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The Mirror Universe I’m Not Occupying

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Department Of Aging Well

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

 

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or, perhaps mirror moiself  has a real job.

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Here is the actual passage:

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

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

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

 

 

At least one Christian blogger noticed and took issue:

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

 

 

 

Ballerinas can fart, too!

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

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
MGE   [7]

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

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

[2] Not amish.

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

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

[5] The words of others, not moiself.

[6] And evidently do.

[7] Miscellaneous Groaners Edition.

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

The Basic Ball I’m Not Vogueing

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Department Of Serves You Right
( And By You, I Mean Moiself )

Because This Is So True ®  for moiself, and several others beset by earworms,  I shared this post after seeing it on FB.

 

 

That night, or rather, early the next morning, my petty brain woke me up at 3:30 am and forced me to listen to this:

 

 

Yeah.

The following night’s song was an improvement, at least, harmony-wise:
The Eagles cover of Seven Bridges Road.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A White Lady Watching A Black Lady Sketch Show

Last week, after listening to a Fresh Air interview with show creator Robin    [1]   Thede, I began watching episodes from the first season of A Black Lady Sketch Show.   [2]    I’ve a lot to catch up on; the show has been running for three seasons.  But so far it looks like it’ll be well worth it to park my ass yet again in front of the TV rearrange my hectic schedule so as to find precious time to devote to appreciating the show’s thoughtful-narrative mixed-with-magical-reality commentary on contemporary society.

Translation:  I laughed, out loud, a lot.

Here is a mishmash of bits that caught my attention:

* The premier episode: The Bad Bitch Support Group, wherein guest Angela Basset supports women who feel guilty when they wake up in the morning and don’t want to put on makeup or want to wear house slippers instead of three inch heels…but Bassett’s “support” turns out to be cooperation, with two pharmaceutical researchers who are observing this test group of women through a two-way mirror:

First researcher:
“What is happening to subject four?  She seems to have built up an immunity to the Foxycodone.”

Second researcher:
“Double her dosage!” (shakes bottle of pills).
“If women start rejecting impossible beauty standards,
we’ll go out of business.

Foxycodone.  I’m dyin’ here.

 

 

* The delightfully/deadly serious ramblings of the nonsense-spewing Dr. Haddassah Olayinka (“How many Caucasian seconds must pass before it’s time for me to tell the truth?”)  Ali-Youngman, “pre-Ph.D.” The recurring character is described by Thede (in the Fresh Air interview) thusly: 

“Dr. Haddassah Olayinka Ali-Youngman, pre-Ph.D., is a charlatan of sorts, a saleswoman of sorts, a conspiracy theorist of sorts….somebody who spouts a lot of conspiracy theories about the world…. She’s fun because she gets to say all the things that I think sometimes we see online or in other places. I’ve known women like this who constantly think everything is a conspiracy.”

Check out this ramble of a diatribe toast Ali-Youngman gives at her sister’s wedding:

 

 

* A takeoff skit on ball culture,   [3]   the The Basic Ball (“A ball for the rest of the LGBTQ Community”).  The emcee does his best work-it-girl narration, over the pulsing dance music glitter ball strobe lighting, as a trio of dissipated looking women clad in, well, non-glittery, non-ball clothing (read: sweats and down jackets; pajama pants), stumble their way onto the catwalk.:

“The category is, clinical depression. All my children serving chemical imbalance, that’s right, make your way to the floor if you can…..  You are tired; you are unmedicated; make your way to the floor…  Walk for the judges; now vogue.  Oh, I see you, eating carbs! Oh, I see you, too depressed to leave the house.  I’m looking for sadness… I’m looking for Eeyore in Dior….”

 

 

Other Basic Ball categories include

*Barbecue Grill Daddy

(“They’re serving leather and linen; they’re serving let’s-argue-about-routes-to-work:  ‘I take the 405 to PCH.’  ‘Oh, I just take Cahuenga all the way down.’  You’ll gag… They are cookout ready, Betty – oh, he didn’t start the grill until everybody showed up? You won’t be eating until night time…. Oh, he is passing out matching shirts at the family reunion; he is mispronouncing all of your friends’ names…”)

* Running Errands

(“Oh, did you remember your reusable canvas bags?  Oh, work it girl – she has all her receipts; yes, she knows the return policy and she will not take store credit, baby….Oh, she’s running a quick errand and didn’t think anyone would see her, but you ran into your boss, and now she knows you do not have eyebrows….”)

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Reason To Go On Living

That would be this:  Northcoast Pinball, the pinball-centric video arcade in Nehalem, has a new Godzilla pinball machine.

 

 

While I’m no wizard,    [4]  I do enjoy playing pinball, and can get quite picky re what, for moiself, constitutes a good game.  I never really got into video games; something about the three-D, mechanical immediacy of pinball punches my flippers.  My enjoyment of pinball also stems from following a certain philosophy I have re recreational activities:

If you can’t do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly.

 

 

 

I wish I could take credit for coining that masterful maxim, which, IMO, is a key component of psychological health.

Despite the above quote I do not consider myself a poor pinball player.  I just enjoy it too much – as in, I find it relaxing – to take it (or moiself, playing it)  too seriously. When I’m in the pinball lounge I often see players who are quite intense, and who obviously have a strategy.  I know of one strategy I could employ to get “better” (as in, getting a higher score/winning more free games):  simply spend a lot of time getting to know one game.

 

 

 

 

Each game has its own/different scenarios, “routes,” and shooter allies and ramps, bumpers, and traps, etc.  And although all pinball machines flippers, the flippers of different games have a different feel (and reaction speed), which I notice immediately when I go from one machine to another…which is my non-strategy strategy.  I allow moiself  one or two games on a machine, then move on to the next, trying to play at least one game on the twenty-plus games in the lounge.   [5]  Which means I’m in the pinball lounge for a minimum of 30 minutes…thus….

