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The Lot I’m Not Accepting

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Department Of At Last, An Honest Answering Device

Last week I was gob smacked by the picture MH sent me of our answering machine’s display of a caller ID (for the phone call he missed):

 

 

ID

 

 

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Department Of It’s Just Where My Mind Goes

My first thought upon reading the following review  [1] excerpt: The film isn’t circumcised?

New York Times Critics’ Pick!
An uncut gem of a movie…..

*   *   *
Department Of No, I Can’t Just Leave It Alone

Whaddya mean, I’ve never told you my favorite circumcision jokes?

Q. What did the receptionist say to the patient waiting in the circumcisionist’s office?
A. “It won’t be long now.”

Q. How much does a circumcisionist earn?
A. One hundred dollars an hour, plus tips.

 

CAMEL

 

 

 

Speaking of unkind cuts…what a convenient segue to

 

 

Department Of Name Dropping And Saint Shaming

Mother Teresa’s work was part of a global enterprise for the alleviation of bourgeois guilt, rather than a genuine challenge to those forces that produce and maintain poverty.
(“Mother Teresa as the Mirror of Bourgeois Guilt,”
Indian journalist/historian Vijay Prashad )

The following rant thoughtful explication was prompted by a recent comment I overheard, which I list in the paragraph after the warning.

(Consider yourself warned.)

Should you ever attempted to deflect a commendation (within earshot of moiself ) regarding an act of generosity or kindness on your part  by using the intended-to-be humble qualifier, “Well, I’m no Mother Teresa…”, brace yourself for my rejoinder:

“Yes, but Mother Teresa was, in fact, ‘no Mother Teresa.’ ”   [2]

The first time I recall doing this was at least fifteen years ago, during the book study group I attended at a UCC church (where we the still-closeted atheists – MH and I – were active members). I cannot recall the book under discussion nor the particular comment which elicited a fellow book group member’s poorly-timed, Well, I’m no Mother Teresa….

“Poorly-timed” translation:  I’d been reading up on Mother Teresa, having come across criticism from liberal Catholics regarding MT’s entry into what amounted to the RC church’s “Ten Items or Fewer” saint checkout line.  [3]  In doing so I’d encountered a surprising number of informed and rational voices – from British journalist Christopher Hitchens to Australian academic and social critic Germaine Greer [4] to Indian physicians and activists and others. These voices had dared to question –  and more importantly, to examine – MT’s previously unexamined reputation as a humble, selfless humanitarian devoted to the poor.  And I began to share some of my “encounters” with the book group.

Pity that unfortunate I’m-no-Mother-Teresa comment-dude…. I did later apologize to him   [5]  for getting the group “off track.” (And the always tolerant and circumspect book group leader practically left skidmarks getting us “back to the subject at hand.”)

 

weinterrupt

 

As per the name-dropping: In October 2007 I attended the Freedom From Religion Foundation‘s annual convention, held that year in Madison, WI. Christopher Hitchens, one of the featured speakers, gave a rousing speech for his acceptance of the FFRF’s The Emperor Has No Clothes Award   [6].  Later that evening, a New Friend I Met At The Convention ® and I went to the hotel bar/cafe, to discuss the day’s events over wine and a tasty hummus platter.   [7]  There were no tables available, so NFIMATV and I took a seat at the bar.  NFIMATV noticed that Mr. Hitchens was seated at the end of the bar, a mere six barstools down from us, and decided we should commend him re his speech.

Although never averse to chatting up strangers, I was reluctant to “pester” someone who was…well, a celebrity of sorts.  I reminded NFIMATV of Hitchens’ reputation for not suffering fools;  [8]  also, he’d just spoken in front of hundreds of people and might want to simply unwind and sip his drink….

NFIMATV would have none of my protestations. “He came to a crowded, public place! If he wanted to be left alone he’d have gone up to his suite and ordered room service.” She grabbed my arm and literally dragged me down to the end of the bar.

NFIMATV briefly introduced herself and I to Hitch, and complimented him on his speech. Moiself said WTF to moiself, and then aloud to Hitch: “I thought you might appreciate knowing that you’ve been quoted…uh, by me…in a church book study group, when someone said the usual obsequious nonsense about Mother Teresa.”

Hitch winked at me, replied, “Indeed,” and raised his whiskey glass in a toast. Then it was my turn to be the arm-grabber as I led NFIMATV back to our end of the bar.

This ends the name-dropping portion of our programming.

 

 

reliefjpg

 

 

“I just thought that this myth [re Mother Teresa and the Catholic charities providing compassionate care in the slums of India] had to be challenged”….
Over hundreds of hours of research, much of it cataloged in a book he published in 2003, Dr. Chatterjee said he found a “cult of suffering” in homes run by Mother Teresa’s organization, the Missionaries of Charity, with children tied to beds and little to comfort dying patients but aspirin.
He and others said that Mother Teresa took her adherence to frugality and simplicity in her work to extremes, allowing practices like the reuse of hypodermic needles and tolerating primitive facilities that required patients to defecate in front of one another.
(from “A Critic’s Lonely Quest: Revealing the Whole Truth About Mother Teresa,
NY Times profile of Dr. Aroup Chaterjee )

It is highly likely that what you “know,” and what most people think they know, about MT comes from a book about her  [9] – and the media coverage about the celebrity visits to MT’s clinics, which followed publication of the book – written by Malcolm Muggeridge.  Muggeridge, a zealous Roman Catholic convert and conservative British social commenter, was derided by  Christopher Hitchens as “that old fraud and mountebank.” Hitchens largely credited Muggeridge for providing the propaganda tool which spawned MT’s becoming “the focus of a fawning cult who used the suffering of the poor for her own political and ideological ends.”

 

 

Mother

 

 

Christopher Hitchens was MT’s most vocal – but by no means only –  detractor.  He described her as a “thieving, fanatical Albanian dwarf,” and charged that the missions she ran in Calcutta were humanitarian humbugs serving as a masquerade for her “cult of death and suffering.”  What Hitch did by investigating MT and her work is what any good journalist – and citizen – should do, and yet because he was one of the first to do so he was considered radical and contrarian when he was in fact being sensible and straightforward: he judged Mother Theresa‘s reputation by her words and actions.  What was being promoted by the myth makers, saint manufacturers was the opposite – they wanted you to judge MT’s words and actions by her reputation.

Okay, perspective timeout. If you’re interested in this subject, or just perplexed because this is the first time you’ve heard about the MT controversy, you can find much more information than the crumbs I offer in this space.  There have been books, articles, even a documentary  [10] on the subject, by writers and investigators far more experienced and eloquent then moiself.  If you find your defensive hackles rising at the mere thought of criticizine a “saint”–  if you prefer the PR to reality – it’s likely you won’t be convinced by the evidence, no matter the source.

