Home

The Ingredients Lists I’m Not Reading

Comments Off on The Ingredients Lists I’m Not Reading

Department Of, And Yet Another One

I wrote about this recently – was it only two weeks ago?

I was going to title this segment, Department Of No Comment…except that –  surprise! – moiself  be commenting.

Gender Reveal Device Explodes, Killing Man in Upstate New York
A man who was expecting his first child was killed on Sunday and his brother was injured when a device they were preparing for a gender-reveal party exploded in a garage in the Catskills in New York, the authorities said….(another) brother, called what happened “the freakiest of freak accidents…”
What set off the explosion remained under investigation…. The device consisted of some kind of pipe that was intended to be used at a gender-reveal party, but the nature of its explosive material was not yet known….
( Gender-Reveal Device Explodes, Killing Man in Upstate New York,
NY Times 2-22-21 )

Apparently, my sarcastic rebuke wise warning words re the foolhardiness of the gender reveal party phenomenon was not significant to the expectant father/now existent cremation candidate.  He, of course, like 99.9999999% of the population, doesn’t (uh, didn’t) know or care that I exist, nor what I write about. Common sense, along with any sense of proportion and propriety wasn’t enough, either.  Nor was Learning From The Mistakes Of Others. ®    [1]

As for the description of the incident as, “the freakiest a freak accidents…”

 

 

Public Service Announcement:  it’s not a freak accident when an explosive device explodes. That’s what explosive devices are designed and constructed to do.

Ask fire fighters or EMTs or hospital ER personnel: their collective “Can you believe this?!?” arsenal of stories is replete with tending to people injured by explosive devices which unintentionally exploded – people from munitions “experts,” to the schmuck who volunteered to shoot his high school’s pep rally confetti cannon.

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

Different as in, something which restored my optimism about humanity.

Department Of: This.

Dateline: Tuesday morning; circa 7:30 am. I am on my morning walk, headed toward a light rail station. As I turn onto the bike/walk path which parallels soccer and baseball fields I see a young woman walking on the path ahead of me.  She hears my footsteps as I close the gap between us, or so I assume because she does (and then I do) The Right Thing® : she scooches all the way to the right and I to the left, and we both raise our masks.

I call out a good morning to her; she greets me in return, and although my pace is quicker than hers for a moment we are side-by-side (if 10 feet apart).   She says something else which I can’t understand due to both her mask and her heavily accented English. I politely ask her to repeat herself; she asks how I am doing…but not in that casual way where people say, How are You?  in lieu of Hello or Good Morning. She means it.

I hope she sees the smile beneath my mask which makes it up to my eyes, when I reply that I am doing very well, thanks, and that I hope the day will be good for her.  “Yes, yes it will be,” she says, as we both reach the point where the path ends. She begins to head right, toward the light rail station, and I am headed left.

I stop, turn to face her, and call out, “By the way, thank you for asking.” She gives me a cheerful wave and we go our separate ways.

And I was…content. I had the proverbial warm and fuzzies, which lasted all day. Two strangers made a connection, brief yet significant, heartfelt if ephemeral, with the subtext of, in these stressful pandemic times, intentionally acknowledging a passerby beyond the usual, “G’morning.”

It takes no time at all and only a few kind words to acknowledge a fellow human being.  “Hi there – I’m here; so are you. I wish good things for us both.”

 

“If she starts singing ‘Kumbaya’ I’m gonna stop reading her insipid blog and turn on a WWF match.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Something New To Do When You’re Bored

Take out your canned food, your cereal boxes, your condiments and beverage cartons from the frig, your vitamins/nutritional supplements, and line them up on the kitchen counter.  One by one, read the items’ ingredients list, out loud, and wherever it lists “extract” substitute the word, “urine.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Just Wondering

Moiself  is imagining something of a sticky wicket situation for women in science.  Specifically, in the branch of biology known as zoology.

Say you’re a female British ornithologist curating your university’s natural history museum. A visiting American professor of ornithology wishes to review your collection of native European bird species.  You invite him to the museum to do so.

Now, are you technically responsible for his reaction, when he sees your display case of Parus major specimens and exclaims,

“Wow!  You have great tits!”    [2]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Reason To Never Fine-Tune
My Cellphone’s Voice Typing Feature

Dateline: Sunday; MH and I both away from home, separately running errands.  As I’m entering a grocery store I receive a text from him, alerting me to the fact that we are out of hairball chews  [3]   and asking if moiself’s  errands are taking me anywhere near a pet supplies store which might have them?

I reply in the affirmative. Except, dictating through my mask (and, as always, sending it before proof-reading), my text comes out thusly:

I will go to PetSmart to get the hairball truth.

When I read what I’d sent, moiself is transported into existential-mode.  First, I follow up that text with

Chews! I will get the chews! That’s the truth.

But I can’t stop thinking about it.  What *is* the hairball truth? Is it something that can be gotten, or comprehended – or merely contemplated – by mere bipeds?

 

 

YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE HAIRBALL TRUTH !

 

*   *   *

Department Of Did You Know About This?

Woman in Motion is now available for streaming.  And you are going to watch it, right?

I knew that actor Nichelle Nichols, best known as the iconic Lt. Nyota Uhura from Star Trek’s original series, is quite beloved by the sci-fi aficionados for her knowledge of the genre and passion for space travel, the latter of which included working to recruit astronauts for NASA.  I did not know of the extent of her involvement.

“Woman in Motion: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek and the Remaking of NASA,” tells the story of how Nichols, in the late 1970s, led recruitment efforts at NASA to bring in more women and people of color. According to the film’s synopsis, “In 1977, with just four months left, NASA struggles to recruit scientists, engineers and astronauts for their new Space Shuttle Program. That is when Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura, challenges them by asking the question: Where are my people? She embarks on a national blitz, recruiting 8,000 of the nation’s best and brightest, including the trailblazing astronauts who became the first African American, Asian and Latino men and women to fly in space.”
(Daily Star Trek news 2-8-21 )

 

“I am so much more than ‘Hailing frequency open, Captain,” and don’t y’all forget it.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of What I Aspire To (Metaphorically. If Not Literally)

You’ve seen your pet  [4]  do it:  find that sunny spot on the rug or floor or windowsill or bed (or, if it’s your cat, your computer keyboard), plop down atop it, and bask in the simple pleasure of basking.  They’re not trying to figure out where the coveted sunny spot came from, what causes it, or where it’s going. they’re just…there.

Moiself aspires towards, at least occasionally, achieving an equanimity akin to the cat-on-the-sunny-spot-on-the-carpet  moment.  And when the spot “moves” I’ll move with it, or realize that what I had was enough, and get up and go on with whatever.

 

Sometimes, just the paws are enough.

*   *   *

Department Of Huh?

Dateline: Sunday 2-21. I am posting a for sale notice on a classified ads internet site.  MH suggests I also post on the FB marketplace, so I check it out. I find several local/neighborhood groups, and request to post on four of them.  Two of these groups have questions you must answer before you can be “‘approved” to join (and thus post on) them.

The first group has only one question: Are you advertising for a business?  The second group, for my city, has two questions: What is your zip code?  (I assume to make sure you really live in Hillsboro, and/or weed out scammers), and:

“What is your favorite thing about Hillsboro?”

That question strikes me as odd. It’s not relevant to my intent, nor the intent of others posting on the group who, I assume are, like moiself – listing items we wish to sell to anyone who might wish to purchase them, regardless of what they like (or don’t like) about the city.

My answer:

“The capital H!”   [5]

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

My musician friends formed a quartet called “Duvet.” They’re a cover band.

 

“A-one and a-two and a-nobody laugh.”

 

*   *   *

May all of your food item’s extracts be bona fide extracts;
May you exchange greetings with amiable strangers at every opportunity;
May you find your sunny spot on the rug;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] “Celebratory Cannon Salute at Baby Shower Ends in Death,” (NY Times 2-7-21); “…An Iowa woman was killed when her family inadvertently built a pipe bomb as part of their gender-reveal party” (The Atlantic 11-11-19); A fire sparked by a “pyrotechnic device” during a celebration meant to debut the sex of the hosts’ baby-on-the-way has scorched more than 10,000 acres of Southern California (The Washington Post 9-10-20)

[2] The great tit is the actual name of a species of bird in the songbird/perching bird family known as the tit family (Paridae), which includes chickadees, tits, and titmice.  I think it is safe to assume that some British dude is responsible for the name.

[3] For one of our cats, who really needs them.

[4] Or someone else’s, if you’re not a pet person.

[5] Hell yeah my request was approved.

The Rovers I’m Not Naming

Comments Off on The Rovers I’m Not Naming

Department Of This Is Why I’m Not In Charge Of Such Things

Dateline: Thursday (yesterday), 2-18-21, 12 noonish; watching coverage of the Perseverance rover landing on Mars.  [1]  There was plenty of time to consider the ground-breaking implications of space exploration for humanity while all the TV talking heads filled the time until the actual landing.  Thus, I got to wondering: what is it about the names of these planetary probes – who gets to choose them, and what are the guidelines?

Spirit; Opportunity; Curiosity; Pathfinder; Perseverance

It seems NASA’s Mars program is partial to names denoting desirable/adventurous personality traits.  The launch and landing stages of the probes are certainly WOW events. But I’m thinking of the decades of the less glamorous work behind the scenes to get these devices to those stages.  What about honoring the less flashy but essential characteristics necessary for progress and harmony, when you’re working for years with a team of people, sometimes under stressful circumstances?

I humbly submit my nominations for the names of future Mars (or, Jupiter or…?) rovers:

Diligence

Reliability

Punctuality

Maturity

Tolerance

Composure

Sufficiently Caffeinated

Respectful Personal Hygiene

 

Introducing NASA’s next Mars Rover, “Fiscal Responsibility”

 

*   *   *

Department Of More Lists

I overheard a conversation in a grocery store between two employees, something about “…best inventions of the century.” We’re only one fift  into the 21st century, but of course (as moiself  discovered when I returned home and Googled the concept) individuals, news organizations and other companies have already started compiling lists.

Most of them overlap; “best” is of course a subjective rating; some of the entries, it could be argued, span both centuries (do you count an invention as being of this century on the date it became available to the public/was put into use, or the date when someone first started working on it?) .  [2]   All that considered, the more common entries include

*  Smart phones
*  Online banking
*  3-d printing
*  CRISPR  gene editor
*  The contraceptive patch
*  Augmented reality
*  Blockchain platforms
*  High density battery packs
*  Online streaming

After scanning the fifth such list, I noted a glaring omission common to all of them:

Where was the inclusion of Poo-Pourri ?!?!?!?     [3]

Not only it is a great product, the makers of Poo-Pourri are responsible for arguably The. Funniest. Product. Commercial. Ever.   [4]   If you have never seen this commercial, then you obviously have a more fulfilling and important life than I do need to inform yourself as to this cultural milestone of marketing:

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Bill Gates Please Save The World

“Gates isn’t just looking to cut future carbon emissions, he is also investing in direct air capture, an experimental process to remove existing CO2 from the atmosphere. Some companies are  now using these giant fans to capture CO2 directly out of the air, Gates has become one of the world’s largest funders of this kind of technology.”
( “Bill Gates: How the world can avoid a climate disaster,” 60 Minutes 2-15-21 )

Three times in the past three weeks I’ve encountered the term direct air capture, used in relation to our global warming crisis. Each time, the part of my heart that is still 12-years-old jumps for joy.

Direct air capture (as per Wikipedia):
Direct air capture (DAC) is a process of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) directly from the ambient air (as opposed to capturing from point sources, such as a cement factory or biomass power plant) and generating a concentrated stream of CO 2 for sequestration or utilization or production of carbon-neutral fuel and windgas. ….DAC was suggested in 1999 and is still in development….

Actually, a form of DAC was suggested by moiself, over two decades earlier than 1999.  I, like, invented DAC.  In your dreams, you may say. Well, literally, yes.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (Southern California, early 1970s) we had smog alerts several times during my 7th grade year, when the air quality got so bad it hurt to breathe, and PE classes were cancelled.

 

You’re not supposed to “see” the air, right?

 

During that PE downtime I would think about why we weren’t doing our 800 yard run trials.  Air pollution – not only do we have to stop adding to it, we need to get that existing gunk out of the air.  What about some kind of sieve or filter – which work for liquids, so why not tweak the concept to strain the air?  I would dream about it at night; I had dreams about enormous fan-type devices which would suck in air, filtering out the pollutants and spewing out clean air while compressing the particulate matter into bricks and other building materials which could be used for housing, road surfaces, bridges….

