which was a refreshing change from the ubiquitous high school, *it’s-all-about-me* mentality.  Even those who “just” reported on sports (sorry, guys) were also conversant on politics and culture – they had a wide variety of interests, beyond their personal (and later, professional) specializations.

And they were, almost without exception, *wicked* funny.

 

 

Trading barbs, making wittily snarky observations of our fellow students – you had to have a thick hide to survive that group, and be able to take it as well as dish it out.  We were fast on the draw, quick to mine any seemingly innocent comment for innuendo potential.  Speaking of which, how convenient of moiself  to provide a segue to this apropos example:  One afternoon during my senior year, I was in our newspaper’s office, shooting the breeze with one of our newspaper’s reporter’s as he had a late lunch. He told me that someone had asked him for a clarification for the usage of the word, * innuendo,* then spat out part of his sandwich when I told him that “innuendo” was Italian for “anal sex.”

*   *   *

Department Of, It’s Her, Again? But She Won Last Month….

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

When you get a bladder infection you know urine trouble.

 

 

*   *   *

May you visit Oregon, but remember to bring your own wings;
May you have fond memories of at least one of your high school “groups;”
May you never reject a potential romantic partner because they
don’t know obscure geographic facts about Bolivia;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] Beating it in ugliness are the state flags of Hawaii (A union jack? Seriously? With all the gorgeous Hawaiian colors to choose from, you steal from the Brits?) and the flags of Georgia and Mississippi, which incorporate part of the Confederate flag, tackily celebrating one of the ugliest chapters in American History.

[2] Vexillology is the study of flag history and symbolism.   Yes, Virginia, there’s an organization for everything.

[3] Oregon was the first state to enact a container-deposit bill (1971);  Oregon’s landmark beach bill  (1967) declares that all “wet sand” within sixteen vertical feet of the low tide line belongs to the state of Oregon, and recognizes public easements of all beach areas up to the line of vegetation, regardless of underlying property rights, so that the public has “free and uninterrupted use of the beaches,” and property owners are required to seek state permits for building and other uses of the ocean shore.   Wikipedia, Oregon Beach Bill

[4] A Canadian married to a Swede.

[5] Well, that and Grey’s Anatomy reruns. And world peace.

[6] Only a select few of my readers will get that reference: My high school’s student newspaper, where I met most of these fine folk,s was named The Generator.

[7] Primarily Parnal Knowledge, my regular op-ed column, plus miscellaneous reporting, ranging from “hard” news to satire to cultural reviews to sports.

[8] The Generator’s faculty advisor (English teacher Ted Clucas), was never happier than when he’d received a parental complaint.  “It proves they’re paying attention – you made somebody think about something!”

[9] Franklin, The Generator’s Editor-in Chief my senior year, displayed support and discretion above and beyond the call of journalistic duty by allowing me free (mostly) range in writing my op-ed column, Parnal Knowledge.

[10] I have not updated this list; some of the members have retired/moved on. One of the “oodles” I forgot to mention was the venerable Peter Schmuck (all together now: yep, that’s his real name), who recently retired from over 30 years of sports reporting for The Baltimore Sun.

The Grumpy Grandpa I’m Not Correcting

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Another Fact Abscess Feminist Ruins A Family Outing  Enlightens A Grateful Grandpa

My offspring, K and Belle, successfully fledged several years ago. When they were young (ages 1-5), their respective daycare/preschool teachers knew that, rain or shine, they wouldn’t be in class on Wednesdays, as that was our zoo/museum outing day.  Nine out of ten times, we’d go to the Oregon Zoo.

Those zoo trips were before the massive, community bond-supported revamping, updating, and expansion of the zoo and its animal habitats. There weren’t many visitors then – particularly on windy/rainy days, which were our favorites, because it often seemed if we had the zoo all to ourselves.  [1]  Several of the zookeepers got to recognize us, and we them. The staff were impressed and amused by K’s and Belle’s flourishing interest in animals and wildlife conservation and liked that we always greeted the keepers by name and asked (or tried to ask) interesting questions about the animals.

That the zookeepers took the time to speak with us (often quite extensively, and when it was obvious they had *real* work to do) is one of several factors moiself  credits for both K and Belle going on to be in the Zoo Teens program while in high school and then majoring in the Biological Sciences in college.

I’d also like to think that I “modeled” or that K and Belle inherited (nature?  nurture?) that interest from me. Moiself  was quite the animal nerd growing up, particularly in grade school.  My parents recognized and encouraged that interest, and for years I always received at least one nature-themed/animal facts book for my birthday and Christmas presents.  Thus, informed and armed, I was able to spoil the fun of many a prepubescent boy – who was trying to be naughty by teasing his female classmates about this AMAZING animal he’d come across – by explaining that a titmouse was in fact *not* a well-endowed rodent, but a petite North American songbird.

 

 

As always, I digress.

One of my interests at the zoo was not only watching my kids watch the animals, but watching the other zoo visitors. In that older version of the zoo, near the Penguin House, there was a habitat wherein dwelt a solitary, enormous, beautiful, Alaskan Brown bear named Marcia  (Marsha? Or Martha? Don’t know the spelling; her name was not on the information card on the habitat; we’d learned about her from the zookeepers   [2] ).

On days when there were many other zoo visitors and we stopped by Marcia’s habitat, inevitably – I mean, without fail – other adults would “mis-identify” the bear.  Always the male visitors (and also quite a few of the females) would remark, to themselves or to the kids who were with them, something along the lines of,

“Wow, get a load of that bear, he’s so big! Look at his paws…”

I would then take the opportunity to say, “Actually, her name is Marcia.” My comment/correction  would oftentimes lead to brief but interesting, personal-connection type conversations about the zoo and the animals, and sometimes my kids and I would learn something new, from a visitor who had talked with a zookeeper at another exhibit and had an interesting animal fact/behavior tidbit to share.  If the person seemed receptive, I would sneak in a factoid about how a zookeeper told me that the majority of the zoo’s resident animals were female…and how another zookeeper, and more than one biologist I’d met, told me that the majority of the world’s biomass is female but that an individual animal’s gender is usually misidentified by non-biologists when they use a pronoun other than “it” to refer to the animal.  For example, if you espy a wild animal when you’re out and about – say, a garter snake when you’re hiking the Wildwood trail in Forest Park – it is most likely a “she snake,” even though you or your hiking companion(s) will probably call it, or think of it as, a “he.”