Evidence – and her own words – show that Mother Teresa was not so much a “champion of the poor” but a religious fanatic who took pleasure in their suffering. Not only did she refuse to alleviate the pain of her patients but she gloried in it. As she herself said: “I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people.”
(“Mother Teresa ‘a friend of poverty, not of the poor,” Carol Hunt, independent.ie)

Here’s the main point, which I think cannot be overemphasized:  Mother Teresa did not love the poor and the afflicted; she was in love with poverty and affliction. The difference is astronomically crucial, particularly in understanding her motivation – which is most adamantly not an excuse – for the way she treated her patients and ran her organization.

Did she see the Calcutta slum dwellers for who and what they were, and respect them as (non-Catholic) individuals? Or did she see them as mere objects sharing a “lot” she considered to be some kind of blessed condition bestowed by her deity?

People who are in fact poor and genuinely suffering do not idealize their misery. The destitute want to rise out of poverty, and the afflicted want to get well. To think (and act) otherwise about their situations is patronizing, not compassionate.

 

pajamasloth

Is it time for some kind of cute picture to relieve the tension?

 

A summary of the reality behind the Mother Teresa mythos:

* Critics have pointed out a host of ways in which MT’s mission of mercy was not all that it seemed, including but not limited to her shady ways of caring for the sick, her problematic political contacts, her irregular management of the vast sums of money she received, and her harsh, dogmatic views on social and cultural issues.  Examples include:

* Doctors and journalists who visited MT’s clinics accused her of perpetuating the suffering of destitute patients by not giving them easily obtainable painkillers and by having the dying spend their final weeks on wooden pallets in communal dormitories, fed only on boiled rice and water;

* Families who took their loved ones to MT’s clinics to receive care for, e.g., a broken leg, complained that their loved ones were treated as if they were dying (i.e., given only hospice-type care and not transferred or referred to another, actual medical clinic) and thus did die, from lack of treatment of totally non-lethal, treatable ailments.  [11]  Meanwhile, MT herself traveled out of the country to California clinics when she got sick and required treatment.

* Several visitors who traveled to see MT’s Calcutta clinic, impressed by the mission to help the poor but appalled by the clinic’s primitive conditions and lack of supplies, made substantial donations to MT’s order (“The Sisters of Charity”) for the express purpose of updating and supplying the clinic. When these donors returned months or years later to see what their monies had wrought, they were shocked to find the clinic was as rundown as it had always been (and MT’s order refused to publish any audit of its funds).  Meanwhile, MT’s order was opening religious schools around the world – by MT’s own claim she opened 500 convents in more than one hundred countries – most of them bearing her name.  [12]

* Germaine Greer called MT a “religious imperialist” bent on evangelism,” and Indian human rights activists accused MT of a covert agenda – trying to convert the poor to Christianity, under the guise of treating the sick. Witnesses observed MT and her staff performing the Catholic rite of baptism upon dying and delusional non-Christian patients while pretending to cool the patients’ heads with wet cloths.

* MT accepted donations from – and provided photo ops for – sleazy public figures who gave her donations –  including the brutal Haitian dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier (whom she praised in return), the disgraced British publisher Robert Maxwell, and the thieving American banker, Charles Keating (remember the S & Loan crisis?) – while refusing to comment upon (or claiming ignorance about) their atrocious human rights violations.

This last * is particularly galling to me, because if you can for some reason excuse the other criticisms of MT, how can you justify, other than for brazen $$ interests, her cozying up to such horrible people and regimes? Do you know about her astonishing personal involvement in the prosecution of Charles Keating?

MT wrote a letter, on behalf of Keating to the judge who tried Keating’s case, asking for mercy and leniency in Keaton’s sentencing…despite claiming in the letter to know nothing about his business nor the criminal charges levied against him. The Deputy DA who worked on the prosecution of Keating wrote an eloquent letter back to MT, detailing the charges against Keating and the sources of the money that Keating had donated to MT, thus providing, as Hitchens put it, the “clearest and best-documented proof against the customary apologies about (MT’s supposed) innocence and unworldliness.”

The DA was so appalled by MT’s efforts on behalf of her benefactor  – and her seeming lack of concern for those Keating had swindled – that he allowed Hitchens to print his response to MT in its entirety, in Hitchen’s MT expose, The Missionary Position.  An excerpt from his letter:

“The victims of Mr. Keating’s fraud come from a wide spectrum of society. Some were wealthy and well-educated. Most were people of modest means and unfamiliar with high finance. One was, indeed, a poor carpenter who did not speak English and had his life saving’s stolen by Mr. Keating’s fraud….

You urged (the judge) to look into his heart – as he sentences Charles Keating – and do what Jesus would do. I submit the same challenge to you. Ask yourself what Jesus would do if he were given the fruits of a crime; what Jesus would do if he were in possession of money that had been stolen; what Jesus would do if he were being exploited by a thief to ease his conscience?

I submit that Jesus would promptly and unhesitatingly return the stolen property to its rightful owners. You should do the same. You have been given money by Keating that he has been convicted of stealing by fraud. Do not permit him the “indulgence”  [13]  he desires. Do not keep the money. Return it to those who worked for it and earned it.

If you contact me I will put you indirect contact with the rightful owners of the property now in your possession.”

Mother Teresa neither replied to the letter nor returned the money.

*   *   *

May you always judge the reputation by the deeds, and not vice-versa;
May you always be able to provide an accounting;
May you know (at least as per circumcision jokes) when to leave it alone;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

 

[1] for the movie, We the Animals.

[2] And be relieved if I stop at the mere rejoinder and do not go into full lecture mode. 

[3] Bypassing traditional procedures for canonization, a move by Pope John Paul II which bothered many Catholics.

[4] Greer was once on the same airplane flight as MT, and noted that while she (Greer) rode in economy class, MT, who had taken a vow of poverty, rode in first class.  Greer had critiqued  MT and the Catholic charitable orders and their policies and politics before and after that plane ride, and infamously referred to MT as the “glamour girl of poverty” and MT’s Missionary order as an “order of clones.”

[5] And he later thanked me for bringing up a hitherto unknown (to him) perspective.

[6] An award bestowed by the FFRF, for public figures who use “plain speaking” on the shortcomings of religion.

[7]  We had to settle for stale pretzels. But the wine was nice.

[8] Which had been fully on display that evening during a Q & A session after his speech, when “Hitch” calmly, wittily, and effectively verbally eviscerated those who were less than prepared/articulate in framing their questions.

[9] Something Beautiful For God.

[10] “Hell’s Angel,” produced by Hitchens and journalist Tariq Ali. Hitchen’s research for this film, which first ran as a BBC television program in 1994, spurred him to write the book, The Missionary Position.

[11] And these poor families (who later spoke with journalists) told of how when they complained to the local  authorities, they were either disbelieved or hushed up, due to MT’s reputation.

[12] So much for her claims of modesty and humility.

[13] The purchase of “indulgences” (i.e.. buying one’s way to forgiveness)  was once an acceptable method of seeking forgiveness in the Catholic church. It was one of the theological abominations cited by Martin Luther which led to The Protestant reformation.

The Demon I’m Not Blaming

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Department Of Judging A Book By Its Cover

He just looks like the kind of meth-head, macho asshole who would want to own exotics so that people would think he’s tough shit.

