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The Vacation Schedule I’m Not Maintaining

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Trigger Warning

 

“I couldn’t believe it, because they actually did it.  The court actually took a constitutional right that has been recognized for half a century and took it from the women of America — that’s shocking when you think about it.”     [1]

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Baaaaaaaaack….

Attentive and longtime readers may have noticed that for the past eight weeks this disclaimer opened my blog posts:

Thanks for checking in, so to speak (…er, write).  I am taking moiself  on holiday.  From this Friday and through June, I will be posting blogs from the same time period of eight years ago (late May-June, 2014).  New posts will return in early-mid July.

That was due to the “exotic” travel schedule of MH and moiself, which began in mid-late May with a trip Florida.  [2]

Here is what our schedule was supposed to be:

* visiting MH’s mother in Florida for several days;

* on to Stockholm, a couple of days to acclimate ourselves to the time change (and all those Swedish meatball variations) before joining….

* a 14 day Rick Steves Tour of Scandinavia, starting in Stockholm and ending in Bergen;

* six days of touring Norway on our own, from Bergen back to Oslo;

* catching a train to join our Swenadian  [3] friends and spending a short week in their Swedish country stuga (cabin), then traveling with them to Gothenburg and vicinity;

* six days in Iceland “on the way back” to Oregon.

 

Here is what actually happened.

All went as planned until Day 13 of the tour, when MH awoke under the proverbial weather and tested positive for COVID.  The next 5 days were spent cancelling and rescheduling train-car rental-ferry-hotel bookings, trying to find a place to lay low for several days while we   [4]   recovered.  Our dear Swenadian friends, rightfully cautious due to their respective health concerns, came to visit us after we’d recovered.  While the afternoon walk we made around the parks of a Swedish town was a far cry from the longer time we’d hoped to have with them, it was good to have at least those two hours together.

What the what – if nothing else, travel teaches you to be flexible.  MH and I enjoyed some final days in Oslo and then Stockholm before flying on to Reykjavik, where our Iceland adventures were not impacted by the previous schedule rearranging. Also, there was the  blissful ignorance of being removed from everyday news reporting – moiself  had remembered that there’d been a pesky leak of a supposed/certain SCOTUS memo….

 

“I suppose I’ll have to be the one to say something to her.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of That Which Should Not Have To Be Mentioned

Our return flight last Thursday left Reykjavik a little before 5 pm and arrived in PDX ~ 6 pm. What with traveling east to west, we went back in time 7 hours….  Little did I know the news that would greet moiself  upon our return: my country’s legal system had gone back (what seemed like) more than a hundred years.

Really and truly, I knew nothing of this until I checked FB last Friday morning, and saw this post from my beloved nephew, who has been celebrating Pride Month with a series of personal reflections on what “being gay” means:

Being gay is…

…thinking that maybe you should get married on a sooner timescale than you’re ready for, because given how the Supreme Court’s minoritarian rule is going, your current right to do so might have an expiration date.

Sorry to steal the stage from today’s news. Fuck the Supreme Court majority that is not representative of majority public opinion.

 

 

 

Thus, my first FB post after stepping onto Oregon soil:

“Keep our nation on the track
one step forward, three steps back….”  [5]

I just returned last night from 6+ weeks in Europe, to find that certain intellectual, social and moral cretins who unfortunately hold positions of power in this country have effectively decided to turn back the clock, and I’m not talking the end of Daylight Savings time.

SCOTUS justices Thomas; Alioto; Gorsuch; Kavanaugh; Barret – I’d like to do a wire coat hanger D & C on their respective cranial contents.

*   *   *

As moiself  writes this it’s day five for me, back in Oregon, and I’m still in a fog. It’s not the time zone difference that has me discombobulated; rather, it’s the time travel thing, where I returned to find that my country’s legal/human rights system has warped back to the Dark Ages.  In case y’all haven’t guessed by now, I refer to the recent SCOTUS decisions involving guns, school employee-led prayer, and of course, Roe v. Wade.

Consider this:

SCOTUS Justices Who Voted to Overturn Roe v. Wade (the justice’s religion)

Samuel A. Alito, Jr. (Catholic)
Amy Coney Barrett (Catholic)
Brett Kavanaugh (Catholic)
Neil M. Gorsuch (Catholic)   [6]

and…wait for it…
Clarence Thomas (Catholic)

The fact that a practicing Catholic SCOTUS justice – or judge, of any court – is allowed to vote on this issue; i.e., is not legally and ethically *required* to recuse him or herself on any abortion case, as per their the Catholic sheep daddy Pope’s decrees on the matter…

 

 

“…. Roberts was asked by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) what he would do if the law required a ruling that his church considers immoral. Roberts is a devout Catholic and is married to an ardent pro-life activist. The Catholic Church considers abortion to be a sin, and various church leaders have stated that government officials supporting abortion should be denied religious rites such as communion….
Renowned for his unflappable style in oral argument, Roberts appeared nonplused and, according to sources in the meeting, answered after a long pause that he would probably have to recuse himself.”
(“The faith of John Roberts,” The Los Angeles Times)

Another butt-frosting fact: there are SCOTUS justices who adhere to the judicial philosophy of/refer to themselves as originalists   [7]  but who are also Catholic and/or female (hmm, what’s that musty odor, Amy Coney Barrett?), something the original founding fathers would never have imagined nor permitted.

And then, there is the festering turd atop the crumbling cake:

“In nearly 28 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas has been its most unwavering ‘originalist.’ That means that he reads the Constitution as meaning today what he believes those who wrote it meant back then, no matter how conditions may have changed in America in the meantime.”
(“Justice Thomas, originalism and the First Amendment,” National Constitution Center)

Clarence Thomas is an originalist. All righty then:  “Justice” Thomas – you should be a slave.  And counted as 3/5 of a person, as the Originals intended.

 

 

But I have to stop going there. Moiself  has to stop applying rational arguments to irrational situations.  Therein lies madness.

*   *   *

Department Of Stories That Need Retelling

This, from my blog post of 5-24-19 (“The Two-Faced, Sanctimonious, Festering Turd-Of-Hypocrisy I’m Not Strangling”)

From the early 1980s – 90’s I worked for (several Planned Parenthood clinics)… and a private OB-GYN practice in the Bay Area….

We (The Practice’s Doc, Nurse Practitioner, and I) developed a personal relationship    [8]  and had many interesting conversations on issues re women’s health care. Doc and NP were both staunchly pro-choice, Doc in particular due to his knowledge of what things were like before Roe v. Wade.  He told me stories about The Bad Old Days, about how (surprise!) the rich could always get safe care, no matter what. Back in the late 50s – 60s when abortion was illegal, a Japanese airline had a clandestine (but procurable, if you knew the right people) package deal: the fare included flights to and from Tokyo from West Coast airports, overnight lodging in a Tokyo hotel, and the fee for an abortion performed by a Japanese doctor. Sympathetic American doctors whose desperate patients had no safe local alternatives would refer their patients to someone, who would refer them to someone else, who would refer them to….    [9]

One of The Practice’s OB patients, after a routine exam, asked Doc if he ever performed abortions. Although it was none of her %&!$ business (and moiself wanted him to tell her so) he answered honestly, while tactfully letting her know that he would not be steered down the anti-abortion harangue road she was heading for.  After she’d left, Doc signaled to me to follow him to the office’s back room, where old/inactive patient files were kept.

As Doc searched through the files he told me about a former patient of his who’d sought an abortion, back when the procedure was illegal except for “medical reasons.” This woman had had to go before a (male, of course) judge to get approval to have an abortion. Her physicians had to testify as to her mental and physical well-being, and they had lots of material: she had chronic health problems; was depressed to the point of suicide; her husband had left her and their three children…. She’d wanted to get her tubes tied after birthing her second child but could not find a doctor to do so – as per the standards of the time, hospitals would not book a sterilization surgery for a woman unless she met this weird algorithm (criteria included her age, the number of children she had, and other factors I can’t recall).  She also needed her husband’s permission for the surgery, which he’d refused.   [10]

The woman won her petition. At this point in the story Doc had found the patient’s chart, and showed me the transcript from her day in court.     [11]  I will never forget the sad yet determined look in his eyes as he said,
“Don’t ever let it go back to that.” 

And I will always remember how foolishly optimistic it was of moiself  to think, “It could never go back to that.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Business As Usual

Of course, no matter the legal restrictions and whatever else happens in the upcoming months, those with money and connections will always be able to wrangle safe medical care.  The trail of naïve, drugged and/or abused girls and women knocked up, intentionally or otherwise, by the Brett “I Love Beer” Kavanaughs of the world and their eternal frat bro contingents will always have an out, as powerful men do not want their mistakes publicly aired.  The poor and not-so-well connected will have to resort to measures of desperation – unless whatever choice they happen to make involves using a gun.