With two exceptions moiself  can recall, these interactions at Marcia’s habitat were always positive (which is why I kept engaging in them).  In exception #2, an older dude got his grandpa tighty-whities in a knot when I spoke up after he’d pointed out the bear to (what I assumed were) his two grandkids, as well as to moiself and my two kids, and exclaimed, “Look at that HUGE bear – can you guess how strong he is?”

“She sure is something – she’s one of our favorite animals at the zoo!” I cheerfully chirped. “And, actually, her name is Marcia.”

The man’s face slowly but surely morphed into Grumpy Old Man, get-offa-my-lawn!  territory, as his granddaughter waved to the bear and called out, “Marcia – she’s Marcia! Hi, Marcia!”

“Why does that matter?” he said to me. 

“What do you mean?” I asked, not knowing if the “matter” he was wondering about was the bear’s name or its sex.

“Why does it matter?” he repeated, now looking full-blown irritated, as if he thought I were trying to show him up in front of his grandkids (neither of whom were paying any attention to the adults, but were standing with my kids, waving to the bear). “Does it matter if it’s a he or a she?”

Moiself  donned my best, well-practiced, kill him with kindness visage, raised my voice to a perky, non-threatening octave above my usual tone, and delivered my reply with bared teeth pretending to be a smile a friendly grin:

“Well, obviously it does, or you wouldn’t object to being corrected about a simple fact.”

He muttered under his breath and herded his grandkids away from the exhibit. The little girl turned back and called out, “Marcia!  Marcia! Bye, Marcia!”

 

The Brady Bunch Marcia Marcia Marcia GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

*   *   *

Department Of Telling Grandpa Why It Matters

If Grumpy Gramps had stuck around and showed an ounce of amiable interest in the subject, I might have told him that I also would have offered a corrective comment had he misidentified the bear’s species, or its coloration or predation habits or dietary needs (“Look at that black bear/purple grizzly bear/orange sun bear – you know, in the wild, polar bears climb trees to hunt penguins  [3]….”), or any other basic fact about it. An animal’s sex or gender   [4]  is just another one of those basic facts.

The most obvious “proof” as to how important this is, Gramps, is that when I pointed out this particular, simple, factual error, did you notice how many of your feathers got ruffled?

I have taken it upon moiself  to be a “Squirt Gun Ambassador” re the natural world, hoping to incorporate the playfulness/good humor that this childhood summer toy brings to mind, when dealing with this particular issue, which is of importance TO THE ENTIRE WORLD (whether the entire world realizes it or not).

 

 

The SQUIRT gun issue to which I refer is my Sex Question Identification Reparations Therapy ®  crusade, regarding peoples’ tendency to apply male pronouns to all animals they see, unless the animal is obviously female (e.g., nursing its young).  I go the other direction, and use “she” instead of “it” (which I used to always do, and which I’ll get back to doing some day, when people stop defaulting to using “he”) to refer to an animal whose gender is unknown.  My crusade is somewhat analogous to, and in part inspired by, actor Geena Davis’ campaign on gender inequity in entertainment media.

Media is one of the most important factors influencing our values. Women and girls are 51% of the population, but entertainment media is bereft of female characters, with a ratio of approximately 3:1 male characters to female characters since the 1940s.
(Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media )

……When her…daughter was a toddler, and (Davis) started watching movies with her, she realised how woeful the depictions of women in family movies really were.
She was particularly struck by just how few speaking characters in these films were female. She took this point to industry colleagues, but most denied it. Well-meaning and sincere, they couldn’t see a problem.
Davis pressed on – she wanted to see the numbers….she sponsored the largest study carried out on gender depictions in family-rated films and children’s television…and found that for every female speaking-character, there were 2.5 or three male characters – a figure unchanged since 1946.
Furthermore, the vast majority of those female characters were stereotypical or highly sexualised, with ambitions largely related to romance. Even crowd scenes were only made up of 17% women….

 

Hollywood thinks women just don’t like to “gather,” or flee from monsters….

 

“What if we are inculcating generation after generation to believe that low representation of women is the norm?” (Davis) asked her audience.
So her institute commissioned more research: this time, a global study of gender in film in the 10 biggest film markets in the world. The findings were “bleak”: of those characters seen to be holding a job, 77.5% were male and 22.5% were female. Women in leadership and science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM fields were dramatically underrepresented in film, she said, and of the 127 characters that held political office, only 12 were women.
This lack of onscreen depiction contributes to symbolic annihilation, Davis said, by which those that don’t see themselves reflected on screen believe they are unimportant. She quoted damning statistics that show the more hours of television a girl watches, the fewer options she thinks she has in life.

(“How Geena Davis became a champion for women on screen,”
The Guardian, 3-5-17 )

*   *   *

Department Of And While I’m On The Subject…

Can we agree to get rid of those dreadful feminizing/diminishing suffixes appended to people, animals, and professions?

If you come to a party at my house, I am your host, not your hostess.

 

And I won’t be serving these, BTW.

 

Your doctor, if she is a woman, is your doctor, not your doctress. Lions are male and female; there is no need for “lioness” as an identifier. If you name your Aunt Erva in your will as the person who will manage your estate, she should be called your executor, not your executrix.

Still with me, Grumpy Gramps? Since you asked it’s important, to know the animal’s correct gender because girls need to know that what is female is present, in the world, everywhere.  Girls often grow up into women who lack the confidence to move through the world as easily and powerfully as men do, because they don’t think that the world belongs to them.  Unintentionally and sometimes deliberately, girls get presented with skewed perceptions of their “place” – even of simply how many of them there are  [5]   –  in the world.  In the images and examples girls *and* boys are shown, the default for everything is male, especially if the thing in question is perceived as being big and powerful.

It’s important because a person will want to care for the world and that which is in the world, to seek education and take action – from studying to be a geologist to learning to do their own basic auto maintenance and repairs – if they think these things are truly and equally theirs.  If it belongs to you, then you feel a sense of responsibility for it. Despite the progress made in the past few decades, girls (and boys) still look at the world, at the images and descriptions presented to them, and see it as primarily belonging to, and inhabited and ruled by, boys and men.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Remember That Which Will Eventually Kill Those Of Us Who Survive The Rest Of This Ca-Ca?