That was the less-than-charitable response of moiself, which I texted to daughter Belle after she’d sent me a link to the story about the indictment of “Joe Exotic” (a repulsive waste of human DNA whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage) for a murder for hire plot.

Here’s the picture.   Judge for yourself.  [1]

 

 

Joe

 

 

 Okay; perhaps you’re not as judgmental as moiself and don’t want to condemn the man by looks alone. No problem; his vile actions and “profession” are condemnation enough:

The operator of a Florida-based animal sanctuary says she was the target of an Oklahoma zookeeper who was indicted last week on federal murder-for-hire charges.
Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue said she’s clashed in the past with Joseph Maldonado-Passage, who goes by the nickname “Joe Exotic,”and that “He’s been threatening me for many, many years.”
Prosecutors allege that Maldonado-Passage tried to hire two separate people to kill an unnamed woman,  [2] who wasn’t harmed. One of the unidentified people he sought to hire connected him with an undercover FBI agent, who met with Maldonado-Passage in December 2017….. Maldonado-Passage had previously posted threatening videos online, including one in which he shot an effigy of (Carole Baskin) in the head.
“You want to know why Carole Baskin better never, ever, ever see me face to face ever, ever, ever again,” he said in the video, just before firing a revolver.
(“Zookeeper ‘Joe Exotic’ arrested in murder-for-hire plot involving Florida cat-rescue group,” 9-10-18, Orlando Sentinal)

The Big Cat Rescue’s website was no doubt relieved to be able to post the following announcement, about their stalker’s indictment:

“It is important to understand that this is not the isolated act of one crazy bad apple,” Baskin said. “A significant part of our mission has been to stop mistreatment and exploitation of big cats at roadside zoos, particularly those who rip tiger cubs from their mothers at birth to charge the public to pet and take photos with them. Because Big Cat Rescue has been a leader in working to stop what we view as abuse of big cats and been very effective in our work, I have received multiple death threats over the years, including at one point a number of snakes placed in my mailbox.
According to the FBI, animal abuse is highly correlated with human-to-human violence.
(“Joe Exotic”) ran, in our view, one of the most notorious cub petting roadside zoos in the country….Years ago he also operated a traveling exhibit that would bring cubs to malls throughout the Midwest and Southwest. When Big Cat Rescue educated the malls about the miserable life this created for the cubs and the malls started cancelling (“Joe Exotic’s”) traveling exhibit….

 

 

cubs

 

 

 Sub-Department Of A Mother Breathing A Sigh Of Relief

The odious Joe Exotic, who will soon become familiar with the less-than-exotic walls of a prison cell,  [3] is well-known amongst exotic animal welfare advocates for, as daughter Belle put it, “making public threats against places like us, especially big cat rescues, and he’s made scary threats about what he would do if someone tried to take away his cats.” Belle, who is working an internship with another Exotic Wildlife Rescue sanctuary, interviewed with and received job offers from several such animal rescue organizations, including Big Cat Rescue.

 

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Department Of Getting Better But (Still) Not Getting It

Rep. Steve Scalise, the congressman shot in the hip a year ago June by a gunman who ambushed the Republican congressional baseball during their practice, is recovering from his physical wounds.  I recently watched the rebroadcast of the 60 Minutes show which was aired nine months after the shooting and which featured Scalise being interviewed about the violent incident and its aftermath.

As I watched Rep. Scalise, and his Supportive/Smiling Wife Who Sat By His Side And Said Almost Nothing, ®  I was glad to hear of his ongoing recovery from his wounds –which, like most gunshot injuries, were more extensive than initially realized and/or reported.  I also couldn’t help but notice how…well, how do I put it…how otherwise “well” the couple looked and acted, nine months after a horrific ordeal of surgery after surgery upon surgery to literally put his pelvis back together, and the months of physical therapy which will remain ongoing as he has to relearn how to walk.

In many ways Scalise and his wife looked almost exactly like what they were before the shooting:  a successful, wealthy couple inhabiting the upper echelons of our nation’s power structure. They have been able to maintain their job(s) and economic (and social) status, while other families who’ve suddenly been faced with catastrophic injuries/illness have been driven to the poorhouse by stacks of medical bills. Now, why is this? Could it be, among other factors, that Scalise benefited from the job security and the socialized medicine government health care subsidies provided to members of Congress…benefits which the Republicans are loathe to extend to their fellow Americans?

Just wondering.

 

 

iknowwhatyoumwan

 

 

Also, one of the police officers who responded to the shooting and who engaged the gunman – read: who put her life on the line to save Scalise’s  [4] –  is a lesbian. This fact was not mentioned in the 60 minutes piece, and I wish it would have been. I would have liked to have seen a 60 Minutes correspondent, in the midst of an otherwise puff piece, ask the question which came to my mind and which I later wondered aloud to MH:  would that fact – being saved by a gay cop – somehow figure in Rep. Scalise’s decision making process when it comes time to cast his next vote on a LGBTQ civil rights issue?

Silly, silly moi:

Steve Scalise To Speak At Anti-Gay Group’s Forum
Months After Lesbian Cop Saved His Life
Huffington Post, 10-6-17 )

 

 

 

wtf2

 

 

 

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Department of All Authentic Artists Adore Alliteration

My propensity for being easily amused can be a boon or a blight, or a combination of the two.  [5]  All I know is that this NY Times photo caption, from a 9-13 story on North Carolinians preparing for Hurricane Florence…in the face of impending havoc (for other people, ahem), I’ve been entertained for hours by the idea of Beebles boarding beach bungalows.

 

 

beebles

“John Beebles, left, and his son, John Jr., boarded up their beach bungalow ahead of Hurricane Florence.”

 

 

 

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Department Of Yeah Pope I’m Talkin’ To You – Look In The Mirror If You Want To See The Great Accuser’s Face

The Pope suggests the DEVIL is behind sex abuse cover-up scandal, saying: ‘It seems like the Great Accuser has been unchained and has it in for bishops.’
Pope Francis made the claims during his address at morning Mass at the Vatican.
He suggested the ‘Great Accuser’, or the devil, was behind the revelations.
Francis also claimed the accuser ‘had it in’ for bishops who are being hounded.
( The Daily Mail, 9-11-18 )

So, someone “has it in” for Catholic bishops who are being hounded because they (the bishops) abetted criminal acts? Golly gee – no normal, decent person would think of demanding accountability for those who not only failed to report sexual abuse of children but who also protected and enabled molesters and rapists….could that someone be….

 

 

*   *   *

 

May you humbly contemplate the sad reality in which bullet wounds heal quicker than bigoted mindsets;
May you hold people (and not mythological demons) responsible for their actions;
May you be besotted with the brainchild of Beebles boarding your bungalows;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

 

 

[1] Or Google for images of” Joe Exotic,” if his mug shot isn’t revealing enough for you.

[2] Unnamed in the indictment, later identified as Baskin.

