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The Planet I’m Not Worshipping

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Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

It’s that time of the year again. As has become a tradition much maligned anticipated in our neighborhood, moiself  will be hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.   [1]

Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Blast From The Past

Seeing as how MH and I are hosting Thanksgiving/harvest day festivities at our Humble Abode ®, moiself  will not be sober enough able to do my usual Thursday night blog editing. 

 

 

Thus, a rerun.

Apropos of…something I’ve already forgotten, I was recently given cause to look up what I had, previously in this space, written about ancestor worship (from 2-17-17):

 

 

As regular readers of this blog know (and new or sporadic readers will likely surmise), I am not a religious person. I was raised by church-going, Christian parents;  [2]   flirted with/researched a variety of denominations during/post college; was a member (even served as a deacon, holy shit!) of a UCC church  [3]  for many years; happily (read: finally) came out over 15 years ago as a lifelong skeptic-atheist-Freethinker-Bright.

While I hold a modicum of respect for some of the ideals and practices of, say, contemporary non-theistic Buddhism and Unitarianism and Jainism, I find all religions to be more-or less silly/offensive/just plain fallacious. There is one “spiritual” practice, however, which I can somewhat understand, if only in that it makes a teesny-tiny, infinitesimally wee bit o’ sense:

Ancestor worship.

 

 

Yes, really.

Make that, ancestor *veneration,* not worship. For the love of the FSM,   [4]   get off your knees, open your eyes, and stop bowing your head – nobody should “worship” anything.

Worship: VERB
[with object] Show reverence and adoration for (a deity)
1.1  [no object] Take part in a religious ceremony.
(English Oxford Living Dictionary)

Unlike the claims of religions which have one or more deities, you don’t have to take your ancestors’ existence on “faith”  [5]  – you know they have lived (you yourself are evidence of that); you’ve likely met them one, or two or sometimes even three, generations back. From the photo albums and other heirlooms to the birth certificates, school and county records, family businesses, homes, farmsteads, and kinfolk near and far, you’ve an idea of what they have “given” you, materially, intellectually and emotionally – you’ve some idea what you might be grateful for.

Best of all, you’ve little incentive to argue or go to war with other people over whose interpretation of what their Imaginary Friend wants is correct. Your neighbor’s ancestors are their business, and yours are yours.

Of course, the option of ancestor veneration leaves out a small subset of people: those who have little or no knowledge of their forebears, such as certain kinds of adoptees,   [6]  as well as those who have just enough information (e.g., children in the foster care system) to…well, I’ll put it this way: if you come from two generations of meth addicts, ancestor veneration might not be the spiritual practice to float your boat.

Now then.  By ancestor veneration I’m not talking any kind of belief system wherein the dead are beseeched to intercede on behalf of the living – that’s just as silly as all the others. I do not believe that my deceased grandparents and parents have a continued existence in a spirit world, or that their spirits look after moiself  and my family in particular or the world in general, or that they somehow can influence the fate of the living. I’m talking about a practice of honor and appreciation, in which a person might use the roads paved and trails blazed by previous generations as a focal point for remembrance and gratitude.

 

Thanks for the dimples, Dad.

 

I’m not sure what brought the previous topic to mind.  A likely suspect is the recent death of my mother. Anyway, y’all have my permission to honor your ancestors…as well as my fervent wish that that is as far as your theology goes. However, as I look at the state of the world, it appears that the old superstitions have some staying power. As long as people will continue to proclaim and dispute over whose invisible leader is the best-est, I’d like someone to come up with another dog in the fight.

As the Bay Area’s own Huey Lewis, the Bard Of The Bammies, once sang, I Want A New Drug.

Putting it yet another way, y’all have my encouragement (if you are religiously inclined) to come up with a new religion, within the following parameters: in this belief system, it is the men who are required, in one form or another, to cover themselves.

That’s it. Yep. That’s the entire theology in a nutshell.   [7]

From a light veil or hijab – make, that, he-jab –  to a full-body, Bro-burqa, your theology must include all the usual nonsense reasons (modesty; an easily offended deity; protection from your fellow believers who will beat the holy crap out of you if you show any evidence of human form) as to why certain people –  in this case, those with boy parts – must be covered in public.

Duuuuude – put a scarf on it.

 

We swear on Her Holy name, it doesn’t make your butt look big, no, not at all.

 

*   *   *

That was then; this is now.  Last week, reveling in an awesome autumn day, I found moiself  thinking about Wicca and/or the contemporary pagan/nature spiritualities – those which mark the passing of the seasons – as another category of spiritual practices which make more sense to me.  This doesn’t mean I am or would consider being a sun or “goddess” worshiper; it’s just that, unlike the tenants of the so-called “revealed” religions,   [8]   with those nature-centered ideologies we can see and directly experience what is being venerated.

Humans living in extreme regions –  i.e., at the poles or the equator (or Southern California) –  [9]   don’t have the dramatic difference of the four season changes that we who inhabit the middle latitudes experience.  Still, the earth has seasons and cycles; we live here; they affect us.   But again, this form of spirituality gets my Nod Of Approval® for *acknowledgement,* not worship.  As in, after a period of torrential downpour I appreciate the sun; after an unremittingly unrelenting bout of summer heat moiself  appreciates the rain.

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Planet Earth Edition

How can you tell the ocean is friendly?
It waves.

I love the way the Earth rotates – it makes my day.

How can you tell Mother Nature watches a lot of Oprah from June – November?
Because it looks like everybody gets a hurricane.

 

*   *   *

May you take care of your Mother;
May you appreciate the seasons;
May you enjoy those leftovers;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

[2] Lutheran, specifically: what was once called the ALC and now ELCA, for those obsessives interested in denominational nitpicking. It wasn’t one of the “synod” denominations (Missouri & Wisconsin), which are closer to Catholicism in their conservative doctrines (e.g. women cannot be ordained as ministers; liking to snipe about other denominations as being the “not true” faiths) .

[3] Which I have, since leaving, recommended to people who, for whatever reasons, are looking for a liberal Christian church experience and/or community.

[4] The Flying Spaghetti Monster.   “All praise to his noodly appendage.”

[5] Although, especially at Thanksgiving when someone brings up politics, you may have to take them with a helluva big grain of salt.

[6] If you’re counting “blood” kin as the only kind of ancestors which matter. Which I hope you are not.

[7] Which is the proper receptacle for all theologies.

[8] Revealed religions are religions based on the supposed revelations of god(s) to humans, particularly as described in the scriptures of those religions. Thus, the existence of these gods depends on revelation by said gods, to humans, of ideas that would not have been arrived at by natural reason alone. Examples of revealed religions are the primary monotheistic faiths – Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baha’ism, Mormonism, Hinduism, Sikhism.

[9] Growing up in So Cal we used to joke we had two seasons:  brown and tan.

The Holiday I’m Not Renaming

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Department Of It’s The Little Things Which Make Life Worth Living
In These Trying Political Times

Dateline: Tuesday afternoon. Apropos of…whatever, my offspring, son K and daughter Belle, have this exchange on our family messenger group, Yep!!!! Cats!!!!     [1]     (sans pix; these are my illustrations):

K:
I did not realize how truly gigantic Fetterman is.
He’s like 6’9.”

Since words and reason don’t work we now have Fetterman

to give the insane senators a swirly.

Belle:
(thumbs up)
First on the list: Mitch McConnell.

 

 

Belle:
Although I think just turning him upside-down would kill him,

probably couldn’t even get to the swirly part.

 

 

 

Moiself  walked around the rest of the afternoon with a big smile on my face, thanks to the imagery provided by my offspring. 

 

Relax, Mitchie-boy. Just think of it as your well-deserved spa treatment.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Another Good Thing ® About Social Media

There’s no shortage of criticisms of the various social media outlets, and most critiques are legit, I’d wager.   [2]   Even as I am encouraging those who complain about supporting a certain megalomaniac to drop their Twitter accounts and stop buying Teslas, moiself  remains on one social media site: Facebook. Here’s one of the reasons why.

Dateline: earlier this week.   A FB friend posts pictures of his grandchild‘s visit to what looks to be an amusement park, and picture shows the child playing that classic arcade game, Whac-a-mole. Seeing this picture prompts a lovely flashback for moiself – a memory I’ve not thought of in decades.

Dateline of memory: A long time in a galaxy far far away (Southern California). I am visiting my parents at their home in Santa Ana.  It’s summertime, and the County Fair is on.  My parents tell me they haven’t been to a state or county fair in ages, and suggest we go. And so we do. As we walk past the various cheesy games and merchandise and food booths, nothing catches our interest, until we come to an arcade. I espy a Whac-A-Mole game, and instantly am obsessed with getting my mother to play it.

 

 

My mother is hesitant, despite my enthusiastic recommendation. She knows nothing about it, she says (Even better!!!, moiself  thinks to  moiself ) I assure her that it’s a straightforward game, no complicated strategy or levels or scenarios: she simply must hold the mallet and whack the heads of the moles as they pop up from the console.

“Why?” she asks me.

“There’s no time to get existential right now,” I reply.  I put my two quarters in the slot, press the game’s start button and put the mallet in my mother’s hand.  “You don’t want me to waste fifty cents, right, Mom? Look – there’s one!  Pretend it’s digging up your rosebushes!”

Unlike the champ in the above video, my mother is exquisitely awful at Whac-A-Mole. Her timing is atrocious; even so, she soon gets into it in her own way, emitting a high-pitched, “Oh!” whenever a mole head appears, followed by her delayed whack at its head. My father and I, standing to the side of the game console, are doubled over with laughter as we watch my mild-mannered mother, with an increasing maniacal look in her eyes, pursues those pesky moles:

“Oh!”
(whack)

“Oh!”
(whack)

“Oh!” (whack) “Oh!” (whack)

“Oh oh oh oh oh oh!”
(whack whack whack whack whack whack)

It is one of my favorite memories of her.

 

This is another one.

 

I haven’t gone to a county fairs in years and it’s been even longer since I’ve even seen a Whac-a-mole game.  So, then:  would that memory have been prompted by anything else, save for a post on social media? It’s not like I would have seen a picture of my friend’s grandchild playing this game – like most of my FB friends, we don’t have a letter-writing kind of relationship.  

*   *   *

Department Of Well That’s Not Up To Their Usual Standards

Moiself  is referring to the recent rerun of an interview with (the late) Loretta Lynn on Fresh Air .

It was a tad interesting, due to the skills of FA host, Terry Gross, arguably   [3]  the best interviewer out there.  But IMO it was not up to the usual FA standards.  This was because Lynn was (again, IMO)….  There’s no easy way to say it.  The guest can make or break the interview.  And it wasn’t that Lynn was a “bad” guest, or an audaciously humorless and insufferably boorish one like a notable few TG has dealt with.  [4]   On the contrary.  Lynn was pleasant enough, but it seemed to me that she was also…well… rather…simple, or basic. Not plucking every string on her guitar, so to speak.

 

In the history of country music, LL’s talent was even bigger than her hair.

 

LL seemed not at all interested in self-reflection and/or discussing or exploring how she writes her songs.  Okay; fine; her prerogative.  But then, why agree to be come on a show where the whole point is to talk about your work as a female singer who broke ground in her genre for writing her own songs?

The point of a FA interview with a musician/singer/songwriter is to reflect upon one’s work, technique, inspiration, and so on.  Which Lynn summed up in sentences like, “Oh, I don’t really know,” or “I don’t like to talk about that.” Lynn’s songs are personal – she’s said in previous interviews that her husband was, in one way or another, “in every song” she wrote, yet she wouldn’t go further when FA  host TG would ask her about *how* or why her husband is in a particular song.

And TG let her get away with it.

LL’s song Fist City is borderline hilarious in some ways and disturbing in others.  And TG did not probe into that, as I have heard her done, through the years – the decades now –  that I’ve been listening to FA interviews.  Gross is insightful and persistent as an interviewer, and respectfully so.  She typically does not give up after one attempted conversational diversion by a guest.  And her guest was country music legend Loretta Lynn, who has written all these classic country songs about women trying to take her man (including, wait for it: “You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man”), and… hello? What are those lyrics about?

 

 

If it had been any other songwriter, I think TG would have asked more persistently about the song’s implications.  She did try, but Lynn wasn’t having any of it.  “Oh I don’t want to talk about that,” LL would purr, in her soft Kentucky lilt.

I wanted TG to get LL to at least to consider why people might want LL to talk about that problem – about how she was really singing about, writing about, the wrong problem.  When LL sang about how some women were ‘after,’ (her words) her man, the underlying problem wasn’t those women.

Loretta Lynn, the woman who wrote so empathetically about birth control liberating women from the life of a brood mare (“The Pill”), and the trials of a divorced woman having people think that just because she’s divorced she’s loose/available (“Rated X”) didn’t seem capable of, or willing to, consider the fact that it was her husband who was the problem. He married her, but chased after other women.  But Lynn…wouldn’t go there.
And TG, in deference to Lynn’s age, status and/or “sweetness,” didn’t seem willing to push it the way I think she would have with another musician…or politician, or writer or artist or sports figure or…..  Is that ultimately respectful, or patronizing?

