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The Character Reference I’m Not Providing

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Department Of A Blast From The Past

Enjoying the free time of the newly retired, I’ve been sorting through some old (VERY old) files. I found this letter your mom wrote for me to include in a scholarship application. However challenging her last few years were, I will always remember the sweet lady who took the time to do this for me.

A friend from high school sent me the above email earlier this week, along with a photo of said letter – my mother’s “character reference” for my friend.

That was so delightful of her to do that.  The letter made me laugh for several reasons, including the fact that it was for a “character recommendation.” I have no memory of needing a character reference for *my* college and scholarship applications. I do recall the jaw-clenching process of asking teachers for academic recommendations (and appreciating their patience, as it seems they were each juggling other such requests from at least twenty students), but “character” recommendations? I’m drawing a complete blank.    [1]   

Perhaps only certain kinds of scholarships required it (my friend was applying to a private college with a religious affiliation)?  In any case, I can’t imagine which adult I would have requested it (a character reference letter) from – and I know I would have dreaded the process.  However, variations on their possible responses do come to mind:

“Oh yes, I can attest, she’s a character…”

A sad – to me – historical/patriarchal footnote…that, unfortunately, remains more than a footnote some forty years later:  my mother’s signoff on the letter. My father could sign letters, recommendations and other documents of importance, legal and otherwise, with his name, which was also his “title.” They were one and the same.  Like so many women of that era, my mother’s own name wasn’t enough to confer weight to her declarations.  Just in case you weren’t impressed by her being herself, she had to parenthetically include her ownership status:

 

 

 

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Department Of A Heart-Blast From The Past

This week, eleven years ago, 2-11-09: he left this life, but not this heart.

My father, Chester Bryan (aka, “Chet the Jet”) Parnell, died on 2-11-09. The years have changed my grief, as I think (and hope) they do for most people.  I’ve gone from anguish to appreciation, in that I realize “the luck of the draw.”  How fortunate my siblings and I were to have had him as our dad.

The following photo: I have just turned 19, and it is my first Christmas home from college.  Chet was 51, and was eager to prove to his wife (my mother, nervous, behind the camera:  “Don’t throw your back out!”) that he could still pick up his adult daughter.

Moiself can’t be the only person to look at a photograph of a parent and feel a combination of awe and weirded-out-ness to realize that you are older now than they were back then, in that photo.

 

 

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Department Of Yes, I Really Did Do This

Dateline: recently. Listening to the Curiosity Daily podcast, the February 7 episode, alluringly titled, “Measuring the Deadliness of Viruses (Like Coronavirus), Why We Do the Potty Dance, and Depression’s Cousin ‘Acedia.’ ”

Moiself was compelled to send feedback to podcast host Cody Gough, who was bantering with co-host Ashley Hamer during the recap/closing moments of the podcast.  Gough made a statement that…well…I could not let it go unchallenged.

Dear Cody Gough,

I’m a fan of the podcast, and as such, I need to offer a suggestion re a possible correction, after listening to your most recent (February 7) episode.  In the closing moments/recap of the episode, when you and Ms. Hamer were discussing practical tips about how to avoid having to do “the pee pee dance,” in response to a strategy recapped by Ms. Hamer, you said:

“…as a gamer growing up, I can tell you that’s not an option.”

I believe you need to apologize to listeners for the oxymoron
(i.e., linking the concepts of “gamer” and “growing up”).

Keep up the good work,
Nit-pickingly yours,
Robyn Parnell

 

 

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Department Of Mere Words Cannot Express How Sorry I Am
That “The Irishman” Won No Academy Awards

 

 

There were two films I avoided seeing in 2019, even though they were each nominated for multiple Academy Awards.  Longtime readers of this blog may recall that I see a lot of (theatrical release) movies, and try to see all of the nominees for Best Picture and most of the nominees for the writing and acting awards.  But I just couldn’t bring myself to spend good money and lengthy ass-sitting time on Joker and The Irishman[2]

Joker, when I heard about its plot points from a friend, seemed too bleak and too venturing-into-incel-territory for my tastes.   The combination of a loner/misfit male blaming female rejection for his problems, and yet-another-comic-book-character movie…I’d rather stay home and organize the cat feeding bowls, no matter how much the (mostly male) critics seemed to be coming in their pants re the lead actor’s performance.  Then, I ran across this interview with Time magazine movie critic Stephanie Zacharek:

“(Joker director) Phillips may want us to think he’s giving us a movie all about the emptiness of our culture — but really, he’s offering a prime example of it”…(he) presents (The Joker) as a man beset by misfortunes, from unrequited love to Gotham City budget cuts…. In “Joker,” Zacharek says Phillips wants viewers to pity (The Joker) because “he just hasn’t had enough love,” but what he’s done is create a protagonist who could become the “patron saint of incels.”

