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The Dream I’m Not Living

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Department Of The Words I Never Thought I’d Want To Say to George Takei:

 

 

Or at least, George, you’re acting like one.

From common folk to Star Trek nerds fans, most sentient US citizens know about William Shatner’s ride into space last week.  Many of us in the latter category (ST nerds) also know about the long-standing feud between Shatner and his ST:TOS co-star, George Takei.  A brief summary of the childish spat:

Takei  [1]  has long held grudges about Shatner. The former Lt. Sulu has told stories which revolve around his perceptions that Shatner was a self-centered ham,  [2]  and that Takei and other supporting cast members resented playing second fiddle(s) on the show. Over the years and in his biography (which moiself  has read) Takei has presented a plethora of mostly petty incidents justifying (in Takei’s opinion) his resentment of Shatner.  Many of the stories ring true; however, IMHO, they are hardly relevant to the present moment.  The series (and films) were over *thirty to fifty years* ago.

Here’s the thing: a second fiddle is what Takei was hired to play.  The Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy characters were the show’s triumvirate, and Shatner was hired as the star of the show – the captain of the USS Enterprise.  It is a tribute to the actors playing Uhura, Scotty, Sulu and Chekov, that they became so beloved, given their minor roles and the fact that, unlike Kirk, Spock and McCoy, their characters were *not* in every episode of the series.  Uhura, Scotty, Sulu and Chekov (and Yeoman Rand, Nurse Chapel, and others) – those roles were written and cast as *supporting* players.

 

 

But Takei (second fiddle row, far left, in the above picture) can’t seem to step out of his anti-gravity suit and rise above it all.

“William Shatner’s brief trip to outer space this week wasn’t the final frontier in his grudge match with former co-star George Takei…..Takei, who played Hikaru Sulu to Shatner’s Capt. James T. Kirk in the iconic TV series and films, fired the latest blast in the pair’s decades-long feud Wednesday. This time, he criticized the 90-year-old’s Wednesday flight aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space capsule, which gave Shatner the honor of being the oldest person to launch into space.

“He’s boldly going where other people have gone before,” Takei, 84, quipped…riffing on the series’ catchphrase (and a number of headlines about Shatner’s 10-minute voyage.)

Upon returning to Earth Wednesday, Shatner was moved to tears over the ‘profound experience’ Bezos gave him and was surveying ‘the enormity and the quickness and the suddenness of life and death.’

Takei put it more bluntly: ‘He’s a guinea pig,’ he said.  The outspoken actor and prolific Twitter user then threw even more shade at Shatner’s physical fitness and age.

‘Ninety years old and it’s important to find out what happens,’ he added, noting that Shatner’s advanced years will ‘show a great deal more on the wear and tear on the human body’ and that ‘he’ll be a good specimen to study’ — a specimen ‘that’s unfit.’ “
(“Beam him down, Scotty: George Takei isn’t impressed by
William Shatner’s space trip.”  LA Times 10-14-21 )

 

Sharpening your claws much, George?

 

Mr. Takei, I think you owe Mr. Shatner an apology.  Why did you feel the need to pitch snark?  Why is your opinion relevant at all – why should it matter what *you* think about *his* trip to space?  Your comments make you look petty, jealous, and attention-seeking.  Why not be gracious – if you have to say anything, why not wish him, or anyone in that situation, the best?

And the not-so-thinly-veiled fat jokes?

 

 

Mr. Takei, I’ve admired you for your advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ issues – even as you came to it very, very, very late in the game   [3] –  and your involvement in raising awareness re the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII.  That’s still and all good.  However, your advocacy for those or any other noble causes in no way gives you an impunity shield for acting like a dick.

Shatner, of course, fired back after being attacked. And in this case, I think Captain Kirk’s shade laser topped Lt. Sulu’s dick torpedo:

 

 

Mr. Takei, is this how you want to be remembered?  Yeah, Shatner is old (wow, thanks for pointing that out), but so are you. It’s likely that neither you nor Shatner will live very much longer.  What if Shatner died next week, and your ungenerous, uncalled for critique of his space ride turned out to be the last public words you’d spoken about him?

Your and Shatner’s combined ages are 174; your vindictive verbal volleying makes the figure seem more like 24.  Whiny juveniles, still bickering over who did what to whom on the playground ( Did not! Did so! ).

Get over it.  Please, grow up and shut up.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Living Someone Else’s Dream Life

Moiself  is continuing my commentary on the series of talks about the practice of Stoicism – “The Stoic Path,” by William B. Irvine – which I’ve been listening to, from Sam Harris’ “Waking Up” meditation app.

As I am learning, part of the stoic path toward emotional equanimity involves engaging in something called negative visualization, which I’ll deal with more in next week’s post.  Although the episode for my comments this week, “You are Living the Dream Life,” also utilizes a form of negative visualization.

Yep, that’s me – I’m living the dream life.

 

 

It’s strange for us to consider that we are living the dream life. The thing to realize is that we likely are…only, it’s someone else’s dream. The idea is to get us to appreciate what we have.  As I tried to periodically remind my offspring,  happiness/contentment comes *not* from getting what you want, but wanting what you get.

When we are in the midst of life’s everyday tribulations, from minor irritations (an overdue utility bill) to major events (a burst water pipe causes our house’s floor to collapse; our spouse develops a serious illness) it’s easy to snort at the idea that we should consider ourselves fortunate (“count our blessings”).  It’s easy to *not* consider the fact that someone, somewhere around the world (possibly even in our own community) could look at what we might dramatically think of as our nightmare, and to them, it’s a dream.  We have a roof over our heads, an abundance of material possessions, indoor plumbing, antibiotics, and a palm-shaped device which helps us communicate with others, watch cat videos, and search the sum of human knowledge.

 

 

I’m certain that moiself  doesn’t fully understand the concept of negative visualization, because my first thought when I head the terms was, I don’t want to engage in this – I get enough of it from the daily news.   I don’t want appreciate what I have by imagining how things could be worse.  My “writer’s mind,” (imaging and trying out all possible scenarios of a story) already tends to go in that direction, thank you very much.  But, moiself  supposes, if negative visualization were done intentionally – as part of a meditative practice to give you perspective on present circumstances – it could be quite useful.

I was reminded of my own experience with living the dream – someone else’s:

Dateline: a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (late 1980s).  My housemate and I are living in a rented cottage, situated behind the landlord’s son’s house, in Palo Alto.  My bedroom is the slant-floored, enclosed (and un-insulated) back porch of what was originally constructed as a one-bedroom cottage.  The cottage’s kitchen (the kitchen closet, LP and I call it) literally cannot accommodate two people standing side by side.

 

Ours had a smaller yard but better siding.

 

My housemate is also my friend; we are both “foodies,” and regularly get together with another friend, PF, for theme dinners, which we take turns hosting.   [4]   On this night PF is hosting; she has chosen a date where her “roommates” are out.  For the past year PF has been living with her sister’s family (sister,  husband, two teenaged daughters), in one of the wealthiest of Bay Area suburbs (Atherton).  PF’s sister’s house, a large, craftsman-style, three story mansion filled with art and artifacts collected from her sister’s travels, is stunningly beautiful.  LP and I can barely hide our admiration – or control our drool – as we survey its spacious, well-appointed kitchen.

A couple of hours into our dinner, as we begin to clean up the kitchen, PF’s sister and her family return to their home (from whatever activity they’d been doing which got them out of the house and gave PF the chance to invite friends over).  PF introduces us to her sister’s family.  They are all beautiful people, strikingly attractive in both physique, visage, and personality.  PF later tells me (I had to ask) that Sister and Husband have a great relationship and truly are each other’s best friend.     [5]

Oh, really? That’s too bad so nice.

Petty, petty moiself  had hoped for a cliché, along the lines of, money can’t buy happiness.  I wanted to see that these are people who are rich in things, but miserable (or at least lacking) in their personal relationships.  Nope.  Looks like they got it all.

As LP and I help PF clean up our dinner dishes, I engage in friendly conversation with PF’s sister, who excuses herself after a few minutes to join her husband in their study.  She and her husband are going to plan their next vacation to Peru.

On our drive back to our cottage, LP and I engage in stunned conversation about what we’ve just seen: The Good Life ®, which we so obviously do not have.  I silently compare our friend’s sister’s evening activities with what awaits me when I return home: turning on the miniscule portable electric heater I purchased which (barely) keeps the container of hand lotion in my room from freezing.

LP and I begin listing everything PF’s sister has which we are lacking, followed by our mutual reassurances that, although we are not wealthy (and, in fact and especially in my case, barely making ends meet), “we are rich in love.”

“Could you believe that kitchen? They’re not even professional chefs.”

But, we are rich in love.

“And that bathroom, with the clawfoot tub, and the…”

Yep. We, however, are rich in love.

“And the view out the window, with their orchard and the hills and…”

We are rich in love.

“And they’ve been married over twenty years,
have two teenagers, and they look that good
and still banter and flirt with one another…”

LP begins to rattle off a list of our family and friends who value us, until moiself  feels compelled to point out the obvious:

“Yes, we have family and friends who value us; we are rich in love.
They, too, are rich in love…and, they’re rich.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Seasonal Scenery

It’s too beautiful a day to be inside and write; moiself  needs to get outside and kick through some leaves.  I suggest y’all do the same, right now.

 

 

Except, what if you’re living somewhere without quick access to the deciduous foliage show of autumn (like the above, which I can see out my window)?  Maybe you’re in the Southwest, and the plants surrounding you don’t have leaves.  Maybe the flora adjacent to your locale consists of chollas, saguaros, barrel cacti, prickly pears? 

Do cacti have any kind of seasonal shedding of their…uh, they don’t have leaves, so I guess it would be, their spines?

 

 

I’m trying to imagine that scenario:

Moiself  (or yourself), living in the Arizona desert, calling out to a friend:

“Would you look at that pile of spines underneath the saguaro grove?!  What a stunning panoply of…uh, browns and tans. Don’t you want to just wade through them, to get into the Fall spirit?

(kick kickOuch!
(kick kick) Yikes!
(kick kick shuffle shuffle) Oooh, that smarts!”

I suggest y’all do the same, right now.    It occurs to me that I’ve given you Southwestern and/or desert dwellers advice that you can’t follow.  Well, that’s what you get for living in a state where you have to steal other people’s water.    [6] 

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Rich People Edition

One hundred years ago everyone owned a horse, and only rich people had cars.
N
ow, everyone has a car and only rich people have horses.
My, how the stables have turned.

The genie asked, “What’s your first wish?”
Cathy exclaimed, “I wish I was rich!”
The genie said, “Okay; granted. What’s your second wish?”
Rich exclaimed, “I want lots of money!”

What do you call a rich European architect who goes bankrupt?
Baroque.

What do you call wealthy garbage men?
The Filthy Rich.

What do kind of nuts do rich people wear on their feet?
Cashews.

 

*   *   *

May you remember what it’s like to kick through a pile of autumn leaves;
May your dream of living the life you dream of living not be a dream;
May George Takei survive a successful surgery to remove the proverbial burr
from under his saddle of resentment;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] along with several of the ST:TOS supporting players

[2] Imagine, anyone saying that about an actor.

[3] Not until he was 68, and such a revelation couldn’t really harm his career.

[4] One of the themes was “Food you might  be embarrassed to admit you love.” I made my grandmother’s salmon loaf.

[5] PF did express some concern that her nieces were growing up not realizing what advantages they had and were taking their good life for granted.

[6] OOOOOH, throwing some shade down there.  I *do* have friends who are dear to me, who live in Arizona.

The Certain Color Of Shirt I’m Not Wearing

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Department Of Jeff Bezo’s Minions Do Not Know Star Trek: TOS Lore

As delighted as moiself  was to see that Captain Kirk ( William Shatner ) finally  [1]   got to go into space (via Wednesday’s Blue Origin spacecraft ), I was gobsmacked to view the pictures being posted online, of Shatner and his fellow Blue Origin crew members.  Shatner was wearing a yellow green shirt; the others wore red shirts.

 

 

Yes, red shirts.   [2]

This is a bad omen, moiself  thought to moiself, before my second thought kicked in:

This *has* to be a photoshopped joke.  And a good one, at that.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Artistic License

Dateline: Saturday mid-morning, hiking in the trails in the hills around the Portland Audubon Sanctuary with MH.  ‘Twas a beautiful day, with that combination of the evergreen fir and leaf-dropping deciduous scenery that seems unique to the Pacific Northwest.  We were pleasantly surprised to have the trail to ourselves.

After our hike I decided to appreciate the port-o-potty in the Audubon parking lot.   Moiself  had left my phone at home; thus, I had to prevail upon MH to take a picture of the drawing someone had done on the inside of the p-o-p door.

The picture, which MH and I dubbed Pizza Man, illustrates the importance of punctuation, and how the lack of it can lead to misunderstandings…or just mysteries.

 

 

Whaddya think? What message was the honeypot vandal artist trying to convey, armed with only his imagination and a black Sharpie ®?

Moiself can think of several possibilities, including:

*  Pizza Man is speaking as a god, who is apologizing for…something.  In which case it should read, “Sorry,” god;

* The artist is apologizing to his god, for having drawn a human face so strangely that it resembles a slice of pizza with eyes and a mouth;

* Pizza Man is the speaker – he is apologizing to his deity for what he has done or is about to do (in the outhouse, or elsewhere)?

* Pizza Man not actually a pizza, but someone who has disfigured himself by consuming so much pepperoni that the little greasy sausage rounds are sprouting on his face, and thus is apologizing to his god for his gluttony;

* The artist is apologizing to anyone who views his drawing and mistakenly thinks it is of a Pizza god.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Last Time

“For everything you do, there will be a last time you do it. This is a direct consequence of your mortality.  Because you will someday die, there will be a last time you tie your shoes, pay your taxes, and eat chocolate….

Sometimes people know they’re doing something for the last time. This is the case with the condemned prisoner eating his last meal. More commonly though, people do something without realizing this is the last time they will do it. They instead act on the assumption that they will do the thing again in the future, perhaps hundred of more times.