Yes, dreams, as in plural. It was weighing heavily upon my mind. For a period of several weeks I thought about it a lot, even confiding in my math teacher after class one day.  I asked him if he knew some science teachers, maybe in high school,   [5]  with whom I could talk to about my idea. He laughed at me – not cruelly, but certainly patronizingly, and said that I had no concept about the complicated technology which would have to be involved – which would have to be invented – for such an undertaking.  [6]

My school stopped having smog alerts and I stopped having those dreams.  Moiself  looks forward to not having to dream about such things, ever again, in the very near future.

 

How complicated could such an invention be?

 

*   *   *

The Commercial I’m Not Filming

Yours truly came across the following ad recently.

 

 

Imnagine that, an ad for yet another product or regimen to stop/reverse “the aging process.”   [7]

Moiself  fantasized about shooting a commercial for *my* secret tips to stop the aging process.  Seven seems an excessive number, so I’ll cut it down to five.  The commercial will open with scenes of people sending me money for my secret/sure-fire tips to stop the you-know-what process, followed by scenes of my anti-aging goon squad who show up at said people’s houses or surprise them on the streets, and stop their aging process via:

  1. pushing them in front of a bus
  2. running them over with a bus
  3. dropping a bus on top of them as they stand at a bus stop
  4. lacing their morning coffee with arsenic
  5. slipping a sedative in their dinner wine and setting fire to their house while they sleep

The final scene shows friends at the deceased’s open casket funeral, murmuring enviously to one another, “She doesn’t look a day older than yesterday.”

 

“Did you see her – she’s actually dead!”
“Yes, but at least she’s not getting any more wrinkles.”

 

 

*   *   *

“One of the things that Teller and I are obsessed with, one of the reasons that we’re in magic, is the difference between fantasy and reality.”
(Penn Jillette, of the magic duo Penn and Teller)

“It isn’t automatic that if you learn magic you’ll become a skeptic of the supernatural,” said D.J. Grothe, president of the Virginia-based James Randi Educational Foundation, which debunks supernatural claims and was founded by Randi.
    “But knowing magic does give you a leg up on how the mind works and how easy it is to be deceived. And from there, skepticism can be a fortunate result.”
(“Magicians say their craft makes them see faith as just hocus-pocus,”
The Christian Century, 10-27-11 )

I have long been drawn to the philosophy of modern-day magicians, even though the what-they-do part – the actual “magic” –  doesn’t particularly hold my interest.  It has been years since I’ve been to a magic show, and although I avoid Las Vegas like the proverbial plague (I think moiself  is allergic to neon), if I were there, The Penn and Teller show is the one show I’d try to get tickets to.

 

Well, that and a show featuring Amazonian-stature women dressed as roosters.  Because, you know, culture.

What interests me is (something which magicians themselves have pointed out) the similarity of “tricks” used by magicians and politicians and religions.  Magic acts, religious leaders and texts, and extreme political ideologies are similar in that they employ physical and psychological methods to fool people into believing something that they otherwise would have/should have known is patently untrue ( The man did not pull a quarter from your nose…but gosh darn it, it sure looked like he did).  Ultimately, magicians and demagogues and priests don’t have to fool people, because by using a combination of visual, oral, and intellectual illusions, they get people to fool themselves.

 

 

I recently tuned into my favorite podcast on communication and science, Clear + Vivid , and was pleased to hear that C+V host Alan Alda’s guest was Penn Jillette (aka “the talking half “of Penn and Teller).  In Magic, Tricks, and Us, Penn explored this question:


When we see a magic trick, is the magician fooling us,
or are we fooling ourselves?

 

 

Jillette’s thesis is that “magic tricks” are a test of how we process reality:

“If you’re lying to somebody, they’ll catch you. But if you get someone to lie to themselves, you’ve got ’em.  And that is what we’re (magicians) always trying to do: get people to make assumptions…because they’ll put up a wall around me, but if I can come around the edge, we can fool ’em that way.

He talks about illusions v. tricks, and how he prefers the latter:

“Tricks are ideas that you get someone to…to lie to themselves. Because the trick, instantly, deals with one of the most important subjects we can deal with, which is how we establish what’s real; how we agree on a reality.  For me, doing magic is a playful epistemological experience. We are playing around, in a safe zone, with how we establish what’s true.  We’ve seen what happens when truth is played with on a real stage, in the real world…and it’s horrific.   If you come to see a Penn & Teller show and you say, if these two guys can make me think something that’s patently not true, what can people with a real budget, and a lack of morals, do?”

Penn, an atheist and advocate science and of reality-based thinking, briefly addressed criticism that atheists don’t accept or appreciate “mystery” in the world.

“Atheists are often accused of ‘not accepting the mystery,’ and it’s exactly the opposite. Atheists are very happy going, ‘Hmm, I don’t know.’
Reality-based thinking is actually more in love with mystery than magical thinking.  When scientists said, ‘I don’t know,’ they had more love of the mystery than someone who said, ‘I do know, and it’s god.’
The three most important words of the scientific method are, ‘I don’t know.’ Those were not said until 500 years ago. Priests and rulers and kings, they always knew. Scientists came along and went, ‘I don’t know.’  Those three words are to me the scientific method.”

What spurs scientific investigation in the first place is recognizing and admitting what we don’t know, followed by harnessing the curiosity and freedom to investigate. We all benefit from the science that springs from admitting what we don’t know about a natural phenomenon, rather than being “given” incomplete, incorrect, or simply nonsensical non-answers (“Allah willed it;” “Jehovah did it,” “Pele/Isis/Jesus sent the plague/rains/tornado/volcanic eruption to punish/reward/bless/remind us….”)

 

 

“I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.”
“I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.”
( Richard Feynman, theoretical physicist, professor, and avid bongo player )

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Harry Houdini used to use lots of trap doors in his magic act.
He’s stopped that now; he was just going through a stage.

 

*   *   *

 

May you appreciate the difference between questions that can’t be answered
and answers that can’t be questioned;
May you be careful what you wish for when it comes to “the aging process;”
May we all realize how truly cool it is that we have another rover on Mars;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Did you see it?  The announcers did a great job of transmitting the NASA/JPL team members’ “Seven Minutes of Terror,” as you think about how butt-frostingly complicated such a mission is, and how many things can go wrong….

[2] Foer example, the contraceptive patch was first available to the public in 2002 but had been in development and testing long before then.

[3] Aka, “The before-you-go toilet spray.”

[4] Yes, of course, that’s in my opinion. This is my blog; whose opinion were you expecting?

[5] Solving the world’s air pollution problems might be too ambitious for junior high, I reckoned.

[6] Neither did he, of course.  I often wonder if I’d been a 13-year-old boy instead of a girl, and come to him with the same idea, would he have encouraged me to study engineering and solve that problem?

[7] As in, wrinkled skin.

The Songs I’m Not Censoring

1 Comment

Gung hay fat choi!

Happy Lunar New Year to my Chinese friends and family, and all who celebrate it.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of At Least They Didn’t Start A Forest Fire

“A 26-year-old Michigan man died on Saturday after he was hit with shrapnel from ‘a small cannon type device’ that exploded when….”

This is how the news article began. What words, would you think, could possibly complete the article’s lead sentence?

“… it was fired in celebration at a baby shower….

 

 

Because celebrating babies and pregnancy and impending parenthood – one immediately thinks: Ah, yes: armaments!

“A cannon type device.” As in, a cannon? It was a friggin’ baby shower; it was not a Civil War reenactment, nor battle enactment of any kind…although – WARNING: BAD PREGNANCY PUN AHEAD – many a woman in her ninth month of gestation has felt like she is personally fighting the Battle of the Bulge.

 

The story continues:

“The man, Evan Thomas Silva, a guest at the party, was about 10 to 15 feet from the device when it blew up in the backyard of a home. Metal shrapnel hit Mr. Silva, three parked cars and the garage where the shower was being held, the police said…..
The night Mr. Silva died, he was among the guests…attending a baby shower — not a gender reveal party….”
( “Celebratory Cannon Salute at Baby Shower Ends in Death,” NY Times 2-7-21

Interesting that the article took pains to mention that this was *not* a gender reveal party, as per the idiotic trend in which celebratory pyrotechnics employed by excited parents-to-be inadvertently yet efficiently caused *more than one* wildfire in the past year (a trend which yours truly had mocked in a previous post).

Attention, expectant parents: stop this. Right now. Stop throwing such events for yourselves and stop attending them in your “honor.” Your friends and family will thank you:  no matter what they are saying to your face, under your nose and behind your back they are embarrassed and appalled that you apparently find the fact of *your* impending parenthood – an event so ordinary that it happens worldwide, 385,000 times PER DAY  – to be so special that it is the cause for the type of celebration usually reserved for a nation’s liberation from a dictator or the opening of yet another Disney theme park.

Have a party if you want to, of course!  Keep it simple – those kind of celebrations are remembered most fondly, and are less stressful to plan *and* attend. Do the potluck thing, play music and silly games.  [1]  But have some perspective, puuuuuhhhhllleeeaassee.  NO cannons, no fireworks – nothing which intentionally or otherwise explodes… with the exception of your Uncle Beauford’s mouth (and other orifices) after his third helping of your elderly neighbor’s double-chili-bean-cabbage-beer-garlic casserole.

 

“We’re so excited about baby’s first artillery!

*   *   *

Department Of What To Serve At Your Baby Shower
Sup-Department Of Maybe Reconsider The Chicken Wings

“Torture a single chicken in your backyard, and you risk arrest. Abuse tens of millions of them? Why, that’s agribusiness.”
( “The Ugly Secrets Behind the Costco Chicken,” NY Times, 2-6-21 )

 

 

Selective breeding by agricultural scientists for larger overall size and enormous breasts – the white meat consumers prefer – has produced  “exploding chickens” that put on weight at a monstrous clip….The journal Poultry Science once calculated that if humans grew at the same rate as these chickens, a 2-month-old baby would weigh 660 pounds…. The chickens’ legs, unable to support the weight of their out-of-proportion bodies, often splay or collapse, making some chickens topple onto their backs (and then they cannot right themselves) and others collapse onto their bellies, where they lie in mounds of feces and suffer bloody rashes called ammonia burns – the poultry version of bed sores.

*   *   *

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Memory Sparking

The film class moiself  had in college: I hadn’t thought of it, nor of the class’s professor, in years.  Now, twice in the past two months both have come to mind (and thus, to this blog).

The first time was two months ago, during the brouhaha manufactured by a Wall Street Journal columnist who chided Jill Biden, who holds a Ph.D. in education, for using her professional credentials. I’d remembered how I’d gotten a kick out of how Robert Miller, my film class’s professor,  [2]  made his point as to how he wished to be addressed.  Miller, who had a Ph.D. in literature, introduced himself as “Professor Miller.” When a student speaking in class prefaced their remarks with, “Dr. Miller…” Miller would interrupt with, “Yes, nurse?”

The second time was last week, when I was listening to a recent Fresh Air interview with former writer  [3]  and current professional observationist  [4]   Fran Leibovitz.  Leibovitz was promoting a new Netflix docuseries, “Pretend It’s a City,”  in which the series’ director (Leibovitz’s longtime friend, Martin Scorsese) talks with Leibovitz about…well, about Leibovitz, and whatever Leibovitz thinks about any and every thing she thinks about.   [5]

In the Fresh Air interview Leibovitz talked about her “career” background. Before enjoying her fifteen minutes of fame as a writer in the 1970s  [6]  Leibovitz held a series of menial/odd jobs. She claims she took housecleaning jobs and drove a taxi because, “I don’t have any skills. I didn’t know how to do anything else.”

“I also didn’t want to do the job that most of my friends did, which was wait tables, because I didn’t want to have to be nice to men to get tips or to sleep with the manager of my shift, which was a common requirement then for being a waitress in New York.”

My film professor, who was a writer as well as a teacher, didn’t (to my knowledge) require any of his students to sleep with him – that’s not why this memory was sparked.  He *did* do something which I thought was an abuse of power, although at that time I hadn’t the emotional or intellectual context to frame it as such, given its complexity.

One afternoon in class the topic was screenplay adaptation.  As an example of how you would turn a literary story into a cinematic one, Professor Miller announced that our next assignment, due the following week, would be to write up a proposal for adapting a piece of short fiction he would give to us.  We’ll spend the rest of the class time discussing the assignment, Professor Miller said.  He began passing out photocopies of – I stifled a gasp when I read the byline – a short story *he* had written.

 

 

I remember thinking, “Uh, this a good idea?  HELL NO.”

Would any student dare say, “This story is not adaptable,” or, “There’s no way I would want to adapt this even if I thought I could because I just don’t like it.…” or express any other critique, from mild to scathing, knowing that it is the professor’s own work?

