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Department Of Are You Mortal?

Moiself, too.  So, why do we act as if we think are not?

I highly recommend the latest edition of the podcast Clear + Vivid. In a moving and candid conversation – frequently seasoned by laughter (which might be surprising to some, given the subject matter) – podcast host Alan Alda talks with his guest, author and Rabbi Steve Leder,  about the inevitability of death, and grief. These are subjects people usually avoid, which, Leder says, only adds to the losses people inevitably face in life.

At one point in their conversation, as Alda and Leder discussed the importance of acknowledging our mortality, Alda said,  “Talk some more about this. ‘Cause you still haven’t convinced me to die.”  Leder’s response, which prompted laughter from both men, was, “Well, I don’t have to.”

Leder has written a book (“The Beauty of What Remains: How Our Greatest Fear Becomes Our Greatest Gift”) which Alda describes as “…a moving, inspiring and often funny book about the loss of loved ones.”  Although Leder has officiated at more than 1,000 funerals, he found his own preconceived notions of grief – what it is and “how” to do it – challenged when his beloved father died.

I love it when Someone With Experience And Authority ® confirms a suspicion I’ve had for years.  Thus, thank gawd (sez the atheist) that Leder disagrees with the “Five  [1]   Stages of Grief” mythology.  Leder says we have “been done a terrible disservice” with this idea that there are stages or phases of grief, which implies that grief is a linear process (“First you will deal with Stage A, then you will feel Stage B…”).

Grief is non-liner; Leder declares. It is much more analogous to waves:

“They come very close together and are very large at first. They do spread out, and sometimes you even get beautiful, calm seas for a day, a week, a month, a year…. And then sometimes, when your back is turned, there can be a massive wave of grief that takes you down.  And that is not ‘stages.’

Before my father died, what I used to say to people is, ‘Look, the most honest and helpful think I can say to you right now is that it won’t always hurt so much.’ And I don’t say that anymore.  Now I say, ‘It won’t always hurt so *often.*’ Because when it hurts, it hurts every bit as much.”

 

 

*  It’s who we have, not what we have, that matters.

*The beauty of the flower is that it fades.

*The meaning of life is that it ends.

* Understanding the ephemeral nature of life – choosing to acknowledge that we don’t have forever – makes things great and small (our children and friends; a hot fudge sundae) more precious, not less.

These and other observations which Leder shares and expounds upon are no less profound for their relative simplicity.  Check out the entire interview:  “Make the End a Beginning” Clear + Vivid.

 

Alda and Leder also have an interesting chat about what is revealed by what people put on their gravestones.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Reality Checks

As in, my attempt to provide one.  No doubt I will need one as well, if moiself  thinks that my feedback will either get a response (I doubt it/am not expecting it) or make a difference (I hope it will).

The following feedback was sent by moiself , earlier this week, to Shankar Vedantam, the science journalist and host of one of my favorite podcasts, Hidden Brain.

Dear Mr. Vedantam,

Love your show; regular listener here.  As per your interview on “Useful Delusions,” re your upcoming book of the same name, I cringed to hear you give credence, even in the context of how people respond to stress, to that  “…old proverb, ‘There are no atheists in the foxhole’….”

Yes, it is an old proverb. Old, insulting, and lousy – as in, inaccurate.

I wish you’d do a story on that.

An atheist-themed festival drew hundreds of people to an Army post in North Carolina on Saturday for what was believed to be the first-ever event held on a U.S. military base for service members who do not have religious beliefs.
Signs in support of atheism are seen during the “Rock Beyond Belief” festival at Fort Bragg army base in North Carolina March 31, 2012. The atheist-themed festival drew hundreds of people to Fort Bragg on Saturday for what was believed to be the first-ever event held on a U.S. military base for service members who do not have religious beliefs.
Organizers said they hoped the “Rock Beyond Belief” event at Fort Bragg would spur equal treatment toward nonbelievers in the armed forces and help lift the stigma for approximately 295,000 active duty personnel who consider themselves atheist, agnostic or without a religious preference.
Defense Department policy holds that all service members have the right to believe in any or no religion. But those gathered at the event described being ostracized and harassed in the military community for not believing in God and worried about getting passed over for promotions if their secularist stances were widely known.
( “Military nonbelievers’ event shows there are atheists in foxholes.” (Reuters)

Not only have there *always* been atheists in foxholes, the FFRF   [2]  periodically bestows an award, “Atheists in Foxhole,” to commemorate that fact:

“This award was suggested by Vietnam War vet…Steve Trunk, to combat the ridiculous myth that there are no “atheists in foxholes,” and, in particular, to recognize activism to defend the constitutional principle of separation between state and church which every soldier takes an oath to uphold.”

To repeat: there are and have always been “atheists in foxholes;” however, they often have compelling reasons to remain in the foxhole/closet while they serve in the military. Religion-free soldiers can feel that they face an equal or greater danger from their fellow soldiers and commanding officers than from enemy fire, if their religious comrades discover that they are not religious believers.

“When Specialist Jeremy Hall held a meeting last July for atheists and freethinkers at Camp Speicher in Iraq, he was excited, he said, to see an officer attending.
But minutes into the talk, the officer…began to berate Specialist Hall and another soldier about atheism….
Major Welborn told the soldiers he might bar them from re-enlistment and bring charges against them….
Specialist Hall and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group, filed suit in federal court in Kansas, alleging that Specialist Hall’s right to be free from state endorsement of religion under the First Amendment had been violated and that he had faced retaliation for his views. (Specialist Hall) was sent home early from Iraq because of threats from fellow soldiers.
( “Soldier Sues Army, Saying His Atheism Led to Threats,” NY Times )

Staff Sgt. Richlin Chan, who served in Afghanistan, is an “Atheist in Foxhole” who was profiled in the FFRF’s newsletter, Freethought Today (June/July 2010). Chan told this story:

In 2007, a soldier named Jeremy Hall was threatened and persecuted by fellow soldiers and a higher-ranking officer for holding an atheist meeting in Iraq.  After a firefight in which a protective screen deflected enemy fire, his commander later asked him if he believed in god.  Jeremy responded, “No, but I believe in plexiglass.”

If you’re interested, other resources include the MAAF (Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers); “I was An Atheist in a Foxhole,” (American Humanist Association) ; “The US Military Has a Problem With Atheists,” (The Week);  “Military atheists seeking the rights and benefits offered to religious groups”(Stars and Stripes).

Yours in the never-ending battle to temper inaccurate proverbs with reality checks,

 

 

*   *   *

Lest you think my picking that certain nit   [3]  spoiled the podcast for me, it did not.  I found the (rest of the) episode (Hidden Brain: Useful Delusions) quite enjoyable.  Of particular interest to moiself  was Shankar’s exposition on the adaptive or “useful” effects that delusional thinking can have, as well as the phenomenon of “naive realism.”

Naive realism allows us to judge others for engaging in what we’d call delusional thinking, while we convince ourselves that we, even in the same position as a desperate person, would never, say, vote for a demagogue or buy a snake oil potion/miracle cure, etc.  Vedantam illustrates this with a personal story of his own.  Several months ago, while travelling several hours from his home, Vedantam suffered a retinal detachment.  He had to seek emergency medical care, without having time to check reviews or get recommendations for a doctor or weighs pros and cons of treatment options. He found a doctor who was willing to open his practice up at 9 pm and see him. The doctor said Vedantam had to have emergency surgery ASAP or he would lose his eyesight. And so, Vedantan did….

“…what all of us do, in positions of great vulnerability: I put all my faith and trust in this doctor. Now, as it turned out, he was a brilliant surgeon and he ended up saving my eye, for which I am profoundly grateful. But imagine for a moment that he had not been a brilliant doctor; let’s imagine if he had been a charlatan. Would it have been any less likely for me to put my faith in him? And I would argue the answer is no, because my faith in him did not arise because of what *he* did, my faith arose because of what *I* was going through.

I was going through a period of great vulnerability, a period of great fear. Trusting him made me feel better…. Expand this in all kinds of ways, and you can see why people sometimes gravitate to beliefs that are false, to demagogues and false prophets. It’s not so much because of the demagogues and false prophets, it’s because of their own vulnerabilities.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of My Favorite Euphemisms

Dateline: last weekend, listening to a podcast in which anthropologists discussed the DNA sequences found from human bodies in caves in Siberia, Spain, and Croatia.

What the anthropologists found shows evidence of human-Neanderthal interbreeding as far back as 100,000 years ago. What I found was a delightful, heretofore-unknown-to-moiself, synonym…genteelism…rewording.

According to scientists, early humans and Neanderthals engaged in

“gene flow events.”

Aka, sex.

This substitute term should be a relief to teens everywhere. Despite their legendary taking of delight in shocking their elders by singing along to salacious pop song lyrics, teens are notoriously squeamish, to the point of disgust, when it comes to even thinking about the fact that their parents might have hooked up with one another in order to produce their offspring.  Chill, Ethan and Emma: your mother and father didn’t get it on. They merely engaged in a gene flow event.

 

 

*   *   *

Department of, Bingo!

But when Abby and I announced our relationship, the first article…said, “Abby Wambach in love with Christian mommy blogger.”…So the rest of the world picked up that one  — and now on my tombstone, no matter what else I do, it’ll say Christian mommy blogger…. I feel like it’s the most misogynistic, ridiculous title ever. Because no male activist or New York Times bestseller is described as a daddy…or by his religion.
( Glennon Doyle, from the podcast, Sway, 2-25-21)

I’m somewhat new to Sway, but after listening to a few episodes I’m impressed with the variety of guests and topics.  Hosted by Kara Swisher, “Silicon Valley’s most feared and well-liked journalist,” the podcast’s focus is “power: who has it, who’s been denied it, and who dares to defy it.” In the episode whence the above quote, Swisher interviews Glennon Doyle, best-selling author and activist previously best known – or rather, labeled – as a Christian-LGBTQ-friendly blogger and “confessional” writer, and most recently getting (unwanted) tabloid-type attention in the past few years for divorcing her (cheating) husband and marrying US soccer star Abby Wambach.

The reason for Doyle’s interview On Sway was Doyle having been named by many of Joe Biden’s campaign strategists as the person whose campaign endorsement, they believed, would influence women the most. The part of the interview that interested me the most was when Doyle shared her reactions to the male-values-dominated worlds of publishing and book reviews and publicity.   [4]   Doyle rejects the labels that have been put upon her, including “self-help expert” and “mommy blogger,” as reductive and misogynistic. 

Doyle:
“…I think that it’s very often the case that when a man puts work out into the world, the world looks at the work and says, ‘Is this work worthy?’ And I think that when a woman puts work out into the world, the world looks at the woman and says, ‘Is this woman worthy of putting out work?’
For example, the first big article that was put out about (her new memoir) in a big newspaper, the headline was, ‘Glennon Doyle writes third memoir?’ Question mark, question mark.”

Kara Swisher:
“As if you shouldn’t have many memoirs in you. That’s the suggestion.”

Doyle:
“Like, ‘Jesus Christ, this woman is going to say a *third* thing? We already let her say two things. She said two things, and then she’s going to come back and say a third thing. Who does this person think she is.’  Right?’
Sedaris came out with his new book, and it was like, ‘David Sedaris releases 158th memoir.’  Not, question mark, question mark.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Not My Fault; My Mind Just Goes To These Places

Apropos of nothing I can think of, while coming back from a walk the other day I mused about ways to get junior high school aged students interested in “classic” works of literature. I’ve heard many a teacher say that engaging that age group (particularly for the boys) will determine whether reluctant readers will show interest in, for example, the plays of William Shakespeare.

So, considering the age group, I humbly suggest this approach:

֍   Shakespearean Gas Theater   ֍

English, literature, and drama teachers can search the internet databases for well-known Shakespearean lines which can be altered and/or…uh, illustrated…as per the theme.