Along these lines, consider the last time you played hopscotch, the last time you made a phone call with a rotary phone…
Did you realize at the time that it was the last time that you would do those things?  Realize too that’s it’s possible you have eaten chocolate for the last time – I sincerely hope that this isn’t the case, but only time will tell.”
( excerpt from “The Last Time Meditation” )

 

“Like, I’m supposed to take a selfie with *this*?”

 

Can you remember the last time you ____

* wore a diaper instead of “big boy/big girl” pants?
* rode a tricycle when you were a child, before graduating to a two-wheeler bike?
* played hopscotch or tetherball on an elementary school playground?
* aced (or flunked) a high school test?
* told a joke to your (now deceased) grandparent?
* used a rotary telephone to make a call?
* used a typewriter (manual or electric) to type a school paper, or office memo?
* rented a DVD from Blockbuster?
* went to a huge, arena-style concert by your favorite rock band, whose
drummer later died after he choked on his own vomit
members are now either deceased or retired?
* copied a document from your computer onto a floppy disc?

And if you can remember, do you recall thinking, “Hey, what if this is the last time I _____ (ride a tricycle; tell a joke to Grandma….)?”

For the last year or so I’ve been using a meditation app developed by neuroscientist, philosopher, author Sam Harris. The Waking Up  app has a variety of features, including

* a short daily guided meditation (11 – 13 minutes duration)
*  a series of guided meditations on different subjects (Contemplative Action; The Spectrum of Awareness;
Consolations; Meditation for Children….)
* Q & As with Jack Kornfield and other meditation/mindfulness teachers;
*
 lessons on the fundamentals of meditation
* a simple meditation timer, which you can set for any length

When I use the app,    [3]   moiself  typically either listens the daily meditation, or does my own meditation with the app’s timer.  Earlier this week I scrolled through the app’s practices, and one title caught my eye:  a series of twenty-two short talks – “The Stoic Path, by William B. Irvine – on the philosophy and practical applications of stoicism.

 

 

Philosophy professor and author Irvine offers a modern take on stoicism, which we philosophy laypersons often misunderstand as per our limited experience with the subject (15 minutes on Marcus Aurelius in our Intro to Philosophy class, and we’re all experts).  If asked to picture or define a stoic I bet your first thought (along with moiself’s ) would be of a person who is so even-keeled as to be almost detached – someone seemingly unaffected by the downs – and ups – of life.

However, In the philosophical realm, a Stoic is someone who cultivates a world view wherein one’s personal ethics are informed by stoic virtues, logic, and understandings on the natural world.

 

“Please tell me the segue to rotary phones is just around the corner….”

 

I’m at the very beginning (day four) of the series, and am enjoying Irvine’s expositions.  He includes stories from his own personal and family life to illustrate how techniques of stoicism offer a road map  [4]  toward equanimity – by minimizing worry and focusing our mental and emotional efforts on what we can control, by learning how to deal with the inevitable “insults” of grief and loss, and aging, by putting into perspective the temporal and ultimately ephemeral temptations of power, fame and fortune.

Moiself  finds it quite interesting, and also an expanded take on somewhat familiar territory.  The virtues (translate: sound Life advice) espoused by stoicism remind me of Buddhist and mindfulness tenets – from what I’ve listened to so far, there is a good deal of common ground between them.  Check it out, if you’re interested.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things For Somebody Else To Do

OK, calling all one-panel cartoonists…or anyone who can draw better than I can.  [5]

While listening to The Last Time  moiself  got a picture in my head, of a scenario I thought might make a good comic strip:

A prison guard enters a Death Row prison cell. He places a food tray containing a traditional last meal – grilled steak, fried chicken, a loaded baked potato, and a double hot fudge sundae – in front of a prisoner who is scheduled for execution later that evening.
The prisoner waves off the tray with, “No thanks; I’m watching my cholesterol.”

You’re welcome.

 

This is how my artist’s rendition would turn out.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Musings Apropos Of Nothing

Speaking of getting all philosophical on your ass, I have many questions dealing with the Mysteries of Life ®.  This one is for musician Dave Grohl:

What are Foos?
And why do you devote your exceptional musical talents to fighting them?

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Deep Thoughts Continued
Division Of The Existential Crises Of Aging

Why is it that when you’re over age fifty people stop asking you what your favorite dinosaur is?

It’s like they don’t even care anymore.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Sentence I Never Thought I’d Be So Happy To Hear

“And if we’re lucky, tomorrow there’ll be dead bodies!”

See footnote   [6] for context.  Or, better yet, use your imagination.

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day
Philosophy Edition

How can you make a philosophy student leave your porch?
Just pay them for the pizza.  [7]

Did you hear about the monk who got a Ph.D. in existential philosophy?
You might say he was a deep friar.

Why can’t kleptomaniacs understand sarcastic philosophical jokes about themselves?
Because they take things literally.

Why is it unwise to place philosophy textbooks in front of a stallion?
Because you shouldn’t put Descartes before the horse.    [8]

 

*   *   *

 

May you uncover the mystery of Port-o-Potty Pizza Man;
May someone ask you what’s your favorite dinosaur;
May you never board a spacecraft manned by a crew of all Redshirts;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] He’s 90.  Really.

[2] Redshirt is a term used by fans of Star Trek to refer to the ST characters who wear red Starfleet uniforms – typically, security guards or other characters who are expendable, and often killed, after having utterred only a line or two of dialogue (or sometimes none at all).

[3] Not quite daily. I’ve other meditation apps which also have timers, guided sessions, ambient music….

[4]  Is that too dated of an analogy?  Maybe I should use, “GPS”?

[5] Which would be anyone who can hold a pencil in their hands. Son K has drawn some good comic strips over the years; maybe I should ask him.

[6] Uttered by the exterminator, whom I affectionately think of as “Rat Man,” as he was explaining how he would be baiting and setting the traps he’d laid in our house’s crawlspace and then returning next day to retrieve the results.  (The traps had been laid down several days ago, baited but not set – this lets the rats [that have invaded our crawlspace] get used to the traps and think that they are a safe source of yummy peanut butter).

[7] No footnote necessary here.

[8] I certainly can’t end this with #6 being the last footnote.

The Book I’m Not Recommending To Everyone

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What could be of the most help to you in a dangerous situation – pepper spray?  Martial arts proficiency? A concealed weapon permit?

Awareness is the most important aspect of self-defense.

How to recognize and harness our body’s intuition for danger – a sense we evolved to survive – is the subject of the book I am recommending to almost everybody.  Almost, because the book might be anxiety activating for people who’ve had recent experience with violent crimes.  Thus, my trigger warning.

 

 

But for the Almost Everybody Else, ®  I highly recommend the book moiself  finally got around to reading.

For years I’ve run across references and referrals to Gavin de Becker‘s The Gift of Fear: And Other Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence.  I’ve lost count of how many times various advice columnists, and journalists covering violent crimes, have recommended or cited it.  The book even got a mention in actor/comic/writer/producer Amy Poehler’s delightful 2014 memoir.  I can’t recall the exact context; I believe it had something to do with how when a woman answers a man’s question or request with “no” – in situations ranging from business negotiations to dating – the guy persists, as if she hadn’t answered him, and attempts to elicit the response he wants instead (read: he bullies and/or manipulates you):

“Gavin de Becker talks about this in his wonderful book The Gift Of Fear.
He talks about how the word ‘no’ should be the ‘end of discussion, not the beginning of a negotiation. ‘ ”
(Any Poehler, Yes Please )

 

 

Last week I read a letter from yet another advice seeker, writing to a columnist about a personal relationship problem, and asking something along the lines of, “I am very concerned…but am I overreacting?” Part of the advice the columnist gave was to trust your own instincts, and to learn how and why to do so, read The Gift of Fear.

No one in my life is threatening or gaslighting me; I haven’t been in a workplace shooting or walked into a 7-11 just as it is about to be robbed. However, I have been in dicey situations in the past, wherein trusting my gut reaction ( “something’s really wrong here” ) and paying attention kept me safe.  Statistically, as a human,   [1]   I am likely to encounter such situations again, be they personal (targeted and hassled by a stranger on public transit) or coincidental (walking into a mini-mart just as a robbery is about to take place).  So, I let this other person’s question be my own “trigger” for reading The Gift of Fear. And now,  I’m recommending it to *everybody.*   [2]  

 

 

Gavin de Becker is an American author and specialist in security issues and threat assessment.  He founded a private security firm and works as a consultant to everyone from governments, large corporations, public figures, and private individuals.  He was instrumental in developing the MOSAIC threat assessment systems, which evaluates threats in a variety of situations (e.g., threats in the workplace; threats by students against other students and/or school staff; threats against judges and other judicial officials; threats made to celebrities and public officials; stalking and domestic abuse).

The premise of GdB’s TGOF is that our (unfortunately, often discounted) intuition is a far better judge than our logical mind when it comes to recognizing and reacting to – and learning to anticipate and escape from as much as possible – dangerous situations.  Simply put, his aim is to teach you how to avoid people who will do you harm.

This intro is from the book’s blurb on Amazon (my emphasis):

True fear is a gift.
Unwarranted fear is a curse.
Learn how to tell the difference.

A date won’t take “no” for an answer. The new nanny gives a mother an uneasy feeling. A stranger in a deserted parking lot offers unsolicited help. The threat of violence surrounds us every day. But we can protect ourselves, by learning to trust—and act on—our gut instincts.

…this empowering book…shows you how to spot even subtle signs of danger—before it’s too late. Shattering the myth that most violent acts are unpredictable, de Becker…offers specific ways to protect yourself and those you love, including…how to act when approached by a stranger…when you should fear someone close to you…what to do if you are being stalked…how to uncover the source of anonymous threats or phone calls…and more. Learn to spot the danger signals others miss.

The world we live in can be dangerous, especially for women, whom, TGOF claims, evolved a higher sensitivity toward intuition – that is, picking up nonverbal cues –  than men. That skill was critical for our female homo sapiens ancestors to survive in a world where they were generally smaller and less muscular than men: they needed to quickly detect who around them was “safe” and who was a threat (to them, and to their children).

 

 

“It may be hard to accept its importance, because intuition is usually looked upon by us thoughtful Western beings with contempt.  It is often described as emotional, unreasonable, or inexplicable.  Husbands chide their wives about ‘feminine intuition’ and don’t take it seriously.  If intuition is used by a women to explain some choice she made or a concern she has, men roll their eyes and write it off…..
Americans worship logic, even when it’s wrong,
and deny intuition, even when it’s right….

Men, of course, have their own version of intuition –  not so light and inconsequential, they tell themselves, as that feminine stuff. Theirs is more viscerally named a ‘gut feeling,’ but it isn’t just a feeling. It (intuition; gut feeling) is a process more extraordinary and ultimately more logical in the natural order than the most fantastic computer calculation. It is our most complex cognitive process and at the same time the simplest.”
( TGOF Chapter 1: In The Presence of Danger )

“Intuition” or “a gut feeling” is your body’s and mind’s response to thousands of years evolution, of picking up on cues which alert you that something’s off.  GdB offers case studies of violent crimes, going through a step-by-step dissection of the situation with the survivors who said, regarding their feeling of impending doom, “I don’t know where it came from/it came from out of the blue.”  By asking specific questions, GdB helped them to see that their feeling of fear didn’t just come out of the blue; rather, their minds noticed an A-B-C-D list of aberrant or “off” behaviors, which their guts put together.

The Gift of Fear aims to teach you to listen to your instincts and heed them. Trust your gut; don’t suppress your intuition.  Don’t worry about hurting some stranger’s feelings or “being judgmental;” don’t endanger yourself to “be polite” – all of which are particular traps for women, who are socialized to “be nice” and “don’t make a fuss.”

Although many of the incidents recounted in TGOF are hair-raising, the book’s intent is not to scare you.  The message is:  Don’t be afraid; do be *aware.*

 

 

It’s not that GdB advises readers what clothing to wear or where not to go (although he cites taking common sense precautions, as in, should the businessman walking alone late at night through a dicey neighborhood known for strong arm robberies really be flashing his expensive Rolex?).  Rather, he presents ways where we can all learn to pay attention to the things we should be noticing, and offers strategies as to how we can choose to react.  His advice is not earth-shatteringly new, but it’s presented more succinctly and effectively than I recall seeing elsewhere.

So yeah, I really liked TGOF, even as moiself  recognizes the book’s knotty areas.

TGOF Problematical Issues:

* There is some dated material (including more than one mention of pay phones !?!).

* Some of his ideas may seem counter-intuitive and are likely controversial.  For example, he believes that not only do Protective [aka Restraining] Orders not help in most domestic violence/stalking situations, they are frequently the catalyst for escalating violence from the offender (GdB cites law enforcement data to back his opinion.)

* Much of the advice given is repetitive.  Seeing as how we’ve been trained to distrust or ignore our intuition, this is why (I think) he keeps repeating the salient points.

 

 

* A gender-related issue.  GdB is a strong ally for women – so much so that he has received some miffed feedback from men when he points out the prevalence of male violence.   [3]  Still, some of GdB’s advice re domestic violence situations might be taken as very subtle victim-blaming, even as he does acknowledge the reasons why a woman might not (be able to) choose to leave a violent home.

This is a judgement I moiself  struggle with. I am a strong believer in the wisdom behind the adage, “Fool me once; shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”  If I stay after a first violent encounter, am I not resigning myself to being the victim again?  GbD says as much.