I tried to stifle my instinctive, lip-curling expression as I read the story, which was a Mailer-Hemingwayesque male fantasy, about a backpacking trip taken by an Older Man ® (an artist-teacher of some kind) and the Much Younger Woman ® he is mentoring and – surprise! – fucking dating.   Meanwhile, Professor Miller read aloud from the story’s campfire scene, a scene which, he told the class, would be particularly visually appealing for a screenwriter (the following is my summation of the scene):

OM and MYW are sitting around their campfire, their conversation terse and tense. There is a sense of growing strain between them for a variety of reasons, including the status of their relationship, and signs of bear activity in the vicinity. When MYW excuses herself  (presumably to go behind the tent to take a pee break),  OM ruminates about how their relationship will likely be coming to an end, as he is older, more educated and world-wise, and she is…well…she is what she is (young and beautiful).

MYW returns, tossing an item into the campfire as she sits down; OM sees a tampon briefly blaze before the flames incinerate it. He begins to panic…. 

Already feeling nauseated by the retch-worthy cliché of the older male teacher/younger female student predatory romantic relationship scenario, I had another thought that made me want to puke in class: he’s not going to incorporate the macho woodsy myth about bears being attracted to menstruating women in his story, is he?   [7] 

OM starts asking MYW about why she didn’t tell him she was having her menstrual period – they’re in bear country, FFS! That explains his feeling that a bear has been stalking them.  Now, they are in danger….

Several students (all male) took turns praising the scene and shared their ideas as to how they would script it.  I remember Professor Miller looking at me several times, as if he expected my feedback – me, who remained silent, despite usually speaking up in class discussions; me, the one student (or so the professor  told me a week earlier, when he’d returned an assignment of mine   [8]  ) whom he allowed to turn any assignment into a prose-writing opportunity.   [9]

I remember looking around at the class, paying particular attention to the expressions on the other female student’s faces, and having a click-worthy moment of realization:

Oh, so *this* is how women learn to fake orgasms.

 

“Do tell?”

 

Up until that moment, the class as a whole had had little problem tearing into films we had been told were “classics” but which one or more of us found poorly made, reductive, or just plain boring.  But for this assignment, what choice did we have, other than to act as if we liked the story?  He was our professor; it was his story. We had to pretend to like or at least approve of it in order for us to succeed in that situation.

Somewhere near the end of class time moiself  raised my hand and asked if we had other options for the assignment – for example, adapting works of…other authors.  I remember phrasing my question as delicately as I could, and squeezing in some (faux) compliments of his story, compliments which were bland enough that I didn’t hate myself for wimping out on what I wanted to do, which was to object to the inherent hubris of him assigning his own story.  Fortunately for me, several of the professor’s suck-ups acolytes weighed in on the subject, and my tacit criticism of his self-indulgent ego trip of an assignment didn’t seem to register (or at least not for long, as I got an A in the class).

*   *   *

Department Of Sometimes I Miss The Good Old Days Of Censorship

“When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better. ”

“I’ll try anything once, twice if I like it, three times to make sure.”

― Mae West

 

The Good Old Days ® of any kind were usually not-that-good, just old.  I am not condoning censorship; continuing with this post’s cinematic theme, I am remember the day in my film class where we learned about the Hays Code, aka the Motion Picture Production Code.  The Hays Code was used, for almost four decades, by film studios to require that their pictures be “wholesome” and “moral” and free from a list of no-nos (e.g. nudity, overt violence, sexually suggestive dances, discussions of sexual perversity, characters which engendered sympathy for criminals, unnecessary use of liquor, making fun of religion, interracial relationships, “lustful kissing,” ridicule of law and order….)

A lively class discussion about the Hays Code ensued.  Several students, and the professor, gave reasons for favoring some kind of code or guidelines (although not outright censorship), due to the artistic ingenuity such guidelines inevitably inspired.

This idea that “guidelines up the game” is one which crosses artistic genres. I recall experiencing a joy I don’t think can be replicated today, when I realized that 13-year-old moiself  “got” The Kinks’ song, Lola, and my parents   [10]   and the radio censors didn’t.  Presently, pop vocalists can call for the execution of people they don’t like, can call each other obscene and racist epithets, can brag about the…uh, humidity level of their intimate parts….  There are few if any lines to subversively read between. 

 

A fun factoid about “Lola” is that the word “Coca-Cola” in the original recording had to be changed ( ♫ “I met her in a bar down in old Soho where you drink champagne and it takes just like Coca-Cola…” ♫ ).  Singer Ray Davies dubbed in “cherry cola” for the song’s release, due to the BBC Radio’s policy against product placement.

 

Son K and I had an interesting IM session about the subject of censorship when, apropos of what-I-cannot-now recall, K came across some info about the Parents Music Resource Center, asked me some questions, and began searching for and then watching videos of the PMRC’s congressional hearing.

[ The PMRC, as some of y’all may recall, was an American governmental “advisory committee” formed in the 1980s which sought to increase parental control over children’s access to music with violent, sexual, and drug-related themes. The PMRC lobbied the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America)  to develop a music labeling system, ala the MPAA’s film rating system.  Because the PMRC was founded by four women whose husbands had political connections (including Tipper Gore, married to Senator and later Vice President Al Gore) the group was sometimes derisively and dismissively referred to as “The Washington Wives.” ]

K: man so reading about the PMRC. what was tipper gore’s problem

Moiself What made you read about the PMRC?
Some say Tipper Gore was looking for a “cause,; others, including herself and her husband, say she was a concerned parent who became shocked when she listened to the lyrics of one of her daughter’s favorite songs…and then started acquainting herself with other lyrics to popular music.
I think it’s probably a combination of both motivations.  The PMRC was actually a milder version of other parental groups at the time which were calling for censorship – the PMRC wanted parental warning labels as to content….

I gave K a brief history lesson: at that time, many kids didn’t buy their own records – their parents or grandparents did.  As a parent and “consumer,” I wouldn’t want to spend my money on songs that used racial epithets or promoted homophobic or misogynistic viewpoints to my kids. And in the ’80s lyrics were getting really explicit, which made me actually wish for the days of radio content restrictions…because then singers and songwriters had to be clever.  It was so much fun when, ala my “Lola” reference, you knew something was slipped by the sensors – you caught a reference that even the supposedly hip radio programming directors, as well as your own parents, didn’t “get.”

K: just looking through it, (the PMRC hearings) all comes across to me as one of those bullshit moral crusades. a need to either feel self superior, or a need to control anything that doesn’t appeal to X person’s personal tastes, or both.
it just reminded me of a milder version of McCarthyist witch hunting.
demonizing something for political gain

Moiself: Yes, but the latter is a proven technique.

Later on, in an in-person dialogue, I shared with K my opinion that any form of guideline or structure-free art risks…well, think of the criticism of free verse poetry as playing tennis with the net down.  I’m not lauding censorship per se, but, to reiterate, IMHO guidelines can actually make people more creative – or sneaky, which has a strong element of creativity to it. Because when you can’t just come out and say Certain Things ® you have to be subtle and sly, employing cheeky imagery and evocative dialogue.  You have to be more poetic, in a way.

A movie critic once asked the late great writer/screenwriter/director Nora Ephron if Ephron agreed with the critic’s observation that there seemed to have been stronger roles for women actors, and better plots and dialog, in the earlier days of cinema. Ephron agreed, and lamented contemporary movies’ lack of witty dialogue and snappy repartee – and distinctive, self-assured female characters – which were found in the movies of the 30s and 40s and even 50s.  Beginning in the late 60s, along came the “New Cinema” movement, which emphasized so-called gritty realism. You no longer had to employ clever camera angles and witty, double-entendre laden repartee – now you can just show (instead of imply) a graphic murder, have the protagonists jump into bed together (which had the effect of valuing, defining – and casting – female actors as per their sexual appeal)…and then what?

In an atmosphere where nothing is considered to be off-limits, you will never have the delightful shock value of experiencing, say, the judicious use of “strong” language.  I fondly recall my mother telling me about her most memorable movie experience, when as a child she saw Gone With The Wind. She said she’d never forget how she was both scandalized and thrilled – and how “the entire theater gasped” –  when Rhett Butler delivered his infamous parting line:

 

 

 

*   *   *

Pun(z) For The Day

Moiself : Did you hear about that actress, Reese, who just stabbed a guy to death?
Innocent bystander: Witherspoon?
Moiself : No, she used her knife.

  1. Q.  How does award-winning actor Reese eat her Cheerios?
  2. A.  Witherspoon.

I suppose I have to be a good sport about this.

*   *   *

May you shun any event mixing pyrotechnics and babies;
May you neither actively nor passively contribute to “exploding chickens;”
May you challenge yourself to both follow and subvert the guidelines;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Of course, have these events safely, distanced/outdoors, and masked until this damn COVID-19 thing peters out …do I really need to say this? Apparently.

[2] A pseudonym.

[3] Leibovitz has famously suffered from writer’s block for years, and now seems to get by with having people pay to listen to her talk about the things she used to write about. Not a criticism – she has a keen, sardonic eye, and is quite witty.  I have enjoyed the series, so far (haven’t as of this writing finished listening to all episodes).

[4] I’m not sure if “observationist” is a thing, but Leibovitz seems to be making a living from it.

[5] Which centers around her technophobic life in New York city; specifically, Manhattan.

[6] Using her satirical, NYC-centered wit, she opined on American life in two best-selling collections of essays,   Metropolitan Life and Social Studies.

[7] After class I found a couple of Wildlife Fisheries Biology majors who confirmed that was a myth.  Even so, it was a myth that got a lot of traction, and it wasn’t until in the 1980s and ’90s that biologists did studies proving that bears – or sharks – are no more attracted to menstruating women than to any other kind of human.

[8] storyboarding a dada-esque, vignette-style commercial for the soft drink, 7-Up, which he graded A+.

[9] We’d had and would continue to have various projects over the quarter, from “making” a short films or advertisements or animation. I’d no interest in filming anything or doing animation, and always chose to interpret “making” as doing the screenplay, storyboarding and/or writing portion of the project.

[10] When my friend’s très conservative mother was singing along to “Lola” on the radio while was driving us to the beach, I somehow resisted the urge to ask if she knew she was enjoying an ode to a naïve young man’s romance with a transvestite.

The Mental Note I’m Not Making

Comments Off on The Mental Note I’m Not Making

Dateline: Thursday, returning from my morning walk. A black van slowly drives by my house, then pulls up in my driveway just as moiself  punches in the code to open the garage door.  The car is unmarked; I figure it for a delivery vehicle, and indeed, the driver leaves the motor running as he exits the vehicle and approaches me, carrying a white, pizza-delivery-shaped box and three other items in his arms. He likely cannot discern my confused expression that slowly crosses my face (I am masked) when I see that the “packages” he’s toting all bear the Krispy Kreme logo.

“Excuse me,” I say, “I think you have the wrong address.” His eyes and forehead denote that he is smiling beneath his mask, but I’m not sure he understands me. “Do you have the correct house number?” I ask again.  “We didn’t order….uh, we don’t eat…” I gesture toward his armful. “…any of that.”

He says MH’s name, in heavily accented (Russian?) English, and points to the top of the box, where MH’s first name and last initial are written in black ink. Seeing that I have my hands full (hat and gloves in one hand and walking poles in the other) he leaves the items on the front porch and waves to me as he scampers back to his van.

I enter the house via the garage and tell MH, who is in the kitchen, about the delivery.  He fetches the items from the porch, and tells me that yesterday afternoon someone from work messaged him with the news that there would be a “sweet treat” delivered to him tomorrow, in honor of his 30 years with the company.

“I was hoping,” MH shakes his head, “for chocolates.”

Here is what MH got:  a donut assortment and a bucket of coffee and eight cups and enough creamer to drown a possum (*eight* coffee cups?  Whom do they think he’ll be having over during these COVID social isolation times?).

 

 

MH does not drink coffee (thirty years, and they don’t know this?), and doesn’t eat donuts.

Yeah, team!  Way to know and value your employees!

Even as I type this MH is receiving “very nice” calls and messages from people he works with, regarding his 30 years with the company, and I can tell he is touched by their individual expressions of congratulations.  “The company” as such does have an interesting history of less-than-stellar acknowledgements of significant anniversaries, as moiself  noted in this space, five years ago. What the heck; it all makes for a better story than a gold watch.

*   *   *

Department Of What Have I Ever Done To Deserve This?

Thursday was quite the day.  I awoke Thursday morning at 3:30 AM – a good five hours before the surprise KK delivery – and, as always when I awaken in mid-eve/early am, an earworm was infecting my brain.

This time, the song was a particularly odious one.  I’m not talking Osmond Family odious, but almost.

 

“Oh, did you say something insulting? We’re too busy urging agents of the Mormon church to buy controlling percentages of Proctor & Gamble stock – the makers of the Crest Whitening Strips ® we heartily endorse! – to pay attention to your gentile gibes. ”  [1]

 

It was a Bobby Goldsboro song: The Straight Life.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Stranger’s Post I’m Responding To.
Sub Department Of Why. Do. I. Do. This.