Hint for all pinball and/or video arcade aficionados:  earplugs are your friends.

 

 

The noise in the arcade when there’s just me and one or two other players is tolerable…but still, tolerable can be too much, and I know that we humans consistently underestimate noise levels and what constitutes over and/or dangerous levels of exposure.

Thus, I have started wearing earplugs when I’m playing pinball.  And I am concerned for the owner of the pinball lounge.  He is one of the Nicest People I’ve Ever Met ®,  [6]  but his geniality and right-on social and cultural attitudes are not going to protect him from the fact that the continual noise exposure in his workplace is going to give him hearing loss.

“A study conducted by University of Maine graduate students recorded noise levels in four video arcades. The study found noise levels so extreme that visitors in the arcades risked temporary hearing loss in just 30 seconds of exposure. Extended or frequent exposure at such levels may result in permanent hearing loss or tinnitus.

In one of the arcades noise levels peaked at 114 dB, with average sound levels of 93 dB. In another the noise levels varied from 69 dB to 119 dB…..

A continuous noise level of 85 dB will result in hearing damage. At 115 dB, the noise levels are eight times higher and hearing damage may occur in 30 seconds….

Not only the video arcade customers put their hearing at risk in this environment. Arcade employees are even more at risk, unless they use hearing protection. They are exposed to the high noise levels repeatedly and for longer periods of time.”

( “Video arcades causing hearing loss and tinnitus,”  hearit.org )

 

How I wish a friendlier version of this could be in arcades.

 

Places of employment with high noise levels   [7]  now offer – or are required by OSHA to mandate – ear protection for employees and visitors.   [8]  I can see how an entertainment venue might not want to acknowledge that their business has a certain risk to your health….but that doesn’t change the facts.  So perhaps I can suggest another business venture for him, and other arcade owners:  sell earplugs.

I regularly stock on the ones pictured above, buying in bulk for what amounts to 17¢, but with other brands and buying even more, [9]    you could get the price for 9¢/pair, possibly even lower.  Along with the snacks and beverages most arcades have for purchase, I wish they’d also have earplugs available at the front desk, where people purchase their tokens, for a minimal cost.  You could charge just 25¢ per pair – or give them away free, to kids under age 12 or whatever, and to adults for a minimum purchase of $10 or $20 worth of tokens…there are many possibilities of working this in to arcade “culture.”

Moiself  is going to gird my proverbial loins and present this idea, as diplomatically as possible, next time I’m in the arcade.  Hopefully I will find out that the owner already wears earplugs.   [10]     Wish me luck.

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Pinball Edition

Have you played the new Lord of the Rings pinball machine?
It doesn’t take coins, only tolkiens.

What’s the difference between a vacuum cleaner and a pinball machine?
Pinball doesn’t suck.

Why couldn’t Led Zeppelin play pinball?
They had No Quarter.

 

Hulk hate bad pun…

 

…but Hulk love my own pinball game.

 

*   *   *

May you find a pinball arcade and see how much fun it can be;
May you OF COURSE wear hearing protection while doing the above;
May you resign yourself to the occasional 3 am
♫ Ooh ee ooh ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang; ♫
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Nice name, but she spells it wrong.

[2] All three seasons currently streaming on HBO.

[3] A subculture which originated when Black and Latino drag queens organized their own ballroom pageants to protest what they saw as the racism of established drag queen pageants.  Participants choose from several multitude of categories in which they can “walk” and vogue for prizes.

[4] Style points for those getting The Who song reference.

[5] There are a couple of the old-timey machines (the ones requiring only one token to play), which I skip, because I find them boring.

[6] And whose politics I am quite fond of. There are scattered references, including books and other reading materials he keeps by the lounge’s sitting areas, and signs in the windows, that he – and his wife, who runs the pottery gallery next door – are right-on considerate, intelligent, religion-free, humanists and feminists.

[7] E.g. factories, or where employees are outside but using loud equipment such as mowers or leaf blowers.

[8] MH, son K and I wore them recently, while visiting Belle at her place of work.

[9] Like these, 500 pair for $44.60.

[10] Ones that are so cool and discreet that I haven’t noticed them.

The Clinic Protocol I’m Not Following

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I had my second Covid booster vaccination yesterday, at the same clinic where I had my first booster.  My first two Covid vax (over a year ago, at the height of the campaign to get everyone vaxed) were given at a local school gym, in a group setting run by that same clinic.  After you’d had your shot, you sat along with others (all masked and seated at least 6 feet apart) who’d been vaccinated, with a post-it sticker on your shirt noting your time of vax. You waited until the Person Watching You ® let you know that your 15m was up and you could leave.  As y’all probably know, it is standard vax practice to wait at a vaccination site for 15m after receiving a vax to make sure you do not have a severe allergic reaction to the shot (which is very rare).   [1]

My first COVID booster shot was administered to me at the clinic itself, in an exam room, by a nurse practitioner. After the NP gave me my shot he said I should stay in the exam room and he’d be back in 15 minutes to release me.  I got in some e-book reading time…but after I left the clinic I thought, even though I’d never had an immediate/allergic reaction to any kind of vaccination, there could always be a first time, and what if moiself   passed out (or worse, began to have an anaphylactic reaction) and I were alone in the exam room?  I decided that this time, if the clinic did the same logistics, I would speak up about that.  They did, and so did I.

A quite genial nurse nurse gave me booster #2. She told me that although she “didn’t carry a pair of handcuffs” to enforce the protocol she highly recommended I stay put for 15 minutes, in case of a reaction.  I told her that during my previous booster, the NP told me I had to stay in the exam room. And the hijinks this exchange ensued:

Moiself:
How’s about if I return to the waiting area, where there are other people and the receptionists?
The point of waiting 15 minutes after having the vaccination is to make sure that I don’t have an immediate or allergic reaction to it, right?