However, he is also a long-time advocate for women, and in the partner-abuse cases he cites (the book is filled with case stories of and interviews with crime survivors), I truly believe his experience drives what could initially be seen as harsh – but is in fact is very good and even life-saving – advice.  He proceeds from the premise that all people, even abused women, are not just flotsam, and can be empowered:

“Though leaving is not an option that seems available to many battered women, I believe that the first time a woman is hit, she is a victim and the second time, she is a volunteer.
Invariably, after a television interview or speech in which I say this, I hear from people who feel I don’t understand the dynamic of battery, that I don’t understand the ‘syndrome.’ In fact, I have a deep and personal understanding of the syndrome,   [4]    but I never pass up an opportunity to make clear that staying is a choice.
Of those who argue that it isn’t, I ask: Is it a choice when a woman finally does leave, or is there some syndrome to explain leaving as if it too is involuntary? I believe it is critical for a women to view staying as a choice, for only then can leaving be viewed as a choice and an option.
( TGOF Chapter 10: Intimate Enemies [domestic violence].
GdB emphasis, my emphases )

 

 

Gdb also decries the disturbing scenarios we have about romance.  Our culture’s myths, literature, and stories told by TV shows and movies, have devolved into a formula (into a drug, I’d go so far to call it), which is marketed to both women and men as romantic. In this formula, a male’s aggressive behavior and stalking – so creepily and mistakenly labeled as “persistence” –  is rewarded and even celebrated:

“This Hollywood formula could be called Boy Wants Girl, Girl Doesn’t Want Boy, Boy Harasses Girl, Boy Gets Girl.

Many movies teach that if you just stay with it, even if you offend her, even if she says she wants nothing to do with you, even if you’ve treated her like trash (and sometimes because you’ve treated her like trash), you’ll get the girl…..

There’s a lesson in real-life stalking cases that young women can benefit from learning: persistence only proves persistence – it does not prove love.
The fact that a romantic pursuer is relentless doesn’t mean you are special – it means he is troubled.”

 ( TGOF Chapter 11: “I Was Trying to Let Him Down Easy” [Date stalking/violence] )

 

“This isn’t a movie; no means no.”

 

GdB tells many stories in TGOF, involving both institutions and individuals, wherein warning signs (re violence-prone people) were ignored, and tragedies followed.  Some of the stories can be hard to contemplate.  But, as the author emphasizes repeatedly, his aim is not to frighten, but to *enlighten.*  And he acknowledges that in almost all cases, from a manager ignoring signs that a worker was intent on shooting his officemates to an aggressive suitor who becomes a wife-beating husband,

“…the people involved….were doing the best they could with the tools they had at the time.  If they’d had the knowledge you (readers of the book) now have, I believe they’d have made different choices….
my observations are not about blame, but about education.”   [5]

 

 

*   *   *

Last Sunday eve, when I was just a few chapters into the book, son K joined MH and I for dinner.  I mentioned that moiself  was reading TGOF and could tell that I would likely be recommending it to all. We had interesting dinner table conversation centered around the most striking of what I consider to be the book’s problematic areas, which is:

* We (Americans) have a racially-directed fear response. How are we supposed to tell the difference between our systemic, racist social conditioning and our true, useful intuition?

Excuze-moi, but some truthfulness in narration is called for. We *could* have had an interesting conversation about those issues.  Ahem.  I began to relay GdB’s points about paying attention to fear and intuition, and in their zeal to point out something they’d both simultaneously thought of, MH and K interrupted me. They did not wait to see if moiself  was going to bring up the problem of instinct being mistaken for internalized racism (I was).  They also didn’t seem to notice that I had snapped at them (“Let me finish!”) before they astutely (in their minds) pointed out that problem with the gut-feeling-heeding.  It wasn’t exactly mansplaining;  it was…manterrupting?

 

 

Nevertheless….

What about the fact that our instincts and gut reactions might, in some cases, be based in prejudice and stereotypes?  What about the fact that police officers (of any background) often react to a gut feeling which tells them that a black man, no matter what he is doing ( just walking down the street or driving a car, FFS! ) is inherently more dangerous than a white man?

I told my menfolk that as I was reading the book moiself  too wondered about the gut feeling-racism issue.  Seeing as how I was just into the first few chapters, I was expecting GdB to address the issue later on.

Except that, he didn’t.

 

 

Study after study has shown that White Americans (both men and women) experience a gut fear response to the sight of Black men in certain situations. As a Criminal Justice major back in the day,  [6]  I encountered the statistics that African-American men commit more violent crime than White American men –  BUT – those statistics also showed that those same violent crimes are overwhelmingly directed at and experienced by other Black men, and that most violent crime is intra-, not inter-, racial.

I wasn’t sure if those statistics still held true.    [7]   Perhaps GdB can be excused for not addressing “race” on that basis: he was aware of the stats when he wrote the book, and since most violent acts are perpetrated by members of the same ethnic group as their victims, identifying a victim’s and/or perpetrator’s ethnicity was, in his mind, superfluous.

Or, perhaps I’m trying to rationalize GdB’s neglect of this issue and/or explain it to myself, other than to say that GdB himself just doesn’t know how to resolve the prejudice/instinct dilemma.  Regardless of why he didn’t do so, the two-ton, rainbow-colored, gender-inclusive elephant in the room is that most of us have a racially-motivated fear response. It would do us well to recognize that, when it comes to trusting our instincts. 

Having said that….in the heat of the moment, I’m likely to trust my instincts (this guy is giving off creepy vibes) regardless of skin color, and err on the side of offending someone/being called bigoted or other names.  Hey, better alive and insulted than dead but “woke.”  Still, it’s a crappy dilemma, a problem for which I’ve yet to read a good solution.  Someone much smarter and wiser than moiself  needs to figure out this shit.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Violent Crime Edition

Uh…maybe something totally unrelated is called for, to lighten this up.
Make that, Punz For The Day, Kitties and Pirates Edition

What’s a cat’s favorite color?
Purrple.

Why don’t pirates need to go on vacation?
They get all the arrr and arrr they need at work.

Why don’t felines do internet shopping?
They prefer catalogues.

What is a one-legged pirate’s favorite  restaurant?
IHOP.

 

Shiver me tim-purrs…and please don’t encourage her.

*   *   *

May you trust your gut feelings;
May you educate your mind and gut so that your instincts are trustworthy;
May you err on the side of keeping yourself from harm;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] And particularly, as a human *woman.*

[2] Keeping in mind your own capacity for being exposed to some frightening stories. And sorry for the crappy book jacket picture.

[3] Sorry, dudes, but the guy has the sad statistics on his side.

[4] de Becker survived a childhood which was filled with domestic abuse.  His unstable mother was abused by multiple husbands; she in turn threatened and abused her son, tried to shoot at least one of her abusive partners, and also turned the gun on her son.  GdB’s survival, due in part to the kind adults he credited with taking interest in and mentoring him, led to his interest in the field of recognizing threats and preventing violence.

[5] Chapter 9: “Occupational Hazards (Violence in the workplace).”

[6] A pre-law major who later decided against law school.  You’re welcome.

[7] I looked ’em up, and they do, as per the latest Department of Justice figures, compiled by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting and reported here.

The Movie I’m Not Seeing

Comments Off on The Movie I’m Not Seeing

Department Of How Did This Happen?

It’s October, y’all!

( design from The Brights logo )

*   *   *

Department Of A Reason To Rejoice:

Mary Roach has another book out.

 

 

“Join ‘America’s funniest science writer’…on an irresistible investigation into the unpredictable world where wildlife and humans meet.
What’s to be done about a jaywalking moose? A bear caught breaking and entering? A murderous tree?…. as New York Times best-selling author Mary Roach discovers, the answers are best found…in the curious science of human-wildlife conflict, a discipline at the crossroads of human behavior and wildlife biology.”
(excerpts from book blurb for “Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law” )

I just finished Fuzz, and now an armed with a plethora of animal-human encounter trivia with which to annoy entertain friends and family.  Previous books by Roach (which I have read and highly recommend) include

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers;

Gulp: Adventures On The Alimentary Canal;

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife;

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex;

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void.   [1]

The thing about Roach: not only is her writing informative, amusing and accessible, even her footnotes are thought-provokingly droll.  One of my favorites in Fuzz is re “Compound W,” which was a code name used for ricin   [2]  during WWII by the National Defense Research Committee, which was doing experiments in a quest for new rat poisons.  [3] 

“Did the makers of the wart-removal product Compound W realize this when they named their product? I don’t know, because Prestige Brands, which owns Compound W, doesn’t return calls, their online media query form is a dead-end, and they’re not on Twitter.
But while we’re on the topic of inappropriate names, let’s consider “Prestige Brands.”  Because here are some more of their prestige brands: Fleet enemas, Nix for lice, Beano for flatulence, URISTAT, Nōstrilla decongestant, Summer’s Eve douche, Boil-Ease, Efferdent denture cleaner, and Boudreaux’s Butt Paste.”
(footnote from Chapter 8, “The Terror Beans: The Legume as Accomplice To Murder,”
( Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law )

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Can You Guess Who Is The Diplomat In My Family?

Last week a cousin of MH’s sent an email to MH’s extended family, to suss out interest in a family reunion the cousin is organizing for Spring 2022.  MH’s cousin wrote that recipients of the email should feel free to ask questions, make comments, etc.

This cousin is a Good Person. ® The location for the reunion he’s planning is his town of residence, a city widely known as the most liberal in the state.  However, the state is Texass.  Thanks in part to my recent blog post, y’all know how moiself  feels about that.

MH’s and my reactions were similar.  Here is mine, which I shared only with MH:

I will attend nothing held in Texas….
Please feel free to pass that along – even the more liberal residents in Austin need to know what Texas voter suppression and anti-reproductive choice policies are costing them (yeah, like our family not coming is a *big* loss to their tourism, but still….).

I also suggested to MH that, since the reunion organizer requested feedback, MH share his opinion.  And he did, succinctly and eloquently:

This is probably not what you meant when you included the word “comment,” but while I would enjoy seeing all of you, I’m currently not of a mind to spend my time or money in Texas.
I know that Governor Abbott and the state legislators won’t care that I find their actions repugnant enough to avoid the state… but I will.

Miss Tammy Wynette her-own-self couldn’t have been prouder of her man than I was of MH, when I read his reply.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Movie I’m Deliberating Seeing

The Eyes of Tammy Faye.  It’s about the rise and fall of televangelists Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker, and their religious broadcasting empire, in the 1970s-80s.

Those of you us who are old enough may remember how Tammy Faye became a cultural “thing” (and also, in a delightful twist as per religious conservatives’ antipathy to LGBTQ folk, an icon to drag queens), due in part to her liberal (sorry) use of eye cosmetics.

 

 

Here’s the thing: I’ve enjoyed the work of the movie’s two lead actors, Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen either of them give less than a terrific performance, which I can also say about another actor in the movie, Vincent D’Onofrio, who plays Jerry Falwell.

Here’s the second thing.

 

 

Does moiself  really want to spend two hours with those characters? As in, the people…

*  who are responsible for getting the Religious Right in bed with conservative politics?

* who preached against the supposed immorality of others while they themselves were embroiled in sexual and financial scandals, robbing their supporters blind and demonizing ethnic, sexual and gender minority groups in order to spread fear and ratchet up their quest for donations?

* who included the Bakkers’ fellow carnival barking snake oil salesmen televangelists:

* Jimmy Swaggart

(Moiself’s  favorite Swaggartism: “The Lord told me it’s flat none of your business,” Swaggart said, when confronted with evidence of his dalliance with prostitutes, despite Swaggart having exposed the extramarital affairs of a fellow Assembly of God minister, which led to that minister being defrocked   [4]    )

*  Jerry Fallwell,    [5]

(a mere sampling of Fallwell’s decades of WTF?!? pronouncements include,
* “AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals; it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.”
* “The true Negro does not want integration… He realizes his potential is far better among his own race.”
* “If you’re not a born-again Christian, you’re a failure as a human being.”
* “The National Organization of Women is the National Organization of witches.”)

* Pat Robertson

(* “The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”
* ” You’ve got a couple of same-sex guys kissing, do you “like” that? Well, that makes me want to throw up. To me, I would punch ‘vomit’ not ‘like,’ but they don’t give you that option on Facebook.”
* “So, can demonic spirits attach themselves to inanimate objects? The answer is yes. But I don’t think every sweater you get from Goodwill has demons in it…but it isn’t going to hurt you to rebuke any spirits that happen to have attached themselves to those clothes.”
* “Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, so liberal America is now doing to the evangelical Christians! It’s no different! It is the same thing! It is happening all over again! It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-based media and the homosexuals who want to destroy the Christians! Wholesale abuse and discrimination and the worst bigotry directed toward any group in America today! More terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history! … And it is happening here and now! Same thing, but directed against Christians by the liberal government and media! Send money today or these liberals will be putting Christians like you and me in concentration camps!”  [6]  )

 

 

Deliberation over.

Hell, that was easy.  The answer to Thing Two is a resounding, fuck no.

*   *   *

Department Of Cancel Culture Cookbooks

My latest cookbook acquisition: Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*ck.

 

 

I’d read a recommendation for the cookbook in a plant-based cuisine magazine.  The cookbook takes its name from a food website – make that, *took* its name.

Reading through the book I found many recipes I was eager to try, and my sides were sore from laughing at how the authors had written the “potty mind” thoughts I often have when thinking or talking about food (or anything, for that matter).  When I googled the book to learn a bit more about Thug Kitchen,  moiself  discovered  (yet another) New Controversy ® about which I’d been previously unaware: digital blackface.

“Popular vegan cooking website ‘Thug Kitchen,’, which has published three vegan cookery books under the brand, has announced it has changed its name to Bad Manners following years of criticism. Bad Manners, which is run by its Los Angeles-based founders Matt Holloway and Michelle Davis, has stated that it will discontinue the use of ‘Thug Kitchen’ as the title of all of its previous cookbooks and aims ‘closely re-evaluate’ the content shared on its site.
The duo has relied heavily on their use of Black English and hip-hop vernacular in the captions of their posts and cookbooks, which has long drawn criticism from many who have accused them of ‘digital blackface’ and cultural appropriation.
‘Thug Kitchen’ first faced controversy after an interview published to promote their first cookbook revealed that Holloway and Davis were white, as many believed that the blog’s creator was a POC. Followers were under the assumption that the use of the term ‘thug,’ which is a racially charged term often used to portray Black males as violent criminals, was an attempt to reclaim the racially-charged word. In more recent years, the term has been reclaimed by hip-hop artists such Tupac, leading followers to believe the bloggers were trying to redefine the term to promote veganism to communities of colour.