 

 

   *    *   *

Department Of The Big Day Next Week

The more I know about the origins and mythologies (read: lies) about Thanksgiving, the less I want to call it that.

I’ve always had a certain ambivalence regarding Tday.  Even as a child, I suspected we weren’t being told the truth about that much vaunted Happy Time Between Indians and Pilgrims ®.  Historians are starting to speak up, and…how can I put this?  Folks, if the Readers Digest, hardly The Socialist Review, is willing to address this issue, that means it’s way past time the rest of us did.

 

 

“Thanksgiving is both uniquely American and full of treasured traditions. But this rosy picture of modern celebrations leaves out most of the real history of Thanksgiving….
Yes, you can still settle down with family to give thanks. But it’s important to know what you’re celebrating and unlearn some long-held myths.”
…. What’s the harm in believing the happy version so many of us grew up with? It’s just a story, right? This whitewashing downplays the long and bloody series of conflicts between white settlers and Native Americans that would occur over the next two centuries…..
‘Narratives of a harmonious Thanksgiving celebration were created to justify westward expansion and Manifest Destiny,’…. The term Manifest Destiny, coined more than two centuries after the first Thanksgiving, was the belief that settlers were destined by God to expand across America and prosper….

Myth: The “first Thanksgiving” started the tradition that founded the holiday.
Truth: The harvest celebration of 1621 was not called Thanksgiving and was not repeated every year. The next official ‘day of thanksgiving’ was after settlers massacred more than 400 Pequot men, women and children. Governor Bradford’s journal decreed, ‘For the next 100 years, every Thanksgiving Day ordained by a governor is in honor of the bloody victory, thanking God that the battle had been won.’

We should add that to our list of favorite Thanksgiving quotes as a stark reminder of the real history of Thanksgiving.”
(“The Real History of Thanksgiving,” Readers Digest, 11-15-22)

 

 

I like the idea of a holiday involving gratitude, and one in which friends and family get together for a celebratory meal.  As for what is in the meal, as the years have gone by, my own dietary preferences have changed – although even as a child I never was all that fond of the big bland boring turkey and wondered what all the fuss was about.    [5]  Moiself  likes the idea of variety feast, rather than a fixed menu.  [6] 

Moiself  also likes that which is practiced by our neighbors to the north.  Canadian Thanksgiving, which I and my family have experienced thanks to the generosity of a dear Canadian friend and (former) neighbor, is more of a general harvest celebration, without a traditional fixed menu.

Hmmm, so, how’s about Harvest Fest Gratitude DayGrativest Day? Harvitude Day?

 

Yeah, like that’s gonna fly.

 

Perhaps I’m being persnickety here.  After all, I’m the one who points out the secular origins of Christmas, which I don’t insist on renaming it, for the same reasons that, for example, I call the middle day of the week Wednesday even though I do not worship the Germanic god for whom the day is named.  Still, knowing the origins of Thanksgiving and the subsequent mythologies which promoted it, I can’t help but wish for a name change.

But that’s about as likely to happen as Elon Musk is likely to gift the running of Twitter to the Southern Poverty Law Center, sell his holdings in Tesla and donate the profits to Greenpeace, then take a vow of abstemious living and join a Buddhist monastery.

Ah, but it’s good to dream.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Tday Edition

How did Ziggy Stardust express his gratitude to the Thanksgiving host for serving her tasty sweet potato casserole?
“Wham, yam, thank you ma’am.”

My family advised me to stop telling Thanksgiving jokes,
but I said I couldn’t quit cold turkey.

How does rapper Sir Mixalot, who loathes pumpkin pie,
express his Thanksgiving dessert preference?
“I like big bundts and I cannot lie.”

 

I’ll give her points for not eating us, but really, these jokes are fowl.

 

*   *   *

 

May you have a good feast with friends and family, whatever you call it;
May visions of Mitch-getting-a-swirley warm the cockles of your heart;
May you find a whac-a-mole game and go to town;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] So named, by MH…I can’t remember the specifics, but it had to do with one of us commenting about all of us posting cat pictures yet again.  It has evolved into a family message board…with – yep! – lots of cat-sighting pictures.

[2] Wager, rather than aver, because I’m not on most social media and thus can’t speak from direct experience.

[3] As in, you could argue with me about this, but you’d lose.

[4] As in her FA interviews with Bill O’Reilly and Gene Simmons.

[5] My most memorable Tday was when the friend of a host brought a huge chinook salmon he’d caught the previous day in Alaska, and the hosts, my aunt and uncle, roasted it simply, with herbs and lemon juice.  I WAS AMAZED.

[6] Also, I haven’t eaten meat for years, so there goes that feast centerpiece.

The ‘Bitch’ Book I’m Not Requiring You To Read…

Comments Off on The ‘Bitch’ Book I’m Not Requiring You To Read…

…even though you damn well better, if you ever want to make any pronouncement about sex/gender and behavior in the animal kingdom.

Department Of I Am Woman Hear Me Roar    [1]

 

 

The book club moiself  is hosting – so unprecedentedly named, “Book Club” – is reading a book that, despite being entertaining in and of itself, has some of the more enthusiastic and engaging reviews I’ve run across in years.

But there is one adjective (most of) the reviews have left out.  Time and time again they mention how educational and entertaining the book is – you’ll laugh, you’ll gasp, you’ll shake your head and say WTF?!?!? – but they left out the anger part.  As in, for all readers with an IQ above their shoe size, this book should also, IMO, make you angry.  Angry in that the information contained in it is considered new and/or controversial to some people; angry that, even in the sciences, in fields of (supposedly) open inquiry, so many minds were closed for so many years and so many prejudices and social mores were passed along as biological realities.

 From what I’ve written, and from the review excerpts (my emphases) which follow, can you guess the subject of the book?   [2]

 

“I know you can, girls and boys.”

 

“Fun, informative and revolutionary all at once…should be required reading in school. After reading this book one will never look at an orca, an albatross, or a human the same way again. And the world will be better for it.”
( Agustin Fuentes, professor of anthropology at Princeton University)

“….blows two centuries of sexist myths right out of biology. Prepare to learn a lot -and laugh out loud. A beautifully written, very funny and deeply important book.”
( Alice Roberts, author of Evolution )

“astonishing, wildly entertaining, and massively important.” 
 (Mary Roach, American popular science author )

“An important corrective to the ‘accidental sexism’ baked into so many biological studies… [and] a clarion call that the remaining terra incognita of female biology merits far more comprehensive mapping.”
(  Financial Times )

“[An] effervescent exposé… [A] playful, enlightening tour of the vanguard of evolutionary biology.”
( Scientific American )

“… shows what a difference women make to scientific inquiry, asking questions and proposing studies their male colleagues didn’t think of — or didn’t bother with.”
( Bethanne Patrick, LA Times )

“By analyzing numerous animals, this sparkling attack on scientific sexism draws on many scientists — of multiple genders — to correct stereotypes of the active male versus passive female.”
( Nature )

 

“Who you callin’ passive?”

 

“In compelling and often hilarious prose, using the scientific authority she has earned as a trained biologist…(the author) confronts the long history of androcentric assumptions baked into evolutionary biology and begins to set the record straight.”
( Jessie Rack, Science )

“…demolishes much of what you probably learned about the sexes in biology class. This may be disconcerting, even confronting for those who feel comfortable in the warm embrace of Darwinian order. But it’s also exciting, and fascinating, and very well might change the way you see the world.”
 ( Science News )

“…dives into sex and gender across the animal kingdom, dispelling all the misogynist notions of females being the weaker sex…This book elevates not just the science itself but the scientists that have been marginalized for too long.”
 ( Lucy Roehrig, Booklist )

“In this delightful, revelatory survey of cross-species sexism, (the author) treats readers to an information-dense reframing of the many misunderstandings around sex and sexuality that burden ‘girls’ of all kinds. Come for the promise of some really neat nature facts. Stay for Cooke picking apart the misogynistic underpinnings of Charles Darwin’s fundamentally flawed theory of evolution.
( AV Club )

“A dazzling, funny and elegantly angry demolition of our preconceptions about female behaviour and sex in the animal kingdom… I read it, my jaw sagging in astonishment, jotting down favourite parts to send to friends and reading out snippets gleefully.”
( The Observer )

 

The male sage grouse’s mating dance has got to be one of those snippets.

 

“The author has a charmingly irreverent style that, among other things, pokes holes in the sexist scientific research of old that used cherry-picked data to conclude females weren’t worth studying.
( Publishers Weekly )

“A top-notch book of natural science that busts myths as it entertains.”
 ( Kirkus )

“Brilliant… readers will never see the world the same way again… inspires awe in the breathtaking diversity of nature and the evolutionary roots of our behaviour.”
 ( Times Literary Supplement )

 “A glorious rebuttal of everything we have believed about gender since Charles Darwin got it all wrong.”
( Daily Mirror )

*   *   *

The book is Bitch: On The Female of the Species, by Lucy Cooke.   [3]

 

 

Since 99% of us have had a least some exposure to Darwin’s works on evolution (On The Origin of the Species; The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex), we owe it to ourselves to read the scientific updates/corrections that have been over 160 years in the making.

In other words, if you *think* you know at least something about natural selection and animal behavior, you need to read this book.

“…since Charles Darwin got it all wrong.”

Pay close attention to that review fragment.

Darwin didn’t get it *all* wrong.  He and his peers,   [4]  whose work led us to the beginning of understanding evolutionary biology, were able to challenge the substantial religious barriers of their time and publish their findings. But when it came to sex and species, they were still men of their times, emphasis on both men and times.  They were unable to shed, nor even recognize, their blinkered, Victorian male mindset when it came to observations of pronouncements about the females of the species they studied – any and all species which used sexual reproduction.   [5]

Except that they mostly *didn’t* study the females of the species.

One of the most encouraging aspects of science is that, being science, it progresses.  Contemporatry scientists add on to the knowledge of the past, and correct the errors.  Still, this progress is often glacial, as science was done and continues to be done by human beings, with their flawed assumptions and hidden (even –  especially – to themselves) biases. Broadening the scope of knowledge and correcting errors can takes many years, and in the case of Victorian male scientists projecting their cultural assumptions and male privilege onto that of their theories and observations (or lack thereof) re females, it has taken tens of decades – approaching two centuries – for the “phallocracy of evolutionary biology” to be challenged in theory and overturned by the evidence.

Closing in on 200 years after Darwin and Wallace began organizing their theories of evolution, the old boys network many contemporary male scientists still hold on to the past.  Even when presented with the DNA analysis confirming what ethologists and biologists observed in the field – that, for example, in the nest of the assumedly monogamous/pair-bonded songbirds, only two of the clutch of the female’s six eggs are actually fathered by the male of the pair – some scientists still cling to the myth that only the males of a species are promiscuous.  The lower their blinders; they protest and bluster and try to explain away the evidence right under their prudish noses.  [6]

 

“Close your eyes and think of England.”

 

“Even the most original and meticulous scientists are not immune to the influence of culture….  The leading academic minds of the Victorian era considered the sexes to be radically different creatures – essentially polar opposites of one another. females were believed to experience  arrested development; they resembled the young of their species by being smaller and less colorful…. Essentially, males were considered to be more evolved than females.

These sentiments were all incorporate by Darwin into The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, which, as the title suggests, used sexual and natural selection to explain human evolution and the sex differences upheld by Victorian society.

‘The chief distinction in the intellectual powers of the two sexes is shewn by man’s attaining to a higher eminence, in whatever he takes up, than can woman – whether requiring deep thought, reason or imagination, or merely the use of the senses and hands,’ explained Darwin. ‘Thus, man has ultimately become superior to woman.’

Darwin’s theory of sexual selection was incubated in misogyny, so it is little wonder that the female animal came out deformed, as marginalized and misunderstood as a Victorian housewife.

….because of (Darwin’s) godlike reputation, biologists who followed in his wake have suffered from a chronic case of confirmation bias.  They looked for evidence in support of the passive female prototype, and saw only what they wanted to see.”
( excerpts iv-xv, Introduction, Bitch: On The Female of the Species )

 

 

Moiself’s   summary/teaser for the book.  In Bitch… you will learn how the sexist scientific research of old

* projected their cultural assumptions and male privilege on to that of their theories and observations

* ignored and/or marginalized the science (and scientists) which contradicted their inherited stereotypes of the active male versus passive female

*used cherry-picked data to conclude females weren’t worth studying, and ultimately defined the females of species in terms of the males   [7]

*drew conclusions from studying male animals’ behaviors – and even anatomies – which they applied to females

These points cannot be emphasized enough.  Thus, I intend to do so, at least 23 times per post, in every blog of mine from here on out.

