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The Holiday I’m Not Renaming

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Department Of It’s The Little Things Which Make Life Worth Living
In These Trying Political Times

Dateline: Tuesday afternoon. Apropos of…whatever, my offspring, son K and daughter Belle, have this exchange on our family messenger group, Yep!!!! Cats!!!!     [1]     (sans pix; these are my illustrations):

K:
I did not realize how truly gigantic Fetterman is.
He’s like 6’9.”

Since words and reason don’t work we now have Fetterman

to give the insane senators a swirly.

Belle:
(thumbs up)
First on the list: Mitch McConnell.

 

 

Belle:
Although I think just turning him upside-down would kill him,

probably couldn’t even get to the swirly part.

 

 

 

Moiself  walked around the rest of the afternoon with a big smile on my face, thanks to the imagery provided by my offspring. 

 

Relax, Mitchie-boy. Just think of it as your well-deserved spa treatment.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Another Good Thing ® About Social Media

There’s no shortage of criticisms of the various social media outlets, and most critiques are legit, I’d wager.   [2]   Even as I am encouraging those who complain about supporting a certain megalomaniac to drop their Twitter accounts and stop buying Teslas, moiself  remains on one social media site: Facebook. Here’s one of the reasons why.

Dateline: earlier this week.   A FB friend posts pictures of his grandchild‘s visit to what looks to be an amusement park, and picture shows the child playing that classic arcade game, Whac-a-mole. Seeing this picture prompts a lovely flashback for moiself – a memory I’ve not thought of in decades.

Dateline of memory: A long time in a galaxy far far away (Southern California). I am visiting my parents at their home in Santa Ana.  It’s summertime, and the County Fair is on.  My parents tell me they haven’t been to a state or county fair in ages, and suggest we go. And so we do. As we walk past the various cheesy games and merchandise and food booths, nothing catches our interest, until we come to an arcade. I espy a Whac-A-Mole game, and instantly am obsessed with getting my mother to play it.

 

 

My mother is hesitant, despite my enthusiastic recommendation. She knows nothing about it, she says (Even better!!!, moiself  thinks to  moiself ) I assure her that it’s a straightforward game, no complicated strategy or levels or scenarios: she simply must hold the mallet and whack the heads of the moles as they pop up from the console.

“Why?” she asks me.

“There’s no time to get existential right now,” I reply.  I put my two quarters in the slot, press the game’s start button and put the mallet in my mother’s hand.  “You don’t want me to waste fifty cents, right, Mom? Look – there’s one!  Pretend it’s digging up your rosebushes!”

Unlike the champ in the above video, my mother is exquisitely awful at Whac-A-Mole. Her timing is atrocious; even so, she soon gets into it in her own way, emitting a high-pitched, “Oh!” whenever a mole head appears, followed by her delayed whack at its head. My father and I, standing to the side of the game console, are doubled over with laughter as we watch my mild-mannered mother, with an increasing maniacal look in her eyes, pursues those pesky moles:

“Oh!”
(whack)

“Oh!”
(whack)

“Oh!” (whack) “Oh!” (whack)

“Oh oh oh oh oh oh!”
(whack whack whack whack whack whack)

It is one of my favorite memories of her.

 

This is another one.

 

I haven’t gone to a county fairs in years and it’s been even longer since I’ve even seen a Whac-a-mole game.  So, then:  would that memory have been prompted by anything else, save for a post on social media? It’s not like I would have seen a picture of my friend’s grandchild playing this game – like most of my FB friends, we don’t have a letter-writing kind of relationship.  

*   *   *

Department Of Well That’s Not Up To Their Usual Standards

Moiself  is referring to the recent rerun of an interview with (the late) Loretta Lynn on Fresh Air .

It was a tad interesting, due to the skills of FA host, Terry Gross, arguably   [3]  the best interviewer out there.  But IMO it was not up to the usual FA standards.  This was because Lynn was (again, IMO)….  There’s no easy way to say it.  The guest can make or break the interview.  And it wasn’t that Lynn was a “bad” guest, or an audaciously humorless and insufferably boorish one like a notable few TG has dealt with.  [4]   On the contrary.  Lynn was pleasant enough, but it seemed to me that she was also…well… rather…simple, or basic. Not plucking every string on her guitar, so to speak.

 

In the history of country music, LL’s talent was even bigger than her hair.

 

LL seemed not at all interested in self-reflection and/or discussing or exploring how she writes her songs.  Okay; fine; her prerogative.  But then, why agree to be come on a show where the whole point is to talk about your work as a female singer who broke ground in her genre for writing her own songs?

The point of a FA interview with a musician/singer/songwriter is to reflect upon one’s work, technique, inspiration, and so on.  Which Lynn summed up in sentences like, “Oh, I don’t really know,” or “I don’t like to talk about that.” Lynn’s songs are personal – she’s said in previous interviews that her husband was, in one way or another, “in every song” she wrote, yet she wouldn’t go further when FA  host TG would ask her about *how* or why her husband is in a particular song.

And TG let her get away with it.

LL’s song Fist City is borderline hilarious in some ways and disturbing in others.  And TG did not probe into that, as I have heard her done, through the years – the decades now –  that I’ve been listening to FA interviews.  Gross is insightful and persistent as an interviewer, and respectfully so.  She typically does not give up after one attempted conversational diversion by a guest.  And her guest was country music legend Loretta Lynn, who has written all these classic country songs about women trying to take her man (including, wait for it: “You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man”), and… hello? What are those lyrics about?

 

 

If it had been any other songwriter, I think TG would have asked more persistently about the song’s implications.  She did try, but Lynn wasn’t having any of it.  “Oh I don’t want to talk about that,” LL would purr, in her soft Kentucky lilt.

I wanted TG to get LL to at least to consider why people might want LL to talk about that problem – about how she was really singing about, writing about, the wrong problem.  When LL sang about how some women were ‘after,’ (her words) her man, the underlying problem wasn’t those women.

Loretta Lynn, the woman who wrote so empathetically about birth control liberating women from the life of a brood mare (“The Pill”), and the trials of a divorced woman having people think that just because she’s divorced she’s loose/available (“Rated X”) didn’t seem capable of, or willing to, consider the fact that it was her husband who was the problem. He married her, but chased after other women.  But Lynn…wouldn’t go there.
And TG, in deference to Lynn’s age, status and/or “sweetness,” didn’t seem willing to push it the way I think she would have with another musician…or politician, or writer or artist or sports figure or…..  Is that ultimately respectful, or patronizing?

 

 

   *    *   *

Department Of The Big Day Next Week

The more I know about the origins and mythologies (read: lies) about Thanksgiving, the less I want to call it that.

I’ve always had a certain ambivalence regarding Tday.  Even as a child, I suspected we weren’t being told the truth about that much vaunted Happy Time Between Indians and Pilgrims ®.  Historians are starting to speak up, and…how can I put this?  Folks, if the Readers Digest, hardly The Socialist Review, is willing to address this issue, that means it’s way past time the rest of us did.

 

 

“Thanksgiving is both uniquely American and full of treasured traditions. But this rosy picture of modern celebrations leaves out most of the real history of Thanksgiving….
Yes, you can still settle down with family to give thanks. But it’s important to know what you’re celebrating and unlearn some long-held myths.”
…. What’s the harm in believing the happy version so many of us grew up with? It’s just a story, right? This whitewashing downplays the long and bloody series of conflicts between white settlers and Native Americans that would occur over the next two centuries…..
‘Narratives of a harmonious Thanksgiving celebration were created to justify westward expansion and Manifest Destiny,’…. The term Manifest Destiny, coined more than two centuries after the first Thanksgiving, was the belief that settlers were destined by God to expand across America and prosper….

Myth: The “first Thanksgiving” started the tradition that founded the holiday.
Truth: The harvest celebration of 1621 was not called Thanksgiving and was not repeated every year. The next official ‘day of thanksgiving’ was after settlers massacred more than 400 Pequot men, women and children. Governor Bradford’s journal decreed, ‘For the next 100 years, every Thanksgiving Day ordained by a governor is in honor of the bloody victory, thanking God that the battle had been won.’

We should add that to our list of favorite Thanksgiving quotes as a stark reminder of the real history of Thanksgiving.”
(“The Real History of Thanksgiving,” Readers Digest, 11-15-22)

 

 

I like the idea of a holiday involving gratitude, and one in which friends and family get together for a celebratory meal.  As for what is in the meal, as the years have gone by, my own dietary preferences have changed – although even as a child I never was all that fond of the big bland boring turkey and wondered what all the fuss was about.    [5]  Moiself  likes the idea of variety feast, rather than a fixed menu.  [6] 

Moiself  also likes that which is practiced by our neighbors to the north.  Canadian Thanksgiving, which I and my family have experienced thanks to the generosity of a dear Canadian friend and (former) neighbor, is more of a general harvest celebration, without a traditional fixed menu.

Hmmm, so, how’s about Harvest Fest Gratitude DayGrativest Day? Harvitude Day?

 

Yeah, like that’s gonna fly.

 

Perhaps I’m being persnickety here.  After all, I’m the one who points out the secular origins of Christmas, which I don’t insist on renaming it, for the same reasons that, for example, I call the middle day of the week Wednesday even though I do not worship the Germanic god for whom the day is named.  Still, knowing the origins of Thanksgiving and the subsequent mythologies which promoted it, I can’t help but wish for a name change.

But that’s about as likely to happen as Elon Musk is likely to gift the running of Twitter to the Southern Poverty Law Center, sell his holdings in Tesla and donate the profits to Greenpeace, then take a vow of abstemious living and join a Buddhist monastery.

Ah, but it’s good to dream.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Tday Edition

How did Ziggy Stardust express his gratitude to the Thanksgiving host for serving her tasty sweet potato casserole?
“Wham, yam, thank you ma’am.”

My family advised me to stop telling Thanksgiving jokes,
but I said I couldn’t quit cold turkey.

How does rapper Sir Mixalot, who loathes pumpkin pie,
express his Thanksgiving dessert preference?
“I like big bundts and I cannot lie.”

 

I’ll give her points for not eating us, but really, these jokes are fowl.

 

*   *   *

 

May you have a good feast with friends and family, whatever you call it;
May visions of Mitch-getting-a-swirley warm the cockles of your heart;
May you find a whac-a-mole game and go to town;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] So named, by MH…I can’t remember the specifics, but it had to do with one of us commenting about all of us posting cat pictures yet again.  It has evolved into a family message board…with – yep! – lots of cat-sighting pictures.

[2] Wager, rather than aver, because I’m not on most social media and thus can’t speak from direct experience.

[3] As in, you could argue with me about this, but you’d lose.

[4] As in her FA interviews with Bill O’Reilly and Gene Simmons.

[5] My most memorable Tday was when the friend of a host brought a huge chinook salmon he’d caught the previous day in Alaska, and the hosts, my aunt and uncle, roasted it simply, with herbs and lemon juice.  I WAS AMAZED.

[6] Also, I haven’t eaten meat for years, so there goes that feast centerpiece.

The Basic Ball I’m Not Vogueing

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Department Of Serves You Right
( And By You, I Mean Moiself )

Because This Is So True ®  for moiself, and several others beset by earworms,  I shared this post after seeing it on FB.

 

 

That night, or rather, early the next morning, my petty brain woke me up at 3:30 am and forced me to listen to this:

 

 

Yeah.

The following night’s song was an improvement, at least, harmony-wise:
The Eagles cover of Seven Bridges Road.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A White Lady Watching A Black Lady Sketch Show

Last week, after listening to a Fresh Air interview with show creator Robin    [1]   Thede, I began watching episodes from the first season of A Black Lady Sketch Show.   [2]    I’ve a lot to catch up on; the show has been running for three seasons.  But so far it looks like it’ll be well worth it to park my ass yet again in front of the TV rearrange my hectic schedule so as to find precious time to devote to appreciating the show’s thoughtful-narrative mixed-with-magical-reality commentary on contemporary society.

Translation:  I laughed, out loud, a lot.