From Twelfth Night, the name of character Sir Toby Belch fits right in with those certain enhancements which tween actors could give to the delivery of Sir Toby’s classic lines:

”Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous,
there shall be no more cakes and….Baaaaaaaarrrrrrraaasaaaapppp…ale?

 

And, let’s face it, few 12-year-old boys want to play the lead male role of Romeo and Juliet‘s 14th century lovestruck Italian teen.  But when the line Romeo calls out to Juliet (in the famous balcony scene) is transformed, boys will be jostling for the opportunity to raise their arms in supplication and cut the cheese with romantic gusto while reciting,

“What wind thorough yonder window breaks.”

Then again, maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t pursue a career as an Arts in Education consultant.

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

When a road construction worker farts, don’t blame him – it’s his asphalt.

 

“I want no part of this juvenile humor.”

 

*   *   *

May you write as many memoirs as you have in you;    [5]

May you appreciate the beauty of that which will fade;

May you be lucky enough to have an atheist beside you in the foxhole;

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Or nine…or seven…or twelve.  Different self-appointed grief experts have different numbers, but most people are familiar with psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross‘s five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

[2] The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a non-profit founded in 1978, is the nation’s largest association of Atheists, Agnostic, Freethinkers, Humanists and Skeptics .

[3] This particular issue is more the size of a glacier than a nit, as the number of the non-religiously affiliated and atheists – and thus the number of people insulted and mischaracterized by such inaccurate adages – continues to grow/be revealed.

[4] A subject about which I have both opinions and experiences, as regular and/or long time readers of this blog may know.

[5] Well, maybe not 158.

The Rovers I’m Not Naming

Comments Off on The Rovers I’m Not Naming

Department Of This Is Why I’m Not In Charge Of Such Things

Dateline: Thursday (yesterday), 2-18-21, 12 noonish; watching coverage of the Perseverance rover landing on Mars.  [1]  There was plenty of time to consider the ground-breaking implications of space exploration for humanity while all the TV talking heads filled the time until the actual landing.  Thus, I got to wondering: what is it about the names of these planetary probes – who gets to choose them, and what are the guidelines?

Spirit; Opportunity; Curiosity; Pathfinder; Perseverance

It seems NASA’s Mars program is partial to names denoting desirable/adventurous personality traits.  The launch and landing stages of the probes are certainly WOW events. But I’m thinking of the decades of the less glamorous work behind the scenes to get these devices to those stages.  What about honoring the less flashy but essential characteristics necessary for progress and harmony, when you’re working for years with a team of people, sometimes under stressful circumstances?

I humbly submit my nominations for the names of future Mars (or, Jupiter or…?) rovers:

Diligence

Reliability

Punctuality

Maturity

Tolerance

Composure

Sufficiently Caffeinated

Respectful Personal Hygiene

 

Introducing NASA’s next Mars Rover, “Fiscal Responsibility”

 

*   *   *

Department Of More Lists

I overheard a conversation in a grocery store between two employees, something about “…best inventions of the century.” We’re only one fift  into the 21st century, but of course (as moiself  discovered when I returned home and Googled the concept) individuals, news organizations and other companies have already started compiling lists.

Most of them overlap; “best” is of course a subjective rating; some of the entries, it could be argued, span both centuries (do you count an invention as being of this century on the date it became available to the public/was put into use, or the date when someone first started working on it?) .  [2]   All that considered, the more common entries include

*  Smart phones
*  Online banking
*  3-d printing
*  CRISPR  gene editor
*  The contraceptive patch
*  Augmented reality
*  Blockchain platforms
*  High density battery packs
*  Online streaming

After scanning the fifth such list, I noted a glaring omission common to all of them:

Where was the inclusion of Poo-Pourri ?!?!?!?     [3]

Not only it is a great product, the makers of Poo-Pourri are responsible for arguably The. Funniest. Product. Commercial. Ever.   [4]   If you have never seen this commercial, then you obviously have a more fulfilling and important life than I do need to inform yourself as to this cultural milestone of marketing:

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Bill Gates Please Save The World

“Gates isn’t just looking to cut future carbon emissions, he is also investing in direct air capture, an experimental process to remove existing CO2 from the atmosphere. Some companies are  now using these giant fans to capture CO2 directly out of the air, Gates has become one of the world’s largest funders of this kind of technology.”
( “Bill Gates: How the world can avoid a climate disaster,” 60 Minutes 2-15-21 )

Three times in the past three weeks I’ve encountered the term direct air capture, used in relation to our global warming crisis. Each time, the part of my heart that is still 12-years-old jumps for joy.

Direct air capture (as per Wikipedia):
Direct air capture (DAC) is a process of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) directly from the ambient air (as opposed to capturing from point sources, such as a cement factory or biomass power plant) and generating a concentrated stream of CO 2 for sequestration or utilization or production of carbon-neutral fuel and windgas. ….DAC was suggested in 1999 and is still in development….

Actually, a form of DAC was suggested by moiself, over two decades earlier than 1999.  I, like, invented DAC.  In your dreams, you may say. Well, literally, yes.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (Southern California, early 1970s) we had smog alerts several times during my 7th grade year, when the air quality got so bad it hurt to breathe, and PE classes were cancelled.

 

You’re not supposed to “see” the air, right?

 

During that PE downtime I would think about why we weren’t doing our 800 yard run trials.  Air pollution – not only do we have to stop adding to it, we need to get that existing gunk out of the air.  What about some kind of sieve or filter – which work for liquids, so why not tweak the concept to strain the air?  I would dream about it at night; I had dreams about enormous fan-type devices which would suck in air, filtering out the pollutants and spewing out clean air while compressing the particulate matter into bricks and other building materials which could be used for housing, road surfaces, bridges….

Yes, dreams, as in plural. It was weighing heavily upon my mind. For a period of several weeks I thought about it a lot, even confiding in my math teacher after class one day.  I asked him if he knew some science teachers, maybe in high school,   [5]  with whom I could talk to about my idea. He laughed at me – not cruelly, but certainly patronizingly, and said that I had no concept about the complicated technology which would have to be involved – which would have to be invented – for such an undertaking.  [6]

My school stopped having smog alerts and I stopped having those dreams.  Moiself  looks forward to not having to dream about such things, ever again, in the very near future.

 

How complicated could such an invention be?

 

*   *   *

The Commercial I’m Not Filming

Yours truly came across the following ad recently.

 

 

Imnagine that, an ad for yet another product or regimen to stop/reverse “the aging process.”   [7]

Moiself  fantasized about shooting a commercial for *my* secret tips to stop the aging process.  Seven seems an excessive number, so I’ll cut it down to five.  The commercial will open with scenes of people sending me money for my secret/sure-fire tips to stop the you-know-what process, followed by scenes of my anti-aging goon squad who show up at said people’s houses or surprise them on the streets, and stop their aging process via:

  1. pushing them in front of a bus
  2. running them over with a bus
  3. dropping a bus on top of them as they stand at a bus stop
  4. lacing their morning coffee with arsenic
  5. slipping a sedative in their dinner wine and setting fire to their house while they sleep

The final scene shows friends at the deceased’s open casket funeral, murmuring enviously to one another, “She doesn’t look a day older than yesterday.”

 

“Did you see her – she’s actually dead!”
“Yes, but at least she’s not getting any more wrinkles.”

 

 

*   *   *

“One of the things that Teller and I are obsessed with, one of the reasons that we’re in magic, is the difference between fantasy and reality.”
(Penn Jillette, of the magic duo Penn and Teller)

“It isn’t automatic that if you learn magic you’ll become a skeptic of the supernatural,” said D.J. Grothe, president of the Virginia-based James Randi Educational Foundation, which debunks supernatural claims and was founded by Randi.
    “But knowing magic does give you a leg up on how the mind works and how easy it is to be deceived. And from there, skepticism can be a fortunate result.”
(“Magicians say their craft makes them see faith as just hocus-pocus,”
The Christian Century, 10-27-11 )

I have long been drawn to the philosophy of modern-day magicians, even though the what-they-do part – the actual “magic” –  doesn’t particularly hold my interest.  It has been years since I’ve been to a magic show, and although I avoid Las Vegas like the proverbial plague (I think moiself  is allergic to neon), if I were there, The Penn and Teller show is the one show I’d try to get tickets to.

 

Well, that and a show featuring Amazonian-stature women dressed as roosters.  Because, you know, culture.

What interests me is (something which magicians themselves have pointed out) the similarity of “tricks” used by magicians and politicians and religions.  Magic acts, religious leaders and texts, and extreme political ideologies are similar in that they employ physical and psychological methods to fool people into believing something that they otherwise would have/should have known is patently untrue ( The man did not pull a quarter from your nose…but gosh darn it, it sure looked like he did).  Ultimately, magicians and demagogues and priests don’t have to fool people, because by using a combination of visual, oral, and intellectual illusions, they get people to fool themselves.

 

 

I recently tuned into my favorite podcast on communication and science, Clear + Vivid , and was pleased to hear that C+V host Alan Alda’s guest was Penn Jillette (aka “the talking half “of Penn and Teller).  In Magic, Tricks, and Us, Penn explored this question:


When we see a magic trick, is the magician fooling us,
or are we fooling ourselves?

 

 

Jillette’s thesis is that “magic tricks” are a test of how we process reality:

“If you’re lying to somebody, they’ll catch you. But if you get someone to lie to themselves, you’ve got ’em.  And that is what we’re (magicians) always trying to do: get people to make assumptions…because they’ll put up a wall around me, but if I can come around the edge, we can fool ’em that way.

He talks about illusions v. tricks, and how he prefers the latter:

“Tricks are ideas that you get someone to…to lie to themselves. Because the trick, instantly, deals with one of the most important subjects we can deal with, which is how we establish what’s real; how we agree on a reality.  For me, doing magic is a playful epistemological experience. We are playing around, in a safe zone, with how we establish what’s true.  We’ve seen what happens when truth is played with on a real stage, in the real world…and it’s horrific.   If you come to see a Penn & Teller show and you say, if these two guys can make me think something that’s patently not true, what can people with a real budget, and a lack of morals, do?”

Penn, an atheist and advocate science and of reality-based thinking, briefly addressed criticism that atheists don’t accept or appreciate “mystery” in the world.

“Atheists are often accused of ‘not accepting the mystery,’ and it’s exactly the opposite. Atheists are very happy going, ‘Hmm, I don’t know.’
Reality-based thinking is actually more in love with mystery than magical thinking.  When scientists said, ‘I don’t know,’ they had more love of the mystery than someone who said, ‘I do know, and it’s god.’
The three most important words of the scientific method are, ‘I don’t know.’ Those were not said until 500 years ago. Priests and rulers and kings, they always knew. Scientists came along and went, ‘I don’t know.’  Those three words are to me the scientific method.”

What spurs scientific investigation in the first place is recognizing and admitting what we don’t know, followed by harnessing the curiosity and freedom to investigate. We all benefit from the science that springs from admitting what we don’t know about a natural phenomenon, rather than being “given” incomplete, incorrect, or simply nonsensical non-answers (“Allah willed it;” “Jehovah did it,” “Pele/Isis/Jesus sent the plague/rains/tornado/volcanic eruption to punish/reward/bless/remind us….”)

 

 

“I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.”
“I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.”
( Richard Feynman, theoretical physicist, professor, and avid bongo player )

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Harry Houdini used to use lots of trap doors in his magic act.
He’s stopped that now; he was just going through a stage.

 

*   *   *

 

May you appreciate the difference between questions that can’t be answered
and answers that can’t be questioned;
May you be careful what you wish for when it comes to “the aging process;”
May we all realize how truly cool it is that we have another rover on Mars;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Did you see it?  The announcers did a great job of transmitting the NASA/JPL team members’ “Seven Minutes of Terror,” as you think about how butt-frostingly complicated such a mission is, and how many things can go wrong….

