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The Letter (To The Editor) I’m Not Sending

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Department Of Although I Promised Not To Use The Term
“Silver Lining” When Referring To A Pandemic….

…there is at least one good thing to come from our world’s current situation. The “good” I refer to is a side effect of the stay at home/shelter in place/physical distancing/non-essential business closures. This side effect – I need a better term; ’tis not marginal consequence – provides some evidence that it might not be too late for us (humans). It’s the realization that, when we stop screwing with Mother Nature, even inadvertently, we begin to clean her (read: our) house.

“4.2 Million Deaths per year attributed to ambient (outdoor) air pollution.
…. The combined effects of ambient (outdoor) and household air pollution cause about seven million premature deaths every year, largely as a result of increased mortality from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections.
( World Health Organization website, health topic: air pollution )

 

New Delhi, during rush hour…not at night.

 

Imagine living a mere 500 miles from the world’s tallest mountain range – in the geographic scale that means Mt. Everest is practically in your backyard – but you haven’t been able to see the world’s tallest peak in 30 years?

* Residents in the northern Indian state of Punjab say they’re seeing the Himalayas for the first time in decades while on coronavirus lockdown.
*Since India was put on lockdown in March to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the country’s air quality
has seen immense improvement.
*The air quality has increased because public transportation has stopped,
fewer people are driving, and there’s less air traffic in the skies.
( excerpts from “India’s air quality has improved so much since the country
went on coronavirus lockdown; citizens can now see the Himalayas
for the first time in 30 years,” Reuters)

“The reductions in air pollution in China caused by this economic disruption likely saved twenty times more lives in China than have currently been lost due to infection with the virus in that country.”
( Marshall Burke, assistant professor, Stanford Department of Earth System Science, from CNN’s China’s coronavirus lockdown curbs deadly pollution, likely saving the lives of tens of thousands, says researcher” )

It remains to be seen, of course, how people and businesses adjust after the various stay-at-home restrictions are lifted.  That tiny, optimistic part of my brain – a part so small it cannot be located on this map of basic brain regions –

 

(that tiny part is located behind the brainstem and contains the pathways for minor yet essential neutral activities, including optimism, holding grudges, understanding fart jokes….)

 

– that part lets me hope that all sides of this multi-faceted situation, from big and small businesses to individuals, will see the benefits of working (at least part time) from home where and when possible, and coordinate alternative solutions to our transportation and energy needs and uses.  

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Letter (To The Editor) I’m Not Sending

That would be a letter in response to The Oregonian’s front page promo puff piece article several weeks back, titled “Crafting an Easter message of hope and faith at a time when both seem elusive.”

The article was written by staff writer Tom Hallman Jr., who purported to explore “finding the light in a season of darkness” and other such (supposed) Easter themes, all from Christian points of view.  [1]

I wasn’t sure what to call the piece when I first read it, and even now.  “Article” is too neutral, for that which was essentially a newspaper staff member’s promotion of a particular religious faith; also, it ran on the front page of a (supposedly) neutral newspaper, and not in the op-ed section.

Moiself  meant to craft a response of some sort, something compelling and rational, a day or so after reading the article, which is when my feedback would have been more topical, if not appreciated. You know the advice: “Strike while the iron is hot;“Make hay when the sun shines,” and…um…“Tee up while the caddy isn’t looking” – all those inspirational sayings from the pantheon of metallurgical, agricultural and sports idioms which make this The Greatest Nation On Earth ® .

 

 

I wanted to ask Hallman if, in light of the COVID-19 crisis (or for other reasons), he is planning on doing comparable PR pieces/blatant bootlickery  articles on religious faiths besides Christianity, as well as articles exploring religion-free worldviews, during their respective, reflective, special times and/or celebrations?

MH has an abundance of co-workers who hail from all over the world, largely from India and other south Asian countries. These folks, who have become an integral part of the Portland Metro area society and workforce, have a variety of cultural and worldview roots, including Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh (and secular!). What about their – and other – ways of “finding light in darkness?”

