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The Girl Scout Cookies I’m Not Buying

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Department Of Did The Last Four Years Really Happen?

I’m still numb.

 

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Department Of Difficult Family Questions

Dateline: earlier this week, listening to a Freakonomics podcast (“How Much Do We Really Care About Children?“), I heard this statistic on U.S. birth rates:

“As of 2019, the total fertility rate was 1.7 — that’s 1.7 babies born per woman of child-bearing age over her lifetime.”

I immediately thought of my two children, K and Belle, both young adults and successfully fledged.  They keep up with politics, demographics and current affairs.  I pondered how moiself, as a Loving and Responsible Parent ®, can honestly respond to them should they run across this statistic, then pose the inevitable question.

How will I decide which one of them is the .7 child?  Should I flip a coin?  Make my judgment based on which one is more likely to visit me in the nursing home (or less likely to put me in one)?

 

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Department Of Sometimes It’s Better To Let Your Imagination Run Wild
With The Question And Not Even Care About The Answer

The question I am referring to comes from the previously-referenced Freakonomics podcast episode (“How Much Do We Really Care About Children?“), which posed the question,

To what degree have car seats functioned as contraception?

 

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“I thought Girl Scouts was supposed to be about making the world a better place. But this isn’t at all making the world better.”
( 14-year-old Girl Scout Olivia Chaffin, quoted in “Child Labor Linked to Palm Oil in Girl Scout Cookies, Snack Brands”)

 

 

Dateline: Sunday afternoon.  Moiself  was backing my car out of the driveway, just as The Cutest Girl Scout In The World ® left a flyer on my porch. She continued on, walking with her father (my guess) and another Scout to my neighbor’s house. I stopped my car, got out and waved, and from a maskless-but-safe-distance her father said the Girl Scouts were doing a different form of cookie sales this year – orders online – and that the information was in the flyer.

After returning from my errand, I googled to see if the reasons moiself    [1]   had boycotted Girl Scout cookies the past few years were still valid.  Sadly, yes.  The Scouts are still using palm oil in their cookies…AND…a report has just been released linking the production of that palm oil to child labor violations.

I have long wished  [2]  that GS fundraisers would involve a community service drive several times a year, akin to the Boy Scouts’ Xmas tree recycling service. I mean, community service – yay!  Besides, look at us Americans – no one should be eating those (or any organization’s fundraising) cookies.

 

 

But it’s the palm oil usage – specifically, the orangutan and other wildlife habitat destruction resulting from the production of palm oil – that has me the most concerned.  People can choose to snack themselves into Type II Diabetes, but orangutans have no choice in the matter of where they can live, and they certainly don’t choose to have their habitat razed to grow a cheap oil so that humans can have smoother ice cream, less runnier lipstick, and crisp cookies and potato chips.

When K & Belle were in the Oregon Zoo Teens program they learned about the problems with palm oil production, and began educating us – their parents, family and friends – on why we should choose products that did not contain palm oil and boycott those that did.  Such education should be right up the Girl Scout’s alley, so to speak, with the organization’s declared belief in “…the power of every G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader) to change the world,” and their manifesto, to build “girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.”

But, according to the EcoWatch article, “Child Labor Linked to Palm Oil in Girl Scout Cookies, Snack Brands,” that ain’t happening.  Excerpts from the article (my emphases):

Environmental concerns first motivated then-11-year old Chaffin to investigate the source of the palm oil in the Girl Scout cookies she sold. Chaffin…saw that the palm oil listed on the cookie boxes was supposed to come from sustainable sources. However, she looked closer and saw the word “mixed”, which meant that sustainable and non-sustainable sources had been combined in the cookie recipe.

She swore off cookie-selling and launched a petition one year ago urging Girl Scouts to abandon palm oil….

Chaffin told The Associated Press that learning about the child labor issues   [3]   made her more motivated to fight for the oil’s removal….

The Girl Scouts did not respond to The Associated Press before the study was published, but did address the article on social media.

“Child labor has no place in Girl Scout Cookie production. Our investment in the development of our world’s youth must not be facilitated by the under-development of some,” the organization tweeted.

They said that their bakers and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) should take action if standards were being violated.

In other words, business as usual. They are shocked – shocked! – to learn about child labor violations (and don’t forget habitat destruction), but not enough to put any political or economic muscle behind their rhetoric.

The Girls Scouts claim to “…offer the best leadership development experience for girls in the world.”  Their girls are inadvertently learning a lesson in politico-speak (express concern, but don’t make any actually changes which may threaten your income stream), which is sadly common to leaders worldwide.

 

 

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Department Of Quote Of The Year, 2021:

“But fuck you for being there.”

Moiself  realizes the year is young, but already there is a comment which so succinctly nails What Happened on January 6 ® that I am hard pressed to imagine what might beat it for Quote of the Year.

It comes from NPR’s January 15 article,  “Meet Three D.C. Police Officers Who Fought For The U.S. Capitol.”  Excerpted here,  the article contains interviews with police officers who were attacked by the pro-#45 mobs who stormed the US Capitol.

Beaten, tased, lying dazed on the steps leading out of the west side of the U.S. Capitol on the afternoon of Jan. 6, Officer Mike Fanone remembered thinking,

“…about the movie Black Hawk Down when the pilot gets stripped from the cockpit because guys were grabbing gear off my vest, they ripped my badge off of me, and people were trying to get my gun, and they grabbed my ammunition magazines.  I remember trying to retain my gun, I remember guys chanting, ‘Kill him with his own gun.’ “

Fanone was tased at least a half-dozen times. He says he considered using his gun to defend himself, but knew rioters would likely turn the gun on him. So he pleaded for his life.

“At one point, I decided I could appeal to someone’s humanity in this crowd. And I said I have kids,” he recalls. “Fortunately, I think it worked. Some people did start to protect me, they encircled me and tried to prevent people from assaulting me.”

Fanone, a 19-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police Department, was found and eventually pulled to safety by his patrol partner. He was hospitalized, and was told he had had a heart attack.

Fanone says he doesn’t want to get into what may have motivated Trump’s supporters, many of whom have long claimed they back police. He’s thankful he got out alive, but he’s angry that that was ever in question.

“The ones in the crowd that somehow appealed to their better angels and offered me some assistance, thank you,” he says. “But f*** you for being there.”

 

 

 

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Department Of Yes, This.
Reflections After The Inauguration

Although I love watching the Olympics and missed having the opportunity to do so in 2020,  [4]  moiself  did not miss having to listening to the devoted, often over-the-top-and-arrogant, fans of Team USA.  Hearing their strident, hyperbolic chants of, “USA! USA! USA! We’re Number One!” makes me want to do a number two, as I think of how those chants represent many of my fellow citizens’ understanding of our place in the world, both historically and in the present.

When it comes to being a “great” country, we *are* number one…in self-delusion and mythology.  Maybe, just maybe, we could be #1 in potential of across-the-board quality of life, if the majority of us could be honest with ourselves.

 

 

Those ideals in our founding documents,   [5] national anthem and patriotic songs are just that.  They are ideals to which we may aspire, but they are not reflections of either historical or present reality; they are a journey, not a destination.  We are not “there yet” – how could we be, when the codification and implementation of the lofty democratic ideals of our so-called fore-fathers involved the complete exclusion of our foremothers? The omission of political power for over half the country’s population lasted for 144 – yes, that’s one hundred and forty-four ­– years after our country’s “birth”!

We are not there yet.  And how can we ever be, when there is only grudging (if any) acknowledgement from too many of us about the reality of   [6]   the treatment of the original occupants of our land – the native/indigenous peoples, as well as those who did not come here willingly, but who instead were the “…tired, poor,  huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore…” because our ancestors had enslaved them?

 

 

Make America great again? To anyone who chants that insipid call to political arms slogan: what can you possibly mean by, *again*?

You can’t make American something it never was.  Make America Live up to its great ideals – or tear them down and start over.

So sez moiself.  Thus, it was refreshing to hear Baratunde Thurston give his take on the subject, on a TED talk. Thurston, a writer, comedian, political commentator, activist, philosopher, and “futurist,” is also the producer/host of the marvelously titled, “How to Citizen, a podcast which “… reimagines the word ‘citizen’ as a verb and reminds us how to wield our collective power.”

“I really appreciate the honesty of saying, ‘We haven’t succeeded yet.’ I think we are so good at myth-making, about our greatness and our uniqueness and our specialness, that we forgot we’re not there yet.  We have a big number of us who can say, like,  ‘We used to be so great!’

How could you say that when half the population couldn’t even vote? *When are you starting the clock?*
So, there’s a lot to do. There’s value to the honesty that we haven’t really done it yet, and there’s motivation to the idea that we might get there.  And I think we have to be motivated by the pursuit, not just the arrival.  That we’ve gotten a little bit better; that we’ve reckoned with some of the more painful things, knowing there’s a laundry list of stuff we still haven’t dared to face honestly.  And if we get closer, that’s still good.”