 

*   *   *

Department Of  And Yet One Never Fully Goes Back To The Past

There is too much water – and blood – under this particular bridge of human history.  Just as in the past, women and men will rise up to help those who need help (“Call Jane”).

Here is the message I recently received from a friend:

“Hope you are holding up with the end of democracy at hand.  Yeah.
Would you mind being a reference for me – I am applying to be a volunteer with the Colorado Abortion Doula Network.  I’m sure you’ve heard that CO clinics are overwhelmed with patients from OK and Tx….”

How proud I was of my friend; how sick to my stomach I was, for the reason for her (and other women and men) having to take that action.

When MH and I have attended NARAL fundraiser events in Portland, the organization’s staff has mentioned how their peers working in other states are “jealous” of Oregon’s long record of supporting reproductive rights.   [12]  Looks like my friends and I may soon be providing the same services, should Oregon experience a migration of patients.

*   *   *

Department Of, And One More Thing….

Don’t y’all be kidding y’alls’ selves that there is, ultimately or sincerely (ha!), *any* reason for the SCOTUS decision, other than that of controlling women and fearing women’s sexuality and autonomy.  I’ve seen firsthand the Scandinavian system and standard of living, and what societies looks like which actually care about children, put people ahead of politics, and relegate theocracy to the governmental dumpster fires of the past.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of, Unfortunately, There Is Always One More “One More Thing” :
The Quiet Part Out Loud

I am so, so, so sorry, my LGBTQ family and friends and fellow Americans…. You do know you’re next, right?

“Vice President Harris said Monday that she ‘never believed’ the Senate testimony of Supreme Court Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Neil M. Gorsuch, in which they stressed the importance of legal precedent in cases like Roe v. Wade, which established a constitutional right to abortion.

‘I never believed them. I didn’t believe them. That’s why I voted against them….’

Listen, it was clear to me when I was sitting in that chair as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that they were … very likely to do what they just did….”

Harris also addressed Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion, in which he called on the Supreme Court to reexamine cases on LGBTQ rights and contraception. ‘I definitely believe this is not over. I do. I think he just said the quiet part out loud,’ Harris said of Thomas.”

(Vice President Kamala Harris, “Harris says she ‘never believed’ Kavanaugh, Gorsuch would uphold Roe,”  Washington Post )

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
The Death Of Liberty Edition

I was looking forward to returning to this segment of my blog.  However, moiself  –  who looks for the levity in any situation and who sincerely hopes that friends and family entertain me with tasteless jokes should I come down with, say, butt cheek cancer or other dreadful diseases – is at a loss when it comes to being facetious about how religious conservative ideology is raping this country.   So, these may have to do:

A priest, a pedophile, and a rapist walk into a bar. He orders a drink.

Q. How many conservative evangelical Christians does it take to change a light bulb?
A. None. They just sit in the dark and demand you accept that the light is still on.

Q. How do you teach a bunch of kids about god—who he is, and what he does?
A. Gather them all in a classroom. Then never show up.

*   *   *

May you find power in the visualization of male SCOTUS justices who voted to overturn Roe V. Wade having yearly colonoscopies performed by unsterilized wire coat hangers;
May you take constructive action where and how you can to your maintain sanity;
May we all soon return to living in the 21st century;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] (Vice President Kamala Harris, “Harris says she ‘never believed’ Kavanaugh, Gorsuch would uphold Roe,”  Washington Post )

[2] The most exotic place of all, and as foreign as the state sometimes felt, we were never asked to show our passports.

[3] A Swede married to a Canadian.

[4] Yes, we – of course moiself eventually got it as well.  We were both glad to have been fully vaccinated, as our symptoms were relatively mild and followed the same course (fever disappearing in less than 48 hours…frankly, if we hadn’t have tested ourselves for COVID we’d have thought we’d contracted a mild influenza virus).

[5]  One of the rallying cries of the SF-based political activists group LAW [“Ladies Against Women”], who used satire – well, it seemed like satire at the time, and now it seems like prescient  journalism – to critique the religious/conservative right wing’s anti-women’s autonomy  political agenda.

[6] “Although Neil Gorsuch, appointed in 2017, attends an Episcopal church, he was raised Catholic, and it is unclear if he considers himself a Catholic who is also a member of a Protestant church or simply a Protestant.” (Daniel Burke (March 22, 2017). “What is Neil Gorsuch’s religion? It’s complicated.”)

[7] “In the context of United States law, originalism is a concept regarding the interpretation of the Constitution that asserts that all statements in the constitution must be interpreted based on the original understanding ‘at the time it was adopted.’ ” (Originalism, Wikipedia).

[8] Which continued after I left the practice and which exists to this day.

[9] I later heard about this same service from another doctor who was Doc’s age.

[10] Yep, that’s right – he knocked her up a fourth time, and then abandoned her and their children.

[11] Yes, that was way before HIPA laws.

[12] “Abortion is legal throughout pregnancy in Oregon – there is no ban or limit on abortion in Oregon based on how far along in pregnancy you are….”  (Abortionfinder.com, Abortion in Oregon)

 

The Elephant I’m Not Ignoring

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Thanks for checking in, so to speak (…er, write).  I am taking moiself  on holiday.  From this Friday and through June, I will be posting blogs from the same time period of eight years ago (late May-June, 2014).  New posts will return in early-mid July.

Until then, I hope y’all enjoy these reruns (or at least gain a modicum of petty amusement from making fun of them, and/or noting how NOT perspicacious my 2014 blatherings observations turned out to be).  Perhaps they may spark some sense of déjà vu in you, or cause you to contemplate what you were doing and thinking in those pre-pandemic, pre-idiocy epidemic times (i.e., before the debacle that was #45).

Moiself  apologizes for the fact that visuals (pictures; video clips) in the original posts may or may not be included.
*   *   * 

 

As promised (threatened?) in earlier missives, a picture of Belle’s tattoo.

She did the artwork herself. The tattooist was pleased at having to do (almost) no alterations to translate Belle’s fine art into body art.  There is, of course, a story behind the design.

Belle included a triangle for several reasons, including her love of the strength and purity of the strongest geometrical shape, and because it is the mathematical operator (delta) ∆, for change.  The cicada also has multiple personal references for Belle.  She is in awe of the cicada’s dramatic emergent cycle (13 – 17 years, depending on the species), and a cicada  symbolizes her years of dedication to the Oregon ZooTeens program.  Last summer Belle and other members of the program’s Leadership Corps travelled to a nature preserve in Costa Rica, where they were serenaded by an abundance of cicadas.

 *   *   *

 Too bad not all things that creep and crawl are as benign as cicadas.

White Guy Killer Syndrome: Can I go ahead and scream yet? It’s time for America to admit what it’s long resisted: White male privilege kills.  (by Brittney Cooper [1])

There have been many articles published this week about the Santa Barbara killings. Cooper’s is one of the more incendiary and thought-provoking.  She writes forcefully about the latest, maddening, frustrating – and worst of all, hardly atypical –  mass killing scenario in the USA.  It seems that “every few years, the American public has to watch in horror as some white kid goes on a rampage, killing everything from babies to old people,” when yet another young white guy decides “….his disillusionment with his life should become somebody else’s problem.”

Cooper rails against the inability of the press, the law, of society itself, to have the conversations  “…about white male pathology and the ways that systems of whiteness and patriarchy continue to produce white men who think like this. ”

(The killer) had been posting strange youtube videos of himself talking about killing people over the last several weeks, so much so that his family was reportedly disturbed enough to call the police and have them come do a welfare check. But “officers concluded that he was ‘polite, courteous,’” and downplayed any difficulties.

 In the manifesto he released he said he was relieved that officers did not push the matter further because they would have found his weapons.

 Can I go ahead and scream yet? A black or brown man would have been violently hauled into a jail and locked up at the first sign of such machinations. His property rights would have been thoroughly violated, and no matter how “polite” and “courteous” he might have been with officers, no reports would have reflected such language.

 These coded terms mean that these officers were incapable of seeing this clearly troubled young white man as a threat. How many mass killings must it take to recognize that white male entitlement is potentially deadly?”

*   *   *

The Department of No, I’m Not Done Yet
Aka The Santa Barbara Killings and Male Defensiveness:

We’re not all like that!”

Who. Fucking. Said. That. You. Are?

If, just one more time, I hear/read one more variation on that comment….

I recently posted a link on my FB page to a Greta Christina blog post that addressed the killings.  The atheist/feminist/LGBTG activist, author and blogger linked to a compilation of excellent blog posts on the subject of why we are, still and again, told to ignore blatant misogynist fanaticism when it is implicated in acts of violence.  “You see,” we are assured/lectured, “it’s just the unbalanced, socially awkward dudes who commit such atrocities, and there is no relation to misogyny…” No matter how many female-loathing manifestos were spewed from the very killer’s mouth/computer.