Global warming/climate change – the human-induced warming of the planet  – has been getting our attention span short shrift these days, what with the pandemic, poor policing of POC and other parts of the panoply of poop parading past.   [6]

After my pitch for gender label inclusivity, I’ve not much energy left for another harangue.

 

 

I’ll leave y’all with this analogy on the subject. At many a dinner party discussion, I’ve listened while friends have lamented the conundrum of how and why otherwise rational-seeming people can ignore the evidence  of climate change and/or that some “aware” people tacitly admit that the evidence is real, but find ways to avoid thinking about it and/or don’t want to act on this evidence because they view any such actions as impeding their current lifestyle, or that they believe that individuals cannot make any significant changes to the problem.

I’ve had to bite my tongue when well-meaning people whom I admire and even love have sincerely claimed not to understand such willful ignorance…because they do the same thing, with regards to the same issue. They are all willing and enthusiastic participators in the environment-razing, carnivore fodder industry.

They all eat (factory-farm grown and processed) meat.

I’ve decided to be silent no more.  I will try my Girl Scout Best  [7]  to *not* be of those self-righteous scolds, but the next time someone starts with the, “How can those people ignore the evidence ?!?!?” wail I will gently point out that their lament is not only rhetorical, but disingenuous. They know, or *should* know, exactly why “those people” want to ignore the evidence of climate change because they themselves use the same rationale for ignoring the evidence on meat consumption:

* because they don’t want to alter their current way of life;

* because they don’t want to make the necessary changes, which they view as making sacrifices and being inconvenienced;

* because they just don’t want to be bothered.

Some of the most thoughtful people I know find ways not to give the problems of animal agriculture any thought, just as I find ways to avoid thinking about climate change and income inequality….
Animal agriculture is now recognized as a leading cause of global warming….
We cannot protect our environment while continuing to eat meat regularly. This is not a refutable perspective, but a banal truism….cows produce an enormous amount of greenhouse gas. If cows were a country, they would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world.
According to the research director of Project Drawdown — a nonprofit organization dedicated to modeling solutions to address climate change — eating a plant-based diet is “the most important contribution every individual can make to reversing global warming.”
Americans overwhelmingly accept the science of climate change. A majority of both Republicans and Democrats say that the United States should have remained in the Paris climate accord. We don’t need new information, and we don’t need new values. We only need to walk through the open door.

 ( “The End of Meat Is Here: If you care about the working poor,
about racial justice, and about climate change,
you have to stop eating animals,” Jonathan Safran Foer,
 NY Times 5-21-20 )

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

 

*   *   *

May you carefully consider which evidence you are choosing to ignore;
May you remember that I’m a writer, not a writress;
May you enjoy an adolescent’s misunderstanding of “titmouse;”
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] I remember at least two occasions where we saw no other human beings, with the exception of the zookeepers and other zoo employees.

[2] And two keepers told me two different names for that bear: “Martha” and “Marcia.”

[3] Despite all the cute cartoons you may have seen, polar bears and penguins never interact. Polar bears are northern pole denizens while penguin species all live south of the equator. And neither of them climb trees.

[4] I realize these are loaded terms, used interchangeably and not always in the same manner, by humans.

[5] The world human population male/female ratio consistently hovers around 50-50,   but you wouldn’t know that if your only statistic in this matter came from your consumption of popular media, where the male characters consistently and overwhelmingly outnumber the female.

[6] I counted at least eight Ps there.

[7] Well, in my case, Girl-Scout-drop-out best….

The Thoughts I’m Not Deepening

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Department Of As The Isolation Lengthens The Thoughts Deepen
(or…not)

These times of uncertainty are also times of having more time – perhaps, too much time – to ponder the great existential questions of our age. All issues, from the profound to the mundane, may come to mind in the blink of an eye…or the punch of a car radio button. 

Dateline: Wednesday, late a.m., driving home from the grocery store. “Those nachos were really hard on my stomach,” moans a voice in a radio ad, which segues into the familiar Pepto-Bismol commercial jingle.  I listen to a chorus of pleasant voices warble the praises of a product which, they assure me, will sooth just about whatever ails a person’s digestive tract, and I wonder about the singers of such jingles.  I assume they do commercials and voice-overs as a way to supplement their income – from what I gather, the life of most professional vocalists is fraught with uncertainty, and they take whatever gigs pay the bills.  Still, I wonder if the young (I’m assuming) man with the lovely tenor voice ever imagined, during all those years in the practice rooms as he was training his “ear,” learning to sight read and honing other skills in pursuit of his BFA in Vocal Performance, that he would one day be in a recording studio to practice holding just the right amount of vibrato on the end syllable of, “diarrhea-aaaaaaaah ?   [1]

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Screaming At People Who Can’t Hear Me
Chapter 375 In A Never-Ending Series

Dateline: May 9, 7 a.m.-ush, out for a walk, listening to the most recent Radiolab podcast: David and Dominique. From the Radiolab website, here is the episode’s description:

David ___ and Dominique ___ have a couple of things in common: they both live in New York, they’re both gay, and they’re both HIV-positive. But David is in his 60s and has been living with the disease since moving to New York in the ‘80s. Dominique, on the other hand, is only in his early 30s…this episode features a very special conversation between David and Dominique about the similarities and differences in their experiences living with HIV.

Dominique, as part of his job working for a gay men’s health crisis type organization, advises people on safe sex practices. In the last third of the interview Dominique talked with David about contracting HIV and the medications he, like David, now must take, for life.  Dominique had been HIV negative, but when he entered into what he thought was a mutually monogamous relationship, he stopped using safe sex practices. David asked Dominique if he is embarrassed about having HIV; Dominique vehemently denied that, and claimed he doesn’t regret anything. Dominique also said that when people find out about his HIV status change, some have asked him if, looking back, would he change things – what would he do different (ly)?

“I wouldn’t change *anything.*  I made a conscious decision to be in love.  If I had to change one thing I will say I wish I were in a relationship with someone who was more honest….but, like, people were saying…”don’t you wished you had ‘wrapped it up,’ and I know this (the question David had asked him, about embarrassment) is not a safe sex question, but no I probably wouldn’t have used a condom because I was in a trusting relationship, we were getting tested, right? So, I wouldn’t change anything…”

 

 

I know what I am *supposed *to think when, someone says something like that.  Moiself  is supposed to think, Oh how honest how brave how heroic/noble.