( ” ‘Thug Kitchen’ rebrands following accusations of cultural appropriation and ‘digital blackface,’ ” veganfoodandliving.com  June 2020 )    [7]

 

 

Moiself  didn’t know (or care about) the background of the authors when I purchased the book.  I still don’t care what “color” they are;  I do have yet another opportunity to ponder That Thing ®, of taking a pejorative or “forbidden” word and modifying or elevating it (depending on your POV) by using it: e.g., Black rappers and comedians who use the n-word; women who affectionately call each other bitch.  Which got me to thinking: if the cookbook authors considered themselves to be badass women, would I object to them calling their book/website, Cunt Cookery?  [8]

“Not my chickens – not my circus.” That’s what friend CC might say, re this particular version of the brouhaha about who gets to use what terminologies AND who gets to be the police of such things.    [9]    What counts for moiself  is that the Thug Kitchen recipes are tasty and “doable.”  Also, the recipes’ text and descriptions are consistently (and profanely) amusing: 

“This captures the smoky flavor of a falafel without all the fucking work.”
(Spiced Chickpea wraps with tahini dressing)

“Pour all this shit together in a jar and shake the fuck out of it.
Taste and add more of whatever-the-fuck you think it needs.”
(Basic Thug Kitchen vinaigrette)

“Tired of boring-ass lettuce wraps? Try these crunchy fuckers out and remember why it’s fun to eat with your hands.”
(Yellow Split Pea and Green Onion Lettuce Wraps)

“This shit is a little complicated but well worth it. Make it when you’ve got people to
impress or when you’re really fucking lonely.”
(Mixed Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna)

“There are two kinds of people in this world: people who like enchiladas and people who
have no fucking taste.  Which are you?”
(Sweet Potato, Squash and Black Bean Enchiladas)

“Quit fucking with that tired-ass take-out. You can make better shit at home in no time.
Plus, you don’t have to put on pants to answer the door.”
(Vegetable Pad Thai)

 

 

Interesting note:  the book and its two companion cookbooks have been rebranded as Bad Manners.  The book with the original Thug Kitchen title, which I purchased a week ago new for $17.95, is going for $49 on Amazon.

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Cookbook Edition

After five years, I’ve finally finished my fresh herb cookbook.
It’s about thyme!

My other cookbook will have recipes for flatbreads and other unleavened bake goods.
I’m taking the path of yeast resistance.

The members of Aerosmith recently wrote a Chinese cookbook.
It’s titled, Wok This Way.

 

*   *   *

May you cook and eat like you give a f*ck;
May you be the diplomat in your family;
May you read at least one Mary Roach book this year;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] The last which proves that she is capable of coming up with primary book titles of more than one word.

[2] A poison found in the beans of the castor oil plant.

[3] During the war rats were “sabotaging factories, destroying food needed for our allies, and spreading disease among our armed forces.”

[4] A great word, isn’t it? I think all religious ordination rites should be referred to as “Frocking.”

[5]  Fallwell had the audacity of fronting the group he called The Moral Majority, which, as critics pointed out, was neither.

[6] This and more filth fun can be referenced at Pat Robertson’s Wikiquote page.

[7] CC’s farmer-husband has a yearly chicken circus.  I’ve seen the tents.

[8] Well, in this case, yeah.

[9] Such issues ( who “owns” language, thoughts, and ideas) are of keen interest to moiself, as regular readers of this blog know well.

The Binary Thoughts I’m Not Thinking

2 Comments

 

Department Of I’ve Told You Before, I Can’t Make This Up This Shit

“Michael Flynn, the former national security advisor under Donald Trump, claimed during an appearance on a conservative radio program that COVID vaccines were being added to salad dressing….
‘Somebody sent me a thing this morning where they’re talking about putting the vaccine in salad dressing…..’ said Flynn.
‘These people are seriously thinking about how to impose their will on us in our society and it has to stop,’ he added. “

( “Michael Flynn claims salad dressing is being infused with COVID vaccine,”
The National Post, 9-23-21 )

 

With the right vinaigrette, I could RULE THE WORLD !!

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Blast From The Past

Fortunately, I don’t need a really big time machine to go back only two years…

 

 

…to December 2019, when I first blogged about the yogic tradition of performing 108 sun salutations to mark the change of the season (solstices and equinoxes):

Department Of If My Hamstring Muscles Are Still Sore After 36 Hours,
Have I Reached Enlightenment?

Yoga Class:
“Why 108 Sun Salutations?”

Yoga Teacher:
“It’s an auspicious number in yoga; I know 108 sounds like a lot…”

Moiself:
“That’s because it is.”

Last Sunday (12/22/19), to celebrate the winter solstice, my yoga studio held an “Om-a-thon,” which is what Someone In Charge Of Marketing ®  called an hour and a half class consisting of 108 Sun Salutations.  A sun salutation, for you non-yogis, is a yoga exercise incorporating a sequence of nine or more linked asanas, or yoga poses/postures. The asanas are linked by the breath – inhaling and exhaling with each movement – and Sun Salutations involve moving from a standing position into Downward and Upward Dog poses and then back to the standing position, with many variations and modifications.

Why 108? It’s apparently an auspicious number (in the parts of the world where yoga originated), for many reasons.  Non-woo reasons include the fact that the distance between the Sun and Earth is roughly 108 times the Sun’s diameter and ditto for the ratio of the moon’s diameter and the distance between the moon and earth – scientific realities not likely surmised when the originators of yoga decided 108 was a magic special number.

There are plenty of woo reasons for venerating the number 108, and the teacher leading the class mentioned a few of them: there are 108 Upanishads (a series of Hindu treatises ca. 800–200 BCE); there are 108 beads in a mala (a meditation tool, an idea early Christian/Catholic missionaries stole “adapted”  from the Hinduism & Buddhism, and morphed into the Catholic rosary beads    [1]     ); there are nine planets and twelve astrological signs, and 9 x 12 = 108   [2]….

Oh, and most significantly of all, a Uno deck contains 108 cards. That’s gotta be a sign.

҉       ҉      ҉


That was then; this is now.  On Wednesday I celebrated the Autumnal Equinox by doing 108 Sun Salutations at home.  How does one keep count, inquiring minds want to know?  Moiself  has a glass bowl, containing 108 small, smooth glass beads, which I keep on the dining room table. Four times a year, when I’m doing the 108 Sun Salutations (Winter Solstice; Vernal Equinox; Summer Solstice/ Autumnal Equinox) I dump out the bowl in front of my yoga mat.  At the end of each sun salutation I move one bead into the bowl.

 

 

This year I decided to do 109 sun salutations, adding my avatar (visible in the above picture) to the bead count.  It just felt like the right thing to do, and if we’re going for auspicious numbers and all, 109 is a prime.    [3]

*   *   *

Department Of Is This Either/Or…On Or Off?

Dateline: Saturday 7 am-ish, walking along a totally deserted beach – deserted in terms of fellow bipeds.  There is a light rain falling, a welcome change after a previous night’s wind/raid downpour/power outage.  Leaving the house, moiself  noticed the wind had skejewed my yard sign, which I straightened up before heading down to the beach.

I mention the yard sign because the podcast I was listening to reminded me of the sign, in a way the podcast host and producers likely didn’t intend (nor would care about, I’d imagine).  Moiself,  however, found it a fun coincidence.

The podcast, No Stupid Questions (co-hosted by research psychologist Angela Duckworth [author of Grit]  and Stephen Dubner [co-author of the Freakonomics books and host of the Freakonomics podcast] ), is one I’ve mentioned several times in this space.  This episode of NSQ, “How Can You Escape Binary Thinking?”,  made me smile from the moment I heard the title.

 

 

Angela Duckworth:
“One of my life goals is to help people *not* binarize so much…. It turns out that for almost everything that psychologists study, including things that seem categorical, they really are continuous…and you do have to, at the end of the day, either allocate a therapist for this person or not, based on a diagnosis, but if we all *knew* that the underlying phenomena were continuous for *most* things, in psychology and maybe most things in life, that would be an advance.”

Stephen Dubner:
“Plainly, there is value in binary thinking. Literally, the fundamental building block of computing, as far as I understand it, is the bit, which is short for binary digit, which is either a zero or a one, and the reason that’s useful is that it makes it easier to do huge computation, which means you require less circuitry, less cooling, things can be smaller, things can be cheaper…

AD:
“It’s a massive data compression.”

SD:
“Yeah! So, it is a heuristic for computers, but I’d like to think maybe this is one way we could be better than computers, is not having to compress.  On the other hand, I am a fan of what I believe is called, generally, categorical thinking.  I just want more categories than two….

(excerpts from NSQ episode cited above)

Although I concede its utility in certain areas, I’m not a fan of binary thinking.    [4]   The yard sign I’d previously mentioned was a product of my distaste for that kind of thought.

 

 

An employee of the sign shop where I had my yard sign designed and printed asked me if I was critiquing “those other yard signs.”  I told him that my sign was 95% just for the fun of it…and, yeah, maybe, 5% satirizing “those others:”

 

One “The Others” variant

 

I agree with most of the sentiments expressed by the variants of Those Other Signs ® …but not all of them.  There are so many complexities and nuances to the positions alluded to in various versions of Those Other Signs ® I’ve seen.  In an ideal world, I’d hope that if my neighbors wanted to know my thoughts on certain issues, instead of having to read my lawn signage and extrapolate from there, they’d ask me, and we’d have a thoughtful and civil discussion about it.

 

Yep; happens all the time.

 

For example, as per illegal/undocumented immigration.  A line like, “No Human Is illegal” is a form of data compression.  No human is illegal – what does a particular person mean, when they say or write that?  Certainly, it is a pejorative to refer to a person as illegal – is that what they are objecting to – the un-charitableness of referring to a person as “an illegal?”  Also, and just as certainly, some people do things that are illegal, including violating the immigration laws of a country.  So, what is it that the no human is illegal line is conveying or signaling to others – your position on immigration, or your concern with word choice when referring to a person who is in a country unlawfully?

Binary thinking; data compression. I didn’t have the words for it when I was younger, but the first time moiself  ran across these terms I thought, *That’s* why I never felt at home a political party – the world is so much more complex than left and right.

Alas, binary thinking/data compression seems to be the norm for politics.  “You either agree with all of these things (insert your political checklist and/or party platform) or you’re not with us,” or, expressed in another way, “You must *disagree* with *everything* promoted by The Other Side ®, or you’re not with us.”

Zero or one; on or off. Data compression is great for computing, but can be disastrous for human relations. Very few people are completely ‘”on or off,” “this or that,” as per anything. To think otherwise is to opt for the safety of categorization versus risking seeing (and dealing with) complexity.

Lest y’all think I am perfectly consistent on avoiding the pitfalls of binary thinking…

 

 

…I recognize that moiself  has my own litmus tests when it comes to certain issues. I’ve had some interesting discussions with a few people who’ve called themselves feminists but who are also anti-reproductive choice – as in, not only do they say that they personally would not have an abortion under any circumstances, they would go further and deny the choice for others.   [5]   I have not decreed to them that an anti-choice feminist isn’t actually a feminist, as I am not the boss of that word.   [6]    I have presented my take on the matter:  people make decisions all the time, about matters trivial and momentous – decisions that I sometimes don’t like or vehemently oppose.  This is part of living in a pluralistic society.  But when it comes to this particular issue, I’ll go all binary on your ass:  you either support a person’s bodily autonomy, or you don’t. 

*   *   *

Department Of What I’m Listening To…
(Sub-department Of Not That You Care….)

This would be Lindsey Buckingham’s new, self-titled album.

I mistakenly watched a rerun of a recent Stephen Colbert show where Buckingham was the musical guest – the “mistakenly part was watching the show right before bedtime.  The energy of the song Buckingham played was so infectious and the melody/lyrics so catchy, I could not get to sleep after that.

The song (“On the Wrong Side“) seems to be a meditation on looking both backward and forward, with references to life in a touring band (Fleetwood Mac’s halcyon days, I assume) and living in the present, acknowledging the passage of time.  Not the lightest of subjects, yet the rumination is encased in an incredibly catchy pop rhythm and melody, with soaring and layered harmonies. ‘Tis a song that could easily be mistaken for a new Fleetwood Mac single. 

♫  Waitin’ for the night to come
Waitin’ for the moon to rise
Wondering just what have I done
That I never realized

Time is rolling down the road
Love goes riding in a hearse
We were young and now we’re old
Who can tell me which is worse  ♫

Buckingham’s solo work reveals just how much he brought to Fleetwood Mac, and how so much of the band’s sound   [7]  was due to his influence and contributions.

I dare you to listen to On the Wrong Side and then *not* walk around having the chorus stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

♫  I’m outta pity/I’m outta time
Another city/ another crime
I’m…
on the wrong side… ♫

 

 

 

*   *   *

Q & A Punz For The Day
Popular Music Edition

Name a rock group where none of the members sings or plays music.
Mt. Rushmore.

What kind of music do bunnies like?
Hip Hop.

Why did the hearing-impaired jazz musician bring a sweet potato to rehearsal?
He thought he’d been invited to a yam session.

How many guitarists does it take to play Stairway to Heaven?
Apparently, all of them.

 

Sorry about the bicycle wheel, but I couldn’t find any yams.

 

*   *   *

May you eschew most forms of binary thinking;  [8]

May you enjoy listening to at least one song from Lindsey Buckingham;

May you embrace your humanity by holding fast to at least one binary opinion;    [9]

…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Although the Catholics halved the number to 59 beads, in perhaps an effort to claim originality or refute charges of plagiarism.

[2] Except of course/again the originators of such superstitions did not know there were nine planets…and now we all know (though some of us refuse to accept the fact) that there are not nine planets, but eight.  And longtime readers of this blog can likely surmise what I think of astrology.

[3] A prime number is a whole number which is divisible only by itself and 1.