Nurse:
Yes. Like I said about the handcuffs, I can’t force you to stay, but we highly recommend it.  You can stay in the room if you like.

Moiself:
Yes, I could…but then, how would you know if I’ve had a reaction, if I’m left alone in the exam room?  Are the rooms wired – will the sound of my body hitting the floor let the staff know I’ve had a bad reaction?

Nurse:
It’s a small clinic.  We’d *probably* hear the thump.

Moiself opted for the waiting area.

 

Just don’t thump too loudly; it’s my turn to calibrate the rectal thermometers and I need to concentrate.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Lie My Teachers Told Me

This particular lie, like most lies I was taught, was not conveyed on purpose. My teachers were lied to as well…perhaps, misinformed would be the more accurate term.  Think back to your elementary, junior high, high school, and even a few college classes. Very few of our teachers were doing original or first source document research; they taught what they themselves had been taught.

 

Yeah, well, that’s what they told me me, so suck it up.

 

The specific lie to which moiself  refers is the idea that a so-called agricultural revolution brought about a better society – that the transition from hunter-gatherers to farmers and ranchers brought nothing but positives, and was responsible for what we now call Civilization ® .

“The agricultural revolution is the name given to a number of cultural transformations that initially allowed humans to change from a hunting and gathering subsistence to one of agriculture and animal domestications.”
( The Agricultural Revolutions, sciencedirect.com  )

In a recent People I (Mostly) Admire podcast, “Yuval Noah Harari Thinks Life Is Meaningless and Amazing,” guest Harari   [2] and podcast host Steve Levitt discuss some of the ideas and observations Harari addresses in his latest book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.   [3] One of the ideas that struck me the most was that the agricultural revolution was ultimately better for germs than it was for people.  Moiself  has read other versions of this hypothesis, but Harari presented the most entertainingly succinct one I’ve come across (my emphases).  The entire interview is thoughtful and thought-provoking; moiself  hopes this excerpt piques your interest.

LEVITT (quoting from Harari’s book, Sapiens):
“ ‘The agricultural revolution was history’s biggest fraud.’
My hunch is that listeners, when they hear that sentence, they’d probably find it jarring because we’re taught to celebrate the agricultural revolution, not to think of it as being a fraud.”

HARARI:
“But if you look at it from the viewpoint of middle-class people in the West today, then agriculture is wonderful. We have all these apples and bread and pasta and steaks and eggs and whatever. And if you look at it from the viewpoint of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh or a Chinese emperor, wonderful. I have this huge palace and all these servants and whatever. But if you look at it from the viewpoint of the ordinary peasant in ancient Egypt or ancient China, their life was actually much worse than the life of the average hunter-gatherer before the agricultural revolution.

First of all, they had to work much harder. Our body and our mind evolved for millions of years to do things like climbing trees to pick fruits and going in the forest to sniff around for mushrooms and hunting rabbits and whatever. And suddenly you find yourself working in the field all day, just digging irrigation ditch, hour after hour, day after day, or taking out weeds or whatever, it’s much more difficult to the body. We see it in the skeletons, all the problems and ailments that these ancient farmers suffered from.  It’s also far more boring.

And then the farmers didn’t get a better diet in return. Pharaoh or the Chinese emperor, they got the reward. The ordinary peasant, they actually ate a far worse diet than hunter-gatherers. It was a much more limited diet. Hunter-gatherers, they ate dozens, hundreds of different species of fruits and vegetables and nuts and animals and fish and whatever. Most ancient farmers, if you live in Egypt, you eat wheat and wheat. If you live in China, you eat rice and rice.”

 

 

LEVITT:
“If you’re lucky. If the crop doesn’t fail, yeah.”

HARARI:
“If you’re lucky. If you have enough. And then, because this is monoculture, most fields are just rice. If suddenly there is a drought, there is a flood, there is a new plant disease, you have famine.

Farmers were actually more in danger of famine than hunter-gatherers because they relied on a much more narrow economic base. If you’re a hunter-gatherer, and there is a disease that kills all the rabbits, it’s not such a big deal. You can fish more. You can gather more nuts. But if you’re a herder, and your goat herd has been decimated by some plague, that’s the end of you and your family.

… in addition to that, you have many more diseases. In the days of Covid, it’s good to remember the fact that most infectious diseases started with the agricultural revolution because they came from domesticated animals, and they spread in large, permanent settlements. As a hunter-gatherer, you wander around the land with 50 people or so. You don’t have cows and chickens that live with you. So your chances of getting a virus from some wild chicken is much smaller. And even if you get it, you can infect only a few other people, and you move around all the time. So hygienic conditions are ideal.

Now, if you live in an ancient village or town, you’re in very close proximity to a lot of animals, so you get more diseases. And if you get a virus, you infect the whole town and the neighboring towns and villages through the trade networks, and you all live together in this permanent settlement with your sewage, with your garbage. People in the agricultural revolution, they tried to create paradise for humans. They actually created paradise for germs.”

Swine flu stew tonight! Invite the neighbors!

 

*   *   *

Department Of Celebrity Mythos

Moiself  recently watched the first two episodes of The Last Movie Stars, an HBO six part documentary which, as per its website description, aims to chronicle

“…Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward’s iconic careers and decades-long partnership. Director Ethan Hawke brings life and color to this definitive history of their dedication to their art, philanthropy, and each other.”