Here is a mishmash of bits that caught my attention:

* The premier episode: The Bad Bitch Support Group, wherein guest Angela Basset supports women who feel guilty when they wake up in the morning and don’t want to put on makeup or want to wear house slippers instead of three inch heels…but Bassett’s “support” turns out to be cooperation, with two pharmaceutical researchers who are observing this test group of women through a two-way mirror:

First researcher:
“What is happening to subject four?  She seems to have built up an immunity to the Foxycodone.”

Second researcher:
“Double her dosage!” (shakes bottle of pills).
“If women start rejecting impossible beauty standards,
we’ll go out of business.

Foxycodone.  I’m dyin’ here.

 

 

* The delightfully/deadly serious ramblings of the nonsense-spewing Dr. Haddassah Olayinka (“How many Caucasian seconds must pass before it’s time for me to tell the truth?”)  Ali-Youngman, “pre-Ph.D.” The recurring character is described by Thede (in the Fresh Air interview) thusly: 

“Dr. Haddassah Olayinka Ali-Youngman, pre-Ph.D., is a charlatan of sorts, a saleswoman of sorts, a conspiracy theorist of sorts….somebody who spouts a lot of conspiracy theories about the world…. She’s fun because she gets to say all the things that I think sometimes we see online or in other places. I’ve known women like this who constantly think everything is a conspiracy.”

Check out this ramble of a diatribe toast Ali-Youngman gives at her sister’s wedding:

 

 

* A takeoff skit on ball culture,   [3]   the The Basic Ball (“A ball for the rest of the LGBTQ Community”).  The emcee does his best work-it-girl narration, over the pulsing dance music glitter ball strobe lighting, as a trio of dissipated looking women clad in, well, non-glittery, non-ball clothing (read: sweats and down jackets; pajama pants), stumble their way onto the catwalk.:

“The category is, clinical depression. All my children serving chemical imbalance, that’s right, make your way to the floor if you can…..  You are tired; you are unmedicated; make your way to the floor…  Walk for the judges; now vogue.  Oh, I see you, eating carbs! Oh, I see you, too depressed to leave the house.  I’m looking for sadness… I’m looking for Eeyore in Dior….”

 

 

Other Basic Ball categories include

*Barbecue Grill Daddy

(“They’re serving leather and linen; they’re serving let’s-argue-about-routes-to-work:  ‘I take the 405 to PCH.’  ‘Oh, I just take Cahuenga all the way down.’  You’ll gag… They are cookout ready, Betty – oh, he didn’t start the grill until everybody showed up? You won’t be eating until night time…. Oh, he is passing out matching shirts at the family reunion; he is mispronouncing all of your friends’ names…”)

* Running Errands

(“Oh, did you remember your reusable canvas bags?  Oh, work it girl – she has all her receipts; yes, she knows the return policy and she will not take store credit, baby….Oh, she’s running a quick errand and didn’t think anyone would see her, but you ran into your boss, and now she knows you do not have eyebrows….”)

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Reason To Go On Living

That would be this:  Northcoast Pinball, the pinball-centric video arcade in Nehalem, has a new Godzilla pinball machine.

 

 

While I’m no wizard,    [4]  I do enjoy playing pinball, and can get quite picky re what, for moiself, constitutes a good game.  I never really got into video games; something about the three-D, mechanical immediacy of pinball punches my flippers.  My enjoyment of pinball also stems from following a certain philosophy I have re recreational activities:

If you can’t do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly.

 

 

 

I wish I could take credit for coining that masterful maxim, which, IMO, is a key component of psychological health.

Despite the above quote I do not consider myself a poor pinball player.  I just enjoy it too much – as in, I find it relaxing – to take it (or moiself, playing it)  too seriously. When I’m in the pinball lounge I often see players who are quite intense, and who obviously have a strategy.  I know of one strategy I could employ to get “better” (as in, getting a higher score/winning more free games):  simply spend a lot of time getting to know one game.

 

 

 

 

Each game has its own/different scenarios, “routes,” and shooter allies and ramps, bumpers, and traps, etc.  And although all pinball machines flippers, the flippers of different games have a different feel (and reaction speed), which I notice immediately when I go from one machine to another…which is my non-strategy strategy.  I allow moiself  one or two games on a machine, then move on to the next, trying to play at least one game on the twenty-plus games in the lounge.   [5]  Which means I’m in the pinball lounge for a minimum of 30 minutes…thus….

Hint for all pinball and/or video arcade aficionados:  earplugs are your friends.

 

 

The noise in the arcade when there’s just me and one or two other players is tolerable…but still, tolerable can be too much, and I know that we humans consistently underestimate noise levels and what constitutes over and/or dangerous levels of exposure.

Thus, I have started wearing earplugs when I’m playing pinball.  And I am concerned for the owner of the pinball lounge.  He is one of the Nicest People I’ve Ever Met ®,  [6]  but his geniality and right-on social and cultural attitudes are not going to protect him from the fact that the continual noise exposure in his workplace is going to give him hearing loss.

“A study conducted by University of Maine graduate students recorded noise levels in four video arcades. The study found noise levels so extreme that visitors in the arcades risked temporary hearing loss in just 30 seconds of exposure. Extended or frequent exposure at such levels may result in permanent hearing loss or tinnitus.

In one of the arcades noise levels peaked at 114 dB, with average sound levels of 93 dB. In another the noise levels varied from 69 dB to 119 dB…..

A continuous noise level of 85 dB will result in hearing damage. At 115 dB, the noise levels are eight times higher and hearing damage may occur in 30 seconds….

Not only the video arcade customers put their hearing at risk in this environment. Arcade employees are even more at risk, unless they use hearing protection. They are exposed to the high noise levels repeatedly and for longer periods of time.”

( “Video arcades causing hearing loss and tinnitus,”  hearit.org )

 

How I wish a friendlier version of this could be in arcades.

 

Places of employment with high noise levels   [7]  now offer – or are required by OSHA to mandate – ear protection for employees and visitors.   [8]  I can see how an entertainment venue might not want to acknowledge that their business has a certain risk to your health….but that doesn’t change the facts.  So perhaps I can suggest another business venture for him, and other arcade owners:  sell earplugs.

I regularly stock on the ones pictured above, buying in bulk for what amounts to 17¢, but with other brands and buying even more, [9]    you could get the price for 9¢/pair, possibly even lower.  Along with the snacks and beverages most arcades have for purchase, I wish they’d also have earplugs available at the front desk, where people purchase their tokens, for a minimal cost.  You could charge just 25¢ per pair – or give them away free, to kids under age 12 or whatever, and to adults for a minimum purchase of $10 or $20 worth of tokens…there are many possibilities of working this in to arcade “culture.”

Moiself  is going to gird my proverbial loins and present this idea, as diplomatically as possible, next time I’m in the arcade.  Hopefully I will find out that the owner already wears earplugs.   [10]     Wish me luck.

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Pinball Edition

Have you played the new Lord of the Rings pinball machine?
It doesn’t take coins, only tolkiens.

What’s the difference between a vacuum cleaner and a pinball machine?
Pinball doesn’t suck.

Why couldn’t Led Zeppelin play pinball?
They had No Quarter.

 

Hulk hate bad pun…

 

…but Hulk love my own pinball game.

 

*   *   *

May you find a pinball arcade and see how much fun it can be;
May you OF COURSE wear hearing protection while doing the above;
May you resign yourself to the occasional 3 am
♫ Ooh ee ooh ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang; ♫
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Nice name, but she spells it wrong.

[2] All three seasons currently streaming on HBO.

[3] A subculture which originated when Black and Latino drag queens organized their own ballroom pageants to protest what they saw as the racism of established drag queen pageants.  Participants choose from several multitude of categories in which they can “walk” and vogue for prizes.

[4] Style points for those getting The Who song reference.

[5] There are a couple of the old-timey machines (the ones requiring only one token to play), which I skip, because I find them boring.

[6] And whose politics I am quite fond of. There are scattered references, including books and other reading materials he keeps by the lounge’s sitting areas, and signs in the windows, that he – and his wife, who runs the pottery gallery next door – are right-on considerate, intelligent, religion-free, humanists and feminists.

[7] E.g. factories, or where employees are outside but using loud equipment such as mowers or leaf blowers.

[8] MH, son K and I wore them recently, while visiting Belle at her place of work.

[9] Like these, 500 pair for $44.60.

[10] Ones that are so cool and discreet that I haven’t noticed them.

The Favor I’m Not Granting

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Department Of This May Stop Them From Asking

Moiself refers to Every Writer’s Favorite Situation ®  (insert appropriate, universally understood emojis of sarcasm).    [1]

Dateline: senior year of high school (mine; not yours). I wrote a regular, eponymous op-ed column in our school’s newspaper, in which I took a humorous approach to a variety of school-related issues.    [2]   Toward the end of the year, a school acquaintance approached me, asking for a favor…although, she didn’t exactly phrase it that way.  The way she presented it, it was more of an opportunity, for me.

She had been asked to write and then read something for an upcoming Important Occasion: a work party; a family reunion – for the life of me, I cannot recall *what* it was for, but that’s not pertinent. The thing is, she was supposed to write and deliver an amusing presentation.  And she wanted me to do it for her.

She said that she would give me some basic information – what it needed to be “about’ –  and then I could just whip it out, right?

“I just don’t know how to do that, but you’re so funny.
I can’t be funny, but you can be funny – it’s so easy for you.”

The way she spoke about it, it was if that complement from her would be motivation (and compensation) enough, for moiself – who would know that I had, once again, written something “really clever and funny.”

 

 

In her eyes, moiself  was a “natural” writer.  I’d just sit my witty ass down and the work would flow from my pen to paper. She did not acknowledge the time and effort it might take, and never mind that we were a couple of days from final exams.

Gently but firmly. I declined her brazen solicitation honorable request, in what turned out to be good practice for me, being the first of many such declinations.

Now, I *liked* this person.  She was the first of many people (friends; family; co-workers) over the years who, although they seemed to acknowledge my skills as a writer enough to covet those skills for a project of *theirs,*  did not value those skills enough to offer to compensate me for my work – nor even acknowledge that writing is, in fact, work.  It’s “work” enough that they did not want to do the project themselves or take the time  to acquire and hone the ability to do so, or were intimidated by it (“I just can’t write/I’ve never been able to write, like you can so easily.“)

 

)

 

Y’all probably wouldn’t think of asking your son’s soccer coach, who is a podiatrist, to fix your bunions for free (“I thought it might be fun for you – it’d be easier than our other surgeries, and you’re so good at it”), or try to wrangle a free housecleaning from your neighbor who works for Merry Maids.  But there’s something about knowing that someone works in an “artistic” field which brings out the mooch in otherwise well-mannered people.

Over the years, I’ve compared such stories with other writers (and artist friends).  We’ve come to the conclusion that because writing – particularly fiction writing, but not exclusively   [3] – is seen as one of the arts, and since “art” is perfunctorily lauded yet (the work behind the art) not respected financially, non-artists believe that any time a writer or artist is solicited for their work they should consider it (shudder) an honor to be asked.  Or, even more dreadfully, you get the exposure thing:

“We can’t offer payment, but you’ll get exposure –
we’ll make sure everyone knows it’s your work!”    [4]

 

 

 Noone understands better than Matthew Inman, aka, the mind behind The Oatmeal.

 

It doesn’t even matter to these freeloaders favor-askers, when you protest that you are a writer of fiction, not  ______ (grant proposals/term papers/college essays/office brochures – whatever their project).  In their (non-professional writer) eyes, you can whip up anything, at any time, right? 

 

How I’ve begun every story ever.

 

Moiself, when asked to advise upcoming/wanna be writers, has alerted them to this reality: Your writing and editing skills will be coveted by others, enough that they will ask you to do work  *for* them, yet not enough to be compensated *by* them.   