 

Just kidding.

*   *   *

Department Of Moiself’s Favorite Story From This Book Full of Favorite Stories

From Bitch’s Chapter Four: Fifty Ways to Eat Your Lover: the conundrum of sexual cannibalism.

“Most people don’t think of the word flamboyant when describing a spider… (however) the male peacock spider is the Liberace of the arachnid world – an outrageous peformer who just like his avian namesake, employs an estraordinary iridescent tail-fan to win his mate….
When approaching a female…this fuzzy little four millimetre wonder stages an unexpectedly elaborate dance routine by abruptly lifting his furry abdomen into a vertical position and unfurling two shimmering flaps decorated with graphic blues, oranges and reds that could have been designed by Gianni Versace. This peacock arachnid wagles his gaudy butt-fan whilst bobbing his body up and down, stomping his feet and waving a pair of oversize legs in the air. This exhuberant toutine, part Fred Astaire and part Village People, can go on for up to an hour until he’s close enough to make his move.

It is an undeniably charming spectacle, made all the more endearing by the fact that the peacock male is, of course, dancing for his life. Up to three quarters of peacock suitors are terminally dispatched by an unimpressed female.”

 

Betcha I’d be the spider who survived the odds.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Biology and Evolution Edition

Some people don’t believe in evolution.
They’re primate change deniers.

If evolution’s really a thing,
why haven’t hummingbirds learned the words yet?

How do you identify a male bald eagle?
All his feathers are combed over to one side.

 

Oh, honey, don’t be so sensitive.”

 

*   *   *

May we always be willing to question the conventional wisdom;
May we continue to update our knowledge base;
May we enjoy watching footage of the ludicrous sage grouse booty call dance;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] And if I am a woman lion hear me roar as I mate with every male lion I encounter…much to the distress of many male biologists….

[2] Yeah, I’m going to make you read further before I give the title.  Such a tease.

[3] In the running for Best Book Title Ever. ®

[4] In particular, British naturalist Alfred Wallace.

[5] As opposed to asexual reproduction.

[6] “The female songbird must have been raped!”  Cool story, bro, except that, like most birds (97%), male songbirds do not have a penis, and cannot rape their mates.  Both genders have a cloaca and must cooperate to share their genetic material, mating with what ornithologists call a “cloacal kiss.”

[7] Male lions are the default; females are the afterthought, the “-ess”es.

The Tribalism I’m Not Embracing

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What would ushering in the holiday season be without The Dropkick Murphys?

 

 

Speaking of holidays, since 2008 I’ve kept track of how many greedy candy mongers trick-or-treaters have graced our porch.  The numbers range from a low of 25   [1]   to a high of 63, with an average of 45.  This year we had 26.

 

 

 

 

Only twenty-six?  MH and I were speculating about the downswing (last year’s count was 60). Combination of a school night and the (at times heavy) rain?  It couldn’t be the latter…oh, c’mon, kids (and parents), this is Oregon.

Last year we gave out full-sized   [2]  candy bars.  This year (before moiself  knew what would be the lame turnout) I wanted to do something different. I walked up and down supermarket aisles, looking for inspiration.  And found plenty. 

Here are the things I wanted to give out to trick or treaters:  Small jars/cans of pimentos or black olives or cornichons or sweet corn or Liquid Smoke or soy sauce or…Beanee Weenees!  Of course, if word got out that we were distributing the latter, the kiddies would leave skidmarks from our neighbors’ porches to our own.

 

Accept no substitutions.

 

Here are the things we *did* give out to trick or treaters:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Perspective That Could Save Us   [3]

From the podcast Unexplainable, The Gray Area:  “On the first episode of Vox’s new podcast, The Gray Area, host Sean Illing talks with Neil deGrasse Tyson about the limits of both politics and science.”  What caught my attention was NDT’s assertion that taking a “cosmic perspective” is the most rational and helpful– and arguably the only– thing that can solve our myriad of social, political and environmental challenges.  This is an excerpt from their discussion:

NDT:
What’s the most intelligent species there ever was on earth?

SI:
 Oh…you’re setting me up. Um, since you’re asking me, it can’t be people…

NDT:
No, it *is* people; it’s not a trick question.  So now I ask, who declared that humans are the smartest animals there ever were?  Humans did.
Whereas a cosmic perspective would say, imagine a lifeform smarter than we are:  Is there anything we have done in the history of civilization that (this smarter-than-us lifeform) would judge to be clever?

 

 

This was a great 1980s, one-woman play (written by Jane Wagner and starring Lily Tomlin), which was being revived in early 2022, starring Cecily Strong.

 

 

NDT:

It’s a simple thought experiment, when we compare ourselves to chimpanzees, our closest genetic relative.  We have 98, 99% identical DNA to a chimp. Now, if you’re really into homo sapiens you say, What a difference that 2% makes! We have philosophy and the Hubble telescope and art and civilization! And all the chimp can do is maybe extract termites from a mound, and the smartest of them will stack boxes to reach hanging bananas from the ceiling.
 But I pose you the question: suppose the intelligence difference between chimps and humans was actually as small as that 2% might indicate.  What would we look like to some other species that’s 2% beyond us in intelligence – just the 2% that we are beyond the chimps?
Continue on that line. The smartest chimps can do what our toddlers can do.  By that analogy, the smartest humans would do what the toddlers of this species can do.
Putting all that in context, all I’m saying is that for you to say we’re pretty clever… another species 2% beyond us, there’s nothing we could do that would impress them.
So, that species visiting earth on the rumor that intelligent life had surfaced, after seeing our rampant irrationalities – the wars we fight against our own species, because you live on a different line in the sand, because resources are unequally distributed on the land and in the ocean, because you worship a different god, because you sleep with different people – and we slaughter each other and enslave people….  Those aliens will run home and say, “There is no sign of intelligent life on earth.”
It’s a cosmic perspective, offered for your consideration.

SI:
This …is (your) central plea…that we take a more cosmic perspective on things…

NDT:
On *everything.*

SI:
 …on everything, and achieve some clarity about what really matters and what doesn’t, and how stupid so many of the things that we *think* are important really are…

NDT:
I wouldn’t say stupid so much as just kind of irrelevant. You think it’s important and it’s actually not. That’s a more significant value of a cosmic perspective: it forces you to rebalance your portfolios of concerns in the world.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Cosmic Perspective Is Definitely Needed Here

The LA Times is one of four (online) newspapers moiself  subscribes to, and I’ve been watching (as in, reading about) the following scandal unfold for…yikes, is it weeks, now?  The machinations of local/Los Angeles politics may be way off most people’s current events radar; however, even those with no interest in such, even those with their heads under the proverbial rock when it comes to west coast politics, by now have likely heard of the LA City Council recording scandal.

The scandal in a nutshell:   [4]   An anonymously leaked recording of a private conversation among LA City Council members and a labor leader making racist and classist remarks and political scheming regarding redistricting has prompted a state investigation, and led to the resignation of the LA City Council president and said labor leader.

“Behind closed doors, Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez made openly racist remarks, derided some of her council colleagues and spoke in unusually crass terms about how the city should be carved up politically….
Martinez and the other Latino leaders present during the taped conversation were seemingly unaware they were being recorded as Martinez said a councilmember handled his young Black son as though he were an “accessory” and described the boy as “Parece changuito,” or “like a monkey.”…
Martinez also mocked Oaxacans, and said “F— that guy … He’s with the Blacks” while speaking about Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón.

( “Racist remarks in leaked audio of L.A. council members spark outrage, disgust,”
LA Times 10-9-22)

 

 

 

 

Moiself  listened to excerpts of the recorded audio tape…as much as I could stand, before switching to reading the key moments of the transcripts.    [5]    In private conversations among three council members and an LA Labor leader – all Latino and all Democrats –  Councilmembers Nury Martinez, Kevin De León and Gil Cedillo scheme with LA county labor dude Ron Herrera re redistricting plans; Martinez disparages Oaxacans as “little short dark people” and “so ugly” and refers to a (white, gay) councilmember’s Black son as a monkey who, in her opinion, needs a “beatdown.” Re LA County Dist. Atty. George Gascón, Martinez said, “Fuck that guy. … He’s with the Blacks.”  None of the others present and participating in the conversation disputed or called out Martinezon her remarks –  which also included crass and bigoted comments about Jews, Armenians, and other groups….

I felt a little bit left out at some point.  Martinez insulted just about everyone but middle aged white ex-Californians who moved to Oregon.

When reading about the scandal, I was reminded so much about what I think is a fact being overlooked here.  Nury Martinez was caught acting out one of our collective human traits on steroids:  she was revealing her tribalism.

 

Picture from 4-2-12 Newsweek article by biologist E.O. Wilson,
Why Humans, Like Ants, Need a Tribe.

 

We home sapiens are a tribal species. It’s too bad that the whole concept of race has entered human consciousness, as we are not different “races,” whatever that means. We are not racial – that term is a misnomer invented by European naturalists and anthropologists in the early 18th century.    [6]

“More than 100 years ago, American sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois was concerned that race was being used as a biological explanation for what he understood to be social and cultural differences between different populations of people. He spoke out against the idea of ‘white’ and ‘black’ as discrete groups, claiming that these distinctions ignored the scope of human diversity.
Science would favor Du Bois. Today, the mainstream belief among scientists is that race is a social construct without biological meaning.”
(   Race Is a Social Construct, Scientists Argue,”  Scientific American 2-5-16)

“(The tape’s) comments about Black and Indigenous people displayed a prejudice against darker skin that, while not ubiquitous, still runs deep in the community and is rooted in the colonial eras of Mexico and Central America.
‘This is not just four bad apples,’ said Alejandra Valles, chief of staff of SEIU United Service Workers West.
‘We have to use this opportunity as reflection and honesty about the anti-Blackness, the anti-Indigenous colorism and racism in the Latino community. Because that’s happening.’ ”
(“ L.A. Latinos grapple with familiar colorism against Black and Indigenous people in racist tape,” Rachel Uranga, Los Angeles Times, 10-17-22)

Interesting, to me, that comment about the bad apples. Because that’s it – that’s the dang the thing about “race.” We are all from the same apple tree, and yet we pick at each other.

 

“You want bad apples? I’ll show you bad apples.”

 

Race.  It’s an unfortunate entry in our Lexicon of Life. We are not racial, but we are definitely tribal at our core…maybe I’m just quibbling re semantics.  However we define “we,” we spend our lives scrambling like roaches across the floors of an old San Francisco apartment kitchen, trying to make sure we get (what we perceive to be) our share but wanting to hide our maneuverings when the light comes on.

We have obsessive concerns, so majorly illuminated in the LA Council tapes, of alliances between our various tribes and the tribes within the tribes – woe to anyone naive enough to think that, for example, all White or Latino or Black politicians are a monolithic bloc.  Read the transcripts; listen to the tape and hear the concern over alliances, over who is from where.  Listen as the entrenched Mexican-American politician spews (and thus reveals) the colorism of her ancestral roots as she derides the “short ugly” Oaxacans (who are so irritating as to also want political power    [7] ) and that DA who, although he has a Hispanic surname, “Fuck him, he’s with the Blacks.”

Who is in power; who wants power; who can we trust to share the power?  Who is one of us; who could be one of us, but “us” doesn’t really want “them” included.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of This Needs Repeating

The cosmic perspective flows from fundamental knowledge. But it’s more than just what you know. It’s also about having the wisdom and insight to apply that knowledge to assessing our place in the universe. And its attributes are clear:

* The cosmic perspective comes from the frontiers of science, yet it’s not solely the province of the scientist. The cosmic perspective belongs to everyone.

* The cosmic perspective is humble.

* The cosmic perspective is spiritual—even redemptive—but not religious.

* The cosmic perspective enables us to grasp, in the same thought, the large and the small.

* The cosmic perspective opens our minds to extraordinary ideas but does not leave them so open that our brains spill out, making us susceptible to believing anything we’re told.

* The cosmic perspective opens our eyes to the universe, not as a benevolent cradle designed to nurture life but as a cold, lonely, hazardous place.

* The cosmic perspective shows Earth to be a mote, but a precious mote and, for the moment, the only home we have.

* The cosmic perspective finds beauty in the images of planets, moons, stars, and nebulae but also celebrates the laws of physics that shape them.

* The cosmic perspective enables us to see beyond our circumstances, allowing us to transcend the primal search for food, shelter, and sex.

* The cosmic perspective reminds us that in space, where there is no air, a flag will not wave—an indication that perhaps flag waving and space exploration do not mix.

* The cosmic perspective not only embraces our genetic kinship with all life on Earth but also values our chemical kinship with any yet-to-be discovered life in the universe, as well as our atomic kinship with the universe itself.

(“The Cosmic Perspective” By Neil deGrasse Tyson
Natural History Magazine, April 2007, The 100th essay in the “Universe” series.)