[2] Foer example, the contraceptive patch was first available to the public in 2002 but had been in development and testing long before then.

[3] Aka, “The before-you-go toilet spray.”

[4] Yes, of course, that’s in my opinion. This is my blog; whose opinion were you expecting?

[5] Solving the world’s air pollution problems might be too ambitious for junior high, I reckoned.

[6] Neither did he, of course.  I often wonder if I’d been a 13-year-old boy instead of a girl, and come to him with the same idea, would he have encouraged me to study engineering and solve that problem?

[7] As in, wrinkled skin.

The Songs I’m Not Censoring

1 Comment

Gung hay fat choi!

Happy Lunar New Year to my Chinese friends and family, and all who celebrate it.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of At Least They Didn’t Start A Forest Fire

“A 26-year-old Michigan man died on Saturday after he was hit with shrapnel from ‘a small cannon type device’ that exploded when….”

This is how the news article began. What words, would you think, could possibly complete the article’s lead sentence?

“… it was fired in celebration at a baby shower….

 

 

Because celebrating babies and pregnancy and impending parenthood – one immediately thinks: Ah, yes: armaments!

“A cannon type device.” As in, a cannon? It was a friggin’ baby shower; it was not a Civil War reenactment, nor battle enactment of any kind…although – WARNING: BAD PREGNANCY PUN AHEAD – many a woman in her ninth month of gestation has felt like she is personally fighting the Battle of the Bulge.

 

The story continues:

“The man, Evan Thomas Silva, a guest at the party, was about 10 to 15 feet from the device when it blew up in the backyard of a home. Metal shrapnel hit Mr. Silva, three parked cars and the garage where the shower was being held, the police said…..
The night Mr. Silva died, he was among the guests…attending a baby shower — not a gender reveal party….”
( “Celebratory Cannon Salute at Baby Shower Ends in Death,” NY Times 2-7-21

Interesting that the article took pains to mention that this was *not* a gender reveal party, as per the idiotic trend in which celebratory pyrotechnics employed by excited parents-to-be inadvertently yet efficiently caused *more than one* wildfire in the past year (a trend which yours truly had mocked in a previous post).

Attention, expectant parents: stop this. Right now. Stop throwing such events for yourselves and stop attending them in your “honor.” Your friends and family will thank you:  no matter what they are saying to your face, under your nose and behind your back they are embarrassed and appalled that you apparently find the fact of *your* impending parenthood – an event so ordinary that it happens worldwide, 385,000 times PER DAY  – to be so special that it is the cause for the type of celebration usually reserved for a nation’s liberation from a dictator or the opening of yet another Disney theme park.

Have a party if you want to, of course!  Keep it simple – those kind of celebrations are remembered most fondly, and are less stressful to plan *and* attend. Do the potluck thing, play music and silly games.  [1]  But have some perspective, puuuuuhhhhllleeeaassee.  NO cannons, no fireworks – nothing which intentionally or otherwise explodes… with the exception of your Uncle Beauford’s mouth (and other orifices) after his third helping of your elderly neighbor’s double-chili-bean-cabbage-beer-garlic casserole.

 

“We’re so excited about baby’s first artillery!

*   *   *

Department Of What To Serve At Your Baby Shower
Sup-Department Of Maybe Reconsider The Chicken Wings

“Torture a single chicken in your backyard, and you risk arrest. Abuse tens of millions of them? Why, that’s agribusiness.”
( “The Ugly Secrets Behind the Costco Chicken,” NY Times, 2-6-21 )

 

 

Selective breeding by agricultural scientists for larger overall size and enormous breasts – the white meat consumers prefer – has produced  “exploding chickens” that put on weight at a monstrous clip….The journal Poultry Science once calculated that if humans grew at the same rate as these chickens, a 2-month-old baby would weigh 660 pounds…. The chickens’ legs, unable to support the weight of their out-of-proportion bodies, often splay or collapse, making some chickens topple onto their backs (and then they cannot right themselves) and others collapse onto their bellies, where they lie in mounds of feces and suffer bloody rashes called ammonia burns – the poultry version of bed sores.

*   *   *

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Memory Sparking

The film class moiself  had in college: I hadn’t thought of it, nor of the class’s professor, in years.  Now, twice in the past two months both have come to mind (and thus, to this blog).

The first time was two months ago, during the brouhaha manufactured by a Wall Street Journal columnist who chided Jill Biden, who holds a Ph.D. in education, for using her professional credentials. I’d remembered how I’d gotten a kick out of how Robert Miller, my film class’s professor,  [2]  made his point as to how he wished to be addressed.  Miller, who had a Ph.D. in literature, introduced himself as “Professor Miller.” When a student speaking in class prefaced their remarks with, “Dr. Miller…” Miller would interrupt with, “Yes, nurse?”

The second time was last week, when I was listening to a recent Fresh Air interview with former writer  [3]  and current professional observationist  [4]   Fran Leibovitz.  Leibovitz was promoting a new Netflix docuseries, “Pretend It’s a City,”  in which the series’ director (Leibovitz’s longtime friend, Martin Scorsese) talks with Leibovitz about…well, about Leibovitz, and whatever Leibovitz thinks about any and every thing she thinks about.   [5]

In the Fresh Air interview Leibovitz talked about her “career” background. Before enjoying her fifteen minutes of fame as a writer in the 1970s  [6]  Leibovitz held a series of menial/odd jobs. She claims she took housecleaning jobs and drove a taxi because, “I don’t have any skills. I didn’t know how to do anything else.”

“I also didn’t want to do the job that most of my friends did, which was wait tables, because I didn’t want to have to be nice to men to get tips or to sleep with the manager of my shift, which was a common requirement then for being a waitress in New York.”

My film professor, who was a writer as well as a teacher, didn’t (to my knowledge) require any of his students to sleep with him – that’s not why this memory was sparked.  He *did* do something which I thought was an abuse of power, although at that time I hadn’t the emotional or intellectual context to frame it as such, given its complexity.

One afternoon in class the topic was screenplay adaptation.  As an example of how you would turn a literary story into a cinematic one, Professor Miller announced that our next assignment, due the following week, would be to write up a proposal for adapting a piece of short fiction he would give to us.  We’ll spend the rest of the class time discussing the assignment, Professor Miller said.  He began passing out photocopies of – I stifled a gasp when I read the byline – a short story *he* had written.

 

 

I remember thinking, “Uh, this a good idea?  HELL NO.”

Would any student dare say, “This story is not adaptable,” or, “There’s no way I would want to adapt this even if I thought I could because I just don’t like it.…” or express any other critique, from mild to scathing, knowing that it is the professor’s own work?

I tried to stifle my instinctive, lip-curling expression as I read the story, which was a Mailer-Hemingwayesque male fantasy, about a backpacking trip taken by an Older Man ® (an artist-teacher of some kind) and the Much Younger Woman ® he is mentoring and – surprise! – fucking dating.   Meanwhile, Professor Miller read aloud from the story’s campfire scene, a scene which, he told the class, would be particularly visually appealing for a screenwriter (the following is my summation of the scene):

OM and MYW are sitting around their campfire, their conversation terse and tense. There is a sense of growing strain between them for a variety of reasons, including the status of their relationship, and signs of bear activity in the vicinity. When MYW excuses herself  (presumably to go behind the tent to take a pee break),  OM ruminates about how their relationship will likely be coming to an end, as he is older, more educated and world-wise, and she is…well…she is what she is (young and beautiful).

MYW returns, tossing an item into the campfire as she sits down; OM sees a tampon briefly blaze before the flames incinerate it. He begins to panic…. 

Already feeling nauseated by the retch-worthy cliché of the older male teacher/younger female student predatory romantic relationship scenario, I had another thought that made me want to puke in class: he’s not going to incorporate the macho woodsy myth about bears being attracted to menstruating women in his story, is he?   [7] 

OM starts asking MYW about why she didn’t tell him she was having her menstrual period – they’re in bear country, FFS! That explains his feeling that a bear has been stalking them.  Now, they are in danger….

Several students (all male) took turns praising the scene and shared their ideas as to how they would script it.  I remember Professor Miller looking at me several times, as if he expected my feedback – me, who remained silent, despite usually speaking up in class discussions; me, the one student (or so the professor  told me a week earlier, when he’d returned an assignment of mine   [8]  ) whom he allowed to turn any assignment into a prose-writing opportunity.   [9]

I remember looking around at the class, paying particular attention to the expressions on the other female student’s faces, and having a click-worthy moment of realization:

Oh, so *this* is how women learn to fake orgasms.

 

“Do tell?”

 

Up until that moment, the class as a whole had had little problem tearing into films we had been told were “classics” but which one or more of us found poorly made, reductive, or just plain boring.  But for this assignment, what choice did we have, other than to act as if we liked the story?  He was our professor; it was his story. We had to pretend to like or at least approve of it in order for us to succeed in that situation.

Somewhere near the end of class time moiself  raised my hand and asked if we had other options for the assignment – for example, adapting works of…other authors.  I remember phrasing my question as delicately as I could, and squeezing in some (faux) compliments of his story, compliments which were bland enough that I didn’t hate myself for wimping out on what I wanted to do, which was to object to the inherent hubris of him assigning his own story.  Fortunately for me, several of the professor’s suck-ups acolytes weighed in on the subject, and my tacit criticism of his self-indulgent ego trip of an assignment didn’t seem to register (or at least not for long, as I got an A in the class).

*   *   *

Department Of Sometimes I Miss The Good Old Days Of Censorship

“When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better. ”

“I’ll try anything once, twice if I like it, three times to make sure.”

― Mae West

 

The Good Old Days ® of any kind were usually not-that-good, just old.  I am not condoning censorship; continuing with this post’s cinematic theme, I am remember the day in my film class where we learned about the Hays Code, aka the Motion Picture Production Code.  The Hays Code was used, for almost four decades, by film studios to require that their pictures be “wholesome” and “moral” and free from a list of no-nos (e.g. nudity, overt violence, sexually suggestive dances, discussions of sexual perversity, characters which engendered sympathy for criminals, unnecessary use of liquor, making fun of religion, interracial relationships, “lustful kissing,” ridicule of law and order….)

A lively class discussion about the Hays Code ensued.  Several students, and the professor, gave reasons for favoring some kind of code or guidelines (although not outright censorship), due to the artistic ingenuity such guidelines inevitably inspired.

This idea that “guidelines up the game” is one which crosses artistic genres. I recall experiencing a joy I don’t think can be replicated today, when I realized that 13-year-old moiself  “got” The Kinks’ song, Lola, and my parents   [10]   and the radio censors didn’t.  Presently, pop vocalists can call for the execution of people they don’t like, can call each other obscene and racist epithets, can brag about the…uh, humidity level of their intimate parts….  There are few if any lines to subversively read between. 

 

A fun factoid about “Lola” is that the word “Coca-Cola” in the original recording had to be changed ( ♫ “I met her in a bar down in old Soho where you drink champagne and it takes just like Coca-Cola…” ♫ ).  Singer Ray Davies dubbed in “cherry cola” for the song’s release, due to the BBC Radio’s policy against product placement.

 

Son K and I had an interesting IM session about the subject of censorship when, apropos of what-I-cannot-now recall, K came across some info about the Parents Music Resource Center, asked me some questions, and began searching for and then watching videos of the PMRC’s congressional hearing.

[ The PMRC, as some of y’all may recall, was an American governmental “advisory committee” formed in the 1980s which sought to increase parental control over children’s access to music with violent, sexual, and drug-related themes. The PMRC lobbied the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America)  to develop a music labeling system, ala the MPAA’s film rating system.  Because the PMRC was founded by four women whose husbands had political connections (including Tipper Gore, married to Senator and later Vice President Al Gore) the group was sometimes derisively and dismissively referred to as “The Washington Wives.” ]

K: man so reading about the PMRC. what was tipper gore’s problem

Moiself What made you read about the PMRC?
Some say Tipper Gore was looking for a “cause,; others, including herself and her husband, say she was a concerned parent who became shocked when she listened to the lyrics of one of her daughter’s favorite songs…and then started acquainting herself with other lyrics to popular music.
I think it’s probably a combination of both motivations.  The PMRC was actually a milder version of other parental groups at the time which were calling for censorship – the PMRC wanted parental warning labels as to content….