The Hindu multi-day celebration of Ganesh Chathrthi will be coming up this summer. Ganesh is a Hindu avatar known as the “remover of obstacles” and “imparter of wisdom”– attributes even non-Hindus can appreciate, especially in these COVID-19 times when there are obstacles aplenty (and a shortage of wisdom, considering what passes as “leadership” from the White House).   

Besides (and no disrespect intended), who doesn’t enjoy the image of a colorfully-dressed, multiple-limbed elephant avatar (and his ever-present rodent sidekick)?

 

 

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a time of fasting, reflection, and community, is ongoing, as I type.  Vesak Day, upcoming any day now,  [2]  is observed worldwide by Buddhists (and some Hindus), who, heeding the Buddha’s exhortation that the only way to truly honor him is to follow his teachings, encourage love, peace and harmony via “noble deeds” such as donating to charity, organizing blood donation drives, distributing gifts and food to those in need, etc.

Portland has a thriving Pagan community, and given the past months of uncertainty (and those to come), the Wiccan celebration of Lughnasad (August 1) will hold special meaning this year. What can Wiccans teach non-wiccans, with analogies via a celebration filled with both the hopes and fears that are as real today as they were in ancient times: hopes for a bountiful harvest and abundant food, juggled with fears that the harvest might not be enough and that the approaching winter will be filled with struggle and deprivation.

Here’s one of Hallman’s opening statements, in his The Oregonian Easter article:

“What we’re hungry for is an answer of certainty. Given that (his prior statements of the worries of our time, including spread of a new disease, school and economic closures and general life disruption and uncertainty)…Is there a place this Easter for a message rooted in something as nebulous as the concept of Christian faith?”

Here moiself’s  reflective statement, after reading Hallman’s article: Will be we be seeing a front page feature on the relevancy of modern interpretations of ancient celebrations – as we did with Easter –  illustrating other worldviews, e.g., the Wiccan acknowledgement of facing your fears, concentrating on developing your own abilities, and taking steps to protect yourselves and your homes?  Are Hallman and/or other Oregonian reporters going to write about that?

 

We’ll get right on it.

 

Or, how about space for a message that needs no special time of year, in contrast to (using Hallman’s wording) “a message rooted in something as nebulous as the Christian faith”   [3] :

“Is there a place for a non-nebulous message — a message as far as possible from supernaturalism, and which is as grounded as the principles of Humanism?”

These principles, found in greater detail here, are, briefly and chiefly:

Humanism affirms both the ability and responsibility  of people to live their lives and pursue opportunities compatible with social and planetary harmony, and seek the greater good for our fellow human beings. Since it is free of theism and other supernatural beliefs, humanism derives the goals of life from human need and interest, rather than from theological or ideological abstractions, and asserts that humanity must take responsibility for its own destiny.

 

 American Humanist Association logo

 

“Protestants and Catholics are shrinking as a share of U.S. population;
all subsets of “none” are growing.”
(“In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace,”
Pew Research Center, 10-17-19, Religion and Public Life)

 

It should come as no surprise that, along with the nationwide increase in the number of people who ( are willing to   [4] ) identity as Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, et al., at least one third of Oregonians claim a “not-affiliated/none” label when asked to list their religious affiliation . Added with the number of people practicing non-Christian faiths, that makes ~ forty percent of Oregonians who are “Christianity-free.”  That sounds like a subject worthy of exploration in a publication which calls itself The Oregonian.

 

“You heard the lady; we’ll get right on it.

 

*   *   *

Department of The Corona Virus Playlist
Los Angeles Seminal Punk Rock Bands Edition

And by seminal moiself  is referring to how influential and ground-breaking were the punk bands which formed and played in So Cal in the late 1970s/early1980s – not the variety of bodily fluids that were flung onstage during a Germs performance.

Along with the afore-mentioned Germs, Bands in this genre include Black Flag, Alice Bag Band, the Circle Jerks, Catholic Discipline, Fear, and (my personal favorite), X.