Newman’s and Woodward’s 50-year marriage is generally regarded as one of the most successful and truly happy show biz unions, and Newman was known for his devotion to his wife and family.  Over the years many reporters asked Newman about the temptations of show business for a handsome actor such as himself (read: Why do you remain faithful/stay with your wife when you’re surrounded by all the babes, in Hollywood and in fandom, who’d love to throw themselves at you?).  On one such occasion, when Newman was queried about his reputation for fidelity to Woodward, Newman famously quipped, “Why go out for a hamburger when you have steak at home?”

I’d heard this quote many times before the HBO documentary brought it up, but this time, watching The Last Movie Stars, I couldn’t help but think about how Newman‘s “devotion to his wife and family” – meaning Woodward and their three children – happened after he dumped his first wife Jackie Witte (and their three children), to marry Woodward, with whom Newman had been having an adulterous affair.

Apparently Newman also couldn’t help but think of that irony.  He reportedly agonized for years re the guilt he felt over ‘his shortcomings as a parent’ to the children from his failed first marriage, and he blamed that guilt in part for the drug overdose death of his son, Scott.    [4] 

I’ve only watched the first two of six episodes of the HBO series, and thus don’t know how much the series deals with Newman’s first marriage.  Hey, I’m glad Newman and Woodward had a happy alliance, despite their relationship’s less-than-honorable origins.  But whenever I hear that legendary quote from Newman – the quote so admired and applauded by many people as an exemplar of witty romanticism – I wonder what Jackie Witte felt when she first heard it?

“Why go out for a hamburger when you have steak at home?”

I can imagine it felt like a sledgehammer in the gut.  So, Witte was the (original)  hamburger Newman left in order to be with the steak?

BTW, re the hamburger-steak comparison:  as a plant-based eater, I find no hierarchy in that metaphor.  They’re both just dead meat to me.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department Of Thar She Blows

Two weekends ago MH and I, along with son K, visited daughter Belle in Tacoma.  Belle had arranged for the four of us to go on a whale-watching trip in the Puget Sound.  It was delightful afternoon, and not just because we spent the afternoon on a boat in the Sound during a heat wave.  Even the veteran crew of the boat got excited when we spotted and the transient orca pod T37, which approached our boat and (unintentionally) put on quite the show for us.   [5]    We got to observe hunting and feeding behavior of the majestic orcas, as the pod chased and caught a very unfortunate harbor seal who’d ventured too far from shore.  I heard another boat passenger make some comment about how fortunate we were to get to see “killer whales making a kill,” and I wanted to smack him upside his head with the pectoral fins I don’t have.

 

 

Moiself  objects to the use of the term killer whale when it is applied to orcas.  First of all, orcas are not actually whales; rather, they are the largest member of the dolphin family.  They, like Flipper and other dolphins, are carnivores.  Other animal’s names are not tied to such a pejorative suffix – lions and tigers and bears and weasels and eagles are not referred to as “Killer” lions/tigers/bears/weasels/eagles, despite the fact that, as carnivores, they must kill and eat other animals to survive.

“Paul Spong, a researcher who runs OrcaLab from Hanson Island in B.C., says he finds the name killer whale ‘rather unfair to a creature that deserves and lives a peaceful lifestyle.
Killer whales has that flavour that they’re somehow vicious animals that are a danger to humans,” he said. ‘I just happen to think that using a more neutral term is better.’.
Despite what the 1977 sea-monster film Orca: The Killer Whale might show, there have been no documented cases of orcas killing humans in the wild….
and they are highly social creatures that show almost human-like emotions, such as when southern resident J35 carried its dead calf for 17 days before finally letting go.

( “Why are orcas called killer whales?  They’re the apex predators of the sea, but many feel their long-used common name demonizes them.”  cba.ca )

Yeah, yeah, it’s word cop time.  Of course and ultimately, work for the orcas’ preservation and protection before arguing what nomenclature to use….  Still, words carry and impart meaning, and perhaps more people might be convinced to care about orcas and their vital role in their habitat – and their right to continue to exist – if the fear/revulsion-inducing *killer whale* moniker fell out of favor.

 

 

Once again, I digress.

We saw other wildlife as well on our whale– orca-watching trip, including harbor and elephant seals, herons and tufted puffins and bald eagles, on the shores of Protection Island Wildlife Refuge.  As our boat passed that island, I saw for the first time something I could only vaguely recall having heard about: a leucistic bald eagle.    [6]   “Lucy,” as I thought of her, had a very light, mottled pigmentation which made her blend in with the driftwood log upon which she’d perched, next to the standard issue bald eagle I was watching through binoculars.  Moiself  didn’t even notice Lucy until a part of the log suddenly took wing.  The boat photographer and staff and several avid birders aboard realized what they were seeing, and lost their proverbial shit.    [7]

 

 

 

 

One of the boat staff, the official photographer, was armed with a bazooka like camera-lens set up.  He took fantastic pictures of the whales, which he presented to the passengers in a slide show while our boat returned to port.  His shots had included dozens of rapid-fire close-ups of the orcas hunting the doomed seal – oh, the eyes of the hapless pinniped, when it realized it was toast!  That was painful to see, even as I acknowledged, hey, the seal is out in the water, hunting because it’s hungry, and so are the orcas.

The photographer  offered to transfer his photos of the trip to a thumb drive, for $50 for anyone who was interested.  Seeing as how the professional’s pix were so much better than our family’s cell phone snaps, MH asked me if he should go for it.  I gave him the okay, although, when MH was chatting with the photographer as the thumb drive was downloading the trip’s pictures, I approached the photographer, thanked him for his skill and commentary during the trip    [8]   and said that while I was in awe of his photographs, when reviewing them later I would probably skip watching the “seal snuff film” sequence.