 “A man who was part of a community of extremists who hate women, wrote a manifesto about his hate for women, then went to a female sorority house to kill women.  But it definitely wasn’t about his hatred of women. Oh, no sir…. “
(Martin Robbins, quoted in Butterflied & Wheels post, What Elephant in What Room?)

 The GC-linked posts show that a whole lotta intelligent, articulate and thoughtful men understand Why  (the Killer’s) Misogyny Matters.

And then, there are others.

A FB comment on my afore-mentioned post:

“Because white supremacists don’t want to live with blacks, anti-Semites don’t want Jews to exist, ____(killer’s name) [2] failed to obtain to obtain what he (wanted? sic) from women and then converted it into a conspiracy against him. If you read further there was also bullying involved in his life. This is a complex situation which apparently been going on for years which the therapist was unable to identify how serious it was but was on top of the last email to notify his parents. Remember his first victims were male, so its (sic) not all about you.”

Really.

I wanted to frost the commenter’s well-intentioned, I’m-going-to-sound-like-the-voice-of-let’s-stay-calm-folks, privileged, clueless assterior.  But since there is no frost-the-assterior button [3] on FB to click, I instead commented on his comment.

Uh, (FB poster), that some of (the killer’s) victims were male – just as victims of anti-Semitic or racist or gay hate crimes are often not Semitic, or of the “majority” ethnic group, or straight – does not mitigate the misogyny as his (self-identified) primary motivation.

I would hope my response to those bringing up anti-Semitism as the motivation for a mass killing would not be, “but Catholic Poles also died in the gas chambers, so it’s not all about you Jews.”  I would hope, listening to someone who is trying to get people to consider the broader reasons and motivations that drove the murders of Civil Rights activists, to be just a tad less defensive, so that my knee-jerk reaction would not be to defend whatever group I am in that, I think, is related to the killer(s): “But, white activists were also slain in the Civil Rights movement, so it’s not all about you Negroes.”

It’s not all about you.  Sadly, that comment just proves the pathetic, dangerous poin: [4] of people being averse to and uncomfortable with talking about misogyny.

We all want to believe we live in a “post-racial,” “post-gender inequitable” world, because then that would remove us from the responsibility of equalizing the imbalances.

If I am a man who considers myself to be the kind of man who does not hate women, who would never consciously disparage, harm or discriminate against someone based on their gender, then I can generalize from my own attitudes to assure myself that whatever individual or societal misogyny maybe-waybe still exists a teesny-weensy bit, golly gee, it’s not my problem, because…well…just look at me!  I’m evidence that we’re not all like that.  So, uh, yeah.  We’re not all like that.  Therefore, let’s pretend the ones that are like that don’t matter, have no influence, and never do any harm like that.

*   *   *

We take a break from this week’s ranting to contemplate a soothing picture, brought to you by the makers of A Baby sloth in a Bucket. ®

No ranting here, just enough cuteness to make you piss through your eyeteeth [5]

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

*  *  *

Operation Plain Speaking

Post Memorial Day rant musing: How I loathe, loathe loathe – and did I mention abhor? – the euphemistic, spin-meister monikers which Those in Charge of Such Things ® have applied to our recent and ongoing wars.

I get that “Desert Storm,” “Operation Enduring Freedom” and “Operation Iraqi Freedom” sound nobler than, “Thanks fer nuthin,’ Ex-Prez Bush-wad, now we’re the latest arrogant blowhards to get stuck in these historical shitstorms,” and are easier to fit on tombstones.

“Enduring Freedom,” my uncles’ and father’s (WWII) and grandfather’s (WWI) asses. People have died for those pompous pretenses.  “Enduring freedom” is translating into “never-ending confrontation.” Call ’em what they are.  The Iraq War; the Afghanistan War.

*   *   *

Speaking of plain speaking, and desperately looking for a rant-free segue into coming attractions, I have been practicing my French survival phrases:

Aider! Un home avec une poitrine velue volé mon vin! [6]

 and

J’aime votre chevre [7]

 and of course

 Où est votre coude ?[8]

 

Breathe deeply, fight the good fights, speak plainly, and S’il vous plaît, me passer le caillé de fromage, [9] and – but of course! – the hijinks shall ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] Educator and contributing writer at salon.com .

[2] Name redacted; I refuse to type it.

[3] Why is that, Mr. Zuckerberg?

[4] Just as how “The comments on any article about feminism justify feminism;”aka, Lewis’ Law.

[5] An old Southern saying.  Actually, not.  But it should be.

[6] “Help!  A man with a hairy chest stole my wine!”

[7] “I like your goat.”

[8] “Where is your elbow?”

[9] “Please pass me the cheese curds.”

[10] Il n’y a pas de footnote ici.

The Good Ole Folks I’m Not Romanticizing

4 Comments

Thanks for checking in, so to speak (…er, write).  I am taking moiself  on holiday.  From this Friday and through June, I will be posting blogs from the same time period of eight years ago (late May-June, 2014).  New posts will return in early-mid July.

Until then, I hope y’all enjoy these reruns (or at least gain a modicum of petty amusement from making fun of them, and/or noting how NOT perspicacious my 2014 blatherings observations turned out to be).  Perhaps they may spark some sense of déjà vu in you, or cause you to contemplate what you were doing and thinking in those pre-pandemic, pre-idiocy epidemic times (i.e., before the debacle that was #45).

Moiself  apologizes for the fact that visuals (pictures; video clips) in the original posts may or may not be included.
*   *   * 

 Remember to call your billiards shots 

White cat in the side pocket.

*   *   *

The Offfspring of Duh Meets the Progeny of You Can’t Make Up This Stuff

Dateline: May 21, a New York Times article, Bryan College is Torn; Can Darwin and Eden Co-exist?, about an Christian college which is being sued by two long-time faculty members as part of a controversy over the college’s stance on the origin of humans.

In a nutshell – an appropriate container, as you’ll see – the lawsuit revolves around the college’s “statement of belief,” which professors have to sign in order to be employed at Bryan College.  The original statement of belief, quite retro re the school’s views on creation and evolution,[1] is apparently not backward and Neanderthal strong enough for the college’s administration and governing board.  Fearing “a marked erosion of Christian values and beliefs across the country,” college officials recently added new language to the SOB [2] –  language they refer to as a “clarification” – that would have faculty members professing that Adam and Eve “are historical persons created by God in a special formative act, and not from previously existing life-forms.”

Some Bryan College students as well as professors are objecting to the SOB’s addition, claiming that it “…amounts to an assault on personal religious views” and that “it makes (Bryan College) a more narrow place.”

Gee, ya think?

Bryan College president Stephen D. Livesay defends the SOB’s clarification:

“…this is something that’s important to us. It’s in our DNA. It’s who we are.”

 Oh. My. Mr. Livesay. Whatever possessed you to use that term?

There’s no such thing as DNA. Because if there was, you’d be able to trace human ancestry back to previously existing life forms….ooooh….never mind.

 *   *   *

Speaking of (or implying) dinos, Wednesday’s Google Doodle tagged Mary Anning, a British palaeontologist.

And I’m using the British spelling intentionally and respectfully, not just to be colourful , so take a hike, spellchecker.

*   *   *

Animal Enrichment

We have a pair of Juncos nesting in the bird house we so inconveniently located (well, for the birds) above the jungle-gym/climbing tree of our outdoor cat, a Bengal named B.B.  We put the birdhouse up for more decorative than functional reasons, as an object d’yard art, thinking that no sane bird would choose to homestead in such close proximity to a feline. But, alas, a pair of Juncos seems to be feeding chicks housed within.  Fledging time should prove to be interesting.

*   *   *

Department of Random

Last week, watching the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, I got to thinking [3] about the ironies (or should I say insincerities?) behind one of the Country-Western genre’s staple themes, when guest Dolly Parton performed a song called Home.

There are a plethora of CW songs that pay tender tribute to and ostensibly yearn for the good ole folks and good ole, simpler times back home (“we wuz dirt poor but we wuz luuuved”) — songs written and performed by multimillionaires who did everything in their power to escape that life, that locale, and those people.  If life back then ‘n there was so good, why did you want out? Why were you so ambitious, in some cases even desperate, to leave it all behind and go for something more?

Just wondering.  Excuse me, wonderin’.

*   *   *

I Request a Moment of Respectful Silence

Please join me in honoring the passing of a national treasure, TOWIAWNCHH. [4]  Yes, The Only Women in America Who’s Never Colored Her Hair has thrown in the towel.