( Excerpts from TED radio hour podcast, “How to Citizen,”
with Baratunde Thurston speaking with TED host Manoush Zomorodi )

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Department Of Gut Check – Yep, I’m Still Numb

And just now daring to relax.  The inauguration happened; no one was shot.

When I finally let myself watch part of the proceedings moiself was both mesmerized and comforted by Amanda Gorman’s recitation of her stunning poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

 

 

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Department Of One More Thing

And – hello, New York Times headline on the 20th   [7]    – I never, ever again want to read about #45 and his entire, vile, despotic, rapacious, racist, sexist, nepotistic, cadre of liars and thieves, unless the story has to do with their impending criminal charges, plea bargains, and convictions.    [8]

 

 

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Pun For The Day

Finally it’s, 2021, and now I can truthfully say that hindsight is 2020.

 

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May your children all be 1.0 and never .7;
May we work toward making our country great (not “again”);
May we aspire to deserve the voices of poets like Amanda Gorman;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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[1] A former girl Scout, and lover of their Thin Mints cookies.

[2] And have done more than wishing; i.e., expressing to Scout leaders and writing to the national organization (with no response).

[3] “Child labor is another major problem for the (palm oil) industry, according to The Associated Press. The UN’s International Labor Organization estimates that 1.5 million children aged 10 to 17 work in Indonesia’s agricultural industry, of which palm oil is the dominant crop. In Malaysia, a 2018 study found that more than 33,000 children work in the industry, and that almost half of them are between the ages of five and 11.”

[4] On the off-chance you were off-planet, the 2020 Olympics were cancelled due to the pandemic.

[5] e.g. The Constitution, the Declaration of Independence.

[6] And never mind the possibility of reparations for….

[7] Who gives a flying fuck if Tiffany tR**p is engaged?  Shame on you for making me scroll past that in order to access my daily mini-crossword.

[8] And hopefully those stories will have at least eight footnotes.

The Blog Post I Wasn’t Planning On

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

As in, What. Happened. On. Wednesday.

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

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

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Someone needs to be shot for insurrection. 

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

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Prevoskhodno! This is all going according to plan.”

 

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

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

As friend MM so succinctly put it,

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

 

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

“The whole world is watching.”

 

 

And they were.  And we are.

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

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

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

No.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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

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

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

The Peace I’m Not Quite Keeping

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Is today still considered Black Friday, what with the COVID crisis limiting the for some white trash who look forward to the traditional shoving match at Walmart customary, day-after-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy?   [1]   Using the post-holiday letdown as an excuse inspiration, moiself  has decided that this will a lighter, less filling, politics-free post.

 

“Yeeeee-haw!”

 

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Department Of Someone Is Not Understanding The Concept

Our city’s curbside recycling services recently (within the past year) added food waste recycling to their yard waste recycling service.  Each household was issued a small (~ 1 gallon) tan container for the house, to be kept on your kitchen counter, under the sink, wherever, for your potato and apple peels, squash rinds – all of your plant food waste.  When that container is full you empty it into your large (60 gallon) brown yard waste bin which you keep outside a foot or so over the property line, so as to annoy your neighbors next to your other garbage and recycling bins. the smaller container goes back inside the house. You wheel the big brown bin to the curb when it is your street’s garbage/recycling pickup day. Pretty basic stuff.

 

house food waste container on the front/left, which you empty into the yard waste bin on the right.

 

Our city, like most cities these days, has a fleet of garbage/recycling vehicles which are automated side load trucks.  The trucks have a crew of one – the driver, who operates a mechanical arm which grabs and lifts the recycling bin and dumps it.

Here is what moiself  observed on Monday morning, when I was walking in a neighborhood ~ 1 mile from my house, on that neighborhood’s recycling day.

 

 

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Dept Of Avoiding Politics To Keep The Peace For Just One Day, But Of Course She Found Something Else to Tantalize Offend Some of Y’all

 

 

” ‘I prayed and I prayed and I prayed that she was out there,” Mr. Smart said.”
( Quote from father of kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart, from NY Times article,
“Utah Girl’s 9-Month Ordeal Poses a Puzzle Strange and Biblical,” 3-16-03 )

There are so many, many, many examples I could use, but I’ll settle on this one: Why do religious folk still engage, and/or seem to believe in, the efficacy of intercessory prayer, considering what happened to Elizabeth Smart?

 

 

Jesus Lied About Prayer
(excerpts from “Lies Jesus Told,”
from the blog, “EvilBible.com – fighting Against Immorality In Religion” )

“Jesus is quoted many times in the Bible saying that a believer can ask for anything through prayer and receive it.  He even goes so far as to say that mountains and trees can be thrown into the sea simply by praying for it.  This is clearly a lie, and can be proven to be a lie by any believer.  Simply pray for me to be converted to Christianity right away.  Or better yet ask God to move the mountains behind my house.  He could make a lot of converts that way.  If I’m converted today, I’ll post a public apology on my web site and devote my life to kissing God’s ass.  If I’m not converted it would only be fair for you to apologize and devote your life to kissing my butt.
Here are the quotes from Jesus that proves that he lied:”

(moiself’s comment: the following is number three of nine demonstrably claims, from the New Testament, attributed to Jesus, that the author of this blog lists):
(3) “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.  For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.
(Matthew 18:19-20 NAS)”

Remember the Mormon girl, Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City home at knifepoint when she was fourteen years old? She was held captive for nine months by her abductor.   [2]  The man, an excommunicated Mormon, claimed to be a prophet and an angel, and told Smart that she was …”the first of many virgin brides he planned to kidnap, each of whom would accompany him as he battled the Antichrist.” He repeatedly raped Smart, “…sometimes multiple times a day, forced her to look at pornographic magazines, and regularly threatened to kill her.”

Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.  For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.

If the human interest stories about the case that I read were correct – if what we know about human nature is correct – there were definitely more than two or three people praying, in Jesus’ name, from day one when news of Smart’s abduction broke.  For nine months people prayed alone, and in groups, Mormons and Christians alike,  [3]  as well as believers of other faiths, for that poor girl to be found and returned to her family.

And Jesus was…where, during all of this?

If what Jesus said was trustworthy – and Christians claim that their scriptures are reliable in its narration of Jesus’ words and deeds – when those people were praying he was  in their midst  doing…just what, exactly?  Listening to them, hearing their earnest supplications, discussing it with his supposed father/god/himself ,  [4]  and ultimately, apparently, saying something along the lines of, “Yeah, we’ll let them find her, but not now.  We’ll allow her to get sexually assaulted for several more months, like the Congolese women who also keep praying to us as they are raped in the refugee camps.”

 

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Department Of This Is In The Running For Best (Verbal) Curse Ever

“May all your shits have antlers!”
( from BoratSubsequentMovieFilm )

 

 

The visual version of this curse would be having to look at this picture.

 

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Department Of What The World Needs Now, Is Love Sweet Love….
Or, Failing That, A New Game

Dateline: Thursday morning. My thoughts while walking past the Manzanita Links golf course, where moiself  espied at least six people prepping for a round of golf before halving to attend to Thanksgiving dinner or whatever.

As I passed the end of the course – the ninth hole – moiself   had a sudden realization: while I have no interest in golf such as it is, I am intrigued by the idea of playing it backwards.  How about instead of playing golf, we play Flog ® ?

 

“Only a stupid infidel would use a nine iron off the tee!”

 

No no no; not *that* kind of flog.

Here’s how to Flog: Using a specialty club –golf putters may need to be repurposed for flogging – players “hit” (or somehow coax) their flog balls out of the ninth hole, with the aim of getting the balls up to and atop the ninth hole tee.  Repeat with each hole after (before?) that, until you end up at the first tee.

Just imagine the skill set involved!  I mean, anyone can (eventually) hit a golf ball off of a tee, but the precision, tenacity, and dexterity in getting one *on* to it? Flogging will require an abundance of Zen-like focus and patience.

Flogging will be a high-scoring game – probably no two- or even three-par holes, and the odds against any player shooting a hole in one (tee in one?) will be astronomical.

What do you think – could this attract a whole new generation of players?  Or, are the logistics insurmountable ?  Obviously, you couldn’t have people golfing and flogging at the same time, as you’d end up with weird traffic jams,   [5]    so an existing course would have to decide, day by day, to be either for golfing, or for flogging.

So, when moiself   wins the lottery   [6]   I will rent out an entire course golf course for moiself and some thrill-seeking friends, and we shall Flog.

Community Service/Making The World A Better Place ® Bonus: We floggers will be a better-dressed bunch than golfers. That’s almost too easy to guarantee.

 

 

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Department Of Partridge Of The Week

Our neighborhood knows the holiday season is in full swing when the lights go up on the pear tree in our front yard (the weekend after Thanksgiving) and stay up until early January. Each week, the tree hosts a Special Guest Star ®.  This week’s Partridge in our pear tree is, as always, the lead-off:

 

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Pun For The Day

The cook couldn’t bother to season the thanksgving Turkey – she didn’t have the thyme.

 

“Yeah, sure lady – you’re a vegan, like we believe that!