Instead, I blurted out, to the pavement and the crows perched in the trees, what I honestly and absolutely do think:

“What an idiot!”

What a shallow, non-introspective idiot.

 

 

It’s the same thing I say – usually to moiself –  when I encounter similar declarations from any individual (via personal conversation with a friend or family member or colleague, or reading an interview with or bio about a notable person) who declares that, looking back on their life, they wouldn’t change a thing.

This kind of no-regrets/I-wouldn’t-change-anything assertion (read: humble-brag) is usually/immediately followed by the explanation/justification about how the ups and downs of life, the good the bad and the ugly, have all contributed to their whole persona and/or where they are today….

Now, I don’t disagree with the we-are-everything-that-we-have-done-have-had-done-to-us sentiment. Rather, I take *strong* issue with the idea that *no regrets* is a positive, even admirable, quality for a human being to have, or strive for.

 

Or a thoughtful non-Terran, for that matter.

 

In my opinion, if you have no regrets, you simply have not paid attention.  If you have no regrets, you probably have little empathy. What is the point of self-reflection if you learn nothing from that which, you realize, was a regrettable action on your part?

Can we truly learn from our mistakes if we don’t admit or identify what was a mistake?  And yes, the question of changing one’s actions (“Looking back, what would you do differently?”) can be viewed as moot, since the opportunity to do so has, so far, only presented itself in science fiction movies and novels.  Still, I mistrust a person who says that, knowing what they know now, they would do everything the same. I think a person who confidently makes such a declaration hasn’t *really* thought the question through… or if they have and still hold that absolutist conclusion, they are shallow and/or callous.

Because our mistakes don’t just hurt our own selves.

The young man (YM) whose drunk driving killed my friend’s son (and another passenger in YM’s truck) served a jail sentence for “gross vehicular manslaughter.” I sincerely hope that he put his time in jail to good use; even more sincerely, I hope he never expresses any variation of how, if given the proverbial time travel opportunity, he “wouldn’t change a thing” because now he is more thoughtful and/or learned some bit life lessons, or now he knows from *personal experience* why people should never drink and drive….  There are *so* many other ways YM could have learned those lessons than by causing the death of his friends and the enduring agony of their loved ones.

So, to any of us who have ever (probably in haste and somewhat thoughtlessly) boasted said that we “…have no regrets/ would do everything over again,” moiself  asks,

 

 

You would never take back words said or actions done in anger or haste –  words and deeds that didn’t instigate international armed conflict but nevertheless caused someone acute or ongoing pain?  You would never admit to wishing you’d spent more time getting to know certain people (the shy or nerdy or otherwise “uncool” kid at school or work, or your aging relatives), instead of spending so much time and energy on people (the “popular” gang at school, the influential go-getters at work) whom, if you met ’em today, you wouldn’t give ’em directions to the outhouse?

Yeah, it’s your body and you don’t regret any of those cigarettes,  [2]  Ms. Marching Bravely To The Grave…but it’s never *just* your body, honey.  It’s your friends and family and colleagues who also suffer, physically as well as mentally and emotionally, as they watch you slowly suffocate to death; it’s your colleagues who must pick up the slack at work; it’s the health care system you burden….

Just to be clear, by regrets I’m talking honest self-assessment here, and not in any way encouraging shame-obsessed wallowing (which, in the opinions of both moiself  and the American Psychological Association – jolly good of them to agree with me, don’t you think? –  usually benefits no one).

Moiself  has learned from the “regrets” examples of others, when they have shared what they’ve regretted.  I can think of more than one occasion where I have stopped moiself from doing/saying similar hurtful things or rephrased my thoughts or changed my course of action, because of someone else’s admission of regret for having done something similar. And yes of course, I’ve learned from my own mistakes, but so many of them… well, there were other ways I could have learned those lessons, other ways which did not involve being unkind to other folks. 

I don’t think that people should regret *everything* (that they either knew at the time or that turned out to be a bad move on their part).  I do hold that those who’ve convinced themselves that they regret *nothing* are demonstrating that they have learned nothing about what it means to walk through this world as a sentient being.  To any and all  No-regrets folk, please: Do the world a favor: find a sci-fi time travel machine and go back and work on yourself.

 

Honestly, could a face like this have any regrets?

 

*   *   *

Department of The Corona Virus Playlist
The Honky-Tonk Country Music Edition

There are more sub-genres of Country Music than there are hook extender panels on Dolly Parton’s brassieres’ straps.  Honky-Tonk, a term whose etymology is disputed, generally refers to the kind of music which emerged from early 1900s piano bars which provided country music – often referred to (by the music industry) – as hillbilly music – to entertain their patrons. As per Wikipedia:

Originally, [honky tonk music] featured the guitar, fiddle, string bass, and steel guitar. The vocals were originally rough and nasal, as exemplified by the singer-songwriters Floyd Tillman and Hank Williams, but later developed a clear and sharp sound, such as that of George Jones and Faron Young. Lyrics tended to focus on working-class life, with frequently tragic themes of lost love, adultery, loneliness, alcoholism, and self-pity.

Moiself  has listed some of those exemplars of honky-tonk song titles which are IMHO, applicable to our social-isolating, transmission–paranoid, COVID-19 times, and which, in small groupings, imply a related story.

I’ve Been Out A-walkin’
I’ll Give You Something To Drink About
If Drinking Don’t Kill Me
God’s Gonna Get ‘cha
Your Cheating Heart
Hell Stays Open All Night Long

All My Friends Are Gonna Be Strangers
Blue Side Of Lonesome
We Live In Two Different Worlds
Bridge Washed Out
Don’t Let Me Cross Over

Just Waitin’
I Love You So Much It Hurts
Near You
Nothing Can Stop My Loving You
Drivin’ Nails in My Coffin

We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds
We’re Gonna Hold On
There’s The Door
How Can You Refuse Him Now
When The Grass Grows Over Me

Be Careful Of Stones You Throw
Alone And Forsaken
I Love You So Much It Hurts
I Just Don’t Like This Kind Of Livin’
I’ve Just Told Mama Goodbye

Take These Chains From My Heart
The Angel Of Death
The Old Log Train
Wealth Won’t Save Your Soul
You’re Barkin’ Up The Wrong Tree Now

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Puns about German sausages are the wurst.