I gave K a brief history lesson: at that time, many kids didn’t buy their own records – their parents or grandparents did.  As a parent and “consumer,” I wouldn’t want to spend my money on songs that used racial epithets or promoted homophobic or misogynistic viewpoints to my kids. And in the ’80s lyrics were getting really explicit, which made me actually wish for the days of radio content restrictions…because then singers and songwriters had to be clever.  It was so much fun when, ala my “Lola” reference, you knew something was slipped by the sensors – you caught a reference that even the supposedly hip radio programming directors, as well as your own parents, didn’t “get.”

K: just looking through it, (the PMRC hearings) all comes across to me as one of those bullshit moral crusades. a need to either feel self superior, or a need to control anything that doesn’t appeal to X person’s personal tastes, or both.
it just reminded me of a milder version of McCarthyist witch hunting.
demonizing something for political gain

Moiself: Yes, but the latter is a proven technique.

Later on, in an in-person dialogue, I shared with K my opinion that any form of guideline or structure-free art risks…well, think of the criticism of free verse poetry as playing tennis with the net down.  I’m not lauding censorship per se, but, to reiterate, IMHO guidelines can actually make people more creative – or sneaky, which has a strong element of creativity to it. Because when you can’t just come out and say Certain Things ® you have to be subtle and sly, employing cheeky imagery and evocative dialogue.  You have to be more poetic, in a way.

A movie critic once asked the late great writer/screenwriter/director Nora Ephron if Ephron agreed with the critic’s observation that there seemed to have been stronger roles for women actors, and better plots and dialog, in the earlier days of cinema. Ephron agreed, and lamented contemporary movies’ lack of witty dialogue and snappy repartee – and distinctive, self-assured female characters – which were found in the movies of the 30s and 40s and even 50s.  Beginning in the late 60s, along came the “New Cinema” movement, which emphasized so-called gritty realism. You no longer had to employ clever camera angles and witty, double-entendre laden repartee – now you can just show (instead of imply) a graphic murder, have the protagonists jump into bed together (which had the effect of valuing, defining – and casting – female actors as per their sexual appeal)…and then what?

In an atmosphere where nothing is considered to be off-limits, you will never have the delightful shock value of experiencing, say, the judicious use of “strong” language.  I fondly recall my mother telling me about her most memorable movie experience, when as a child she saw Gone With The Wind. She said she’d never forget how she was both scandalized and thrilled – and how “the entire theater gasped” –  when Rhett Butler delivered his infamous parting line:

 

 

 

*   *   *

Pun(z) For The Day

Moiself : Did you hear about that actress, Reese, who just stabbed a guy to death?
Innocent bystander: Witherspoon?
Moiself : No, she used her knife.

  1. Q.  How does award-winning actor Reese eat her Cheerios?
  2. A.  Witherspoon.

I suppose I have to be a good sport about this.

*   *   *

May you shun any event mixing pyrotechnics and babies;
May you neither actively nor passively contribute to “exploding chickens;”
May you challenge yourself to both follow and subvert the guidelines;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Of course, have these events safely, distanced/outdoors, and masked until this damn COVID-19 thing peters out …do I really need to say this? Apparently.

[2] A pseudonym.

[3] Leibovitz has famously suffered from writer’s block for years, and now seems to get by with having people pay to listen to her talk about the things she used to write about. Not a criticism – she has a keen, sardonic eye, and is quite witty.  I have enjoyed the series, so far (haven’t as of this writing finished listening to all episodes).

[4] I’m not sure if “observationist” is a thing, but Leibovitz seems to be making a living from it.

[5] Which centers around her technophobic life in New York city; specifically, Manhattan.

[6] Using her satirical, NYC-centered wit, she opined on American life in two best-selling collections of essays,   Metropolitan Life and Social Studies.

[7] After class I found a couple of Wildlife Fisheries Biology majors who confirmed that was a myth.  Even so, it was a myth that got a lot of traction, and it wasn’t until in the 1980s and ’90s that biologists did studies proving that bears – or sharks – are no more attracted to menstruating women than to any other kind of human.

[8] storyboarding a dada-esque, vignette-style commercial for the soft drink, 7-Up, which he graded A+.

[9] We’d had and would continue to have various projects over the quarter, from “making” a short films or advertisements or animation. I’d no interest in filming anything or doing animation, and always chose to interpret “making” as doing the screenplay, storyboarding and/or writing portion of the project.

[10] When my friend’s très conservative mother was singing along to “Lola” on the radio while was driving us to the beach, I somehow resisted the urge to ask if she knew she was enjoying an ode to a naïve young man’s romance with a transvestite.

The Terms I’m Not Agreeing To

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“As the coronavirus pandemic has kept more residents at home, it has created such a high demand for adopting dogs that there’s a dwindling supply.”
( “So many pets have been adopted during the pandemic that shelters are running out,”
Washington Post, 1-6-21 )

Since it is likely the physical isolation will continue for some time – i.e.,  until the post-holiday spikes settle down and vaccination distribution reaches the masses – I’ve been thinking of jumping on the COVID companion bandwagon and adding a new pet to our family.  Moiself  is having trouble deciding; I’m torn between two equally compelling options.  What do y’all, think:

 

Or

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Reasons I Hate The Business Side Of What I Do
Part 1,294 In A Seemingly Endless Series….

Dateline: earlier this week, reading the fine print of the publishing contract of an international fiction journal – a journal whose aims/ambitions and unique form of distribution I respected…until moiself  read this part of their contract, in the section,  Grants of Rights (my emphases):

(d) The publication Rights granted in The Furrowed Kneecap Review
[1]  may be exercised in any media now in existence or hereafter developed, including without limit, print media, electronic media, and electronic data bases….

 

Your work belongs to us – now, and in whatever future there can be, bwah haa haw!  

 

Yeah, that frosts my butt (and furrows my kneecaps). But the thing is, in the Wild Wild West of the publishing world, what with digital and other rights being coined and  re-invented within minutes of the appearance of new/online technologies which purport to “broaden a writer’s exposure” (read: steal use your work without compensation), more and more publishing contracts, whether for book-length material or journal articles, have some form of this language.  And no matter what the stipulations, a contract it can turn out to be – like many a domestic violence victim has discovered re restraining orders – “just a piece of paper.”  As one writer friend of mine learned, within two months after his book was published, your work may be scanned and posted on some website – where it can be downloaded and read (as in, stolen) by people all over the world  with no financial remuneration for you.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of We Be Needing Schooling On A Complicated/Simple Word

“An educated person before the scientific revolution could very well believe that there were unicorns and werewolves, and that comets and eclipses are portents of the future – beliefs we now think of as primitive, superstitious, magical, but they were the conventional understanding of the day.”
( Steven Pinker, psychologist and author, focusing on language,
the mind, and human nature and behavior)

Educated.   What do we mean when we say that someone is, “educated,” or that a person “needs to be educated?”

It should be a positive thing, to be to be educated or to be thought of as such.  However, it seems to moiself  that, more and more, I am hearing and reading educated  used as a sort of passive-aggressive pejorative.  As in,

“He just needs to be educated, then he wouldn’t be such a ______ ( racist; sexist; nativist; libtard;  homophobe; fan of ‘The Bachelor’….)”

 

 

Sometimes, that may indeed be the case: the person whom you think needs to be educated is demonstrably ignorant on certain facts, and/or has led a sheltered life sans exposure to different people and ideas, and/or lacks wider world experience and the perspective it brings.  But, here’s the trick: a person can be educated about an issue, just as educated as you are – BTW how are you-who-are-using-the-term-“educated” defining it? – and can disagree with you.

A person can know the facts, and agree with you as to what the facts are (“We both accept the Homeland Security Department’s statistic that 254,595 of the ‘Aliens Apprehended’ in the fiscal year 2019 were from Mexico and 1,368 were from Bangladesh”), but can vehemently and sincerely disagree with you about what the facts *mean.*

Let’s all be careful out there, and not take the ad hominem, patronizing, gettin’-all-educated-on-your-uninformed-ass manner when someone disagrees with us:

“They need to get educated  on  ____ [your pet issue];  then they’d see….”

That person to whom you are so quick to ascribe ignorance may know much more than you realize; beware the unspoken assumption, “If only he were educated in the matter, he would agree with *me*.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Surprisingly, This Was *Not* A Story About Farting

Although when I tuned into a favorite podcast of mine and heard this introduction, I at first thought they were putting a sciencey-spin on a story about SBDs.   [2]

“In 1931 a chemist named Arthur Fox accidentally released a cloud of phenylthiocarbamide in his lab.  A colleague nearby complained about the noxious odor…but Fox didn’t know what he was talking about…”   [3]

 

 

*   *   *

I’m not a fan of body building/weight lifting or MMA fighting, and I absolutely loath boxing, but I was intrigued by the The Game Changers This documentary was produced by and/or featured interviews with major players in the afore-mentioned sports, and also film, including James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Lewis Hamilton, Novak Djokovic and Chris Paul. 

The Game Changers focuses largely on males, and myths about meat, protein, and strength, and on how such myths got started and are promoted (to us all, but especially to men and athletes and others in “macho” professions, e.g., firefighters).  It features interviews with top athletes in their field who have increased their performances (and the longevity of their careers and their overall cardiovascular health) by opting out of the standard American diet (appropriate acronym: SAD) with its emphasis on meat and dairy products, and switching to plant-based eating.

 

 

The documentary also makes the bigger picture, linking personal consumption choices to global consequences :

And with more than 70 billion animals consumed globally every year, growing animal feed requires vast amounts of land. Which is why the single biggest source of habitat destruction is said to be the livestock sector….in South America, some 70% of former forests in the Amazon are now used to graze cattle, with much of the remainder used to grow feed crops for the cattle. Anti-poaching rangers on the “frontlines” of protecting endangered species see these effects firsthand.


“The actual biggest threat we have is the meat industry and the land that they are continually taking away from what we have left of these natural wilderness areas. Inch by inch, yard by yard, mile by mile.”


(  Damien Mander, founder of The International Anti-Poaching Foundation )

Also, the film is just dang funny in parts…and about parts. The scene where a medical doctor “who wrote the book on the penis” (literally) gets three football players to participate in an experiment showing how their nocturnal erections are greater in both quality and quantity  [4]  after eating a plant-based meal – it gets ten stars on the giggle-meter.

 

One of the things that interested me in the documentary was thinking that it might give me a chance to make fun of AHHHnold Schadenfreude  Schwarzenegger.  Turns out I need to bitch-slap moiself back to the 1990’s for holding that petty thought, as Herr Schw-etcetera actually comports himself quite well.

Oh, and lest you think certain opinions of moiself’s  have changed, although I’m pleased to see him realizing and embracing the personal and planetary benefits of plant-based eating, I still wish Maria Shriver would have gone all paleo on Ahhhnold’s cheating ass.

*   *   *

The Podcast I’m Not…Casting?

Think of all the great, meandering conversations you’ve had with a friend, and how you enjoyed the sometimes linear/sometimes non sequitur give-and-take, because you were a part of it.  Now think how many of those conversations would be interesting for other people to listen to – people who don’t know you and your friend and were not even present during the conversation – for thirty minutes or more.

 

“Who cares if neither of us is talking sense – this is fun.”