 

*   *   *

Department of Mixed Experiences

“We are never, ever coming back.”

Last week MH traveled to Pasadena to attended Nerdfest 2014 his Caltech Class of 1984 reunion.  He hemmed and hawed over attending, as he holds no special fondness for his alma mater and was not interested in the reunion activities.  He decided at the last minute to go because he wanted to see a group of friends who’d planned on attending.  One of these friends from Caltech days, who has continued to be a real life buddy  [5],  had this to say on his FB page about the reunion:

“As usual much bigger participation by younger and older classes. Energetic young woman working for the (Caltech) Alum Assoc introduced herself and explained her job was partly to improve relations with 1980’s classes. I asked what her theory was and she said their best guess was alums from that era had “mixed experiences” and many “did not enjoy returning to campus”.

I think all Caltech classes should hold their reunions on grounds of the previously-mentioned Bryan College.  Caltech alums could schlep in some previously existing life forms, planting them strategically around the campus grounds….

 *   *   *

My Wicked Fantasies ©
Chapter One in a (hopefully, very short) series

I will consume a cabbage, beans, Brussels sprouts, garlic and broccoli smoothie three hours before my next scheduled airplane flight.  When going through the security checkpoint, I will refuse to enter the TSA scanner machine and ask for the security pat down instead.

 *   *   *

May all of your security pat-downs reveal no previously existing life forms, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] It includes statements such as, “The origin of man was by fiat of God.”

[2] Praise Jaysuuuus for the opportunity to use that acronym.

[3] Fortunately, this train of thought lasted for, at most, five minutes.

[4] Her slave name is Robyn Parnell.

[5] And who is a favorite dude of mine as well.  Even if he is a dwarf scientist. Which I’d more fully explain, but then this footnote would need a footnote, and that’s just not right.

The SCOTUS Justices I’m Not (Yet) Assaulting

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Department Of Any Questions, Stupid Or Otherwise?

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

For now, consider this:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Applying Cognitive Behavioral Therapy To Moiself

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

And I am struck by a wave of gratitude.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

Once again, I digress.

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

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

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

 

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Marlboro Man Edition

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

What does Han Solo put in his cigarettes?
Chewbacco.

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Destiny I’m Not Fulfilling

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Department Of Podcast Feeds I’m Deleting

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

I…just…cannot….

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

* describe the scientific method to laypeople;

* illuminate critical and skeptical thinking;

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

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

 

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

*   *   *

Department Of Destiny, Schmestiny

And one more thing. 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

In other words, destiny is not destined.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Advice Of The Week

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

Check!

Happier!

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Happiness Edition

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

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

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

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

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

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

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

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

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

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

[6] This calls for another footnote.

The Russians I’m Not Absolving

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Department Of Scapegoating

Moiself  would like nothing better than to wake up tomorrow morning to the news that Vladimir Putin has

* kicked the KGB bucket
* cashed in his commie chips
* bit the Chernoyl dust,
* bought the fascist farm,
* given up the glasnost ghost
* won his last rabid dog lookalike ® contest…

 

 

 

you know – died.  Whether through “natural” means or otherwise; hey, I’m not picky.

Still, it doesn’t seem…wise…or right…or fair…or historically accurate, to blame Russia’s assault against Ukraine solely on that festering turd of a genocidal despot one leader.

Russia is a big ass country.  Even with an oligarchy-stained kleptocracy of a dictatorship masquerading as a federal republic, moiself  doesn’t think the P-boy can do what he’s doing unless he’s got a whole lotta other Russians – if not the majority – on his side.

This is the 21st century, and Russia is not North Korea.  In “First World” countries whose people have access to First World technologies (internet; cellphones) is impossible to completely control the narrative; it is impossible to make the majority of the Russian populace believe that Ukrainians are “neo-Nazis”,  or the other delusional justifications the P-pants-boy offers for invading a sovereign country, unless there are those who, for whatever reasons, want to believe such bizarre, totally unsubstantiated falsehoods.

Are Russians who support their country’s actions also victims (of P-face’s propaganda), as I have heard more than one person surmise,?  Or are they collaborators?  I’m not sure it matters, at this point.  Not to the dead Ukrainians, that’s for sure.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Thanks For The Imagery

Dateline: Saturday, March 26; circa 7:45 am; morning walk; listening to the People I Mostly Admire podcast’s latest episode:  No One Can Resist A Jolly, Happy Pig.  Host Steven Levitt is interviewing naturalist and author Sy Montgomery, who gets the following introduction on the PIMA website:

My guest today is bestselling author and naturalist Sy Montgomery. The Boston Globe describes her as “part Indiana Jones and part Emily Dickinson.” Her best-known book is The Soul of an Octopus, which was a finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2015. But she’s written about everything from tarantulas to hyenas to hummingbirds to pink dolphins. And as far as I can tell, she’s fallen in love with every one of them.

Levitt asks Montgomery how she got to where she is, in her profession – combining her two loves, of journalism and animals. Montgomery talks about visiting various people she knows who devote their lives to studying some obscure species, including a friend who is currently studying “the southern hairy-nosed wombat”…

…which caused moiself  to actually speak the following picture’s caption aloud.  To moiself, but ALOUD.

 

“Hey, Buford, y’all going to the barn dance tonight?”

*    *   *

Department Of Dietary Motivations

Back to the above-referenced podcast: Montgomery’s years of study of numerous animal species has caused her to refer to these animals as “people” (in aggregate) or “somebody” in particular. She explains her vocabulary choice:  not only do many of the scientists who study these animals attribute consciousness and emotion to them, but scientists who study animal brains consistently find the same or remarkably similar neurotransmitters and hormones that, in primates such as our homo sapiens selves, are responsible for the production and transmission of emotions.

 

 

Montgomery and Levitt had an interesting back-and-forth about such discoveries and attributions.  (Excerpts from their discussion; my emphases.)

LEVITT:
Now, I’m no expert on ethology, which is the study of animal behavior, but I suspect that the scholars in that area might be upset by your books….  I’m sure they would consider it a no-no to anthropomorphize animals, but that’s not even exactly what you do. You speculate about the unique ways each creature might experience the world. Am I right that some scientists complain that you go too far in that direction?

MONTGOMERY:
It’s not so much the scientists, but sometimes it’s the philosophers because they want humans to be the top of everything. Now, it is true that in science they use different words than I would use. Of course, in their scientific journals, they have different readers than I’m going to have, but things have changed a bit since, for instance, Jane Goodall first published her findings about tool use in chimps. No one wanted to publish that groundbreaking paper because she named her chimps instead of numbering them.

LEVITT:
Woah. Uh-huh.

MONTGOMERY:
Now things have changed…. There actually is a field of study that’s looking into animal personalities. I went on a personality survey with some of the top octopus researchers in the world…The person who headed that study…was the one who pointed out to me that if we fail to talk about emotions in animals, we are overlooking a central fact of neurobiology. And that is that every animal that has ever been studied, when you try to look for the hormones or neurotransmitters responsible for all of our feelings, like joy and fear, like stress and love, we find the exact same neurotransmitters. Even in taxa as different from ourselves, as octopuses, from whom we have been separated for half a billion years of evolution.

 

 

LEVITT:
The scientific, conventional wisdom for decades, hundreds of years, insisted that humans were unique on so many dimensions, like consciousness, the use of tools, ability to problem solve. Do you have a take on how these past scientists just got things completely wrong?

MONTGOMERY:
Yeah. I think it’s human supremacy, just like white supremacy. We wanted to be at the top, which would justify our exploitation of everybody else….

LEVITT:
Here’s something I strongly suspect will happen. When people look back in a hundred or 200 years, they will be shocked and dismayed at the cruelty that our society subjects animals to with factory farming. Do you agree?

MONTGOMERY:
A hundred percent. We will be appalled. And that’s why I became vegetarian years ago. Now there are farms that raise animals and slaughter animals in a more humane way, but I’m still delighted that I’m not eating them.

LEVITT:
You made a really powerful case for the wonder of pigs. Do you think for people whose goal it is get away from factory farming that maybe the strategy they should be taking is trying to teach people about the wonderful personality that pigs have?

MONTGOMERY:
Oh, I have gotten so many letters from people telling me that my book was the end of their bacon. And also, after Soul of an Octopus, many people wrote and said, “You know what? I used to love to eat octopus. I don’t eat it anymore.”

I love food and I love making food, but the taste of that item is on your tongue for less than a minute before you swallow something else. And for someone to lose their life for a taste on your tongue, that just seems like an enormous waste when there’s so many other delicious and nourishing things that we could have and not take away somebody’s life, somebody who thinks and feels and knows.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Inquiring Minds Want To Know

“She holds a PhD in neuroscience, but I couldn’t find whether she ever actually worked as a neuroscientist. It’s obvious that her understanding of ‘strong science’ doesn’t mean what she thinks it means. I doubt if she reads Science-Based Medicine or understands the principles we go by.”
Harriet Hall, MD aka “The SkepDoc”   [1]  )

 

 

Any claim that has the word “actually” in it must be true.