A friend posted the following on Facebook (passing it on, I’m guessing, from someone else’s’ post).  Underneath a faded photo of a baby girl and her adorable sisters (all of whom appeared to be under age three), was this entreaty (I removed the names; other than that, the post is as originally written and punctuated.):

PLEASE HELP!!
51 years ago our mother _ _ ___ (nee ____).     Walked out of these 3 little girls lives ___ &  ___ & ___ (last name) Castle . For what reason were really not sure, we have had several failed attempts to find her this is now our last chance of any hope of finding her.  she could have moved abroad Australia or Canada. She will be 74 now born 9th December 1942. Social media seems to help with good things, life can never be  complete when you  don’t know who or where your mother is. We need this to go WORLD WIDE….. PLEASE HELP ….

I kept second guessing moiself  as I typed my comment.  I don’t know these people; they aren’t asking for my advice….except that they *are,* in that internet way.  By asking for their post to go WORLD WIDE they are seeking a worldwide reaction.

As a citizen of this world, I still feel a keen loyalty to a part of the world with which I have a significant history: working in women’s reproductive health care clinics.  Some of the women and girls I served were mired in the myriad of situations which might cause a woman to “walk out” of her children’s lives and resist any attempts to be found.  Also, I cringed to read the post’s – unintentional, I assume, yet inherently presumptuous  – dis of the lives of adoptees and orphans, and others who may not know their biological mothers but who nonetheless live lives filled with love, fulfillment, and purpose.

So yeah, moiself  had to dive in:

“For what reason were really not sure, we have had several failed attempts to find her….” Do you really think it is wise to pursue this? There are probably reasons your “failed attempts to find her” have in fact failed….can you accept that there are likely reasons she may have, that have to do with her not wanting to be found, reasons that might be painful for you to know and impossible (in her mind, at least) for you to truly understand?
I worked in women’s reproductive health care for years, and the stories I heard and was witness to….would take years to describe. Are you prepared for where this might lead?
I’m sorry for your pain; even as I can’t let a statement like “life can never be complete when you don’t know who or where your mother is…” stand uncontradicted, as it is patently false, given the fact that people all over the world have lived fulfilling lives, having to deal with far more in terms of pain and uncertainty.
I wish you and your sisters – and your biological mother, be she alive or dead – all the best, including peace in this matter.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Calling All Math Nerds

Help me out on this one. Dateline: Tuesday, circa 7 am, listening to a podcast while doing The Morning Walk Thing ® .  The podcast (the name of which escapes me now)  [2]  featured an interview with a guest who was a mathematician.  Mr. Math Man was talking about the “perfect number,” a mathematics concept wherein the divisors of said number add up to the number itself.  For example, 6 is a perfect number because 3 + 2 + 1 = 6.

But wait one darn minute.  Just prior to revealing this Perfect Number equation, Math Man said that the divisors of 6 are the numbers 3 and 2 (3 x 2 = 6), *AND* 6 and 1 (6 x 1 =6).  If you add all of those together you get 12, not 6.  Why was he leaving out 6 when he’d just said it was a divisor – as is 1, and he included the 1 in the “perfect number” equation?

 

 

No doubt there is some, because-we-define-it-this-way-that’s-why explanation that makes the less-than-perfect (IMO) definition of the perfect number more perfect – an explanation that would have to involve the divisors of the number but not the number itself being included in the “perfect” addition equation.

But wait, there’s more!

 

Too late.

 

Since every whole number is divisible by itself and one, that leaves the number one as a partnerless divisor in those perfect number equations…and you could never have a perfect number, using the definition of perfect number which the guest presented, unless the number itself was excluded from its divisors addition – again, which leaves the number one missing its divisor partner.  Which seems kinda lonely, to me. Can any number even be considered a divisor without the action of another number?

Yeah, I could google this.  I’d just rather throw out to the universe this silly rumination of arcane concepts question of burning importance to the very nature of our existence.

 

Make that, the divisor stands alone.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Momentarily Missing The Point

Moiself  has been using a new meditation app. One recent morning in a guided meditation, the narrator instructed me to “…make a mental note in my mind…”

Well…yeah…that is where I would make a *mental* note.

The note I was advised to make had to do about breathing, but instead and immediately moiself  started making mental notes about the delightful redundancy of the suggestion.

Yes, my mind is where I make my mental notes,
as opposed to my elbow or my spleen…
Wow! Am I so ahead of the practice, or what?!?!?

That went on for…way longer than it should have.

Although my investigation of the phenomenon assures me that it is common to all humanity, I’ve always thought that the dictionary definition of monkey mind should include a picture of moiself .

*   *   *

Department Of Silver Linings

The Presidential Inauguration.

As much as I was thrilled for the new Prez and Veep to be sworn in, moiself  girded my loins for the inevitable yet no-less-offensive-just-because-they-all-do-it invocation.  Of all the things that should *not* be heard in a secular democracy’s inauguration ceremony, religious rhetoric of any kind tops my list.  It turned my stomach for a variety of reasons.

I don’t care about Biden’s personal religion – that’s the point, it should be *his* personal business.  A nation based on a deliberately crafted, god-free constitution does not need to hear anything resembling advice or entreaties from a minister when we are installing our head of state – in particular, we don’t need the nonsense from a priest who quotes  the head of state of the worldwide cabal of celibate (ha!) sexists and altar boy buggerers.   [3]  

I was saved from my disgust when I realized what was to follow the putrid  proselytizing invocation.  The Inauguration announcer, who used his Solemn And Important ® voice to announce the Supreme Court Justices, and Harris and Biden, and then the invocation speaker, was also going to use that same voice to introduce she-who-was-to-sing-our-national-anthem.

Mere words cannot describe the petty thrill that tickled moiself  from eyebrows to tootsie-toes when I heard those stentorian tones used for the words I never expected would be part of an inaugural ceremony:

“Please welcome Lady Gaga.”

If only Her Ladyship could have worn her meat dress….

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of If I Had My Life To Live Over Again…

…I just might choose a multidisciplinary field of study which would have qualified me to be an “expert” on the recent  Freakonomics podcast I found so entertaining.  “The Downside of Disgust” (Ep. 448, 1-20-21) dealt with the human biological response and reflex known as disgust.

I imagine teaching an undergraduate course in the science and sociology of disgust. I would call moiself , Professor Eeeeeewwwwwwwwww.   [4]

*   *   *

Department Of Blast From The Past

Typing the previous section about disgust led me to trip down the Memory Lane staircase, where I landed spread-eagle on the floor of a recollection I posted about, way back on 10-19-12 (yikes – moiself  has been blogging for that many years?):

October 19, 1945, is the birthdate of Harris Glenn Milstead.  Better known as his stage name, “Divine,” the flamboyant transvestite starred in ten John Waters films,     [5]  and would have been 67 today had he not died 25 years ago from an enlarged heart.

Divine holds a special place in my normal-sized heart ever since we shared an elevator ride in our nation’s capital.  I was in town on a business trip, installing a computer system at WWDC.   [6]  The groundbreaking radio station    [7]   was located in a high-rise office building in downtown D.C. One morning after returning from our daily get-away-from-these-crazy-radio-people fresh air break, my installation partner R and I boarded an empty elevator in the building’s lobby. The elevator stopped at the next floor, and Divine and his PR agent (or so I guessed, from what I heard of their conversation) got on.

Although he lacked his customary stage attire and fright wig, the bald, 300 lb, self-proclaimed “Drag Queen of the Century” was (for me, at least) immediately recognizable. He was in full, eyebrow-elevating makeup, and looked petty much like the picture (below), despite his oddly conservative attire of a Hawaiian shirt, khaki pants and brown loafers.

R and I observed proper Elevator Etiquette and rode in silence, me using the elevator doors as a focal point as I tried to suppress my shit-eating grin.  R stole several furtive/suspicious, OMG glances at Divine, who chatted with his agent about an upcoming promo appearance.

The men exited the elevator two floors before our stop. As soon as the elevator doors closed I turned to R and gushed,
“That was Divine!

R’s cheeks nearly exploded with the force of her sputtered retort:
“That was disgusting!”

Turns out R had no idea who Divine was.

I explained. It didn’t help.

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

With great flourish, the Spanish magician exclaimed,
“On the count of three, I shall make myself disappear!
Uno!  Dos!” …and then he vanished, without a tres.

 

*   *   *

May you discover the cheap thrill of using your lowest, most somber voice to say, over and over again, “Lady Gaga;”
May you honor longtime colleagues with appropriate gifts – better yet, just tell them something you like about them;
May your favorite memories be Divine (or at least never disgusting);
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Mormons (usually privately) use the term “gentiles” to refer to anyone – yes, even Jews – outside of their LDS faith.

[2] Gasp – ’tis a podcast host’s worst nightmare, to have the name of their show less memorable than a listener’s random memory of it!

[3] Yes, that would be The Pope.  A fucking pope, the most anti-democratic kind of  “leader” there is…

[4] And on the first day of class, I’d ask Lady Gaga if I could borrow her meat dress….

[5] Most notably in “Pink Flamingoes,” as Babs Johnson, the film’s “Filthiest Person Alive,” dog-excrement eating heroine (just imagine what the film’s villains had to do).

[6] A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I worked for a company that designed computerized “traffic” systems for radio and television stations.

[7] “DC-101” was the first American radio station to play a Beatles song: “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” in December 1963.  DC-101 was where DJ Howard Stern was paired with news anchor Robin Quivers and honed his “shock jock” persona.

The Normal Post I’m Not Posting

Comments Off on The Normal Post I’m Not Posting

Normal as in, consisting of political, religious, educational and/or cultural sniping critiques.

No worries – the usual mélange of podcast reviews, feminist fun, cultural tidbits, sarcasm, insightful commentary, bad puns (and occasional fart jokes) returns next week.

 

 

While going through our attic and other storage spaces I found a military pin belonging to my father, Chet Parnell. I added it to a box of (mostly) WWII memorabilia I keep in a closet, and thought I should write a description/explanation of the items in the box for the inheritors of it, my offspring, K and Belle.  While doing so I began thinking of thousands of families who likely have similar stories – and boxes – and may or may not know some of the stories behind them.  You might not give two snakes’ elbows for a story about my extended family; in that case, kick back and rewatch “Young Frankenstein” and remind yourself of what a great actor we had in Cloris Leachman.  But in hopes of sparking at least one other person to ask a family member about their past…or open a forgotten storage box in their own closet….

What follows is an edited version of the document I wrote for K and Belle.

*   *   *

 

The Combat Infantryman Badge is a U.S. Army military decoration awarded to infantrymen who fought in active ground combat while assigned as members of either an Infantry or Special Forces unit.

Your grandpa Chet was awarded this badge while in Alaska, serving with the 542nd paratroop infantry regiment, in the Aleutian Islands Campaign.

The Aleutian Islands campaign was…conducted by the USA and Japan in the Aleutian Islands, part of the Territory of Alaska, in the American theater and the Pacific theater of World War II.  In the only two invasions of the United States during the war, a small Japanese force occupied the islands of Attu and Kiska. The islands’ strategic value was their ability to control Pacific transportation routes.  Japan reasoned that control of the Aleutians would prevent a possible U.S. attack across the Northern Pacific. Similarly, the U.S. feared that the islands would be used as bases from which to carry out a full-scale aerial attack on U.S. West Coast cities. A battle to reclaim Attu was launched on May 11, 1943, and completed following a final Japanese banzai charge on May 29. On August 15 an invasion force landed on Kiska in the wake of a sustained three-week barrage, only to discover that the Japanese had withdrawn from the island on July 29.

The campaign is known as the “Forgotten Battle,” due to its being overshadowed by other events in the war. Military historians believe the Japanese invasion of the Aleutians was a diversionary or feint attack during the Battle of Midway, meant to draw out the U.S. Pacific Fleet from Midway Atoll, as it was launched simultaneously under the same commander, Isoroku Yamamoto. Some historians have argued against this interpretation, believing that the Japanese invaded the Aleutians to protect their northern flank, and did not intend it as a diversion.
(AIC excerpts from Wikipedia)

Although Chet’s unit was never directly involved the combat, he served in a combat zone.  The paratroopers stationed in Alaska had a dual mission: protecting the Alaskan territory from further Japanese invasion, and preparing for the invasion of Japan…which was stopped when the U.S. dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Having served in a combat zone, Chet was eligible for “full military honors”  at his funeral.  He was proud of his service as a paratrooper, but told my mother that, when the time came, he wanted her to decline the offer of full honors, as he felt it belonged to soldiers who had actually faced enemy fire. Thus, at his funeral (as you two may remember) he had what is known as “Military Honors,” which consists of two or more uniformed military persons doing a military funeral honors ceremony, including the folding of and presenting to the survivors a United States burial flag, and the playing of Taps.