I can count on the fingers of one hand – if that hand had lost three fingers in a tragic panini press accident – the number of times someone has asked for my writing skills AND let me know the payment they would offer and/or asked what I would charge for the project they had in mind.  In all other cases, I quickly discovered the Favor Asker’s assumption was that I would work for free… (for them; for the honor of being asked; for “the exposure….” y’all get the drill by now).

 

 

What prompted this screed trip down Memory Lane is a recent Carolyn Hax column.  Carolyn   [5]  is the dean and queen of advice columnists, IMO – she could claim those titles from her writing ability alone, but she’s also keenly alert, has a remarkable sense of perspective balanced with compassion, and is excellent at recognizing and pointing out the problems behind the problems advice seekers *think* they are asking her about.

Moiself cringed with weary recognition to read this letter…then my spine straightened in right-on! triumph at Carolyn’s response.

Dear Carolyn: I am a writer by profession — meaning I get paid to do what I do. I am constantly asked to edit someone’s community newsletter, write something about someone’s kid who plays lacrosse to send to college coaches, or write someone’s family Christmas letter. (I hate those things, but anyway.)

When I quote my hourly rate, I get the hurt look and, “Oh, I thought you’d just do it for me as a friend,” or — in the case of a newsletter — “Oh, I just thought it would be fun for you; it is a good cause and probably would not take much time.”

I keep quoting the hourly rate but it is the sad and hurt reactions that bother me. How to draw the line so that people do not see it as a rejection? I have even tried a slightly discounted friends-and-family rate but the problem persists.— Writer

Writer: The sad and hurt reactions bother me, too, but not for the same reason.

These people have just been reminded they’re asking you to work for free, and they think “no” is the wrong answer? Come on, people.

Go ask for free haircuts, housecleaning and brain surgery, and get back to me.

Or don’t. As a society, we’re not exactly at peak manners right now.

Your answer is fine; you are reasonably treating them as polite people looking to hire you for skilled work, and you’re responding accordingly. The burden of their cheek is on them.

But if these exchanges gnaw at you, then, sure, shift your answer a bit: “Thanks for asking. Are you offering a job or asking a favor?” So when they say, “Favor” — blowing through the sawhorse of a hint you just dragged across that road — you can say, kindly, “I’m sorry — if I agreed to those, then that’s all I’d ever do.”

*   *   *

Department Of Oh Yeah, There’s That Holiday Next Week

Ah, yes, and what to cook, which can test the patience of even the most ardent welcomer-of-Thanksgiving.  I’ve been reading that this feeling is common to many if not all contemporary hosts – not  just us plant-based eaters – as we keep in mind our guests’ various dietary preferences, allergies, likes and loathings….

 

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

From Ken Jennings, the man most people know as the winning-est Jeopardy contestant ever, has written several books on humor…the very idea of which, for some reason seems funny in and of itself, to moiself.   I’m currently reading his book Planet Funny: How Comedy Took Over Our Culture.  In the chapter dealing with the history of satire, snark, and ironic detachment (SSI)– specifically the rise, use, and overuse of that and in standup comedy, television shows and other entertainment – and even in protest movements against the government authoritarianism – Jennings has a segment titled “Outgrowing Snark.”  For a lifelong practitioner of SSI,  moiself  found his observations to be both obvious and insightful (my emphases).

Irony as a literary device, as something to observe, is fine. But as a way to live your life? Cloaking every thought, word, action with the implication that you might not mean any of it? That’s a pathology.

Unless ironic distance is the only way to keep government authorities off your back, it shouldn’t be the only pitch in your repertoire. The occasional curveball is only effective if you can throw a fastball and a changeup as well. “A Modest Proposal”    [6] is funny and effective, but let’s not pretend it accomplishes all the same things that a heartfelt plea for starving children would. You don’t always get to the same place by taking the opposite route.

In an age of irony, it will always be a temptation to use it as a cop-out, because it’s easier to smirk at things than solve them.

( excerpt from Planet Funny: How Comedy Took Over Our Culture,
Chapter 7: “Bon Jovi, come Home.”)

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Identifying With A Former Beatle

This something-I-never-thought-I’d-do moment came when I was listening to a recent Fresh Air interview with Paul McCartney.  Sir Paul is making the interview rounds, plugging his  two recent projects: the upcoming release of the Peter Jackson-directed documentary, The Beatles: Get Back, and the book The Lyrics .[7]  

 

 

As McCartney reminisced with FA host Terry Gross, who played clips from some of the Beatles’ well-known songs, I was once again reminded of, inarguably, [8]  the best – as in, the most sheerly unadulteratedly exuberant – opening to a rock n’ roll song ever: McCartney’s count off that begins I Saw Her Standing There.

 

 

Once again, I digress.  Here’s where the identification-with-a-former-Beatle comes in.  Terry Gross was asking McCartney about his age (he’ll be 80 next June), something he says he finds rather astonishing, considering how he feels:

“Hey – I can’t believe I’m a *grandparent.* I mean, like… I’m 25 years old, actually. I just look older and… I think my birth certificate was falsified.”

Bingo.  I have that feeling all the time, as though my age-on-paper has nothing to do with me.  In so many ways, I still “feel” like I’m twenty-five.  I’ve a way to go before I get to Sir Paul’s age, although the “facts” (and my mirror) remind me that I’m most definitely not 25…or even 45, or even….

 

 

*   *   *

PunZ For The Day
Beatles Edition

I’m obsessed with buying old Beatles albums.  My friends say I need help, but
I’ve already got that one.

How did the Beatles’ new skillet introduce itself to them?
“I am the egg pan.”

Did you hear that it’s tricky selling Beatles albums in some Scandinavian countries?
Apparently, when asked if they’d buy any of the group’s albums, a Swede wouldn’t.
But, a Norwegian would.

What did the Beatles eat when they were in India?
Naan, naan, naan, naanaanaanaan….

 

I’d rather poke my bleedin’ eye out than listen to anymore of this.

 

*   *   *

May you never ask artists to work for free;
May you solve as many problems as you smirk at;
May you get up and dance when you hear, One-two-three-FAH!;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] I’m not sure that there are any – hey, you emoji artists, get to it please. And we’ll expect you to do it gratis.

[2] Titled, “Parnal Knowledge.” Yeah, I know.  But what many don’t know is that title was suggested by my paper’s editor, who was also my friend, and who was known for being more…genteel, shall we say, than moiself, which led many mutual acquaintances to refuse to believe that the column’s name was her idea.

[3] I know of writers specializing in journalism and other non-fiction/expository writing who’ve had the same experiences.

[4] Except for that classmate I mentioned – when I questioned her further I found out she’d intended to read what I’d (might have) written, as if it were her own work – with no attribution for moiself   (“I’ll tell someone, if they ask,” she said).

[5] Moiself  likes to think that, had we met, we’d be on a first name basis.

[6] Arguably Irish writer Jonathan Swift’s best known work, “A Modest Proposal” (originally published anonymously in the early 1700s)  was a satirical essay which viciously commented on England’s exploitation of Ireland by using the reasonable tones of an economic treatise to proposes that Ireland could ease poverty by butchering the children of the Irish poor and selling them as food to their wealthy English landlords.

[7] A copy of which now sits on my office desk.

[8] As in, if you’re going to argue with moiself about this, just don’t.

The Theory I’m Not Solving

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Department Of Strange Bedfellows

 

Because…yeah. I don’t know about you, but moiself  would have no qualms trusting the person who extends my eyelashes to tend to my nervous system.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Adages Revisited
Sub Department OF Why I Don’t have My Own Marital Counseling Practice

 

 

Classic advice:

Never go to bed angry.

Translation: Never go to bed when you are angry with your partner, lest a bad feeling hardens into resentment. Resolve the argument before going to bed.

But, that’s not always possible. Sometimes you’re too tired and/or cranky to resolve things diplomatically – that’s why you’re about to “go to bed angry” in the first place.  So: go to bed; get some sleep; wake up, have a nice breakfast together…. Maybe, come the morning, whatever caused the argument won’t seem so serious.

Moiself’s suggested classic advice addendum:


Never go to bed angry.
Oh, okay – go to bed angry if you must, but with someone else.
   [1]

 

 

Actually, I’d say this advice is even crappier:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sometimes The Best Intentions…

I drove past someone’s house recently, and saw a new sign in their front yard.  The sign was similar in size, design and “composition” as the Black Lives Matter signs, only with a different message.

 

The message refers to  [2]  stopping the rise in hate crimes against Asian-Americans. However, its phrasing prompted moiself  to picture the following scenario:  moiself  driving past the sign, a well-meaning-but-clueless, elderly relative with me in the car – e.g., my late mother – who reads the sign, then sincerely wonders aloud,

“I don’t understand  – what do Asians hate?”

 

“They all seem so nice….”

 

*   *   *

Department Of
Cults? – Schmultz!  They’re All Cults

“…I remembered Toni Morrison’s statement that ‘the function of freedom is to free someone else.’  Utah wasn’t the Deep South, and we Mormon dissidents were hardly the Underground Railroad. But I did believe that our culture had trapped us, that many Latter-Day Saints lived in mental and social prisons that perpetuated precisely the kind of insanity with which I’d grown up.  It wasn’t slavery, but it was a powerful form of bondage: the belief that God had ordained a pattern of secrets and silence, that religious authority always trumped one’s individual sense of right and wrong, that the evidence of the senses must bow to the demands of orthodoxy, no matter how insane. It was a kind of institutionalized madness….”
( “Leaving the Saints: How I lost the Mormons and Found My Faith,”
By Martha Beck )

Dateline:  circa 5 years ago; Tacoma WA. Son K and a few of his college buddies are sharing stories about their various experiences with Mormons/the LDS religion.  K’s friend and housemate SP is from Utah; SP and his family were minorities, as non-Mormons living in Salt Lake City.  After listening to the other’s stories about the Mormon beliefs and behaviors that the friends found odd, SP chimes in:

“You all have *no* idea…. Out here, you have Mormon LITE.”  [3]

 

 

K shared SP’s remarks over a recent Sunday dinner, with MH and I and friend LAH, after I’d spoken about having just finished Tara Westover’s book, Educated: A Memoir.  The book is gripping, disturbing, at times downright horrifying, and ultimately/eventually a wee bit encouraging.  I found Westover’s beautiful prose to be an often-jarring contrast to that which the prose presents: the account of her childhood, raised in a family headed by a fanatical, fundamentalist LD, survivalist, paranoid father (a man who was also likely afflicted with bipolar disorder    [4]  ).  There were inspiring segments of the book which depicted the author’s inexplicably indomitable spirit (where did it come from, given her environment?); still, I had a headache at the end of each reading day – moiself  realized I’d been clenching my jaw when reading through passages depicting the physical, emotional, and intellectual neglect and abuse she lived with, and the narrow confines of her world.

Westover yearned to be “educated,” in a world where women and girls were to aspire to nothing more than marriage and motherhood – in a world where she was told that to want an education was sinful and that women and girls must obey men and boys, even to the point of enduring sickening abuse from her psychotic brother.  She did manage to extricate herself (physically, if not completely emotionally) from that world, but at great cost to her psyche.  Her portrayal of the cost of childhood suffering, of the power that abusers (and those who abet them) wield, is chillingly insightful.  Although I highly recommend the book, it also (and literally) gave me nightmares.

MH recommended the book to me a couple of years ago, and I’d listened to the Fresh Air interview with the author (which aired in 2019).  I immediately thought of that interview when I read the first paragraph of the “Author’s Note” at the end of Educated:

“This story is not about Mormonism.
Neither is it about any other form of religious belief.
In it there are many types of people, some believers, some not; some kind, some not. The author disputes any correlation, positive or negative, between the two.”

 

 

Well, that was…odd.  Most such disclaimers are at the beginning of *novels,* or short fiction collections. (“This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.”).  It made me somewhat disappointed in FA host Terry Gross’s otherwise excellent interview.  Did Gross not read the Author’s Note?  If she did, why didn’t she ask Westover about it – was that disclaimer something the publishing company’s lawyers insisted on?