 

Moiself  saw a commercial the other day in which Mayim Bialik, the child actor turned adult actor turned part-time Jeopardy host,  has apparently now become a vitamin supplement shill. The ad was for Neuriva-Plus, a supplement which, its manufacturers claim, can make you smarter by increasing brain levels of “brain-derived neurotrophic factor” (BDNF, and shame on you for thinking that the acronym refers to some kind of S & M practice).

Why should you trust the celebrity who is promoting such a product?  Well, you silly goose, because the ad begins thusly:

“I’m Mayim Bialik, and I love brains.  It’s why I became a neuroscientist.”

 

 

Uh, yes.  Several spring to mind. 

Elsewhere Bialik has also claimed:

“Neuriva Plus is backed by strong science — yes, I checked it myself —
and it combines two clinically tested ingredients that help support six key indicators of brain health.”

Not only does Bialik claim to be a neuroscientist, in another, longer Neuriva ad she describes herself as, “America’s favorite neuroscientist” 

 

 

Ooooooookaaaaaaay.

Bialik went to college, studied neuroscience at UCLA, took a break from studies to return to acting, returned to school to earn her Doctor of Philosophy degree in neuroscience from UCLA, had two children, then went back to acting.   [2]  But nowhere in her (admittedly impressive) resumé can I find any reference to her working in the field of neuroscience.

I’m not concerned about how many reputable sources, including Psychology Today, have called the product Bialik is endorsing “Neuriva nonsense” and “just another snake oil.”   [3]    Moiself assumed that from the get-go.

 

 

Rather, I’m curious about the validity of her claim to be a “neuroscientist” when she doesn’t appear to be doing neuroscience.  She studied neuroscience; I get that.  But she’s not doing neuroscience.

I’m wondering what actual (ahem) neuroscientists might think. Sam Harris? Brenda Milner? Any other neuroscientists care to weigh in on this?

If you go to law school, get your law degree ( a J.D. in the USA ), then become a carpenter – i.e., for whatever reasons you decide you want to earn a living crafting furniture and do not practice law, either with a firm or in a partnership or by “hanging out your shingle” (solo practice) – is it accurate to say about yourself,

“I actually am a lawyer.”

 

“Don’t blame this one on me.  You want snake oil?  I’ll show you some snake oil.”

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Snake Oil Edition

Which snakes are best at mathematics?
Adders.

I got mugged by a cobra when I was walking through the park.
I told the police I couldn’t recognize it in a lineup, as it was wearing a hood.

Why don’t rattlesnakes drink coffee, or any caffeinated beverages?
Because it makes them viperactive.     [4]

What do you call a snake that builds houses?
A boa constructor.

 

*   *   *

May you never feel compelled to refer to yourself as an “actual” anything;
May you have fun imagining a southern hairy-nosed wombat;
May you be delighted by those creatures which you choose not to eat;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Hall is a retired family physician who researches and writes about pseudoscience and questionable medical practices.

[2] as per her Wikipedia bio.  

[3] “Mayim Bialik’s Neuriva Commercials Make Questionable Claims,” Science-based Medicine, 7-6-21

[4] No snake footnotes here.

The April Fool’s Joke No One Was Playing

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Content warning: Despite the date, and one or two moments of comic relief,  [1]   this is probably the most serious and personal blog post I have written.  No foolin.’

*   *   *

Department Of Worst April Fool’s Day Ever

The following took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away – twenty-one years ago today, April 1, 2001. Background info: MH and I and our offspring, K and Belle, were members of a local church.  [2]   Within the past seven weeks we’d celebrated K’s eighth birthday, and Belle’s fifth.

*   *   *

At approximately 12:20pm, Sunday, April 1, 2001, MH and I were in the ___ (church name)  Fellowship Hall’s kitchen, doing cleanup after coffee hour.  K and Belle were playing with other children outside, in the church’s courtyard.  Belle found a hypodermic syringe (“A shiny toy,” as she later described it to me) on the grass under the bushes next to a play-shed in the courtyard.  She picked up the syringe, which was capped, but the syringe’s needle — which was sticking out at an angle from under the side of the cap — poked her in her right thumb.  She dropped the syringe and walked away.

K had seen Belle pick up something and then quickly drop it.  He went over to where she had been, saw the syringe, and picked it up. He intended to take it upstairs to MH and I, to show us what Belle had touched…then he also got stuck by the needle (in his left thumb) when he picked up the syringe.

K came into the kitchen, holding the syringe.  He told us that he’d found “this thing on the grass” and that he’d accidentally stuck himself with it. Before K had finished his sentence MH whisked the syringe from K, and recapped it (K said he took the cap off *after* the needle stuck him, as he wanted us to see exactly what it was that had stuck him, but that the syringe had the cap ON when he picked it up).

I rushed K to the sink, quickly but thoroughly washed his thumb, and told MH to get Belle and meet us at the hospital.  We had our two cars with us; I wrapped the syringe in several paper towels and ran down the back stairs of the hall with K in tow, telling him that we were going to the Tuality Hospital ER (which is less than half a mile from the church).

At this time MH and I did *not* know that Belle had also – and first – been stuck by that same syringe’s needle.

MH found Belle standing in the entrance to the Fellowship Hall, crying and holding her thumb, which was bleeding.  MH asked another child, who was lying on a couch in the entrance, what was going on.   The kid glanced at Belle and casually replied, “Oh, she cut herself.”   MH asked Belle what happened; she said that “a knife” she found in the courtyard had cut her finger.

I’d parked on the street by the entrance to the Fellowship Hall. Just as I was about to pull away from the curb MH ran to my car, pounded on the window, opened the door and practically threw Belle in the back seat, next to K.  MH told me about Belle’s thumb as he strapped Belle into her car seat; we tried to get more out of her, but she was very upset.  She didn’t want to say that it was the needle which had cut her, but K said that it was, and then Belle confirmed this.

All of this — from the moment K came up to the kitchen with the syringe to MH running with Belle to the car — took place in less than two minutes.  I squeezed Belle’s thumb to get more blood out, gave her a tissue to hold over her thumb, and drove to the ER, with MH arriving in our other car about four minutes after the kids and I did.

The bad news:

…was what had happened.  Of particular concern was the fact that the syringe was from an “unknown source,” which is hospital jargon for, “We don’t have the syringe’s user to test.”  However, as the hospital personnel  [3]   – and our own instincts and experience told us – as far as what the syringe had been used for, we should assume the worst.  Translation: the syringe had been used to inject a person or persons with illegal drugs; it had not been left there by a diabetic who on the spur of the moment decided to adjust his blood sugar/insulin ratio in our church’s courtyard’s bushes. (Coincidentally, earlier that morning I’d been told by the church groundskeeper that the previous day, members of our church had done a cleanup of the church grounds, removing beer cans and trash from under and around the bushes in the courtyard, where the groundskeeper had occasionally found “vagrants and street people partying.”)

Hospital personnel told us the syringe was likely used to inject its user(s) with a certain kind of heroin (“Mexican brown”) and/or methamphetamine, which, for “street users,” were the injectable drugs of choice both the hospital and the police were seeing at that time.  Although we brought the syringe with us (and could detect a micro-microscopic drop of fluid inside of it), we were told that there was nothing the hospital could test it for.  In fact, it was hospital policy not to test it, for among other reasons, the false reassurance of any false negative results (which they would likely get, as there was no way to determine how long the syringe had been there).

The relatively good (or at least, less bad) news:

-Both kids’ immunizations were up to date, including for Hepatitis B.

-Although there were no vaccinations for Hepatitis C and the other rare strains (D, E, F), risk of transmission for those infections, in that kind of possible exposure, were negligible…  Also, those strains of hepatitis were rarely seen in Oregon at that time (Hepatitis A is not transmitted via needle sticks).

-The syringe had a small gauge needle; thus, the possibility of a significant “viral load” transmission was small.

-HIV, the big fear factor at the time, is a very fragile virus.  Despite its many mutations it can survive only a few hours (if that) outside a host body.

The children were seen by P.A. ____, who examined them and then spoke with us about what happened.  Over the next three-plus hours, the P.A. consulted via telephone with Drs. E___ and L___ at Emmanuel Hospital’s Infectious Disease and Pediatrics Infectious Disease departments, with our pediatrician’s on call group, and with other physicians at the CDC.  [4]

We were told (by the P.A. and a Tuality ER physician) that HIV prophylaxis treatment was something we should consider, for both K and Belle.  We did, and decided against it, with the following information in mind:

– None of the doctors consulted would strongly recommend that we start either K or Belle on prophylactic treatment for possible HIV exposure, given the parameters of the particular accident/incident, nor was such treatment the recommended protocol for that kind of possible exposure.