Because she…wrote one of the earliest negative reviews, Zacharek “became a target of angry, derogatory, sometimes aggressively misogynistic missives from people who haven’t yet seen the movie.”…. Zacharek shared more specifics about the trolls who came at her with “sick burns” both on Twitter and Instagram. One called her a “lonely old hag.”

“It was just so stupid,” (Zacharek )said. “How many of these people are out there? These are people who don’t think things through, and if this is the audience that this movie is courting, that proves my point.”

(Excerpts from “Several male film critics praised ‘Joker.’
Here’s why female critics aren’t sold.”   The Lily, 10-13-19.)

 

 

Yep.

Moving right along… Martin Scorsese.  Oh, Marty Marty Marty – may I call him Marty?   [3] I’ve enjoyed a couple of his films over the years but never understood what all the fuss was about.  The overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male movie critics and members of the Academy love to refer to Scorsese as one of “the greatest living film directors.”  He is part of that (unofficial) Young Upstarts/Now Respected Veterans club – three males of a similar generation who came to films around the same time and who have earned venerated, call-them-by-their-last-name status: Lucas, Speilberg, and Scorsese.

I know it’s not a competition, but for movie directors, I prefer Spielberg over Scorsese any day, hands down. Spielberg has chosen such a variety of stories to present over the years, from Jurassic Park to The Color Purple, from Saving Private Ryan to Amistad, From E.T. to Schindler’s List, from The Sugarland Express to Lincoln…you can’t pigeonhole what a Spielberg film is.

 

Yes, the director of that also directed this.

 

Now, here comes Marty with The Irishman.  A criminal syndicate/gangster film – imagine that! What a bold, new path for him! 

I have become convinced that there are some male directors who, subconsciously or otherwise, choose subjects and/or time periods (e.g. they set their films “historically”) so that they have an excuse for the way they portray (the few) women in their films.  They are relieved of the burden of doing something they’re not interested in doing the first place – creating three-D, complex, female characters who have a role other than to decorate or prop up the male characters – because, you know, Authenticity. ®  (“Oh well, that’s what it was like back in the 1940s/ with Italian-Americans/in the gang subculture….”)

A gangster/crime movie – you can get away with having a few females in the background for window dressing. Female roles *can* be significant in these movies, but only in ways which relate to the protagonist, as per these Scorsese film examples (both via Taxi Driver ): you got Iris, the teenage waif/prostitute who needs rescuing, and you got Betsy, The Unattainable Icy Blonde Who Rebuffs The Protagonist’s Romantic Overtures  And Thus Serves As A Catalyst For His Violent Self-Destructive Spree ® .

I saw the trailers and read a few descriptions of The Irishman, and said to moiself, “Oh, please, again?  If this film were an Olympic athlete it would fail the male hormone doping drug test.”

With few exceptions   [4]  Scorsese’s films present repeating themes:   Italian-Americans and their American assimilation (or lack of); hypermasculinity (as expressed via crime and violence); the search for a father figure; ethnic (especially Italian and Irish) tribalism, religious (read: Roman Catholic) notions of sin and guilt and salvation; crime, organized and otherwise; male power male pride male bonding….

Several months back, before I knew a thing about The Irishman, I read a snippet of an article which used a retrospective of Scorsese‘s career as a lead-in to a review praising The Irishman.  When I came across the phrase, “Scorsese does it again,” my reaction was, “Oh please, say it ain’t so…and get that man into cinematic rehab.”

 

“Is this what it’ll take to get you to see his movie?”

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Department of Epicurean Excursion   [5]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

Vegan Holiday Cooking (from Candle Café; multiple authors)
Recipe:  Truffled Tofu Medallions With Wild Mushroom and Pinot Gris Sauce

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

 

Recipe Rating Refresher  [6]    

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May you delight a longtime old friend with a copy of an old letter;
May you enjoy the petty pleasure of insulting gamers (or gangster movies);
May you remember your good fortune in loving even those you’ve lost;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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[1] Which could be indicative of my lack of character.