Readers generally understand that, even in non-fiction, individuals and their actions are not meant to represent Everyone and Everything. The “Author’s Note” struck me as being so unnecessary – and also, so fearful, of possible litigation, perhaps…and the author’s personal safety.

As per the latter: The LDS church is not as prone to rabid-dog harassment techniques as Scientology (whose “fair game,” policy re critics stated that “An enemy of Scientology, referred to as a suppressive person (SP), may be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist…may be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.”    [5]  ).  Still, the LDS church has been known to lawyer-up when they think they have been presented in a bad light (in particular, by those who have managed to leave the church).  But their most effective defense has been the spiritual training – read: psychological torture – with which members have been inculcated.

When I read Martha Beck’s memoir Leaving the Saints, I remember a section of the book where Beck wrote about the rituals she and her husband   [6]  participated in during their temple wedding (aka, “sealing” [7]   ).  Beck was willing to detail charges of sexual abuse against a very powerful LDS icon – her father, Mormon apologist Hugh Nibley –  yet stopped short of describing the vows of secrecy (re the temple rituals) she and her husband made “for time and all eternity.”  I recall she used almost a joking tone in addressing any readers who might be Mormon enforcers, writing something along the lines of, “Hey guys, I promised not to reveal the exact content, and I didn’t, okay? So please don’t disembowel me.”

There was an implicit seriousnessy behind her joshing: fear. She’d written this supposed tell-all book, yet she still was afraid to tell all.

 

 

I’d known about the vows Mormons take in temple rituals (in which they acknowledge the penalties they might face for revealing such secrets), but “known about” as in, I only knew that such vows existed – their content remained a mystery.  Even Ex-Mos who had openly renounced everything else LDS seemed uniformly silent on the matter.  Then, along came Richard Packham, founder of The Exmormon Foundation.

During the 2012 Presidential election Packham was troubled by the fact that vast majority of American voters – the vast majority of *anyone* outside of Mormonism – had no knowledge of the secret oaths Romney had taken as a faithful Mormon.  Packham wondered aloud (as, in an article he wrote for businessinsider.com ):

“The question for American voters is: Knowing that Romney has taken this secret oath,   [8]   and that he is a faithful Mormon, do you want him to answer the question,
‘Would you feel bound by your sacred oath to obey the law of consecration that you made in the endowment ceremony and use the power of the presidency to benefit the Mormon church?’ “

Packham noted that “In all the extensive media coverage of Mitt Romney, much of it discussing his religion, not a word have I seen about the secrets of Mormonism, the secrets of Romney’s life-long beliefs and practices.”

 

 

Growing up as a Mormon close in age to Mitt Romney, Packham was, like Romney, “initiated into those same secrets.”  Unlike Romney, Packham left Mormonism and decided to talk and write about it, including describing LDS secrets such as the endowment ritual   [9]  and other rituals, wherein Mormons are instructed in the “signs” and “tokens” of the Mormon priesthood, are given special “names” (or “passwords”), and must make an oath to never reveal these, outside the temple.

“…when Romney and I first went through this ceremony, we were taught that each of the first three signs and tokens also had a ‘penalty’ associated with each one, and we had to mime various ways of taking life to represent the penalty to us if we were to reveal the secret signs and tokens: slitting one’s own throat, ripping open one’s chest, disemboweling oneself. Yes, folks, this was part of the most sacred ritual in Mormonism: pantomiming your own bloody death.

So Mitt Romney, and all other righteous Mormons, can be confident that they know the secret passwords and secret handshakes to get into heaven. Do you see why Romney and his church are reluctant for ‘unworthy’ people (the rest of us, including Mrs. Romney’s parents) to know about this?
As Deborah Laake   [10]  put it in her autobiographical book, “Secret Ceremonies”:

“The actions that were going to guarantee my entrance at the gates [of heaven] would have nothing to do with love or charity or the other teachings of Christ that I’d been raised to believe God valued. In fact, I hadn’t heard a single one of those words spoken today, the most primary day of religious instruction in my entire life. No, I was going to burst into heaven on the basis of mumbo-jumbo. … The mysteries of life were fraternity rituals. … Did all the white-suited glorifiers in the room unquestioningly accept a ritual of nutty gestures from the pseudo-occult as a sacrament? Those were the first moments when I viewed Mormonism with suspicion.”

Or, as summarized by a Mormon missionary: ‘If we told investigators [prospective converts to Mormonism] about that, they wouldn’t join, because it’s too weird!’ “

(excerpts from, “An Ex-Mormon Describes Some ‘Secrets’ Of The Church”
Businessinsider.com, 7-30-12 )

 

 

Lest you think I pick on the LDS too much  [11]  back to the dinner table discussion: when moiself  described Westover’s book to K and LAH as the author’s story of growing up in a Mormon fundamentalist cult, MH offered his opinion, that “It was more of a cult of that father.”   We all then spoke of the fundy cults/offshoots of Mormonism with which we were famililar, offshoots which, like all so-called cults, serve to make the mainstream or parent religion – in this case, Mormonism –  look “better,” in a way, especially to non-believers.

Most religious believers deride (and even loathe and/or fear) people in “cults,” but don’t realize they are in one themselves.  Mainstream Christians laugh at the gullibility of Mormons who can believe that a god gave a revelation to Joseph Smith through golden tablets (which Smith translated via a magic stone he placed in his hat), but believe their god gave one of their prophets a revelation through stone tablets.  They sneer at snake-handling faith healers who babble nonsense (aka, speak in tongues) and believe in prophecy, even as they themselves pray for people to be healed and hurricanes to be halted, and talk about an apocalyptic End Times.

When does a cult become a religion?

* When it is granted a tax-free status by the Government.
* When it progresses from killing its members to killing non-members.

All religions begin as cults. Christianity began as one of several competing messianic sects and became a religion when Paul and his followers began proselytizing outside Judea. Cults fade away when those who knew the founder die. Who remembers the Ranters, the Sandemanians or the Muggletonians now?
(excerpts from “Notes and queries,” ethical conundrums, theguardian.com )

What is a religion, but a cult with more money and real estate, and better lawyers and PR?  All religions began as cults – as offshoots of a mainstream religion.  Once they achieve mainstream status, established religions benefit from the existence of cults, in that they can point religion skeptics toward the cult’s beliefs and practices and say, “At least we’re not like that.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Explanations

Dateline: Tuesday am, morning walk. Moiself  is listening to the season 13 trailer for the Clear + Vivid podcast, in which host Alan Alda and the C+V  producer preview the new season.  One preview plays excerpts from Alda’s interview with theoretical physicist and author Michio Kaku, whose latest book is The God Equation: the quest for the theory of everything.  Alda describes Kaku as “one of our culture’s leading communicators… about one of the most tantalizing and hard to understand questions ever raised: ‘Is there a theory of everything?’ – is there some formula that explains pretty much every phenomenon of the universe?” And what would the effects of such a theory mean to you and me?  

“The immediate, practical implication of finding the theory of everything is…nothing. It’s not going to effect you or me, I’ll be very blunt with you.  However, it will answer some of the deepest philosophical, religious questions of all time….”
(excerpt of C+V interview with Michio Kaku)     [12]

I gotta wonder: should I save Dr. Kaku and his peers some time and energy, by submitting to them *my* concept?  In a mere four words, my Theory Of Everything ® :

“Yep; there it is.”

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Theoretical Physics Edition

Q: Why should you go out wining and dining with neutrons?
A: Wherever they go, there’s no charge.

A husband walks in on his wife, who is a string theorist, in bed with another man.
She shouts, “I can explain everything!”

Do radioactive cats have 18 half-lives?   [13]

 

*   *   *

May you come up with your own Theory of Everything;
May you be grateful toward those who encouraged you to be educated;
May you realize that nobody, under any circumstances, ever needs to have their eyelashes extended;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi

*   *   *

[1] As in, not the person you’re angry with.

[2] I can just about 100% safely assume.

[3] Move along folks; no footnote to see here.

[4]  A diagnosis he would have rejected in favor of some explanation involving evil spirits and/or devils. 

[5] “6 insane ways the Church of Scientology has tried to silence its critics,” salon 3-15-15

[6]  Who is now also ex-Mormon, as well as her ex-husband.

[7]   Mormons have two kinds of weddings:  Temple weddings, and non-temple.  Not all Mormons “qualify” for a temple wedding, even if they desire one.  “If you don’t know much about Mormon weddings, there’s a good reason for it. The Mormons don’t want you to find out. Temple marriages are top-secret affairs — absolutely no non-Mormons are allowed to see these hidden events. Even some practicing Mormons, who aren’t deemed worthy of a ‘temple recommend,’ will be asked to wait outside. This can be downright heartbreaking for LDS couples with friends and family outside the faith, who find themselves without their loved ones by their side on their big day.  (excerpt from “Mormon weddings “)

My sister’s (non-religious) freshman college roommate was aggressively courted by a senior boy who was a Mormon. When they married, she asked my sister to be her maid of honor.  My sister, after months of warily watching her roommate being wooed, did not approve of the relationship, but wanted to support her roommate, and agreed.  My sister, after buying and then of course wearing the dress, had to stand outside the temple – along with the bride’s parents (who paid for the wedding and the reception)! – during the ceremony, because they were not Mormons.

[8] Several oaths, actually, but the one Packham refers, “The Law of Consecration,”  involves, if Romney won the election, thanking God for blessing him with the presidency and, as per that oath, promising to use that blessing for the benefit of the Mormon church.

[9] “a ritual reenactment of the creation, Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, mortal experience, and the return to God’s presence. At each stage of this progression, participants make covenants in the name of Jesus Christ.” (So What Happens in an LDS Temple?  The Salt Lake Tribune. )

[10] Deborah Laake was a journalist and editor, raised and married in the LDS church, and was excommunicated by the church “…for apostasy because of her criticisms and also for her ‘detailed revelation of top-secret Mormon temple ceremonies’ ” shortly after the publication of her book, Secret Ceremonies, “a candid and critical account of her experiences growing up and marrying as a member of the LDS church.” ( Wikipedia entry for Laake. )

[11] Due to the book I read, LDS it was the primary topic, but longtime readers of this blog know I am a skeptic and debunker of all religions.

[12] I think 12 footnotes is more than enough.

[13] Thirteen footnotes is even more extravagant.

The Songs I’m Not Re-Writing

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Department Of Actually, It *Was* You.
Atone and Move On, But Don’t Deny, Minimize, Or Forget.

Re: the recent Fresh Air interview with singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile.  I tuned in eagerly, as I’m a fan of both the show and Carlile’s music (and am currently reading her memoir).  I’m sure I must have previously heard the BC song “That Wasn’t Me,” but I’d never paid attention to the lyrics until FA host Terry Gross and BC began discussing it.

Carlile had a tumultuous childhood, with a myriad of family challenges, including poverty, coming out as gay as an adolescent (and being publicly refused a baptism because of it), and her father’s alcoholism.  Carlile spoke of being influenced by the mindset/jaron of Al-Anon and Alateen in terms of her composing  That Wasn’t Me, which is sung from the POV of an addict or “misbehaver” of some kind.

The song is written in sympathy, or at least that’s moiself’s  interpretation, as the addict/narrator is not called out for his self-deception which prevents him from full-on owning and/or apologizing for the pain he has caused.

♫  Tell me did I go on a tangent?
Did I lie through my teeth?
Did I cause you to stumble on your feet?
Did I bring shame on my family?
Did it show when I was weak?
Whatever you see, that wasn’t me
That wasn’t me, that wasn’t me  ♫
(excerpt from “That Wasn’t Me,” Brandi Carlile)

“That wasn’t me?” I disagree.  Ginormously.

A second listen to the lyrics and I was still clenching my jaw.