 

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Department Of False Advertising

Although I promoted today’s post as being politics-free, moiself  can’t resist mentioning this.  Dateline: Wednesday afternoon, listening to a podcast, wherein a physician/scientist was being interviewed about the COVID-19 vaccine options.  ‘Twas music to my ears to hear, more than once, the interviewer ask the scientist what he would be expecting and/or hoping from “…The Biden Administration.”

For the first time in four years, I could hear the word “administration,” referring to the federal government, and not feel the, nauseating, gut-twisting, I-told-you-not-to-eat-those-oysters  sensation in the pit of my abdomen, as was the case when the word “administration” was precede by the name of #45.

 

*   *   *

May you intrigue your mind with thoughts of other games
which might be played backwards;
May your soul be soothed by phrases like, The Biden Administration;
May all your shits have antlers;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Which might be considered a silver lining, of sorts.

[2] And is batshit crazy-evil wife, who abetted him.

[3] Mormons consider themselves Christians, but many (and most evangelical) Christians think that Mormons are *not* Christians.

[4] Remember, that pesky, basically incomprehsnsible Christian theology of The Trinity holds that Jesus and God are one.

[5] And head injuries, to boot.

[6] Read: never, as the way I understand it, you have to enter a lottery in order to win a lottery.

The Good Old Days I’m Not Remembering

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

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

 

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Department Of The Good Old Days Are More Old Than Good

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

Quarantine sign, Polio. 2005.3080.07.

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

“Oh yes, well, there was that….”

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

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

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

“Oh yes, well, there was that….” 

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

“Oh yes, well, there was that….”

and that…and that…and that…and that….

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Dorothy Is Not In Kansas Anymore

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

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

 

 

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

*   *   *

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

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

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dinner With Mel Brooks I’m Not Having

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Department Of SpellWalking is Spellbinding

What, you may ask, is this “SpellWalking” thing you’ve been hearing so much about?  And if you haven’t heard about it….

Spellwalking Spellwalking Spellwalking Spellwalking
Spellwalking Spellwalking

…there. Now you have.

You Must Check This Out ®.

Here’s the description of the activity, from the  brilliant   [1]   industrial engineer living in San Francisco who started it.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I started going on near-daily walks to help combat the monotony of being cooped up indoors all day. To spice things up a bit, I decided to plan my walking routes such that the paths I took formed letters and words. I call this activity SpellWalking. I live in San Francisco, a city favorable to SpellWalking due to the multiple intersecting gridiron street patterns to choose from.

( From the SpellWalking website
Yes, it has I website; it’s a *thing,* y’all)

Check out the grid patterns – they are delightful, and mostly feature San Francisco neighborhood names.

Moiself’s favorite (so far), due to its proximity to greenspaces, is the Haight.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Say What?
Sub-Department Of What Is The Emoji For Your Ears Doing A Double Take?
Division Of Unfortunate Government Employee Names

Dateline: Tuesday; circa 11 am; listening to the car radio while running an errand. I tuned into the Oregon Public Broadcasting channel, to the end of a story announcing the appointment of the man who will be Oregon State University’s 15th president. Current OSU president Ed Ray will step down, to be replaced by F. King Alexander.

 

 

Yep, that’s what I heard – followed by those voices coming from the radio in my own mind, speculating about what form the complaints he (the new OSU president) will receive from those who are unhappy with his leadership:

“That F** King Alexander….”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Speaking Of How My Brain Works…

I have layperson’s/”hobby” interest in neurology and neuropsychology – in how (scientists think) the brain works.  In my If-I-Had-To-Do-It-All-Over-Again ® mode, I might have pursued neuroscience and/or cognitive psychology-related fields, instead of following the highly lucrative and emotionally satisfying and rewarding batshit crazy “creative” path.

 

 

But I have this one problem   [2]  when it comes to reading articles about neuroscience and behavior and basic cognition. Whenever I read about a certain part of the brain, a part located deep in the temporal lobe and most strongly associated with memory, ’tis difficult for me to get past the name of said brain region.  I’ve learned that moiself cannot take whatever I am reading seriously until I deal with an image that always – as in, every F. King Alexander time – comes to mind.

Here’s what happens: I picture a college campus setting – a university whose student body is comprised solely of herbivorous, semiaquatic ungulate mammals native to sub-Saharan Africa.   And I face that image, appreciate it, and set it aside…until I come to the part in the article which says, in essence, “Let’s explore what we know about the hippocampus…” and I am immediately transported back to that same setting, with moiself  being led on a campus tour by a student guide…

 

“And over on the left is our renowned fine arts center….”

 

One might think that, with the interest in/reading about this neuro-stuff (excuse the fancy-pants, science jargon) I claim to do, moiself might have figured out why my brain does this.  Nah; not gonna go there. I suppose I enjoy it enough that the why doesn’t matter. It’s not something I would want to “fix.”

 

Fraternity rush season at the Hippocampus is intense.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Not All Of The Oldies Are Goodies

Dateline: same as my first lame story highly entertaining anecdote. I switched my car’s radio from the OPB channel to KQRZ, a local station which plays music from the past (aka “oldies”), and I heard a song moiself  hadn’t thought about in years.

Wildfire was popular when I was a certain age. The song had always seemed melodically anemic to me, and I’d never paid much attention to it when it somehow got regular airplay. This time I decided to actually listen to the lyrics, and….wow.

 

“Is that a good wow, or a bad wow?”

 

Wow as in, this dull ditty was a hit song?

The song’s narrator tells the brief tale of a young woman who supposedly died during a blizzard while searching for her escaped pony, “Wildfire.” The song’s narrator is in his cabin or somewhere – we don’t really know – in an early winter storm; an owl has perched outside of his window, which he takes as a sign that Ghostly Dead Girl is calling for him to join her and spend eternity riding her stupid horse lacking the horse sense to NOT run off into a blizzard pony with her.

The End.

Wow  as in, there’s not much to the story, is there?  It’s too insipid to be tragic.

*   *   *

Department Of An Oldie Who Was One Of The Best Of The Goodies

“Mel comes over most every night. We’ll have dinner and watch “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune.” After dinner, we’ll watch a movie, if anything good is playing that night. We once said, “Any movie that has the line, ‘Secure the perimeter,’ you know it’s good.”
(” Carl Reiner: Why Van Dyke is the best, Trump the worst and Mel Brooks is a savvy movie critic. ”  USA Today, 5-1-19 )

Goodbye, Carl Reiner.

Who is left among that generation of influential entertainers?  Mel Brooks; Betty White; Norman Lear; Dick Van Dyke?

Reiner leaves behind an impressive body of work and a loving family, but here’s what makes me “grieve” the most, when I think about it:  now that Carl Reiner is gone, who will Mel Brooks have dinner with?

My favorite Carl Reiner-directed movie is “All of Me,” which features wonderful work by actors Lily Tomlin and Steve Martin.  Frail, condescending, wealthy socialite Edwina Cutwater (Lily Tomlin) engages the help of a guru to “transmigrate” her soul upon her death to the body of a healthy young woman. Edwina enlists lawyer Roger Cobb (Steve Martin) to change her will to leave her entire estate to the young woman. Edwina dies within minutes of signing the updated will, but via an ill-timed accident she ends up inhabiting Roger’s body, sharing it with him and controlling his body’s right side. Edwina and Roger are forced to work together to find a way to get her soul out his body, as well as to navigate mundane but essential tasks, as in this scene below, when Roger desperately needs to use the bathroom.

Enjoy…better yet, watch the entire movie, which is surprisingly sweet and sentimental despite its I-am-SO-sure premise.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Even Harder To Comprehend Than Cosmic String Theory
Is The “Success” Of Certain Attention Whores Celebrities

Carl Reiner, he of the multiple “slash” talents (comedian slash actor slash writer slash director slash producer….), was more than deserving of the fame and acclaim – and arguably, most importantly, the respect –  which he received over a lifetime (his career spanned seventy-three years!), from both his audience and his show business peers.

And then, we have…oh, shit. I have to type this surname, don’t I, if I’m going to pursue this bizarre reflection?  Let’s just say the name rhymes with lard-ashian.

 

“For F. King Alexander’s sake, just type, ‘Kardashian,’ you big baby.”

 

Moiself  has never seen the Kardashian show. Of course, living in the culture, doing crossword puzzles, standing in line at the grocery store where there’s nothing to look at but the tabloid headlines or the ill-fitting clothing of the guy in front of me and I need to avert my eyes sideways lest they be further assaulted by the worst case of plumber’s crack I’ve ever seen…I can’t really avoid having a rudimentary knowledge of their existence.

And rudimentary will do, because there’s not much to know.  They are famous, for…for what?  For wanting to be famous.

Maybe there’s more to the show than that. Yeah…and maybe Chief Little Bunker-Bitch will join the Black Lives Matter movement and lead protesters in replacing statues of Robert E. Lee with gold-plated vaults containing the entire Spike Lee filmography.

I feel fully comfortable in judging this Show-That-I-Have-Not-Seen, and here is why.  The Kardashians actively and openly seek celebrity, and in my opinion and that of many others who are Smarter And More Educated Than Moiself, ® that in and of itself is the sign of an unbalanced personality and bloated ego.