[2] And they made it easy for The Irishman, by releasing it on Netflix after it played in theaters for 5.6 seconds (or whatever was long enough to qualify it for awards nominations).

[3] That seems to be the moniker the Hollywood in-crowd uses to signal that they know Scorsese, or at least know enough about him to be so personal….

[4] Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore; The Age of Innocence.

[5] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) once recipe from one book.

[6]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who’d eat anything, would like this.
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

 

The Definition I’m Not Making Up

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Department Of They Gave You A What?

Last week marked MH’s 25 years with The Company That Shall Not Be Named Right Now. Twenty-five years. It’s difficult to wrap my mind around that, until I look in front of me and to my left. Hanging from the walls of our home office are just some of the framed awards for product design and launching, and plaques for the patents MH and fellow various team members hold.[1]  I read the dates…yep…it’s been that long.

When MH had been with TCTSNBNRN for five years, his then-manager took MH’s entire work group out to a Very nice restaurant © for lunch. For this auspicious occasion – a quarter of a century of creativity, loyalty, [2] diligent, sometimes family-life sacrificing or altering work – MH’s now-manager provided cupcakes for the work group, and a cake for MH.

From Safeway.

A single layer, 7 inch diameter, $8.99 cake. [3]

 

No, Martha, it’s not.

 

Can you say, appreciation-fail, boys and girls?  I knew you could.

MH stayed up late last Sunday, baking a double batch of his family specialty: kringle, Norwegian pretzel-shaped buttermilk cookies. On Monday he emailed every person in the company (well, those who are still with TCTSNBNRN) with whom he’d worked over the years, thanked them for their help and camaraderie, and invited them to stop by his workstation so that he could thank them personally and share some cookies.

I’m thinking, How sweet that is! How classy is that?  – thoughts I hope will, eventually, push Twenty-five years and they gave you a !#?@% cake?!?! out of my mind.

 

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Department of I Lie Because I Say I Care (But Still, I Lie)

Many centers across the country provide what mainstream medical experts say are misleading accounts of rare abortion complications, and of disproved longer-term effects….. at least one brochure in the facility flatly says that abortion causes “an increased risk of breast, cervical and ovarian cancer.” …. But the National Cancer Institute states that “women who have had an induced abortion have the same risk of breast cancer as other women,” and that abortion has not been linked to other cancers, either.
(from the front page article, Pregnancy Clinics Fight For Right to Deny Abortion Information, NY Times 2-11-16)

CPCs (“crisis pregnancy centers”) have been prevaricating their asses off for as long as they have been in existence. When I worked at Planned Parenthood I was both amused and astonished at the stories I heard from women who had visited a CPC, about what had been presented to them as factual information. [4]

My favorite such story: Rachel [5] was told by a CPC “counselor” that during a physical exam a doctor could tell just by looking at a woman’s cervix if a woman had ever had an abortion (lie #1), and thus, because most doctors are adamantly opposed to abortion (lie #2) if Rachel had an abortion, for the rest of her life doctors could refuse to treat her (lie #3) or, even if Rachel found a doctor who deigned to see her as a patient, that doctor would give Rachel substandard care (lie #4).

Four whoppers in one sentence – that’s gotta be the record for a non-politician.

I’ve long considered the Right to Life moniker to be a misnomer. The removal of just one consonant would reveal their justification of their zealotry: Right to Life = Right to Lie.

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TWENTY FIVE YEARS AND HE GETS A FUCKING CAKE.

 

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Yesterday was the seventh anniversary of the death of “Chet-the-Jet,” my beloved father.  Back in September, when we were discussing the passing of MH’s father, my friend SCM remarked about how it was a milestone event for our family: the first time our son K and daughter Belle had to deal with the death of a grandparent.

Uh, actually, I reminded her….

SCM was horrified by her omission (I wasn’t). It was an honest and completely understandable mistake, as per this comment she made when she apologized. I found her observation quite touching:

You speak of him so often, it’s as if he’s still alive.

 

May 1978, Chet Parnell, celebrating his and Marion’s 25th wedding anniversary.

 

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TWENTY FIVE YEARS AND HE GETS A FUCKING CAKE. AT LEAST YOUR FATHER GOT A TROPHY.