 

 

I assume the song is Carlile’s way of trying to show love/empathy/forgiveness for her father – all laudable emotions and goals. Still, I loathe the way she did it, as in, the lines she gave him.   [1]

Whatever you see, that wasn’t me.  Uh, actually, it *was.*

It was you, using drugs or whiskey or whatever, but it was still *you* on drugs or whiskey, not Mel Gibson or anyone else. Not all addicts do the particular, specific things you did; thus, the whatever-it-is-you-did-that-you-feel-the-need-to-mention,  it *was* you.  It may have been difficult, even-heart-breaking, for the little girl to see you, her daddy, do the things you did, but you did do those things and she saw you do them.  It was you; it wasn’t someone or something (“the needle” or “the bottle”)  else.

 

 

No matter how lyrically or artfully it is phrased, a statement which uses the format of a question for listing the consequences, for others, for your behavior (“did I go on a tangent/lie/cause you to stumble/bring shame on my family…?”) is not an *acknowledgment* of those consequences.  Sans acceptance of responsibility, such an anemic non-apology is arguably even more damaging (to the one being addressed) than a denial.  Especially, in moiself’s opinion, when such statements are aimed at a girl-childs.

From sexual harassment and abuse, to academic, political and workplace discrimination, to family dysfunction and every dynamic on the planet, girls and women are taught, socialized, and pressured to *not*  believe their own eyes and ears, nor to trust their own experiences. “It’s *your* interpretation of what happened that is wrong,” females are told, it’s not that what happened to you is wrong.    [2]

* You’re six years old, and just before another holiday gathering you tell your mother about how the behavior of a certain extended family member creeps you out.  But your mother pooh-poohs your request to stay far away from him.  “Oh no, that’s just your Uncle Buck!  He’s so friendly – Buck loves everybody, and he’s always been a big hugger.  Now, don’t be shy or hurt his feelings when he’s around, you know how special he thinks you are….”
Months or years later, Uncle Buck molests you/your sister/cousin/friend, and/or you find out he’s been arrested for child sexual abuse….

* Introverted, awkward, 7th grade you finally gets up the nerve to complain to your teacher and your parents about your classmate Billy.  Billy constantly looks for opportunities to tease you in the school hallways; he has “bumped into” you several times, jamming his elbow in your ribs (so hard that it once left a bruise); he even tried to push you/trip you down the stairs the other day.  Although you are annoyed by and even growing fearful of Billy, the adults tell you that you should “laugh it off,” and that Billy “…does this because he likes you…and you want boys to like you, right?”

* Your high school guidance counselor tries to discourage you (and another female A-student you know) from applying to a certain university because, he warns you, it is known for being “…a very competitive school, academically rigorous, with all the students vying for pre-professional majors.”  Two male friends of yours, who want to apply to the same university, are told by that same counselor that the school would be an excellent choice for them, as it is “…a very competitive school, academically rigorous, with all the students vying for pre-professional majors.”  This is despite the fact that both your and that other female student’s GPAs and SAT scores are higher than the same of those two boys.   [3]  When you bring this incongruity to the attention of a trusted teacher and/or your parents, you are told that there is no sexist bias, overt or subliminal.  “That’s not like him, no way! The counselor was just encouraging students to follow their natural interests….”

* Your colleague keeps claiming credit for your ideas and work, and/or interrupting you during meetings and/or touching you and speaking provocatively/dismissively to you. He never shows such behavior with his male coworkers. When you bring this to your boss’s attention you are told, “That’s not what’s going on; that’s just Jake.  He doesn’t mean anything personal; that’s his M.O.  Why are you putting that interpretation on things, when no one else has a problem with him?”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of My Brain Just Does This
Number 949 In A Never-Ending Series

Speaking of Fresh Air, Terry Gross is one of the best interviewers ever. And she says something at least once during every FA interview which never fails to amuse me. After TG announces a pause for the obligatory station identification break, she continues with,

“For those of you just joining us, my guest is Brandi Carlile (or whomever.)”

Immediately, every damn time, my brain does a riff on taking that phrase literally, ala

“And for those of you *not*  just joining us, my guest is _______”    [4]

 

*   *   *

Department Of What Is The Sound Of Asparagus Screaming?

The Food Editor of the NY Times apparently knows, as per this recent headline:

16 Asparagus Recipes That Positively Scream Spring

I made one of the recipes (“Turmeric Black Pepper Chicken With Asparagus”), “trading”  [5]  crumbled tempeh for the chicken.

Moiself  heard no positive (or negative) screaming, nor vocalizing of any kind, from the asparagus stalks.  The asparagus tips, however, were another matter.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Perfect Shell

  1. The perfect shell does not exist.
  2. Even if it does exist, it is unlikely that I will find it.
  3. There is no third thing.

That said, something about the symmetry and simplicity of the lines and coloring made me think that this shell is close to perfect. 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Doing My Part For Public Health

What from I’m been seeing on social media, apparently, the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccination approaches 110% if you post a picture of your proof of vaccine card.  Not wanting to dis science or anything:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Nit-Picking Yet Another Podcast-Related Song

Don’t Ask Tig (“Comedian Tig Notaro doesn’t have all the answers, but that won’t stop her from giving advice on…”).  The podcast is bookended with Edie Brickell songs – new songs, apparently written for (and owned by?) the podcast.  The theme/opener seems to be “We Got a friend in Tig,” and the closing song, I’m calling, “That’s What Your Heart is For.”   [6]    The closing song reminds me of the podcast itself, in that I like a lot of things about it but there are parts of it I want to change.

♫  Ooooh, my sweet child/There’s so much I want you to know
Ooooh, my sweet child/There’s so much I want you to see
I wish that I could give you the answers
I wish that I could make you believe
I wish that I could put you on your path and set you free…

That’s what your heart is for
That’s what your heart is for
That’s what your heart is for
Listen to your heart….  ♫

It’s a sweet tune; a lovely melody, a song about a mother (the sentiments, of course, could be the same for a father) expressing her love and hopes for the life journey her child will be taking.  But, when it comes to the chorus I want Brickell to add another line

♫ …That’s what your heart is for
Listen to your heart….
Then check in with your brain.  ♫

Listen to your heart is considered by many folks to be classic advice. But unless tempered by your head, listening to your heart can be horrible counsel.  The latter because…

 

 

Step back and look at your own life and decisions, as well as those of your family and friends.  “Follow your heart” is a strategy which *never* leads us astray, does it?  We always, consistently, want and crave what is ultimately best for us, right?

It seems every week I run across a news story about how someone, from an average Joe to a Famous Person, needs to take out an order of protection (aka, restraining order) against some other person who is stalking them. this is because Stalker’s heart has told them that their primary mission in life is to be with average Joe/celebrity, even when the object of their obsession vehemently thinks otherwise.

In the case of the Famous Person, oft times the celebrity is being hounded by someone they have never even met. Yet that Someone is absolutely, 150% convinced, “in their heart,” that they and the famous Person are meant to be together.

Lovelorn fanatics aside, there’s also a small but significant number of people whose hearts (and heads) can never (or rarely) be trusted to give them reliable guidance or even feedback, due to mental illness and related disorders.

Perhaps I’m overthinking this.  I like the song; still, if you’re gonna listen to your heart, please remember to run whatever your heart is saying past your brain.

 

*   *   *

(Visually Assisted) Pun For The Day

From a day last month, actually. I’m just seeing it for the first time.

Backstory:  Infectious Disease Epidemiologist Julia Marcus tweeted a picture of a graph (a screenshot from a slide presentation on an FDA website) which showed how the efficacy of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine increased over time.  The image, a faint black line amid gray shading, resembled something that the good-humored doctor thought was worth celebrating, as per her caption,

J&J vaccine is rising to the occasion.”

 

*   *   *

 

May you rise to the occasion and get your COVID vaccination;
May you uncover the beauty and mystery of screaming asparagus;
May your heart always check in with your brain;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Or, perhaps those are the lines he gave himself?

[2] The following incidences I site as examples, each and every one of them unfortunately common to “the female experience” worldwide. These particular ones were all experienced by girls and women I know personally.

[3] Which you know because you asked them, after you found out that they were interested in applying to the same school and you asked about their conversation with the guidance counselor, mistakenly assuming that he (the counselor) also tried to discourage them, like he did with you and the other girl.

[4] Victor Lazlo, or, _____?  We who’ve listened from the beginning of the show get someone else.

[5] Their term, not mine, for substituting other protein sources for the chicken…which we plant-based folks are known to do.

[6] I’m having a hard time doing a search for the song titles.

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 Karma I’m Not Accruing

2 Comments

Department Ah, Morning, With The Delicate Aroma
Of Horseshit Wafting Through The Air
Sub Department Of Yet Another Reason Not To Check Facebook Before Breakfast

A wise and witty friend recently posted this on her FB site:

 

 

Right on!, moiself  thought. I began to read one of the comments on her post, one which started with a teensy provocative sentence, and then, there was that blue more

I should have left it at that, but, noooooooo.  I had to click on more, and there was more. And more, and more, and more – and did I mention, *more*?

*More* turned out to be a multi-paragraph treatise of Buddhist proselytizing, starting with how we should remember that there are also poor and downtrodden white people  [1]   who don’t feel particularly privileged (which should have clued me in – it’s the, “But, all lives matter!” equivalent of deflection from the issue), and how people’s choices and actions in life lead to their circumstances, plus many other Buddhist tenets….  [2] 

 

At least it wasn’t pimply-faced kids half your age showing up on your front porch, calling themselves, “Elder.”

 

I thought about privately messaging Wise and Witty Friend, something along the lines of, Hey, WWF, would you allow someone to post a fundamentalist Christian tract on your page, because some Karma fundamentalist has just done the equivalent.   It turns out WWF was way ahead of me, and deleted the comment soon after it was posted.  Dang. Now I have to slag it from memory.

BTW, be it the Christian version, or Buddhist/Hindu/Karmic fundamentalism, I call BS on all of ’em. So, let the specific slagging begin.

The Buddhist Evangelical Fundamentalist Commenter (BEFC) quoted a Buddhist adage:

 

 

Sweet, and harmless, right?

Wrong.  Especially as per the issues of privilege and systemic racism that the Black Lives Matter movement is bringing to the fore…as well as a host of other life situations.

As I read BEFC’s proselytizing prose I flashed back to a bar conversation I’d had many years ago,   [3]  with a friend who’d emigrated to the USA (with his parents) from India when he was an adolescent.  We were  [4]   talking religion; specifically, his refutation of his religious background (although, in part to please his family, he kept up with a few of what he considered to be non-religious, cultural practices).  He simply could not overlook the damage done by the concepts of karma and reincarnation (central to both Hinduism and Buddhism).

Karma…though its specifics are different depending on the religion… generally denotes the cycle of cause and effect — each action a person takes will affect him or her at some time in the future. This rule also applies to a person’s thoughts and words….
With karma, like causes produce like effects: a good deed will lead to a future beneficial effect, while a bad deed will lead to a future harmful effect….
Importantly, karma is wrapped up with the concept of reincarnation or rebirth, in which a person is born in a new human (or nonhuman) body after death. The effects of an action can therefore be visited upon a person in a future life, and the good or bad fortune someone experiences may be the result of actions performed in past lives.
What’s more, a person’s karmic sum will decide the form he or she takes in the next life.
(LiveScience, “What is Karma?”)

To summarize an hour-long discourse, the gist of my friend’s opinion: Besides being superstitious nonsense physically and intellectually unsubstantiated, karma essentially credits people for their successes and blames them for their failures. Your success is justified because it is either something you have achieved yourself in the here and now or it is the result of your good deeds in your previous life – the fact that you happened to be born in a powerful class/caste/gender/time period can be conveniently ignored.  As for that poor Dalit (aka, “Untouchable“) man you sometimes run across, who does your laundry, sweeps your streets, unblocks your sewers with this bare hands and does other “unclean” work out of economic necessity? Yeah, that’s unfortunate for him, but who are you to interfere with his experience of cause and effect? It’s his karma; obviously, he did something bad in his previous life and/or has something to work out in this one….