 

 

*   *   *

  Department Of Regarding Next Week’s Elections,
This, Unfortunately, Says It All   [8]

“Liz Cheney and I are not brave. We are just surrounded by cowards.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger ( R ) Illinois

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Political Tribes Edition

I don’t approve of political jokes; I’ve seen too many of them get elected.

Republicans should build their border walls with Hillary’s emails
because nobody can get over them.

I knew Communism was doomed from the beginning – too many red flags.

What’s the difference between Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green and a flying pig?
The letter F.

What do you call a Russian procrastinator?
Putinoff.

 

I’ll laugh about this later.

 

*   *   *

May a cosmic perspective help you to rebalance your portfolios of concerns in the world;
May you be cognizant of your own tribalisms;
May you value your atomic kinship with the universe itself;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1]  Did not do in 2020.  Hmm, I wonder what was happening then?

[2] Not the “fun” size featured in most stores, as Halloween staples. For kids, since when does fun = smaller?

[3] From…ourselves?

[4] An appropriate container…if nuts were the size of 747s.

[5] As of this writing I think investigators still have no idea who did the recording, and who “released” it.

[6] Marked by the publication of the book Systema naturae in 1735, in which the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus proposed a classification of humankind into four distinct races. (“Race and History: Comments from an Epistemological Point of View” National Library of Medicine, )

[7] Indigenous Oaxacans expressed frustration and anger at Martinez’s comments referring to them as “little short dark people” — a racist stereotype often used to demean Indigenous communities. “I was like, I don’t know where these people are from, I don’t know what village they came [from], how they got here,” Martinez said, before adding “Tan feos” — “They’re ugly.”  (“For Oaxacans in L.A., City Council members’ racist remarks cut deep,” LA Times, 10-11-22)

[8] And I hope, after next week’s election results, we won’t still be saying it.

The Holiday War I’m (Still) Not Declaring

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Grab your sleigh bells and gird your garland-wrapped loins: you can practically smell the mistletoe in my annual, here-comes-the-holiday-season blog post:

Department Of Here They Come

Halloween (aka All Hallow’s Eve); Samhain; All Saint’s Day; El Dia de los Muertos; Mischief Night, Diwali

In the USA and in northern hemisphere countries around the world, there are multiple holidays with a relationship to “our” Halloween.  The relationship is as per the time of year and/or the theme, underlying beliefs, customs or origins of the various celebrations.

Many of these holidays originated as dual celebrations, acknowledgments of times of both death and rebirth, as celebrants marked the end of the harvest season and acknowledged the cold, dark winter to come.

And after Halloween, the holiday season really gets going.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Life Is Tough But It’s Even Tougher If You’re Stupid
Chapter 22467 in a (never-ending) series

“The idea of a “War on Christmas” has turned things like holiday greetings and decorations into potentially divisive political statements. People who believe Christmas is under attack point to inclusive phrases like “Happy Holidays” as (liberal) insults to Christianity….

Christmas is a federal holiday celebrated widely by the country’s Christian majority. So where did the idea that it is threatened come from?

The most organized attack on Christmas came from the Puritans, who banned celebrations of the holiday in the 17th century because it did not accord with their interpretation of the Bible….”

(“How the ‘War on Christmas’ Controversy Was Created,” NY Times, 12-19-16)

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of If Something Seems Familiar, That’s Because It’s Time For
My Annual Holiday Traditions Explained ® Post

What do we vegetarians, vegans, non-meat and/or plant-based eaters
do on Thanksgiving?
( Other than, according to your Aunt Erva, RUIN  IT  FOR  EVERYONE  ELSE.   [1]  )

The above question is an existential dilemma worthy of Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, who wrote eloquent discourses on the subjective and objective truths one must juggle when choosing between a cinnamon roll and a chocolate swirl.   [2]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I’ll Take Those Segues Where I Can Find Them

Four weeks from today will be the day after feasting, for many of us. Then, just when you’re recovering from the last leftover turkey sandwich/quiche/casserole/enchilada-induced salmonella crisis and really, really need to get outside for some fresh air, here comes the Yule season. You dare not even venture to the mall, lest your eardrums be assaulted from all sides by Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, Feliz Navidad, ad nauseum.

This observation provides a convenient segue to my annual, sincere, family-friendly,  [3]

Heathens Declare War On Christmas © post.

 

 

As to those Henny Penny/Chicken Little hysterics proclaiming a so-called “war” on Christmas, a rational person can only assume that they are not LGBTQ, or Jewish or a member of another minority religion, or an ethnic minority – in other words, they’ve never experienced actual bigotry (or actual combat). If they had, it’s likely they would not have trivialized discrimination (or war) with their whining.

The usage of “Happy Holidays” as an “attack on Christianity” is an invention of right-wing radio talk show hosts.  Happy Holidays is nothing more nor less than an encompassing shorthand greeting – an acknowledgement of the incredible number of celebratory days, religious and otherwise, which in the U.S. is considered to start in October with Halloween, moving on to November with Thanksgiving (although our Canadian neighbors and friends celebrate their Thanksgiving in October) and extends into and through January, with the various New Year’s celebrations.

It is worthwhile to note that while many if not most Americans, Christian or not, celebrate Christmas, there are also some Christians who, on their own or as part of their denomination’s practice or decree (e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Worldwide Church of God), do not celebrate Christmas     [4]   (nor did our much-ballyhooed forebears, the Pilgrims).  Also, the various Orthodox Christians use calendars which differ from most Protestant and Catholic calendars (a biggie for them at this time of the year is the Nativity of Christ, which occurs on or around January 7).

Happy Holidays — it’s plural, and for good reason.  It denotes the many celebrations that happen during these months.  People in the northern hemisphere countries, from South Americans and Egyptians to the Celts and Norskis, have marked the Winter Solstice for thousands of years, and many still do.  And some Americans, including our friends, neighbors and co-workers, celebrate holidays that although unconnected with the winter solstice occur near it, such as Ramadan, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

 

In 2023 the Chinese (lunar) New Year begins on Jan 22.

 

Most folks are familiar with the “biggies”- Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day. But don’t forget the following holidays, many of which we’ve learned about (or celebrated with) via our children’s teachers and fellow students, and our neighbors and co-workers.

* The Birth of the Prophet (Nov. 12) and Day of the Covenant (Nov. 26) are both Baha’i holy days  (our family has had Baha’i teachers, childcare providers, and neighbors).

* St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6)

* Bodhi Day.  Our Buddhist friends and neighbors celebrate Bodhi Day on December 8 (or on the Sunday immediately preceding).

* Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec 12)

* St. Lucia Day (Dec. 13) Our Swedish neighbors and friends celebrate St. Lucia Day, as did one of Belle’s and K’s schools, when they were in grade school (Belle, as the oldest 3rd grade girl, got to play St. Lucia).

* Bill of Rights Day (Dec 15)

* Pancha Ganapati Festival (one of the most important Hindu festivals, Dec. 21st through the 25th,  celebrated by many of MH’s coworkers)

* The Winter Solstice (varies, Dec.  21 or 22 this year on the 21st )

* Little Christmas Eve (Dec.  23) Celebrated by my family, LCE was a custom of the small Norwegian village of my paternal grandfather’s ancestors.

* Boxing Day (Dec. 26), celebrated by our Canadian-American and British-American neighbors and friends.

*Ramadan and/or Eid, the Islamic New Year (as Islam uses a lunar calendar the dates of their holidays varies, but these holidays are usually November-December)

* The Chinese New Year.  I always look forward to wishing my sister-in-law, a naturalized American citizen who is Cantonese by birth, a Gung Hay Fat Choy.  (The Chinese Lunar calendar is the longest chronological record in history, dating from 2600 BCE.  The New Year is celebrated on second new moon after the winter solstice, and so can occur in January or February).

This is not a complete list. See why it’s easier to say, “Happy Holidays?”

The USA is one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world.  To insist on using the term “Merry Christmas” as the all-encompassing seasonal greeting could be seen as an attack on the religious beliefs of all of the Americans who celebrate the other holiday and festivals.  At the least, it denotes the users’ ignorance of their fellow citizens’ beliefs and practices.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Did You Know…

…that the Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that, “the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.”   [5]

…that because of its known pagan origins, Christmas was banned by the Puritans, and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts until 1681.   [6]

 

 

“Do you celebrate Christmas?”

We Heretics/apostates non-Christians Happy Heathens often hear this question at this time of year.  The inquiry is sometimes presented in ways that imply our celebration (or even acknowledgement) of Christmas is hypocritical.  This implication is the epitome of cheek, when you consider the fact that it is the early Christians who stole a festival from our humanist (pagan) forebears, and not the other way around.

Who doesn’t like a party, for any reason? And we who are religion-free don’t mind sharing seasonal celebrations with religious folk – sans the superstition and government/church mumbo-jumbo –  as long as they accept the fact that the ways we all celebrate this “festive season” predate Christianity by hundreds of years.

 

 

Early Roman Catholic missionaries tried to convert northern Europeans to the RC brand of Christianity, and part of the conversion process was to alter existing religious festivals. The indigenous folk, whom the RC church labeled “barbarians,” quickly discovered that when it came to dealing with missionaries, resistance is futile. The pagans intuitively grasped the concept of natural selection and converted to Christianity to avoid the price (persecution, torture, execution) of staying true to their original beliefs.  But they refused to totally relinquish their traditional celebrations, and so the church, eventually and effectively, simply renamed most of them.    [7]

Pagan practices were given a Christian meaning to wipe out “heathen” revelry.  This was made official church policy in 601 A.D., when Pope Gregory the First issued the now infamous edict to his missionaries regarding the traditions of the peoples they wanted to convert. Rather than try to banish native customs and beliefs, missionaries were directed to assimilate them. You find a group of people decorating and/or worshiping a tree? Don’t chop it down or burn it; rather, bless it in the name of the Church.  Allow its continued worship, only tell the people that, instead of celebrating the return of the sun-god in the spring, they are now worshiping the rising from the dead of the Son of God.

( Easter is the one/odd exception, where a pagan celebration was adapted by Christians without a name change. Easter is a word found nowhere in the Bible. It comes from the many variants (Eostra, Ester, Eastra, Eastur….) of a Roman deity, goddess of the dawn “Eos” or “Easter,” whose festival was in the Spring.)

The fir boughs and wreaths, the Yule log, plum pudding, gift exchanges, the feasting, the holly and the ivy and the evergreen tree….It is hard to think of a “Christmas” tradition that does not originate from Teutonic (German), Viking, Celtic and Druid paganism.   [8]   A celebration in the depths of winter – at the time when, to those living in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun appears to stop its southerly descent before gradually ascending north – is a natural instinct. For thousands of years our Northern Hemisphere ancestors greeted the “reason for the season” – the winter solstice – with festivals of light and gift exchanges and parties.  The Winter Solstice was noted and celebrated long before the Roman Jesus groupies pinched the party.

But, isn’t “Jesus is the reason for the season”?

The reason for the season?  Cool story, bro.  Since you asked; actually, axial tilt is the reason for the season.  For *all* seasons.

 

 

And Woden is the reason the middle of the week is named Wednesday.   [9]   My calling Wednesday “Wednesday” doesn’t mean I celebrate, worship, or “believe in” Woden.  I don’t insist on renaming either Christmas, or Wednesday.

 

“Now, go fetch me the brazen little sheisskopfs who took the Woden out of Woden’s Day!”

 

The Winter Solstice is the day with the shortest amount of sunlight, and the longest night. In the northern hemisphere it falls on what we now mark as December 21 or 22.  However, it took place on December 25th at the time when the Julian calendar was used.  [10]   The early Romans celebrated the Saturnalia on the Solstice, holding days of feasting and gift exchanges in honor of their god Saturn. (Other major deities whose birthdays were celebrated on or about the week of December 25   [11]   included Horis, Huitzilopochtli, Isis, Mithras, Marduk, Osiris, Serapis and Sol.)  The Celebration of the Saturnalia was too popular with the Roman pagans for the new Christian church to outlaw it, so the new church renamed the day and reassigned meanings to the traditions.    [12]

In other words, why are some folk concerned with “keeping the Christ in Christmas”  [13]  when we should be keeping the Saturn in Saturnalia?

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
The Approaching Holiday Season Edition

What is a jack-o’-lantern’s favorite literature genre?
Pulp fiction.

My family told me to stop telling Thanksgiving jokes right now,
but I said I couldn’t quit cold turkey.

My cousin is terrified by all of the St. Nicholas displays at the shopping mall.
You might say she’s Claustrophobic

I told you not to encourage her.

*   *   *

Whatever your favorite seasonal celebrations may be, moiself  wishes you all the best.

May you have the occasion to (with good humor) “ruin it for everyone else;”
May you find it within yourself to ignore the Black Friday mindset;
May you remember to keep the Saturn in Saturnalia;
…and may the fruitcake-free hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] You have an Aunt Erva, somewhere.  We all do.

[2] Damn right I’m proud of that one.