 

Nein! Nein! Nein!

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion Evolution  [3]

 

 

And here’s what I made for ours, one day this week.

Featuring this week’s Theme Day (Thirsty Thursday – soup) and recipe:

* Celeriac soup (escorted by garbanzo bean salad, horseradish beets, Chinese broccoli mushroom stir-fry.)

 

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [4]

 

*   *   *

May you truly not have a reason to regret the majority of your regrets;
May time spent reading this blog *not* be one of your regrets;
May jingles about intestinal distress remedies never intrude upon your deep thoughts;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] I wonder how that credit appears on a professional vocalist’s resumé?

[2] A declaration from one (there have been so many) of my relatives who died from smoking-related or caused disease. This particular one had arranged with a doctor she used to work for to insure that nothing related to cancer/smoking would go on her death certificate (she was too proud for what to her would have been an admission, that, as a former nurse, she “should have known better”) .

[3] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 1 of April 2020, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go themes as listed in the 4-3-20 blog.

[4]

* Abject Failure:  I’ll make a canned wieners & SpaghettiOs gelatin mold before I make this recipe again.
* Tolerable:  if you have the proper…attitude.
* Yep: why, sure, I’d share this with my cat.
* Now you’re talkin’: Abby the support Avocado ® approves.
* Yummers: So good, it merits The Purple Tortilla Chip Of Exclamation ® !

 

The Excuses I’m Not Excusing

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Department of War Is Hell
(And Also Entertaining, In A Masterpiece Theatre Production)

MH and I watched season 1 of World on Fire, “an adrenalized, emotionally gripping and resonant World War II drama that follows the intertwining fates of ordinary people in five countries as they grapple with the effects of the war on their everyday lives.” Which is * exactly * how I was going to describe it to y’all, until  Masterpiece Theatre’s website did it first and saved me the trouble of using terms like resonant.

The seven part series, which follows the first year of (the European experience of) WWII, left us looking forward to the second season (not yet available, but in the works).  Moiself  of course wants to see how the *intertwining fates of ordinary people*  plays out; also, I’m curious to see if something moiself  noticed, about the presentation of the series’ male and female characters’ personalities, continues into season two.  

With the exception of an endearingly awkward, ethically decent RAF pilot and a shell-shocked WWI vet-turned-pacifist-activist, the male characters seemed rather and  variously “weak” when it came to overall content of character, from their decision-making, treatment of others, and ability to act on – and modify, as circumstances dictated – their principles.  In contrast, the majority of the female characters, no matter their economic, personal, and cultural backgrounds, displayed a certain ethical, temperamental and intellectual strength, despite the chaos and amorality of the war around them.  I wanted to ask the writers and producers, was this gender character discrepancy intentional?

I’m thinking, yes…or at least, maybe…and that it is,at least in part meant to ironically highlight the strength of the women of that time and in those countries, wherein they were viewed as the “weaker” sex.  In so many, many ways (ways that still are in place, around the world), women, indeed, were “weaker” than their male counterparts:

* Women were “weaker” in that being born female automatically assigned them to a lower status in their country, their religion, their own family;

* Women were “weaker” in that they had fewer (if any, in some cases) civil rights or personal, professional, educational opportunities as compared to men, yet they were subject to life-altering decisions imposed upon them by (male) politicians, religious and cultural leaders, as well as that of their own and husbands, fathers, and male kin;

* Women were “weaker” in that their opportunities for self-determination were limited, and if somehow they were able to take direct action they had to do so at the sacrifice of what was considered a normal life and risk incurring societal shaming and ostracizing;

* Women were “weaker” in that the personal life choices both men and woman made had very different consequences for women than for men (e.g. extramarital sex; bearing vs. fathering a child out of wedlock).

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Talking Back To Someone Who Can’t Hear Me

Dateline: last week, circa 7:45 am on a rainy morning.  Moiself  is listening to a Fresh Air podcast during my morning walk. I’m at the end of the podcast, a slot typically reserved for a book, film or other artistic review.  As book critic Maureen Corrigan begins her segment on “Need A Mental Escape? These Books Offer Solace In Troubled Times,” my mind begins to drift. I’m snapped back to the present when I hear Corrigan, speaking about who she thinks of when she thinks about her favorite food writers, say that she always thinks of:

“…the immortal Laurie Colwin, who died in 1992.

With only the raindrops splashing up from the street to hear me, I blurt out:

“Well then, she wasn’t exactly immortal, was she?”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sometimes I Don’t Even Ask, “What?” (Or, “Why?”)

Sight of the week, spotted at the entrance to our cul-de-sac, while moiself is driving to the grocery store: An Older Gentleman (late 70s, I’d guess), is standing on our street corner, talking to a neighbor (they are a bit closer to each other than social distancing norms would recommend, and neither is wearing a mask).

 

 

As I round approach and then round the corner I see that the OG is holding a…gas dispenser nozzle?  Yep, that’s what it is…in each hand.  OG (consciously or otherwise) uses the nozzles to gesture as he speaks.  Neither nozzle is attached to a hose, or anything else –  they are just nozzles, no gas tank or gas station in sight.

 

“For the last time, Regular or premium, and do you want your receipt?!”

*   *   *

 

Department Of Excuses In The Coronavirus Age

My late mother  [1]  was born and raised in the small northern Minnesota town of Cass Lake.  A reserved, studious, compliant child, she was never what I would (nor she did) describe as introspective or particularly perceptive. Still, every now and then she’d share with me an anecdote from her childhood which demonstrated, even when it was not the point of the story, that she was paying attention to the world of grown-ups around her, and not always liking or respecting what she saw.

Mom was in her early teens during the WWII era. One time when I asked her to recount some of her wartime memories, the first thing she told me was how she’d noticed that so many of the townsfolk, from merchants to private citizens, used The War ® as an all-purpose excuse or evasion for their mistakes, oversights, and outright incompetencies.

Cass Lake was far off the national defense radar; the town was not a hub or conduit for anything of vital importance  [2]  for The War Effort. ®   Of course, there was rationing of certain goods (e.g., gasoline, butter, sugar, canned milk) and shortages of others (e.g., automobile tires; shoe soles, and other rubber items), like in all towns across the country. Everyone knew this and adjusted their habits and expectations accordingly.  But when your mother asked you to stop on your way home from school at the five and dime store and get a spool of (non-rationed) black thread and the shopkeeper told you he was out of black thread but would put in an order and he’d have it next Tuesday…then when you went to the store on Tuesday and there was still no black thread and you timidly inquired as to when your mother could expect it to be in, the shopkeeper would glare at you and dismissively whine,

“Don’t your folks know there’s a war on?”