There are so many Life Factors we humans don’t – or don’t wish to – understand (or even acknowledge), including those of luck and circumstance.  In particular, people who are happy and successful are often hesitant to attribute their well-off circumstances, even in part, to the happenstance of their birth into the “right” (or at least more opportunity-providing) society/class/ethnicity/gender. People can be reluctant, even nervous, to admit that not everything is in their own control. This reluctance paves the way for religion/supernaturalism to step in with, “Don’t worry – here’s the answer!” or, “Sure, there *is* an answer, but it’s too much for mere mortal minds to comprehend so just trust in what we tell you and one day in the future/heaven/your next life you’ll get it….”

As to BEFC’s presentation, certainly the attitude embodied in the Buddhist saying (about the journey from blaming others, yourself, and then no one), has some merit, in the positive mindset/know thyself realm.  But to avoid the fact that some things are mostly or even entirely out of your hand, and that sometimes other people and/or social frameworks and institutions *are* to blame – ignoring reality is not how we combat injustice.

The karma concept has always reminded me of a much-loathed – by moiself , at least – allegedly inspirational phrase from my own culture, which states that it is admirable and possible to Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.  The thing is, in order to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, you have to have a pair of boots in the first place – you either can afford a pair of boots, or someone has given you boots. With straps.

 

Although I’m onboard with RuPaul pulling up any boot with any kind of strap.

 

A Black American family, working and saving diligently to be first-time home owners, can have the most positive attitude in the world, but when their mortgage application is denied, their “blaming no one” will not help them “arrive” on their journey to financial security when that loan denial is due to reasons out of their control.    [5]   “Blaming no one” will not alleviate the injustice when the family has been redlined, due to their skin color and/or the neighborhood in which they currently live and/or the neighborhood where the house they wish to purchase is located.

The concept of karma arose and survived because, like all religious philosophies, it tries to explain the unexplainable, and many of us are uncomfortable with uncertainty. Life is complex; there is much we don’t understand, about the physical world around us and the inner world of people’s thoughts motivations, and humans evolved to see and seek patterns even where none exist.  But worldviews which admit to this reality – “Hey, this stuff is complicated and no one has all the answers” – don’t get many followers (and even fewer collection plate donations and tax credits).

Ah, karma. “What goes around comes around“…if only.  Don’t we all know too many people whose actions merit shit pie, yet Life keeps serving them Crème Brûlée?

 

“For every action there is an equal and opposite re-action”

Karma and other religious principles are sometimes quoted as if they were one of Newton’s Laws of Motion, yet they are not even close to qualifying as laws of physics, let alone testable hypotheses.  The karmic premises of cause and effect –

“each action  (as well as a person’s thoughts and words) a person takes will affect him or her at some time in the future,” and
“like causes produce like effects”

– are

(1) presumptuous;
(2) not borne out by objective data, and often refuted by experience;
(3) antithetical to the reality of injustice and systemic bigotry;
(4) aren’t the first three reasons enough?

Most abhorrent of all, whether you call it karma or one of those other, “You can do whatever you dream/You make your own reality” philosophies, such concepts lay the foundation for victim-blaming.

 

“… the accused had entered the West Delhi residence of the minor with the intent to ransack, but attacked (a 12-year-old girl) after she spotted him….
Besides the sexual assault, the girl was hit on the face and head with a sharp object. She was found lying in a pool of blood by her neighbours….
The girl has multiple head fractures and bite marks all over her body. She has been brutally assaulted to the extent that there are injury marks on every part of her body….”
(“Two days after 12-year-old beaten, sexually assaulted, one held
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who visited the hospital, said the brutality inflicted on the girl has “shaken is soul” and the government will hire the best lawyers to bring the guilty to justice.”
Indianexpress.com)

Two disturbing facts of life are that (1) sometimes people chose to do bad things and good people can simply be in the wrong place at the wrong time;  and (2) cultural/gender privilege and systemic bias exist.  But people won’t try to change that which they won’t acknowledge as existing…or which can be explained away by concepts like karma.

The white 16-year-old by pulled over by a cop for a minor traffic infraction (then let go with a warning) has the privilege of escaping violent stereotypes associated with his race, in a way that his 16-year-old Black classmate – pulled over for the same infraction yet subjected to an unwarranted drug test/vehicle and body search by the suspicious cop – does not.  Neither boy is experiencing the “karma” – or “cause and effect” –  of their own relatively short lives; rather, their immediate circumstances are determined by the biases of others who hold power over them.

Nothing that 12-year-old girl (in the above news story) did or could ever do is responsible for or related to the brutality which was done to her. Anyone who would even entertain a mindset which would allow for that possibility needs to wash out their mind with soap.

*   *   *

Departments Of Exceptions To The Rule

Moiself  is, however, grateful for whomever dreamed up the concept of karma, if only for the fact that it (eventually) led to one of the best “The Far Side” cartoons, ever.

I wasn’t able to find the cartoon itself, so use your imagination.  First, picture the silhouette of a classic Far Side Woman. ®  

 

 

The cartoon consists of a single panel: two flies are on a refrigerator door. Looming over and behind them we see the shadow of Far Side Woman ®, her upraised arm holding a fly swatter.  One fly says to the other,

“I guess I should have been nicer to my wife when I was alive;
this is the third time I’ve been reincarnated as a fly in her kitchen.”

*   *   *

Department Of Idiocy Makes My Brain Hurt
Sub-Department Of Let’s Just Cancel those Pesky Qualities of Imagination And Empathy, Part 102.7 In A Contemptibly Long Series
Adjunct to the Sub-Sub Division Of Why My Own Profession
Has Left A Bad Taste In My Mouth For Years

 

One of the worst things for writers is not to be censored, but to self-censor in fear of crossing the sensibilities and preferences of others.

 

 

I’ve written before of my frustration with and loathing for the “cultural appropriation” tribalism/mob mentality that has infected the world of literary fiction…and I’ll doubtless have cause to lament about it again.  The latest instigation was a Fresh Air interview (a rerun, which I heard for the first time, this week) with actor/producer Kerry Washington.

Washington has been nominated for Emmy awards for acting in and co-producing the series, “Little Fires Everywhere,” which was adapted from the bestselling novel by Celeste Ng.  Washington is Black; in the novel, the ethnicity of Mia, the character Washington plays, is never mentioned.  Podcast host Terry Gross asked Washington how changing the character’s race changed the story and the story’s subtext. Washington said that casting herself in the role was the idea of her producing partners.

Washington (my emphases):

“…They had the idea to call me up and send me the book and ask me if I wanted to do it. And I thought it was an amazing idea. Of course, when I read it, I was reading it through the lens of Mia being Black because I’m Black. I think the novel is so much about identity and how the roles and the context of our identity contributes to how we live and relate to others in the world. So we knew that adding this layer of race would add to that complexity in an exciting way.
Then when I met Celeste Ng, the writer, for the first time, she actually admitted to me that she had always thought of Mia as a woman of color and that she had been drawn to the idea of writing Mia as a Black woman. But she didn’t feel like she had the authoritative voice to do that in the right way.”

I felt sucker-punched to hear that…yet I was hardly surprised.  I’ve little doubt that author Ng’s hesitation about her “authoritative voice” was due to her anticipating charges of cultural appropriation (and the very real possibility of being boycotted by publishers, who would fear such a backlash): as in, how dare Ng think that she, an Asian (read: non-Black) writer, could create a full-blooded, multi-faceted, Black character?

So:

* Although the Asian-American author imagined a Black woman as this lead character, she couldn’t bring herself to actually write her as such;

* Nevertheless, this Asian/non-Black writer was so successful in creating a compelling story about “identity and how the roles and the context of our identity contributes to how we live and relate to others in the world” that a Black actor could identify with this lead character as Black;

* And it was acceptable for the series’ casting director and other lead actor and producers to suggest casting the character as Black, and the Black actor allowed herself to take the role (“an amazing idea”), which was created by an Asian, non-Black writer….

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Worst First (and last) Date Ever

Dateline: an early morning walk, listening to a Curiosity Daily (“a unique mix of research-based life hacks, the latest science and technology news”). One of the podcast’s topics was how male angler fish fuse with their mates without risking immune system rejection.

Narration: “… (the) male angler fish latches on, and begins to dissolve. As his tissues and circulatory system meld with the female’s, eventually most of his body parts and organs disintegrate, leaving his girl with only a pair of reproductive organs to remember him by. This is called sexual parasitism, and it’s totally unique to the anglerfish…”

Moiself” ‘Sexual parasitism is unique to the angler fish’ ” – really? ‘Cause I’ve heard stories from friends that would curl your hair (or dissolve your organs)….”

 

 

I’m thinking, is there a Barry White song which could possibly make this kind of coupling bearable?  Nope; nada.  Gotta be something more post-punk….

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of News Stories Like This Make Moiself  Struggle With My Humanity…
Because I Am *So* On The Side Of The First Victim

This post, earlier this week on Facebook, from an Oregon Coast news bulletin board:

HUNTER KILLED BY ELK
” (Man, name; age, residence) was archery hunting on private property…. Man  wounded a 5X5 bull elk but was unable to locate it before dark.
Man and the landowner attempted to find the wounded bull on the morning of (the next day) at approximately 9:15 A.M., Man located the bull and attempted to kill it with his bow. The elk charged Man and gored him in the neck with its antlers. The landowner attempted to help Man but he sustained fatal injuries and died.
The elk was killed and the meat was donated to the Tillamook County Jail….”

The lead sentence (which I omitted) in the post was, “Please send prayers for the family!”  Moiself’s  instinctive (if admittedly unsympathetic) reaction was, “F*** no; he got what he deserved!  The elk was tortured, wandering for over 12 hours with a grievous wound….”

It was nice (? perhaps moiself  should seek another word) to realize, as per several comments on the article, that I was not the only heartless judgmental bastard person concerned with the issue behind the issue:

* for the elk, this was literally a matter of life and death

* for the hunter, it was sport, and maybe some tasty elk steaks for the freezer   [6]

Along with the posts saying, “Prayers to the deceased and his family”, I spotted several comments along the lines of, “Prayers for the poor elk’s family & friends.”

 

Whaddya think – would I look just as majestic decapitated and mounted above someone’s fireplace?

*   *   *

May you enjoy the exceptions to the rules;
May you cherish the simple windfalls of life, like not having an angler fish for a mate;
May you never give an elk (or any other animal) cause to think, “It’s him or me!”;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Nothing about the concept of white privilege claims or implies that there are no poor/struggling white folk….arrrrrrgh.

[2] With which I was mostly familiar, although there are several streams of Buddhist thought, and without the original post I cannot say for sure if the post-er was referencing Mahayana, Theravada, Vajrayana, or modern variants and “branches” of the those streams.

[3] As in, Wine and Deep Thoughts ® were involved.

[4] Part of our conversation included the fact that, by even acknowledging the Indian caste system, he might be creating “bad karma” for himself, as many higher-caste Indians who now live in America – and if they have the means to come here they are from the higher castes – surprise! – would rather pretend, in front of non-Indian Americans, that such a thing goes not exist. The social stratification of Indian society – including the emphasis of skin color and the bias against dark skin – is seen as an embarrassing cultural relic, yet, since it benefits them…why work to change it?

[5] Reasons which will be couched in other terms – the real reason will *never* be admitted to by the loan officers because although redlining is technically illegal, it is still practiced

[6] With the emphasis on sport.  Subsistence hunters don’t go for elk with bows and arrows on their landowner friend’s private acreage, and don’t care if it the animal they hunt, out of absolute necessity, is a “5×5″( a ranking system which refers to the points in each side of the antler rack).

The Mind I’m Not Changing

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Department Of This Is So Wrong

Dateline: last week; a cloudy day; before 7 am. As with many of my morning walks I am headed in the direction of a light rail stop. As I circle the automobile roundabout I realize that moiself usually follows the sidewalk and/or another path skirting Veterans Gateway, a relatively recently constructed memorial garden “to commemorate veterans of all wars who honorably served our country.”   [1]

Moiself  turns around and decides to go through the Veterans Gateway. I see a small circular garden surrounding a brick patio, with a path which leads to seven larger paving stones set within the brick walkway.  Each stone is engraved with the name of an “American” war, and the dates of the war’s beginning and end:

* American Revolution
April 19, 1775 To September 3, 1783

* Civil War
April 12, 1861 To May 9, 1865

* World War I
April 6, 1917 To November 11, 1918

Excusez moi, but what’s with wars commencing in April?  The only thing I can think of is that our olden day wars took place before everyone had central heating; perhaps it was just too damn cold to think about bashing your enemies’ and/or neighbors’ heads until the spring thaw began….