[3] Well, yeah, as compared to the usual shit I write.

[4] And a grade school friend of mine, whose family was Jehovah’s Witnesses, considered being told, “Merry Christmas” to be an attack on *her* beliefs.

[5]Increase Mather, A Testimony against Several Prophane and Superstitious Customs, Now Practiced by Some in New England” (London, 1687).  See also Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday,” New York: Vintage Books, 1997.

[6] Stephen Nissenbaum, “The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday.”

[7]Paganism in Christianity.”

[8]  “Learn not the way of the heathen…their customs are vain, for one cuts a tree out of the forest…they deck it with silver and gold…” Jeremiah 10:2-5

[9] Wednesday comes from the Old English Wōdnesdæg, the day of the Germanic god Wodan (aka Odin, highest god in Norse mythology and a big cheese god of the Anglo-Saxons until the seventh century.)

[10] The Julian calendar, adopted by Julius Caesar ~ 46 B.C.E., was off by 11 min/year, and when the Gregorian calendar was established by Pope – wait for it – Gregory,  the solstice was established on 12/22.

[11] The Winter Solstice and the Origins of Christmas, Lee Carter.

[12] In 601 A.D., Pope Gregory I issued a now famous edict to his missionaries regarding wooing potential converts: don’t banish peoples’ customs, incorporate them. If the locals venerate a tree, don’t cut it down; rather, consecrate the tree to JC and allow its continued worship.

[13] And nothing in the various conflicting biblical references to the birth of JC has the nativity occurring in wintertime.

The Clean Energy Source I’m Not (Yet) Inventing

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Department Of Yet Another Reason To Listen To As Many Science
And Nature-Themed Podcasts As You Can

Reason 349:  because you have the chance, at 7 am while out for a walk, to hear gems such as the following:

“It’s the first report of tool-assisted masturbation in wild animals…”    [1]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Calling All Scientists And Entrepreneurs:   Save The World

Dateline: Saturday am; morning; listening to the People I (Mostly) Admire podcast with guest Ken Burns.  As is customary in PIMA podcast’s format, midway in the interview the host, Steven Levitt,    [2]  takes a break from the interview and, with producer Morgan Levey, reads and discuss a letter from a PIMA listener.  In this episode the letter was from a listener who wrote to Levitt about a petition called “Economists’ Statement on Carbon Dividends.”  Levitt, who has said that  “Putting a price on carbon is the single most efficient, effective, implementable way to fight climate,” has been a proponent of the carbon tax for years; however, he’d not heard of the petition, which has been signed by over 3,500 of his fellow economists.   [3]

LEVEY:
“So, I don’t mean to be a pessimist, but this statement signed by all these very notable and highly respected economists has been out for three years and we are no closer to a carbon tax now than we were three years ago.”

LEVITT:
“Oh, if anything we’re farther away. I think there was some glimmer of hope that we would have a carbon tax, but I think that really faded with the new Inflation Reduction Act that was passed, the big spending bill. Which devotes an enormous amount of resources towards fighting climate change, but on a different path. It focuses on subsidizing particular industries and technologies. It’s not the way economists would’ve done it, but in the end, public policy isn’t really about economics, it’s about politics. And… there’s a lot more support for giving subsidies to solar energy than there is for a carbon tax.”

 

 

Levey & Levitt talked about the carbon tax and other methods to mitigate global warming, and about how ultimately it was more comfortable for people to, say, subsidize solar energy.  Moiself  thought about the downside people point out about solar energy:  on cloudy or rainy days there’s much less UV light (for the photovoltaic cells on solar panels to convert to energy) – and there’s none at night.

Only clean/renewable energy is going to get us out of this mess. So, the major players in that category are solar, wind, and hydro (we arguably could have avoided this climate mess had we embraced nuclear, but that seems stalled   [4] ).  Now, I don’t know if this term exists or if moiself  just made it up, but what about *percussive energy?* What about a way, akin to solar panels, to harness the energy of raindrops hitting some kind of energy producing/capturing device?

This sounds like a job for SNOW !  [5]

 

 

For many years Intel, the world’s largest semiconductor producer, sponsored a yearly science fair for students  (my emphases):   [6]

“The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, a program of Society for Science & the Public, is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition. Through a global network of local, regional and national science fairs, millions of students are encouraged to explore their passion for developing innovations that improve the way we work and live. Each May, a group of these students is selected as finalists and offered the opportunity to compete for approximately US $5 million in awards and scholarships.
Guided by the belief that advances in science and engineering are key to solving global challenges, Society for Science & the Public has organized and produced the competition since it was founded….”
( intel.com/ISEF factsheet )

The fair has been reborn/renamed, as the Regeneron ISEF.  ISEF awards are given to projects in four categories:  Global Health; Agriculture and Food Security; Climate and Environmental Protection; Working in Crisis and Conflict.

Moiself  found a picture of some of the award winners from 2021:

 

 

In the faces of these young scientists I see another kind of renewable energy:  Hope.

Calling all ISEF participants: whatever your category was, switch to Climate and Environmental protections.  Without that, we will have no use for awards in those other categories.  Without a habitable habitat there will be no global health or food security (except for the proverbial toast that we will all be).   [7]

 

 

 

Yo, Catherine, Daniel, Michelle, Franklin, Jon, Atya, Neha: please, will you and your like-minded friends get to work on percussive energy, and more?  Your adults have failed you; we have failed us all.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Holding A Thought For Religious Believers Who’ve Experienced The Trauma Of Recent Natural Disasters (aka, “acts of god”)

 

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Natural Disaster Edition

What song title do you get if you cross a card game with a hurricane?
Bridge Over Troubled Water.

I went into the kitchen and saw a hurricane making a pot of tea.
“Hmm,” I thought, “there’s a storm brewing.”

I’m writing a book on hurricanes and tornadoes.
It’s only a draft at the moment.

What do a tornado, a hurricane, and a redneck divorce have in common?
Somebody’s gonna lose their trailer.

 

 

*   *   *

May we encourage young/future scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs
to save the planet;
May our economists do more than sign petitions about carbon tax;
May we be treated to WTF?! podcast facts;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Curiosity Daily, 10-6-22, “Bee Venom Kills Cancer, Giant Manatees, Monkey Masturbation”

[2] University of Chicago economist, professor, and author.  And podcast host!

[3] I’d had no idea the world had more than 3500 economists.

[4] Thanks in large part to the hysterically bad science portrayed in “The China Syndrome.”

[5] Science Nerds of the World

[6] I think the last couple of years the fair was put on hold,  another pandemic casualty. Then it was reborn, and remaned.

[7] And no need for footnotes.

The Intentions I’m Not Setting

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Department Of First Things First:

Happy International Blasphemy Day, y’all.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Not Working
#397 In A Never-Ending Series

Dateline: Monday morning, 9 am, at the beginning of my streaming Vinyasa yoga class.  The teacher announces that, in case we weren’t aware, September is National Yoga Awareness Month. She says that before the pandemic a group of yoga teachers in the area used to gather on the first Sunday after the Equinox to do 108 Sun Salutations in an open space, such as a public park.  They would begin the practice by “setting an intention” for world peace.  For this morning’s practice she was going to lead us in a series of Sun Salutations – but don’t worry, she assured us, *not* 108 of them.   [1]

 

 

Moiself  is aware of the practice of yogis doing 108 Sun Salutations to mark the changes of the seasons, and I’ve done them for the past few years, by moiself,   [2]  on the day of the solstices and equinoxes.  I hadn’t heard of the first-Sunday-after/intention-for-peace ® thing. And, after Monday morning’s class, when the teacher again mentioned the intention-for-peace, I couldn’t help but siggle (a combo sigh and giggle).

For thousands of years, thousands of monks and nuns – whether in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries or Roman Catholic abbeys, have devoted their lives to the practice of praying for world peace.

 

 

Yo, all you well-intentioned monastics (and any like-minded yogis):  it isn’t working.

One true thing: while occupied with doing yoga poses my fellow yogis and I were not outside the studio and/or our homes, fomenting armed conflicts.  And all those folks praying for/meditating on world peace, while they are so engaged, they also are not participating in any wars.    [3]    But prayer and good intentions…dudes, really?  These and other elements of “spiritual warfare” may give you a temporary dose of the warm fuzzies, but they didn’t stop the Romans or the Huns or the Nazis then, and they don’t stop Putin’s army now.

Nevertheless…. Yeah, it is a nice “intention.”  Namaste, y’all.

 

I’d prefer one yoga pose which does not effectively put all of my weight on my boobs…but hey, whatever works for you.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of International Celebrations Of Yoga

Meanwhile, Irish yogis marked the Equinox with their traditional celebrations.   [4]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Particularizing

“The best argument in the world won’t change a single person’s point of view.
The only thing that can do that is a good story.”
(novelist Richard Powers)

Recently I was listening to an interview with Ken Burns, who was promoting his latest documentary series, The US and the Holocaust.  When discussing with the interviewer how to get past the numbness of such atrocities, Burns said something at once common-sensical and dazzlingly insightful:   [5]

“If you don’t particularize, you anesthetize.”

Burns was referencing how one can try to illustrate or explain seemingly unimaginable numbers, such as this disorienting fact:

There were nine million Jews living in Europe before World War II; afterword,
there were only three million left alive.
Six million Jews died.

How many of us can imagine six million, of anything?  But, as Burns explained, you can tell the story of a family of three; you can show the pictures of a mama and a papa and their child, and tell how only one of the three will be alive at the end of the war.  *That* can touch people; that is something people can relate to.

I immediately thought of the movie The Martian, one of my favorite films of the past…well, ever.  Many is the discussion I’ve had with MH about that movie; more specifically, about the idea of sending people on manned missions to our moon or other planets.  Moiself  is in favor of that; I am keen on extra-Terran investigation of our cosmos and don’t see it happening otherwise.  I see the need for humans in space exploration as an inversion of the old astronaut’s axiom.  “No Buck Rogers, no bucks.”    [6]

 

 

MH’s position, held by some scientists and laypeople alike, is that it makes no sense to undertake the higher costs and logistics of sending astronauts to (for example) Mars when robots and probes, etc. can do similar jobs of exploration more efficiently and less dangerously.   [7]   But I say it depends on what kind of “sense” you are talking about.

If a probe crash lands or simply runs out of juice, the scientists who have worked for years (in some cases, decades) on the mission will be distressed, of course.  But no one will be scrambling to mount a rescue mission.

Exactly.

 

 

Without human involvement – not just in the design, but in having human/astronaut “boots on the ground” – you will not capture the wider human attention for the mission.  In the real-life case of Apollo 13, millions of people around the world were watching.  Even if only temporarily, people set aside personal concerns and were united in their hopes that the three imperiled astronauts would make it back to earth alive.  Three men in a space can.  Meanwhile, 100,000 times as many people were dying across the globe every day, some from (arguably) treatable causes such as famine, war, and poverty.  But we don’t relate to those numbers; it is the particular stories which can capture our hearts and minds.

Figures like 100,000 deaths anesthetize.  But a particular story can, I firmly believe, unite people across seemingly intractable political barriers, as when, in the fictional case of The Martian, an international crew of astronauts faced tragedy, and Chinese scientists persuaded their government to essentially give up their secrets in order to help a stranded fellow scientist.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Podcast I Couldn’t Listen To All The Way Through

But first, a flashback.

Dateline: a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, during one of those late-night, discussing-Deep-Topics®-while-sitting-in-someone’s-dorm-room conversations.  One of the Deep Topics® participants, in whose room the conversation was taking place (there were a total of five of us), was considering majoring in psychology.  While we bantered about various subjects, “Tim,” a dorm friend of ours, appeared in the open doorway of the room.  Reeking of dead skunk and beaming a beatific smile, Tim looked down at us five, spouted some stoner nonsense, and continued staggering down the hallway, loudly humming a Grateful Dead song.

Deep Topics® host chuckled, then offered a provocative discussion topic. With the caveat that psychological survey claims cannot ultimately be tested, they said they’d read a survey wherein religious believers generally claimed to be happier than religious skeptics. 

“And your point would be?” moiself  snarked.   I pointed out that, right now, Tim would no doubt “survey” as being happier than all five of us combined.  Little did I know that Someone Smarter Than Moiself ® had already nailed that one.

 

 

Back to the podcast I couldn’t finish.  It was a recent episode from one of my favorites: Alan Alda’s Clear + Vivid podcast.  In that particular episode, Alda was up to his usual high standards of affable yet probing interviewer, and his guest was equally amiable and engaging.  But the episode, Bridging Science and Faith, was about a subject at which guest Francis Collins tanked, IMO.

There was no bridge constructed.  Not even an inflatable pontoon.

 

 

Collins is a noted a physician and researcher, former director of the NIH, and one of the Human Genome Project leaders.  The episode had this teaser:

Head of the National Institutes of Health for 13 years and now interim science advisor to President Biden, Francis Collins is that rarity in the scientific community – an outspoken evangelical Christian.
For him, science is “getting a glimpse of God’s mind.”