 

Regular readers know I am a regular podcast listener. The current list of podcasts I follow/subscribe to includes 20+ feeds, from Clear + Vivid  to the TED Radio Hour.  Five times as long as this list is the catalog of podcasts I have tried for a few episodes – even a few weeks – then deleted from my feed.  Most of the latter are podcasts hosted by Famous People, whose sole subject seemed to be talking with Other Famous People.   [5]

There seem to be a plethora of Famous Folks ® who are either clever or articulate, and who have been convinced by others (read: their agents and fellow suckups celebrity friends) that they are *both* clever and articulate. Thus, these Celebri-pods believe their amiable personae means that merely chatting on mic with their celebri-friends about…stuff…is interesting to others who aren’t directly involved in the conversation.  Wrong.  In my experience, it’s too often….

The fact that anyone can blog used to be touted as an example of the great democratization of our media. Now we’ve devolved from Anyone can blog! to Everyone has a podcast!  So: here’s my idea. With a nod to Abbie Hoffman, I will title my entry into podcast-dom, Turn This Off.

Mine will be yet another foray into the advice podcast genre.  A growing number of podcasts (e.g. Don’t Ask Tig, which I listen to) aim to give columnist-style guidance (think Dear Abby, et al), whether facetious or serious.

By virtue of its title, I figure my podcast will be the one advice podcast where people will actually follow the advice.

Of course, now that I’ve put this idea out there someone’s going to steal it….so this will be the podcast I’m not actually producing.  [6]

 

 

In the podcast I’m not doing, here’s one thing I can guarantee you won’t hear:  the host (that would be moiself ) staying silent when her guest makes a WTF?!  declaration.

Example: a few minutes into a recent celebrity-advice podcast I was listening to, the host’s celeb guest said that “fear should never make you navigate your decisions.”

The following digression is yet another reason why the podcast I’m not doing would fail (for reasons other than me telling people to turn it off) : no celebrities would want to come on my podcast because I wouldn’t let them get away with a statement like that.

Celebrity Guest ® was likely referring to her career decisions; still, she made a blanket statement, and a face-palming one at that. There’ve been books written about why ignoring your fears is foolish.  If you don’t recognize the *value* of fear (one of humanity’s most important survival senses) in making decisions you’ll inevitably make some really poor ones.

Evolutionary biologists tell us that the “rationally fearful” are the ones who survive. I’m not talking about nonsensical fears, like fearing that if you don’t touch the doorknob five times before you leave for work your house will catch on fire, or other phobias or irrational compulsions.  Pay attention to fear (sometimes referred/always related to intuition).  Learn how to analyze a realistic fear (that you may tumble off the cliff if you lean way over trying to get the ultimate selfie) from a momentarily uncomfortable but ultimately inconsequential worry (that you’re anxious you’ll flub your toast to the bride and groom).

In other words, pay attention when your Spidey senses start tingling.

People who don’t pay attention to their fear can end up injured or worse, whether it’s tumbling off of a cliff or being drugged by that “really cool guy” your friend set you up with but whose vibes gave you the willies….

“Intuition is always right in at least two important ways;
It is always in response to something.
It always has your best interest at heart.”

( Security Consultant Gavin De Becker, author of
The Gift of Fear: And Other Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence )

*   *   *

Department Of Partridge Of The Week

Which was actually last week’s, until a mob of racist rightwing Republican-abetted terrorists…current events, shall we say, stole the blog show.  This Partridge in our pear tree will be the last one, until the next solstice/winter/Christmas holiday season:

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I taught my kids how to fart. You could say they were under my tutelage.

 

 

*   *   *

May you pay attention to your fear;
May you follow your dreams
(except for that one where you are naked at work);
May you look in the mirror before you deem that someone else needs to be educated;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] Not the journal’s real name.

[2] Silent But Deadly. Surely, no reader of mine needs that acronym explained.

[3] ( excerpt from Curiosity Daily podcast, Do people think more in words or pictures? )

[4] (consumption of animal products cause inflammation; less inflammation from plant-based proteins = more blood flow to vital, ahem, “areas” of the body.

[5] I discovered these podcasts when I did a search for “comedy” or entertainment podcasts, wanting more laughable-listens in these COVID times, as opposed to shows devoted to news/current events (I have enough of those in my feed).

[6] Although, who knows what 2021 will hold?

 

The Blog Post I Wasn’t Planning On

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Noteworthy science podcast anecdotes; musings on how we understand, use (and misuse) the term “educated;” wondering how and why some people can believe in the efficacy of intercessory prayer; a bad pun or two; the last Partridge of the Week, etc.  I don’t know if the subjects I had planned to address in today’s post were more profound, but they were certainly more fun, than…this.

As in, What. Happened. On. Wednesday.

“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”
(Vice President Mike Pence, 1-6-21, in a letter to members of Congress.  From “Pence defies Trump, says he can’t reject electoral votes,” apnews.com )

“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done….”
( #45‘s tweet, after Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged he does not have the power to throw out electoral votes )

*   *   *

Someone needs to be shot for insurrection. 

If #45 had the cojones he accused Pence of lacking, he‘d call a press conference, resign, then blow his brains out   [1] on live television.  He‘d get the “biggliest ratings, ever!” which is and always has been his ultimate concern.

*   *   *

 

Prevoskhodno! This is all going according to plan.”

 

*   *   *

 

How many times did I read or hear, during the last four years,

“Yeah, I know he (#45) is a dick a horrible person as a person, but I’m voting for him because of ______ (conservative policy).”

As friend MM so succinctly put it,

“Everyone who voted for Trump for tax cuts and judges, you own this.”

 

*   *   *

What was it that the anti-Vietnam war protestors chanted as they were beaten by Chicago police in 1968?

“The whole world is watching.”

 

 

And they were.  And we are.

*   *   *

Department Of Get Him Out, Now.  How Can You Not?

Congress: Impeach. Invoke the 25th amendment#45 is clearly “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”    [2]   Get the SCOTUS to lead a squad of Capitol Police to arrest him.  Whatever it takes.

Please, no cries of, “But we only have to hang on another two weeks, for the good of the country…”

No.

For the good of the country,
he
needs to go. Would *anyone else* who had fomented a riot – committed sedition – *not* be held accountable?

For the good of the country,
his
legacy, as MH put it, “needs to be appropriate.”

For the good of the country,
we cannot let strongman hooliganism subvert or even delay our democratic processes.

For the good of the country,
we need to show the world – we need to show ourselves – that we have not become another anarchic banana republic our laws and ideals have actual meaning.

And, if he is allowed to just…leave, do you really want any portion of your tax dollars to go to his presidential pension?  $219,000 a year, for the rest of his deplorable life, living among whatever other deplorables can stand to abide with him?   [3]

 

“A Russian dacha or a North Korean apartment – your choice, Comrade.”

*   *   *

May we get the kind of honest, decent, compassionate leadership we need;
May you-know-who finally get what he deserves;
May circumstances allow moiself  to return to “regular programming” next week;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Not to worry; it’d be a small splatter, considering the target.

[2] Section 4, 25th Amendment to the US Constitution.

[3] There need to be more footnotes, but the only appropriate footnote regarding this deranged disaster of democracy is an unending torrent of FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK !!!

The Findings I’m Not Surprised By

1 Comment

Is this really my last blog post of 2020?

Moiself  is torn between Say it ain’t so and Good riddance.   [1]

*   *   *

Department Of Partridge Of The Week

This week’s Partridge in our pear tree:

 


*   *   *

Department of Who Is This “We” Who Were Thinking This?

A recent podcast of Curiosity Daily, “Early Female Hunters Were More Common Than We Thought,” features a story on recent archaeological findings which have changed the assumptions scientists made about hunters of the early Americas. It turns out that female hunters were “…more common than we thought,” yet another discovery indicating that anthropological and archaeological interpretation of the lives and behavior patterns of early peoples have been interpreted through contemporary (read: patriarchal and male dominance) lenses.

 

 

Episode summary: anthropologists have long taught that life in hunter-gather societies was fairly unambiguous: the tribe’s strong, brave men hunted the animals and the patient, passive women gathered berries and roots and other necessities.  Recent archeological finds showed that the man-equals-hunter hypothesis was off the mark. The archaeological find of a female hunter buried with her hunting accoutrements was “so unexpected” (by male archeologists) that researchers decided to cast a wide net and see if this finding was  a “one-off,” or if there  might be evidence of other female hunters in graves that had already been excavated and cataloged.

Researchers looked at records of burial sites in North and South American which were more than 7000 years old.  A small percentage of those sites were found with artifacts which suggests that the graves/tombs belonged to hunters, and of that group, more than 40% were female. That was a surprise – to the researchers, but not to the “…ton of indigenous communities which already knew this.”

 

The fact that both the Greek and Roman gods of the hunt were female (Artemis and Diana, respectively) never gave researchers a clue?

 

The bigger, or perhaps ultimate story here, IMHO, involves, as the podcast host put it:

“…what counts as knowledge, or *whose* knowledge counts as ‘real’ knowledge?  These findings are a big deal to the western scientists and archeologists who have been wrong about this, for centuries.  The researchers point to a couple of reasons for this big mistake. One might be that  men *seem* to do most of the hunting in contemporary hunter-gatherer societies, which may have led archaeologists to assume that this was always the case.  They also point out that many researchers’ interpretations may have been colored by their own preconceived notions about males and females and the division of labor.”

Researchers and scientists have preconceived notions about males and females?  Shocking.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Little Things I Missed This Year

The big picture of  pandemic and worldwide economic upheaval, along with the twin holyshit revelations of how many of our citizens are clueless (and/or in denial) re the realities of science and of our history of systemic racism, is enough to boggle any mind and frost any fanny.

Moiself, of course, wants all of these problems solved – or at the very least, acknowledged.  No, mere acknowledgement won’t do.  I want it all fixed.  And more.

 

 

On a personal scale, I look forward to regaining some simple pleasures.

I want to be able to hug people.  I want to laugh uproariously (not from more than 6 feet apart, or behind a mask, or via a computer monitor) at someone’s outrageously great (or stupendously lame) joke, while nudging their arm in appreciation.

I want to watch a movie in a theatre, and turn to the side (or glance behind me) to catch the eyes of fellow movie-goers, strangers in the dark, laughing and gasping together, united briefly by our mutual, “Can you believe that ?!?!?” reactions to what we have just seen onscreen.

 

I even miss having the opportunity to “Shhhhh!” people.

 

I’d like to greet fellow hikers on a trail without crawling up the hillside to give them enough space to safely pass by.

In February I bought some nice clothes.    [2]    I’d like to have somewhere and/or some occasion – other than a funeral – to wear them.

Considering what so many people have had to deal with during this dumpster fire of a year, these are small grievances, I realize.

*   *   *

Department Of Mascot For The Year

Which one gets your vote?    [3]

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things I Am Thankful For:
Friends Like SDH, Who Persist

This past year, and particularly before/during/after the election, my offspring and moiself  had some interesting IM discussions triggered by all of us having come across certain social media postings. These postings led my offspring to voice their despair when they saw friends and relatives falling down the rabbit holes – i.e., either personally expressing conspiratorial/anti-science sentiments or posting links which indicated they agreed with such views.

“Leave them alone/they aren’t really listening anyway/nothing you can say will be helpful/don’t get dragged down to that level by even engaging….”

I know these and other arguments for maintain a modicum of sanity: DO NOT RESPOND.

I also know that if everyone else refuses to engage with such people re such matters, then the only voices they will hear are of those fellow inhabitants of the rabbit holes.  And I also also *also* know personally, and have read about, other folks who have escaped from rabbit-hole viewpoints. These escapees attribute their being able to attain emotional and intellectual freedom to the patient, persistent, rational voices of a friend or family member – voices they discounted or even mocked at the time, yet which kept returning to them, and eventually got them to thinking,

“Wait a minute, how do I *really* know what I think I know?”

“Why am I trusting those sources, and not these?”

“Who benefits from me believing what I believe,
and who stands to lose – and lose what? – If I change my mind?”