[3] I told Belle I was hoping he’d be eaten by one of his exotics, which would save the taxpayers $$ on his room and board.

[4] Officer Crystal Griner was one of two Capitol Police officers who took down the gunman  “prevented a massacre”,) and who sustained gunshot wounds during the attack.

[5] Or so I’ve been told by some of my “formers” – former employers, roommates, significant others….

The Book I’m Not Finishing

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Department Of I Should Have Known Better

It was a podcast that sent me back to the book, this time.  By the book I mean the book I should have finished reading several ( as in, almost ten ) years ago.  Do you know what I mean?

 

Of course you don’t. Because I am the only person on this planet who does what I am about to describe.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali came to the attention of the wider world in an extraordinary way. In 2004 a Muslim fanatic, after shooting the filmmaker Theo van Gogh dead on an Amsterdam street, pinned a letter to Mr. van Gogh’s chest with a knife. Addressed to Ms. Hirsi Ali, the letter called for holy war against the West and, more specifically, for her death.
A Somali by birth and a recently elected member of the Dutch Parliament, Ms. Hirsi Ali had waged a personal crusade to improve the lot of Muslim women. Her warnings about the dangers posed to the Netherlands by unassimilated Muslims made her Public Enemy No. 1 for Muslim extremists….
The circuitous, violence-filled path that led Ms. Hirsi Ali from Somalia to the Netherlands is the subject of “Infidel,” her brave, inspiring and beautifully written memoir…..
Ms. Hirsi Ali describes a journey “from the world of faith to the world of reason,” a long, often bitter struggle to come to terms with her religion and the clan-based traditional society that defined her world and that of millions of Muslims all over.

The book I’m not finishing is the much-praised (as per the above excerpts from William Grimes’ review in the New York Times) Infidel: My Life, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

I have had the Infidel book for…I don’t know how long.  [1]  And I have started reading it….I don’t know many times. Last weekend, as I have done before (and before and before and before), I found the book in my stash pile, started over (it had been at least a year since my last attempt), then, once again, set it aside.  I haven’t been able to read past the chapter in which the author – using an almost journalistic,  dispassionate prose style I’ve come to recognize as being common to PTSD survivors – describes her horrific torture and mutilation at that age 5, when she (and her younger sister) underwent the barbaric procedure of FGM or female genital mutilation (which was, and in some cases still us, euphemistically and mistakenly referred to, by the countries and cultures and religions that practiced and/or mandated it, as “female circumcision”  [2]  ).

Ms. Hirsi Ali’s bravery seemingly knows few bounds; she is a passionate and articulate activist for feminism,  human rights, free speech and freedom from religion, despite being under constant fatwas or death threats from Muslim extremists  (ala another ex-Muslim writer, Salman Rushdie, who lived for years in virtual exile).  [3]    I’ve read/heard  excerpts of Hirsi Ali’s other works and speeches;  I know she is respected in the free speech and Freethinker communities, and I feel that, in order to respect her work, I need to read her influential memoir in its entirety….

And yet I just can’t get past her recounting of the misogynistic, life-negating, barbarism, which – as is the norm in FGM – was arranged and abetted by trusted family members. I know she survives her ordeal and eventually escapes from other self -negating circumstances (including an arranged marriage)…but the FGM was done to her when she was only five years old, and moiself, perhaps immaturely but self-protectively, wonders how much more deprivation, ignorance and brutality is going to be served up until I can get to the Triumph-Over-Adversity ® chapters?

What am I, some kind of intellectual coward?

 

 

chickens

 

 

 

As a long-time feminist activist with a background in reproductive health care, I am no stranger to the horrific reality of FGM.  Still, it affects me in ways that reading about other brutalities (e.g. war; serial murders) do not, possibly in part for the personal/worldwide/political ramifications of such a primitive, atrocious, spirit-crushing, female-hating ritual.

I’m wondering if others have had the same problem, when it comes to reading about gruesome trauma?  There have been other books I’ve read, usually memoir other non-fiction, where I have been unable to get past certain passages, then felt it was somehow disrespecting the integrity of the work as a whole to continue reading the book via skipping problematic passages or chapters, so I set the books aside for a few months…but eventually tackled them again and was able to finish. But, in this case, I’m talkin’ years of avoidance.

And now, once again, the Serious Book ®  – which I’ve come to view as a literary equivalent to cleaning behind the refrigerator, taking cod liver oil, and memorizing the capital cities of all fifty states (i.e., daunting tasks that are supposed to be “good for me”) sits on my nightstand, atop my I’ll-get-to-it-eventually pile.  [4]  Not that I’m paranoid or anything, but I swear the book’s front cover has been glaring at me disapprovingly, each night since I set it atop my reading pile, as it sees me open the literary equivalent of Twinkies on my Kindle reader: two other memoirs (one of a recently deceased actor and the other of a punk/pop “princess”).   [5]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of You Had To Be There

Sighting of week: Dateline, Monday morning, just before 7: 30 am. A big ass truck (y’all know the kind) pulls into the driveway of a house I am approaching on my morning walk.

 

 

big truck

This about captures the size ratio.

 

 

 

The driver’s door opens, and inside the big ass truck I espy a very petite, very blonde, very, very pregnant young woman. Dwarfed by the mammoth vehicle, she exits the cab by somehow sliding down the side of it (the truck has no cab step). She manages to land gracefully and delicately on her tiny feet, then waddles toward the house.

On the one hand, nothing remarkable, right? On the other hand…I have different fingers.

 

 

bearmeme

 

 

Sorry.

On the other hand, it seemed like a noteworthy feat for me to bear witness to, let alone for the Very Petite, Very Blonde, Very, Very Pregnant Young Woman ® to accomplish. The image has been coming back to me all week, and has served as a reminder that there is a kind of extraordinary grace – even beauty – to be found in ordinary situations.

 

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Department Of If You Haven’t Got Anything Nice To Say, Come Sit By Me

Dateline: last week, driving to the beach.  I took one of my favorite “shortcuts” from the Sunset Highway to the coast – a very windy, two lane road snaking through the Nehalem River Valley, Route 53,  which MH and refer to as Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride – and stopped for lunch at a café off of Highway 101. I’ve eaten at the café many times in the past few months; I’ve found the service is friendly, and the food a notch above standard diner fare if mostly unremarkable.

There was much food remarking that day, however, between a young man working at the café and an older couple who were seated at a table near the door. The café is small, and I couldn’t help but hear the conversation, which began with the couple complimenting their lunches (“This is hands down the best food we’ve had on the coast!  [6]  ) to the young man when he refilled their water glasses. They asked him for dining recommendations as they headed north; the young man enthused about a Thai restaurant up north of Astoria, then the three of them began discussing other local dining options

The couple said they’d heard about a new restaurant in Manzanita, which several people had recommended to them, but it had a crazy (to them) name:  YolkWhose idea was it to call a restaurant, Yolk? the man chuckled. It’s not very appealing, but their food is good, I hear. Maybe, a little on the fancy side?”

“It’s hard to imagine it would be as good as this,” said the woman, indicating with her fork the mass various yellow, fried items on her plate.