In the interview Collins ultimately (even cheerfully) did not offer any “evidence” for his belief in a (Christian) god, except for the fact that he did believe.  He openly admitted that he could make no argument for the evidence affirming the particulars of Christian theology over those of other religions.  It quite surprised me, coming from a scientist – his offering of the shopworn, “oh gosh all these things I am studying it must have come from something, and it looks like there is some kind of order to it, yet we don’t know what it is…”  reason.

You don’t know something, and so you conclude that the something must be a supernatural deity, aka, a god?  That’s quite a leap, for which there is no evidence.  And science is all about the evidence.  Thus the fact that scientists consistently survey as the least religious professionals.

Then, when Collins decides to embrace the concept of a deity, he happens to choose a religion which would be the most comfortable and familiar and acceptable in his culture and country: Christianity.  It was a giddy, circular concept, as dizzying as a child’s playground roundabout.  Collins said that by studying what he studied (biology/the human genome), by examining the “evidence,” he became convinced of the existence of a creator, which led to his religious faith – however, this same evidence does not convince other scientists who have studied the same things (the vast majority of scientists) that there is anything supernatural guiding the cosmos….  So, Collins talks about the evidence leading him to faith even as he admits that he takes his faith on faith, because there *isn’t* objective evidence to prove his faith.

 

 

Scientists, of course, are human beings, raised by and living among other human beings.  Whether or not they actually believe in their particular culture’s religions, many scientists do not object to being identified with the religion of their family or “tribe,” or they continue to hold on to some kind of religious identity for cultural and social reasons (and for professional and personal safety reasons, as in some societies you do not have the freedom to be open about religious disbelief, no matter what your profession is).

“I have no problem going to church services because quite often, again that’s a cultural thing,” said a physics reader in the U.K. who said he sometimes attended services because his daughter sang in the church choir. “It’s like looking at another part of your culture, but I have no faith religiously.”
( “First worldwide survey of religion and science: No, not all scientists are atheists.”
Rice University news and media relations 12-3-15 )

Even as I kept those contingencies in mind, moiself  started doing that thing – have you ever done it? – feeling embarrassment for or on behalf of a person I have never met, a person who is not even in the same room but whom I think is speaking…well…foolishly.

I wish Collins would have just said, “I have chosen to believe this,” instead of claiming that some kind of evidence – which, unlike the evidence used to map the genome, is not evident to his fellow scientists – is what led him to faith.  Like the vast majority of religious folk, no matter their profession or education, Collins’ decision to embrace the supernatural is not (IMO) the result of response to objective evidence;   [8]  rather, it is due to that most human of traits: credulity.  For whatever reasons, he *wanted* to believe.  And so he did. 

Don’t get me wrong – I think Collins is a great guy.  And I love the fact that he had a friendship with the late great British journalist and author, Christopher Hitchens. “Hitch” trashed Collins in public debates (re the existence of a supernatural deity) but got to know Collins personally.   [9]

 

 

We now pause for a break in our regularly scheduled program to take advantage of this opportunity for segue.

Many is the person, however witty and wise they had previously seemed to be, who regretted debating Christopher Hitchens.  Hitchens was acknowledged by admirers and detractors alike as being one of the best debaters to ever take the stage.  In 2007 at an FFRF convention I had the pleasure of hearing Hitchens speak, then answer questions from the audience.  One of the audience questioners…oh, dear.  I felt so sorry for the man, but he phrased his disagreements with several of Hitchens’ opinions – disagreements I moiself  actually held – somewhat inanely and very clumsily.  And Hitch pounced.  I witnessed a phenomena that (at the time) I didn’t know had already been given a name:  the man had been Hitch-slapped.

 

Hitchens response to the biblical story of Abraham obeying god’s command to sacrifice his son Isaac.

 

Definition: when a person overwhelmingly lost a debate with Christopher Hitchens or was the subject of a devastating Hitch putdown, s/he was said to have been “Hitch-slapped.”

Most of the people Hitchens debated with wound up Hitch-Slapped within a few minutes of making their first remarks. You can check out one of my favorite H-S moments here.

Christopher Hitchens was an annihilative debater, seizing on logical weaknesses and often dominating the discourse with his vast vocabulary and Oxford-honed debating skills.  No matter the subject, Hitch would have all the facts at his disposal and an overwhelmingly witty way of presenting them, in his unpretentious British accent.  Some of his finest moments were when he had the audience on his side and he turned his powerful forensic skills on them, if he felt they’d mistreated his opponent:

“The liberal…audience members were on Hitchens’ side, of course….  They cheered him on and loudly booed (his opponent) ….  Instead of basking in the adulation, he stopped the debate to scold the audience for treating (his opponent) so shabbily.
As a leftist way outside of the mainstream, he knew what it was like to have his opinions shouted down, and he objected to his own partisans engaging in such behavior.”

( “Christopher Hitchens…outrageously fierce, outrageously classy…” Isthmus12-16-11 )

 

 

Hitch called his and Collins’ friendship despite having differing opinions on religion “The greatest armed truce of modern times,” and he praised Collins’ devotion to the Human Genome and other scientific projects.  I do appreciate how over the years Collins has been the point man in getting other evangelical Christians to consider the facts of science.  But I don’t think “the facts,” other than the those of Collins’ own humanity and credulity, are what caused Collins to undertake the most human of endeavors: religion.

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Autumn Edition

What’s the best vehicle to drive in the fall?
An autumnmobile.

A pumpkin got a job at a public pool, watching children swim.
I guess you could say it was a life-gourd.

My husband lets people blame him for anything bad that happens in Autumn.
What can I say; he’s a Fall guy.

How do you fix a broken pumpkin computer program?
With a pumpkin patch.

 

 

*   *   *

May we do more than visualize what we want for the world;
May we be aware of our own credulility and never deserve to be Hitch-slapped;
May we remember that all great truths began as blasphemies;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

*   *   *

[1] It was more like 27.

[2] And once in the studio, in a pre-pandemic group.

[3] Except of course for the war on rational thinking.

[4] I’m half Irish, and thus claim the right to make fun of my peeps.

[5] Hardly surprising, from the person who has had a (if not the) most profound influence on how Americans see and understand their own history.

[6] That phrase, from The Right Stuff (movie and book) refers to the reality understood by the USA’s early space program participants, from NASA scientists to astronauts: No money, no space travel.  Thus, the space program courted the press (well, the “right kind” of press) and public interest, without which they knew the funding for their program would not likely be approved.

[7] As in, your average homo sapiens does not (yet) equate losing a robot with having an astronaut die.

[8] As contrasted with people who are religious and admit not to have examined their religions’ theology and/or tenets – they are religious because they were raised to be and have accepted it.

[9] Collins played the piano at Hitchens’ memorial service.

The Mirror Universe I’m Not Occupying

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Department Of Aging Well

As soon as you’re within sniffing distance of The Medicare Age ®, look out.  I thought all the television and mail (smail- and e-) solicitations were over-the-top, but lately moiself   has been running across ads for podcasts about that subject-most-subjected-to-stereotyping:  aging.

“In this podcast, reporter ___ ___ explores the challenges of aging.”

“Aging is inevitable.  We can fight it (despite knowing we can never win) or we can learn how to embrace it.”

“(podcast series name) is about why and how to live a long healthy, fit, energetic and vital life and never be OLD at any age. ____ will offer you mind, body, spiritual proven (sic) tips and strategies that (sic) guarantee will help you resolve most health challenges and age fearlessly and never be old.”   [1]

 

 

 

I get the impression that many of these programs and podcasts are going to perpetuate the stereotypes they purport to address.  Never be OLD [gasp!] at any age gee, no pejoratives about aging there.

The problem is not with aging; it’s with ageism.  Yeah, I’ve brought this up before; yeah, as we get older we might tend to repeat ourselves.  But this is something that bears repeating, until we all get it.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Apropos Of Nothing,
I Recently Remembered The Most Apropos Tribute Ever.

It was a billboard erected by Star Trek fans, upon hearing of the death (2-27-15) of actor, poet, director, author and photographer, Leonard Nimoy.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sometimes (Translation; Many, Many, Times)
Moiself  Thinks About These Things

Dateline: Tuesday morning 7:45 am-ish.  [2]   I’m walking in a neighborhood near Shadywood Park in Hillsboro. A person is approaching me; she is also, moiself  deduces, taking a morning constitutional.   [3]

As we get within eye-contact-making-distance (approximately 15 feet away from each other) we each, almost simultaneously, say to the other, “Morning.”  Not, “Good morning,” or even its truncated version, “G’morning.”

And not for the first time in my life moiself  thinks about that.  I think about why, as a form of greeting-a-stranger-in-passing, we each say a word which could be taken, in another culture or by an alien anthropologist, as a statement of fact.

Morning.  Well, yes, as per the time of day, it is morning. Why don’t we exchange some other factual/descriptive word(s)? The walker approaching me could’ve said Sidewalk (she was walking on the sidewalk) and I could’ve said Asphalt (I was walking in the street). Or, I could have said, Trekking poles (which I was using) and she could’ve responded with, New Balance Nergize Sport (or the name of whatever shoes she was wearing).

Perhaps if Star Trek was/is correct and there are mirror or parallel universes, even as I type this there is a parallel moiself, a behavioral scientist studying this question of upmost importance to…well, to me.

Or, perhaps mirror moiself  has a real job.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Why People   [4]   Don’t Like Christians

In the past few months Florida governor Ron DeSantis has used several bastardizations of a certain bible passage to rally his like-minded cretin stormtroopers motivate his conservative base.  DeSantis referenced the apostle Paul’s “Armor of God” passage in the New Testament’s letter to the Ephesians while speaking to, respectively, the national student summit for Turning Point USA; the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference, and another rally in February:

“You gotta be ready for battle. So put on the full armor of God, take a stand against the left’s schemes, stand firm with the belt of truth buckled around your waist. You will face fire from flaming arrows, but the shield of faith will protect you.”

“It ain’t going to be easy. You got to be strong. You got to put on the full armor of God. You got to take a stand, take a stand against the left’s schemes, you got to stand your ground, you got to be firm, you will face flaming arrows, but take up the shield of faith and fight on.”

“We need people all over the country to be willing to put on that full armor of God to stand firm against the left.”

 

 

Here is the actual passage:

“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:10–12, NLT)

DeSantis – surprise! – conveniently stops his misquotes before verse 12, which inconveniently (for DeSantis and other right wing Christian politicians) states that Paul is not talking about politicians or citizens, or earthly opponents of any kind, but spiritual ones.  Surprise again, DeSantis replaces taking a stand against “the devil” with taking a stand against “the left,” leaving no doubt for his listeners:

Y’all paying attention, kids:  The Left/Democrats = Satan.

 

 

At least one Christian blogger noticed and took issue:

“Politicians quoting the Bible in an effort to garner votes or appeal to the religious beliefs of their supporters is nothing new; politicians quoting a verse completely out of context is equally common….
A politician blatantly changing the wording of the Bible is something else entirely, especially when it’s done to gain the support of the very people who should be outraged by it. Christians of all stripes (liberal, conservative, moderate) and all denominations (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant) may disagree on the interpretation of the Bible, but few if any would go so far as to change the actual words to fit their worldview.”

(“Ron DeSantis Changes a Well-Known Bible Verse to Fit His Own Agenda,”
medium.com 8-3-22 )

 

 

 

Moiself  disagrees with the blogger’s last statement (in the above excerpt). Experience and observation have taught me that the opposite is true.  It’s not few if any – it’s most if not all religious believers have no problem fiddling with “the actual words” (of their scriptures, of anyone else’s scriptures, of anything) to fit their worldview.

The above-quoted blogger went on to wonder/despair at the lack of concern – or even recognition – other Christians have shown re DeSantis’ hyperbolic scriptural contortions.  Moiself’s concern is how those who identify as Christians will handle the most recent “un-Christian,”  [5]   headline-grabbing stunt pulled by DeSantis (who’s a proclaimed Christian).

“A couple of weeks back, The Economist published a long cover story on ‘The Disunited States of America,’ detailing how, on issues such as abortion, guns, voting rights, and immigration, America’s red and blue states are engaged in a “new politics of confrontation.” As if on cue, Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor who often seems as if he is campaigning to succeed Donald Trump as the nation’s Provoker-in-Chief, staged his latest political stunt: using Florida taxpayers’ money to charter two planes to fly about fifty undocumented migrants, mostly Venezuelan, to Martha’s Vineyard. DeSantis was not even relocating the group from his own state—the flights originated in Texas.”
( DeSantis’s Heartless Migrant Stunt Provides a Preview of 2024,
newyorker.com, 9-17-22 )

I felt no pressing need to condemn DeSantis’s cruel, political stunt…even though (and of course) moiself  eventually did, when I found that someone else had edited, DeSantis-style, the very scriptural passage I’d been thinking of:

 

My comment to this FB repost:  “All these Christians ignoring one of the few unambiguous statements in their scriptures…all of those mega churches in Texas apparently open their pocketbooks (and hearts) only for themselves and their rapacious ‘pastors.’ ”

Yes, The Immigration/Undocumented Migrant Issue ® is a problem that is intractable and almost/ultimately seems unsolvable.  But, however you purport to solve this problem – any problem – you don’t do it by exploiting the vulnerable. Tell me, Ron-DeS-boy, whom would your Jesus manipulate?