Kardashians and those like them pursue fame, as opposed to merely tolerating (or even grudgingly accepting) celebrity status as a by-product of something they’ve done, which is the “normal” or usual way fame attaches itself to a person.

Despite my being someone friends and family would describe as being outgoing or extroverted, fame or celebrity – being recognized by strangers – is something I have studiously avoided all my life (my former editors, pushing for me to do more publicity, might snarkily add that avoiding fame was the one aspect of my fiction writing career at which I excelled ). Thus, I am somewhat bemused and mostly appalled by those who actively seek to be in the proverbial glare of the spotlight.

Fame or celebrity comes to you, in most cases, if you do something notable and/or something which brings you to the public’s attention (e.g. in the performing arts).  Not to be confused with the infamy accorded a mass murderer, you may become famous if, for example, you’ve acted in acclaimed movies. Yet, even then, the amount of fame coming your way cannot be determined by a cut and dried formula.  It’s interesting to consider the variables, some having to do with the life a celeb leads, whether they actively sought the limelight outside of their professional lives or desperately tried to avoid it (and thus got more attention for that avoidance), and other factors seemingly random.  Why did the paparazzi ignore a young(er) Sally Field, but pursue Angelina Jolie?  (That answer seems obvious on the surface, but maybe Ms. Field had some really juicy hidden details of her life that a dedicated celebrity snoop could have unearthed). Why have talented, award-winning actors Meryl Streep and Frances McDormand not been subjected to the kind of tabloid attention that talented, award-winning actors Julia Roberts and Jennifer Lawrence received?

However those actors may have played on it or downplayed it, their respective fame is due to actions or accomplishments on their part. Their celebrity is a consequence, not an predecessor, of their careers.

And then you have the reality TV stars – yep, I picked the low hanging fruit that is the Kardashian family – who want celebrity (but will settle for notoriety) first, before they’ve done anything to “merit” it.  It’s back-asswards:  once they have fame…for seeking fame…in order to keep their fame they need to figure out how to do something attention-worthy other than to be seeking attention.  The LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! stage they should’ve outgrown by age eight becomes a thing in itself. You get fame and celebrity for wanting fame and celebrity, and in order to keep up the public’s interest in your fame and celebrity you must continually pursue it in extreme and tasteless ways.

But thanks to the advent of Reality TV, which has brought us our first Reality TV president, the whole concept of tasteful may have gone out the window…

 

*   *   *

Department Of See This Movie, Right Now

Unless you’re on your way to the COVID ward of the hospital.

Otherwise, at one point in your life you’ve either been a frightened yet determined 17-year-old, or you’ve known one or (hopefully) have been a compassionate and loyal friend to one, as this movie so matter-of-factly and movingly depicts.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I just found out that I’m color blind – the news came completely out of the green.

 

*   *   *

 

May you enjoy your own variation of a classic curse phrase ( F. King Alexander! );
May you think twice before approaching a “famous” person when they are not in the process of actively seeking fame;
May your sense of propriety pass The Tasteful Lady‘s scrutiny;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Partial disclosure – can you ever make a *full* disclosure? – he’s my nephew.

[2] Yes,  those who know me well might interject here that moiself has a lot more than just one problem… but how’s about if y’all control your intrusive thoughts on the matter and we can get back to the subject?

The Letters I’m Not Transposing

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Department Of Visual Double-Take

I got this bottle of tequila for a friend, because of the label…which I misread. Boys and girls, can you guess which two letters my mind transposed with another two, which caused me at that initial, mistaken glance, to blurt out, to the store clerk,

“Four *hundred*?  That’s the manliest tequila ever!”

 

 

*   *   *

Several days ago, apropos of a prompt moiself   cannot exactly recall (something I read which mentioned cyber-bullying) I listened, once again, to Monica Lewinsky’s acclaimed TED talk on the subject…which led me to read for the first time an article she wrote for Vanity Fair magazine several years ago – an article which preceded the TED presentation.  If you listen to the first, which I strongly advise you (and all those who think they have an opinion on the Clinton-Lewinsky “scandal”) do, I also advise you read the second.  After reading the article I wanted to send feedback to her personally but had no way to contact her (other than by cyber-stalking), so I am sending this out via the blog-o-sphere.  May the cosmos have mercy upon me.

 

Good luck with that, you impudent b***h.

 

Dear Ms. Lewinsky,

I re-listened to your TED talk the other day ( apropos of a prompt I cannot now recall, but the subject was cyber-bullying ) and so, once again, I found the link to “The Price of Shame,”  which I believe to be one of the best TED talks ever. If there were an awards ceremony for excellence in TED talks (“The Teddies?”   [1] ), yours would get my nomination in the Best Issue category.

I’ve listened to it several times, and each time come away (re)impressed with your insightful analysis of the links between the evolution of “shame culture” via the concurrent rise of the 24 hour news cycles, social media, and online harassment. Most of all, I admire, how you have taken your personal experiences with persecution and worked to turn humiliation into advocacy.

Searching for a link to the TED talk led me to a link to “Shame and Survival,” the article you wrote for Vanity Fair magazine in 2014, where you dealt with the issues which you would later incorporate in your TED talk, and also went into more detail about your experiences.  I found myself cheering your determination to take back your narrative and give a purpose to your past (and present). However, there was one cringe-worthy (to me) statement you made therein, one which I hope the passage of time has given you cause to reconsider. 

“I still have deep respect for feminism and am thankful for the great strides the movement has made in advancing women’s rights over the past few decades. But, given my experience of being passed around like gender-politics cocktail food, I don’t identify myself as a Feminist, capital F.”

The context of your statement – your relating the “humiliation derby” that several prominent women joined in, which illustrated ” …a perplexing aspect of the culture of humiliation…that women themselves are not immune to certain kinds of misogyny “–  makes your sentiment fully understandable, and arguably inevitable.  After being on the receiving end of such cruel treatment, the fact that you are not bitter and vindictive – it is a testament to your strength of character, maturity and grace (and I question whether I be capable of displaying or developing those qualities, were I in similar circumstances).

Still, that was six years ago, and I hope that now you could identify yourself with the F word (maybe not in all caps).  Perhaps you have already done so, and my point is moot.  Proceeding on the assumption that you haven’t, my concern with you still holding that sentiment is related to your crusade regarding online bullying, in which you want people to view other people as unique human beings and not stereotypes, and not hold an entire category of people responsible for the cruel actions or snide comments of a few individuals.

Feminism, the simple yet profound philosophy of advocating for women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes, did not let you down. Certain “celebrity feminist” individuals –  who were, unfortunately, prominent enough that their short-sighted, narrow-minded, unkind and snarky comments about you were deemed worthy of recording – let you down.

Along with short-sighted and narrow-minded, snarky and unkind, I would add fearful to characterize the comments made about you by those feminist personalities.  They were fearful – with good reason, it turns out – of what would happen if “the other side” used the Clinton scandal to gain (even more) power for themselves.  The other side both explicitly and implicitly avowed to undermine and overturn the principles feminism stood for and the civil rights for which feminists strove, and as we see today, their retrograde view of what constitutes equal rights is unfortunately and alarmingly persistent.

Yes, the gap between the personal and the political vis-à-vis President Clinton’s behavior – which includes how you were scapegoated and the resulting political/cognitive dissonance it evoked in too many of Clinton’s female supporters – was alarming. Unfortunately, no matter how regressive his treatment of an individual woman was, Clinton’s political stances, policies and agendas were far more progressive and pro-women than what the Republicans stood for. Thus, the shameful loyalty of those vocal feminists who slid down the old slippery slope of immediate political self-interest:

“He may be a SOB, but he’s *our* SOB…and sadly, what are our alternatives?”

I’m sorry if this seems overly didactic; you are obviously intelligent, thoughtful, and historically literate, and these are points which you have already likely considered. Still, as a lifelong supporter of equal rights, I hope that you would someday be able to reevaluate and embrace the term feminist, to know that you can disagree with others who may claim that mantle just as you continue to support Democratic policies and ideals despite the injustices done to and said about you by many of your fellow Democrats.

Thank you again for the important causes and issues you continue to illuminate and advocate, and for your bravery and example to all women and men for rising above adversity and calling out the “culture of shame.”  Wishing you all the best, I am,

Sincerely yours,

*   *   *

Blog Department Of Classic How-To-Live-A-Good-Life Advice ® Tweaked

Your life’s journey is not to discover who you are,
but rather who you want to be.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Deep Thoughts Continue, aka
What I Thought About When I Overheard An Older Person
Denigrate Young(er) People’s Lack Of Perspective Re The Passage Of Time

The fact that nothing lasts is the reason that things matter. Our ephemeral, mortal nature gives meaning to every day.  The realization that we will never pass this way can make us treasure the here and now, and make the most of the time we have.