Young Café Man thanked them again, and said he thought that his café’s food could stand up to that of any other restaurant, including the “high end” ones, like Yolk.  He treaded lightly at first – he said he had friends who’d dined at the new place and liked it – then he dove right in.

“I don’t want to knock another local place…. Young Café Man said (as he proceeded to do so). “Fancier places like Yolk have a impressive menu and all. But most people don’t realize we local restaurants all  get our food from the same suppliers, then they serve the same thing – they serve the same French fries we do – only  call it something different and charge four bucks more a plate for it….”

And there I sat, eating my Gardenburger, trying not to smirk as I realized that holding my tongue when I first heard the mention of Yolk was a good idea. I was going to offer, after the man had said their food is good, I hear, that indeed, IMHO, Yolk’s food is not only good but great – in fact, Yolk was my favorite place in on the coast for breakfast and I would highly recommend it, for the incredible, tasty, creative menu items, a visually appealing dining space and friendly service….

But if I had done so, perhaps I wouldn’t have had the guilty pleasure of listening in on Young Café Man’s bogus claim about Yolk’s food sources.

Yo, Young Café Man: it’s one thing to share your opinion – to which of course you are entitled.  But when you start making allegedly factual statements that are untrue….

“… then they serve the same thing – they serve the same French fries we do – only  call it something different and charge four bucks more a plate for it….”

 

 

 

we are not amused

 

 

 

 

Young Café Man, I have many meals at your restaurant, and also at the restaurant you unjustly disparaged.  Not only does Yolk have an entirely different menu than your establishment,  [7]   they do not, in fact, “serve the same French fries.”  Thus, I assume you were just talking out of your ass.  Let’s hope your restaurant doesn’t cook that way.

 

 

 

ass

“You want to cook out of my what?”

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of And One More Thing

BTW, when you’re in Manzanita, be sure to get either breakfast or lunch at Yolk. Owner Connie and staff will take good care of you. Their lemon ricotta pancakes are rave-worthy, their take on huevos rancheros (served atop a delectable grilled cornmeal patty instead of a corn tortilla) is sublime, and whatever you order, be sure to get the molasses oatmeal bread. My go-to favorite is their roast veggie hash (with just the right touch of harissa, a simple yet inventive touch rarely found in a breakfast dish.  Yummers!).

 

 

 

yolk

 

 

*   *   *

 

May you be able to see the grace and beauty in mundane situations;
May you have the courage to finish the books that need finishing;
May you know the difference between expressing an opinion
and unfairly dissing a competitor;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] I purchased it not long after it was released, so it could be as long as 10+ years.

[2] FGM could only be compared to male circumcision if male circumcision involved the excision of the entire penis, rather than a portion of the skin of the tip of the penis.

[3] And then in the good ole USA, Hirsch Ali had an invitation for an honorary degree withdrawn from the university that extended the honor, after her telling the unvarnished truth criticisms of Islam’s treatment of women was called, “hate speech.”

[4] Well, at least it’s at the top of the pile.

[5] Respectively, IN THE PRESENCE OF GREATNESS: My Sixty-Year Journey as an Actress, by Patty Duke, and Lips unsealed: A Memoir, by the Go-Gos Belinda Carlisle.  I purchased both of them within minutes of putting down Infidel.

[6] To which I thought, “This is your first day on the trip?”

[7] I double-checked, both in person and online, to make sure my memory was correct.

The Announcement I’m Not Applauding

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Department Of Why Aren’t You Listening To This Podcast?  [1]

I refer to Hidden Brain, hosted by engineer/journalist/NPR science correspondent Shankar Vedantam . The podcast aims, as per their website, to help “…curious people understand the world – and themselves. Using science and storytelling, Hidden Brain reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, the biases that shape our choices, and the triggers that direct the course of our relationships.” Linking research from fields including psychology, neurobiology, economics, anthropology, and sociology, Hidden Brain aims to provide “… insights to apply at work, at home and throughout your life.”

If you’ve ever wondered…

-Why is our tendency to associate with those who share the same interests, sense of humor and political views demonstrably not the best way to cultivate creativity?

– What causes mild-mannered people turn into fearsome mama and papa bears?

– Can the way you park your car reveal crucial details about you?

– Why do we think back to turning points in our lives and imagine, ‘What if….?’

– Do unconscious biases keep people from finding interesting jobs?

 

…then this is the show for you. And if you never wonder about such things, then you need to get interested in Life.  [2]

 

 

 

martha

 

 

 

From the seemingly mundane to the profound, here is a sampling of recent subjects and questions Hidden Brain has tackled:

* Who Gets Power — And Why It Can Corrupt Even The Best Of Us

* Baseball Umpires Don’t Get Overtime. Does That Affect Extra Innings?

* Hungry, Hungry Hippocampus: Why and How We Eat

* Admit It, Parents: You Play Favorites With The Kids

* Don’t Panic! What We Can Learn From Chaos

* Looking Back: Reflecting On The Past To Understand The Present

Probably the most interesting topic the show has presented involves the origins and purposes of the world’s religions, and how religions “evolved” to help human societies survive and flourish. Most interesting is, I realize, a subjective qualifier, which is used by moiself due to both current and ongoing events and experiences which makes this topic of particular interest.

If you’ve taken part in a religious service, have you ever stopped to think about how it all came to be? How did people become believers? Where did the rituals come from? And most of all, what purpose does it all serve? This week, we explore these questions with psychologist Azim Shariff, who argues that we can think of religion from a Darwinian perspective, as an innovation that helped human societies to survive and flourish.

For most of human history, we lived in small groups of about 50 people. Everyone knew everybody. If you told a lie, stole someone’s dinner, or didnt defend the group against its enemies, there was no way to disappear into the crowd. Everyone knew you, and you would get punished.

But in the last 12,000 years or so, human groups began to expand. It became more difficult to identify and punish the cheaters and free riders. So we needed something big — really big. An epic force that could see what everyone was doing and enforce the rules. Since individual people could no longer police large groups, the policing had to be done by a force that was superhuman. That force… was the popular idea of a “supernatural punisher” – also known as god.

( excerpts from “Creating God,” Hidden Brain, 7-16-18 )

 

 

angrygod

Cue the wrath.

 

 

The development of religions as a cultural tool is not a new idea (to moiself) – I’ve encountered similar theories across a wide spectrum of disciplines and scientists, including psychologists and cultural anthropologists. Still, this podcast contains one of the most accessible explanations I’ve ever read or heard for the evolution of group religious practice.  [3]  Of course, the answer(s) to the opening questions about the origins of religious practice, if posed to religious believers and not scientists, would be along the lines of,  Because it’s true!, and/or Because my god is real and gave our belief to us! and other simplistic non-answers which fly in the face of the reality that one believer’s religious truth is another believer’s heresy.  [4]

“… Besides the psychological studies, there is evidence from history and psychology that shows modern religions evolved to solve problems related to trust and cooperation…  All the world’s major religions today arose at times when human societies were struggling with the problems of size, complexity, or scarcity.”
( “Creating God,” Hidden Brain, 7-16-18 )

Religions arose as a mechanism – like fire and agriculture – to help us survive as a species. The historical period known as the Neolithic (or Agricultural) Revolution saw the creation and rise of towns and cities.  As humans transitioned from living in small, mostly nomadic, family bands to living in larger groups of unrelated people, we needed a way to get along with strangers. We needed a way to determine who was “one of us” and trustworthy to, say, trade with or intermarry or share water rights and other finite resources…

But, not just any old religion or deity would do, when it came to regulating group behavior amongst strangers.  And how much you believed in a god mattered less then what kind of god you believed in.