– MMR (Morbidity & Mortality Report) statistics showed no transmission of disease had been recorded to have occurred in “this kind of injury,” in Oregon.

– Risk of transmission of HIV was estimated to be less than 1%; risk of side effects from AZT or other prophylactic HIV treatments definitely exceeded 1%.

K and Belle had blood drawn at the hospital for baseline HIV and Hepatitis titers, and we were given scripts to have the tests repeated at intervals of two, four, and six months.  The P.A. suggested, for our own peace of mine, that we do another test at twelve months (although that was not the official recommendation).

******************************

Department Of The Aftermath

At one point, sitting in the ER exam room with MH and the kids, I remembered noting the date and thinking, “If only this were an April Fool’s joke….”

The above was the Dragnet (“Just the facts, ma’am”) version of the incident, which I sent to family, and wrote for our own records.  I left out the emotions experienced by K, Belle, MH, and myself, which you can probably imagine (and which took me months to forget).

 

 

We were at that ER for hours.  We waited, while the P.A. consulted with various specialists and/or waited for them to return his calls and periodically came into the exam room we occupied, to update us.  All the adults were (trying to be) calm.  The ER seemed understaffed, to me (a hospital staff member later told me it was unexpectedly busy “for a Sunday afternoon”).  Even so and speaking of the afternoon, I wish one of the staff would have thought to offer our kids some food.  It was lunch time when the accident happened, and a little after 4 pm when we got out of there.  MH and I were too adrenalized to be hungry and, in our state of shock and with possible scenarios and outcomes running through our minds, we forgot that the kids, of course, were hungry  [5] ). I finally had the presence of mind to realize this, and got someone to bring them some sugary drinks, which made them both happy.

Waiting, waiting, waiting….  We bummed drawing supplies (paper and pens) from a nurse, to keep the kids amused or at least distracted, while hospital staff checked with one another and called various experts.  We shut the door to the exam room we were in and talked loudly to the kids when an accident victim with a fractured femur was brought into the ER (we were mostly successful in muffling the victim’s cries of pain, which echoed down the ER hallway).

MH’s cousin is a pediatrician and her husband an epidemiologist; MH used some of the waiting time to call her (she lived on the East coast).  She was very reassuring.  She told us that, to her knowledge and after checking her sources, there were no cases of someone “sero-converting” – i.e., going from a negative HIV test to a positive – after having “that kind” of accident (being stuck with a needle which had likely been used and discarded several hours before the stick-accident).

Okay; yes; this is good.   But, if this is common knowledge, why is this taking so long?
Why all the consults – are they preparing detailed information for us,
for a prognosis we don’t want to hear?

We had plenty of time, sitting/waiting/pacing in that exam room, to imagine the worst.  I had worked for nine years in the women’s reproductive health care field but been away from the medical world for almost as many years and hadn’t kept up with “things.”  HIV, despite its ability to mutate rapidly, was – or had been – a very fragile virus. Perhaps new strains had developed, which I was unaware of – new mutations which could survive hours outside a host body? I thought that unlikely, thus; actually, my main concern was not HIV.

I was more troubled to think that the kids might have been infected by one of the new strains of hepatitis that seemed to be cropping up left and right. When I’d worked at Planned Parenthood, just before MH and I moved up to Oregon, I’d had a needle stick accident, [6]  and had to go through the routines of initial HIV/hepatitis blood tests, getting the Hep B vaccine series,   [7]   then follow-up HIV and hepatitis tests at two, four, and six month intervals.

Meanwhile, back in the ER….  Finally, a little before 4 pm, the ER staff attending to our case had documented it to their satisfaction. We needed the kids to each have their blood drawn for the first round of tests, and then we could go home.  MH and I and the hospital personnel tried to be as straightforward – and as nonchalant – with the kids as possible.  Everything is going to be all right, we just have to do one test (which…er, yeah…will involve another needle stick)….”

K tried to be brave.  He was old enough that we could explain the hospital procedures to him, how they’d need to draw a small amount of blood for a test.  Did he think he could cooperate?  His lower lip trembled as he nodded yes.  He sat in my lap, I hugged him, and he hid his head under my arm when they drew his blood sample.  For each of the subsequent, follow-up blood draws (at two, four and six months after the incident), K got better at handling the needle poke (he even watched the last one, instead of turning his head to the side!).

Belle’s reaction was…almost feral.

What a difference three years makes, especially for younger children, in terms of experience and comprehension. Looking back, I realize that Belle was also being brave, in a different way – in defense of herself.  She did not understand why she had essentially been held captive for hours; she did not understand the need for the tests the adults were trying to explain to her.  She understood that she had already been injured by one needle, and she was determined not to let that happen again.

The hospital personnel were kind and patient with her, but despite their assurances that they would use the tiniest needle possible (“The size we use on preemies,” a nurse told me) Belle became unhinged. Even her beloved daddy could not get her to cooperate, nor could he restrain her.  Finally, in order to safely draw her blood, the hospital staff put her in what I can only describe as a full body straitjacket.  It was a device/garment I’d never seen before,   [8]   and it provided me with one brief moment of levity in that dreary afternoon (I had to leave the exam room for a moment, to stifle my giggles).

The follow-up blood draws were, for Belle, not much better (although full body restraints were not necessary).  For years after that ER visit Belle maintained a visceral fear of needles.  Routine vaccinations were…stressful, to put it mildly, for Belle, her parents, and her pediatrician.

Despite Belle’s fear of needles (which had not been present before the trip to the ER), neither she nor K seemed to carry any long-term trauma from the needle stick accident.  They also barely displayed any short-term distress.  By the morning after they seemed to have accepted what the adults had told them (it was an accident; everything is going to be fine), and it was almost as if the accident hadn’t happened.

The night we came home from the ER they both fell asleep even quicker than usual (fatigued from the excitement, was my guess).  Oh, to have that short term memory dump capability, I remember thinking.  Meanwhile, as our children dozed in blissful ignorance, MH and I sat upright in our bed, eyes abuzz from our respective adrenaline overdoses.

“What just happened?” I said to MH.  “I feel like – like I should attack something.  I’m all geared up for battle, but there’s no one to fight.”

*   *   *

When the option for prophylactic HIV treatment had been offered to us, I thought:

Is this the day our lives change forever?

I hoped the medical personnel were going to advise *against* such treatment; instead, they’d presented the pros and cons, and left the decision to us.

I’d already decided that, unless there were compelling evidence to do so, no way was I going to agree to poison my kids to play the odds.  During some of the down time in the ER exam room I’d chatted with the kindly if seriously-demeanored P.A., and discovered that he too was a parent.  After he and a hospital physician had presented the HIV treatment option to MH and I, I waited until the physician left the room, then asked the PA,

“What would *you* do, if this had happened to *your* children?”

He paused, and I continued.

“I know you’re not supposed to answer that kind of question, but please?”

The P.A. nodded at me, in a way I can only describe as respectful, and I saw the brief flicker of a smile cross his eyes for the first time since he’d met us.  No, he said, if it were his children, he would not opt for the HIV prophylaxis.

*   *   *

Thanks to the merciful element known as “the passing of Time,” the distress of that day has morphed, for me, into having an impassive remembrance of what happened without having to relive how it “felt.”  Years will pass without me thinking about the accident, and then something will remind me.

One such reminder came via a local public television show I saw a few years ago, which featured an interview with an activist who “represented” an encampment which homeless people had been setting up in a Portland neighborhood.  The encampment was in an area which had been designated as a wildlife corridor; homeowners living near the corridor were disgusted and alarmed by the encampment’s accumulating trash, habitat destruction, and crime.  The activist/representative said that the camp occupants were policing themselves – she looked directly into the camera and declared that they had a strict, no drugs/no alcohol policy.

 

 

Local news reported that within days of authorities evicting the campers, the encampment resembled an EPA-declared toxic waste dump. City employees and volunteers who cleared out the hundreds of pounds of garbage the campers had left behind had to wear special gloves and protective garments, as the trash included  – surprise, “self-policing” activist/representative! – drug paraphernalia, including contaminated syringes and needles.

When I read that follow-up story I was right back to that day – back to the moment when MH ran up to my car, carrying our frightened five-year-old in his arms; back to the moment when I realized that *both* of our children had been stuck by a hypodermic needle; back to the moment when, as surely as I could sense my own pulse hammering in my carotid artery, I felt as if my “spirit” were draining out of my skull, down through my chest and gut and legs, and exiting my body through the soles of my feet.  And no, this is not a florid way of saying I peed my pants (which I didn’t).  The sensation was so vivid, I later checked my car’s floormat for…something (I didn’t really know what I was looking for).