This is not a novel idea.  When I’ve read similar sentiments it is at this point that the typical Life Advice Giver® writes about how this ephemeral-ity is understood by the old and not so much by the young….  And moiself doesn’t think that’s necessarily the case.   [2]

I’ve known plenty of older people who gave no indication that their advanced years had brought them any advanced wisdom – they seemed just as stuck in the minutia of life as the Gen X, Y, or Z-ers whom they were so critical of for “not seeing the bigger picture.”  These same Oldsters® were/are not stepping back to look at *their* bigger picture, for fear of what it contains. Their resulting lack of introspection and/or denial of obvious realities (My body is changing; Time waits for no one) is perhaps the opposite side of the coin of the stereotype of hedonistic youth (Live for the moment; Who cares about tomorrow …Hey, hold my beer while I do this…).

 

“Do you know what she’s talking about?” “Nope – hold my beer while I ask her.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department of The Corona Virus Playlist
The Heavy Metal Edition

Specifically, the prototypes of what became known as Heavy Metal music (such as the bands Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath), guitar-driven rock characterized by amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and maximum concert decibel intensity (translation: LOUD)..

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

Communication Breakdown
Dazed And Confused
Good Times Bad Times
Hey Hey What Can I Do
How Many More Times

In My Time Of Dying
Night Flight
No Quarter
Sick Again
Stairway To Heaven

Trampled Underfoot
Wearing And Tearing
What Is And What Should Never Be
Your Time Is Gonna Come

A Touch Away
Bad Attitude
Don’t Hold Your Breath
I’m Alone
Into The Fire

Might Just Take Your Life
Never Before
Slow Train
Smoke On The Water
Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming

A Hard Road
Buried Alive
Crazy Train
Dying For Love
Electric Funeral

Get A Grip
Killing Yourself To Live
Slipping Away
Warning
What’s The Use?
When Death Calls
Wicked World
Wishing Well

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, and then it dawned on me.

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion  Evolution  [3]

 

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

Featuring this week’s Theme Day (Wednesday Wraps) and recipe:
Whole wheat calzones with pistachio basil pesto and asparagus

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [4]

*   *   *

May you not judge the notorious until you’ve walked a mile in their scandals;
May your label letter transpositions bring you a good belly laugh;
May you live as long as you want to, and want to as long as you live;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!

 *   *   *

[1] Just think of the cute design possibilities for the teddy bear statues that would be presented to the winners.
[2] What’s with the lack of footnotes?
[3] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 1 of April 2020, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go themes as listed in the 4-3-20 blog.
[4]

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

 

The Sample I’m Not Accepting

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Department Of Is This The First Bad Pun Of The New Year
Or The Worst Bad Pun Of The New Year?

 

 

So, if you identify as pansexual, would the above be an acceptable threesome?

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Keep Calm And Just Walk On By
While Looking Down At Your Cellphone
(You Know, Like Everyone Else Does These Days)

Dateline: earlier this week. Moiself had time to kill before an appointment, so I went to a nearby, large indoor mall.  It used to be *the* mall in our county, and I hadn’t been there in a couple of years… Wow. I can actually say that.

Anyway.  I am walking as I usually do in a mall: expeditiously, as if I have an Important Destination ® in mind.  I am passing a series of – what are they called, those mini-merchants, those booths in the walkways between the main stores on either side?  Kiosks? You know the ones, they hawk sunglasses and calling cards and everything in-between and upside down….

Anyway #2:  As I pass one of those kiosks an overdressed, hipster-ishy young man steps from behind the kiosk’s counter, holds out some kind of…sample, and says, [1]

“Something for your face, ma’am?”

 

 

Now then. If you are a young (-er than me) male, unless your name is Tex and/or you are wearing a cowboy hat and spurs, please don’t call me Ma’am.  Yep, that preference of mine makes it difficult for a stranger to address me (and if you are a stranger, why are you trying to address me?), but there you have it.

Anyway #3: “Something for your face, ma’am?”  My first instinct is to blurt out, “Are you implying that my face needs ‘something’?

I somehow manage to quash that instinct. I learned years ago that most people should think twice about asking a question if they don’t want to hear the answer.  Keeping in mind the time-tested wisdom about which Dionne Warwick sang, I just walk on by.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sports Team Names That Have Got To Go

Dateline: Later that same day, 1:45 pm, having a late lunch at a McMenamins Pub. I am seated in a corner booth almost directly under a wide screen TV mounted on the wall; the TV is at an awkward angle for viewing if you are seated where I am seated, and the server apologizes for this.  I don’t mind – I came to eat, not to watch a hockey game or whatever.

Near the end of my meal I glance up at the TV and see a headline on the bottom of the screen –a sentence moiself’s brain doesn’t register as being related to sports news:

Predators Hire John Hynes As Head Coach

PREDATORS have their own team ?!?!?!

I don’t follow hockey and have never heard of a sports team with that most unfortunate (IMHO) moniker, so for one gloriously short and moronic moment, I’m thinking that a group of priest pedophiles has hired a high profile lawyer…and what’s with those guys wearing ice skates in the background, and…oh…never mind…

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of “Best ____” End-Of-The-Year Lists

You can’t avoid reading about them, or even listening to them, if you are a radio or podcast listener. What with the changing-of-the-decade aspect to the year 2020, list-makers – from news pundits to music critics to podcasts hosts – have the chance to not only compile their best/favorite episodes of the year, but also of the decade. 

I recently listened to a Best Of TED Radio Hour podcast.  The Source of Creativity, which originally aired in 2014, poses a – if not *the* – prime question about creativity:

Is creativity something we are born with or can we learn it?

Questions like that make my brain hurt.

 

 

The episode featured excerpts from three different TED talks by three different speakers, on the subject of creativity.  “How do you get over writer’s block?” by musician Sting, gave way to Charles Limb, a doctor studying the way the brain creates and perceives music, who spoke on “What does a creative brain look like?”  By the time the third speaker, British education specialist Sir Kenneth Robinson, ruminated re “How do schools kill creativity?”   [2]  I found my mind wandering (this happens to us Creative Folks ® , you know) in the direction of contemplating my current/ongoing creative excursion: culinary pursuits.

I once heard cooking described as performance art. Those of you who know moiself, either personally or through this humble high tech scribble fest,  [3]   may recall that performance art is something I have totally trashed for which I have a little respect (“Oh, I see…you can’t actually do anything or make art, and aren’t willing to put in the discipline to acquire artistic talent and skills, but you can ‘perform’ a facsimile of it.”)  

Cooking as art?  Certainly, it can be.

 

 

Apart from the glut of television/streaming cooking shows, which can range from entertaining and motivating illuminations of craft/technique to dreadful, self-aggrandizing platforms for the host chef’s expansive and a blustering ego, I’ve never considered cooking, and the creation of meals and edible   [4]  delights, as a *performance* art. However, with my self-imposed sabbatical from fiction-for-publication-writing, I’ve come to see cooking and meal planning as a major creative outlet.

What I like about this particular art form is that it is recyclable and consumable.  When I experiment with a new curry combination I am not crafting an object  –  e.g., a painting or sculpture – to be a representation or an abstraction of a separate object or concept.   I am making the curry itself.  The dish will either be consumed and hopefully enjoyed, or ignored/disliked /discarded into the compost pile or garbage disposal…unlike the painting which may hang on someone’s wall until it migrates to the landfill (or the curry-themed short story collection which ends up on the remainders table at the bookstore).

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [5]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

The Silver Palate Goodtimes Cookbook, by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins

Recipe:  Nada.

Really. Flipping through the book’s pages, which I hadn’t done in years, I realized there was nothing I wanted to make.  Butter butter butter butter, and did I mention butter?

I keep this cookbook because a dear friend gave it to me and MH, along with the other Silver Palate cookbook, as a wedding present. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I would have – and did – make some of the recipes from the SP books.  But I don’t cook with those ingredients anymore. And didn’t feel like going through all the modifications to make the recipes palatable to my taste and health and sense of ethics….

About the latter: the SP cookbook recipes are dairy-and-meat-heavy, and this homey don’t play that game. It’s hard to address this issue without getting up on the you-know-what,

 

See?

 

…But please, watch the National Pork Producers Council’s chief veterinarian Liz Wagstrom squirm, during her interview on the latest 60 Minutes segment, “Is overuse of antibiotics on farms worsening the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria?”

The episode focuses on how and why public health officials investigating a drug-resistant salmonella outbreak were thwarted from visiting farms that provided pigs to contaminated slaughterhouses. Watch the veterinarian squirm on camera; try to imagine the idealistic young person interested in science and animals that she likely once was, now reduced to alternately shilling like a snake-oil salesman (she’s a veterinarian working for a pork lobbying group, for fuck’s sake) – and deflecting like a politician, for the unethical and barbaric factory meat industry.  Watch, and for the 659th time (if you’ve been paying attention) ask yourself, Do I really want to support the cruel and corrupt system that is industrial farm meat production?

Once again, I digress.

I keep these SP cookbooks in my collection, and always will.  They still make me happy, just to see them up on the shelf, and think of the good times with the person who gave them to us.  So, I appreciate the books and the people they remind me of…and I move on to the next cookbook in the list:

Tahini & Turmeric, by Vicky Cohen & Ruth Fox

Recipe: Saffron-infused Cauliflower Soup with Sumac Oil

My rating: 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

 

Recipe Rating Refresher  [6] 

*   *   *

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.   [7]   Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

Of course you can.