*   *   *

 

 

This is the enlisted soldier’s Signal Corps Badge.  Chet had that badge as well…and now I can’t remember where it is.

Each paratrooper had training as a rifleman/infantryman, and also in one or more specialties (besides learning how to jump from a plane and not die).  Chet was trained in Signal Corps duties (which he once described to me as, “Scrambling up the nearest tree” to set up long range cables).  After landing in enemy territory, his job would be to work with his unit’s radio operator(s) to set up radio communications.

*   *   *

 

This is a WWII U.S. Army Paratrooper badge (aka “jump wings” pin).  I also have this pin… somewhere.  Chet gave me both pins – the signal corps and jump wings – years before his death. I used to wear them, along with other pins, on a denim jacket (he got a kick out of that), then when the jacket was falling apart I took all the pins off and put them away for safekeeping…and now I have no idea where they are.  ;-(

*   *   *

The jacket in this box is a WWII paratrooper’s dress jacket.  It belonged to my favorite uncle, Bill O’Malley, my aunt Erva’s husband.   [1]   Bill O’Malley (“Billy” to his fellow soldiers) saw heavy combat in WWII – briefly in N. Africa, then in the European Theater of Operation (ETO).

I find what Bill experienced in WWII to be amazing, and I’m going to tell you what I know of it. Bill and Erva had no children to pass this on to, and their generation has all but died out – all gone, actually, on my side of the family.  It seems to me that someone (of a younger generation, ahem) should know his story, you know? My information is incomplete, and I won’t bore you with dates (most of which I don’t have, although I could look them up).  My purpose here is to convey some of what he went through. The words and phrases in quotes are, to the best of my memory, verbatim from what Bill (and in some cases, Chet or Erva or my grandmother) told me.

This information is pieced together from notes I made decades ago, plus many conversations Chet and I had about WWII and Bill O’Malley. The last and longest of these conversations a phone call the night before Chet died, during which I shared what Bill had told me when I’d visited Bill and Erva the summer after my fourth-grade year (I’d made a road trip to Spokane with my Aunt Gwen (Erva’s sister), Uncle Joe, and their son, Joey.  We all stayed at Erva’s & Bill’s Spokane house for two weeks).  I knew Uncle Bill had been a paratrooper, and one afternoon when the others were playing a lawn game in the backyard, I got Bill to sit down with me in his kitchen and talk about it.  Chet was flummoxed by some of the information I’d elicited;  Bill did *not* like to talk about the war and typically refused all entreaties – by adults – to do so (he did have a few war-related conversations over the years with Chet, whom he respected as a fellow paratrooper).  My theory is that, being a 10-year-old kid, I somehow disarmed Bill. My questions were sincere; I had no illusions about war “heroism” – I was just genuinely curious.  Bill didn’t have to impress or reassure me, the way he might have felt pressured to do by other adults.

*   *   *

When Bill enlisted in the paratroopers he was ~ five years older than the others in his unit (they were teens – early twenties; he was in his mid-twenties). His age and skills soon enabled him to hold the rank of sergeant (and he aspired to no higher rank).  After completing his paratrooper training Bill was assigned to the 82nd airborne division.   [2]

In N. Africa, during one of Bill’s first combat drops, the pilot of Bill’s plane made a navigational error and dropped its paratroopers over the wrong site – a fact which was not discussed nor even acknowledged by the army, as Bill later discovered when he made the obligatory report of the incident to his superiors.  One of its planes going in the opposite direction it was supposed to go – yikes.  It was quite an embarrassment to the Army higher-ups. Bad for soldier morale!

As in that jump and all others afterward, Bill jumped with his favorite weapon, his “tommy gun.”   [3]    Bill was the jump master, and after realizing they’d been dropped over the wrong site, he and his squad disagreed as to what to do next.  There was nothing but sand in all directions; Bill spotted an outcropping and insisted they follow it. His squad rebelled and went in the opposite direction without him, even after he (convinced that he was right, and that they were headed to their deaths) pulled his “tommy” on them and ordered them to follow him. The twelve paratroopers were never seen from again; they presumably died in the desert from exposure.

Bill, following the outcropping, wandered for days in the desert until he was rescued by a Brit in a jeep who was patrolling the perimeter of a nearby British military encampment.  By that time quite dehydrated, Bill thought he was hallucinating seeing the jeep, until it drove up to within a few feet of him.  The British officer exited his jeep and said to Bill, in the most stereotypical, slightly perturbed, upper-class British accent,

“I say old boy, what are you doing out here all alone?”

“You son of a bitch!” is how Bill began his reply….

Bill was reassigned to the ETO, to a unit serving in Italy.  In an incident which resulted in the largest “friendly fire” casualties of WWII, U.S. guns at Sicily fired at planes overhead, which were actually U.S. planes carrying U.S. paratroopers. The 504th Parachute Infantry was shot to pieces – two dozen of our own planes, shot down by “us.”  More than 300 U.S. soldiers died.  Bill survived that tragedy, did another jump in Italy (Salerno), and was reassigned again.  [4]   His next unit became part of the massive Allied paratroop drop into Normandy at D-Day.  After that he went on to fight in the Battle of Bulge.

Not surprisingly, Bill was hospitalized in France after the war had ended, for what was then called “shell shock” or “combat fatigue,” but which we now know as PTSD.

Although the army hospital doctors pronounced him “cured” after a few weeks of rest, Bill’s shell shock was not totally under control when he returned to the States.  His first date with Erva was “a humiliating disaster.”  Being out in public made him nervous; he couldn’t shake the feeling of being constantly “on patrol.”  Erva drove on their first date, as Bill had no car.  After picking Bill up, she was driving down the main street of their town when the car in front of hers backfired, the sound of which caused Bill to dive to the passenger’s seat floorboards (“Scared me half to death!” Erva said).  Bill was deeply embarrassed, and even more so when, ten minutes later, he had to ask Erva to take him back to his apartment so he could change clothes.  He had sweated through his clothing – completely soaked the three-piece suit he had worn, the suit he’d “bought special,” to impress Erva.

Gradually, Bill readjusted to civilian life.  When I asked him how he did this he replied, “I never had to pay for a cup of coffee.”   I assume the confused expression on my ten-year-old face is what sparked him to elaborate: After the war ended, soldiers were treated with kindness by everyone.  Although civilians did not want to hear anything about the war that “didn’t involve heroes,” they showered the returning GIs with respect, gratitude, and gifts (including job offers).  Bill also didn’t want to engage in war stories talk.  He found the eagerness of the nation to “get on with it” and look to the future to be helpful to him as he strove to forget/push aside his memories of what he’d seen and done in The War.

One “memory” he brought home with him was a German Shepard. He’d found the dog during one of his last maneuvers before he was hospitalized – somewhere in France, when he and his unit were patrolling a battle site. The dog, dehydrated and starving but still vigilant, was guarding the corpse of its (presumed) handler, a German soldier.

 

A scenario akin to this, only the Nazi was dead.

 

Bill spoke some German to the dog, shared his water and rations with it, and the dog transferred its loyalty to Bill.  The doctors at the hospital where Bill was treated agreed to let him keep it, and he was able to get it shipped back to the States with him.

Bill loved that dog  (I can’t remember what he named it; something ala, “Scout”). However, everyone he met back in the States was wary of it, and for good reason. The dog was huge, and would “greet” anyone who came to see Bill by silently approaching them (it supposedly never barked or growled), rearing up on its hind legs, resting its front paws on the visitor’s shoulders, and baring its teeth and looking them straight in the eyes, as if it were pondering, “Hmmm, should I rip your throat out, or go for the eyes first?”   Bill would speak to the dog in German, then he’d (attempt to) reassure his visitor:

“He won’t hurt you, but don’t make any sudden moves.”

Erva was terrified of the dog, as were Bill’s neighbors, who complained to his landlord about having to live next to a dangerous animal.   [5]  After they’d been dating several weeks, Erva told Bill, “It’s me or the dog,” and Bill found it another home.   [6]

*   *   *

After completing their paratrooper training and before shipping out to Europe, Bill and his paratrooper unit (company? regiment? whatever the terminology, it consisted of 105 men) shared their respective family contact info and made a pact to have a reunion after the war – the original 105 of them, no matter what outfits/companies/regiments they ended up being transferred to.  One of the men made good on that promised and organized the reunion a year after the war ended…but there were only five of the original 105 left alive.  The rest had died, in combat or in paratroop jump “accidents.” Of the five, Bill was the only one who had not been seriously injured (he’d twisted his ankle diving into a foxhole during a mortar attack at the Battle of the Bulge, but had never been shot or stabbed during combat, as the other survivors had been).

Those figures blow my mind, as an illustration of how much “action” Bill and his original company saw: a casualty rate of over 99% and a death rate of 95%.

 

 

Bill O’Malley’s paratrooper dress jacket.

 

 

Chet regretted that he didn’t keep his paratrooper dress jacket.   [7]   When Erva was dying,   [8]  she told my parents that she wanted Chet to have Bill’s jacket.   Bill and Chet had bonded over their paratrooper service, and Erva told me that Chet was Bill’s favorite of his “Hole Sisters” brothers-in-law.    [9]

 

*   *   *

May you have fun going through your attic;
May you remember that you don’t need 90% of what you put in your attic years ago, certain that you might “need it some day;”
May you share your family stories while you still can;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Erva O’Malley, nee Hole, was your grandma Marion’s eldest sister.

[2] The 82nd Airborne Division, first formed during WWI as an infantry division, earned the nickname “All-American” because, unlike the other army divisions at the time, its soldiers hailed from all 48 states.  The 82nd’s uniforms had a double “A” design shoulder patch insignia.

[3] A Thompson machine gun.

[4] Chet said Bill kept getting reassigned to regiments and infantries and squads – still within the 82nd division.  After battles with heavy casualties if the army needed you elsewhere, they sent you elsewhere, sometimes without the “proper” documentation, and soldiers went where they were told to go.  Chet was not sure of the numbers/names of the various infantries, companies, etc., Bill served with, and since Bill seldom talked about the war, the few times Bill was willing to offer information Chet just listened and didn’t press for such bureaucratic details.

[5] Presumably the dog, and not Bill.

[6] With another GI who’d served in the ETO.

[7] When Chet was discharged after the war he was given a train ticket home, and had limited luggage capacity – he  was unable to fit the paratrooper jacket into his suitcase (and was already wearing his uniform and two other jackets on top of that) and gave it to a GI buddy at the train station.

[8] From lung cancer, in 1998.  Bill died from a burst aortic aneurysm in 1969. He was 51.

[9] The Hole family sisters, now deceased:  Erva, Gwen, Ruth, and your grandma Marion.

The Girl Scout Cookies I’m Not Buying

2 Comments

Department Of Did The Last Four Years Really Happen?

I’m still numb.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Difficult Family Questions

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

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

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

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

 

*   *   *

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

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

To what degree have car seats functioned as contraception?

 

*   *   *

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Quote Of The Year, 2021:

“But fuck you for being there.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yes, This.
Reflections After The Inauguration

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of One More Thing

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

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

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

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Terms I’m Not Agreeing To

Comments Off on The Terms I’m Not Agreeing To

“As the coronavirus pandemic has kept more residents at home, it has created such a high demand for adopting dogs that there’s a dwindling supply.”
( “So many pets have been adopted during the pandemic that shelters are running out,”
Washington Post, 1-6-21 )

Since it is likely the physical isolation will continue for some time – i.e.,  until the post-holiday spikes settle down and vaccination distribution reaches the masses – I’ve been thinking of jumping on the COVID companion bandwagon and adding a new pet to our family.  Moiself  is having trouble deciding; I’m torn between two equally compelling options.  What do y’all, think:

 

Or

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Reasons I Hate The Business Side Of What I Do
Part 1,294 In A Seemingly Endless Series….

Dateline: earlier this week, reading the fine print of the publishing contract of an international fiction journal – a journal whose aims/ambitions and unique form of distribution I respected…until moiself  read this part of their contract, in the section,  Grants of Rights (my emphases):

(d) The publication Rights granted in The Furrowed Kneecap Review
[1]  may be exercised in any media now in existence or hereafter developed, including without limit, print media, electronic media, and electronic data bases….

 

Your work belongs to us – now, and in whatever future there can be, bwah haa haw!  