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

 

Modern Man
American Waste
Annihilate This Week
Beat My Head Against The Wall
Fix Me
Life Of Pain

I’ve Had It
Loose Nut
Nervous Breakdown
Nothing Left Inside
Padded Cell
Shut Down

Media Blitz
I Don’t Care About You
Let’s Have a War
We Destroy The Family
Have A Beer With Fear
World Up My Ass

 

 

Deny Everything
Moral Majority
Killing For Jesus
Your Phone’s Off The Hook, But You’re Not
Back Against The Wall
We’re Desperate

I’m Coming Over
Some Other Time
When Our Love Passes Out On The Couch
Under The Big Black Sun
How I Learned My Lesson

I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
Painting The Town Blue
What’s Wrong With Me
Lettuce and Vodka
Live Fast Die Young

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I’m reading a book about anti-gravity.  I just can’t put it down

 

MAKE IT STOP

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion  Evolution  [5]

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

Featuring this week’s Theme Day and recipe:
Mushroom-Miso-Mustard Monday: Mushroom Stroganoff Over Roast Cauliflower

My rating: 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [6]

*   *   *

May you find your own silver linings (and perhaps a better term to describe them)
in times of stress and deprivation;
May you be able to spot the mountain ranges – be they metaphorical or
actual – from your own backyard;
May you embrace the part of your humanity that takes responsibility for its own destiny;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Which, like the name “Easter,” was appropriated by early Christians from Celtic, Germanic and Pagan cultures.

[2] Many religious or cultural holidays use a particular culture’s ancient lunar – rather than the contemporary Gregorian – calendar, and so their date(s) vary from year to year.

[3] I would add, “or any religion” when it comes to being nebulous.

[4] Those who are open about being religion-free face “intense prejudice” in this country.

[5] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 1 of April 2020, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go themes as listed in the 4-3-20 blog.

[6]

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

 

The Excuses I’m Not Excusing

Comments Off on The Excuses I’m Not Excusing

Department of War Is Hell
(And Also Entertaining, In A Masterpiece Theatre Production)

MH and I watched season 1 of World on Fire, “an adrenalized, emotionally gripping and resonant World War II drama that follows the intertwining fates of ordinary people in five countries as they grapple with the effects of the war on their everyday lives.” Which is * exactly * how I was going to describe it to y’all, until  Masterpiece Theatre’s website did it first and saved me the trouble of using terms like resonant.

The seven part series, which follows the first year of (the European experience of) WWII, left us looking forward to the second season (not yet available, but in the works).  Moiself  of course wants to see how the *intertwining fates of ordinary people*  plays out; also, I’m curious to see if something moiself  noticed, about the presentation of the series’ male and female characters’ personalities, continues into season two.  

With the exception of an endearingly awkward, ethically decent RAF pilot and a shell-shocked WWI vet-turned-pacifist-activist, the male characters seemed rather and  variously “weak” when it came to overall content of character, from their decision-making, treatment of others, and ability to act on – and modify, as circumstances dictated – their principles.  In contrast, the majority of the female characters, no matter their economic, personal, and cultural backgrounds, displayed a certain ethical, temperamental and intellectual strength, despite the chaos and amorality of the war around them.  I wanted to ask the writers and producers, was this gender character discrepancy intentional?

I’m thinking, yes…or at least, maybe…and that it is,at least in part meant to ironically highlight the strength of the women of that time and in those countries, wherein they were viewed as the “weaker” sex.  In so many, many ways (ways that still are in place, around the world), women, indeed, were “weaker” than their male counterparts:

* Women were “weaker” in that being born female automatically assigned them to a lower status in their country, their religion, their own family;

* Women were “weaker” in that they had fewer (if any, in some cases) civil rights or personal, professional, educational opportunities as compared to men, yet they were subject to life-altering decisions imposed upon them by (male) politicians, religious and cultural leaders, as well as that of their own and husbands, fathers, and male kin;

* Women were “weaker” in that their opportunities for self-determination were limited, and if somehow they were able to take direct action they had to do so at the sacrifice of what was considered a normal life and risk incurring societal shaming and ostracizing;

* Women were “weaker” in that the personal life choices both men and woman made had very different consequences for women than for men (e.g. extramarital sex; bearing vs. fathering a child out of wedlock).