We’ve come full circle: say goodbye to the Partridges in my pear tree until later this year.

*   *   *

May your new year be filled with good puns (that is not an oxymoron)
and bad puns (that is not a redundancy);
May your musings on the source of creativity not stifle your imagination;
May you hold gentle thoughts for young men whose job it is to approach older women with
something for your face;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Presumable to moiself as there is no one else in the vicinity.

[2] This talk had a rather provocative title, as it starts with an assumption, not a fact, as a given – that schools *do* kill creativity, and thus the issue is *how* schools do that, not if they do or don’t.

[3] Aka, blog.

[4] ‘Tis unfortunate, IMHO, that because the term edible has come to be associated with cannabis use (at least in this weed-legal state), I feel compelled to add a disclaimer: my edibles are not “edibles.”

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

[6]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who’d eat anything, would like this.
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

[7] In our pear tree.

The Official Party Business ® I’m Not Undertaking

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Department Of Why The Two Party Duopoly Has To Go, Reason #379

Republican, schmublican; Democrat, schmemocrat – both parties use the same sleazy-ridiculous tactics when it comes to fundraising.  As per the following which MH received in the mail – previewed by moiself to him in an oh-so-excited text:

MH, look what you’re getting!  It’s official party business!
It has official numbers on it!  Quick – find something to salute!

*   *   *

Department Of I Guess You Had To Be There

Homemade yogurt joke:

 

“Whey! No whey!”

*   *   *

 

Department Of You Need To Watch This Show Because I Say So

“Happiness is amazing. It’s so amazing, it doesn’t matter if it’s yours or not.”
(“Anne,” to “Tony,” at their regular meeting place – in a cemetery,
sitting on a bench which faces their respective late spouses’ gravestones.)

Last weekend Moiself watched all six episodes of the first season of.After Life – a Netflix series written and produced by Ricky Gervais –  and I recommend that you do, too.

A British black comedy, After Life follows Tony, whose beloved wife has  died and whose dementia-addled, elderly father is in a care facility.  Tony, struggling to deal with the irritations and futility of everyday life, considers suicide, then decides to live long to punish the world for his wife’s death by saying and doing whatever he wants, including telling the truth about the pointlessness of his and his colleagues’ jobs – working for a community newspaper no one reads. Tony thinks of this as his “superpower,” but his friends and colleagues persist in seeing through his gruff persona to the decent chap  [1]   he used to be.

Every episode had me on the verge (and sometimes over the edge) of tears, of both mirth and pain.  Keep the Kleenex handy for the laugh out loud, spit out your popcorn/iced tea/wine dialogue, interspersed with gut-wrenching displays of the depths of Tony’s love for his wife and grief at her loss.  Tony’s observations about humanity are cutting; his misanthropy can be obscene; his heartache is raw and palpable. And the supporting cast – from his colleagues at the newspaper, to a prostitute (“Excuse me, sex worker!”) he befriends, to the inept postman he taunts, to the nurse at his father’s care facility, to a widow he meets at the cemetery who becomes a kind of grief mentor – all are multi-dimensional characters, keenly written and well-acted.

Frankly, imagining moiself in his shoes, I think Tony shows remarkable restraint in many of his interactions with his fellow humans. For example, he goes on assignment with the paper’s photographer to interview yet another clueless couple who think their daft doings deserve media coverage – in this case, parents who think themselves newsworthy for  having “…a baby who looks like Hitler.”

Newspaper staff member:
Got a good lead for you: “Local baby looks exactly like Adolf Hitler.”

Tony, at the baby’s home, with the staff photographer,
looking at the Hitler-style mustache on the baby’s upper lip:
So is that a birthmark?

Baby’s Mother:
Oh, no, it’s eyeliner. We did it with marker pen at first, but it took ages to get off.

Baby’s Father:
Yeah, I mean, this way we can do it when we want then wipe it off if we need to.

Tony:
So hold on, it doesn’t really look like Hitler then.

Photogapher:
It does.

Tony:
No. I mean naturally. It wasn’t born with its hair combed forward
and a mustache, was it?

Photographer:
Nor was Hitler, to be fair.

 Tony:
What I’m saying is, it’s not a revelation, is it? I mean, to get in the paper. “Baby born that looks a bit like Hitler,” mildly interesting if it had a real mustache. But you can draw a mustache on any baby and it looks a bit like Hitler.

Father:
Not a black one.

Mother:
Not as much.

Tony:
I’ve got one more question. Why do you want your baby to look like Adolf Hitler? You’re not fans, are you?

Parents:
We’re not Nazis, no.  Just a bit of fun, innit?

Tony:
I mean – Yeah. Hitler’s the funniest thing to do, I guess.

 

Moiself, I prefer Hitler cats to Hitler babies.

 

Tony (like his creator, Gervais) is an atheist. I’m grateful for Gervais using Tony’s character as a foil with which to reveal and parry some of the absurd things people  say to non-religious believers, as in Tony’s meaning-of-life exchange with Kath, a co-worker. Kath, the newspaper’s advertising editor, is a haughty thorn in most of her colleague’s sides. She’s also a fervent fan of the American comedian-/actor Kevin Hart:

Kath:
 If you were atheist –

Tony:
 I am.

Kath:
 – and don’t believe in an afterlife –

Tony:
I don’t.

Kath:
If you don’t believe in heaven and hell and all that, why don’t you just go around raping and murdering as much as you want?

Tony:
I do.

Kath:
What?

 Tony:
I do go around raping and murdering as much as I want, which is not at all.

(a co-worker chimes in):
‘Cause he’s got a conscience.

Kath:
But if death is just the end, what’s the point? –

Tony:
What’s the point in what?

Kath:
– Livin’! You might as well just kill yourself.

Tony:
So if you’re watching a movie, and you’re really enjoying it – something with Kevin Hart in – and someone points out that this’ll end eventually, do you just go, “Oh, forget it then. What’s the point?” and just turn it off?

Kath:
No, ’cause I can watch it again.

Tony:
Well, I think life is precious ’cause you can’t watch it again.  I mean, you can believe in an afterlife if that makes you feel better. Doesn’t mean it’s true. But once you realize you’re not gonna be around forever, I think that’s what makes life so magical.
One day you’ll eat your last meal, smell your last flower, hug your friend for the very last time.
You might not know it’s the last time, so that’s why you should do everything you love with passion, you know? Treasure the few years you’ve got because that’s all there is.

(a thoughtful silence envelops the newsroom)

Kath:
I’ve watched Ride Along 2 five times.

Tony:
Well, you haven’t wasted your life, then.

Kath:
Definitely not.

 

Series Bonus: you know satisfying it is when you resolve a Where do I know this actor from?! feeling? By the last episode I was so happy when I figured out (without “cheating” – i.e., looking at the credits) that the actor who plays Anne, Tony’s cemetery buddy, is Penelope Wilton.  Wilton is probably best known to American audiences for playing Downton Abbey’s Isobel Crawley, the more liberal member of the family whose modern outlook is an irritant to the imperious Countess Dowager.

 

 

Anyway, if it isn’t obvious by now, I found the show quite entertaining as well as thought-provoking and mirth-inducing.  And if anyone else thinks they have a better philosophy of life (that can be proven) than Tony’s what makes life so magical speech (along with what his friend Anne says in the quote which opens this segment) – well then, to use a suggestion the Tony character would likely approve of,  go $#?! yourself.

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department Of Words A Parent Lives For
(Sub-Department of My Work Here Is Done)

Earlier this week moiself ran into one of son K’s  high school teachers/coaches when I was out walking and she was out for a run.  So, wait a minute: did she run into me, or did I walk into her?

Move along, folks, nothing here to see.

 

I didn’t recognize her at first; it had been at least six years since I’d seen her.  She wore a running shirt emblazoned with the logo of the fitness club she and other coaches had started at K’s and our daughter Belle’s high school. I asked her about that, we chatted, I introduced myself, and she remembered K from his years on the Cross Country team and also from one of her classes. She will always remember K, she said, as being …very intellectual, and also kind, very kind.” Two more times in our conversation she used the word kind to describe him.

 

That’s my boy.

*   *   *

Department Of One More Thing About Offspring

I found this while going through the file cabinets, looking for something which was in a folder adjacent to the folders in which MH and I keep old notes and sketches written by  Belle & K.  There is no date or attribution on it –  PARENTING FAIL!  [2]   I’m thinking it was done by K, due to the handwriting…but then, as MH pointed out, Belle was big on writing notes to us, so it could have been either one of them.   

 

 

Translation:

How to take care of children

  1. get in PJs.
  2. eat dinnr.
  3. let them have as much Desrt as they wont!

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [3]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:
The Food of Morocco, by Paula Wolfert

* Creamy Fava Bean Soup
* Eggplant Zaalouk
* Berber Skillet Breads

 

My ratings: for the Fava Bean Soup and the Eggplant Zaalouk:

 

 

For the Berber skillet bread:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher   [4]

*   *   *

May you appreciate (or at least tolerate) yogurt puns;
May a teacher remember your child – or you – with fondness;
May you rest assured that no baby is born looking like Hitler;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] He’s British, you know.