 

 

I have pretty much given up on people who think doctors and researchers and scientists are lying to them but somehow find trustworthy the bullying rhetoric of a documented, serial liar/reality TV show host.  Meanwhile, those who study human behavior tell us it’s rare for someone to change a deeply held opinion.  That’s probably spot-on; still, I struggle with my responsibilities as a Good Citizen ® to countermand the crap that’s out there, particularly because moiself  has changed my mind on many issues over the years. These changes were due to moiself  encountering new or obtaining additional information on the issues at hand – and never, to my recollection, because someone insulted me or told me that my opinions were crap.

People rarely change their minds because someone calls them stupid or ignorant.  A calm, persistent interest in their opinions, a respectful questioning of how their opinions were formed and where they get their “facts,” seems to be the only thing that “works,” even if the odds seem to be against that (or any) approach.

Thus, here’s to those who persist, despite the odds.

Over the years I have watched many such tenacious souls in action, both in person and via the one social media site I frequent.  SDH in particular, whom I have known since junior high school journalism days, is quite amazing. He is a long-time professional journalist, and the investigative, analytical, and *people* skills he has honed over the years have served him, his profession, and our society,   [4]   quite well.

It’s not that SDH calls people out on their bullshit, it’s that, like the savvy reporter he is, he hangs in there.  He will not be misdirected; he patiently and persistently asks questions (Where did you get that? What are your sources?) while deftly deflecting ad hominem  attacks.  He responds with facts, facts, and more facts – always trying to bring the argument back to reality.

 

 

I haven’t the stomach for it; I “lurk” on the sidelines, reading with awe as SDH takes on cretinous blathering face-palming misinformation spewing, often from friends/acquaintances/family – people he has known for decades.   [5]  I admire this quality of SDH’s more than I can say, but since I’m a lousy artist (stick figures dancing in exultation is likely the best tribute I could draw), the “saying” will have to do.

And in the “saying,” I’m going to out him. It is my policy in this blog to initialize or alias-ize the names of non-public people, but as a journalist, with decades of bylines, SDH is already out there….  Besides, I want him to bask in his well-deserved glory:

 

Scott Duke Harris, A Purple Tortilla Chip Of Exclamation & Appreciation ® is for you.

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Not to brag, but I already have a date for New Year’s Eve.
It’s December 31st.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Whatever You Celebrate

Happy Solstice!
Merry Christmas!
Happy Boxing Day!
Happy Kwanzaa!
Happy New Year’s….!     [6]

 

 

*   *   *

May you not need an archaeological find to make you examine your preconceived notions;
May 2021 bring a return to your favorite, simple pleasures;
May we all persist, despite the odds;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] The latter sentiment would refer to 2020, not my blog.

[2] Perspective check: “nice” as in relative to moiself’s wardrobe. In other words, not tee-shirts or tie-dye. 

[3] Absentee ballots, vote by mail – we’ll count them all!

[4] Really – I do think it is *that*mportant.

[5] And thus, there is an inherent, personal risk for him in doing so, in breaching such relationships.

[6] There should be no less than six footnotes per post, don’t you agree?

The Party Hat I’m Not Wearing

1 Comment

Department Of Nomination For Lyrical Couplet Of The Year

My nomination hails from the musical-comedy “The Prom,” the Netflix-streamed movie, adapted from the 2018 Broadway show of the same name. The story revolves around the political, cultural and social shenanigans which ensue when a small town Indiana High School PTA announces their intention to cancel the school’s prom because a female student wants to take her girlfriend to the dance.    [1]

The couplet moiself  refers to is sung by an archetypal cheerleader/popular/hot/girl, who is quite pleased with her perceptions of her own “hotness” as she arrives at her much-anticipated high school prom:

♫  …You have to hand it to me
I mean even I would do me  ♫

(lyric from “Tonight Belongs To You”)

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Good News For Office Party Nerds

Speaking of sexual/physical desirability, a recent episode of the Curiosity Daily podcast, “Why Birds Wore Funny Hats for Science,” dealt with scientific experiments in avian mate preference and selection.

“A female finch was given a choice between two males. One was just a regular guy, but the other had an upgrade. He was wearing a tiny hat with a giant white feather sticking straight up.   …Imagine being uncontrollable attracted to him, because that’s what happened in the trials. Females went wild for the guys in funny hats….”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Doctor Will See You Now…
So Turn Our Head And Cough

“Many Ph.D. holders are fine with reserving the title for medical doctors in common parlance, viewing insistence on the title as arrogant and elitist, and do not use their titles even in a scholarly setting. But for women and people of color, an academic title can be a tool to remind others of their expertise in a world that often undermines it.”
( “Should all Ph.D’s be called ‘Doctor’ ” KQED )

“…female engineers with Ph.D.s who said they are under-represented in their field, and feel like they need to put doctor in front of their names to get the same respect that male engineers get.
…researchers found that male doctors introduce their male colleagues as “Dr.” around 70 percent of the time, but introduce their female colleagues as doctor a little less than half the time.”
( “Who Gets To Be Called ‘Doctor” And Why It Matters,”  WHYY )

 

 

Yep, moiself  just has to put my two cents’ in re The Dr. Jill Biden Thing ® .

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (UC Davis, circa 1979), most of my college professors had Ph.D.s in their respective fields.  When it came to their professional titles, I can’t recall how most of them preferred to be addressed (“Professor,” “Dr.” “Ms. ___” or “Mr. ___”), nor what I or the other students called them…with one notable exception.

I took a class from Robert Miller,  [2]  who had a Ph.D. in literature and taught a class on film/cinema (the name of which escapes me).  From day one of the class Miller made it clear as to how he preferred to be addressed. In-class questions and discussions were encouraged, but when any student raised their hand and began their remarks with, “Dr. Miller…? Miller would interrupt with, “Yes, nurse?”

Most of the students caught on rather quickly.  One particularly obsequious toady with artistic pretensions (he wore all black attire, no matter the weather, including black turtleneck shirt AND, I kid you not, a black beret)  did not.  After the fifth or six occasion of him hearing, “Yes, nurse?”  he got up the nerve to ask Miller some deferential version of, whaz up wit dat?

Miller took that opportunity to tell the entire class that, yes, he had a doctorate degree, but he preferred to be addressed by the title, “Professor,” because that was his profession.  He went on to tell an entertaining story of the history of academic titles.  According to Miller, the title “professor “fell out of favor during the mid-late 19th century, when traveling snake oil salesman referred to themselves thusly, to add a cloak of respectability re the noxious potions they peddled.  Thus, the term “professor” became associated with charlatans, and actual professors who held doctorate degrees began calling themselves “Dr.,” a title which had heretofore been reserved for physicians.

Professor Miller briefly expressed his opinion that academics in any field who insisted on being called “Dr.” were either insecure with or overly impressed by their own credentials. For clarity, Miller thought that “Dr.” should refer to a practicing M.D.

 

 

Until recently, I shared Professor Miller’s antipathy toward the use of Dr. referring to anyone other than a physician.  I am also loath to address physicians, when they are not on duty, as Doctor, and in social settings I am suspicious of medical doctors who insist on being introduced that way.  If you are a medical doctor, off-duty at the grocery store or at your spouse’s office party or any other situation wherein I can expect that you will *not* be putting a tongue depressor into my mouth, what is the point – other than for your own self-aggrandizement – to introduce yourself to me as a doctor?

Years ago, in social situations where there were enough people unfamiliar with each other so as to require name tags, I encountered that situation frequently, enough so that I was inspired to Do Something About It ®.  I’d noticed that some (not all) of the party attendees added, either before their first name or after their surname, their professional titles and/or initials in situations which clearly did not require the identification of one’s profession.  Think, “Rev. Blowschlock” at a non-religious gathering, or “Elmer Turnblatter, M.D.,” at a New Year’s Eve party or other, non-medical setting.  In anticipation of the next such event, I made moiself  a name tag which I could proudly wear on Those Special Occasions.    [3]

 

 

Being proud of your accomplishments is one thing; unconsciously or otherwise hoping for special notice/treatment because of the letters after your name is another.  Cynical moiself  usually assumed the latter reasoning, when it came to people who insisted that others know or use their professional letters and titles in non-professional situations.

Which brings us to Joseph Epstein, BFD.

In case you’ve spent the last two weeks in a drunken stupor/hiding under a rock/binge-watching”Grey’s Anatomy  paying attention to more weighty matters, you may not know about the column that journalist Joseph not-a-doctor Epstein wrote for the Wall Street Journal. In the column, Epstein offered unsolicited advice to Jill Biden, who has a doctorate degree in education, as to how people should address her and how she should refer to herself.  His column…I shall not link to it here.  Not to worry, you can easily find it, as the odor from his festering turd of deprecating sexism disguised as an op/ed can be detected across the country.  The stench begins with the first paragraph.

“Madame First Lady — Mrs. Biden — Jill — kiddo: a bit of advice on what might seem like a small but I think is not an unimportant matter.  Any chance you might drop the ‘Dr.’ before your name? ‘Dr. Jill Biden’ sounds and feels a touch fraudulent, not to mention comical.”

 

“Fradulent.”  “Comical.”

 

 

Yep. He wrote that.

Epstein has heretofore *not* offered such advice to other Ph.D. holders in the public eye.    [4]  Nor did No-doc Epstein voice any complaints when his newspaper identified non-medical doctor Henry Kissinger as Dr. Kissinger.  Epstein is taking some well-deserved heat for his comments, and is responding to this blowback by clutching his proverbial pearls and hiding behind the whiny, entitled skirts of crying, “Cancel culture!!” instead of taking this criticism as an opportunity to examine his own myopia when it comes to equal respect for and treatment of professional titles.

As Monica Hessee, Washington Post writer of  “The Wall Street Journal column about Jill Biden is worse than you thought” points out,

“As supporting evidence for his reasoning (that “no one should call himself Dr. unless he has delivered a child.”    [5]),  Epstein cites his own refusal to be called “Dr.” when he taught courses at Northwestern University — which would, in fact, have been fraudulent and comical because Epstein’s highest degree is a bachelor’s. It seems he would like Jill Biden to deny herself what she earned, because he denied himself what he did not.”

 

 

Doctor? What doctor? Epstein’s “advice” ends as malodorously as it begins.

“Forget the small thrill of being Dr. Jill and settle for the larger thrill of living for the next four years in the best public housing in the world as First Lady Jill Biden.”

 

“the small thrill of being Dr. Jill….”

Got that, folks?  Regardless of how you or I think about what professional titles any person should or should not use, Epstein reveals his closeted (perhaps even to himself) sexism in his finale:  Jill Biden’s own hard work and achievements should not be as important as those “larger thrills” which society may bestow upon her by virtue of the man she married, and that she should accept this marital title and the perks (best public housing, ever, yee haw!) and refrain from claiming her personal identity and accomplishments.

It may be possible that (doctor-less) Epstein truly doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about.  The mere fact that he could pen such a condescending column indicates he has had his head up his ass in the sand of entitlement for the past X decades, when it comes realizing how women have had to fight for respect, to have their professional accomplishments acknowledged – and even attributed, what with the history of males claiming credit for their female colleagues’ accomplishments….

*The Art of Claiming Credit: Why women in particular have to be strategic with our suggestions and insights, plus advice on calling out credit stealers.

*9 Women Who Changed History…And The Men Who Took Credit

* Men Are Taking Credit For Women’s Work, And Now We Know Why

* When Teamwork Doesn’t Work For Women: …new evidence suggests that the underrepresentation of women reflects a systemic bias in that marketplace: a failure to give women full credit for collaborative work done with men.

*When A Male Colleague Took Credit For My Work

 

 

All else being equal, I would hold with my original discomfort with non-medical-docs using the Dr. title.  But we do not live on planet All Else Being Equal.