The more wrathful/angry the god, the more successful the religions were, in spreading across large groups, and maintaining control of and adherence to social norms.  Correspondingly, the more “costly” the rituals and rites associated with public declaration of adherence to the religion  – i.e. physical and behavioral modifications (e.g. circumcision, clothing and dietary restrictions, sexual practice proscriptions) the more confidence the others had in you as being one of them (and not just faking it to gain access and trust).

 

beard

So, you’ll trust I’m one of you if I cut off the tip of my…what ?!?!?

 

Interestingly, our ancestors who remained in hunter/gatherer groups – which did not have the stranger danger/trust issues – tended not to develop belief in larger, punitive gods. 

Scientists who study (the few remaining) modern day smaller tribes, whose lives resemble those of our ancestors in the pre-civilization/Agricultural revolution days – who live in small group where everyone is known to everyone else – note that these tribes’ gods tend to be “smaller and weaker and less morally concerned…they are more like trickster spirits… that don’t have the power nor the punitive ability nor the concern (to enforce) moral issues.”

 

trickster

 

Anyway, I highly recommend this episode of Hidden Brain. Go listen to it yourself,      because I could go on and on about this (and yep, I already have).

 

 

confusedspock

“That’s putting it mildly.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Afore-Mentioned “Current And Ongoing Events And Experiences Which Makes This Topic Of Particular Interest.”

I’ve been thinking about the development/role of religion a lot recently – before, during and, especially after an out of town trip to attend a family wedding last weekend. While I was happy for the adorable young couple to be starting their married life, the marriage ceremony itself was – like all conservative Christian services are, for me –something to be endured, not celebrated.  Once again I found myself walking the ethical balance beam: trying to avoid attracting attention to moiself while trying to maintain a shred of integrity and not have my presence nor my silence be taken as acquiescence to the preacher’s words and the scripture readings – which essentially amount to a sermon (to a captive audience) on primitive, Bronze Age  blood sacrifice and patriarchal theology.

 

 

 

bridestoningjpg

 

 

 

You just gotta take those small opposition opportunities when they arise, like my refusal to join the clapping after the couple is introduced by the officiant, after he has pronounced that they are married.  In a mere 30 minutes the woman has gone from being addressed by her first and last name to having her identity announced as the mistress of the man.

It gives me great joy to introduce to you, for the first time,
Mr. and Mrs. Husband’s first name/husband’s last name!

And, holy patriarchal poopfest – the preacherman at this wedding actually read the bible verses about how wives should be submissive to their husbands, and went on at some length about how his god created Eve for Adam (as if they were real people) and thus women for men and how that is the only relationship (man-woman marriage) that is   approved (and mandated )by his god and the only path for happiness….

When I find myself in a church-type venue (either a wedding or a funeral, these days) I always maintain open eyes during the let us bow our heads and pray moments. I pass the time by looking around at the audience (? guests? Whatever we are), noting who does the same. I sought out one of the Eyes Wide Open People  [7]  after the wedding concluded –  someone I’d seen stifling a flinch at a particular rhetorical low point during the ceremony – and ventured to ask his opinion.  He too was surprised by the waaaaay conservatism of the ceremony.  He said couldn’t remember the last time he’d heard such archaic speechifying,  “…and I’ve been to a lot of Catholic weddings recently.”

The overt sexism (and concurrent if covert anti-LGBT sentiment) in (many, but not all) Christian wedding ceremonies is not new to me. But this time, knowing the personal histories of several of the guests and family members, it made me sad in ways I cannot fully articulate.  As the preacherman orated about the Christian god’s plan for marriage and men and women, women and men, blah blah blah, I felt the sense of exclusion, intentionally or otherwise, which the ceremony cast upon  gay family members/guests.  In that world, you’ll take a seat at the back of the bus… if they let you board at all.

 

oneman

Thank you for celebrating our special day! However, if you’re gay, we will not help you celebrate yours.

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Musical Interludes, Via One Of The Best Covers
Of An Already Really Good Song

That would be Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell’s rendition of Spanish Dancer, a song written and originally recorded by Patti Scialfa on her album, Rumble Doll[8]

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Unexpected Bonuses

Moiself has notice that, besides the retail outlets and weed growers themselves, the legalization of marijuana in Oregon has give rise to other businesses offering correlated services.

 

 

stoner

*   *   *

 

 

May all of your announcements be applause-worthy;
May you find your own ways to maintain integrity during institutionalized absurdities;
May you never stop asking the
how did it come to be/where it come from/what purpose does it all serve? questions;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] That is, if you’re not. And if you’re not, you should.

[2] And don’t show up at one of my dinner parties and just talk about the weather.

[3] The origins of religions as just that – evolutionary tools – is the only origin story that makes sense of the otherwise implausible and downright silly post-Iron age belief systems.

[4] And then if you posed the questions to a room of believers in different religions you could watch the fundamental fur fly as they try to sort out why the one god they claim to believe in would give vastly different dogma, rituals and practices to its peoples.

[5] Or, as many a religion-free observer has noted about the various religious proscriptions on sex and diet and attire,  “If you can get people to give you their balls, they’ll give you anything.”

[6] And it has links to interesting/relevant research and other articles.

[7] As usual, there were several of us.

[8] Yet another example of a person who might be more well known – and appreciated on her own merits – were she not married to someone famous in the same field (in this case, Bruce Springsteen. Aka – in a just universe – Mr. Patti Scialfa).

The Sisyphean Task I’m Not Performing

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Department Of Where Is Samuel L. Jackson When You Need Him?

Girls and boys, can you say, “Dinoflagellate Bioluminescence?”  I knew you could.

 

 

mrrogers

 

 

“One of the most spectacular forms of marine bioluminescence (often incorrectly called ‘marine phosphorescence’) is produced by dinoflagellates. In the sea, light emission by these unicellular organisms is mostly seen when cells are mechanically stimulated, at the surface of waves, in breakers, by swimming animals or humans or by vessels.”
(Bioluminescence in Dinoflagellates, Tree of Life web project)

Whether or not you can correctly pronounce it, we saw it, on an evening (approx. 8:30 – 10:30p) kayak  tour last Sunday, in the waters around the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge . To my knowledge, no one in our group took pictures of the phenomenon itself, as we’d been told cameras are “fairly useless to capture bioluminescence,” which was fine by me.  How often can one participate in an outing these days without someone pulling out their smartass phones every five minutes for that all-important documentation?  [1]

 

 

 

jellies

One form of the bioluminescence we saw (but did not photograph).