Several months passed before the needle stick accident wasn’t the first and last thing I thought of every day.  Some mornings with stoic acceptance and some nights with fierce, Samuel L. Jackson-style defiance (“C’mon, just try and hurt us again, you needle-discarding, muthaF#&%?! ass#@&%* !”), I’d contemplate the fact that there are so many things out of a parent’s control.  Seemingly apropos of nothing, I would find myself ruminating on the plethora of shit, be it circumstantial, biological, genetic, or whatever, that I could neither anticipate nor control, but which could harm K and Belle.

I eventually made peace with the reality that generations of parents before me had recognized:

Your life can change in an instant;
your love for your children may be river deep and mountain high,
but it cannot protect them from everything that might harm them….
including random fate and their and other peoples’ (and your own) mistakes.

One day, several months after the NS accident and after things had returned to the proverbial normal, I was out running errands with Belle.  We were at a crafty-type store, getting supplies for her preschool project, and she had to pee.  The store’s restroom was a fairly large, handicapped access room. After Belle flushed the toilet and began to move to the sink to wash up, she exclaimed, “Look!” and reached for a shiny object lying on the floor, to the side of the toilet.

I had my first ever out-of-body experience: I watched as a hand (that was apparently my own) reached out with lightning speed and slapped Belle’s hand just before she touched the object; I heard a banshee’s voice from the bowels of the hells I don’t believe in bellow from my mouth:

” NO NO NO NO NO !!!
Don’t EVER pick up ANYTHING when you don’t know what it is –
didn’t you learn ANYTHING from the accident ?!?!? “

It took a stunned two seconds for first Belle and then me to burst into tears, and a nanosecond after that for me to apologize to her.

*   *   *

May you never have a similar story to tell;
May you make peace with life’s realities but do your damnedest anyway;
May you remember to ask for something to eat and drink when
you’re stuck in an ER room for hours;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] Thank you for the inspiration, Samuel L. Jackson.

[2] One of the more (if not most) liberal of the Protestant denominations.  Yes, this foulmouthed  expressive atheist and her family were active church members.

[3] The P.A., doctors, and nurses we saw during our ER stay.

[4] He had also spoken with at least two other Tuality hospital physicians, one of whom, along with the P.A., presented the HIV prophylactic treatment option to us.  We also had several nurses (in and out of the exam room where we and the kids waited) who never introduced themselves.

[5] Although, oddly enough, neither of them said anything to us about it…which I attribute to them being intimidated by the surroundings.

[6]  This happened as I was doing a finger poke blood draw from a high-risk (multiple sexual partners; IV drug user) patient: I poked myself with the same lancet I’d just used on the patient, as I was transferring the lancet to the sharpie container.  It was a move I’d done a hundred times, only that time I somehow managed to stick myself as I grabbed the sharpie container.  To this day, I’m not sure how it happened, but I’ll never forget how the patient looked at me and said, “Uh oh.” 

[7] Which I should have had anyway…but I’d kept putting off for time/scheduling reasons.

[8] Then a few months later, in a veterinary setting, I saw a similar garment used to restrain a fractious cat!

The Hotel I’m Not Bonking

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Not Up To Their Previous Standards

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

*   *   *

Department Of How Other Journalists Are Getting It So Right

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of International Relations

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

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

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

Moiself:
Ahem, that’s, bokning.  [7]

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Swedish Edition

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

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

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

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

 

Mamma Mia, there she goes again.

 

*   *   *

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

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mask I’m Not Burning

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Department Of…And…They’re Off!

Tomorrow is the official day in my state, Oregon (and also Washington and California (Oregon) when the mask mandate is liftedExcusez-moi; it’s actually/officially lifted “after 11:59 p.m. on March 11.”   [1]

Recently I’ve overheard at least two  conversations   [2]   wherein people were talking about having a mask-burning party to celebrate the lifting of the mandate.  Moiself  gathered that these parties were more about embracing reaching certain pandemic milestones, and were light-hearted, akin to the tradition of the celebratory mortgage-burning parties. These intended parties were to be nothing akin to the hostile, the anti-mask demonstrations held in certain areas of certain states during the past year, e.g. Idaho, where mouth-breathing child abusing ignoramuses red-staters taught their children to embrace their parents’ imbecility and anti-science stances:

“Parents cheered Saturday on the steps of the Idaho Capitol building as children threw handfuls of surgical masks into a fire. Far-right groups and some lawmakers held similar demonstrations in more than 20 Idaho towns, seizing on growing impatience with COVID-19 restrictions.

‘Hey fire, you hungry?’ asked one boy as adults watched him toss face coverings into a burn barrel. ‘Here’s another mask!’

Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin and state Rep. Dorothy Moon addressed the crowd of more than 100 people, standing behind a lectern on the Capitol steps. Nearby, a banner with the racist phrase ‘Wu Flu’ was draped over a replica Liberty Bell….

Idaho is one of 16 states that have not implemented a statewide mask mandate….

Idaho leads the Pacific Northwest in COVID-19 cases and death count per 100,000 residents. In the Gem State, people are dying at almost twice the rate of Oregonians, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.”

(“Mask burning rally in Idaho fans COVID-19 worries in Oregon” OPB 3-8-21)

 

Yeah, and not only that, those people are allowed to breed, and vote.

 

I don’t think moiself  will be burning any masks any time soon. Rather, I’m going to pause and take a moment of gratitude for the lives that mask-wearing saved, as documented here and here (and also here and here, and….) and also be grateful for how wearing masks contributed to a record-low flu season during the COVID pandemic.

Nope; not gonna burn, gonna celebrate, I thought to moiself, while I was out walking a couple of “laps” around the movie theater I’d arrived at. I had 20 minutes before the show began, and as I walked I looked at my surroundings, as I am wont to do, and my eyes were drawn to a trash comparison. Walking along the sidewalks of the busy streets by the movie theater, as well as the non-busy back alleys, I noticed one distinctive bit of trash which rivaled cigarette butts in number:  discarded facemasks.

When I think of all the excess trash the pandemic brought us, it frosts my butt.  It seems like we’d just gotten people to bring their own reusable bags when shopping, and to even consider bringing their own reusable drinking straws and take out containers when dining out…then came COVID and the (unnecessary, it turns out) regressive turn, back to the one-use, discard-after-use, plastic everything. This increase in our trash made me almost as sad as the number of COVID deaths.  I’m not exaggerating.

 

“The amount of plastic wastes generated worldwide since the outbreak
is estimated at 1.6 million tonnes/day.

( COVID pollution: impact of COVID-19 pandemic on global plastic waste footprint, Science Direct, 2-21 )

 

*   *   *

The Department Of Returning To Normalcy   [3]

Moiself  is not One Of Those People ® who rant and rave about self-checkout lines at the grocery (or other, but mostly grocery) stores – about how they are evil corporate plots to reduce employment  (even though they probably are), or how they are bring us one step closer to Orwellian scenarios, or how they are just inefficient or whatever.  I use the self-checkout option, occasionally to frequently, depending on the store. When I have a whole lotta items in my cart I’ll use the regular checkout lines…unless they are quite backed up, in which case I’ll do the time math in my head –

do I have more complex items which will require manual input and/or the self-checkout clerk’s attention – e.g. fresh produce and/or bulk items which require weighting and manual input of codes, wine – or primarily pre-packaged items, which I can scan almost as quickly as an experienced checker –

 and pick one or the other.

 

 

Midway through the pandemic restrictions, the checkout clerks at New Seasons   [4]  and I began joking about when the “return to normalcy” would begin, and what that normalcy would look like.  The NS clerks always seemed somewhat apologetic about their store’s policy banning customers bringing their own/reusable bags.  They were also one of the first stores to return to letting customers bring their own bags, and then one of the first to return to bagging customers’ purchases in the reusable bags.

Most of the other grocery stores I skulk around patronize have both regular and self-checkout options, the latter with no item limits (some still have a “15 items or fewer” option).  But I’ve learned, even if there is a line of three carts ahead of me in the regular check outline, if I have a cartload of items it’s ultimately worth it to get in the regular checkout line.

 

Hmmm, which line….

 

The checkers are just more efficient – surprise! It’s what they do, all day long.  And the logistics of the self-checkout stations…urgh.  I can count on the fingers of two hands the number of times they have truly been *self*-checkout (as in, no store employee contact) for moiself, despite my having used the self-checkout option hundreds of times.