[4] Binary thinking (urban dictionary): “Denotes a system of thought that predominantly considers things in an “either, or”, “right, wrong”, “black, white” way, ignoring any subtleties or consideration of third or more alternatives.”

[5] As in, they support making abortion illegal, or at least highly restricting its availability.

[6] Yet.

[7] In that particular configuration during 1975 – 1987, when he and Stevie Nicks joined.  There have been many, many personnel configurations in the band’s fifty-plus year history.

[8] Except when it comes to black licorice: you either hate it (correct!) or love it (so very, very, wrong).

[9] Like, the one about black licorice.

The Virus I’m Not De-Worming

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Department Of A Boon For A Natural Selection

For a few glorious days, we could only hope that the reports were accurate.

Moiself  refers to reports surfacing which claimed that ivermectin –

a livestock de-worming, anti-parasite  veterinary drug, deemed by the brilliant minds of certain people who were too smart to waste time going to medical or veterinary school, to be an ideal treatment for the COVID-19 VIRUS (which is *not,* ahem, a parasite), to be taken by people, who are not livestock (except for the horses’ asses which thought up the idea in the first place and the sheep who followed them) –

can cause sterility in men.

 

“Yesssssssss!”

 

When I first heard the reports moiself  praised the gawds I don’t believe in, and immediately changed my opinion about people who would try such an unproven and dangerous “treatment.”  Instead of thinking that such people should be locked up for their own protection,   [1]   I decided to lobby to make ivermectin mandatory (and free!) for any man who wears a MAGA hat and/or refused to be vaccinated/wear a mask…and please, can there be a study showing that ivermectin produces infertility in women as well?

Some things are just too good to be true.  It turns out there are problems with the ivermectin-causes-sterility study being cited, as Forbes and other sources have reported.   C’est la vie; it was a nice fantasy, while it lasted. 

 

“There, there; I too was disappointed. It’s good to dream, Spock.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Podcasts I Mostly Admire…

Or used to.

Dateline: earlier this week, listening to the latest People I Mostly Admire podcast (Episode 44 ).  After the first twenty or so minutes of his interview with his guest, the podcast  takes a break.  During the break the show’s host, author and economist Steven Levitt,  had a letter from a listener read to him by the show’s producer, Morgan A. Levey.  This is the podcast’s typical format; the letters usually involve questions about recent podcast topics. This week’s questions led to….well, read on.

Morgan Levey (reading a letter from “Jordan,” to Steve; my emphases):
” ‘Steve, since you have quite a large family and are a thoughtful person, I want to get your opinion on the morality and ethics of having children in the face of climate change.’
It sounds like Jordan is thinking of starting a family, and he wants your opinion on having kids, since you have six of them.”

 

The host at home.

 

Steve Levitt:
“So Jordan, I do have six kids, and I have to say, in having those kids, I don’t think climate change ever crossed my mind.  Here’s the thing: there are 8 billion people on the planet, so if you add one more, it doesn’t really matter.  And, what I do, doesn’t affect anyone else’s behavior.  If my having a kid led hundreds of other people to have more kids, then it’s a different story.

To me, it’s a microcosm of the exact problem we face on climate change generally: no individual’s behavior actually matters very much, but collectively, we all have to act together.

When I think of climate change, I really look to other kinds of solutions, whether it’s technology to take carbon out of the air, or doing something at a larger scale….

So if it feels wrong to you to have kids, that’s totally your prerogative….  but at least for me I would not put climate change near the top of my list to have or not have children….

ML:
“So Jordan also wanted to know if you thought that your kids will struggle in the future with the result of climate change-induced issues, such as food security, pandemics, water shortages, if this is something you thought about and were worried about.”

 

 

SL:
“I’m not a climate scientist, and I don’t know the exact answer. It certainly is an impression people have that weather patterns are getting wilder, and it’s probably true. I also think there’s a bias toward people assuming that every time something extreme happens, that’s caused by climate change ….but my impression is that the really destructive impacts of climate change are much farther in the future.  That, at least for Americans, in the next fifty or a hundred years, there’s no reason to think that our quality of life is going to dramatically degrade.  As I sit here just pondering whether I think my kids will have a better or worse life than I had, I think probably better.  

Morgan, I don’t think Jordan is going to like my answer very much.
What do you think?”

I didn’t hear his producer’s retort until days later.  I had to stop listening.  My butt was frosted to hear Levitt’s casually dismissive statements about the effects of climate change – effects which are “probably true,” he admits, yet not enough to trouble him as he sits there “just pondering”  whatever it is he ponders (apparently, not the plight of other people), from the POV of his privileged, upper class, white American ass — pondering his ignorant defenses which excuse himself from any personal responsibility to act…or care.

How convenient for him, to convince himself that an individual’s behavior doesn’t matter much, and that what he does doesn’t affect anyone else.  Dude, your six children are watching you.  Even more than what you say, they watch what you do…and don’t do. 

Levitt admits the obvious – he’s no climate scientist – then ignores the facts climate scientists have been stating for some time, in favor of his flippant description of extreme weather events as an “impression people have“?  Holy cruising down the river of  De Nile.

 

 

 

But then, what should moiself  expect from someone with six children,  [2]  who doesn’t even include them in his statement of how what he does doesn’t affect anyone else.

Levitt is correct as to the need for global/larger solutions, but he is wrong about the individual’s impact, thinking it’s negligible because he’s one person out of 8 billion.  Eight billion people – how did we get here?   Holy compounding multiplication!  We got to that absurd number via one individual decision at a time. Multiply one person thinking having four to six biological children is fine times “only” one billion other individuals, and where will that get us?

 

 

As for Levitt’s comment about how his actions don’t influence people, how does he know that?  Whether or not he ever gets up on a podium and overtly decrees, “Everyone should have a large family, like me!” the fact of him having done just that that may cause others to think, “Oh, hmm…an educated and successful person does this, perhaps I can as well.”

Back to his producer’s response, to his question. At least she called him out about his cluelessness and privilege (however mildly, given the circumstances).

SL:
“Morgan, I don’t think Jordan is going to like my answer very much.
What do you think?”

ML:
“To be honest, Steve, *I* don’t like your answer very much.

I think what you said sounds a little  [3]  insensitive, considering the fact that that there’s already millions of climate refugees around the globe – people who’ve had to move because their home are unlivable.

We’ve just had the hottest month on record in human history, AND  extreme weather HAS been *undoubtedly* linked to climate change.  When I think about just ten years from now, *I*  worry about my own future, let alone if I have kids, what their future would be.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Beating Around the Bush…and Reagan…and Clinton….

” On May 12, 2015, potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush could not fully commit to an answer when asked if he would have voted to authorize the Iraq War in 2002, using the phrase “simple fact is, mistakes were made” on Sean Hannity’s radio show. He was lambasted by both liberals and conservatives for his answer.”

 

 

Remember the rightful disgust y’all have likely experienced over the years, whenever you heard the hideous passivity of, Mistakes were made.”   It’s the ultimate phrase of non-accountability, whether spouted by President Reagan re the Iran–Contra affair (the “arms-for hostages” debacle), or President Clinton as per a Democratic party fundraising scandal, or President G.W. Bush’s political advisor defending neocons re the Iraq War…as well as too many times before and after.

Mistakes were made.  By an unknown, but distressingly prevalent, almost mystical Mistake Maker ®,  apparently.

We’ve all been trained to use this passive voice; most of us don’t even know when we’re doing it.  But, think for a moment of the world it constructs.

 

 

I often get impatient when people nitpick language.  My fear: people often judge/dismiss and don’t really hear *what* someone is saying because they are too busy critiquing the  *how* someone is saying it.

Still, the writer in moiself  tries to never forget why word choice is important: it not only conveys, but shapes how we feel and think about issues.

Consider the different images that come to mind, when describing a disabled person’s mode of mobility:

“He rides (or uses) a wheelchair.”

“She is confined to a wheelchair.”

A wheelchair, for someone who has need of one, is actually a device of liberation.  Yet the second phrasing evokes images of shackling, and pity.

 

 

These subtle differences are why (as I’ve mentioned in this space, “The Speech I’m Not Policing” ) I think certain scholars and activists are correct in advising that we should retrain ourselves to use the term “enslaved” person, rather than “slave.”  The active voice is needed as a reminder, that people are not just born slaves, as they might be born a Swede or a redhead or with a certain eye color:

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for creating the 1619 project at The New York Times, which tracks the legacy of slavery.  In Terry Gross’s Fresh Air interview with journalist Hannah-Jones, (which I referred to in a recent blog post as influencing my opinions about reparations for slavery), TG asked Hannah-Jones about why she uses the term “enslaved person” and not “slave” in her writing (my emphases):

“It was very important in the 1619 Project and whenever I write about this, to not use language that further dehumanizes people who every system and structure was designed to dehumanize.
I think when we hear the word “slave,” we think of slavery as being the essence of that person. But if you call someone an enslaved person, then it speaks to a condition. These people were not slaves. Someone chose to force them into the condition of slavery, and that language to me is very important, as is using the word “enslaver” over slave owner because these people didn’t have a moral right to own another human being, even though the society allowed it, and I think it needs to be active, that this was an active system of people choosing to treat other human beings as property.”

 

I recently saw the following on social media, and it was another click moment    [4]  for me.  I’m referring to it as The Real Problem:

 

 

Let’s resolve to use the active voice. To take responsibility – and to point the finger and accuse as well – when necessary.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Climate Edition

What do you call a weatherman who destroys dinosaurs?
A meteorologist.

It was a terrible summer for Humpty Dumpty, but he had a great fall.

People using umbrellas always seem to be under the weather.

What’s that Arabic country with loads of sheep and very wet weather?
Baaarain.

 

*   *   *

May we keep in mind The Real Problem and lose the passive voice;
May we never comfortably think that our individual actions don’t matter;
May we all anticipate having a great fall;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Whatever happened to just drinking bleach?  That wasn’t idiotic enough for them?

[2] I think two of them were adopted by Levittand his wife, from China.

[3] “And by ‘a little,’ Steve, I mean, absolutely fucking…”

[4] Click! In the 1970s that word signaled the moment when a woman awakened to the powerful ideas of contemporary feminism. Today “click” usually refers to a computer keystroke that connects women (and men) to powerful ideas on the Internet.  (Click! The Ongoing feminist revolution, cliohistory.org )

The Towel I’m Not Throwing In

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Department Of Throwing In The Towel

Sometimes it’s just easier to give them their own glass.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Profound Reflection After Being A Surgery Buddy  [1]

The inventor(s) of the twist-‘n-seal vomit bags should win the Nobel Prizes for Peace, and Medicine.  As well as any other awards the Swedes have lying around.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Speaking Of Things Related To Nausea
Sub-Department Of Let’s Get This Out Of The Way

 

 

I have been trying to avoid writing about the TexASS’s draconian anti-abortion law, because what hose TexASS politicians have done leaves moiself  almost speechless.

 

 

Can someone build a barf containment bag for the entire state of TexASS?

I know there are good people there; it’s a state which, once upon a time and despite its history of self-mythologizing and macho posturing, managed to produce a triumvirate of some of my favorite feminist raconteurs:

* Governor Ann Richards

* Author, political commentator, humorist and columnist Molly Ivins

*  Journalist Linda Ellerbee

But that was then and this is now.

Meanwhile, in the here and now, TexASS political leaders seem determined to secede from the 21st century.

Speaking of which, there is a history of secession movements in TexASS which extends beyond the Civil War to the present day, producing headlines such as

“Texas Republicans endorse legislation to allow vote on secession from US”
(The Guardian, 2-5-21)

…as well as a quote only a reality-oblivious politician could spew:

“You cannot prevent the people from having a voice.”
(Allen West, Texas Republican party chairman,
quoted in the above article)

 

“I’d like to buy a U”

 

The TexASS GOP chairman was speaking about the voice of TexASS citizens, as per their being allowed to vote for their state to secede from the USA and become an independent nation. Meanwhile, TexASS political leaders are hellbent on preventing people – female people – from having the final voice when it comes to managing their own bodies.

TexASS wants to secede?  Oh, honey, stop being such a tease.  Really; this is the stuff dreams are made of.  Fine; let ’em leave.

 

 

“Texas is ranked first in the U.S. in the variety and frequency of natural disasters.  Flooding, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, hailstorms sinkholes, drought, all occur in the state. Sometimes, even utilization of the state’s natural reserves of oil gas, and water can lead to subsidence and earthquakes.”
(“Natural And Man-Made Hazards In The State Of Texas,”
NASA’s NISAR Mission report: Reliable Observations for Hazard Mitigation )

As for that “independent nation” nonsense, it would be delicious to watch TexASS politicians come crawling, 10-gallon caps in hand, the next time they need emergency funds for the natural disasters which strike TexASS with mind-numbing regularity, along with the totally Texan-made disasters ( the most recent being the 2021 power grid failure) their infrastructurally-ignorant leaders refuse to recognize or address.

I’m sorry (former) Gov. Abbot, but can you drop the faux genteel drawl and enunciate clearly?
You see, For a moment, the rest of us thought we heard you request Federal Emergency funds – you remember, funds that come the federal government of the USA, the one y’all flipped off just before the door hit you in the ass as you left?

This way, dude. The line for Foreign Aid applications starts at the rear of the building, near the Voting Rights Act Memorial and gender-inclusive restroom.

 

 

I urge the rest of us to help any TexASS refugees that you can.  Then, do your research as to businesses that are based in that state.  From Exxon/Mobil to Southwest Airlines; from 7-11 to Dell trechnologies; from Frito-Lay to J.C. Penny to Gold’s Gym; from Pier I to Pizza Hut; from The Container Store to Zales Jewelers; from Nieman Marcus to Whole Foods (what ?!? Whole Foods?  Aw, shit)  [2] …. As much as possible, boycott all things from TexASS, from sports and arts and entertainment to goods and services. 

 

*   *   *

We now return you to our regular programming.