[2] I always (or so I thought) wrote on the back of a drawing or note I saved, the name of its creator, and the date.

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

[4]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

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

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

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

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

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

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

The Label I’m Not Understanding

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Department Of Grief And Relief

I’m thinking about my friends, JWW and MW.  MW’s mother, Molly (a lovely Irish name for a lovely Irish-American lady) died last Monday, after a long physical and mental decline.  Molly was never officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but had significant memory and cognitive problems over the past decade. After her husband died she lived with MW’s sister for several years,  then came to stay with MW and JWW.

 

 

Molly was a sweet woman, and maintained her gentle and loving disposition (she was a favorite at the Memory Care center MW & JWW eventually found for her, in a nearby town), and did not seem to descend into the fear and anger that can affect people with memory problems. It was sweet, watching MW and JWW interact with Molly, showing her unqualified patience and love. But as is often the case with an elderly parent who can no longer live independently, love cannot conquer all. MW & JWW realized they could not provide Molly with the safe, 24/7 care she needed, which was made evident to them in many ways over many months, particularly on the day when JWW came downstairs to discover that Molly had removed her favorite polyester shirt from the dryer, put it on, and realized it was still damp. It seemed perfectly reasonable to Molly to finish drying her shirt – while she was wearing it – by holding her arms over an open flame on the stove…which is how JWW found her (fortunately, before Molly set herself on fire).

Now, MW & JWW find themselves in that odd life stage, as I was with the death of my own mother: between grief and relief.  Such a strange feeling, also – to find yourself feeling both sad and somewhat amused by the fact that you feel like an orphan in your 60s.  All the orphans of classic literature were way younger, right?

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Tricky Questions, Trickier Answers

Developmentally delayed.

Dateline: earlier this week, doing an am workout in our family room, listening to a podcast story.  The afore-mentioned description – developmentally delayed  –  was used in the podcast to describe the podcast story narrator’s brother, who had a broad list of cognitive and emotional impediments.  MH entered the room just in time to hear the term DD. He paused for a moment, then posed a question (to the universe, as much as to moiself), “What does that mean?”

He was not exactly being rhetorical.  I knew that he knew what DD meant…then began to think beyond what I thought I knew…and, really, what does it mean?

I told him a few of the emotional and cognitive defects (of the narrator’s brother) which had been mentioned in the podcast ,and offered my opinion that the DD label, in the particular case of that podcast and in what has become its common usage, is it meant to replace an older term which has now entered the retirement home of words-not-to-be-used-due-to-derogatory-potential: “mentally retarded.”

 

 

The concept and label of mental retardation was widely used, by both laypersons and medical professionals, up until relatively recently.   [1]

In the 1950s the word retarded was progressive, an improvement over feebleminded, imbecile, moron. It shares a root with ritardando, a musical term meaning a gradual decrease in tempo. Think: the musicians’ fingers letting the moments stretch between their notes.
To retard, to slow down. As in: Your baby’s growth is retarded.
But retarded soon came to mean dumb or incompetent. As in: I just lost my phone. I’m so retarded.
(from “The R-Word,” by Heather Kirn Lanier, The Sun )

 

MH and I began to wonder aloud with one another (one of our more frequent conversational formats) about the fact that although the term developmentally delayed may be less open to derogatory usage by laypersons, it isn’t very helpful in the way that all terminology is supposed to be: by being specific or descriptive.

Close-to-the-heart example: My friend FP is blind. FP once told me about her scornful objection to the term visually impaired.  In FP’s experience, some Well-Meaning People ®  think the word blind is somehow insulting. One WMP actually corrected FP when FP described herself as blind: “Oh, you mean you’re ‘visually impaired?’ “

 

“Hell no, I mean, I’m BLIND.”

 

To FP, “blind” is merely, vitally factual:  I’m not simply “impaired,” I’m blind, and that is important for people to know. It’s not that I just see things dimly or unclearly – I don’t see them at all, so when I ask for directions to the bathroom and you tell me it’s ten steps ahead but don’t tell me that there is an ottoman in the way I will trip over it and break my #*%!? nose.

Delay, in its various noun/verb/adverb/adjective forms, involves actions or objects that are postponed and hindered. But delay also carries with it the possibility of catching up.  In describing people as having developmental delays, the term is so broad/vague as to provide little functional information: I have heard it applied to a 4th grader with mild dyslexia as well as to a young adult born with such severe brain deficits he has never been able to communicate, much less toilet, feed and care for himself and thus has required 24 hour professional/institutional care since his toddlerhood.

The scope of conditions categorized under the label intellectual disabilities is broad, and with early intervention the outcomes for many developmentally delayed children (who is the past may have been labeled mentally retarded) is much brighter than in decades ago. But it’s not as if, say, the boy with Down Syndrome is merely delayed academically when compared with his older sister, who is taking calculus as a junior in high school.  It’s not as if, Sure, he’s behind now, but he’ll catch up one day and do higher mathematics – it’ll just take him a few years longer.

What would be an alternative, more accurate label: developmentally compromised ?  It doesn’t seem like there could be any term that would be acceptable to all, or even most people   [2] …and maybe that’s the point.  Here’s a realization worthy of a Hallmark Channel movie: treat everyone as individuals; no one label can tell you all of the strengths or disabilities (excuse me, challenges?   [3] ) facing a particular person.

Still…today’s “She has a developmental delay” isn’t ultimately more informative than yesterday’s, “He has a mental retardation.”

And of course, Things Being What They Are ® , MH and moiself both felt somewhat… awkward…even discussing the issue, just the two of us, no language cops in sight.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Headline That Is So Evocative Why Bother
Reading The Newspaper Article – Just Use Your Imagination
Because Whatever You Come Up With Is Bound To Be As (If Not More)
 Entertaining Than The Real Story

 

“Children Removed From A Facility That Limited Tampons”

(The Oregonian, 3-29-19)

 

This has nothing to do with the headline, but imagine a picture that did?

 

*   *   *

Department Of No April Foolin’

Yet another story inspired by a story I was listening to – this one on April 1, courtesy of NPR’s All Things Considered:  How Vanity License Plates Are Approved and Denied in California.

Dateline: sometime in 1980; moiself is down in SoCal, visiting my parents. My mother shows me a newspaper clipping, about an employee of the newspaper (The Orange County Register) who had recently won an “argument” with the California DMV.  “Don’t you know this guy?” my mother asks me.

I scan the article. “Peter?!” I burst out laughing. “Yeah, I know that Schmuck.”

 

Peter looks nothing like a baby sloth in pajamas, but I don’t have a recent photo of him.

 

I went to high school with He Who Was To Become sportswriter/columnist Peter Schmuck. He graduated the year before me; we had mutual friends (mostly the high school journalism crew) but didn’t know each other well. Moiself, like some of his peers, I’d guess, initially pitied then almost immediately admired or at least respected Peter, for having to deal with a first-last name combination considered redundant. Many of us who knew him attributed Peter’s sense of humor and in-your-face attitude – a combination of sarcasm and assertiveness sometimes bordering on aggression  [4] – to having grown up with that name.  It seems PS would at least partially agree with that sentiment, as per his interview with fellow journalist Steve Marantz:

“I‘m the only person in the world who thinks it was a big advantage to grow up with the last name Schmuck.. I’m pretty sure the distinctiveness of the name has helped me throughout my career. It also has given me a thicker skin – in a ‘Boy Named Sue’ kind of way – in a business where that isn’t a bad thing to have.”

I am not wandering off on yet another digression. Here comes the newspaper article/DMV story tie-in:

In 1980 Peter (or, his girlfriend at the time, as Peter has said) applied for a vanity license plate with his last name on it. That was the subject of the newspaper article my mother showed me: Peter Schmuck had been denied the vanity plate SCHMUCK because, in a letter the DMV sent to Peter, the DMV claimed schmuck was a Yiddish indecency.

I found that whole incident to be wonderfully WTF-ish to the nth (thank you, NPR, for the memory prod).  I still smile to picture a state government flunkie whose job it was to tell a person that the person’s given/authentic/legal surname was indecent (Dude, you’re the DMV! Look up his driver’s license, IT’S HIS NAME).

As well as his first 15 minutes of fame, Peter Schmuck got his license plate. Yes, the Good Guy prevailed in The Great License Plate Indecency Skirmish. I saw it on Peter’s car (which, if memory serves, he referred to as the Schmuckmobile).  Following his stint at The Register, Peter moved East and landed a long-time gig as a sports reporter and columnist for The Baltimore Sun.  I forgot to ask Peter, when I saw him at a Baltimore Orioles home game oh-so-many years ago, whether he got the state of Maryland to issue him a new plate.

 

Or, in a hitherto unknown (to moiself) assignment, did Peter spend some time covering the great sport of Iditarod?