 

 

War on- schmoron.  You found out later (from a classmate who had an after-school job in the store’s stockroom) that the shopkeeper had written up his re-supply invoices just before closing time, that very day of your first visit – after he’d taken a late lunch (read: three whiskeys) at the tavern. He’d simply forgotten to include your order, as well as the orders of several other customers, who also found out on Tuesday that the ______ (shoelaces/spatula/salt mill/cornhusker’s lotion) they’d requested were not in because,

“There’s a war on.”

The town’s lone barber station was closed for four hours one Friday afternoon, during your father’s regularly scheduled 2 pm appointment.  It was a sunny day; business was slow, and the barber wanted to go fishing during lunch and stayed at the pond later than he’d planned.  The next day, when your father complained to the barber about leaving work and showing up for his appointment only to find that there was no one there to trim his hair, guess what he heard:

“Don’t you know there’s a war on?”

The one movie theater in town oversold their Saturday matinee.  You and your friend bought tickets to the show but could find not one empty seat in the theater, and when you returned your tickets and asked for your money back, or at least tickets to a later showing:

“Don’t you girls know there’s a war on?”

Y’all get the picture.

 

 

Nowadays, we (allegedly) peacetime Consumers ® get the you-know-what excuses, most frequently encountered when we are put on hold during telephone calls (and we’re making more calls then we used to, what with  sheltering-at-home and not taking our concerns directly to the businesses and organizations) to customer service lines.

First, there are the two customary/introductory lies which accompany our journey to the call waiting queue:

* “We’re experiencing a higher volume of calls than usual…”
(WTF, customer service voice dude!?  This is your default/standard message, no matter what day/time of day I call – which means that since you are *always* experiencing a “higher” volume of calls, by definition you are experiencing just a normal volume of calls…which you can’t admit and so you feed me this bullshit line, trying to get me to imagine 500 people calling at the same time as moiself instead of admitting you don’t have the staff to handle a normal amount of customer calls.)

* “We thank you for your patience.”
(Ahem. I do *not* thank you for your presumption.  We’ve never met; you haven’t even spoken with me, yet you are thanking me for my temperament, when I am not in fact experiencing anything resembling patience.)

Now we move on the Situation Specific Mendacity:

* “Due to the coronavirus, we are ______________

* “…taking extra precautions with your newspaper production and delivery…”

* “…dealing with customers who have extra concerns about our services, and we are doing our utmost to ensure that…”

 

 

Attention, companies:  unless you are a health care business, you can’t use the virus as an excuse for putting us in the same holding pattern you’ve been using FOR YEARS.

No, no, and no – the coronavirus has nothing to do with ourcellphone family plan you altered with neither my request nor permission…. And people are not calling your newspaper’s customer service subscription info line to ask about COVID-19 symptoms…nor are they waiting to speak with a Target customer returns representative about how best to administer the Presidentially-recommended COVID-killing bleach enema….  The timeliness and accuracy, or lack thereof, of your responses to our concerns have to nothing to do with COVID-19, and your call centers/customer service department employees are perfectly capable of lying to us/not listening to our complaints working from home, so don’t be using this as yet another excuse for your ineptitude.

*   *   *

Department of The Corona Virus Playlist
The Weird Al Yankovic Edition

Moiself  has listed some of Weird Al’s song titles which are IMHO, applicable to our social-isolating, transmission–paranoid, COVID-19 times, and which, in small groupings, imply a related story. If I were making a movie of these times, Weird Al might just be the person I’d tap to do the soundtrack.

Germs
Cable Tv
I Can’t Watch This
Callin’ In Sick
The Saga Begins

Stuck In A Closet With Vanna White
Amish Paradise
Laundry Day
I’m So Sick Of You
I Was Only Kidding

Livin’ In The Fridge
Free Delivery
Girls Just Want To Have Lunch
Fast Food

I Love Rocky Road
Rice, Rice Baby
Snack All Night
Fat
Fatter
You Don’t Love Me Anymore
Won’t Eat Prunes Again

Everything You Know Is Wrong
Dare To Be Stupid
I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead
Mr. Frump In The Iron Lung

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher who lost her job
because she couldn’t control her pupils?

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion Evolution  [3]

 

And here’s what I made for ours, one day this week.

Featuring this week’s Theme Day and recipe…Never mind.
It was my and MH’s wedding anniversary. We got takeout veggie burgers and tots.  [4]

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [5]

*   *   *

May you enjoy the petty pleasure of talking back to those who can’t hear you;
May you not accept “coronavirus” excuses for non-coronavirus issues;
May you remember to be mellow when you’re dead;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Late as in deceased, not as in chronically tardy.

[2] Except of course for the young men (and women) who joined the Armed Forces – thank you for your service (oh…yeah…they’re all dead now…it’s just a reflex, ya know?).

[3] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 1 of April 2020, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go themes as listed in the 4-3-20 blog.

[4] Cajun spiced, okay?

[5]

* Abject Failure:  I’ll make a canned wieners & SpaghettiOs gelatin mold before I make this recipe again.

* Tolerable:  if you have the proper…attitude.

* Yep: why, sure, I’d share this with my cat.

* Now you’re talkin’: Abby the support Avocado ® approves.

* Yummers: So good, it merits The Purple Tortilla Chip Of Exclamation ® !

 

The Cookbook I’m Not Writing

Comments Off on The Cookbook I’m Not Writing

Department Of You Need This Laugh

And apparently, you may need a toilet plunger if you go to –
or have to go when you’re in [sorry] – Merry Olde England.

You gotta love a travelogue/essay which contains the phrase (referring to the British), “It’s an open question whether they’re better at plumbing or cooking,” soon followed by, “There’s no polite way to begin my testimony. It all started when I took a shit.”  This magnificent piece of potty-permeated prose, written by Lewis Lee, for The Good Men Project, describes the difficulties Lee faced when he tried to acquire a toilet plunger in the UK.