 

 

Once again, I digress.  There are four more war-stones ahead of me.

* World War II
December 7, 1941 to September 2, 1945

* Korean War
June 27, 1950 to July 27, 1953

* Vietnam War
August 5, 1964 to May 15, 1975

And then there is the last, WTF?!?!? stone, which wrenches my heart as I note the incomplete inscription:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Can We At Least Talk About It?

In the past few weeks I’ve seen several shares of this optimistic, motivational-type poster on Facebook. Confession: I both embraced (“Yes! We’ll change the discourse…!”) and snickered at it (“Like that will happen – wingnuts deny evidence or ignore it when it doesn’t fit into their narrative….” ) when I first saw it.

Learning new facts; reconsidering our positions; changing our minds.  How often do I and other Well-Meaning People ® think that this applies to others, and not to ourselves?

 

 

Mere days after first seeing the Important Phrases poster, I listened to a Fresh Air podcast of Terry Gross interviewing Nikole Hannah-Jones.  Journalist Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for creating the 1619 project. The topic of the interview was, A Call For Reparations: How America Might Narrow The Racial Wealth Gap.

And I changed my mind.

I was unreservedly in favor of reparations for Japanese Americans interred during WWII   [2]  because the compensation occurred within the same generation of those who were racially profiled and unlawfully incarcerated: the government had records of exactly who was in the camp, whose farmlands were confiscated, etc.

But I was not exactly in favor of slavery reparations (which henceforth I shall refer to as simply, reparations).  My mind was not made up and my opposition was not strongly held; I was never a hard no;  rather, in many aspects I was a mealy-mouthed (mealy-minded?) “Gee…I wish.” My opinions were more like, sure-this-is-the-right-thing-to-do-but-it-will-*never*-work reservations, due to what I saw as the complex logistical administration of such reparations, the subsets of which include:

* What is the ultimate “aim” – what will reparations achieve?

* Who pays for it? And who doesn’t pay for it? If the funds/assets come from “The Federal Government,” that translates as taxpayer dollars.  This being a nation of immigrants, a good portion of our citizenry’s antecedents arrived well after the days of slavery, Jim Crow, and even after the Civil Rights Act of 1960.  My sister-in-law immigrated from China in 2003.  Should any part of “her” money be used to atone for the actions of ancestors who were not hers?

* What exactly is the “payout” – what form will reparations take?  Cash? Land? Business and educational grants? Some combination of all three?

* Who will receive reparations, and how? How will reparations recipients be determined? Not all Black Americans are descended from enslaved persons.  What about recent immigrants from Africa? Do people with a “mixed” ethnic background qualify? What if your father’s father is a descendant of slavery and his mother was a Nigerian immigrant, and your mother is Irish-Italian – do you get 50% or 25% reparations? How can this be determined other than genetic tests for all…and then what if some weaselly white guy claims he’s owed a 15% reparation share because of what his DNA test shows – does he “qualify,” and if not, will/can he sue the government for discrimination?

* Will the costs of administering the reparations (including genetic testing – I just don’t see how you could determine recipients without it, and imagine the costs of testing millions of people, and then retesting when the results are disputed) come from the same funds as the reparations themselves…and then what other government programs will be cut as a result?  Social Services? Efforts to combat global warming? Funds for education…medical and scientific research….?

 

 

These concerns with the logistics are neither new nor original, and the rare times I mouthed them   [3]   I did so without much conviction, other than to be “realistic.”  I was primarily against reparations because of… other people. You know, the Other People ® who would be resistant, to put it mildly, to the concept.

Slavery reparations may be the single most divisive idea in American politics. Advocates have spent decades calling on the U.S. government to assess how such a policy could be implemented and to enact a law that might offer financial restitution to the descendants of enslaved people. But minds are made up — according to a recent Associated Press poll, 74 percent of African Americans now favor reparation payments, while 85 percent of whites oppose them — and Congress seems unlikely to take up the matter.  A 30-year-old bill that would study the issue, H.R. 40, has never reached a vote.
( Thai Jones, writing in The Outlook, my emphases, The Washington Post, 1-31-20)

Moiself  had no idea the numbers re white opposition (as quoted in the above excerpt) were so high. I *did* have the idea that there is a strong subset of US citizens who’d be vehemently opposed to reparations.  Translation: White racists will lose their shit over this.

I thought there was little chance in getting our country to honestly address our history of enslavement and genocide.  On the off-chance that we did, meanwhile, as we’d be fighting about it, issues like climate change – which affects every single person on the planet, and not just USA citizens – will get short shrift…and it will be too late for us all.

I thought that if the Federal Government ever approved reparations, demagogues would use the issue to foment an ugly awakening of the sleeping giant of white racism.  But, guess what?  Chief Little Bunker-Bitch  [4] and his dog-whistle administration  ***have already done that.***

 

 

So…I thought some more.  I did that thing I always hope everyone else will do, on issues about which I feel passionate:  I did more research.  And thanks in great part to the rational, nuanced, exhaustively researched and articulately itemized reasoning presented by Hannah-Jones and others, I am on board for reparations.

Perhaps my logistical concerns/fears will play out, and reparations will be too complex (or dangerous) a policy to enact – who knows?  But first, can we at least, seriously,

***have the conversation?***

Go back to the line I highlighted from the WaPo article: Congress has been sitting on a bill, a bill that would study the issue of reparations, for 30 years.  THIRTY YEARS.  It’s not even a bill to enact or require reparations, but Just.  To.  Study.  The.  Issue.  And the bill can’t even get a hearing. What does that tell you about the minds blocking it?

*   *   *

Department Of Let Me Tell You About The Minds Blocking It

“And yet it moves.”
( … a phrase attributed to the Italian mathematician, physicist and philosopher Galileo Galilei in 1633 after being forced to recant his claims that the Earth moves around the Sun, rather than the converse….despite {Galileo’s forced} recantation, the Church’s proclamations to the contrary, or any other conviction or doctrine of men, the Earth does, in fact, move [around the Sun, and not vice versa].”)   [5]

 

“Oh, “c’mon, just one little peek….”

 

The lines between the political and religious mindsets, especially in this country, are intertwined and in many cases nonexistent.  There are facts, such as the following ones I’ve listed which were iterated by Hannah-Jones, that white conservative American politicians just don’t want to see, because acknowledgement of these facts will upend their world view, which seems to be Yes, slavery was bad, but it was abolished; that was then and this is now and things are better and we are post-racial so get over it.  

 

“Reparations…is about repair…. In the context specifically of Black Americans, reparations has to do with 250 years of chattel slavery, followed by another 100 years of legalized segregation or apartheid and racial terrorism….”

“Very few Americans have created all of their wealth on their own; it’s passed down through generations and then built upon.  Black Americans never really had a chance to do that.”

Hannah-Jones traces the wealth gap to slavery, and the fact that enslaved people were not allowed to own property. She notes that the legalized segregation and racial terrorism that followed slavery exacerbated the problem and “prevented generation after generation of Black Americans from acquiring the type of wealth or foothold in the economy that allows you to live a life that is much more typical of white Americans…. 250 years of slavery where they are unable to accumulate any capital and then coming out of slavery, Black Americans face the dragnet of discrimination and segregation that further prevented them from building any type of wealth. Black people were denied access to colleges, were denied access to high schools, were denied access to higher paying jobs. And when Black people were able to get some land or to build a business, oftentimes they face those businesses being stolen or burned down or destroyed…

…Black people being denied access to the primary wealth-building tools, homeownership, federally financed loans, the G.I. Bill to be able to purchase housing that white Americans use to build their wealth. And so what we see today is the stark chasm that was built up over generations, and then only made worse by the fact that today Black Americans still face discrimination across the spectrum of American life.

We are often taught in this country that Black people are emancipated and then everyone is on an even footing. We don’t often question, what does that mean, to be emancipated after 250 years of bondage — to be emancipated with no job, no home, no money, no clothes, no bed, no pots, nothing. Enslaved people were unable to own anything or to accrue anything at all….

(excerpts from A Call For Reparations…podcast)

 

A telescope aimed at historical reconsideration is not a lens through which most white conservative American politicians (who overwhelmingly tend to be religious) are eager to look.  A bill to study reparations is stuck in congressional limbo, with our elected leaders unwilling even to study the issue. This reminds me of the church officials who not only disagreed with what the astronomer Galileo said he could see through his telescope, they refused to even look through it themselves.  Why?  Because to do so could mean acknowledging that their worldview was incorrect – their theology was diametrically opposed to the facts Galileo’s telescope revealed.

Galileo had constructed his telescope to show how the earth revolved about the sun and not the sun around the earth….

When he demonstrated this, many highly intelligent people even refused to look through the telescope, so frightened were they of what they might see. Some people had such a strong dose of cognitive dissonance that they forced Galileo to his knees and made him withdraw his evidence and recant his discovery.

Biblical references Psalm 93:1, 96:10, and 1 Chronicles 16:30 include text stating that “the world is firmly established, it cannot be moved.” In the same manner, Psalm 104:5 says, “the Lord set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.” Further, Ecclesiastes 1:5 states that “And the sun rises and sets and returns to its place.”

The sentence of the Inquisition was delivered…Galileo was found “vehemently suspect of heresy”, namely of having held the opinions that the Sun lies motionless at the centre of the universe, that the Earth is not at its centre and moves, and that one may hold and defend an opinion as probable after it has been declared contrary to Holy Scripture. He was required to “abjure, curse and detest” those opinions.

From the article, “(Galileo and Truth,” The Library of Social Science)

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Getting To The Point

My former (and other people’s current) concerns with the logistics of reparations are beside the proverbial point: the first, *long* overdue debate/discussion to be held should be *why* reparations are (or are not) necessary.  Then, if it is determined that reparations are the way to go, you work out the details (including looking at how other countries, e.g post WWII Germany, and post-apartheid South Africa , administered reparations). Although it can seem overwhelmingly complex, the decision to go forward with reparations would be like any other major decision:

* First, you decide to do it

*  Then, you figure out how to do it.

If reparations are the right thing to do then the consequences of doing so are also the right consequences to deal with.  I mean, holy sci-fi dream: we were challenged to go to the moon within ten years, back in 1961, when our best scientific minds had had no fucking idea how they would accomplish that…and we did it.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Addendum to first story in this blog.  Moiself  returned to the Veterans Gateway memorial on my walk yesterday morning. What I found there illustrates why I often despair for the course chosen by some of my fellow human beings.

 

“Yeah, thank you for your service.”

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I dated a man who was cross-eyed, but I broke up with him because
he was seeing other people on the side.

 

“And people think *I* smell bad….”

*   *   *

May you open our hearts and minds to that which seems impractical;
May we always remember that when discussing the most virtuous of issues there is always room for a bad pun;
May we know this:  “And yet, it moves;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] (as per the descriptive plaque placed there by the Washington County United Veterans Council).

[2] (the reparations were dispersed via the Civil Liberties Act of 1988)

[3]  Rare because the subject just hasn’t come up much in general political conversation… but I have a feeling that is going to change.

[4] For those of us who love our country and thus cannot bear to use the given name of the man who shits all over it, we use alternative monikers, ala #45, tRump, The Mandarin Mussolini, The Cheetos Dictator, Private Bonespurs…and my current favorite, as per the recent I’m-not-hiding-in-it-just-inspecting-it incident during the DC protests: Little Chief Bunker Bitch.

[5] And Yet It Moves, Wikipedia.