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Talking Back To Someone Who Can’t Hear Me

Dateline: last week, circa 7:45 am on a rainy morning.  Moiself  is listening to a Fresh Air podcast during my morning walk. I’m at the end of the podcast, a slot typically reserved for a book, film or other artistic review.  As book critic Maureen Corrigan begins her segment on “Need A Mental Escape? These Books Offer Solace In Troubled Times,” my mind begins to drift. I’m snapped back to the present when I hear Corrigan, speaking about who she thinks of when she thinks about her favorite food writers, say that she always thinks of:

“…the immortal Laurie Colwin, who died in 1992.

With only the raindrops splashing up from the street to hear me, I blurt out:

“Well then, she wasn’t exactly immortal, was she?”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sometimes I Don’t Even Ask, “What?” (Or, “Why?”)

Sight of the week, spotted at the entrance to our cul-de-sac, while moiself is driving to the grocery store: An Older Gentleman (late 70s, I’d guess), is standing on our street corner, talking to a neighbor (they are a bit closer to each other than social distancing norms would recommend, and neither is wearing a mask).

 

 

As I round approach and then round the corner I see that the OG is holding a…gas dispenser nozzle?  Yep, that’s what it is…in each hand.  OG (consciously or otherwise) uses the nozzles to gesture as he speaks.  Neither nozzle is attached to a hose, or anything else –  they are just nozzles, no gas tank or gas station in sight.

 

“For the last time, Regular or premium, and do you want your receipt?!”

*   *   *

 

Department Of Excuses In The Coronavirus Age

My late mother  [1]  was born and raised in the small northern Minnesota town of Cass Lake.  A reserved, studious, compliant child, she was never what I would (nor she did) describe as introspective or particularly perceptive. Still, every now and then she’d share with me an anecdote from her childhood which demonstrated, even when it was not the point of the story, that she was paying attention to the world of grown-ups around her, and not always liking or respecting what she saw.

Mom was in her early teens during the WWII era. One time when I asked her to recount some of her wartime memories, the first thing she told me was how she’d noticed that so many of the townsfolk, from merchants to private citizens, used The War ® as an all-purpose excuse or evasion for their mistakes, oversights, and outright incompetencies.

Cass Lake was far off the national defense radar; the town was not a hub or conduit for anything of vital importance  [2]  for The War Effort. ®   Of course, there was rationing of certain goods (e.g., gasoline, butter, sugar, canned milk) and shortages of others (e.g., automobile tires; shoe soles, and other rubber items), like in all towns across the country. Everyone knew this and adjusted their habits and expectations accordingly.  But when your mother asked you to stop on your way home from school at the five and dime store and get a spool of (non-rationed) black thread and the shopkeeper told you he was out of black thread but would put in an order and he’d have it next Tuesday…then when you went to the store on Tuesday and there was still no black thread and you timidly inquired as to when your mother could expect it to be in, the shopkeeper would glare at you and dismissively whine,

“Don’t your folks know there’s a war on?”

 

 

War on- schmoron.  You found out later (from a classmate who had an after-school job in the store’s stockroom) that the shopkeeper had written up his re-supply invoices just before closing time, that very day of your first visit – after he’d taken a late lunch (read: three whiskeys) at the tavern. He’d simply forgotten to include your order, as well as the orders of several other customers, who also found out on Tuesday that the ______ (shoelaces/spatula/salt mill/cornhusker’s lotion) they’d requested were not in because,

“There’s a war on.”

The town’s lone barber station was closed for four hours one Friday afternoon, during your father’s regularly scheduled 2 pm appointment.  It was a sunny day; business was slow, and the barber wanted to go fishing during lunch and stayed at the pond later than he’d planned.  The next day, when your father complained to the barber about leaving work and showing up for his appointment only to find that there was no one there to trim his hair, guess what he heard:

“Don’t you know there’s a war on?”

The one movie theater in town oversold their Saturday matinee.  You and your friend bought tickets to the show but could find not one empty seat in the theater, and when you returned your tickets and asked for your money back, or at least tickets to a later showing:

“Don’t you girls know there’s a war on?”

Y’all get the picture.