 

Yeah, that frosts my butt (and furrows my kneecaps). But the thing is, in the Wild Wild West of the publishing world, what with digital and other rights being coined and  re-invented within minutes of the appearance of new/online technologies which purport to “broaden a writer’s exposure” (read: steal use your work without compensation), more and more publishing contracts, whether for book-length material or journal articles, have some form of this language.  And no matter what the stipulations, a contract it can turn out to be – like many a domestic violence victim has discovered re restraining orders – “just a piece of paper.”  As one writer friend of mine learned, within two months after his book was published, your work may be scanned and posted on some website – where it can be downloaded and read (as in, stolen) by people all over the world  with no financial remuneration for you.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of We Be Needing Schooling On A Complicated/Simple Word

“An educated person before the scientific revolution could very well believe that there were unicorns and werewolves, and that comets and eclipses are portents of the future – beliefs we now think of as primitive, superstitious, magical, but they were the conventional understanding of the day.”
( Steven Pinker, psychologist and author, focusing on language,
the mind, and human nature and behavior)

Educated.   What do we mean when we say that someone is, “educated,” or that a person “needs to be educated?”

It should be a positive thing, to be to be educated or to be thought of as such.  However, it seems to moiself  that, more and more, I am hearing and reading educated  used as a sort of passive-aggressive pejorative.  As in,

“He just needs to be educated, then he wouldn’t be such a ______ ( racist; sexist; nativist; libtard;  homophobe; fan of ‘The Bachelor’….)”

 

 

Sometimes, that may indeed be the case: the person whom you think needs to be educated is demonstrably ignorant on certain facts, and/or has led a sheltered life sans exposure to different people and ideas, and/or lacks wider world experience and the perspective it brings.  But, here’s the trick: a person can be educated about an issue, just as educated as you are – BTW how are you-who-are-using-the-term-“educated” defining it? – and can disagree with you.

A person can know the facts, and agree with you as to what the facts are (“We both accept the Homeland Security Department’s statistic that 254,595 of the ‘Aliens Apprehended’ in the fiscal year 2019 were from Mexico and 1,368 were from Bangladesh”), but can vehemently and sincerely disagree with you about what the facts *mean.*

Let’s all be careful out there, and not take the ad hominem, patronizing, gettin’-all-educated-on-your-uninformed-ass manner when someone disagrees with us:

“They need to get educated  on  ____ [your pet issue];  then they’d see….”

That person to whom you are so quick to ascribe ignorance may know much more than you realize; beware the unspoken assumption, “If only he were educated in the matter, he would agree with *me*.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Surprisingly, This Was *Not* A Story About Farting

Although when I tuned into a favorite podcast of mine and heard this introduction, I at first thought they were putting a sciencey-spin on a story about SBDs.   [2]

“In 1931 a chemist named Arthur Fox accidentally released a cloud of phenylthiocarbamide in his lab.  A colleague nearby complained about the noxious odor…but Fox didn’t know what he was talking about…”   [3]

 

 

*   *   *

I’m not a fan of body building/weight lifting or MMA fighting, and I absolutely loath boxing, but I was intrigued by the The Game Changers This documentary was produced by and/or featured interviews with major players in the afore-mentioned sports, and also film, including James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Lewis Hamilton, Novak Djokovic and Chris Paul. 

The Game Changers focuses largely on males, and myths about meat, protein, and strength, and on how such myths got started and are promoted (to us all, but especially to men and athletes and others in “macho” professions, e.g., firefighters).  It features interviews with top athletes in their field who have increased their performances (and the longevity of their careers and their overall cardiovascular health) by opting out of the standard American diet (appropriate acronym: SAD) with its emphasis on meat and dairy products, and switching to plant-based eating.

 

 

The documentary also makes the bigger picture, linking personal consumption choices to global consequences :

And with more than 70 billion animals consumed globally every year, growing animal feed requires vast amounts of land. Which is why the single biggest source of habitat destruction is said to be the livestock sector….in South America, some 70% of former forests in the Amazon are now used to graze cattle, with much of the remainder used to grow feed crops for the cattle. Anti-poaching rangers on the “frontlines” of protecting endangered species see these effects firsthand.


“The actual biggest threat we have is the meat industry and the land that they are continually taking away from what we have left of these natural wilderness areas. Inch by inch, yard by yard, mile by mile.”


(  Damien Mander, founder of The International Anti-Poaching Foundation )

Also, the film is just dang funny in parts…and about parts. The scene where a medical doctor “who wrote the book on the penis” (literally) gets three football players to participate in an experiment showing how their nocturnal erections are greater in both quality and quantity  [4]  after eating a plant-based meal – it gets ten stars on the giggle-meter.

 

One of the things that interested me in the documentary was thinking that it might give me a chance to make fun of AHHHnold Schadenfreude  Schwarzenegger.  Turns out I need to bitch-slap moiself back to the 1990’s for holding that petty thought, as Herr Schw-etcetera actually comports himself quite well.

Oh, and lest you think certain opinions of moiself’s  have changed, although I’m pleased to see him realizing and embracing the personal and planetary benefits of plant-based eating, I still wish Maria Shriver would have gone all paleo on Ahhhnold’s cheating ass.

*   *   *

The Podcast I’m Not…Casting?

Think of all the great, meandering conversations you’ve had with a friend, and how you enjoyed the sometimes linear/sometimes non sequitur give-and-take, because you were a part of it.  Now think how many of those conversations would be interesting for other people to listen to – people who don’t know you and your friend and were not even present during the conversation – for thirty minutes or more.

 

“Who cares if neither of us is talking sense – this is fun.”

 

Regular readers know I am a regular podcast listener. The current list of podcasts I follow/subscribe to includes 20+ feeds, from Clear + Vivid  to the TED Radio Hour.  Five times as long as this list is the catalog of podcasts I have tried for a few episodes – even a few weeks – then deleted from my feed.  Most of the latter are podcasts hosted by Famous People, whose sole subject seemed to be talking with Other Famous People.   [5]

There seem to be a plethora of Famous Folks ® who are either clever or articulate, and who have been convinced by others (read: their agents and fellow suckups celebrity friends) that they are *both* clever and articulate. Thus, these Celebri-pods believe their amiable personae means that merely chatting on mic with their celebri-friends about…stuff…is interesting to others who aren’t directly involved in the conversation.  Wrong.  In my experience, it’s too often….

The fact that anyone can blog used to be touted as an example of the great democratization of our media. Now we’ve devolved from Anyone can blog! to Everyone has a podcast!  So: here’s my idea. With a nod to Abbie Hoffman, I will title my entry into podcast-dom, Turn This Off.

Mine will be yet another foray into the advice podcast genre.  A growing number of podcasts (e.g. Don’t Ask Tig, which I listen to) aim to give columnist-style guidance (think Dear Abby, et al), whether facetious or serious.

By virtue of its title, I figure my podcast will be the one advice podcast where people will actually follow the advice.

Of course, now that I’ve put this idea out there someone’s going to steal it….so this will be the podcast I’m not actually producing.  [6]

 

 

In the podcast I’m not doing, here’s one thing I can guarantee you won’t hear:  the host (that would be moiself ) staying silent when her guest makes a WTF?!  declaration.

Example: a few minutes into a recent celebrity-advice podcast I was listening to, the host’s celeb guest said that “fear should never make you navigate your decisions.”

The following digression is yet another reason why the podcast I’m not doing would fail (for reasons other than me telling people to turn it off) : no celebrities would want to come on my podcast because I wouldn’t let them get away with a statement like that.

Celebrity Guest ® was likely referring to her career decisions; still, she made a blanket statement, and a face-palming one at that. There’ve been books written about why ignoring your fears is foolish.  If you don’t recognize the *value* of fear (one of humanity’s most important survival senses) in making decisions you’ll inevitably make some really poor ones.

Evolutionary biologists tell us that the “rationally fearful” are the ones who survive. I’m not talking about nonsensical fears, like fearing that if you don’t touch the doorknob five times before you leave for work your house will catch on fire, or other phobias or irrational compulsions.  Pay attention to fear (sometimes referred/always related to intuition).  Learn how to analyze a realistic fear (that you may tumble off the cliff if you lean way over trying to get the ultimate selfie) from a momentarily uncomfortable but ultimately inconsequential worry (that you’re anxious you’ll flub your toast to the bride and groom).

In other words, pay attention when your Spidey senses start tingling.

People who don’t pay attention to their fear can end up injured or worse, whether it’s tumbling off of a cliff or being drugged by that “really cool guy” your friend set you up with but whose vibes gave you the willies….

“Intuition is always right in at least two important ways;
It is always in response to something.
It always has your best interest at heart.”

( Security Consultant Gavin De Becker, author of
The Gift of Fear: And Other Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence )

*   *   *

Department Of Partridge Of The Week

Which was actually last week’s, until a mob of racist rightwing Republican-abetted terrorists…current events, shall we say, stole the blog show.  This Partridge in our pear tree will be the last one, until the next solstice/winter/Christmas holiday season:

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I taught my kids how to fart. You could say they were under my tutelage.

 

 

*   *   *

May you pay attention to your fear;
May you follow your dreams
(except for that one where you are naked at work);
May you look in the mirror before you deem that someone else needs to be educated;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] Not the journal’s real name.

[2] Silent But Deadly. Surely, no reader of mine needs that acronym explained.

[3] ( excerpt from Curiosity Daily podcast, Do people think more in words or pictures? )

[4] (consumption of animal products cause inflammation; less inflammation from plant-based proteins = more blood flow to vital, ahem, “areas” of the body.

[5] I discovered these podcasts when I did a search for “comedy” or entertainment podcasts, wanting more laughable-listens in these COVID times, as opposed to shows devoted to news/current events (I have enough of those in my feed).

[6] Although, who knows what 2021 will hold?

 

The Blog Post I Wasn’t Planning On

Comments Off on The Blog Post I Wasn’t Planning On

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

As in, What. Happened. On. Wednesday.

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

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

*   *   *

Someone needs to be shot for insurrection. 

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

*   *   *

 

Prevoskhodno! This is all going according to plan.”

 

*   *   *

 

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

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

As friend MM so succinctly put it,

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

 

*   *   *

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

“The whole world is watching.”

 

 

And they were.  And we are.

*   *   *

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

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

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

No.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

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

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

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

The Advice Columns I’m Not Reading

Comments Off on The Advice Columns I’m Not Reading

Department Of Haven’t We Learned By Now?

Here’s how I began my first post of 2020:

As I’ve noted previously in this blog, moiself  always serves some version of black-eyed peas (aka Hoppin’ John ) and greens for New Year’s Day dinner. These culinary creations are prepared in homage to my father’s family’s logic-defying adherence  [1]   to the tradition which told them that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day assures good luck in the year to come.

Good thing I followed that tradition, eh? What a luckity-luck-lucky year it turned out to be!

*   *   *

Department Of Advising The Advisor

Moiself  took it upon herself to email Amy Dickinson, who writes the syndicated advice column Ask Amy. My feedback was re Amy’s advice to a letter writer who was distressed about her cousins’ comments of victimhood re the 2020 election:

Dear Amy, Regarding the letter from “Text- challenged,” who was concerned that her conversations with her cousins were descending into their conservative political complaints, I must point out something about this comment of yours: 

“…if you voted for the Democrat candidate in 2016, you might remember how it felt to be declared a citizen of Loserville, USA. You might have felt like a victim of some mysterious process.”

Actually, Amy, (in 2016) we all *were* victims of “some mysterious process.” It’s called The Electoral College, and this mysterious constitutional relic of slave state appeasement once again thwarted the will of the people by installing the *loser* of the popular vote as leader of our (alleged) democracy, transforming us all into citizens of Loserville.

(From the Pew Research Center: “Besides the U.S, the only other democracies that indirectly elect a leader who combines the roles of head of state and head of government (as the U.S. president does) are Botswana, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, South Africa and Suriname.” )
Wishing you all the best in the new year,
Just another citizen,
Robyn Parnell

 

*   *   *

Department Of Partridge Of The Week

This week’s Partridge in our pear tree:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Just What The World Needs…

Is another moniker to describe How (as in, What) Someone Eats ®.  Thus, moiself  will happily supply that for y’all.

We got your paleo, vegan, keto, raw foods, juice, sugar-free, food combination, raw food paleo, tantrum-throwing-picky-toddler single-food diets….

 

 

Many if not most “diets” are just that – diets – as in something-to-go-“on” (and then off) when a certain weight or health goal is reached, instead of a sustainable, lifestyle and/or nutritional change.  Because someone recently asked, I thought about the best (as in, most ear-friendly) way to describe my not-a-diet FCP (food consumption patterns).

For five-plus years now I’ve been largely (as in 95%+) plant-based, but not vegan  [2]  as I have fish once or twice a week.  And although I avoid other dairy products I also consume some (a diminishing amount, but still there) cheese, for both personal addiction taste reasons, and also to keep moiself  travel-friendly.  [3]

 

Come back to the dark side.  We’re waiting for you….