*   *   *

Department Of the Price of Reminiscence

Dateline: Monday afternoon.  MH decides to spend a portion of his Labor Day in doing a labor of love Periodic Household Task ® – going through stuff in the attic.  He comes upon a Star Trek Concordance, and finds, tucked into its pages, a list of episodes Someone ® has made. This list contains the names of certain TOS episodes, sorted into three categories.  The first category is faves; the second is stinkers.

“Do you know anything about this?” MH says, waving the list in my face. When I see the third category I realize that the list-making Someone ® must have been moiself …although I have no memory of compiling the list.

Category #3 is pesha.  ‘Tis a word which, mercifully, will mean nothing to y’all, nor to anyone outside of a certain circle of moiself’s  friends and college roommates.   [3]

Pesha is a dear friend’s family slang for, “wet fart.”   [4]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Earlier That Same Day…
Sub-Department Of Other Things I Thought Were Long Forgotten

MH and I are discussing son K’s recent surgery (alluded to in the earlier mention of moiself  being a surgery buddy), and how it involved moiself  doing quite a bit of blood-cleaning up afterwards (K’s post-surgical bleeding was not fully under control for a while).  Suffice to say, K’s kitchen floor got a thorough cleaning.

We take a break from household tasks and decide to go out for lunch. As we are gathering critical lunch-out accoutrements (two copies of the days’ NYTimes crossword puzzle) MH starts singing, “Blood on the Saddle,” a song from Disneyland’s Country Bear Jamboree show.  With a heh-heh-heh tone to his voice, he teases me about how that song had to be one of my favorites.  He refers to the fact that, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I had a seasonal job at Disneyland’s Hungry Bear Restaurant   [5]  (which was adjacent to the Country Bear Jamboree theater).  I worked there summers and vacation times, after high school and my first year in college; that song was one I thought (hoped?) I’d never have to hear again.

Minutes later, in the car: MH fiddles with his phone and connects it to his car’s audio system.  For reasons only the gods I don’t believe in can understand, the Spotify music service has the Country Bear Jamboree soundtrack.  And MH proceeds to torture entertain me by playing the original Blood on the Saddle, which contains the immortal lyrics,

♫  There was….

Blood on the saddle/and b-blood on the ground

And a great…big…p-p-puddle…

Of blood all around.  ♫

 

This is followed by another ear-mangling cacophony  favorite I had also, for a few blessed decades, completely forgotten about:  Mama Don’t Whup Little Buford.

C’mon, everybody – y’all know the words.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Pandemic Lessons Learned

Dateline: Saturday afternoon. After enjoying lunch at a Pastaria with MH – NOT the aforementioned lunch outing, where my auditory sensibilities were assaulted by country bear “music” – we headed for a nearby movie theatre, to take in the latest Marvel Superhero flick.    [6]

My lunch of whole grain spaghetti aglio e olio (pasta with garlic and oil), plus a side of garlic lemon spinach, was a gustatory delight…which then haunted me during the movie.  For 2 ½ hours in a darkened theater, I received continual feedback via my mask.  Read: I was surrounded with – and sometimes felt as if moiself  would be suffocated by – my own robust garlic breath.

 

Only my ten rings of minty breath fresheners can save civilization from the deadly Dweller-in-Darkness’s dragon breath.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Italian Noodle Edition

The cook at our local Italian Restaurant has died.
I guess you could say he pastaway.

Noodles are part of my daily rotini.

What type of pasta do they serve at haunted houses?
Fettuccini afraido.

Why do Gen Xers take selfies when they’re eating spaghetti?
They want to record it for pastarity.

My friend sometimes pretends to be a lasagna noodle – she’s such an impasta.

The shy pasta chef was in a contemplative mood, so I offered him
a penne for his thoughts.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you urge your congressional representatives to support
the secession of TexASS;
May you accept the consequences of that which leads to garlic breath;
May you turn up the volume and sing along with,
“Mama Don’t Whup Little Buford,” imagining that Buford
represents Texas politicians;    [7]

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] You know what a surgery buddy is, even if you haven’t heard that term (and you may have been one, or needed one).  You provide a ride to and from the hospital or day surgery center with someone who is undergoing a surgery/procedure and given medications that prohibit them from driving.  Surgery buddy duties may also include pharmacy and drugstore runs, meal prep and other TLC, overnight stays, making sure the patient does not do any online shopping while under the influence….

[2] I shop at Whole Foods…but not anymore. I contacted them with an “I regret to inform you” letter notifying them that I will not shop there until there is demonstrable evidence that they have lobbied Texas political leaders to rescind the anti-abortion legislation (oh yeah, and fix your state’s racist voter suppression while you’re at it).

[3] I’m talkin’ you, LMW.

[4] There was only one TOS episode which I deemed worthy of the pesha appellation: “Turnabout Intruder.”

[5] Which, as many a hangry, tired, overheated and cranky customer (always male) pointed out to me, was not in fact a restaurant (haruumpf!) but was yet another one of Disneyland’s fast food eateries.

[6]Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. ”  Like most Marvel/Superhero movies, it is in serious need of editing for length, IMHO, and, of course, by now there aren’t many surprises.  Some good characters; you just need to get in the mood for such summer movie froth and it is entertaining.

[7] I think this is this blog’s longest “May you…” ever.  Gee. Thanks for the opportunity, TexASS.

The Germline I’m Not Editing

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“There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad.”
( Salvador Dali  )

 

The romantic notion that mental illness and creativity are linked is so prominent in the public consciousness that it is rarely challenged….. To be sure, research does show that many eminent creators – particularly in the arts – had harsh early life experiences (such as social rejection, parental loss, or physical disability) and mental and emotional instability. However, this does not mean that mental illness was a contributing factor to their eminence. There are many eminent people without mental illness or harsh early life experiences, and there is very little evidence suggesting that clinical, debilitating mental illness is conducive to productivity and innovation.
( “The Real Link Between Creativity and Mental Illness,”
Scientific American)

Carrie Fisher had quite the resume that few people outside of Hollywood know about.  In addition to being an actor, best-selling author, and screenwriter, Fisher was  “one of the most sought after script doctors in town.”  As a script doctor,   [1]   Fisher’s (mostly uncredited) work included Hook, Sister Act, Last Action Hero, Made in America, and The River Wild.

Fisher also was known for being candid  – and wickedly self-deprecating – about her struggle with bipolar disorder and substance abuse.  Was known.  Damn. I so hate having to write about the multi-talented Fisher in the past tense, but it her bipolar disorder – specifically, how she’d tried to self-treat it – which killed her.

She died at age 60 – way too young.  After losing consciousness on a plane flight and dying four days later in an ICU, her autopsy revealed heroin and other opiates and MDMA in her system, a revelation which surprised and frustrated and saddened her family and friends.  Although I share most of those emotions, it (the revelation of the drugs she’d taken) was no surprise to moiself .  She’d been open about how the various psychiatric medications she took for her bipolar disorder didn’t always work well or consistently.  As a young adult Fisher discovered, long before getting her bipolar disorder diagnosed, that whatever it was that made her brain do the things it did, LSD and other the hallucinogens her friends ingested had the opposite effect on her, and it was an effect she welcomed. Whereas her friends took those drugs to “trip,” she took them to feel “normal;” as in, they tamed the frenzied delusions which so tormented her when she was in the manic phase of her disorder.  She continued self-medicating for the rest of her life.  Fisher had the best professional/medical help her Hollywood paychecks could buy, and it wasn’t enough.

 

“If only George Lucas had let me script-doctor this hairdo.”

 

People who buy into the “tortured artist” stereotype would credit Fisher’s bipolar disorder for her creativity.  I heartily enjoyed Fisher’s works and her wicked wit – some of the lines in her various books made me spit out my gum    [2]  in guffawing admiration.  But, if there had been a definitive cure for her bipolar disorder – one pill/surgery/treatment/genetic tweak and it’s all under control! –  and I’d expressed the opinion that Fisher should keep suffering in order to make art, I hope that someone would’ve slapped me upside the head and shamed me for being a cultural vampire.

Moiself most firmly holds to the following:

Writers, musicians, artists and scientists and other “creatives” produce great things *in spite of,* not because of,
any afflictions they may have.

This topic is on my mind because of The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race.  It is the book I’m reading…as in, ahem, still reading.  I’ve mentioned this book previously in this space; the reason I’m still reading it after two months is that it’s chock full of scientific, historical, and medical discoveries and the resulting political and cultural and ethical adaptations and information such discoveriespawn, and…the predicaments.  Some chapters I have to chew on for days, even weeks – in particular, the one I just finished: Chapter 41: Thought Experiments.

This chapter deals with the ethical questions raised by the CRISPR gene editing technology developed by Doudna and other scientists, a technology (“genetic scissors”) which may lead us to both the greatest opportunities and most disturbing dilemmas of our times.  It doesn’t matter that, for the present, the overwhelming majority of scientists (and the public) have either signed or supported pledges not to use the genetic scissors for germline editing.   [3]  Once the technology exists, it will be used – as in the Chinese scientist’s creation of the first gene-edited babies[4]  Gene editing, like any other activity or profession, can and will be regulated, but for what, and how, and by whom?  And there will be a black market for the technology, and hackers using and, (depending on your POV) “misusing” the technology.

 

 

Chapter 41 offers up specific examples wherein gene editing could do good (e.g., treating ALS) before, as the author puts it, “our knees jerk and we stumble onto hard-and-fast pronouncements (somatic editing is fine but inheritable germline edits are bad; treatments are fine but enhancements are bad).”  In one segment of the chapter, “Psychological disorders,” the author postulates how and if people will decide, should the genes that contribute to a predisposition for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe depression be isolated, whether or not to allow (or even encourage) parents to make sure that these genes get edited out of their children:

“But even if we agree that we want to rid humanity of schizophrenia and similar disorders, we should consider whether there might be some cost to society, even to civilization. Vincent van Gogh had either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.  So did the mathematician John Nash (and also Charles Manson and John Hinckley). People with bipolar disorder include Ernest Hemingway, Carrie Fisher …and hundreds of other artists and creators….

Would you cure your own child from being schizophrenic if you knew that, if you didn’t, he would become a Vincent Van Gogh and transform the world of art (don’t forget, Van Gogh committed suicide)….

A reduction in mood disorders would be seen as a benefit by most of the afflicted individuals, parents, and families…. But does the issue look different when asked from society’s vantage point? As we learn to treat mood disorders with drugs and eventually with genetic editing, will we have more happiness but fewer Hemingways?  Do we wish to live in a world in which there are no Van Gogh’s?”

Here are the chapter notes moiself  made, while reading this section of the book:

First of all, IMO the world would get along just fine with fewer Hemingways.

 

 

And about a world with  “no Van Goghs” – seriously? He is/was one of my favorites.  But if people like VG had never been born, or were born but without their mood disorders, we wouldn’t miss what works they never produced…or perhaps we’d all be enjoying the art and literature they *did* produce, during a lifetime of creative endeavors not cut short by suicide (Hemingway at age 61; Van Gogh at age 37!).

VG’s world and Hemingway’s world had to get along without them, and did.
BECAUSE THEY WERE SO MISERABLE THEY FUCKING KILLED THEMSELVES.

We don’t have and likely never will have a time machine to see the “what ifs” that might occur should a person be born, or not born, or have this trait or tendency or lack another.  We often casually throw around such “what ifs” for the thought experiment, but we should never forget how many of the “tortured artists” we label as such were literally tortured to death by their mental demons.  Van Gogh *killed himself.* Although that fact is presented parenthetically in the book, I think it should be front and center to any debate about these issues.  I think that only a person who has no experience with the suffering inflicted upon a  loved one with schizophrenia would even be able to play devil’s advocate and pose such a question, about “society” being richer for one man’s exquisite anguish.

More chapter notes from moiself:

And how could you sentence your child to that fate, knowing the suffering?  “Yes, she’ll have bouts of – if not live the majority of her life with –  dealing with horrific, debilitating delusions…but she may write some catchy songs/paint some cool pictures other people will enjoy….”


So, we would chose to have other people suffer as long as there is the possibility they will do something to entertain us?

 

 

“Of course we should use germline therapy to fix things like schizophrenia that nature got horribly wrong.”
( James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA’s double helix.
Watson’s son Rufus has schizophrenia.
Quoted in chapter 41 of The Code Breaker )

Whenever I hear/read a claim about how the physical suffering of, say, a person afflicted with Huntington’s Disease caused that person to become more empathetic, or that the mental suffering of schizophrenia allegedly produces creativity, I think of all the kind, creative, empathetic peoples I know who have somehow managed to develop and nurture those skills and abilities without having to suffer the brutalities of the loss of language, thinking and reasoning abilities, memory, coordination and movement (Huntington’s disease) or hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior (schizophrenia).

We praise Van Gogh’s art and rightly note his influence on generations of artists…but the man never made a dollar from the Starry Night posters you see on dorm room walls all over the world, nor one cent from his Almond Blossom painting being reproduced on reusable tote bags. In fact, he never made any money at all from his art.  [5]

Yes, it is a great (and necessary) “Thought Experiment,” to think of both the positives and negatives that can come from having – or getting rid of – certain mental and physical maladies.  And you can play that game in a myriad of ways. Those what-if they’d-never-existed? arguments are, to me, ultimately ridiculous.  You can’t think of it one way without postulating the other – think about how much more great art could have been produced by those who suffered from mental illness, including artists we never heard of because they killed themselves before their talent came to fruition.

Gene editing, in some form, is inevitable.  I won’t even deal with the trivialities of how the technology may one day be used, such as using it to make would-be basketball players taller, or to have more green-eyed redheads in the world.  For me, who has seen the anguish severe mood disorders inflict upon individuals and their families, I would take the opportunity to relieve future generations of that, if the “genetic scissors” approach could be shown to be safe and efficacious.

Relieve suffering, if you can.  Trust me, art will survive.

 

“Glad you like the posters and tote bags.  I’d rather live with bouts of happiness, if it’s all the same to you.”