DeSantis’ hard-hearted action condemns itself. Here’s a thing which keeps coming back to moiself.

Decades ago, before designated dog parks were a thing, I remember reading a newspaper article about a town’s escalating disagreement between neighborhoods:   Some of the townsfolk living in one neighborhood discovered a nearby neighborhood which contained two adjacent, un fenced, empty lots owned by the city.  Neighborhood #1 folks were advocating for those lots to be designated as a dog-walking/play area. Many people living in the neighborhood by the empty lots were opposed to that idea: they feared that such a designation would attract dog owners from outside the neighborhood, which would exacerbate the dog feces problem they already had (not-so-long ago, when taking their dogs for a walk, most dog owners let their pooches poop with impunity without picking up after them).  As the debate heated up, some of the “anti-dog-yard” people gathered up bags of dog feces and deposited them on the front porches of the “pro-dog-yard“ people.

That is literally the first thing I thought of when I read about DeSantis’s vile act:

he’s treating vulnerable human beings like bags of dog shit.

With all the migrants have been through, having their dignity dissed is perhaps the least of their worries at the moment.  However, I’m sure the humiliation will come back to haunt them.  The Humiliation of being treated like bags of dog shit – like something people would be aghast to find on their front porch.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Sure-Fire Mood Uplifter After Reading The Nasty News
Made By Ron DeSantis And Other Nasty People

The following made my day…week…month…  Say what you will about social media (and moiself  does), but without it, I might have missed seeing this.

 

 

 

Ballerinas can fart, too!

This is going to be my new mantra.  It is applicable to sooooo many situations, including those involving the kinds of discrimination and injustices which can only be mitigated by the realization of our shared humanity:  remember; we are all human.  Ultimately, we are all ballerinas, and yes, ballerinas can    [6]  fart.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
MGE   [7]

I started reading a book about anti-gravity. It’s impossible to put down.

I dream of taking a sailing adventure in an ocean of orange soda.
It’s just my Fanta sea.

Wife to husband: “Honey, it sounds like elk are falling from the sky!”
Husband to wife: “No, it’s just reindeer.”

Doctor to patient:  “The tests confirm that you drank a bottle of food coloring,
but you’re going to be fine.”
 Patient: “But doc, I feel like I’m dyeing inside.”

Biologists made a lab frog immortal by removing its vocal cords.
Now it can’t croak.

I was going to make my husband a belt of watches…
but then I realized it would be a waist of time.     [8]

 

*   *   *

May you fight ageism and not aging;
May you be remembered, vis-à-vis the Vulcan saying, Live Long and Prosper,
as someone who did;
May you remember that ballerinas can fart, too;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] And never having to worry about being able to construct coherent sentences.

[2] Not amish.

[3] Which sounds so much more posh than “going for a walk”  — it sounds downright British, in fact.  My tribute to Queen Elizabeth.

[4] As in people who are not Christians, whether they claim a different religious affiliation or are religion-free.

[5] The words of others, not moiself.

[6] And evidently do.

[7] Miscellaneous Groaners Edition.

[8] No, this does not require a footnote.

The Novel Characters I’m Not Liking

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Department Of Things Are Never Going To Get Better
Until We Start Asking The Correct  Questions

 

 

Whether posed from a pro-choice supporter who encourages openness as being essential to  debates over reproductive freedom and (ironically) privacy, or from a rape hotline volunteer who is working to bring the statistics of sexual assault into the public consciousness, IMO people – well-meaning and otherwise – keep asking the wrong questions.

Question, posed to a woman:
Have you ever had an abortion?

Question which *should* be posed to a man – either preceding or following the previous question – but never rarely is:
Have you ever, even potentially,   [1]  been the cause of an abortion?
(Translation: have you ever had sexual relations with a woman, consensual or otherwise, in which your intent was not to father a wanted pregnancy? )

 

 

Question, posed to a woman:
Have you ever been sexually assaulted?

Question which *should* be posed to a man – either preceding or following the previous question – but never rarely is:
Have you – or any male friend/relative/acquaintance you know of –
ever sexually assaulted anyone?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Doing the Thing I Wasn’t Going To Do

Moiself  has started a book club.

Always the vanguard of creativity and novelty, I am calling it, Book Club.

 

 

The reason why I wasn’t going to do it: my experiences in the previous BCs I’ve been a part of.

The BCs dealing with nonfiction were fine, and more than that – highly enjoyable and educational.  But when it came to BCs that included – or were totally centered around – works of fiction…not so much.  What would happen: at least one of the other BC members would find out that I was a published author of fiction (something I tried to keep under wraps) and “out” me to the group.  This revelation tainted the BC experience for moiself, and also, it seemed, for many if not all of the other members.  I noted a deference, toward moiself, from the other members, which frustrated, saddened, and frankly nauseated me.

The other BC members would noticeably defer (sometimes downright obsequiously) to my opinions, or change theirs if they’d spoken first and then it was my turn to speak  [2]  and I offered a different perspective, or ask me to express my thoughts before they’d offer theirs. They’d even come right out and say something along the lines of:

“Well, as an author, you know more than I do about….”

Ick, ick, ick.

And no amount of encouragement on my part –  that their opinions and feelings as readers were equally valid (or even more so) than mine as a writer  [3]  – seemed to relieve that deferential dynamic.

The straw which broke my BC camel’s back…

 

“Ooh, thank you for that.”

 

…you’re welcome.

As I was saying typing, the straw which broke my BC camel’s back was when we members of BC #4 were discussing A Thousand Acres, author Jane Smiley’s contemporary retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear.

ATA was a book I did not care for.  As it turned out, not one person in the group did, although the other members were initially hesitant to express their distaste for ATA, seeing as how the literary critics were coming in their pants over their eagerness to heap praise upon it (in my opinion…which I managed not to express to the BC  in the words moiself  has used here).

So; none of us liked it.  But, whyMoiself  kept her mouth shut until everyone else had spoken, when I found out that everyone else in the group didn’t enjoy reading ATA because “There were no likeable characters in the book.”

Um, okay.  Moiself  didn’t partucularly “like” any of the book’s main characters. But, what about the story itself – the plot, the pacing, the way the story of those unlikeable characters unfolded?  I tried to present the idea that a story can be compelling without containing characters which you, the reader, find likeable or “identifiable-with-able.”  I mean, seriously, dudes: who is “likeable” in Macbeth?

Moiself  didn’t like the book because I didn’t like the story being told, in the way it was told.  I didn’t care for the plot content and trajectory, which never engaged my attention, and…oh, never mind.

I tried, very carefully and respectfully, to offer an alternative perspective to not-liking-something, which some of the other BC members took as me trying to talk them out of *not* liking the book – which, as I ‘d already stated, moiself  Also. Did. Not. Like.

 

 

Fast forward to at least two decades later. The first meeting of “my” BC was last Thursday, and seemed to be a rousing success. A nice mix of life backgrounds and opinions among the members;   [4]  moiself received good feedback; everyone seems looking forward to next month’s meeting.  The format, which is open to modification as per members’ suggestions and preferences,    [5]   is fairly simple:  Once a month; my place; all who are able to do so bring a plate of appetizer/canape/”finger food” type goodies to share (and/or conversation-stimulating beverages);  we nosh and sip and talk about the book.

 

 

At the end of the evening we offer suggestions for next month’s book, based on the month’s theme, which has been announced in advance.

I wanted this BC, instead of specializing in genres, to offer a wide variety of reading options.  I didn’t want to host (or participate in) an all fiction or all nonfiction group. In order to offer the widest variety of possibilities – and perhaps force moiself  to read at least one book a year in a category I don’t normally opt for (e.g., history), moiself  came up with a list of themes (and a clarification of them), which I shall ever-so-humbly share with y’all now, in case this idea is also appealing to you.    [6]

 

 

Book Club Monthly Themes

* January: Literary Classics You Should Have Read
I never made it through War and Peace (and have no desire to do so now), how about you?  But there are plenty of other classics I’d like to give a go (or would be willing to re-read, since I’ve probably forgotten most of, say, Moby Dick).  What constitutes a “classic”? Think of your high school/college literature class reading lists.

* February: Short story collections
“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”
This quote (variously attributed to everyone from Twain to Voltaire) is related to a category that never quite gets its due recognition, but in which (so-called) New World authors have excelled, from past practitioners like Mark Twain and Ray Bradbury (The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and other stories; The Illustrated Man) to relative newcomers Edwidge Dandicat and Tim O’Brien (Ghosts; The Things They Carried).

*  March: Feminism  “I Am Woman; Hear Me Roar (and see me read).”
Sisterhood is powerful, as we’ll see when we delve into/revisit the classics of first and second wave feminist thought (Mary Wollstonecraft’s The Vindication of the Rights of Women; Betty Freidan’s The Feminist Mystique; Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch; Gloria Steinem’s The Truth Will Set you Free But First It Will Piss You Off ) as well as the “Third Wave” feminists’ updates (Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist; Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me).

* April: Regional – “She flies with her own wings” (and reads with her own eyes).
Did you recognize Oregon’s state motto? Yeah, it’s somewhat…lame, but it’s a great state and region we are privileged to live in. In April we’ll affirm that by reading and discussing a book either written by an Oregon/Pacific NW author, or one that deals with Oregon/Pacific settings and/or subjects.  From Ursula LeGuin’s sci-fi novels to Stephen Ambrose’ history of the Lewis & Clark expedition, this theme could include almost any literary category.

* May:  Freethought  “Having faith is believing in something you just know ain’t true.”
This quote from Twain leads us to themes of humanism, skepticism, and freethought. We’ll be choosing from the writings of those who are-religion free, such as the provocative manifestos of Sam Harris (The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason) and Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything), the memoir of activist Dan Barker (Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists), and the historical works of Susan Jacoby (Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism).

* June: “Pride Month” writers
From the semi-autobiographical fiction of Rita Mae Brown  (Bingo; Six of One) to the essay collections of David Sedaris (Me Talk Pretty One Day) to the novels of James Baldwin (Giovanni’s Room) to the poetry of Justin Chin (Harmless Medicine)– this is yet another category which can encompass all genres.  From poetry to political manifestos, the only requirement for a June book is that the book’s author identifies as LGBTQ. 

 

 

 

 

* July: History and other Non-fiction
The broadest category of all, this could cover anything from self-help to ancient civilizations to true crime to WWII narratives….

* August: Memoir/Biography/Autobiography
From the thought-provoking, introspective life story of an esteemed philosopher to the behind-the-scenes memoir of a pivotal political figure to the how-it-all-happened tale of a groundbreaking scientist to the riotous recollections of a ribald rock musician, books in this non-fiction category must tell a story about someone’s life  (note: I reserve the right to have veto power when it comes to books about Kardashians and their ilk).

* September: International Literature. “The world is my country….” (Thomas Paine).
The timeless works of England’s Jane Austin; the complex novels of the Russian “masters”  (but please, no War and Peace); the contemporary stories of India’s Arundhati Roy;  the poetry of Chile’s Pablo Neruda; the essays of Nigeria’s Chinua Achebe – a September BC book can be fiction or nonfiction, as long as its author is/was a citizen of a country other than the USA.    [7]

* October:  Controversial Authors
This theme could (and hopefully will) spur conversations about how we separate artists’ work from their personal lives (and whether or not this should even be a goal). 

Charles Dickens critiqued the poverty and social stratification of Victorian England via his characters’ memorable stories.  Yet historians who’ve read Dicken’s personal letters tell us that the man known as a compassionate champion of family values – the man who wrote so sympathetically about the plight of Tiny Tim – was a SOB to his own family. [8]

Are the stories of Sherman Alexie still worthwhile, after the critically-acclaimed author was accused of (and admitted to) sexual harassment?  Will you read J.D. Vance’s best-selling memoir about poverty-stricken Appalachia (Hillbilly Elegy) now that Vance has embraced ultra conservative politics?  If a writer is unrepentant when confronted with a racist remark from his past but wrote a damn fine  [9]  novel, do you give yourself permission to read his work?

* November:  Books Made Into Movies. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”  [10]

When it comes to film adaptations of novels, avid readers often declare, The book is always better.  Here’s your chance to affirm that, or discover that, in some cases, the opposite may hold true.   From Jaws to Sense and Sensibility, from The Color Purple to The Maltese Falcon, from The Wizard of Oz  to The World According to Garp, this category is for cinephiles as well as literature lovers. Perhaps we’ll be introduced to books we didn’t even know were adapted into movies (I bet more of us have watched the movie Forrest Gump than have read the novel).

