Department Of The Calm Before The Storm
Sub Department Of Something Sweet Before The Ranting Thoughtful Consideration of Provocative Subjects Begins
We celebrate half-birthdays in my family – not my family of origin, but the family MH and I created. This is MH’s doing. When he found out that our first date was the day after my birthday, he expressed mild disappointment that he had missed helping me celebrate. I thought nothing of it until six months later, when I received a small gift from him and a birthday card with its pre-printed “Happy Birthday” altered to read, “Happy (half) birthday.”
I found that delightful.
And I did the same for him, when his half-birthday rolled around. And we’ve kept doing it all these years, also with our children, K and Belle.
What makes it such a simple pleasure is that although we/ve been doing this for decades (!?), every year, without fail, I forget when it is my own half-birthday, until, for example, like Tuesday morning, when I came downstairs and found a card and small package and realized, “Oh yeah – it’s my half-birthday!”
This year’s card is arguably the best ever. The inside message, “Hope Your (Half) Birthday Is This Much Fun!” is an almost impossible wish, given the expression of unsurpassed, mischievous joy on the puddle jumping girl. It is a familiar expression, one I’ve seen in many a picture pasted in my parents’ old photo albums. It makes me think of them fondly, knowing if they were alive they’d both laugh in recognition when I’d show them the card, and my father would exclaim,
“Where did MH find it?! Robbie Doll, that is *you*!”
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Department Of Much Ado About Nothing You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me
Sup-Department Of The Hidden Book In A Beloved Fantasy Series:
Happy Potter And The People Who Play Their Nitpick Fiddles
While Hogwarts Is Burning Down Around Them
What a fun past couple of weeks we’ve had. And because there is not enough injustice to keep us all busy, several self-appointed transphobia warriors have Twitter-twisted their rainbow panties in a knot because they felt excluded – even, “erased” – due to a 21-word tweet from author JK Rowling.
Bear with me as I make a related association.
One of my favorite podcasts,Alan Alda’s “Clear and Vivid,” focuses on connections we make via communication. The response to Rowling’s tweet reminds me of one of the issues brought up in Alda‘s recent podcast interview with cognitive scientist, linguist, professor and author Steven Pinker. In the latter half of “Talking About Talking,” Alda and Pinker discussed the “pr” problem science currently has, in that many (non-scientist) people seem to have little idea how science and scientists actually work, and thus fall for pseudo science and conspiracy theories. These science doubters don’t trust science and scientists, partly because they think scientists cannot really speak out due to academic orthodoxy and the “cancel culture” (which, moiself notes, is a problem typically more associated with the liberal arts and social sciences).
The backsliding in universities – away from free speech and open ideas, the ideological conformity, the political correctness, the policing of ideas – can be corrosive, precisely because it erodes that knowledge of what the rules (of science) are – mainly, you shouldn’t be able to get away with claiming something false, because someone will call you on it.
But when the impression the public has is that the universities are just another cult, where you really can’t speak your mind or you’ll be drummed out or you’ll be cancelled or you’ll be shut down by protests, that feeds the conspiracy theories….”
As my offspring would verify (with a modicum of eye-rolling, moiself dares to hope), I reminded them at any opportunity – when they were young and especially later, when they were talking about their college classes where they sometimes felt discussions about pertinent or controversial issues were was stifled because someone said something that another person did not want to hear or claimed was “offensive” – of the following:
The reason I have the opinions I have today, opinions that keep evolving and adapting to new information, is that (particularly during my school/observing-how-the-world-works-and-how-) I get to hear and read about ideas and events that the Someone Else ® chorus found dangerous, offensive, blasphemous, destructive.
For example, my lifelong feminism has been possible because I got to hear people argue with and debate the various “sides” of the issue. And the idea that males and females should have equal value, rights and opportunities but that powerful cultural, governmental, religious and academic structures are designed to prevent that and preserve patriarchal status quo – that was highly offensive, to many, many people.
I will never forget the reaction of the charismatic, good looking, Nice Christian Boy ® in my high school’s gifted math class when the teacher brought in a recently published academic study on gender bias. The study showed how school’s math textbooks, from an early age through the upper grades, discriminatorily portrayed boys and girls when presenting “story problems.” For example, the study showed pictures of grade school math workshop books, where boys were overwhelmingly/statistically over-represented and were portrayed as active agents in the story problems, while girls, if mentioned at all, were in domestic scenarios or doing housework. This NCB’s boy’s way entering the discussion on this issue, which another girl and moiself were having with a couple of our male classmates, was to interrupt, and name-call us (the two girls) and dismiss our concerns and observations:
“This is ridiculous!
Stuff like that doesn’t matter – I can’t believe you’d fall for….”
Later in the school year this boy, in his yearbook graduation notes (where seniors got to list favorite activities, friends, future aspirations and what they wanted to be remembered for, etc.) wrote that his life goal was “to tactfully convey to those around me what the Lord has done for me.” The Very. First. Things. I thought of at the time, when I read what he’d written – and the first thing that comes to mind today, on the rare occasions I have to recall him – is the “This is ridiculous” incident, and several others involving the ridiculing of classmates, wherein NCB demonstrated (what would later be defined by stand-up comics as) the phenomenon of “punching down.”