 

 

Nowadays, we (allegedly) peacetime Consumers ® get the you-know-what excuses, most frequently encountered when we are put on hold during telephone calls (and we’re making more calls then we used to, what with  sheltering-at-home and not taking our concerns directly to the businesses and organizations) to customer service lines.

First, there are the two customary/introductory lies which accompany our journey to the call waiting queue:

* “We’re experiencing a higher volume of calls than usual…”
(WTF, customer service voice dude!?  This is your default/standard message, no matter what day/time of day I call – which means that since you are *always* experiencing a “higher” volume of calls, by definition you are experiencing just a normal volume of calls…which you can’t admit and so you feed me this bullshit line, trying to get me to imagine 500 people calling at the same time as moiself instead of admitting you don’t have the staff to handle a normal amount of customer calls.)

* “We thank you for your patience.”
(Ahem. I do *not* thank you for your presumption.  We’ve never met; you haven’t even spoken with me, yet you are thanking me for my temperament, when I am not in fact experiencing anything resembling patience.)

Now we move on the Situation Specific Mendacity:

* “Due to the coronavirus, we are ______________

* “…taking extra precautions with your newspaper production and delivery…”

* “…dealing with customers who have extra concerns about our services, and we are doing our utmost to ensure that…”

 

 

Attention, companies:  unless you are a health care business, you can’t use the virus as an excuse for putting us in the same holding pattern you’ve been using FOR YEARS.

No, no, and no – the coronavirus has nothing to do with ourcellphone family plan you altered with neither my request nor permission…. And people are not calling your newspaper’s customer service subscription info line to ask about COVID-19 symptoms…nor are they waiting to speak with a Target customer returns representative about how best to administer the Presidentially-recommended COVID-killing bleach enema….  The timeliness and accuracy, or lack thereof, of your responses to our concerns have to nothing to do with COVID-19, and your call centers/customer service department employees are perfectly capable of lying to us/not listening to our complaints working from home, so don’t be using this as yet another excuse for your ineptitude.

*   *   *

Department of The Corona Virus Playlist
The Weird Al Yankovic Edition

Moiself  has listed some of Weird Al’s song titles which are IMHO, applicable to our social-isolating, transmission–paranoid, COVID-19 times, and which, in small groupings, imply a related story. If I were making a movie of these times, Weird Al might just be the person I’d tap to do the soundtrack.

Germs
Cable Tv
I Can’t Watch This
Callin’ In Sick
The Saga Begins

Stuck In A Closet With Vanna White
Amish Paradise
Laundry Day
I’m So Sick Of You
I Was Only Kidding

Livin’ In The Fridge
Free Delivery
Girls Just Want To Have Lunch
Fast Food

I Love Rocky Road
Rice, Rice Baby
Snack All Night
Fat
Fatter
You Don’t Love Me Anymore
Won’t Eat Prunes Again

Everything You Know Is Wrong
Dare To Be Stupid
I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead
Mr. Frump In The Iron Lung

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher who lost her job
because she couldn’t control her pupils?

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion Evolution  [3]

 

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

Featuring this week’s Theme Day and recipe…Never mind.
It was my and MH’s wedding anniversary. We got takeout veggie burgers and tots.  [4]

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [5]

*   *   *

May you enjoy the petty pleasure of talking back to those who can’t hear you;
May you not accept “coronavirus” excuses for non-coronavirus issues;
May you remember to be mellow when you’re dead;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Late as in deceased, not as in chronically tardy.

[2] Except of course for the young men (and women) who joined the Armed Forces – thank you for your service (oh…yeah…they’re all dead now…it’s just a reflex, ya know?).

[3] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 1 of April 2020, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go themes as listed in the 4-3-20 blog.

[4] Cajun spiced, okay?

[5]

* Abject Failure:  I’ll make a canned wieners & SpaghettiOs gelatin mold before I make this recipe again.

* Tolerable:  if you have the proper…attitude.

* Yep: why, sure, I’d share this with my cat.

* Now you’re talkin’: Abby the support Avocado ® approves.

* Yummers: So good, it merits The Purple Tortilla Chip Of Exclamation ® !