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The Karma I’m Not Accruing

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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:

 

 

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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?

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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)

 

 

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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

1 Comment

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

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

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!

*   *   *

 

 

[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.

The Pity I’m Not Tempering

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Department Of Things That Make You Jump Out Of Bed In A Cold Sweat (Five Minutes Before Your Alarm Is Scheduled To Go Off), Silently Screaming,
What Have I Done To Deserve This?

I refer to the phenomena of earworms, in this case, specifically and horrifically, when the earworm is something along the lines of…I can’t bear to type the title.

 

 

 

Rumor has it that US Intelligence officials forced suspected terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo to listen to this song when water boarding proved to be an ineffective interrogation technique.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Justifying Eating Movie Popcorn On A Daily Basis

MH and son K were gone last week, on a Grand Canyon rafting trip. I was alone in the house, save for the cats and too many litter boxes. As for the latter, I had choice words for K upon his return, suggesting that he might want to scoop his particular cat’s box more frequently.  Moiself  did not appreciate spending what seemed like hours dismantling the (admittedly, visually stunning) Stonehenge of Piss that Tootsie,  [1] his cat, had been assembling in the right rear corner of her litter box.

 

 

 

Imagine the above, only constructed of cat pee-soaked litter. If there’d been a way to get rid of the overpowering stench of ammonia I might have considered its revenue-generating potential as a tourist attraction…..

Ah, but I digress.

I did not accompany my boys on the rafting adventure for a variety of reasons, one of the most compelling being saving the $$ I would have spent on that trip for an upcoming travel adventure of my own.  Friend CC and I will, possibly before the end of the year, travel to Sweden to visit our “Swenadian”   [2]  friends and former neighbors SS and her husband CS, who are now living and working in (you guessed it) Sweden.  This trip promises to be equally as scenic and memorable as any river expedition, and (I assume) will not involve us having to tow a barge of our feces behind us on a raft.

 

Y’all know the wilderness travel motto: pack it in, pack it out.   [3]

 

 

Yet another digression. I must be channeling my inner eleven year old, what with the pee and poop references. I know what you’re expecting next, so let’s just get it out of the way:

Q: Why do cherry trees stink?
A: Because George Washington ‘cut one.’

 

 

 

 

But no – wait! My initial intent was to stylishly segue into a story about seeing movies; that is,  my quest to see a movie a day, in a movie theater,  [4]  while MH and K and other raft loads of happy campers were relieving themselves in the mighty Colorado River.

From the big studio summer blockbusters to the smaller, “artier” releases, I am happy to report, Mission Accomplished. I saw:

Book Club
-Avengers: Infinity War
-Solo: A Star Wars…something (you know the name)
-A Quiet Place
-Life of the Party
-Tully
-First Reformed
-Deadpool 2
-The Rider

 

There are still many more movies on my want-to-see wish list to see, but I need a break from doing so. The one drawback to seeing a movie every day is that you are also seeing, every day, the same promos for cable/streaming service TV series and Coca-Cola ads and the other screen nonsense which has become ubiquitous in movie theatres (the poorly-named “entertainment” before the previews of coming attractions).

As a result, I am determined now, more than ever, to not see a TV show that I admittedly would have had little interest in the first place, but after days in a row bombarded by its loud, vapid  [5]   promos, I’ve decided I would rather claw my own eyes out than even be in the same room where a screen is showing anything related to Claws.

 

 

 

 

 

I got the feeling the Claws promos were trying to convince me that the show is about female empowerment, which is not the first (or even twenty-first) idea that comes to mind when I’m watching five women manicurists flashing their hideous finger deformities ludicrously long, garishly painted fingernails and “clothed” ala the woman in the middle – who seems to be the series’ protagonist and who, in the promos, is featured packed into a series of squeeze-me-like-a-sausage-and-ogle-my-T-&-A outfits.

Am I the only one who, when she sees a lady-person thusly attired, wants to take a long, thin, pointed metal something – a cake tester, say – and prick that lady-person in several of her cartoonish/bulbous lady-parts (starting of course with her ginormously swollen boobs) to see if she then flies all over the room, bouncing from ceiling to corners like a rapidly deflating, body-shaped balloon?

Just wondering.