Once again, I digress. Thank you for bearing with me.
At first glance, I thought the article’s title was a headline from The Onion. It would seem JK Rowling did as well, and she beat me to the satirical punch (as easy thing to do, as moiself is not on Twitter). Here is Rowling’s tweet in its entirety:
” ‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”
We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and resulting economic recession, with the largest unemployment figures since The Great Depression and uncertain options for recovery, while simultaneous grappling with nationwide civil unrest after the horrific death of yet another black man murdered by police officers,  with demonstrations in a few cases turning to riots and sparking even more shocking displays of police brutality …which seems to be leading us toward a long overdue reckoning of our country’s entrenched system of political, judicial, financial, educational and cultural racism, the (grudging, in the case of many white folks) acknowledgement of which is fueling calls for the Herculaneum and potentially divisive (as counter-protests by white supremacist terrorist groups – which have yet to be labeled as such by our federal law enforcement agencies – indicate) tasks of addressing systemic racism, which includes reforming – or some cases, even dismantling– our nation’s law policing agencies….
And does even *one* of y’all think Rowling’s tweet is a fight worth picking? Are you having a really bad period – excuse me, are you a Person On The Rag?
The denizens of the Transphobia Determination Committee and their special friends, famous and otherwise, began to pile on. One Twitter-er responded to Rowling with a judgmentally terse, “Why did you do this?”
Rowling doesn’t need me to defend her (she explains her wider concerns with gender and feminist issues, including the censorial tyranny of “wrongthink,” here). But, As A Writer, ® I understand exactly (at least one) reason why Rowling “did that.” Because she wrote  just what I was thinking – and likely would have mentioned in this space, had I come across the article’s title before this silly controversy began…because the phrase “People Who Menstruate” is a stand-up comic’s wacky, face-palming, WTF?!? gift…not to mention grammatically ungainly.
Oh, and, Et tu, Daniel Radcliffe?
For those of you who’ve been off-planet for the past nineteen years, actor Radcliffe played the title character in the eight movies made from Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series. In his intro to a piece he wrote for the Trevor Project blog site, Radcliffe opined on Rowling’s tweet. He stated that he feels compelled
“…as a human being…”
(nice of him to clarify that, for those people who may think he is actually some kind of non-human wizard, or something)
“…to say something at this moment.
Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people….”
Oh, Danny boy. Do you really think that JK Rowling possesses what would be the most powerful magic ever: that she could, in a mere 21 words, cast a wizarding spell which “erases the identity and dignity“ of any of your fellow human beings?
Identity erasure, schmasure. Rowling said no such thing – who is trying to attach this “erasure” identity onto her? Just as she called out conservative evangelical Christians who accused her of promoting Satanism and the occult in her Harry Potter books, Rowling is calling b.s. on the transphobic accusation. You supported her re the former “charges;” why are you so quick to accept the latter?
Rowling’s tweet poked fun at a comically cumbersome phrase. Harry Potter (whoops! sorry for the unintentional erasure of your true identity) Daniel Radcliffe, you owe your career to this gifted writer, who created a seven book series filled with wonder and adventure and, arguably more importantly, interspersed with nuanced portrayals about individual and group reactions and responsibilities vis-à-vis recognizing and responding to good and evil. Now here you are, forsaking even a modicum of nuance in jumping on the *Someone is Offended!* bandwagon. Did you even think to contact Rowling privately, before joining the social media pile-on?
What is happening to Rowling frosts my butt. At best it’s snippy – and at worst can be confusing, angering, and frustrating and sometimes dangerous – to be labeled as something that you are not. Hmm, this phenomenon seems somehow…familiar. Other people trying to force an unwanted and inaccurate identity upon you – hey, y’all “transphobic” accusers: double standards, much?
Humans are mammals. In mammalian species all females have uteri, most have an estrous cycle, and the females of ten primate species, four bats species and a couple of other rodent species have a menstrual cycle. Human females are generally referred as women (although as per gender identity theories a small percentage of people who identify as women are not born female).
Pick your battles, folks. Don’t alienate those who are your allies, or who would like to be allies but who are hesitant to go public with their support because they fear you might rip ’em a new one if they use terminology you don’t like or “misuse” pronouns, etc.
You who want to pick fights over what should be non/the smallest of issues – pick away. Meanwhile, #45 ( aka Chief Little Bunker-Bitch  ) and his minion of bigots keep pulling this shit while they notice we’re busy picking at ourselves:
Moiself can hardly believe how many keystrokes I’ve wasted on this brouhaha. It’s errand time; my essential supplies are getting scarce. There are some chili bean-loving dudes coming for a visit in a couple of weeks, so I’m off to stock up on toilet paper for when the guys – excuse me, I mean, People Who Shit – stop by.