 

 

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Happy Year of the Monkey

 

I find it suitable that I was born in a Year of the Monkey, as You little monkey! was one of several endearments my father bestowed upon moiself, his second-born child.

At my Qigong class this week, someone posed a question about the lunar zodiac calendar: What does it mean, to be born in the year of the monkey? I told her I could ask my SIL, who is Chinese, who’d likely say, “Nothing; it doesn’t mean a thing. It’s a superstition.”

From what I know of my brother’s delightful wife, she holds no superstitions – not those from her country of birth, nor those of her adopted country. She does, however, honor and acknowledge celebrations of culture. Thus, when I emailed her Gung Hay Fat Choi wishes on Monday, she winkingly told me that wearing red would ensure good luck during the coming year.

On Monday I did indeed wear red. I also visited Uwajimaya, my favorite Asian supermarket, and returned home with the fixings for a Lunar New Year dinner: veggie spring rolls; cucumber peanut salad; hot and sour fish ball soup…and this Indonesian snack, from a company whose marketing department needs a translation lesson.

 

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TWENTY FIVE YEARS AND HE GETS A FUCKING CAKE.

 

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Happy Darwin Day!

Today, February 12, we honor one of the greatest scientists ever, Charles R. Darwin (Feb 12, 1809 – April 18, 1882).

 

Yeah, thanks, but over one hundred and thirty years dead and I don’t even get a cake?

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The story I’m currently working on involves a character who regularly thumbs through an actual (vs. online) dictionary. Thus, I am doing the same, an activity which brought back a fond memory.

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, MH [6] lived in San Jose and I in Palo Alto. One weekend fairly early on in our dating relationship, MH hosted a game night at his apartment. MH and I and a group of about eight friends were playing a word game called Fictionary. [7]   When it was my turn be to Selector (the player who provides an obscure word for which the other players would have to make up a definition), I opened MH’s dictionary to a random page, and was immediately struck by the top of the page heading – you know, the one in a dictionary which lists the first/last words on the page:

blowjob/bluff

Now, I can’t honestly remember what the second word was, but I’ll never forget that the first word was blowjob. And, of course, I had to share my discovery with the other players – most of whom, as I seem to recall, were from our church’s young adults social group. [8]

 

 

MH, who hitherto had no knowledge of that page’s heading, seemed mildly embarrassed that he was in possession of what I subsequently and for all eternity referred to as The Blowjob Dictionary. Or perhaps his embarrassment came from the fact that his girlfriend couldn’t stop pointing this out to anyone who would listen.

Blowjob?!  At the top of the page?! “Blowjob” is at the top of the page and no editor or publisher caught it? You have a BJ dictionary [9] This is amazing…a mild-mannered engineer with a Blowjob dictionary, who knew?!  No, I am so not making this up – look, it’s right here, it says, blowjob….

Reader, he married me.

 

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TWENTY FIVE YEARS AND HE GETS A FUCKING CAKE.

 

Of course, it could have been worse (or better, depending on your POV). He could have received a package of

 

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May your significant anniversaries and accomplishments receive worthy acknowledgements;
May the calendar and lunar year bring you health and happiness (and interestingly titled snack foods),
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] The framed awards ones having to do with microprocessor design are like works of art.

[2] He has been head-hunted over the years, by other companies.

[3] Yes, the price tag is prominently displayed on the plastic cover

[4] Other equally horrific/entertaining stories came from my fellow PP clinic workers, several of whom had undertaken to do their own “undercover” sessions by going to a CPC and pretending to be pregnant, to experience firsthand what kind of (dis) information they would receive.

[5] Pseudonym.

[6] MH, as regular readers of this blog know, stands for My Husband, who of course was not in fact my husband at the time of this incident, but the privacy acronym stands.

[7]  Fictionary is a game in which players guess the definition of an obscure word. One player selects and announces a word from a dictionary. After the other players confirm that they indeed are not familiar with the word, they each make up a fake definition for it, while the Selector writes down the dictionary definition. The Selector collects the fake definitions, reads all definitions aloud, and players vote on which definition they believe to be correct. Points are awarded for correct guesses, for having a fake definition guessed by another player.

[8] Yes, happy heathens MH and I met at a Lutheran church. Now, there’s  a story for another time.

[9] Actually, I think it may have been American heritage?  I wish I could remember the name and the edition…I’d pay good money for that one…which for some reason never made it the the marital assets, when we combined households.