The Tree I’m Not Climbing

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Shall we get this over with?  I mean of course, you just can’t get enough of The Dropkick Murphys when it’s “…that time of year.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Words Matter, Which Is Why We Use Them When We Argue

“We live in an age of overstatement and overpraise.  Something isn’t merely good, it’s awesome.  A movie or a TV show isn’t just enjoyable, it’s epic. Any performer over the age of thirty who manages to do good work isn’t just a solid professional, he or she is an icon.”
( Fresh Air Rock Critic Ken Tucker)

Moiself has been seeing the following cartoon shared several times (on Facebook), and it makes me want to tear someone’s hair out.  [1]   Let me edit it, I plead into the void, please oh please oh please:

 

 

The thing is, I like the cartoon and its sentiment that not all creatures have the same abilities, nor needs, nor environments; thus, to judge, say, a fish for its tree-climbing ability (fish live underwater and therefore cannot – and do not need to – climb trees) or critique squirrels (partly arboreal mammals which have no reason to swim) for its pathetic backstroke is unfair, even nonsensical.

 

Oh, but critique this, you cynic!

Stop. Do not be distracted by such foolishness.

Yep, I get the intention of the drawing, although I think the blanket criticism of Our Education System ® is unfair, as are most blanket statements (you know, like expecting all animals to climb trees).

But I’m wondering if the same person who drew the cartoon also wrote the caption?  If so, I’d like to judge them on their underwater tree-climbing ability, because the hyperbolic sentence, “Everyone is a genius” is a real butt-froster.

If everybody has a certain trait or is a certain thing, that no longer makes the trait/thing exceptional. It negates the definition of genius (used here and in that comic, as a noun):

Definitions of genius

1 (noun) unusual mental ability

2 (noun) exceptional creative ability

3 (noun) so,meone who has exceptional intellectual ability and originality

4 (noun) someone who is dazzlingly skilled in any field….
( vocabulary.com )

Why was that sentence even included in the comic – what does the patently false/grossly mistaken declaration “Everybody is a genius” have to do with unequal consideration of different talents and abilities?

You can be very talented and intelligent and a hard worker, the top 10% of your high school class, and still not be a genius (don’t worry, there will be plenty of other hackneyed adjectives applied to you, most likely by your family, such as AMAZING!) It’s not all or nothing.

Your four-year-old nephew pounding out “Chopsticks” on his toy piano may be indicative of his interest in music,   [2]  but that doesn’t make him a genius. For a humbling comparison of true genius/exceptional ability, you may want to investigate the life of Mozart, one of the greatest (and most enduringly popular and influential) of classical composers, who began writing musical pieces when he was between the ages of 4-5 and who composed more than 600 works before his early death (age 35).  Better yet, just listen to his overture to the opera, “The Marriage of Figaro.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Would Someone Please Solve This Problem
(And Do So Before I Get Too Much Older)?

“It’s time to get serious about a major redesign of life. Thirty years were added to average life expectancy in the 20th century, and rather than imagine the scores of ways we could use these years to improve quality of life, we tacked them all on at the end. Only old age got longer….
‘….as longevity surged, culture didn’t keep up.
‘…. (we are) living in cultures designed for lives half as long as the ones we have.
Retirements that span four decades are unattainable for most individuals and governments; education that ends in the early 20s is ill-suited for longer working lives; and social norms that dictate intergenerational responsibilities between parents and young children fail to address families that include four or five living generations.”

(excerpts from “We Need a Major Redesign of Life,” Laura L. Carstensen, professor of psychology,
 Director of the Stanford Center on Longevity,
The Washington Post 11-29-19 )

Thank you in advance.  And whatever your solution is, make sure it includes dancing.

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [3]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

Nutrition Champs, by Jill Nussinow
Recipe:  Smoky Sweet Black Eyed Peas

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [4]     

*   *   *

Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

It’s that time of the year again. As has become a tradition much maligned anticipated in our neighborhood, moiself will be hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.   [5] Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

 

*   *   *

May you be old experienced (or cool) enough to always be able
to identify this week’s Partridge;
May you know the definitions of genius, awesome, amazing, and other superlatives,
and apply them judiciously and accordingly;
May you remember that the solution to all problems should including dancing;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Not mine – what good would that do?

[2] Or, he may just enjoy annoying the adults in his life.

[3] 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) one recipe from one book.

[4]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it.
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it.
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who would 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.

[5] In our pear tree.

The Boat I’m Not Floating

Comments Off on The Boat I’m Not Floating

Halloween; The Nun;  Predator;  Hereditary; The First Purge….. There have been a lot of horror movies released in 2018, and also two Stephen King books.  But arguably one of the scariest stories of the year comes from the real life experiences of Linda Kay Klein’s book, Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free.  

This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. We’re going to talk about the evangelical sexual purity movement, its insistence on sexual abstinence before marriage and the impact the movement has had on women who were brought up in it, women like my guest, Linda Kay Klein. She says the movement has traumatized many girls and maturing women who are haunted by sexual and gender-based anxiety, fear and shame. Her new book, “Pure,” is part memoir, including the story of how she left the movement. The book also draws on the interviews she did with other women in their 20s, 30s and 40s,…about how the evangelical purity movement has affected their sense of identity and their sex lives.

The purity movement grew in the 1980s during the Reagan administration, which funded abstinence-only programs for community organizations, schools and health departments. A whole industry of purity-related products developed around the movement, including purity rings, T-shirts, mugs, even a purity Bible. Klein describes the purity movement as conveying the expectation that all unmarried girls and women must maintain a sexless body, mind and heart to be pure. Klein is also the founder of Break Free Together, which tries to help people escape the sexual shame they were raised with.

 

 

 

 

 

Listen, if you dare, to the rest Fresh Air interview about Klein being raised in and breaking free from the Evangelical “Purity Movement“, but keep the lights – this is scary shit.

Like many if not most horror stories, there is somewhat of a happy ending.  However, like many horror stories, the monster is not ultimately killed – it just, IMHO, assumes a different, more benign-seeming form.

Translation: the author still calls herself a Christian.  At least now she (thinks) she is practicing her faith on her own terms. Still, her answer to the host’s question about her relationship with her parents – it just about broke my heart, listening to that.  [1]

GROSS: It was your mother who brought you into evangelical Christianity. When you left the evangelical church, was your mother upset? And if she was, did you feel guilty about making her upset by following your new thinking and leaving the church?

KLEIN: My mom was heartbroken when I left and moreover, I think, scared. You know, for my mom, the fact that I was a Christian was her very favorite thing about me. She literally told me that, as did my father. On separate occasions, they both told me their favorite thing about me was my Christianity when I was younger. And so, you know, when I left, I lost my parents’ favorite thing about me.

If you haven’t heard of the Christian Purity Movement and you have a strong stomach and are curious, put on your sterile gloves – nitrile, for those of you with a latex allergy – and Google away.

It is unlikely I will be reading Klein’s book, for same reason I do not watch the Hulu series, The Handmaid’s Tale.  Although I “enjoyed”   [2]   the Margaret Atwood book upon which the series is based, I rarely find depictions of misogynistic, joy-sucking dystopias to be sufficient diversionary or amusing forms of entertainment.

 

 

 

 

 

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Department Of Crimes I Don’t Understand

On March 18, 1990, 13 works of art valued at a combined total of $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston…. Despite efforts by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and multiple probes around the world, no arrests have been made and no works have been recovered.
(Wikipedia entry on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft)

I just don’t “get’ art heist – the theft of famous works of art. What good is it, to the thief, to steal a painting valued at $25 million? It’s not like you can take it to the local pawn shop, fence it at the flea market, or put a notice on Craig’s List:

 

Moving sale, Scandinavian picture, good condition, only two previous owners, $20 million OBO

 

 

The point of most thievery, as moiself understands it, is to sell (or barter) what you steal. You can’t turn around and sell a famous painting – anyone who would be interested in it or who would or who would be able to afford to buy it would know it’s stolen.

The second, less common motivation for theft is a desire to acquire that which you want but do not have and are unable and/or unwilling to acquire honestly and/or legally (for example, when a grade school friend of mine swiped my mini spy camera). [3]   Simply put, you take something because you want it for yourself.

So, you’re a passionate art lover, and you somehow are able to filch the Mona Lisa. The work of genius is yours, at last! And now you have…a masterpiece millstone, around your neck. What can you do with it? Hang it on your wall and admire it…all by yourself…forever? You can’t ever have guests or family over because, once again, anyone who sees it will  eventually figure out that it’s stolen.   [4]

Perhaps the real crime I’m thinking of is one of mislabeling: art theft really isn’t theft, it’s essentially kidnapping. The permanent acquisition of the object is not the point; the ransom is what the Renior robber is after. The thief negotiates via intermediary to return the art to the museum for a payment, with both parties grudgingly agreeing to a charade of sorts (“Look what fell off the back of my cousin’s girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend’s truck!”). If investigations by The Proper Authorities ® are going nowhere the museum agrees to this; the board of directors and curators just want their “priceless” object returned and are willing to pay a pittance of its estimated value to do so (which will still likely be a pretty penny for the thief).

 

 

I wonder, did Hoffman receive any royalties (or ransom?) for this?

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Just Wondering

Dateline: Wednesday morning, 8 am. I am walking around the grounds of the Kaiser Permanente Medical center in Hillsboro, where I have taken a friend for an appointment. It is a brisk-cool-melting into sunny, gorgeous autumn day, and so naturally I start wondering about the medical center’s name.

Kaiser Permanente.  I know – or assume – where the Kaiser part of the moniker comes from: a doctor and/or founder/benefactor of the HMO.   [5]   But, whence Permanente, and what does it mean?   Were the Kaiser founders unsure, all those years ago when the idea of managed care was rather unique, that their institution would survive, and thus they named it optimistically: “It’s not Kaiser Temporaria or Kaiser What-the-hell-it-just-might-work-out, it’s Kaiser Permanente!

 

 

I find that explanation highly unlikely…but whatever floats your boat.

 

 

 

I decided to ask the staff people I was encountering on the footpaths around the center’s grounds –friendly, smiling employees on their way to and from the various clinic buildings, who sported Kaiser name badges.  I gave up after three tries; I’d begun to feel  rather guilty to be the cause of the seemingly perpetually beaming faces slumping into confused, Why are you asking/is this a trick question? expressions.

Never mind. I suppose I could Google it….  But…sometimes…I just like to wonder. After all, knowing the answer to everything would, as the Monty Python sketch put it, “take all the mystery out of life.”

 

 

It’s my boat, and it’s floating. Now what?

 

*   *   *

May you never stop walking and wondering;
May your boat always float;
May you bitch-slap-until-they-soil-themselves those cretins who try to teach children
that “purity” has anything to do with sexuality;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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[1] What a monstrous worldview, that causes a mother to fear that, as Klein later states in the interview, her child “…would no longer be with her in heaven, that she would have to spend eternity without me and that she would look down and see me in eternal damnation and know that there was nothing she could do to save me.”  Yikes.

[2] Wrong word…but don’t know how to describe my reaction. It was excellent, well done, but depressing/ chilling.

[3] Which I had purchased – “redeemed” was the term, I believe – from the makers of Bazooka bubble gum, for fifty cents and a whole bunch of Bazooka gum wrappers. My friend had admired the teeny camera and tried to pressure me into trading for it, but I refused. One day she came home with me after school to play at my house, and after she left I noticed my camera was missing. The next day I went to her house to play, and when she was called to the kitchen by her mother for some reason, I snooped in her room and found my camera in a box on her dresser. She had peeled off some of the decorative paper on the camera’s body, no doubt in an effort to “disguise” it.  I quickly pocketed the camera and made up some excuse why I had to go home. I never confronted her about it; she had a sad family situation, and I felt sorry for her.

[4] The “Oh, it’s just a print” cover story will only work so long.

[5] “Kaiser Permanente is an American integrated managed care consortium, based in Oakland, California, United States, founded in 1945 by industrialist Henry J. Kaiser and physician Sidney Garfield.” – from Wikipedia entry.

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