I received this link from observant, well-traveled friend DC, in response to my comment on a picture of a topiary he posted on FB:  I’d compared one of the elaborately pruned hedges in the photograph to a toilet plunger.  After reading this essay, I felt I could skip my core/abs workout of the day, and my sides are still sore from the after-laughter effects. Moiself  is forever in his debt.

My United Kingdom for a Plunger

 

Certainly there must be a plunger for the Royal Loo.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Simple Pleasures
# 3892 in a series

My reading list stretches to infinity. Thus, I am thankful to a certain author for not adding to that (admittedly delightful) burden.  She did so by titling her memoir – think along the lines of, “Love’s Labour, Like, Totally Lost: I Was Runner-up on ‘The Bachelor’ ” – the kind of title which relieves me of the responsibility of giving her book a second glance:

“Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Today’s Blog Title

Indeed, moiself  is *not* writing a cookbook.

 

There, there. Life is full of disappointments; calm yourselves.

 

I do, however, have a title for one.

This is not the only cookbook I haven’t written.  The first one was titled, “Shut Up And Eat This: Cooking For Your Relatives And Your Children.” Literary agents did not leap at the chance to represent that work, imagine that.

The cookbook I am now not writing will be called, Jump to Recipe.

 

 

Yeah; they get it.

A brief explanation…

 

” ‘Briefs’ are a type of short, snug, men’s underwear, aka ‘tighty whities,’ in contrast opposed to looser styles like “boxer shorts’…”

 

Sister, please.

I’ll try again.

A brief explanation, for y’all who perhaps are unfamiliar with food blogs.   [1]  If you search online  for recipes, you will increasingly/more than likely see, under the recipe/blog title (or somewhere near the top of the post), the option, Jump to Recipe  [2].   

It’s an option I appreciate, as in the past few years it seems that every recipe posted online must be accompanied by a certain number of paragraphs of self-indulgent blah blah blahexposition

The verbiage include stories about how the Food Blogger Person ® came up with the recipe, how FBP’s recipe has evolved, how FBP has evolved to be able to even imagine such a combination of ingredients and/or techniques and/or cuisine traditions, followed by what seems to be the obligatory bullet-point list of exclamatory statements re why this is such a great recipe:

* It’s simple!
* It’s tasty!

* It’s like Summer vacation on a sheet pan!
* It uses less than ten ingredients!
* It uses ingredients you will likely have around the house!   [3]

* It won’t give ____ ( your in-laws an excuse to order pizza; your children a reason to make that yucky vegetable face; your pee that weird asparagus smell ) !
* Your ____  (friends; cellmates; boss ) will never guess that this dish is  ____ ( heart-healthy; vegan; plagiarized from a Martha Stewart cookbook ) !

Yep, I’m having some fun with you food bloggers, even as I hope ’tis obvious that moiself is a fan of (some) of y’alls’ works.  That said, as much as there are times when I can appreciate the stellar story behind your stupendous Stavanger Stew, other days, I just want to make a chunky Norwegian soup.  I have my ideas and I want to compare them to yours; I want proportions of ingredients, not a six paragraph saga about how everyone you know (or are related to, or sleeping with, or owe money to…) raves about this recipe, or how by making *your* variation on tahini and avocado toast I will be saving the planet….

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Don’t Try This At Home

Dateline: last Thursday; plenty of time on my hands, as we seem to have These Days ®.  I decided to clean out/reorganize the freezer, and in doing so got a nasty cut on my left index finger, from a hitherto unseen but very sharp part of the freezer’s drain panel.  Now that I can’t fully use it, I’ve been discovering just how many things I do with my left hand, either solo or in comradeship with my (dominant) right hand.

Moiself is not a true ambidext.  [4]  Still, I’ve always done certain things with my left hand, a fact that, for reasons that are not fully understood by moiself, seems to have annoyed certain other people, who’ve then in turn annoyed moiself  by pointing it out:

“Hey, I thought you were right-handed?”

“I am.”

“Then why are you ______ with your *left* hand, huh ?!?!?
 (dealing cards; dialing the phone; picking your nose;
reaching for a second helping of asparagus….)

It was a nasty cut, requiring butterfly bandages. The amount of blood in one’s fingers is impressive.  And it never would have happened had I not had time on my hands, which led to blood all over my hands…

THE  CORONA  VIRUS  IS  TRYING  TO  KILL  ME.

*   *   *

Department Of Right Is Wrong About Left

“Speaking” of left hands….

* a left-handed compliment is not one you want to receive;

* “out of left field” means unexpected, odd, or strange;

* The French word for “left,” gauche, in English means, “lacking social grace;”

* The code of Muslim hygienical jurisprudence – yep, it exists   [5] – decrees that  “the anus must be washed with water using the left hand after defecating.”
( from Islamic Toilet Etiquette, – yes, the subject gets its own Wikipedia entry,) 

* The association of the directional left with evil is likely attributed to the dominance of right-handed people within a population…. Left-handed people comprise only 10 percent of the population, and the preference for the left hand…was attributed to demonic possession, leading to accusations of witchcraft….
The Ancient Celts worshiped the left side, associating it with femininity and the fertile womb. But beginning with the appearance of Eve on Adam’s left side in accounts of Genesis, the Christian tradition finds instances of the left side being pinned to immorality….
Sinister, today meaning evil or malevolent in some way, comes from a Latin word simply meaning “on the left side.” …biblical texts describe God dividing people into groups on Judgement Day, saving those on the right while those on the left are “cursed into everlasting fire.”   [6]

 In the 20th century, anthropologists and psychologists identified left-handedness as a biological anomaly, one associated with deviancy but that could be corrected away with behavioral reinforcement.
(The Left Hand of (Supposed) Darkness, Merriam-Webster )

* In the Middle Ages, lefties were associated with the devil and often accused of witchcraft, and even as recently as the 20th century, left-handed students were forced to learn to use their right hand.
( “21 Things You Didn’t Know About Left-Handed People” )

 

My father was once considered to be one of those biological anomalous deviants – a natural born lefty, he was forced to write “right.”