* December:  Embarrassing Or Guilty Pleasures.
Is That A Nora Roberts Novella In Your Pocket Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?”   We’ll end the year with books we may not so eager to admit we like, because they aren’t literary enough.  We know we’re supposed to read books which challenge us intellectually (that effin’ War and Peace again) – titles that would look impressive on our Goodreads resumes.  Still, there are times when we want to rest our brains with a “light” read, be it a murder mystery, romance, fantasy/sci-fi, action/adventure, western – whatever your favorite genre.   And sorry, although it provided a plot point for a cute movie (Book Club), as BC host and instigator I reserve my power to veto all shades of 50 Shades of….

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Books Clubs Edition

Our Book club is reading a novel about anti-gravity. It’s impossible to put down.

I finally got my book Club to read Jane Austen. They just needed a little Persuasion.

Our new Book Club member says she doesn’t like Lord of the Rings,
but she doesn’t know what she’s Tolkien about.

Our book Club bartender recommended we read his favorite book:
Tequila Mockingbird.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you like a book with unlikeable characters;
May you remember to ask the right questions;
May you enjoy the last week of summer;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Potentially, as in, you had unprotected intercourse with a woman, wherein the intention was not to get her pregnant, and she did not get pregnant (but could have).

[2] In one of the BCs the format was to go around the circle, each person speaking once so that everyone got a turn, and then it was open to everyone to take it from there.

[3] Although I wasn’t there, at those groups, as a writer, but as a fellow reader.

[4] Except where politics are concerned…which came into the conversation and it seems we’re all on the left side of the page, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

[5] Although for simplicity’s sake I offered to be permanent host (hoping that *not* having to host will make it easier on someone who is interested but hesitant if a rotating host schedule is required, which I’d seen in other groups), I made it clear that it is our, not *my* group, and we can change the meeting time/place/format as we see fit to do so.

[6] Steal borrow these if  you like.  I’d be flattered…with a bit of attribution.

[7] This month we read The Story of My Teeth, by Valeria Luiselli.  A book I really enjoyed, but probably never would have discovered, had I not created this themed list.

[8] Dickens hated his mother, was cruel to his wife and schemed (unsuccessfully) to have her institutionalized when he was having an adulterous affair. With his children he followed a pattern of initial enthusiasm followed by utter disillusionment and disparaged them to his friends (even hoping for the death of one son who’d disappointed him).

[9] Keeping in mind that “damn fine,” like any artistic judgment, us ultimately subjective, even though the “crimes” and deficiencies the author is being accused of may be more objectively defined.

[10] A quote from the movie “Jaws,” the memorable line was not in the novel but was adlibbed by actor Roy Scheider.

The Slip I’m Not Adjusting

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Department Of It Didn’t Happen

Dateline: yesterday, September 1.  For as long as I have lived in Oregon,    [1]  something has happened on September 1.  Whether or not I’ve been aware of the date, on the first day of September when I go out for a morning walk (or just to pick up the newspaper, back when we subscribed to four “dead tree” news sources), the air is…different.  Not only the temperature, but the air *feel,* and the smell.

After the first eight or so years of this happening, I’d think to moiself, Oh yeah – today must be September 1.

On September 1 we still have three weeks left of (technical) summer. But, even if the next day we go back to August air temps and “feels;” and even if this going-back continues for another two days or two weeks…something about September 1 is a gateway to autumn.

But not yesterday.

Yesterday morning felt like the previous morning, and the morning before that:  a warmer than usual August day.  Is this a September 1 an outlier?  Or another global warming harbinger?  [2]

I was 30 minutes into my walk before my phone buzzed and I looked at it, saw the date, and realized it was September 1…and something was missing.

 

l

Autumn on Sweet Creek Trail, Oregon Coast Range  [3]

*   *   *

Department Of Random Acts Of Oddness

Dateline: last Friday afternoon; a local grocery store.  I’m slowly pushing my mini-cart down an aisle.  I stop for about thirty seconds, no doubt sporting the Scanning The Shelves For The Item I Cannot Find,® blank look on my face.  Then I hear a voice:

“The slip – it just keeps slipping up.”

I turn to look behind me and to the right, from whence the voice, and behold the woman who just uttered those nonsensical profound words, apparently, to moiself  (there is no other human in this particular aisle).  Her left arm is resting on one of the store’s standard-sized grocery carts, which is about 25% filled with various items.  She flashes me an ample, somewhat sheepish smile as she points to her hips and tugs at…something below her waistband, with her right hand.

“My slip; it just keeps slipping up.
It’s supposed to be down, but it keeps coming…up.”

Slip Woman is clad in a white blouse, a navy-blue shirt, some clog-like shoes, and her wavy brown-going-gray-hair is pulled back in a ponytail.  Although she looks a little frazzled,   [4]  she doesn’t have that street person vibe about her.  Nor do I recognize in her the kind of eyes that stare at you but don’t really see you – eyes that stare *through* you, as in, when a Certain Kind Of Person approaches you (and by you I mean, moiself ) and starts in with the non-sequiturs…which has happened to me quite often in my time on this planet, particularly in my after-college years, when I was automobile-less and rode public transit.

 

 

It happened to me so often that I once asked a friend, as I was preparing to take a bus to a job interview, to check the back of my jacket to make sure there wasn’t a neon sign affixed there which flashed some version of the following message:

“Are you angry? Lonely? Irrationally exuberant? Confused? Tired?
Frustrated with politics or sex or irresponsible chihuahua owners?

You *really* should tell this woman all about it, RIGHT NOW.”

At one point I thought that, unbeknownst to me, moiself  must have ridden a bus wherein Weird Al Yankovic was a passenger, and as Weird Al observed what happened to me he was thus inspired to write Another One Rides The Bus – his parody of the Queen song, Another One Bites The Dust.

 

 

Once again, I digress.

 

 

Okay: Slip Woman keeps tugging at the waistband of her skirt and repeats her line about how troublesome it is that her slip won’t stay…wherever it is supposed to stay.  Since I deem her *not* to be a Crazy Person Who Talks To Strangers ®, I think that perhaps her slip was indeed riding up and she was trying to fix it as she turned her cart into this aisle of the grocery store, where she saw me and suddenly became self-conscious about adjusting her undergarments in a public place…  As in, she is assuming – incorrectly – that I’d noticed her doing so…and now she has to explain herself so that I don’t think she’s just randomly tugging at her hindquarters.

 

 

Still, no matter what “sense” is behind her statement, it strikes me as an odd thing to say to a stranger.  So, I decide to not be a stranger, for a moment.  I make what I hope is a knowing, reassuring, Ahhhhh noise, followed with a comment about how “these things” always happen in public places, don’t they?

And I smile and push my cart up the aisle, on to another part of the store…when what I really want to say to her is,  “You’re wearing a slip…really?  Why?”

As I walked to my car in the store’s parking lot, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  Who wears slips anymore, anyway?  Is that still a thing?  [5]

 

 

I can’t remember the last time I wore a slip; I can only remember the last time I *didn’t* wear a slip…and someone thought I should have.

 

 

 

Thank you for asking.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,    [6]  moiself  was attending the wedding of my older sister’s eldest daughter.  The wedding was held in a chapel in the Irvine hills, on a brilliantly sunny, So Cal afternoon.  After the ceremony, as I was standing by the pew where I’d been seated and had begun chatting with a family member, a Well-Meaning Church Lady Friend ® of my sister’s sidled up to me.  WMCLF® leaned her mouth close to my ear and, with a deadly serious sotto voce,– as if she were warning me that I should not panic but please be advised that a tsunami is headed this way and we’ve all five minutes to live – earnestly informed me that, standing as I was (with my back to the blinding sun which streamed in through the chapel’s floor-to-ceiling glass walls),

“…you can see your legs through your skirt!”

 

 

 

 

I’m not sure which of the following three things disappointed WMCLF® the most:    [7]

(1) My somewhat laconic reply (“Uh…yeah…I do have legs underneath my skirt.”);

(2) My somewhat not-hiding-the-fact-that-I-didn’t-consider-her-telling-me-that-to-be-the-equivalent-of-sharing-our-nation’s-nuclear-launch-codes, lack of enthusiasm as to the importance of her observation, which she thought was so urgent to share;  [8]   

(3) There was no third thing, somewhat or otherwise;

(4) No fourth thing either.  However, if WMCLF® had known the least bit about me, she would have realized what a big deal it was for me to actually be wearing a skirt.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Causes To Fight For

How can moiself  be so petty as to devote almost an entire blog to stories about a superficial piece of a  women’s undergarment, when there are so many pressing social, political, and cultural issues to be addressed?  Such as, my beef with the NY Times word game, Spelling Bee.

Along with Wordle and Quordle and a couple other NY Times games, Spelling Bee is a game I enjoy playing in the early morning.  Spelling Bee  is a word game “…that challenges players to construct as many (minimum 4 letters) words as they can using pre-selected letters. Each word must include the center letter provided in the puzzle.”  The game’s creator uses a “curated list” of words, as I discovered over a year ago when, although among that day’s SB‘s seven letters were C A L R, I constructed “caracal,” only to be told that that the name for that magnificent African wildcat was not acceptable.

 

 

What word nerd of a hairball doesn’t think I’m acceptable?

 

 

I was so cheesed off about it that I wrote to the editor/curator, who replied with the lame excuse  reasonable explanation about curating a list so as to reach a wide audience.  I’ve noticed that many words I try to use in SB which have a biological or scientific meaning are rejected with SB’s “not in word list” message,  [9]    which makes me think that the editor/curator has rather low expectations re his target audience’s educational and curiosity levels.

Apparently I’m not the only person who takes issue with the curated list policy. Under the Spelling Bee site’s FAQ is this exchange, between a player and the game’s curator:

(SB player):
Occasionally I spell a legitimate word, but the Bee rejects it.
What deems a word unacceptable?

(Sam Ezersky, journalist and NYT Puzzles Editor):
Two dictionaries I use are the built-in Apple dictionary, which is based on New Oxford American, and Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. I like using Google’s News tab, so if there is a technical word, I’ll see if it’s being used in articles without much explanation.
Ultimately, the decisions can seem arbitrary because every solver has a different background and vocabulary….
I can understand the frustration, but my mission is not to be a dictionary. I want to do my best to reflect the Bee’s broad audience and the language we speak.

 

 

 

 

What kind of broad audience doesn’t know – or would benefit from knowing – about the magnificent caracal?

And earlier this week, I reached my next-to-last straw with SB:  included in the seven letters were U T R and D, so naturally one of the words I entered was turd, only to receive SB’s negating response, “not in word list.”

Oh, come on.  What kind of humorless turd will not allow that word on his list?  Thus, my blog’s coveted, rarely bestowed   [10]   Golden Turd Award ® goes to you, Mr. Ezersky.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Dressing Up Edition

I was about to go to a fancy party dressed as a can of anti-perspirant.
My husband stopped me and said, “Are you Sure?”

So, I reconsidered and put on this real slinky dress…
I looked great going down the stairs.

Which music star is known for her rapid onstage wardrobe changes?
Tailor Swift.

Not all fashion designers are conservative,
but I think
most of them are clothes-minded.

What do you call a nudist who will angrily don clothing when it’s required?
A cross-dresser.

My friend arrived at my Halloween costume party dressed like a bank vault.
”Wait,” I said, “I thought you were coming dressed as an apology?”
She said: ‘Well, I thought I’d better be safe than sorry.”

 

 

“Six bad puns – you really found it necessary to torture us with six?”

 

*   *   *

May your acceptable word lists always include “turd’
(with or without the modifier, “festering”);
May you, sans shame or explanation, freely (and discreetly) adjust any undergarment
of yours that needs adjusting;
May we all have such untroubled lives that stories like those I have shared here are the worst of our worries;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] Some 32 plus years.

[2] Ha!  Harbinger, as in “omen or indication”?  Too late for that.

[3] Photo credit: Hasegawa Takashi via Flickr, The Fall Foliage At These 10 Places in Oregon Is Incredible.

[4] But then, what did I look like to her, I wonder, in my needs-laundering yoga pants and wrinkled t-shirt?

[5] Asks the woman perennially clad in a tie-dyed t-shirt and off-white capris.

[6] Or maybe 18 years ago.

[7] And from the look on her face, she was disappointed.

[8]  In other words, I didn’t give a flying fuck that anyone could or would be able to see my legs through my skirt.  Now, had I just exited the bathroom with my blouse tucked into my underpants or with toilet paper trailing from my shoe, then by all means, sidle up and whisper to me.

[9] As well as other words that might have more than one meaning, with one of the meanings being a derogatory slang word, such as coon.

[10] I think it’s been several *years* since moiself  has seen fit to give out this dubious honor.

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