 

 

 

It would have been amusing to have watched someone attempt a selfie with the mullets, a plethora of which inhabited the waters just below our kayaks. It seems they had been misinformed as to our intentions. Perhaps they confused our boats with their predators, the local bottleneck dolphins, which, like many of my WT ancestors, [2] travel in packs and use cooperative hunting to get themselves a tasty mullet meal.

 

 

 

mullethair

“Y’all wanna eat my what ?!”

 

 

 

No, not that kind of mullet.

I suppose, to a mullet, 13 kayaks might look like a school of dolphins.  Anyway, it was dark; we were not interested in them and would have had no idea there were so many beneath the surface, but whenever we neared a school of mullets they tried to escape from our path by jumping out of/seemingly flying across the water’s surface. Both K and I were slapped in the hands/arms several times by the fleeing flying fishies, and, occasionally, one would land in a kayak. Our guide ended up with at least two mullets joining him in his kayak’s cockpit.

 

 

mullets

They looked like this…only it was dark and we could barely see them.

 

 

 

 

One exception to the fine by me nobody took pictures sentiment: – it would have been excellent to have gotten a picture of the snake that MH’s cousin NB and his daughter CB discovered in their (tandem) kayak. We were on our way back, about  8/10 of the way through the trip, when a snake slithered across NB’s lap and then went under his kayak’s seat.  [3] . The guide confirmed NB’s claim (i.e. he saw the snake in NB’s kayak when the boat was in the water), but neither the guide nor NB got a good enough look at the snake to confirm whether it might be a round head, yay/whew! (e.g. a harmless rat snake) or a diamond head , YIKES ! (e.g. a cottonmouth, which is venomous.)

There was a distinct improvement of the pace of CB’s paddling as she and her father, as per the guide’s recommendation, hauled ass  made a hasty but dignified return to the launch area, so as to dislodge their inadvertent hitchhiker.  After hauling ashore We Who Enjoy Such Things ®  (read: the guide, Belle, NB and a few others who are reptile-friendly) carefully checked out NB’s kayak, and espied a hole beneath the seat where the snake could have be hiding, but none of us could not see it or get it to come out.

Had we had more time, we would have taken the Snakes On A Kayak! theme to more extremes (some of us immediately began throwing out ideas for a screenplay), but the night was old and Florida’s state birds (read: mosquitos) were out in force.

 

 

 

snakesplane

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Reasons For Moiself To Go To Central Florida

“Oh, there’s so much to see and do there – Sea World, Universal Studios Dinosaur World, Legoland, Busch Gardens the new Harry Potter thing....

 

 

CAMEL

 

 

 

 

It was hard not to laugh at the Well-Meaning Person ® speculating as to the reasons for my trip to central Florida last week.  Don’t think for a moment that visiting any kind of amusement park – especially one whose name rhymes with Whiz-pee-sand – would be reason enough to get me there.

Family matters. That’s it.

We (MH, son K and daughter Belle and I) did the Family Trip Thing ®, joining MH’s mother and his sister (who respectively live near/in Orlando), and his cousin and her family, to do the final disposition  [4] of the ashes of MH’s father.  [5]

Florida. From what I’ve seen of it over the years…well, I am not…a fan. IMHO, Florida would be tolerable sans Floridians, who have constructed lives where they scurry from one air-conditioned cubicle to another (car to house to car to shopping mall to car to work to church and church and church and …   [6])   to escape the living-in-an-oven-between-sinkholes they’ve decided to call home.  The way humans have to modify/assault the environment to make it acceptable to them, sometimes I think the bipeds should just leave en mass  [7] and let the panthers and gators and other wildlife recover/take over.

 

 

 

gatort

Fine by me, as long as I can continue to get poolside beverage service.

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sisyphus In The Suburbs

The likelihood of the gentle summer breeze changing direction and gusting toward an open garage, filling it with the neighborhood detritus, is directly proportional to moiself just having finished sweeping out said garage and attempting to shut the garage door.

 

 

ohthehumanity

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Circle Of Life, Backyard Edition

I found this beauty yesterday morning when I was picking berries. She was stretched out underneath one of our blueberry bushes, and looked so peaceful I thought she was resting, or napping.  [8] I brought her inside to show MH and K, and now I don’t know what to do with her, other than return her to Nature ®, with a nod to her simple elegance and a hope that she had a good life (however that would be defined for a butterfly).

 

 

butterfly

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

May your Sisyphean tasks at least provide amusement for those around you;
May you have your shae of mullets-in-the-cockpit adventures;
May you be having a good life, however you define that for your species;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] “If there’s no picture of it, it didn’t really happen,” seems to be some folks’ motto.

[2] Sorry…couldn’t resist a chance to tweak my heritage. It won’t happen again.  Oh, what am I saying – of course it will.

[3] The guide’s guess was the snake had been in the kayak all along, but we civilians liked the idea of it jumping, with the mullets, and landing in their boat.

[4] Not sure what to call it, as it was partway between a scattering and an internment.

[5]  Who died from complications of Parkinson’s disease, two and a half years ago.

[6] You can’t spit – and I have tried – without hitting a church in Florida. Which would be great, if only spit could do some real damage….

[7] As long as they go anyplace but Oregon.

[8] I don’t know if butterflies, in their brief existence, take time to nap, or if they even have the inclination to do so.

The Pity I’m Not Tempering

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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.

 

 

stonehenge

 

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.

 

groover

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.’

 

 

immature

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

*   *   *

different

*   *   *

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).

 

 

 

snowden

 

 

 

*   *   *

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?

 

 

sad sloth

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.

The Hair I’m Not Straightening

Comments Off on The Hair I’m Not Straightening

Department Of What Is Wrong With This Picture

Dateline: At the hair salon…waiting for my turn…looking for anything other than Hairstyles of the Rich and Famous or celebrity tragedy magazines to pass the time. The pickings are slim. I pick up some kind of My House is More Beautiful Than Your House magazine. On the magazine’s second page I see the following photo, which accompanies advertising copy re furnishing one’s “dream house.” A certain detail gave me the feeling that the photographer and/or photo-stager had never actually cooked real food in a real kitchen.

 

 

pasta

 

 

Call me crazy, but my dream house would include having cooks residing therein who know the proper pasta-to-cooking-pot ratio.

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Darndest Things

 

 

 

kids say

 

 

 

Yet another dateline: last Thursday evening; after the afore-alluded-to haircut.

Backstory: I get my hair cut every six weeks. My current stylist  [1] blow dries/flat irons my hair to razor sharp, shiny verticality, which means that for 2-3 days every 6 weeks, I have really straight hair.  Ever since the birth of daughter Belle my hair has had a natural curl, no chemical inducement necessary.  [2]  The hair thing turned out to be one of those “temporary” pregnancy changes that stuck around après baby.