 

MH asked me, “Doesn’t the label pescatarian describe how we eat at home/the majority of the time?” Maybe; but I don’t care for that term.

I consider my eating and cooking choices to be adventuresome, investigative, horizon-expanding rather than limiting,   [4] and science-based/planet-friendly.  I want an affable term to reflect that.  Hmm; vegetarian; plant-based; planet-friendly;   [5] fish, aquarium….

 

Oh, Yeaeeaaah.  This is perfect.

I am a planetarium.

You’re welcome.

Feel free to borrow/appropriate, with attribution.

 

Can you say,”She seems quite pleased with herself,” boys and girls? I knew you could.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yeah What She Said

When it comes to commentary on American culture and politics, moiself  often finds the musings of those who are on the outside looking in to be particularly incisive.  As in this excerpt from the State of the Me blog post, by C.L. Hanson.  Hanson, an engineer and expat American, describes her blog as “The Adventures of a Friendly French-American ExMormon Atheist Mom Living in Switzerland!!!” (my emphases):

“I’m happy that Trump will finally be leaving the White House. As I’ve said before, I don’t agree with the people who said that voting him out is the “right” way to get him out — he should have been impeached and convicted within the first year of his presidency. Whether the president is above the law is not a question that should be up for popular vote (or some weirdly-derived subset of the popular vote). If the US system can’t eject a president for constantly and openly breaking the law, then the system is broken. But this band-aid is better than nothing. The bare last line of defense has held firm against the deadly march of fascism — when there was no guarantee that it would. Hopefully this victory will help turn the tide and encourage the people to make serious changes and fix things for real.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Oh, Oh, How I Hate Hate Hate Having To Write This…

But, I have to.  Because it’s bugging the ever-lovin’ sudoriferous secretions out of me.   [6]

 

Trigger warning.

 

To start the new year, here are two things I look forward to seeing ended:

(1) This should go without saying: the termination of a certain administration (hint: this will take place on January 20)

(2) “Woke” and “Cancel” culture, which, IMO, is directly related to (1)…and my concern with it is tangentially related to the first entry in this post (as in, reading advice columns).

“…many Americans have come to believe that the only way to spur change is by ginning up anger. It isn’t enough to say your opponents are wrong. You have to say they are reprehensible….
So many tools of modern culture take ancient circuits in the brain and put them in hyperdrive…. We evolved to care about relationships, but social media has weaponized this, transforming personal connections into metrics of self-worth. Getting angry at (who we perceived to be) wrongdoers was helpful in our evolutionary past, but when people apply that same impulse today…what we get are doxing and death threats.
Used recklessly or for self-promotion, outrage can poison the way we interact with each other. It can imprison us in our own echo chambers.
( excerpts from “Screaming Into The Void: How Outrage Is Hijacking Our Culture
And Our Minds,” Hidden Brain, 10-7-19 )

 

 

The Orwellian speak of #45’s administration reminds me of the opposite side of the same coin, which is groupthink, and “cancel” or “woke culture.”  It seems I can’t spit (and I have tried) without hearing, from aggrieved persons or interest groups, cries of “hateful!” re someone who disagrees with them, and without citation of an actual, factual statement from that someone of hate. To list only two examples…

* a woman, having been sexually assaulted in a private/public room, articulates her concerns about any man being able to enter a women’s restroom if he claims to “identify as female”.   [7]    Her concerns are not addressed logically or compassionately; rather, she is shrieked at by trans activists, YOU’RE TRYING TO KILL US ALL!!

* People on “the left” seem to feel entitled to call someone who disagrees with them and/or their identity group, on a certain issue (even if they support other issues for that group) “hateful” and “evil.”

Moiself  is reminded of #45’s kneejerk way of dealing with disagreements and critiques,  particularly from women. He rarely attempts to refute the substance of the criticism (he’ll say it’s not valid, it’s fake news). Rather, he goes into attack mode, claiming that those women hate him because they are “nasty,” “evil,” “pathetic,” “sad”….

 

 

 

I’ve written of this – my concerns about and loathing of “cancel culture” and thought and language policing and their many variants   [8]several times previously in this space. Here is the promised advice column link.

I read several advice columns regularly.  One is slate.com’s Dear Prudence. A recent DP column had the attention-getting headline, “Help! My Son Is Trans. Is It Wrong to Read the Harry Potter Series to His Younger Brother?”  What turned out to be even more face-palming to me than the headline/question was DP‘s answer.

The write said that her youngest son loved the first Harry Potter book (read in class by his third grade teacher) and was asking her to read the remaining books with him. She’d read the entire HP series to her older two sons, who loved it. But now her oldest (trans) son asked her “…not to read the books to his younger brother and not to buy Harry Potter merchandise because it would feel to him that I was supporting J.K. Rowling’s horrible anti-trans comments.”  The letter-writing mom is struggling with wanting to let her youngest “…enjoy the world of Harry Potter without supporting a bigot.”

DP‘s answer included a WTF ?!?! reference to the author of the Harry Potter series as an “artist who’s made transphobia a significant part of her career.”

I can’t help but wonder how the letter writer hear about Rowling’s alleged “horrible” comments – and did she even know of Rowling’s articulate, nuanced  response to being slandered, or is she (and her oldest son) jumping on the Orwellian groupthink bandwagon?  The DP columnist   [9]   didn’t correct the writer’s hyperbole and seems to agree with it.  Although I (mostly) like the DP column I ‘ve noticed the groupthink tendency in DP‘s answers and assumptions.  I’m not cancelling my on-line subscription – that would make me part of the cancel culture, right?   But the stench of self-righteous piling-on lingers, and don’t know if I’ll be able to stomach reading DP column for a while.

 

 

Summary of the issue at hand, for those who’ve managed to remain blissfully ignorant of transphobia-hysteria: in December 2019 writer J.K. Rowling tweeted her support for a British woman who’d lost her job for posting so-called “transphobic” tweets. On 6 June, Rowling poked Twitter fun at the usage of the phrase “people who menstruate” – a phrase many people and writers (such as moiself ) find unnecessary, even bizarre, not to mention  WTF, Saturday-Night-Live-skit-worthy awkwardness.

” ‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”

I’m so glad Rowling beat me to it, because that would have been my first reaction. ROTFL.

Ah, but then….  The self-appointed “woke culture” piled on.

 

 

Sexual dimorphism is a factual, biological phenomenon in mammalian species. There are a variety of opinions as to the diversity or spectrum of expression within that phenomenon itself and within our human, culture expressions of biology.  Rowling and many others hold the opinion that being female is not just a “construct,” and now, such opinions are labeled by a vocal minority as “hate speech.”  Many trans activists and their supporters called for Rowlings’ books to be burned, told Rowling she was “literally killing trans people with [her] hate,” called her a cunt and a bitch…. 

Rowling responded to the criticism with an essay which, apparently, most of her critics (including, I’d guess, the mother who wrote to DP and DP himself ) – did not bother to fully, open-mindedly and carefully read.  Nowhere in the essay did I find sentiments I’d even remotely consider hateful or “horrible,” nor indicative of someone who’s “made transphobia a significant part of her career.”  Rowling is a committed feminist with a personal history of experiencing misogyny, gender discrimination, and sexual abuse.  She believes that most trans people are “vulnerable and deserve protection,” and she calmly and articulately explained her concerns with the “the consequences of the current trans activism”:

We’re living through the most misogynistic period I’ve experienced. Back in the 80s, I imagined that my future daughters, should I have any, would have it far better than I ever did, but between the backlash against feminism and a porn-saturated online culture, I believe things have got significantly worse for girls. Never have I seen women denigrated and dehumanised to the extent they are now. From the leader of the free world’s long history of sexual assault accusations and his proud boast of ‘grabbing them by the pussy’, to the incel (‘involuntarily celibate’) movement that rages against women who won’t give them sex, to the trans activists who declare that TERFs   [10]   need punching and re-educating, men across the political spectrum seem to agree: women are asking for trouble. Everywhere, women are being told to shut up and sit down, or else.

I’ve read all the arguments about femaleness not residing in the sexed body, and the assertions that biological women don’t have common experiences, and I find them, too, deeply misogynistic and regressive. It’s also clear that one of the objectives of denying the importance of sex is to erode what some seem to see as the cruelly segregationist idea of women having their own biological realities or – just as threatening – unifying realities that make them a cohesive political class….

….as many women have said before me, ‘woman’ is not a costume. ‘Woman’ is not an idea in a man’s head. ‘Woman’ is not a pink brain, a liking for Jimmy Choos or any of the other sexist ideas now somehow touted as progressive. Moreover, the ‘inclusive’ language that calls female people ‘menstruators’ and ‘people with vulvas’ strikes many women as dehumanising and demeaning. I understand why trans activists consider this language to be appropriate and kind, but for those of us who’ve had degrading slurs spat at us by violent men, it’s not neutral, it’s hostile and alienating.

(excerpt from “J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues,” 6-10-20)

This is a brief except from a 3,600 word essay.  Read it in its entirety before forming an opinion; I realize it’s a bit longer than many kneejerk reactors are used to (if they don’t come across the corrext buzz words they are looking for in the first two paragraphs, bye bye). Maybe you agreed with all of it, some of it, none of it. What is your response if you truly (or think you ought to, because it’s the woke thing to do) disagree with Rowling – or anyone else, for that matter, on this issue or any other.  Do you go from 0 to 120 in the blink of an eye? Is there nothing in between? Can you disagree with what someone says without conflating their opinions – or your interpretations of their opinions – with terms like “hateful” “horrible,” and twist her words into saying she calls for “literally killing” someone?

Rowling, on the record as supporting  LGBTQ rights and people, envisioned one of the most beloved characters in literature, Professor Albus Dumbledoree, as gay .  I find it both ironic and pathetic that the creator of the most famous and beloved world of witches and wizards is now herself the object of an ideological witch-hunt.

Those who jumped on the public chastisement bandwagon included actor Daniel Radcliffe, whom I took to task here.  I in turn didn’t want to accuse Radcliffe of being “hateful” nor accuse him of  trying to “kill” Rowling’s career…but perhaps I should have.  As per our culture of outrage, no one will listen to you unless you go over the top.

 

“Harry Potter, you need to learn to think before you speak.”

 

Anyone from a bartender to a biologist who disagrees with the “woke” tenet re gender- that it exists in the mind/is primarily/only a social construct –  will, sooner or later, be called transphobic.  To disagree with someone is to “hate” them and what they say, and to label them as pathologically fearful.   [11]   You disagree with me on that?  You hater, you…opposition-ophobe, you!  And woe unto you if you make a simple, human error.  If you absent-mindedly  [12]  call a trans-man by his birthname, even if you originally – as in, for forty frickin’ *years*- knew him as her, you are no longer a fallible friend who made a totally understandable slip of the tongue – you DEAD-named him, you transphobic bigot!

This issue is more than one of free speech and ideological and imaginational conformity (which, as a writer, I have great concerns about).  This link directly to What Just Happened ® (in the past four years and the recent election), which we are still trying to figure out. Bear with me a bit longer as I make the point I earlier alluded to.

 

 

People stop talking with one another across party, ideological, and cultural “lines” if they know or fear that others are going to pay more attention to *how* they say something rather than *what* they are saying.  In particular, folks who are not hateful and/or ignorant fools, but who

(1) don’t consider themselves deftly articulate or skilled in written expression, and thus
(2) worry that they won’t use the “correct” jargon or terminology

fear being misunderstood, and are prone to withdrawing from dialogue with those who hold differing opinions.

Someone can disagree with you on an aspect of what you consider to be your most important or even defining cause, without rejecting your entire cause.  That Someone can be an ally, can still be “on your side” – unless blindered, politico-speak conformity is your price for alliance, in which case you’ll end up driving allies away, or underground.  Then, hey – good luck dealing with the vocal opposition, who are as firm in the self-righteousness of their position as you seem to be of yours.

 

 

This is not just a matter of agreeing or disagreeing with a successful author who has social media followers. The vitriol directed against Rowling is directly related to disturbing social phenomena which have political and cultural ramifications for us all – phenomena that give us headlines like the following, which too many left-leaning/”progressive” Americans either ignored or misunderstood, in their post-election head-scratching:

A Stinging Setback in California Is a Warning for Democrats in 2022

 ( NY Times, 12-26-2020 )

Although the election pollsters were mostly accurate about Trump’s impending defeat, Democrats lost ground in other important areas, which took pollsters by surprise. How could they have been so wrong about that? Several studies and theories point to the idea that although most folks, even conservatives, agreed that #45 had to go, people on all sides of all aisles are becoming more and more concerned with cancel culture, and they blame the Democrats/The Left for that (or for being the *least* willing to call it out).  And because of cancel culture, people didn’t answer truthfully to pollsters (or even to their own family and friends) about their concerns, lest they be called evil,  ___- o-phobes, and haters.