From a very young age I noticed that, besides his distinctive (read: hard to decipher) script, there was something unusual about my father’s handwriting; specifically, the process. He would never casually grab a notepad and pen and get right to it:  from a personal letter to simply adding an item to a grocery list, writing seemed to involve much more concentration for him than for everyone else.  I’d watch him as he would pick up a pen or pencil and  grasp it carefully, using an extra second of effort that was probably undetectable to most people; then he’d adjust his grip and make small, almost imperceptible circle with the writing implement before setting it on the paper.  He wrote very carefully and laboriously, as if some Higher Authority had given him A Very Important Task – ala transcribing the Dead Sea Scrolls – and he’d be punished if he made one mistake. Turns out, the latter was likely his (subconscious) fear.

I heard the explanation from his older sister Marie, on her one and only trip West to see her brother’s family (I happened to be visiting my folks during a college break).  My aunt and I got to chatting privately, with moiself  wanting to hear stories of my father as a child. She obliged with tales of his “naughtiness,” some of which I’d heard from him (e.g., ditching the school bus to go skinny-dipping in the river with his friends), but I was riveted by one that was new to me:  from infancy, as soon as he could move his quavering hands, little Chester Bryan Parnell would reach for objects with his left hand. That was “wrong,” of course, Marie said; thus; their parents would take the object from Chet’s left hand, put it in his right hand, slap his left hand ( so he would know it was the “bad side”), and admonish his siblings to do likewise. She said between the vigilance of his parents and his three older siblings, Chet had mostly been broken him of that “bad habit’ by the time he went to grade school – then the teachers took over and helped him to write “properly.”  [7

I was gobsmacked by this, but hid my astonishment – and disgust at the ignorance and superstition involved – from my aunt…as  well as her story, from my father, until I’d confirmed it with another of his sisters, Lucille.  Lucille admitted it, adding that in these modern times we all understand how some people are just natural left-handers, but folks didn’t know that back then, and Chet’s family and the teachers were just trying to help him do “the right thing.”

When I spoke to my father about his leftist tendencies he said he had only vague memories of being forced to do things right-handed.  To my surprise, he also said he’d become aware, later in life, about with the fact that forcing someone to use their non-dominant hand can have negative effects on brain development….but that it was too late for him to change “back,” after a lifetime of having his “cross-wiring” reinforced.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Wait, I’m Almost Serious

I put this out on Facebook this week.  I’m still waiting for offers from directors (and cinematographers, and actors, and….):

I’m looking for a film student and/or budding director to turn my fantasy into cinematic reality. Here’s my pitch:

“They whine; they pout; they never go out… It’s every parent’s nightmare – stuck in isolation with a QuaranTEEN .”

* “So, like, you stood in line for three hours to get TP but you forgot to stock up on Mountain Dew?! Thanks so much for raising me.”

* “You can’t limit my screen time – the CDC says it helps with, like, physical isolation…what are you, my parents or my parole officers?”

* “All my friends’ parents are letting them drive to Taco Bell because they trust them to like, help out with the family for food supplies and stuff. You’re the worst parents ever.”

* “I’m supposed to care about all the old people but we’re, you know, like, the future of the nation, and there is no grad night, no prom, no senior ditch day for us, and those grandpas and grandmas got to have that when they were our age and so now they think they’re suffering?”

* “Oh yeah, like, thanks *so much* for picking up the stuff in my room, but you put the remotes so far from my bed…”

* ” Only a fucktard would wear a mask like that, and you can’t make me….”

* “Dad threw away my Axe body spray and said I can’t use it until this shelter inside thing is over – he *wants* me to get PTSD!”

 

 

*   *   *

Department of The Corona Virus Playlist
The “Shock Rock” Edition

Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, and Marilyn Manson and are acts associated with the rock/heavy metal genre Shock Rock, which combines music with over-the-top live performances borrowing staging elements from horror movies, including special effects, fake blood, masks and body paint, and sometimes provocative behavior from the groups and/or lead singer.

Moiself  has listed some of those acts’ song titles which are IMHO, applicable to our social-isolating, transmission–paranoid, COVID-19 times, and which, in small groupings, imply a related story.

Brutal Planet
Freedom
Breaking All The Rules
He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask
Hey Stoopid
I Love the Dead

The Dope Show
Coma White
Disposable Teens
Overneath the Path of Misery
Astonishing Panorama of the End Times

Bark At The Moon
If I Close My Eyes Forever
Paranoid
Schools’ Out
Welcome to My Nightmare

*   *  *

Pun For The Day

Billy:
“So, you saw a group of cats so numerous it stretched
all the way to the horizon?”

Sally:
“Yes, as fur as the eye can see.”

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion  Evolution  [8]

And here’s what I made for ours, one day this week

Featuring this week’s chosen Theme Day (Mushroom/Miso/Mustard Monday) and recipe:

* Mushroom gravy over millet
(chaperoned by Roasted garnet yam, scallions and cider vinegar salad; Mojo de ajo asparagus; whole wheat naan.)

My rating: 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [9]    

*   *   *

May you know your left from your right;
May you fantasize your own quarantine movie;
May you carefully judge a book, even an unwritten one, by its title;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] The authors of which, IMHO, are not-so-secretly hoping that they  too can experience the 15 minutes of fame experienced by the food blogger who was the co-subject of the movie, Julie & Julia,

[2] Which, of course, makes moiself wonder how that came about? If food bloggers somehow realized readers left after a paragraph or ten describing how they really weren’t interested in how your variation on hummus came your fantasizing about a trip to Morocco….or a critical mass of readers left comments saying, “Look, I’ll come back if you’ll just let me get to the recipe, please?”  If you’re curious as to whence its (the JTR option’s) origin, here’s the take from one food blogger, who added the JTR option (although she initially opposed it).

[3] I always think, “Oh,  like…dust?”

[4] Is that a word – if you’re ambidextrous, you are an ambidext? I’ve decided it is, and that the world needs this word. You’re welcome, world.

[5] It’s the Qadaa’ al-Haajah.

[6] Matthew 25:32

[7] Teachers would use a ruler or worse to smack the knuckles of any child who tried to write left-handed.

[8] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 1 of April 2020, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go themes as listed in the 4-3-20 blog.

[9]

* Abject Failure:  I’ll make a canned wieners & SpaghettiOs gelatin mold before I make this recipe again.
* Tolerable:  if you have the proper…attitude.
* Yep: why, sure, I’d share this with my cat.
* Now you’re talkin’: Abby the Support Avocado ® approves.
* Yummers: So good, it merits The Purple Tortilla Chip Of Exclamation ® !

 

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