The first time the stylist suggested she blow dry my hair straight was four years ago, when Belle was a senior in high school.  Belle loved the way my hair looked when it was straight. MH and son K did not. They said,

You don’t look like yourself.

I agreed with them, even as I decided to forgo listing the upside of not looking like moiself every now and then.  I assured my spouse and our son that, regardless of whether or not I liked my hair straight, I’ve neither the time, the patience, nor the girly-hair-styling-skillset (nor the desire to acquire the latter) to successfully and regularly wield the Implements of Hair Uncurling ®. Thus, the look which they found so objectionable would be episodic and brief, at most.

Last week, on the eve when I returned from the salon, K made the inevitable comment re my hair. I said I was well aware that he didn’t like my hair “this way.” Before moiself could solicit reasons for his dislike, K offered the following:

“It’s just that it makes you look, in my opinion, like a soccer mom who brings Kraft Singles for the after-game snacks.  [3]

Damn right I raised that young man.

 

kraft

If this don’t straighten y’all’s hair, nothing will.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Continuing Datelines

Dateline: in line for a matinee showing of the movie, Love, Simon. Overhearing their interactions with the ticket clerk, I realize that the several women (all over a certain age, by the senior discounts I hear them claim) in front of me in the ticket line have each, separately, come to the theater to see Love, Simon. I offer an observation about that to the universe, after which the woman directly in front of me, and then the two women behind me, chime in about how they too have come to the theatre, separately, to see the same movie.

When was my turn  [4] I said to the ticket clerk, One for…can you guess? Ticket Clerk Lady’s face went blank for just a moment, until I followed up with, Yep, we middle-aged women all love us some Simon.

 

 

 

 

movieold

I’d enjoy this more if we were both older ladies.

*   *   *

 

It was great fun having Belle home for spring break (two weeks ago), and also getting to meet The Boyfriend. ® [5]  Belle, who will graduate in May  [6] with a B.S. in Biology, is pursuing a variety of jobs and internships that have to do with animal care, conservation and education; i.e.,  zoos and animal rescue/sanctuary organizations

Near the end of Belle’s visit I ventured to make a potentially touchy observation about her après-graduation plans. Which is just the kind of comment every child anticipates and appreciates…

 

 

said2

 

 

 

The internships she’s applied for – a couple of which have already been offered to her – are with Big Cat and/or other “exotic” animal parks. These organizations describe themselves as providing “a sanctuary to wild cats in need.” Translation: there are, unfortunately, a great many delusional/ narcissistic people who think that it would be fun to own an exotic animal, and/or  that owning an exotic wild animal would make them stand out and be special – that the wildness of the animal will somehow give them cred. A few weeks or months after acquiring an exotic pet (whether via legal or questionable means), Joe Lookatmei’mcoolIownatiger realizes that the cub which was so adorable at 8 weeks old is growing into AN ACTUAL FRIGGIN’ TIGER – never mind that the breeder assured them it was from eight generations of “domesticated” tigers [7] and was really just a big, big pussy cat. [8]  At that point, Joe either voluntarily abandons/surrenders the animal or is forced to do so by his neighbors or an animal welfare organization.

Enter Wild Cat Sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, et al, who offer a place for these discarded “pets” –  along with animals rescued or retired from circuses or other anachronistic “entertainment” shows –  to live out the remainder of their lives in as natural a setting as possible.  These organizations also work to, essentially, put themselves out of business. That is, they lobby for legislation which would end the captive wildlife crisis by outlawing the buying, selling, breeding and exhibiting of such animals. (Truly a noble cause – one which has been close to Belle’s heart for many years now, even preceding her years of volunteering at the Oregon Zoo.)

 

 

tiger

No, I do not belong in your backyard…but hey, dude, thanks for the golden retriever snack.

 

 

 

These organizations are almost always privately funded. Read: they are financed hand to mouth (claw to maw?) and are always scrapped for funds. Usually only the executive directors (if anyone) are paid; thus, they depend heavily on volunteers. Their internships typically run for three to six months; interns are compensated with board and a meal stipend, but no salary. So, interns get experience (and at certain sanctuaries it may indeed be the experience of a lifetime) in a field with arguably no future.  Unless you are able to turn the experience into qualifications to work as a zoo keeper,  [9] such internships provide experience for “jobs’ for which there are no paid positions.

Yet again, I digress. About that potentially touchy observation about her après-graduation employment plans.

I asked Belle if she knew the percentage of female applicants/volunteers in the internship programs to which she has applied.  She said she didn’t.  I said it wouldn’t surprise me if the stats showed 80% (or more) female. When Belle asked me why, I asked The Boyfriend ® to confirm or deny the observation I was about to make: what I considered to be an accurate if frustrating reflection on cultural conditioning/gender influences; specifically, re how both girls and boys grow up seeing – still, in 2018 – (mostly) women do much of the work upon which our society and the corporate world depends (e.g. managing home and the rearing of children), and for which you’d have to pay a lot of $$ to hire someone outside the family to do, but this work is unpaid and undervalued, thus leading to the lowered expectations of girls’ and women’s market worth….

But, I didn’t phrase it that way. I summed it up thusly (and noticed that The Boyfriend ® ruefully smiled at Belle before he nodded at me in agreement):

Men and boys learn early on not to work for free.

*   *   *

 

 

May you recognize an employer’s disincentive
to pay you if you’re willing to work for free;
May you slap into next Saturday the face of anyone who attempts to analogize the previous professional caveat into the personal realm;   [10]
May you never be forced to eat Kraft Singles, ® for any reason;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] It sounds so strange to me, to write that I have a “stylist,” but I don’t know what else to call her and that’s what she calls herself.

[2] A phenomenon which my previous, before-and-after pregnancy haircutter had noticed and commented on.

[3] Both of my offspring had somewhat ignominious (and blessedly brief) tenures on kiddie soccer teams. It wasn’t their thing, and so MH and I never had the opportunity to be Soccer parents.

[4] No footnote here. Move along, now.

[5] He took time off from work to accompany her.

[6] Or so she assures us.

[7] Ain’t no such thing. You can’t breed the wild out of wildlife.

[8] Imagine the behaviors innate to a housecat – scratching the furniture, jumping on the countertops, sometimes getting overexcited when playing rough with its owner and putting its claws out – magnified by an animal ten times the size and strength of your tabby.

[9] A very competitive field, with few openings.

[10] Yep, I’m talkin’ the odious cow/free milk equivalency that was spewed by Previous Generations. ®  Which I actually heard from one of my aunts, many decades ago, when I was a recent college graduate home for a visit with my parents. My aunt (also visiting my parents) was chatting with my mother and moiself about the lives of my aunt’s four adult children. She said she highly doubted that her youngest son would marry his girlfriend because they were already…well…sleeping together, and – she shot a knowing glance to my mother and a warning glance to moiself – why buy the cow….you know the rest.  A delicious coda to the story: that son of hers did go on to marry that girlfriend, and from all appearances they have had and continue to have a happy marriage (and he is the only one of that aunt’s children who has not been divorced).

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