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Department Of Can’t Resist This Segue: Speaking Of Labeling….
Sub-Department Of Message To Police Officers Everywhere
(That They Are *So* Likely To Read….)
I’ve seen several Facebook posts linking to an article published recently in The Baltimore Sun. In ” An open letter to a protester from a Baltimore County police officer,” officer Seth Templeton, a five year police veteran who views himself as “one of the good guys,” writes with sincerity, articulation, and heartfelt regret about his pain, as a police officer, of being tainted by the actions of a few bad cops.
“I would ask that you judge me not by my uniform,
but by the content of my character.”
To the “good guys” (and good gals) in police forces across the nation:
Do you not see what an *amazing* gift this tainting is?
I don’t mean to dismiss your pain; if you can’t understand my explanation of why this tainting is actually a gift, please take a breather and read it again…then, if you still don’t get it, moiself humbly but seriously suggests that, for the good of the nation and your own sanity, you should find another profession.
Most of us think we have the ability to do, or are presently doing, what in fact is one of the more difficult tasks human being can undertake, in our journey to be Better People ®: to put ourselves in another person’s place. You remember the axiom about not judging a person until you have….
This is your chance for change and growth, a chance to start your own mindful practice of empathy. If you consider yourself a good/honest/upright police officer, if you took your oath *to protect and serve* seriously, please do the following:
Every time you feel tainted by the actions of a few of your “brothers in blue,” put yourselves in the shoes of another of your could-be brothers and sisters – of just one of the countless black men and women whose entire lives are tainted by the assumptions and prejudices of others. They are
* pulled over for minor traffic infractions – or for no reasons at all – because they fit a stereotype in some cop’s mind of what a criminal is/does/looks like
* pulled over while driving and questioned because they do *not* fit the police officers’ image of what kind of person drives a luxury car/lives or works in this wealthy neighborhood/has a car with MD license plates…
*stopped, questioned and frisked, in their neighborhood or on their own front porches, by the police, who are looking for drugs, while their same age white peers living on college are told by the campus police to move their marijuana plants away from their dorm windowsill so that parents attending Homecoming Weekend won’t see them
* arrested for breaking into your own home, by an officer who ignores the proof that it *is* your own home, and you forgot your house keys
* questioned, hassled, or even taken into custody by the police for doing an innocuous activity (having friends over for a bbq, attending a grad party in your friend’s backyard, bird watching, jogging, napping in your own dorm room, sitting in a Starbucks, using the pool in their own gated community, golfing “too slow,” mowing the lawn or playing on a Slip n’Slide, for going to work, eating at a Subway – and other ways of “living while black”) because it upset some white person’s judgement of who can do what in “white spaces.”….
Here’s the thing: those people who judge you, who do not know you personally but who put you in the category of “bad cop,” because of your uniform? Those people do not have the weight of your gun, night stick, taser, squad car and fellow officers and police union to back you up, along with a judicial system predisposed to believe your word (even when there are eyewitnesses and objective evidence – including video footage from street cams, stores, cellphones, and even your own body cam – to contradict you).
Those people who judge, fear and/or slag on you have…what? Merely their scorn, their fear that you are “one of *those* cops.” Do you realize how skewed the power dynamics are? Even as I’m hoping you take this opportunity to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, the shoes are hardly the same size, are they?
It’s a big culture to reform; police officers are part of their communities and do not operate in a vacuum. Rather, the violence, prejudice and corruption we see in policing stems from the systemic racism promulgated by the mythology of white superiority that has plagued our nation since its founding, and which permeates *every* aspect of its power structures. This is your opportunity be part of the solution…or get out of the way if you’re not up to it.
But, I hope you don’t leave. Your essay gives me hope that you have the strength to do the right thing, even if it means bearing the sting of false accusations (while remembering that so many others have borne and continue to bear so much more than mere false accusations). I’d rather you stay and work for change, and justice. Because that is what a good cop would do.
* * *
Pun For The Day
My aunt urgently needed a transfusion…
but she died before we could remember her blood type.
Her last words to us were, “Be positive!”
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Department of Epicurean Excursion Evolution 
And here’s what I made for ours, one day this week.
Featuring this week’s Theme Day and recipe:
Sushi Saturday: Green maki and nigiri rolls (made with jade pearl “bamboo” rice, avocado, cucumber, scallions, roasted red pepper).
Recipe Rating Refresher 
* * *
May you surprise someone by celebrating their half-birthday;
May we all try to be the good cops;
May you enjoy making your own damn dinner;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 The WSSC is a global organization advocating for “…poverty eradication, health and environmental improvement, gender equality and long-term social and economic development.” The article deals with the worldwide requirements, pandemic or no, for safe access to “menstrual materials, toilets, soap, water, and private spaces in the face of lockdown living conditions that have eliminated privacy for many populations.”.
 Or should I say, George Floyd was murdered by “People With Guns and Badges.”
 I can’t bring moiself to use, “tweeted.”
 Dying off, one by one, I know….
* 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 ® !