I cannot display the photographer’s copyrighted photos here.  [9]   Belle had several shots which good – they are like teasers as to the beauty of seeing the orcas in their natural environment.   Here is one of my favorites of hers– featuring the T37 pod’s leader, the matriarch researchers have named “Volker.”

 

 

The day after our boat cruise, I went for an early morning walk.  Moiself  could hardly believe the timing of the Radiolab podcast I listened to as I trod the path which winds along the periphery of that salty-air scented Puget Sound estuary/harbor area in Tacoma known as Commencement Bay.

Despite its annoyingly sensationalist title, Radiolab’s “The humpback and the killer” was an excellent listen.  It reports on the fascinating observations made by marine mammal biologists around the world – scientists who, in recent years, have documented astounding, classic-explanation-defying interactions between humpback whales and orcas. If after listening to descriptions of these interactions you (still) harbor doubts that species other than homo sapiens can feel and demonstrate emotions and motivations such as altruism, or even revenge…then I don’t know what to do with you.

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Cetacean Edition

What do a pod of dolphins use to wash themselves?|
A multi-porpoise cleaner.

What is the favorite constellation of star-gazing whales?
The Big Flipper.

What is the best way to listen to the sounds a group of orcas makes?
Tune in to their podcast.

Why do male humpbacks have little-to-no hair?
They suffer from whale-pattern balding.

 

“It’s okay, honey, she told me she’d stop after four.”

 

*   *   *

May you warily weigh the costs and benefits of history’s so-called revolutions;
May you banish the term “killer whale” from your vocabulary;
May you respect your longtime partner enough to never compare them to cuts of beef;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] And for 30m, if you’ve ever had a reaction to a vaccination.

[2] Yuval Noah Harari is an Israeli historian, philosopher, author, lecturer, and professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

[3] How’s that for a modest title?

[4] “ ‘I’m guilty as hell – and I’ll carry it with me for ever.’ Paul Newman’s marriage secrets”: Shawn Levy, dailymail.com ; Newman felt personally responsible for (his troubled son’s) tragic drink and drugs death… The son Paul Newman lost to drugs – and the guilt he could never escape,” Shawn Levy, part 2 )

[5] Unintentional, as in, the orcas were just doing what they were doing, and we happened by.

[6] Leucism, a condition that partially prevents pigments from being deposited in a bird’s feathers, hair or skin, is rare, and is the result of a recessive gene which reduces the color-producing pigment melanin. It is related to but different from albinism

[7] I can see why these “blonde” bald eagle can confuse even veteran bird watchers, as they (usually) still have the bald eagle’s defined white head and tail, but the rest of the feathers are a much lighter hue than normal and are mottled, creating a “What the heck am I seeing? reaction – is it a bald eagle or some other strange species?

[8] He gave a running commentary of the history of the T37 pod we saw.  One look through his lens and he could identify the different members of the pod by, among other features, the distinctive markings of their dorsal fins.

[9] He offered them for our own personal/home viewing, not to post on any social media platforms.

The Good Ole Folks I’m Not Romanticizing

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

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

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

 Remember to call your billiards shots 

White cat in the side pocket.

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

Gee, ya think?

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

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

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

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

 *   *   *

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

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

*   *   *

Animal Enrichment

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

*   *   *

Department of Random

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

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

Just wondering.  Excuse me, wonderin’.

*   *   *

I Request a Moment of Respectful Silence

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

 

*   *   *

Department of Mixed Experiences

“We are never, ever coming back.”

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

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

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

 *   *   *

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

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

 *   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

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

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

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

[4] Her slave name is Robyn Parnell.

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

The SCOTUS Justices I’m Not (Yet) Assaulting

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Department Of Any Questions, Stupid Or Otherwise?

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

For now, consider this:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Applying Cognitive Behavioral Therapy To Moiself

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

And I am struck by a wave of gratitude.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

Once again, I digress.

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

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

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

 

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Marlboro Man Edition

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

What does Han Solo put in his cigarettes?
Chewbacco.

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Destiny I’m Not Fulfilling

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Department Of Podcast Feeds I’m Deleting

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

I…just…cannot….

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

* describe the scientific method to laypeople;

* illuminate critical and skeptical thinking;

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

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

 

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

*   *   *

Department Of Destiny, Schmestiny

And one more thing. 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

In other words, destiny is not destined.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Advice Of The Week

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

Check!

Happier!

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Happiness Edition

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

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

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

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

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

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

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

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

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

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

[6] This calls for another footnote.

The Russians I’m Not Absolving

1 Comment

Department Of Scapegoating

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Thanks For The Imagery

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

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

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

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

 

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

*    *   *

Department Of Dietary Motivations

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

 

 

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

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

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

LEVITT:
Woah. Uh-huh.

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Inquiring Minds Want To Know

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

Uh, yes.  Several spring to mind. 

Elsewhere Bialik has also claimed:

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

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

 

 

Ooooooookaaaaaaay.

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

“I actually am a lawyer.”

 

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

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Snake Oil Edition

Which snakes are best at mathematics?
Adders.

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

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

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

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

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

[2] as per her Wikipedia bio.  

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

[4] No snake footnotes here.

The Hotel I’m Not Bonking

Comments Off on The Hotel I’m Not Bonking

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Not Up To Their Previous Standards

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

*   *   *

Department Of How Other Journalists Are Getting It So Right

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of International Relations

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

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

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

Moiself:
Ahem, that’s, bokning.  [7]

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Swedish Edition

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

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

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

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

 

Mamma Mia, there she goes again.

 

*   *   *

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

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The FREE (All caps! Must be legit! ) Opportunity I’m Not Pursuing

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Department Of Sometimes The Blog Just Writes Itself

Dateline:  3-14 (Pi day).
First thing in the morning, moiself  receives this email (my emphases):

Hi Robyn!  My name is Raine    [1]
and I’m an Executive Assistant from Craniumz Magazine.   [2]

I came across your profile and find what you do both inspiring and in line with our topics and audience.