Also, my college film professor was not entirely correct regarding his take on the doctor v. professor issue.  Ph.D.’s, not M.D.s, were the original “doctors.”

“The term doctor can be traced back to the late 1200s, and it stems from a Latin word meaning “to teach.” It wasn’t used to describe a licensed medical practitioner until about 1400, and it wasn’t used as such with regularity until the late 1600s.”
(““M.D.” vs. “Ph.D.” vs. “Dr.,” dictionary.com )

“The premise that only medical doctors should get to hold the Dr. title is etymologically specious because, as Merriam-Webster dictionary pointed out on Twitter, “doctor” comes from the Latin word for “teacher”; it was scholars and theologians who, back in the 14th century, used the title well before medical practitioners.”
(Monica Hessee, Washington Post op cit )

 

*   *   *

Department Of Save That Poop – It May Save your Life

So happy to have yet another excuse to mention Murder Hornets before this year is consigned to the dumpster fire of history.

“To ward off giant hornet attacks, honeybees in Vietnam will adorn the entrances to their nests with other animals’ feces, a defensive behavior called fecal spotting…. The odious ornamentation seems to repel the wasps — or at least seriously wig them out…. Decorating one’s home with dung might sound indecorous….But the scat-based strategy appears to capitalize on a relatable trend: Most creatures aren’t keen on muddying their meals with someone else’s waste.”
( “When Murder Hornets Menace Their Hive, Bees Decorate It With Animal Feces,”
(NY Times, Sciences, 12-9-20 )

 

A house completely made of dung. Notice the lack of murder hornets…or people, within a 50 yard radius.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Partridge Of The Week  [6]

This week’s Partridge in our pear tree:

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

A dung beetle spent an entire day rolling a ball of dung up a hill, only to have it fall into a ravine on the other side.  Needless to say, he lost his shit.

 

Make. It. Stop.

 

*   *   *

May your title denigration be equal opportunity, if you feel the need to discount someone’s adacemic achievements;
May you always choose the guy (or girl) with the funny hat;
May you do whatever you have to do-do when the Murder Hornets arrive;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] Although “The Prom” is fictional, it is based on the true story of what happened in 2010 at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi, where school officials, objecting to a lesbian student who wanted to bring her date to the prom, decided that, rather than face lawsuits of discrimination against that student they would  cancel the entire prom, for all students, rather than allow gay couples to attend.

[2] Not his real name.

[3] “Not a Doctor.”

[4] That we know of, and at least, not in print.

[5] And note the sexists defaults to the male pronouns, even as Epstein is presuming to address a female.

[6] Why isn’t there another footnote, like, right here?

The Masks I’m Not Not-Wearing

Comments Off on The Masks I’m Not Not-Wearing

Department Of Before We Go Any Further

Check out the “Introducing: Resistance” podcast, hosted by the Reply All podcast.

And by check out, moiself  means put down what you’re doing and listen to it, right now.  Okay; maybe take a pee break first, if you need to (it runs a wee bit – sorry – less than 45m).

It starts out with a gabby, somewhat potty-mouth banter   [1]  between the Reply All host and Resistance podcast producer, the latter who has spent the past year following Warriors in the Garden, a New York City, youth-led activist collection. The story itself is an absolutely chilling account of head-scratching, mind-boggling, Orwellian-level abuse of authority. That the subject of the incident, Derrick Ingram, made it out alive (I don’t wanna give anything away, but I don’t want to scare you off from listening, either) is amazing.

It’s a prime example of “This is why people are protesting and this is *what* they are protesting,” especially for anyone who wonders what the fuss is about.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of This Guy Is So Observant – He Should Have His Own Blog   [2]

Dateline: last Saturday, breakfast table. MH, reading the previous day’s New York Times, says to moiself , “This headline makes no sense.”  The headline in question came from the article, Inspired by Trump, Hasidic Backlash Grows Over Virus Rules; it was actually the sub-headline which he found bemusing:

Orthodox Jewish leaders have seen a growing, raucous faction of young men in the community, tired of pandemic guidelines and resentful of the secular authorities.

“Hasids, tired of guidelines and resentful of authority?” MH shook his head.

That’s, *secular* authority, moiself  reminded him.  I, too, found the concept ironic, as in, Hello?!  Do y’all know we can hear you when you talk?!  ridiculous.

Unquestioning compliance with rules and guidelines and adherence to authority is what the Hasidic lifestyle – what any orthodox religious life – is all about.  Using the pretext of obedience to their god’s will, the insular Hasidic communities follow rules and regs about what and when they may eat, where they can and cannot live, what language they speak, what clothing they can and cannot and must wear – like the Shtreimel, the bizarre traditional fur hat a Hasidic man dons for religious holidays and festive occasions and those times when a guy just feels like balancing a dead gopher on his head – what they can do for a living, who and when they marry, even when a married couple can and cannot have sex – every aspect of their lives….

But health guidelines meant to protect *every* community from a deadly infectious disease?  Dude, that’s asking too much.

 

“Wear a mask? Oy, that would make us look ludicrous.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Have I Mentioned Before How Serious I Am About This?

What with the looming appointment of yet another antediluvian-minded wacko religious conservative nominee to SCOTUS, the subject of attempts to overturn Roe v. Wade is once again up for social media debate.  I like this guy’s pithy phrasing of the reality that some folk still don’t seem to understand, even as many of us – men and women, religious and secular, even a Mormon mother of six – have pointed out that all pregnancies are caused by male ejaculations:

 

 

There are, of course, reasons for abortion that do not stem from unplanned/unwanted pregnancies and therefore would not be prevented by preventing irresponsible ejaculations.  If you’ve ever known a couple  [3]   who’s had to terminate a much-wanted pregnancy due to medical reasons you’ve had a glimpse at the pain involved…and if you think that no one you know has ever been in that situation, as a wise friend said recently, “If you don’t know someone who has had an abortion, it just means you’re the kind of person they wouldn’t tell.”

What with the upcoming election, the ongoing pandemic, the stresses and pressures all of us are dealing with, I often despair at the divisiveness of our political and personal discourse. That said, I’m still going to draw my own dividing line.  If you don’t understand this point – if you are a man who favors regulating the bodily autonomy of women but not men (and if you’re a woman with the same opinions, WTF is wrong with you?) and are not willing to just MYOFB on this issue, please, stay away from me, stay away from my husband, my family, my pets, my car, lawn, my recycling bin, my pear tree….

Side note that shouldn’t be a side note, but a main talking point:
I’ve witnessed plenty of women being asked if they’d ever had an abortion, but have yet to see a man asked if he’s ever been the *cause* of an abortion.

 

 

Let’s change that, shall we?

 

*   *   *

Department Of For Those Who Wonder What Is The Concept Of Bodily Autonomy
Sub-Department of And For The Rest Of Us Who Think That Women Should Have As Much Or More Bodily Autonomy Than A Corpse

 

 

*   *   *

 

Different as in, lightening up the subject matter.  It’s time to giggle.

*   *   *

Department Of The Following Joke Is Courtesy Of Sigourney Weaver  

Yeah, we’re best buds, didn’t you know?  She calls me up to share her latest jokes.  The Sigster is quite the gagster, which surprises some people who primarily think of her as a flamethrower-wielding, saving-the-world-from aliens, warrior woman.   This jest of hers had me in fits of pig-snorting laughter.   [4]

 

My doctor told me I have to stop masturbating.  I asked, “Why?”
She said, “Because I’m trying to examine you.”

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Trying To Be A Good Citizen….

Even as I don’t like wearing a mask, I always do when I go out. But they are a problem for me; it seems like I bought about 15 different kinds, trying to get a good fit, but no matter what the style they don’t want to stay around my ears and are always popping off.

Do you remember the “earlobes” lesson?  Maybe they don’t use that example in school anymore, but both MH and I remember that, when we were in our high school science classes, two basic human traits were used to introduce students to concepts in genetics: eye color, and earlobe shape.

 

 

If earlobes hang free, they are detached. If they connect directly to the sides of the head, they are attached.  Free/unattached is the dominant trait. Scientists used to think this trait was controlled by a single gene; thus, it was a good illustrative introduction to genetics, with students having fun comparing earlobes, and going home and doing the same with their parents and siblings. Nowadays, geneticists think it is likely that several genes contribute to this trait.

MH said that my attached earlobes make it difficult for the mask strings to get a good hold.  I’d completely forgotten that moiself  has attached earlobes, until MH was helping me with a stubborn mask, and pointed that out.  I had to pout for a moment.

I  HAVE A GENETIC DISABILITY.

I WANT MY OWN PARKING SPACE, DAMMIT.

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Never trust atoms – they make up everything.

 

“I swear, one more bad science pun and….”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Just Thinkin’

On my early morning walks, I listen to podcasts. When a podcast ends, depending on its length/how many minutes I have before I return home, moiself  either tunes in to another podcast or switches to some music.

I’ve noticed that I walk faster, with the proverbial spring in my step, when music is coming through my earbuds.  Occasionally I wonder if someone walking behind or towards moiself  would notice the difference:

“Look at her – The Fresh Air interview must have ended and now she’s listening to The Go-Gos….”

 

 

Who could resist bopping to that?

*   *   *

Department Of Th-Th-Th-That’s All, Folks

Among the many observations of #45 which are supposed to be character- revealing is the fact that he is the first president since James Polk (over 170 years ago!) who has not kept a pet while in the White House.

Not true, sez moiself . What about his lap dog, William Barr?

 

*   *   *

 

May you have more bodily autonomy than a corpse;
May you take pity (but not patronizingly so) on we recessive freaks of nature
who have attached earlobes;
May you remember that, when it comes to boppin’ out to The Go-Gos, resistance is futile;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] But why the fuck would anyone who reads this blog object to that shit?

[2] Or, at least he should get mentioned in several footnotes.

[3] Or you yourself have been part of that couple.

[4] Okay, so I actually saw this on a NY Times link to famous people telling jokes…but I want Sigourney to know I would be a good audience for her humor, and we should hang out, some time soon.  Unless she has a problem with PWAE (People With Attached Earlobes).

The Good Old Days I’m Not Remembering

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Department Of The Joke I Wish Was Not So Spot-On Descriptive

Q. How many Republicans does it take to change a light bulb?
A. None; #45 just says it’s been changed and the rest of them sit in the dark and applaud.

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Good Old Days Are More Old Than Good

Why is nostalgia like grammar?
We find the present tense and the past perfect.   [1]

Thanks to the podcast Curiosity Daily, moiself  has learned that there is a classification for the nostalgic lens with which my mother viewed the stories of her childhood. In the podcast’s August 13 episode, one of the topics was nostalgia.

Nostalgia is a sentimentality for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations…..
Nostalgia’s definition has changed greatly over time. Consistent with its Greek word roots meaning “homecoming” and “pain,” nostalgia was for centuries considered a potentially debilitating and sometimes fatal medical condition expressing extreme homesickness. The modern view is that nostalgia is an independent, and even positive, emotion that many people experience often. Occasional nostalgia has been found to have many functions, such as to improve mood, increase social connectedness, enhance positive self-regard, and provide existential meaning.
( excerpts from Wikipedia entry on nostalgia )

Specifically, the podcast focused on the fact that the folks who study such things (nostal-geologists, as I like to think of them) have classified nostalgia into two types: restorative versus reflective nostalgia.

Restorative nostalgia is when you feel like things used to be better in the past, and you long to relive or even reconstruct the way (you think) that things were.  Reflective nostalgia involves recognizing your wistful feelings about how things used to be, and admitting you sometimes long for the old days even as you accept the fact that the past is past and that your perceptions of that past are probably biased.

 

 

I had an immediate, visceral reaction to hearing the names and descriptions of the two types of nostalgia;  Moiself  felt like I’d won a jackpot of sorts, in having a spot-on term for the kind of “looking back” my mother preferred to do.