 

“Vincent Van Gogh’s mutilation of his own ear, Kurt Cobain’s suicide, and Ernest Hemingway’s alcoholism are just a few of the anecdotes that fuel the popular belief that creativity goes hand-in-hand with mental illness…. a systematic review and meta-analysis of the research on mood disorders and creativity found no clear link between them. ‘You can have a mood disorder and be creative, but those things are in no way dependent on one another.’ “
( “No Clear Link Between Creativity and Mood Disorders,”
Association for Psychological Science

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Carrie Fisher Memorial Mental Health Edition

I hate being bipolar… It’s fantastic!

I met a bipolar fortune teller yesterday – she says she either feels very manic,
or quite depressed – never a happy medium.

Did you hear about the white bear who had a female mate *and* a boyfriend?
Apparently, he was bipolar.

 

 

*   *   *

May you never conflate great art with great suffering;
May you read at least one of Carrie Fisher’s books;
May you engage in your own thought experiments of which genes you would
(or would not) edit out of humanity;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] A script doctor is a (usually uncredited) writer called in, by a movie’s producer and/or director, to help fix or improve a movie, by polish or fleshing out a character, “punching up” jokes, dialogue, and other story elements.

[2] Yep, despite rumors to the contrary, I can read and chew gum at the same time.

[3] A process wherein the genome of an individual is edited in such a way that the change is heritable – germline editing affects all cells in an organism, including eggs and sperm;  thus, the changes will be passed on to future generations.  This is in contrast with somatic gene editing, which affects only certain cells of the patient being treated.

[4] After which the scientist, He Jiankui, who carried out his own experiments on human embryos to try to give them protection against HIV, was convicted of violating the Chinese government’s ban on such experiments.  For acting  “in the pursuit of personal fame and gain”, seriously disrupting “medical order” and crossing “the bottom line of ethics in scientific research and medical ethics,” He was sentenced to three years in prison and fined three million yuan (roughly $430,000 ).

[5] He made not one legitimate sale of his paintings.  His brother Theo bought one ( so VG could claim to have sold one and thus be a professional artist, which was the requirement to have his work shown at a certain gallery), but that doesn’t count. 

The Maze I’m Not Navigating

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Department Of Veracity For Sale
Sub-department Of The Suspect Authenticity of User Reviews

This was underneath a peel-off sticker on a product I recently purchased from Amazon:

 

 

Yeah. It’s not so much that they are trying to bribe me, but do they really think my integrity can be bought so cheaply. Considering what the product cost, a 50% refund means they think moiself  – any of their buyers – can be had for $6.99?    [1]

*   *   *

Department Of I Was Not Made For This World

As I was writing this post, I received an email notification from my blog host platform:

purplesheepsbladder@nunchucks.com  just started following you at https://theblogimnotwriting.com.
They will receive an email every time you publish a post. Congratulations. “

 

 

Moiself  has received these notifications one to five times per week, ever since the “birth” (or onset…although that sounds like symptoms of a disease) of my blog, some nine years ago.  So, to get the approximate number of followers of this blog…do the math, if you’re interested.  I, however, am not, so I won’t.

“In social media, a follow represents a user who chooses to see all of another user’s posts in their content feed. Getting users to follow their accounts is a primary objective for online businesses with a social media presence.”
( “What is ‘following’ and what does it mean on social media?” bigcommerce.com )

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,    [2]   I had a conversation with a friend (who also wrote a blog), which went something like this:

A Blogging Friend ® :    [3] “How many people follow your blog?” 

Moiself:
“Huh?”

ABF ® :
“Follow your blog – readers who subscribe to get an alert so that they can read it on a regular basis.”

Moiself:
“Yes, I know what it means. I was “Huh”-ing you because I don’t know how many people follow my blog.”

ABF ® :
“Well, you know you can find out by checking your blog post, the administrative page, under stats, and….”

Moiself:
“Yep, I know about that option. I just don’t care about the numbers;
so, what would be the point in knowing?
That’s not why I write it.”

ABF ® :
“But aren’t you curious?”

Moiself:
“About many things, but this?  Nope.  Although, *you* obviously are.”

ABF ® :
“No, really – don’t you want to know?”

Moiself:
“If I did, I would.
Okay: I assume my blog has fewer followers than someone who posts cat-fart videos on YouTube, and more than my dead grandmother
– oh yeah, who doesn’t even blog, so there’s that….
Besides, where I come from, knowing that people are ‘following’ me – that’s not a good thing.”

ABF ® :
” ?!?!?!?!? “

‘Tis a sad thing, to see an otherwise witty person not get the joke.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Hahaha – That’s Not Funny

Content Warning: Yes.

 

 

Moiself  showed this picture (from a social media post) to MH. We both found it mildly amusing, and also mildly annoying. The picture’s caption flaunts the inherent ageism that people posting pictures and memes are seemingly okey-dokey with.  We bantered about the fact that most people seem to have no problem making fun of the cognitive deficits that a minority of people experience as they age, thus reinforcing that stereotype of the Doddering Elderly.  Whereas, making fun of the cognitive deficits experienced by the majority people with certain, non-age-related, genetic conditions, life situations and/or circumstances is a big NO NO NO NO what’s wrong with you?

“What do you think would happen,” MH wondered aloud, “if, instead of making fun of ‘old people,’ the picture’s caption read, ‘Corn maze for retards’ “?

 

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Don’t listen to that doddering old goat – the following is, in fact, something quite similar.

Department Of If I Ran The World…
This Would Be The First “Ism” To Be Dealt With

Translation: dealt with = “cured.”  I’m talking about   [4]  the ism of ageism.

Synonyms & Antonyms of old (Entry 1 of 2)
being of advanced years and especially past middle age

Synonyms for old
aged, aging (or ageing), ancient, elderly, geriatric, long-lived, older, over-the-hill, senescent, senior, unyoung

Words Related to old
centenarian, nonagenarian, octogenarian, septuagenarian, sexagenarian, oldish
adult, grown-up, mature, middle-aged, pensioned, retired, superannuated, matriarchal, patriarchal, venerable, anile, decrepit, doddering, senile, spavined, tottery,  [5]   overage (also overaged)

Phrases Synonymous with old
long in the tooth, of a certain age
dating or surviving from the distant past

Synonyms for old
age-old, aged, ancient, antediluvian, antique, dateless, hoar, hoary, immemorial, venerable
( Merriam-Webster thesaurus, entries for “old” )

Dateline: Several months back; a gorgeous spring afternoon; sitting with friend CC on her back porch overlooking her and her hubby’s pastureland.  We are having one of our regular, COVID-distance-safe, takeout-Thai-lunch-and-chat sessions.  As we look out at the farmlands behind CC’s pasture  [6]   we chew the proverbial fat   [7]   about everything from family stories to political opinions.   As per the latter, we basically (and succinctly!) solve the problems of the world, as long-term friends are wont to do.

CC and moiself  spoke of our mutual pleasure at our reactions to the new Presidential administration – of how refreshing it is to (once again) have a national leadership team which is too busy trying to do good to have the time (or inclination) to snipe at critics on social media.

 

Joe and Kamala and cabinet – this hamster thumb’s up is for you!

 

We were pleased and surprised by what a fine job Joe Biden is doing, and surprised to realize the source of our surprise, which came from the fact that each of us had not wanted him, at first, to be the Democratic nominee.   It’s not that we thought Biden was unqualified or didn’t have good ideas – far from it!  It’s that we wanted him and the other members of his age group to hand things to the younger folks. His generation had done their share; it’s time to move on.

It was, simply and ultimately, about his age.  It was ageism.

And there we were, both pleased and embarrassed to see what he is doing.  He’s diving right in, being quiet and mostly not having press conferences because there are so damn many problems to fix and he’s in there doing it, working the system with the knowledge he’s acquired after years in Washington, with a sure and steady hand….  Being pleased about that is obvious; the embarrassment came from the fact that his commitment and passion for this job – fixing the country – might have been denied the country, if ageist biases, like the ones we both held, had prevailed.

And that led to our conversational “tour on ageism.” We spoke of our own issues and challenges with the physical aspects growing older (while acknowledging that the things we complain about are actually privileges denied to many   [8]  ). We’ve both become beyond frustrated with the way aging is portrayed in – well, in *everything,* from literature and film and media to medicine to product marketing.  This has always been especially true for women; however, men are starting to get more of it, too, when it comes to the detestable, “anti-aging” label which is attached (as if it “stopping aging” should be a desirable, attainable goal) to every sort of thing which can be merchandised, from clothing to vitamins to exercise equipment and regimens to, of course, cosmetic products and surgical procedures.

 

Allow me to introduce you to the ultimate anti-aging products.

The only sure-fire, anti-aging product is death.  Wrinkle cream, shrinkle cream – die now, at age 59, and you’ll never look like you’re 60! 

Reality smackdown:
No matter what your age, you are older today than you’ve ever been,

and are younger today than you will be tomorrow.

 

…just thinking about that.

 

“It’s not that aging is wrong, it’s just that people will judge you and treat you differently if you look old,” is the advice I have actually heard (translation: ” ‘Other people,’ but, uh, not me…the one who is telling you that your gray hair and wrinkles need erasing”). And, gawddammit, that is (at least partly) true…but it’s not going to change if these Judging People don’t have positive models of those who gracefully accept getting older sans product intervention.

The stop-aging/anti-aging product world has learned from criticism: recently, most of its advertising (that moiself  has seen) takes the proactive approach, emphasizing the “be the best that you can be/look the best you can, at any age!” messaging.  That’s a tiny step up from “Your naturally graying hair makes you look like a hag;” however, it still conveys the undercurrent message, which is that “looking your age,” which is whatever you look like at whatever age you are, is not a good thing.  Those wrinkles that you earned, the gray hair, all of the physical changes which are the natural, inevitable result of being alive – get rid of ’em!  You don’t want to look “old,” because in our culture equals incompetent, senile – and, and creepiest of all, in a way – ugly. Old equals ugly.

I’ve seen many movies (back in the movie theater, yay! ) this summer, and also, during the previews, several trailers for a M. Night Shayamalan movie, which I’ve decided to put on my fuck no no thanks list.  The movie is being marketed in the horror genre. Just the title alone is insulting – I mean of course, so descriptive.  As in, what could be more horrifying than…becoming this:

 

 

A Curiosity Daily podcast I’d recently listened to presented studies showing that younger people who saw themselves as advocates for equality are most likely to hold discriminatory views re older adults.  Yep, it turns out that those often involved in fighting, say, racism and sexism (and such people are in their twenties, thirties and even forties) are likely to discriminate against older folk because they view the oldsters through the lens of their own ageism – they think that people older than themselves are more likely to be racist and sexist.

 

 

“Social justice movements, such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, have done huge amounts to address racism and sexism in our society…. However — and this is a big however — people who are keenest to advocate for women and racial minorities harbour more prejudice against a group that reports almost as much US workplace discrimination as these two: older people….
Ageism is so condoned in American culture that many do not see it as an ‘-ism’, in the same manner of other forms of prejudice…
…people who scored higher on (egalitarian advocacy study tests) scale were more disapproving of racism and sexism but also more likely to endorse ‘Succession-based ageism’ — the idea that older people should step aside to improve younger people’s job opportunities…
… researchers found that the more that (study participants) endorsed egalitarian advocacy, the more money they wanted to go to women and racial minorities — and the less they wanted to go to older people. Questionnaire results showed that this was driven by a belief that older people block women and racial minorities from getting ahead….this research suggests that when it comes to egalitarianism, equality for all may only mean equality for some….”

( “Advocates Of Equality For All Are More Like To Show Prejudice Against Older Adults At Work,” The British Psychological Research Society Digest, 3-4-21 )

 

 

Oy, the futility of it all. Ageism, in moiself’s opinion, is the stupidest of the isms.  It should be the one discrimination which is in everyone’s self-interest to combat.  So, why don’t we?  It seems that everything else which divides us – country of origin, religious and worldviews, political affiliations, culture, gender, sexual orientation – cannot be fully reconciled, and I have heard people (well-meaning, sincere, actively-working-for-the good-for-all people ) despair that, ultimately, there is no commonality. But, there IS.

White and black; female and male; hateful redneck third generation Texan and hopeful Latino immigrant; blustery climate change denier and introverted renewable energy supporter; nattering homophobe and flaming drag queen – we all have one commonality: We will all be Old People ®  someday.

Only death will relieve or prevent you from joining The Senior Set ®, that denigrated demographic.  Thus, it is in everyone’s best interest to work to eliminate the stereotypes of old age.  One of the most effective ways to do that is to make sure that vibrant aging minds and bodies still have vibrant and ample opportunities to contribute to society.

 

 

If, as a young person, you do not see people decades older than you being ( or, being *allowed to be* )  active and engaged members of any and all professions; if all you see of “the elderly” is images of people being warehoused (whether in their own homes or in golf course-infested retirement communities); if you can’t joke about someone’s gender or ethnicity but sharing a meme about feeble-minded old dudes who can’t navigate a corn maze always gets a laugh – well then, of course, what will you think?

One of my solutions:  Unless it can be scientifically demonstrated that no one over age 65 can continue to be, for example, an airline pilot, get rid of age-related mandatory requirement.  *Do* require training and testing, not forced departure, for certain jobs at a certain ages.  It’s no secret that certain physical capabilities and mental facilities can decline in some (but not all) older people.  And there are ways to test for these deficits, ways that, unlike mandatory retirement regulations, do not discriminate.  A lot of the removal of people from physically and mentally taxing jobs is voluntary; for where it’s not, yearly/periodic training or retesting could help weed out those who are no longer performing at the proper capacity for their particular profession.

Consider The Notorious RBG, who even months before her death from pancreatic cancer – hell, who, even from the grave – could run intellectual circles around SCOTUS colleagues decades younger than herself.  ( Yeah, I’m talkin’ *you,* Brett “I like Beer” Kavanaugh and Amy Originalist Conehead Coney Barrett.) .