 

 

Excusez-moi for this diversion…I just can’t help but pause for a bullshit snort. What I do is so not in line with their “topics and audience.”

Back to the email:

We’re currently sourcing entrepreneurs for the opportunity to be registered as potential guest writers for free publicity opportunities, or to invite them as contributors for Craniumz Magazine. We’re also looking for inspiring coaches, leaders, and entrepreneurs who could be featured on The Craniumz Global Award List 2022 – a global list that will be released in June, and has featured names like Oprah Winfrey, Robin Sharma and Marisa Peer, to name a few.
Is any of this something you would be interested in being considered for?

Best regards, Raine Latte

 

 

OMG, my chance to have my name be somehow associated with Oprah’s!!  And two WTF  people I know nothing about!  I, of course, will drop everything, including common sense and any vestige of self-respect, to be exploited by have the honor of working with the Craniumz people who, according to their website, are a

“…Global Media Brand operated by ____  [3], a branding and digital media brand, with a focus on interviews, articles and information about business, mindset, innovation, leadership and lifestyles.”,

 

 

 

Holy bald-faced and obsequious ignorance. Indeed, if Ms. Raine came across my profile, she evidently didn’t follow it to/bother to check out my blog, which would clue her in as to how little I think of the concept of branding

 

 

Nevertheless, moiself  could not pass up the (FREE) opportunity to respond:

Hello Raine,
What is the compensation for guest writers
and/or contributors to Craniumz Magazine?
And if you came across my profile,
did you note that I am primarily a writer of fiction?
Curiously,
Robyn Parnell

The reply:

Hi
Great to hear from you. My first email serves as an invitation for you to be one of our potential Guest Writers.

Our Guest Writers get FREE access to opportunities that we have in the group such as free articles, podcast hosting, interviews and a chance to be on the list of awards – Craniumz 500 Global List & Global Award. Guest writers are encouraged to participate in the opportunities posted every week for them to get selected for free publicity. They may also opt to submit their proposed topic, quote or article through content@brainzmagazine.com. If the Content Team find it interesting and matched the theme for the month, they will surely approach you for information.

Hope this helps.  Best regards, Raine

 

 

I couldn’t just leave it at that:

Hi yourself.

Congratulations on your outstanding job of not answering my questions.
Since the proverbial picture paints a thousand (FREE) words,
I’ll express my opinion on this matter via the pictorial presentation of the artist/writer known as The Oatmeal:    [4]

 

*    *   *

Department Of How To Spot A Bot

I did not expect a response to the obvious disinterest – and inherent if not overt dis – contained in my last reply.  Yet the artist formerly known as Bot program pretending to be a human called Raine sent me one more oblivious/form reply:

“I’m happy to hear you’re interested!
If you have a spare minute now, it would be great if you could fill in your information in our contributor form, so that ____  [5] can review your details for the publicity opportunities. It’s just a couple of quick questions….

Once your information has been reviewed, you’ll receive an email within 24 hours with the headline ‘Publicity in Craniumz Magazine’ with instructions and information about the opportunities. (This email sometimes ends up in the spam folder, so don’t forget to check it’s not hiding in there!) 🙂

Just let me know when you’ve submitted, and I’ll try to speed up the process.
Looking forward to hopefully seeing more from you, as I think you would make a great addition to the Craniumz community! “

 

Except that, someone did.

 

*   *   *

Department Of St. Patrick’s Day Party Deferred

Dateline: Tuesday 3-17-20.  At 6 pm the dinner party, with ten people total,  [6]  had been scheduled to commence.   Anyone remember what else happened in mid-March,2020?

 

“I’ll take pandemics for $1000, Alex.”

 

I left the dining table as it was set – including moiself’s  lavish centerpiece (a very large – we’re talking four pounds – potato sporting a green crown) – for many months after, in hope, or defiance?   Come Autumn, when This Thing Looks Like It’s Going To Stick Around ® began to settle in my brain, I put away the plates and the cutlery, the napkins and the décor.  The centerpiece, by then, had begun to mutate, much like the virus which caused its dethronement.

 

She took away my crown, so I’m growing my own.

 

If I were to throw a party now, it would be one to celebrate the foreign troops’ withdrawal from Ukraine.  But seeing as how that Tin of Poo in charge of the Russian kleptocracy has an ego as large and skin as thin as those of our own #45…well, odds are he’s not going to leave quietly, ya know?

Moiself  is not hopeful for either a quick or peaceful resolution to the mess the Russians have made in the Ukraine.  I dread what Putin’s nose-thumbing, ass-licking, face-saving strategies could ultimately entail.  But in my dreams, all things are possible:

 

“Oops, my bad!  We’re leaving now.”

 

In the meantime, in an action about as effective in the long (or short) run as saying to the Ukrainians, “I’ll pray for you,” I’ve done the bare minimum to keep up the consciousness in my ‘hood.

 

 

And I hope readers, if you haven’t done so already, will join me in checking Charity Navigator    [7]   for an above-board relief organization to aid the Ukrainians, and make a contribution.  CN currently lists thirty-five organizations funneling relief aid to “The Ukrainian-Russian Crisis.”  The organizations are grouped under the following headings:  Medical Services; Medical Supplies; Non-Medical Supplies; Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH); Emergency Housing Long-Term Assistance; Other (inc. cash/cash vouchers, logistic supply, animals).    [8]

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department Of Nostalgia: Recalling My First Instruction In Deductive Reasoning

♫   Beans, Beans, the musical fruit
The more you eat; the more you toot
The more you toot, the better you feel
So let’s have beans for every meal!   ♫

 

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Musical Fruit Edition

Why did everyone notice when Bill Gates farted in the Apple store?
Because the store didn’t have any Windows.