“Differences of opinion no longer are defined by one’s approach or framing of an issue, but rather by the person who holds a contrary position as being evil….  Comedy, one would think, should be exempt from restrictions on speech, but it is not. Chris Rock stated… ‘I stopped playing colleges (because of) … their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody. You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.’

Free speech in America is on the ballot for many Americans who see an intellectual orthodoxy rapidly developing….They fear that zealots have been permitted to gain power to banish anyone who questions or denies progressive beliefs or policies….

Pew Research found that “majorities in both major parties believe censorship is likely occurring (on social media.)” ….  On Nov. 3, these beliefs may motivate a new voting bloc to cast their votes for the candidate who stands up to cancel culture.”
( “Cancel culture’ may spawn a new, silent voting bloc,” The Hill  )

Those fears, printed a few weeks before the election, turned out to be prescient, as noted in “Woke Culture Destroyed The Blue Wave” (The Daily Cardinal, 11-19, my emphases)

“…the mythical “blue wave” fizzled out into a splash long before the first ballot was even cast. While President-Elect Biden won with a sizable lead in both the electoral and popular votes, the Democratic Party barely held its own in the Senate and the House….and Republicans may be on track to win back the House in 2022.

If Democrats truly want to emerge mightily victorious in the future, they must analyze why over 73 million people voted against them and their party. The analysis must be a brutally honest one for it to have any merit, and conclusions such as the opposition being ‘racists’ or ‘fascists’ are lazy responses which fail to examine the failures of the Democratic Party to reach out to millions of Americans.

… Bill Maher — a vocal Democrat — (stated) that the biggest enemy to liberals is themselves…that the woke culture which has permeated both the personal and professional world is halting the Democrat’s chances at flipping right-leaning voters.

Maher’s analysis could not be more astute. Phenomenon such as…’woke’ culture are the very thing which created the political atmosphere in which a person like Donald Trump could thrive and rally supporters. Democrats created their own monster in this regard. While President Trump may be in office for only a few short months, the angst which propelled his political support is here to stay.

… many (on the Left) subscribe to the belief that ‘if you don’t agree with me, you’re a racist and a bigot and your career should be destroyed.’ …Fear has gripped many, as they struggle to articulate their thoughts, frightened if they may be the next ones to be ‘cancelled.’ “

 

You really want to equate JK Rowling to this?

 

*   *   *

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I was disappointed by the organizers of the New Year’s Eve celebration at Times Square.
Once again, they dropped the ball.

 

 

But wait – there’s more!

Did y’all here about the guy in England who assaulted a dozen people with a miniature replica of Big Ben on New Year’s Eve?
He couldn’t wait for the clock to strike twelve.

 

Someone has to end this, and soon.

 

*   *   *

May the hyperbole of “woke” culture take a well-needed nap;
May the new year be filled with new hope and old (but still loved) puns;
May 2021 be better than…oh, you know;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] They were dirt poor sharecroppers tenant farmers. That good-luck-meal thing failed, year after year.

[2] Although when dining out – y’all remember that thing we used to do, way back in 2019? – I will ask for vegan items, to get the point across to restaurant staff that, for example, I don’t want the “vegetable” soup if it’s made with beef broth.

[3] It’s becoming easier to have plant-based options when traveling, but in many cultures and foreign countries – e.g., Arkansas – it can be difficult:  the ideas and imaginations of some folks, when it comes to vegetarian/vegan foods, is remove the “meat” and add cheese and voila, it’s a veggie entrée! Also, I want to be a good visitor and not reject *everything* the host/local cuisine offers.

[4] Plant-based is not so much about out cutting meat, milk, and eggs —it’s about crowding them out with the amazing variety of fruits and veggies and nuts and legumes and grains that there are out there, many of which get overlooked when the centerpiece of the meal is a big hunk of flesh, accompanied by the usual side veggie suspects.

[5] Nutritionists and scientists around the globe are researching and recommending the advantages of a plant-based-diet in conserving resources and reducing global warming, not to mention personal health benefits….

[6] Whaddya think, should I have just written, “sweat“?

[7] When daughter Belle was working closing shifts at a restaurant, and a lawyer friend of mine who was working for a law firm specializing in sexual assault cases found out that Belle’s duties included cleaning the restrooms, she warned Belle about never closing the doors and being very careful to watch her back, because of the number of cases she’d seen where a male waited until a female co-worker was alone in a restroom to assault her.

[8] Which include literary censorship (“write what you know” which equals “write what you are”) and “cultural appropriation.”

[9] Who is a trans man.

[10] ‘TERF, ’an acronym coined by trans activists, stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist.

[11] Do people who so generously apply the “phobia/phobic” label even know the definition of a phobia?

[12] As contrasted with, you know that Roberta now wants to be called Robert, but you intentionally use the former name because you’re the Mean Uncle. ®

The Findings I’m Not Surprised By

1 Comment

Is this really my last blog post of 2020?

Moiself  is torn between Say it ain’t so and Good riddance.   [1]

*   *   *

Department Of Partridge Of The Week

This week’s Partridge in our pear tree:

 


*   *   *

Department of Who Is This “We” Who Were Thinking This?

A recent podcast of Curiosity Daily, “Early Female Hunters Were More Common Than We Thought,” features a story on recent archaeological findings which have changed the assumptions scientists made about hunters of the early Americas. It turns out that female hunters were “…more common than we thought,” yet another discovery indicating that anthropological and archaeological interpretation of the lives and behavior patterns of early peoples have been interpreted through contemporary (read: patriarchal and male dominance) lenses.

 

 

Episode summary: anthropologists have long taught that life in hunter-gather societies was fairly unambiguous: the tribe’s strong, brave men hunted the animals and the patient, passive women gathered berries and roots and other necessities.  Recent archeological finds showed that the man-equals-hunter hypothesis was off the mark. The archaeological find of a female hunter buried with her hunting accoutrements was “so unexpected” (by male archeologists) that researchers decided to cast a wide net and see if this finding was  a “one-off,” or if there  might be evidence of other female hunters in graves that had already been excavated and cataloged.

Researchers looked at records of burial sites in North and South American which were more than 7000 years old.  A small percentage of those sites were found with artifacts which suggests that the graves/tombs belonged to hunters, and of that group, more than 40% were female. That was a surprise – to the researchers, but not to the “…ton of indigenous communities which already knew this.”

 

The fact that both the Greek and Roman gods of the hunt were female (Artemis and Diana, respectively) never gave researchers a clue?

 

The bigger, or perhaps ultimate story here, IMHO, involves, as the podcast host put it:

“…what counts as knowledge, or *whose* knowledge counts as ‘real’ knowledge?  These findings are a big deal to the western scientists and archeologists who have been wrong about this, for centuries.  The researchers point to a couple of reasons for this big mistake. One might be that  men *seem* to do most of the hunting in contemporary hunter-gatherer societies, which may have led archaeologists to assume that this was always the case.  They also point out that many researchers’ interpretations may have been colored by their own preconceived notions about males and females and the division of labor.”

Researchers and scientists have preconceived notions about males and females?  Shocking.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Little Things I Missed This Year

The big picture of  pandemic and worldwide economic upheaval, along with the twin holyshit revelations of how many of our citizens are clueless (and/or in denial) re the realities of science and of our history of systemic racism, is enough to boggle any mind and frost any fanny.

Moiself, of course, wants all of these problems solved – or at the very least, acknowledged.  No, mere acknowledgement won’t do.  I want it all fixed.  And more.

 

 

On a personal scale, I look forward to regaining some simple pleasures.

I want to be able to hug people.  I want to laugh uproariously (not from more than 6 feet apart, or behind a mask, or via a computer monitor) at someone’s outrageously great (or stupendously lame) joke, while nudging their arm in appreciation.

I want to watch a movie in a theatre, and turn to the side (or glance behind me) to catch the eyes of fellow movie-goers, strangers in the dark, laughing and gasping together, united briefly by our mutual, “Can you believe that ?!?!?” reactions to what we have just seen onscreen.

 

I even miss having the opportunity to “Shhhhh!” people.

 

I’d like to greet fellow hikers on a trail without crawling up the hillside to give them enough space to safely pass by.

In February I bought some nice clothes.    [2]    I’d like to have somewhere and/or some occasion – other than a funeral – to wear them.

Considering what so many people have had to deal with during this dumpster fire of a year, these are small grievances, I realize.

*   *   *

Department Of Mascot For The Year

Which one gets your vote?    [3]

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things I Am Thankful For:
Friends Like SDH, Who Persist

This past year, and particularly before/during/after the election, my offspring and moiself  had some interesting IM discussions triggered by all of us having come across certain social media postings. These postings led my offspring to voice their despair when they saw friends and relatives falling down the rabbit holes – i.e., either personally expressing conspiratorial/anti-science sentiments or posting links which indicated they agreed with such views.

“Leave them alone/they aren’t really listening anyway/nothing you can say will be helpful/don’t get dragged down to that level by even engaging….”

I know these and other arguments for maintain a modicum of sanity: DO NOT RESPOND.

I also know that if everyone else refuses to engage with such people re such matters, then the only voices they will hear are of those fellow inhabitants of the rabbit holes.  And I also also *also* know personally, and have read about, other folks who have escaped from rabbit-hole viewpoints. These escapees attribute their being able to attain emotional and intellectual freedom to the patient, persistent, rational voices of a friend or family member – voices they discounted or even mocked at the time, yet which kept returning to them, and eventually got them to thinking,

“Wait a minute, how do I *really* know what I think I know?”

“Why am I trusting those sources, and not these?”

“Who benefits from me believing what I believe,
and who stands to lose – and lose what? – If I change my mind?”

 

 

I have pretty much given up on people who think doctors and researchers and scientists are lying to them but somehow find trustworthy the bullying rhetoric of a documented, serial liar/reality TV show host.  Meanwhile, those who study human behavior tell us it’s rare for someone to change a deeply held opinion.  That’s probably spot-on; still, I struggle with my responsibilities as a Good Citizen ® to countermand the crap that’s out there, particularly because moiself  has changed my mind on many issues over the years. These changes were due to moiself  encountering new or obtaining additional information on the issues at hand – and never, to my recollection, because someone insulted me or told me that my opinions were crap.

People rarely change their minds because someone calls them stupid or ignorant.  A calm, persistent interest in their opinions, a respectful questioning of how their opinions were formed and where they get their “facts,” seems to be the only thing that “works,” even if the odds seem to be against that (or any) approach.

Thus, here’s to those who persist, despite the odds.

Over the years I have watched many such tenacious souls in action, both in person and via the one social media site I frequent.  SDH in particular, whom I have known since junior high school journalism days, is quite amazing. He is a long-time professional journalist, and the investigative, analytical, and *people* skills he has honed over the years have served him, his profession, and our society,   [4]   quite well.

It’s not that SDH calls people out on their bullshit, it’s that, like the savvy reporter he is, he hangs in there.  He will not be misdirected; he patiently and persistently asks questions (Where did you get that? What are your sources?) while deftly deflecting ad hominem  attacks.  He responds with facts, facts, and more facts – always trying to bring the argument back to reality.

 

 

I haven’t the stomach for it; I “lurk” on the sidelines, reading with awe as SDH takes on cretinous blathering face-palming misinformation spewing, often from friends/acquaintances/family – people he has known for decades.   [5]  I admire this quality of SDH’s more than I can say, but since I’m a lousy artist (stick figures dancing in exultation is likely the best tribute I could draw), the “saying” will have to do.

And in the “saying,” I’m going to out him. It is my policy in this blog to initialize or alias-ize the names of non-public people, but as a journalist, with decades of bylines, SDH is already out there….  Besides, I want him to bask in his well-deserved glory:

 

Scott Duke Harris, A Purple Tortilla Chip Of Exclamation & Appreciation ® is for you.

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Not to brag, but I already have a date for New Year’s Eve.
It’s December 31st.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Whatever You Celebrate

Happy Solstice!
Merry Christmas!
Happy Boxing Day!
Happy Kwanzaa!
Happy New Year’s….!     [6]

 

 

*   *   *

May you not need an archaeological find to make you examine your preconceived notions;
May 2021 bring a return to your favorite, simple pleasures;
May we all persist, despite the odds;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] The latter sentiment would refer to 2020, not my blog.

[2] Perspective check: “nice” as in relative to moiself’s wardrobe. In other words, not tee-shirts or tie-dye. 

[3] Absentee ballots, vote by mail – we’ll count them all!

[4] Really – I do think it is *that*mportant.

[5] And thus, there is an inherent, personal risk for him in doing so, in breaching such relationships.

[6] There should be no less than six footnotes per post, don’t you agree?

Older Entries Newer Entries