 

 

Two of my cousins (both now deceased) were firefighters in LA County.  Years ago, when there’d been some public consternation about firefighter recruiting and testing requirements, firefighter/EMT cousin TTB told me the following story: TTB’s captain had surprised his crew one afternoon by ordering the crew – all of whom were at least fifteen-year veteran firefighters – to take the physical abilities testing given to recruits.  The crew, like all firefighters, participated in regular training drills, but the captain without warning made them do the grueling physical test give to wannabe firefighters. Almost all of the veterans failed.   [9]  Yet, they were good at their jobs. Should they have been fired/dismissed on the spot?  Just the previous day, the crew had responded to a fire and a medical emergency, and had done everything that needed to be done, in each case.  Apparently, their lack of peak/youthful brute strength was more than compensated for by their years of experience.

Also, the strapping young man who easily passed the physical challenges tests at age 21 might not be able to do so again, even at the relatively young age of 32 (like my cousin; see footnote). But if the skills testing is not done across the board (i.e., is only given to people above a certain age), by virtue of his youth, he may be allowed to continue on the job for which, according to that test, he is no longer qualified…or, it just might be that his experience will outweigh the somewhat random application of a physical skills test.

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Reverse Ageism Edition

Why do Generation Z-ers always type in lowercase?
Because they reject capitalism.

Why are today’s youth are so odd?
Because they can’t even.

Why does Santa Claus outright refuse to employ any Gen Y’ers to work as elves?
There are already too many snowflakes at the North Pole.

What do you call a bird that likes avocado toast?
The Millennial Falcon.

 

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

*   *   *

May you have fun getting lost in a corn maze, no matter your age;
May all of your product reviews be kickback-free;
May you, if you so desire, have people “following” (and not stalking) you;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Now, triple that and then we’re talkin.’

[2] Or maybe…like…six years?

[3] The friend was over a decade younger than moiself …which might be considered significant, given the topics which follow.

[4] Okay; actually, I’m writing it.  Picky, picky.

[5] Okay; these words are pejorative, but I really do like the sound of, “tottery.”

[6] Our conversation is punctuated by a neighbor farm’s loquacious bovine, whom I have nicknamed B4: Bill the Boisterous Bellowing Bull.

[7] Monosaturated, of course.

[8] We both have friends and family who have died “young”…how we wish they could have lived to complain their aching joints and wrinkled skin….

[9] Including my cousin, who had a pot belly the most calorie-seeking, nearing-hibernation-bear would have admired.

The Butt I’m Not Kicking

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Department Of You Want Me To Pay Extra So You Can Kick My What?

‘Tis a sheltered life I have led. Until now.

Dateline:  Monday, 4pm, in a local Regal Theater Cinema complex, seeing the movie “Free Guy,” in the “ButtKicker recliner seating” theater.  Although that cinema complex has had one theater designated ButtKicker for several years, moiself  had never seen a movie in the BK theater.  I’d always assumed that the BK label meant that it was a theater equipped with a particularly loud sound system…which I don’t care about.  The reason I chose that theater (and paid the extra ticket charge) was because it was my only choice, for the particular time slot I had that day, to see a movie.

It turns out that the BK experience was not just loud, but… juddering.   [1]  The ButtKicker Recliners ®  are not, as I initially thought, a Regal Theater marketing gimmick, as moiself  discovered when I got home and did a little web snooping.  It’s an actual Thing ®.  As in, a thing you can purchase and install for your own home movie theater.   [2]

“Get ready for the most fun you’ve ever had watching a movie at home. Feel all the action and excitement – just like being at a 4D special effects theater. ButtKicker® 4D brings family movie-time to life. Using patented technology, ButtKicker products connect to your couch or chairs and send the FEELING of special effects, explosions, rocket launches, racing engines, music and much more right through it and the viewers. It’s a new, immersive dimension in home entertainment.”
( “Bring Your Theater to the Next Level,” Buttkicker Home Theater )

Because, who *wouldn’t* want to send “…the FEELING of…rocket launches …right through it.”  As in, through your chairs or couch, and thus, your butt.

 

“Take *that,* you pretentious cinephile!”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Do These People Know How To Party, Or What?

Fun stuff this week in our household! Including:

*taking 14 year old Nova to her veterinary appointment, for a well-kitty exam plus getting her up-to-date on her rabies, Feline Leukemia and FVRCP vaccinations;

* a visit from the Varmint Control Guy, to do roof repairs to fix the damage a squirrel invasion ( previously histrionically kvetched written about in this space ) had done to our roof and eaves;

* MH’s first COVID-19 test…

*…which he had to do before starting the oh-so-circumspectly named Bowel Prep Kit

*… to clear the landing field, so to speak, in preparation for his routine colonoscopy, which was scheduled the day before his birthday.

 

Nova, leaping (sleaping?) for joy, knowing MH can go back to eating high fiber foods just in time for his birthday.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Post-Procedural Updates

Background info: MH has never been able to roll his rs, which is the main reason, he told me many years ago, that he took German as a foreign language in high school.  He’d thought Spanish would be more useful/practical, but he simply could not roll his rs as is required for the correct pronunciation of many Spanish words, and he was somewhat intimidated/embarrassed by his lack of being able to perform that particular linguistic feat.  And it’s true: over the years, I’ve tried to get him to do it (or trick him into it), and he simple cannot roll his rs.

Dateline: Thursday, 10:50 am. MH is back home after his colonoscopy.  He thinks he’s fine, but it’s obvious to moiself  that the effects of the Versed (the sedative used during the procedure) are still reigning.   [3]  He’s…goofy

He stands at the kitchen counter, looking at the color printout he was given at the hospital, which includes a map of the lower intestines. He begins reading off the “map sites” to me:

MH (in a voice much higher than his usual range):
“The ilium!
The cecum!
The rrrrrrrrrrrectum…”

Moiself:
What?!?!?!  Holy crap; did you hear yourself?!  You rolled your rs!

MH (in miffed toddler mode):
“No I didn’t.”

Moiself:
“Oh yes you did!”

He proceeds to say “rectum’ over and over, drawing out the r sound without rolling it.  But for one glorious, Versed-induced moment, them rs were rolling like a river.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of My New Slogan

Which is…well, it’s not exactly a t-shirt or bumper stucker worthy maxim, or a…

 

 

Okay, its’:

Don’t Drop The H.

This random thought, brought to you by moiself , was sparked by my listening to a podcast in which the guest was consistently *not* pronouncing the first letter in certain words which began with h. For example, he spoke of doing experiments on umans instead of on humans.

Really, y’all: what’s with the dropping-the-h thing, moiself  has long wondered? It’s a perfectly respectable letter and I assume it’s there for a reason.

We’ve all either noticed this pronunciation peculiarity or are ourselves the perpetrators of it.  Although I have not studied this phenomenon scientifically, my anecdotal recollection is that “h-dropping” (and it is a thing –  it has its own Wikipedia page!), by those who do so, occurs most often when the word beginning with h is followed by the vowel, u.  Favorite example: I once heard someone complain that his date did not appreciate his “uge sense of umor.”

All right now, class:

 

I am a human being, not a uman being.
I cook with herbs, not erbs.
I live in a house, not in a ouse…

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

 

 

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Department Of As Seen On TV As Mentioned Last Week:
Driverless Cars Ruminations

As in, moiself  ruminating on driverless cars, and not the other way around.   [4]

My Subaru Outback has Eyesight Driver Assist Technology ®,  which consists of a variety of features, including

* Pre-Collision Braking
* Pre-collision throttle management
* Lane keep assist and sway warning
* Rear/backup cameras
* Side view cameras (“blind spot” monitoring)
* Adaptive cruise control

Thus, in a (very) small way, moiself  has become at least marginally acquainted with the technologies which will be more fully employed in what we refer to as driverless cars and/or self-driving vehicles….  Although, the latter term seems somewhat problematic to moiself , as it makes me ruminate on the sentience of automotive vehicles…   [5] 

 

A car driving itself?  No problem. but nothing can replace driver initiative when it comes to bumper sticker adornment.

 

Yet again, I digress.

So, yeah: contemplating the technologies needed for driverless cars is neither foreign nor unimaginable to me, even though, as per my experience with what is state-of-the-market, some of these technologies have a way to go in terms of fine-tuning.  For example, my car’s brakes have automatically engaged – a tad too vigorously for my nervous system – when I’ve been backing into my driveway and my car’s sensor system thinks that the neighbor’s tree branches dangling harmlessly over the fence are a dangerous obstacle and my car must be brought to a complete stop RIGHT NOW.

Ah…but it’s looking out for me, how sweet.

 

“Who’s a good girl?!”

 

I haven’t seen any 2021 reports on the subject, but have read studies from the past couple of years which show that the majority of Americans fear the idea of riding in autonomous driving vehicles. It seems to moiself  that the more complete technology of “driver assist” sensors et al is bound to happen, and I am okay with, or as least accepting of, the inevitability of a driverless car future.  And, realizing that moiself  holds this attitude surprises moiself, as I am someone who has *never* used the cruise control feature of a vehicle I am driving.   [6]

It would be easier for me to fully accept driverless cars if everyone has them (for some reason, the idea of half the people on the road being in “driverless” cars and half doing it the old way…it creeps me out).

And I often wonder what will the greater “We” will accept, in terms of mistakes, from this particular technology?  Of course, there will be accidents involving and/or caused by autonomous driving cars.  I have a feeling most of them will be similar to the kinds we already have, from the minor fender benders, backing into a trash can…  Then again, some will be horrific and will involve loss of life: driving off of a cliff, running a stop sign and t-boning another vehicle….

Just like the kind of accidents we fully/allegedly sentient human drivers have been getting into, for over 100 years.

Another consideration:  a driverless vehicle will never have the excuse of

* driving drunk and blowing through a stop sign;

* passing out and running off the road and hitting and killing a child,
due to the driver experiencing a diabetic coma or other medical emergency;

* being distracted by kids bickering in the back seat;

* being Bubba Redneck, who purposefully tail-gates the car in front of him and causes the driver (whose Greenpeace sticker inexplicably irritates Bubba)
to become intimidated and lose control of his vehicle;

* falling asleep at the wheel;

* trying to compensate for a small penis impress the ladies and/or his homies by engaging in illegal street racing;

* running a red light while texting;

* simply overestimating its own ability to negotiate this turn/these streets under these conditions/at these speeds….

 

 

A prime example of the Dunning-Kruger effect is how drivers rate their own competence. It’s the human thing to do, apparently, to think that we are better driver than we are. Study after study shows that the overwhelming majority of American drivers rate themselves as cautious and safety-conscious and “above average” as drivers.  Yet, despite this…

“…there are approximately 10 million car crashes every year in the US alone.  That’s about 27,000 per day, or about 19 crashes every single minute of the day, every single day. Yikes. In these, about 35,000 people are killed every year.  That’s just under a hundred people a day, killed in car crashes.  Another 6,500 people are seriously injured in crashes each day.
So, if the overwhelming majority of road users are better than average, why are so many crashes still happening?
Part of the answer is likely due to the Dunning-Kruger Effect, which is a cognitive theory which hypothesizes that incompetent people lack the self-awareness to identify their own incompetence.”
( Driving and the Dunning_Kruger Effect, moderndriver.org )

It’s easy to ignore the reality that we are, in so many ways, at the mercy of the skills of the other drivers around us…and that we tacitly accept that risk every time we back out of our driveway, whether we are embarking on a 1000-mile road trip or a half-mile errand to Home Depot. We may be doing fine; we may be alert and paying attention and obeying all the rules of the road…and along comes the naive and cocky, speeding teenage driver, or the “been-driving-for-60-years-and-never-had-an-accident” grandpa who confuses his car’s brake pedal with its accelerator, or the average Joe or Jane in his or her prime (read: you or me) who, for whatever reason, is momentarily distracted…and we’re lucky if all we get out of the encounter is a fender-bender.

The idea of being in a self-driving car, as a passenger, can fill me with dread, anticipating situations over which I have no control.  The idea of working my crossword or KenKen puzzle, then looking up and seeing my self-driving car veer off the road onto a sidewalk, or not decelerating for the pedestrian in the walkway – that gives me the willies.  However, I’ve already experienced that situation…or at least, I have a comparison.  And so do you.  Perhaps we just need to reframe our references?

We’ve all, already, had our driverless car situations, but didn’t frame them as such.  Sitting in a car’s front passenger or backseat (as in, we are a passenger in the car, and not the driver), we have had to watch as the driver does, or is about to do, something frightening or dangerous, and we are not at the controls and all we can do is white-knuckle our armrest and yell, “Look out!” or “Stop!”  Or, in the case of teaching your own teenaged offspring to drive, you hear yourself screech, “WHAT the fuck are you doing are you trying to kill us all?!?!?!”) calmly yet urgently advising, “You’re going to need to drastically slow down to negotiate this hairpin curve ahead….”

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Automotive Edition

I accidentally drove my Outback into the river. Now it’s a Scubaru.

Two French cheese trucks were in a head-on collision –
there’s da brie all over the road!

What do you get when dinosaurs crash their cars?
Tyrannosaurus wrecks.

My Norwegian cousin works as a prostitute.
You might say she’s a Fjord Escort.

Jimi Hendrix broke his guitar in a car crash.
Yep, the accident was a Fender-bender.

 

*   *   *

May you, at least once in your life, have a juddering cinematic experience;
May you come to terms with a “driverless” future;
May you always pronounce the damn h;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Which is a good word that deserves to be used more often than it is.

[2] Should you have a few thousand dollars you need to get rid of.

[3] I suggested he go upstairs and sit or lie down, as he was rather wobbly standing.  He wanted to go up the stairs by himself; I insisted he hold on to the handrail, which he did, while vaulting up the stairs two at a time.  When I snapped at him to slow down he said, “It feels better this way!”

[4] Who cares what driverless cars think about *me*?

[5] As in, do they know they exist?  If a car is self-driving, does it have a sense of “self”?

[6] For a variety of reasons, including reading studies that show that cruise control actually raises crash risks, and reading about several accidents caused when cars’ cruise control mechanism “stuck,” including this horrific one… and also, I think it keeps me more awake and engaged by having to keep my foot on the throttle, and brake.

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