I didn’t pass gas in front of my husband until we got married.
His family wasn’t impressed.

Life is so unfair – I just called the Flatulence Incontinence Hotline,
and the woman who answered said, “Can you hold, please?”

Why doesn’t Chuck Norris fart?
Because nothing escapes Chuck Norris.

When a clown farts, does it smell funny?

 

Clowns are NOT funny.

*   *   *

May you be entertained by bogus offers to link your name with Oprah’s;
May you appreciate your first lesson in deductive reasoning;
May you accept my belated slainté on behalf of March 17;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] A real person, according to the magazines website staff listing, (I checked), but not her real name…although I have a feeling she is a bot/creation.

[2] A supposedly real magazine (I checked), but not its real title.

[3] Some parent company headquartered in Sweden.

[4] The incomparable Matthew Inman.  Who, I imagine, would also not be impressed to be on a “global awards” list that may have once had Oprah’s name on it.

[5] Another ostensibly real person’s name, but likely not a Real Person ® .

[6] Including MH and I and son K.

[7] Charity Navigator is the world’s largest and probably best-known “nonprofit evaluator.” Itself a non-profit, CN analyses the integrity of a non-profit organization in financial terms, focusing on how much of contributed funds are used for the purpose(s) claimed by the charity, with an emphasis on the cost effectiveness (or impact) of the charity, its financial stability, adherence to best practices for accountability and transparency, and results reporting.

[8] Moiself  chose International Relief Teams, which has a “100%” rating from CN.

The Parties I’m Not Yet Hosting

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Department Of Getting This Out Of The Way

Since it would likely cause too much political turmoil for a legitimate government to engage in “regime change,” is it too much to suggest that some Russian patriots lay down their lives for A Greater Cause ® and take out their rapacious, rampaging, rat-faced ruler?

And while they’re at it, maybe they could do something about our own Tangerine Traitor?

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Just Can’t Help It

If the aforementioned Russian patriots found a way to grind their leader into a pâté and spread him atop a cracker, would that be Putin on the Ritz?

 

The preferred final resting place of despots worldwide.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Well You Didn’t Have To Agree So Damn Quickly

It happened.  Again.

Dateline: last week; later afternoon; grocery store;  picking up soy milk, olive oil, apples, avocadoes, lemons, garnet yams, and other items for dinner.  It is a blustery day; I have a coat and scarf, my usual wide brimmed rain-or-shine hat, and a mask of course, all of which left little of my face exposed.  The checkout cashier gives me a careful look as she picks up the bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from my basket.

Cashier (holding the bottle above the scanner, but not scanning it):
“May I see your ID?”

Moiself (pulling my mask up and my scarf down):
“Is this the neck of someone under 21 years old?”

Cashier (takes a look, scans my wine):
“Ha!”

 

 

*   *   *

 

Everyone take a deep breath. The frivolity will return after this important message.

 

*   *   *

 

Department Of If You’re Human, Please Read This

“In the throes of loss, people reach for certainty and control. My patient’s wife asked me what percentage of people as sick as her husband had survived and whether a risky therapy could promise life. I couldn’t offer her easy answers, only a willingness to stay and listen. Together, we wrestled with the burn of uncertainty. She shared photos of her husband over Zoom. They had sailed and cooked and taken selfies on the beach. Her photos said what words couldn’t. This is the person I have lost.

Earlier in my career, looking closely at this particular kind of pain was as blinding as looking at the sun. I distracted myself afterward with S.N.L. marathons and slabs of chocolate cake. Eventually, I realized that it wasn’t my job to protect people from their grief or to solve it.

I have learned to look when I want to look away.
I have chosen to stay when I’d prefer to run out of the room and cry. The prelude to compassion is the willingness to see.”

(Dr. Sunita Puri; my emphases)

 

 

If you’re over age twenty and live alone on a desert island, perhaps you have not yet had that choice – to stay, or run out of the room and cry.  Perhaps you have not yet had to grieve that inevitable, most human of losses: the death of a loved one.  For the rest of us, I recommend this essay:

We Must Learn to Look at Grief, Even When We Want to Run Away.

This brief, down-to-earth yet stunningly profound guest essay appeared last week in the NY Times.  Written by Dr. Sunita Puri, the essay begins with the story of a patient dying from COVID-19, and Dr. Puri’s relationship with the patient’s wife. The insights imparted by Dr. Puri, who is a palliative medicine physician, go beyond any particular diagnosis.

“I don’t believe in ‘moving on’ and ‘finding closure.’ This language distills the messy complexity of grief into tidy sound bites and asks people to leave something behind, bury it or lock it away. The challenge for my patients and their families is the challenge for all of us: Can we instead move forward with grief?
Can we find a way to integrate loss into life, to carry it with us? Can we feel tragedy together, without an artificial line between those who are ready to move on and those who can’t see a way out?”

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

 

Department Of The Ghost Of Potlucks Past

As we near the end of mandatory indoor masking regulations, moiself  is thinking of the gradual return of social gatherings.  For our family such events will be small, at first…which has got me to daydreaming about our parties of yore.

We (MH and I, and offspring K and Belle, when they were still in the nest) used to host potluck dinners for family/neighbors/friends.  On a semi-regular basis (every 6 months to a year) we could host twenty to thirty people to feast and frolic.

The potlucks were themed; guests were asked to bring a dish having something to do with the theme.  There are some parties whose themes moiself  can’t recall and whose invitations I didn’t save (DAMN!); others, I will never forget.

Here is a sample of the themes, plus a brief description of what kind of foods/dishes guests were asked to bring. 