It seems like I can’t get through checking out my own groceries without needing the employee in charge of overseeing the self-checkout lines to come over (and input his or her magic code, or whatever) when my self-checkout scanning machine refuses to scan any further because:

* it didn’t register the proper weight of an item

* when I rearranged an already checked item in one of my bags, trying to make room for another item, it thinks I took some items out and didn’t put them back

* I need an age/ID verification for an adult beverage

* I need a verification on the weight of my bags after I checked the “I brought my own bags” option on the scanner and it didn’t register them because my bags are deemed either too light or too heavy

* after I get the okay for my bags and arrange them in the (inadequate) space allowed, one end of one bag slips over the edge of the counter, and thus the last item I placed in it doesn’t get its weight registered properly

* the organic beets I’m trying to buy have no UPC code/tag and are not listed in the “look up item” option on the scanner….

All of these and many more scenarios stop the scanner, and trigger the dreaded hopeful, “Help Is On The Way” message on the scanner’s screen.  While waiting for the HIOTW employee to arrive I often look around at my fellow self-checkout-ers.. I see that they are also awaiting the same service; I see one of them shake his head and grumble that he’s been waiting for five minutes to get help because the loaf of the store’s freshly baked bread – FFS, he only has ONE item – lacks a scannable code, and the store’s self-checkout line overseer/employee is helping another customer scan their 985 coupons….

 

 

My favorites in the we-are-all-waiting-for-the-help-that-is-on-the-way group are the sweet and petite elderly women who wave their hands in a Yoo-hoo ® manner at store employees, optimistically yet incorrectly assuming that this will expedite the process.

Once again, I digress.

*Most* local stores have returned to allowing reusable bags, but why *all* have not returned to bagging a customer’s purchases using that customer’s reusable bag is a mystery to moiself.  After all, this is what we’re all supposed to do – bring our own bags – right?  There are a few grocery stores that, if you are in their regular checkout lines, will not bag your groceries if bring your own reusable bags. Yep, I’m talking to you, Albertsons  (and Safeway…and since one chain bought the other several years back, I’m assuming this is the parent company’s policy).

At first, I thought it was a staffing issue.  The last time I was at Albertson’s I decided to test this notion by going through a regular checkout line.  There were two people and their respective cartloads ahead of me, and an employee other than the cashier stood at the end of the cashier stand, bagging the customers’ groceries in the store’s paper bags. So, they *did* have staff available to bag.  When I unloaded my cart, placing my two reusable bags along with my groceries on the conveyor belt, the cashier pointed to my bags and asked me if I was “comfortable” bagging my own groceries.

Perhaps noticing the lack of enthusiasm in my, “ ‘Comfortable?’ Uh yeah…downright cozy” reply, the cashier followed up with, “We can’t do that” (indicating my reusable bags) because of “the COVID thing.”

Which is ridiculous.

 

“I told her I wasn’t going to touch her filthy reusable bags and the bitch done left me with her cartful of items.”

 

I did not tell her that her company’s policy is absurd, seeing as how she was a rank-and-file employee who was just following the store’s policy.  But the other employee, the one who either was the bagger or was temporarily functioning as such, stepped aside, yet remained at the bagging station…to do what? I wondered, as I pushed my cart to the end of the checkout line and began to bag my groceries. So, you’re not going to bag my items, you’re going to…uh, provide them with an escort?  Or chaperone me, while I bag them?  Dude, what is your function?

Many months ago at the afore-mentioned NS market, when they were still not bagging your groceries if you bought your own bags, the checkers and I joked about how it was understandable to have such draconian policies, two year ago, at the very beginning of the pandemic, when people weren’t sure what COVID-19 was or how it was transmitted.  But we’ve known for some time that COVID is an airborne virus.  You are not going to get it from my woven grocery basket, nor from my reusable bag made of nylon or another synthetic materials.

I tried and (mostly succeeded) in not berating store employees for following their company mandates, no matter how *not*-based-in-reality such mandates were.  There was one notable exception.

 

 

Several months into the pandemic moiself  tried to donate cans of pet food to a local animal shelter.  This is something I did periodically, although this particular trip was in response to moiself’s  having read an article about how the shelter was going through tough times and needed donations for food and other basic animal care items.  A volunteer at the shelter approached me as I began to lower my bags of canned food into the shelter’s donation bins – bins which were open, and at the entrance to the shelter, just as they had always been pre-pandemic.  The volunteer apologetically said that the shelter would not take a donation of cans, “…because of COVID.”

Moiself:
“Seriously?
You *do* realize that you can’t get COVID from a can of cat food…don’t you?”

I immediately regretted my outburst response, apologized to the volunteer,   [5]   adding that I realized he was not personally responsible for such an idiotic, non-science-based overly-cautious policy.    [6]

 

 

So, to reiterate: You (store clerk/business employee) are not going to get COVID from my reusable bag unless each component of the following scenario ensues:

* I, infected with COVID, am standing in your checkout line at your store.

* I feel a cough coming on, lift up my face mask, put my bag to my face, and hack and sputter into said bag.

* While bagging my groceries with the bag I brought and just coughed into, you – for  reasons fathomable only by a highly perceptive mental health professional – grab that bag, lift your own mask, stick your finger into the glob of moist ejecta I coughed onto the bag, stick that finger in your nostril and inhale deeply and then, just to make sure, lick that same finger before proclaiming, “Just as I thought! Definitely NOT lime Jell-O.”

 

 

Neither are you, nor I, *not* are going to catch COVID because you, the checker, obsessively sprayed and wiped your checkstand’s conveyor belt between each customer.  [7]    Our mask-wearing, social distance-maintaining, hand-washing; our getting vaccinated and staying home when we’re ill – these are the actions that matter.  However, store policies re obsessive cleaning are…well…policies.  And when a policy is established, for reasons sound or otherwise, it tends to remain in place.  ‘Cause, you know: Science.  [8]

So, Albertsons, answer me this: Do your fellow grocery stores, your competitors – do all those other stores and their employees have a special dispensation or super powers which allow them protection from those icky reusable bags which are out to contaminate your store’s employees?

Albertsons, hear this:  It is safe for your baggers to use customer’s reusable bags.  Update your policy. Either that or tell your “baggers” to get off their asses and move away if they’re not going to bag my groceries. I don’t need a chaperone or a witness while I do so. You could at least have them pretend to count the store’s supply of paper bags, or dust shelves or whatever, while I am doing what is supposed to be their job.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sometimes I Amaze Even Moiself

Did I really just write over twenty paragraphs about the pesky   [9]  dilemma of grocery store bagging?

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Pundemic Pandemic Edition

I will tell you a Coronavirus joke now,
but you will have to wait two weeks to see if you got it.

Why are four out of five fishermen *not* worried about COVD-19?
Because they never catch anything.

What’s the difference between Covid-19 and Romeo and Juliet?
One’s the coronavirus, the other is a Verona crisis

What will we call the kids who celebrate their thirteenth birthday
thirteen years after the start of the pandemic lockdown?
The quaranteens.

Bonus
 Chuck Norris has been exposed to the COVID-19.
The virus is now in quarantine for a month.

Special bonus
Best pickup line, as overheard in a nursing home:
Single elderly man says to single elderly woman,
“If COVID doesn’t take you out, can I?”

 

 

*   *   *

 

May you never use “because of the COVID thing” as an excuse;
May this post not be your (only) reason for avoiding lime Jell-O;
May you remember to bring your reusable bags;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Lifted as in no longer mandatory in indoor public spaces and schools.  Federal requirements still include masks on public transit.

[2] Had between apparent friends, in public spaces.  And yes, I was keeping proper physical distancing.  I wasn’t exactly eavesdropping; they were talking loudly and my mask did not cover my ears. Or, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

[3] As in, post-pandemic…as in, assuming what we had and did before was somehow “normal.”

[4] My longtime favorite store.  Which does not (yet) have a self-checkout option.

[5] Moiself  used to volunteer at that same shelter.

[6] “They’ll take monetary donations,” he sheepishly responded.  The “they,” I assume, meant the shelter staff.

[7] Now, wiping the belt after the previous customer’s raw beef dripped blood all over it and I’m going to put down my fresh produce on that very belt – YES! Thank you!

[8] The law of inertia, or whatever.

[9] As in, slightly frustrating, but not approaching the level of invading-another-sovereign-country frustrating.

The Five Star Rating I’m Not Giving

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Breaking News…

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

Once again, I digress.

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

*   *   *

Department Of Gung Hay Fat Choi, y’all.

 

 

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

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

*   *   *

Department Of Monkeyshines

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

 

A monkeyshine in a tree.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

The Wright Park Lions.

 

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

 

Maybe someone finally took issue with my bumper stickers.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Automotive Edition

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

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

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

 

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

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Not Amish.

[2] Already happening, I’d bet.

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

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

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

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

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

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