*   *   *

May you, when it is your turn, find a graceful way to navigate between grief and relief;
May you be careful with your labels and also patient with those who use them;
May your choice of vanity license plates bring joy to the simple-minded masses;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] In 2010 President Barack Obama signed “Rosa’s Bill,” (approved unanimously by Congress), which required the federal government to replace the terms “mental retardation” “and “mentally retarded” with, respectively,  “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability” in policy documents.

[2] And trust me, when you get rid of “retard/retardation” it is replaced by turning the supposedly gentler term into a pejorative: “What are you, a special needs” kid?” which I heard, pronounced with multisyllabic sarcasm, along with “learning disabled” et al, on my childrens’ school yard playgrounds. Never doubt the ability of a grade schooler to turn the most well-intentioned label into a slur.

[3] Another adjective I’ve heard both embraced and mocked, and by people supposedly on the same side of the disability rights movement.  “Intellectually Challenged” – that’s me, trying to follow a chess match.

[4] Translation:  in high school, I thought him somewhat of an asshole. I figured he likely held the same opinion about me. Later on, I came to be, and still am, quite fond of him.

The Pity I’m Not Tempering

Comments Off on The Pity I’m Not Tempering

Department Of Things That Make You Jump Out Of Bed In A Cold Sweat (Five Minutes Before Your Alarm Is Scheduled To Go Off), Silently Screaming,
What Have I Done To Deserve This?

I refer to the phenomena of earworms, in this case, specifically and horrifically, when the earworm is something along the lines of…I can’t bear to type the title.

 

 

 

Rumor has it that US Intelligence officials forced suspected terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo to listen to this song when water boarding proved to be an ineffective interrogation technique.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Justifying Eating Movie Popcorn On A Daily Basis

MH and son K were gone last week, on a Grand Canyon rafting trip. I was alone in the house, save for the cats and too many litter boxes. As for the latter, I had choice words for K upon his return, suggesting that he might want to scoop his particular cat’s box more frequently.  Moiself  did not appreciate spending what seemed like hours dismantling the (admittedly, visually stunning) Stonehenge of Piss that Tootsie,  [1] his cat, had been assembling in the right rear corner of her litter box.

 

 

 

Imagine the above, only constructed of cat pee-soaked litter. If there’d been a way to get rid of the overpowering stench of ammonia I might have considered its revenue-generating potential as a tourist attraction…..

Ah, but I digress.

I did not accompany my boys on the rafting adventure for a variety of reasons, one of the most compelling being saving the $$ I would have spent on that trip for an upcoming travel adventure of my own.  Friend CC and I will, possibly before the end of the year, travel to Sweden to visit our “Swenadian”   [2]  friends and former neighbors SS and her husband CS, who are now living and working in (you guessed it) Sweden.  This trip promises to be equally as scenic and memorable as any river expedition, and (I assume) will not involve us having to tow a barge of our feces behind us on a raft.

 

Y’all know the wilderness travel motto: pack it in, pack it out.   [3]

 

 

Yet another digression. I must be channeling my inner eleven year old, what with the pee and poop references. I know what you’re expecting next, so let’s just get it out of the way:

Q: Why do cherry trees stink?
A: Because George Washington ‘cut one.’

 

 

 

 

But no – wait! My initial intent was to stylishly segue into a story about seeing movies; that is,  my quest to see a movie a day, in a movie theater,  [4]  while MH and K and other raft loads of happy campers were relieving themselves in the mighty Colorado River.

From the big studio summer blockbusters to the smaller, “artier” releases, I am happy to report, Mission Accomplished. I saw:

Book Club
-Avengers: Infinity War
-Solo: A Star Wars…something (you know the name)
-A Quiet Place
-Life of the Party
-Tully
-First Reformed
-Deadpool 2
-The Rider

 

There are still many more movies on my want-to-see wish list to see, but I need a break from doing so. The one drawback to seeing a movie every day is that you are also seeing, every day, the same promos for cable/streaming service TV series and Coca-Cola ads and the other screen nonsense which has become ubiquitous in movie theatres (the poorly-named “entertainment” before the previews of coming attractions).

As a result, I am determined now, more than ever, to not see a TV show that I admittedly would have had little interest in the first place, but after days in a row bombarded by its loud, vapid  [5]   promos, I’ve decided I would rather claw my own eyes out than even be in the same room where a screen is showing anything related to Claws.

 

 

 

 

 

I got the feeling the Claws promos were trying to convince me that the show is about female empowerment, which is not the first (or even twenty-first) idea that comes to mind when I’m watching five women manicurists flashing their hideous finger deformities ludicrously long, garishly painted fingernails and “clothed” ala the woman in the middle – who seems to be the series’ protagonist and who, in the promos, is featured packed into a series of squeeze-me-like-a-sausage-and-ogle-my-T-&-A outfits.

Am I the only one who, when she sees a lady-person thusly attired, wants to take a long, thin, pointed metal something – a cake tester, say – and prick that lady-person in several of her cartoonish/bulbous lady-parts (starting of course with her ginormously swollen boobs) to see if she then flies all over the room, bouncing from ceiling to corners like a rapidly deflating, body-shaped balloon?

Just wondering.

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department Of Being Thankful To, And For, Ronan Farrow

In a recent Fresh Air interview, host Terri Gross interviewed Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author, UNICEF activist, (former) government adviser and lawyer and way-too-well-adjusted-for-being-the-son-of-two-famous-people-one-of-whom-is-a-creep, Ronan Farrow.  [6]

Ronan Farrow won this year’s Pulitzer for Public Service   [7]  for his articles in The New Yorker on the sexual assault charges brought against Harvey Weinstein. While investigating the story, Farrow faced harassment and intimidation from Weinstein’s cohorts,   [8] (including threats of physical harm from Weinstein himself), as well as discouragement and warnings from his bosses and colleagues:

Fresh Air host Terry Gross: …And then you were continuing to report for NBC but maybe as a result – I think as a result of the Harvey Weinstein reporting you wanted to do – that they were not anxious to have you pursue – that job ended, but you were kind of out in the cold for a while.

Ronan Farrow: Yes, that’s right. There was a low point last year where I did not know if I would have a job in journalism in a matter of weeks or indeed ever again and was being told by some very powerful people that I would never work again and, you know, also being told by some pretty sensible-sounding people around me you’ve got to just let this go. Just let it go, and your career will be fine. And if you don’t, it’s all over. And yeah, that the reality is…

TG: When you say let the story go, you mean the Harvey Weinstein story.

RF: The Harvey Weinstein reporting. I had been ordered to stop reporting and cancel interviews, and I didn’t

In the FA interview Farrow comes across as exceedingly intelligent, well-informed, passionate and articulate, yet refreshingly modest and self-deprecating for…well, for anyone, but especially for someone who has done so much already in his relatively young life, and who was one of those genius children (went to college at age eleven, then law school at age sixteen, then….).

Someone like Farrow, a young person possessing an open, sharp and inquiring mind and a strong work ethic and an interest in many fields, could have gone into any kind of law, or science or medicine or finance.  He chose investigative journalism, a discipline of uncovering and speaking the truth to both the powerful and the power-less; a job which – always, IMHO, but especially in these crazy, dangerous times – ranks right up there, in terms of its value to humanity, with the scientists and engineers who are working to save us from ourselves (read: find solutions to global warming and the degradation of our habitat).  And Farrow did this at a time when journalists are not only facing shrinking professional opportunities worldwide, but are also increasingly under attack, both verbally and physically (by those afore-mentioned powerful interests).

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Am Somewhat Puzzled By My Second Reaction

When I told MH about the FA interview with Ronan Farrow and how my first reaction was to be impressed by Farrow’s accomplishments and aspirations, I also mentioned my second reaction, and how it caught moiself off guard.  I was not expecting to feel what I felt: a moment of pity for Woody Allen, Farrow’s biological father.

Ronan Farrow and his mother and family are famously estranged – with good reasons, to put it mildly – from Allen.  I am on Team Farrow in this matter. Whenever I have cause to think of Allen I feel my mouth curl upward in a contemptuous sneer,    [9]  yet this time, after learning more about and hearing from Ronan Farrow, my Allen-induced scorn was, at least momentarily, tempered by pity.  How much has Allen has lost, and how much will he continue to lose, by not being able to know this fine young man as a son?

 

 

Even the sloth finds it a sorry situation…and when was the last time you saw a sad sloth?

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

 

May you avoid toilet humor distractions while trying to tell a simple story;
May your earworms be something classical, or at least classy;
May you appreciate investigative journalists and other unsung heroes;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] So named because she is a polydactyl, aka Hemingway cat.

[2] She is Canadian; he is Swedish.

[3] Aka the “latrine raft” or “the groover.”

[4] Netflix offerings in a home theater doesn’t count.

[5] My impression of the series, after sitting through the promos.

[6] That creep would be his biological father, Woody Allen. Fuck yeah, I think he’s guilty.

[7] which he shared with The New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, for their reporting on the #MeToo movement).

[8] Weinstein hired Black Cube, the Israeli private intelligence company, to target his accusers and also those reporting on the accusations (such as Farrow), to try to smear and intimidate them and suppress the reporting.

[9] The kind I reserve for human scum like trophy hunters and, oh, pedophiles and child molesters.

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