My mother was quite willing to share her stories of growing up in the small northern Minnesota town of Cass Lake.  I frequently asked my parents about their childhoods, as I found their stories entertaining, fascinating, and ultimately revealing (even as I later found out about all of the concealing that was going on).  My father was the more skillful storyteller, both in the entertaining way he presented his stories and, as my siblings and I discovered in our adulthood, in his deftness at deflecting or avoiding talking about certain times of his life.    [2]   But this space, today, is for my mother’s restorative nostalgia.

As a child I’d observed that adults had this thing for “the good old days.” Although my mother didn’t present her stories with that introduction, the forthright manner in which she presented How Things Were Back Then ® made me astonished by the idea that anyone would pine for the olden days.

Restorative nostalgia: even as that kind of rose-colored-glasses/longing for the past is understandable, I’ve come to believe that it is ultimately not helpful, and can even be damaging.  Besides being unreal – you can’t and go back and make things the way they were – restorative nostalgia is, or should be, undesirable, for any rational person. When I have met people who really and truly seem to wish for “the way things were,” I sometimes want to bitch slap them into reality…

 

 

…and ask them, Have you fully considered the totality of that “safe space” you think you long for…and would you be willing to take everything else that came with it?

Those “simpler times” for which many people wax nostalgic included the not-so-simple realities of massive (and oft-times life-threatening) racial, gender, and sexual orientation repression and discrimination.

“Wait a minute, Mom – I remember you telling me…”  became my unintentional mantra, when it came to listening to my mother’s restorative nostalgia.  And after I had pointed out what, in my opinion, needed pointing out, she would respond with a somewhat conciliatory, “Oh yes, well, there was that….”

One day when I was visiting my parents back during the first Gulf War, I brought up the subject of current events.  My mother began telling me about how she found herself “pining for” the days of World War II, aka, “The Good War.”

Uh….Mom…those were days when the WORLD was at WAR.

“Oh yes, well, there was that… but, she continued, everyone knew each other in the town, and they all pulled together, and there was a feeling of solidarity….

I tried to validate that for her, then gently asked her if the pulling-together part made up for that awful day when the news came about the small town’s Bright Shining Hope:  the Cass Lake High School star athlete and recent graduate, beloved by all and engaged to a local girl, was killed in combat in Europe. The news devastated the town.  And didn’t she remember telling me about how horrible it was when the “telegraph truck” drove down Main Street, and when people saw it coming they ran into their houses, as if they could hide from the bad news, as if their shut doors would mean that the notice of a husband/brother/son/cousin who was KIA or MIA or wounded would pass on to another family….  And didn’t she remember telling me how “sick to death” she was by the adults who used the war to excuse their incompetence and blunders that had nothing to do with wartime circumstances, but if you tried to bring it to their attention or ask them to correct their mistakes, they’d sneer at you and say, “Don’t you know there’s a war on?!” and you’d be accused of being unpatriotic if you said anything after that?

 

 

“Oh yes, well, there was that….”  But things were “simpler” back then, in the old town/small town days, she declared. 

Well, maybe, I said…but “simple” doesn’t always equate to better, or even good.  And it seems far from simple – it seems complicated, even frightening, to me – to ponder much of what people had to navigate back then.

What would that be, she wondered?  She said she liked to remember the simple days, like the time when she and a friend walked back to their respective homes late one night after a school activity – they thought nothing of walking home after dark because they were safe from danger in a small town, and she’s thought of that over the years, when she couldn’t sleep until her own school-age children were home because she worried about us being out after dark….

“But wait a minute, Mom….”   you had so many dangers back then that we don’t have now. Maybe you felt safe walking home at dark, but I remember the rest of that story you told me:  the very next morning, when you went to your friend’s house to walk with her to school like you did on every school day, you saw the frightening QUARANTINE! sign on her front door.  Your friend had been stricken – overnight, seemingly out of nowhere – with polio and was being kept alive by an iron lung, and your parents were almost frantic with fear, thinking you might also be infected.   And over the years I’ve heard about children in your small town who were crippled, even blinded and deafened, by diseases for which we now have vaccines and/or cures….

 

Quarantine sign, Polio. 2005.3080.07.

 

“Oh yes, well, there was that….”  But still, she insisted, people were friendlier back then. They pulled together, and put aside their differences to cooperate as equals – being a good citizen meant something, back then.

“But wait a minute, Mom…. The “everyone pulling together” did not, in fact, include everyone.  Some citizens were more equal than others.  Don’t you remember telling me about “the Indian kids,” who were required by law to go to public school until age 13, after which they all dropped out, and how they all sat in the back of the class and the teachers rarely spoke to them and they never spoke in class?  You said, when I asked about their tribal affiliation, that you thought there were “at least two kinds of them,”    [3]  but you didn’t know what the “kinds” were – none of the whites did, because they weren’t interested and didn’t bother to find out, even though all the whites in town knew who was Norwegian-American and who was German- or Swedish-American…and that sometimes you felt bad for the Indians because you knew they had gone from being the majority to a minority in their own land….

And you told me about a high school girl who befriended the son of the only Chinese family in town – a family that had to constantly remind everyone during “The Good War” that they were Chinese, not Japanese – but this girl’s parents forced her to stop even speaking with him because they were horrified by the idea that their daughter might want to date “an Oriental”…. and when that Chinese family opened a grocery store because they couldn’t shop at the other stores in town during regular hours   [4]  no one patronized their store, and they were unable to make a living and moved to another town….

 

 

“Oh yes, well, there was that….”   Still, it was so much fun, the carefree high school days, she said, asking me if I remembered her telling me how she got to be lead saxophone player in the marching band (in such a small school in such a small town, if you played an instrument, you got to be in the band) and was valedictorian of her high school?  You know, back then, the teachers knew all the students and their families; they took a personal interest in their students, and everyone was so nice….

“But wait a minute, Mom…. What about the fact that your mother had to call the school principal and fight to get you into the physics class, because the physics teacher refused to “waste my time teaching science to girls”?  And then, after the principal forced the teacher to accept the two top students in Cass Lake High School – two girls, you and your best friend, Dorothy K – into his class, the teacher refused to speak to you or call on you when you raised your hand, and said openly to you and Dorothy on the first day of class that although it was against his will he’d been ordered to allow them in his classroom, and he grudgingly agreed to teach Dorothy because, “It’s obvious that she will have to work for a living.”

 

 

“Oh yes, well, there was that….”

Then, without a modicum of introspection or self-awareness, my mother said, “Oh well, it turned out I never found physics to be very interesting….”

Well, of course not – why would you have?!?!?!  You were actively discouraged from being interested in it! The teacher paid no attention to you – he didn’t care if you learned anything. He had to give you an A because you read the required materials, aced all of the tests, and all the other students knew you had the top grade in the class.

And what about the way your best friend, Dorothy K, was treated?  Because she was “disfigured” – a botched forceps delivery damaged her facial muscles, causing the right side of her face to droop, as if she’d had a stroke – Dorothy was raised to accept the “fact” that because she lacked the most important feminine asset – a pleasing face – no man would ever want to date, much less marry her, and that she would need to make her own way in the world…in a world where the same men who would not consider her romantic partner material were also predisposed to not consider her their intellectual or professional equal….

“Oh yes, well, there was that….” 

And that job you had, after your junior college graduation: you worked as a secretary at the post office, and you said it drove you nuts, how the clerk was so incompetent and you often ended up doing his duties (but of course you didn’t get paid for doing so), and you knew you could do the job better but when you asked the manager you were told that, as a woman, you weren’t eligible to even apply for such a position…and how you were saving up your money to buy a car, but as soon as you were married you had to quit your job, because a married woman couldn’t work at the post office….

“Oh yes, well, there was that….”

and that…and that…and that…and that….

The incidents – read: life – my mother told me about…how do I explain this?  She never told those stories as examples of hardship or discrimination.  She presented them matter-of-factly, and often seemed to be befuddled by how gob-smacked I was to hear them.  To her, that was just the way things were; I heard the between-the-lines details – hardship and fear, racism and discrimination – that didn’t even, technically, require me to read between the lines, as they were, to me, glaringly overt…even as those details were, to her, not the point of her stories.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Dorothy Is Not In Kansas Anymore

I met my mother’s friend, the afore-mentioned, legendary (to moiself ), Dorothy K, only once.  I was in college, home for a visit, and my mother excitedly told me that her friend Dorothy was returning to the States after her latest overseas trip, and had arranged to take a flight to LAX. My parents picked up Dorothy at the airport and brought her to their house, where she stayed overnight until she caught a flight back to her home.    [5]  

I was somewhat enthralled with the idea of Dorothy: over the years, I’d heard about how she was a chemist, made good money, and spent her free time travelling around the world.  When I finally met her I remember thinking how attractive I found her to be – she had “good bones,” and I couldn’t help but wonder how her life would have been, sans that incompetent doctor forceps mishap.

Part of my enthrallment came via comparing her life to my mom’s.  Moiself  (ungraciously, I know) saw my mother as a staid homemaker, someone who worked all day but never got paid and who had never been anywhere except for Cass Lake and Santa Ana. And here is her friend, with a career in science, who travels the globe….

I later thought of the ironies of Dorothy’s life, including the fact that the characteristic which made her “damaged goods” in the eyes of her culture is also what allowed her to go to college and work in fields that were closed to women in that time.  Her disfigurement essentially neutered her in the eyes of males; thus, she presented no threat of “distraction” (i.e., of them being sexually attracted to her).  Although I’ve little doubt that she faced discrimination (she shared a few stories with me, about always being the only woman in her department), it was as if she were a third gender: since men didn’t see her as a woman she was less of a threat to male colleagues, in terms of them having to consider that they were being equaled, or even bested, by a woman.

My mother (privately, years after Dorothy’s visit) admitted to me that she sometimes wondered what it would like to be Dorothy, whom she saw as independent and carefree.  And I wondered, is that how Dorothy saw herself?  Considering the culture she was raised in, instead of fully embracing her life – her career and the intellect she was allowed to develop – did she ever compare herself to, say, my mother?  Did she in any way envy my mother for having a husband and children – for having the life Dorothy was told would not be possible for her, even as it was the only/ultimate/proper life to which a girl was supposed to aspire? Or, did she look at my mother’s life and find it…tedious, and limited?

Such questions haunt me, whenever I think of Dorothy.  I wish I could ask her, but she died several years before my mother did. I can only hope that whatever nostalgia Dorothy dabbled in, that it was reflective, and brought her satisfaction.

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

You know what seems odd to me?
Numbers that aren’t divisible by two.

 

 

And I also vote for more nerd puns in this space.

*   *   *

May your nostalgia be reflective;
May you live in the present with your eyes open;  [6]

May you change the damn lightbulb when it needs changing;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Couldn’t find attribution for this old pun.

[2] In last week’s post, I mentioned a few of them. My father died not knowing his adult children had found just how poor (and dysfunctional) his family was, and that he’d never graduated (nor even attended) high school because his father forced all his children to drop out of school at age 13. And when I found this out, some missing pieces fell into place; I realized that all the stories Dad had told about his youth, to his children, were carefully told to hide those details.  For example, we’d made assumptions that the job he talked about having “after school” was part-time, when in fact he was working fulltime, when his peers were in school, and we never put the pieces together to realize that the school stories he’d shared were all pre-high school….

[3] The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe were “two kinds” of indigenous tribes which had settled in the Cass Lake area, centuries before Europeans arrived.

[4] One grocer let the Chinese family shop at his store early, before regular hours, so that the other (white) families wouldn’t see them.

[5] …to wherever that was for her.  I cannot remember; it was in some larger city.  She’d left Cass Lake to go to college, and only returned to that small town to visit her parents, who remained there until their deaths.

[6] Even when it too often involves holding your nose (think: #45 and his primeval toadies) and wishing for a fast track time machine to the future

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!

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[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)

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