 

 

 

* Cusina Obscura
(foods of the “minor” or lesser known countries and/or cuisines, instead of the usual dining out suspects {Italian; French, Thai; Mexican. For example, find/make something Burmese instead of Chinese; Finnish instead of Swedish; Samoan instead of Hawaiian;) Uruguyan instead of Brazilian….)   [1]

* White Trash Food
(food you at one time liked and ate but now might be ashamed to admit it; e.g., a Wonder Bread mayo potato chip sandwich.  Basically, this gathering was a haute cuisine nightmare…and judging from the guests’ feedback, one of our most popular themes.
Our party’s centerpiece was a bottle of Pepto Bismol.   [2]  )

* The Dung Beetle Café
(food items must be round, or “rollable”)  [3]

*  All Things “P” Party
(all foods/dishes must have a word/ingredient beginning with the letter P)

* Better Red Than Dead
(food must be…wait for it…red. In some capacity.    [4])

 * Halfway to the Holidays
(party held in June; bring a dish which, to you, fairly screams fal-la-la-la-la/ yule/Christmas/Solstice whatever winter holiday you celebrate)

* PuPu Potluck
(as in the Hawaiian pupu platters – an all appetizer foods potluck )

* The Next Party
(inspired by a regular potluck party guest, who, when he encountered me at the grocery store or some public arena, asked,
“Isn’t it time for your next party?”   [5] )

 

 

Our friend BW, a regular potluck guest and gourmet chef with quite the cookbook collection, “gifted” us with this cookbook – along with a platter of the adore-mentioned potato chip sandwiches – when he attended our WT Foods party.

 

 

Here is a variant of our “standard” potluck party invitation (All Things “P” Party):

Potluck; Parsnips; Pickled peppers; Pasta; Peanuts; Pizza; Pesto
Pomegranate; Party; Porcini; Pirates; Parmigiano….

Do you pick up a pattern?  Perceptive person (or plural) that you are, you are invited to help us celebrate the glorious 16th letter of the alphabet by attending our
All Things “P” Potluck Party
Saturday October 7, 6:30 pm

Celebrate your culinary P-osity by bringing a dish to share with fellow potluck partakers.  This may be just the occasion you were looking for to dust off that recipe for Paprika Plum Pudding or Peruvian Pork Patties, or Papa’s favorite Purée of Prunes & Peas.

Your lovely and talented hosts will provide their usual combination of:
* joi de vivre and schadenfreude;
* plates, napkins, and tableware;
* restrooms sanitized for your protection;
* a motley assortment of leaded and unleaded beverages
(including Pepto Bismol for the prunes & peas partakers).

And yes, there will be Prizes awarded.  For…something.    [6]  

Here are just a few of the fabulous people who will  (not)  be attending the potluck:

-Monty Python’s Michael Palin
-Pancho Villa
-Dolly Parton
-Regis Philbin
-Sydney Poitier
-Plato
-Pandora
-Jean Luc Picard, Captain, USS Enterprise
-Emily Post
-Pocahontas
-Pongo the wonder chimp (Cheetah’s stunt double from the original “Tarzan” movies)

RSVP to _______.  Directions to our house, potluck suggestions, and personal hygiene tips will be provided upon request.

 

Actually, we were relieved Ms. Post could not attend the gathering, as we’d heard she was somewhat of a party pooper.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Dinner Party Edition

Where does a baseball catcher sit at a dinner party?
Behind the plate.

I was so happy when son stopped chewing on his boogers at dinnertime.
He’s no longer a picky eater.

I invited a couple of Vikings to dinner, and they kept tapping on the table and laughing.
When I finally asked what was so funny, they said,
“You wouldn’t get it; it’s Norse code.”

My husband was mortified when I mentioned his underwear at a dinner party.
It was a brief conversation.

My cannibal neighbor showed up two hours late to my dinner party.
I gave him the cold shoulder.

 

Can we please extend cancel culture to cannibal jokes?

 

*   *   *

 

May you enjoy a gradual return to social gatherings;
May you learn to look at grief, even when you’d rather run away;
May being the subject of bad puns someday be enough
to depose Russian war criminals;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] Our friend’s young adult son brought live meal worms to this event, which he sautéed, on a pan on our stove, in garlic and olive oil.  Not every guest was game;  I tried them  (after my third glass of champagne).

[2] This theme was inspired by a “white trash dinner” contest a group of fellow dormies and I had in college, one night when we were bored and looking for an excuse not to do homework.  (the one Native American, one Black, and one Philipino dormies in attendance asked for special dispensation for their contest entries to be considered White Trash ® ).  We shared stories of foods our respective families served, a dish which we’d grown up eating, but which embarrassed and/or horrified us to think of it now.  Then we all voted on which was “best” (read: worst).  My entry was my family’s fried Spam slices topped with Velveeta.  Guess who won that contest?

[3] Motivation for this theme came via a dinner I made which my offspring thought was too challenging to their palates (think of Thai curry when they wanted pizza), which led me into a good humored tirade about how, when I was a kid, I loved the opportunity to try new foods…and that they were lucky to have me for a mom:  “If I were a mother wolf I would be regurgitating your dinner for you…or, what if we were a family of dung beetles, and night after night it was the same thing:  ‘Hey mom what’s for dinner?  Oh, boy, dung balls again!’  “

[4] Surprisingly, we did *not* get 15 dishes featuring tomato sauce.  People used their imagination: red beans & rice; beet juice risotto; Red Hot Chili Pepper layer cake…. and our fear that we might end up dining on nothing but cabernet and ketchup was for naught.

[5] But I can’t remember what the food theme was.

[6] We usually had potluck party guests take a quiz, which I prepared, containing multiple choice questions having something (widely interpreted) to do with the party’s theme.  Prizes were given out for the high (and low) scorers.

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