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department Of Being Thankful To, And For, Ronan Farrow

In a recent Fresh Air interview, host Terri Gross interviewed Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author, UNICEF activist, (former) government adviser and lawyer and way-too-well-adjusted-for-being-the-son-of-two-famous-people-one-of-whom-is-a-creep, Ronan Farrow.  [6]

Ronan Farrow won this year’s Pulitzer for Public Service   [7]  for his articles in The New Yorker on the sexual assault charges brought against Harvey Weinstein. While investigating the story, Farrow faced harassment and intimidation from Weinstein’s cohorts,   [8] (including threats of physical harm from Weinstein himself), as well as discouragement and warnings from his bosses and colleagues:

Fresh Air host Terry Gross: …And then you were continuing to report for NBC but maybe as a result – I think as a result of the Harvey Weinstein reporting you wanted to do – that they were not anxious to have you pursue – that job ended, but you were kind of out in the cold for a while.

Ronan Farrow: Yes, that’s right. There was a low point last year where I did not know if I would have a job in journalism in a matter of weeks or indeed ever again and was being told by some very powerful people that I would never work again and, you know, also being told by some pretty sensible-sounding people around me you’ve got to just let this go. Just let it go, and your career will be fine. And if you don’t, it’s all over. And yeah, that the reality is…

TG: When you say let the story go, you mean the Harvey Weinstein story.

RF: The Harvey Weinstein reporting. I had been ordered to stop reporting and cancel interviews, and I didn’t

In the FA interview Farrow comes across as exceedingly intelligent, well-informed, passionate and articulate, yet refreshingly modest and self-deprecating for…well, for anyone, but especially for someone who has done so much already in his relatively young life, and who was one of those genius children (went to college at age eleven, then law school at age sixteen, then….).

Someone like Farrow, a young person possessing an open, sharp and inquiring mind and a strong work ethic and an interest in many fields, could have gone into any kind of law, or science or medicine or finance.  He chose investigative journalism, a discipline of uncovering and speaking the truth to both the powerful and the power-less; a job which – always, IMHO, but especially in these crazy, dangerous times – ranks right up there, in terms of its value to humanity, with the scientists and engineers who are working to save us from ourselves (read: find solutions to global warming and the degradation of our habitat).  And Farrow did this at a time when journalists are not only facing shrinking professional opportunities worldwide, but are also increasingly under attack, both verbally and physically (by those afore-mentioned powerful interests).

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Am Somewhat Puzzled By My Second Reaction

When I told MH about the FA interview with Ronan Farrow and how my first reaction was to be impressed by Farrow’s accomplishments and aspirations, I also mentioned my second reaction, and how it caught moiself off guard.  I was not expecting to feel what I felt: a moment of pity for Woody Allen, Farrow’s biological father.

Ronan Farrow and his mother and family are famously estranged – with good reasons, to put it mildly – from Allen.  I am on Team Farrow in this matter. Whenever I have cause to think of Allen I feel my mouth curl upward in a contemptuous sneer,    [9]  yet this time, after learning more about and hearing from Ronan Farrow, my Allen-induced scorn was, at least momentarily, tempered by pity.  How much has Allen has lost, and how much will he continue to lose, by not being able to know this fine young man as a son?

 

 

Even the sloth finds it a sorry situation…and when was the last time you saw a sad sloth?

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

 

May you avoid toilet humor distractions while trying to tell a simple story;
May your earworms be something classical, or at least classy;
May you appreciate investigative journalists and other unsung heroes;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] So named because she is a polydactyl, aka Hemingway cat.

[2] She is Canadian; he is Swedish.

[3] Aka the “latrine raft” or “the groover.”

[4] Netflix offerings in a home theater doesn’t count.

[5] My impression of the series, after sitting through the promos.

[6] That creep would be his biological father, Woody Allen. Fuck yeah, I think he’s guilty.

[7] which he shared with The New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, for their reporting on the #MeToo movement).

[8] Weinstein hired Black Cube, the Israeli private intelligence company, to target his accusers and also those reporting on the accusations (such as Farrow), to try to smear and intimidate them and suppress the reporting.

[9] The kind I reserve for human scum like trophy hunters and, oh, pedophiles and child molesters.

The Neighbors I’m Not Entertaining

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Department Of Can You Hear Yourself When You’re Talking?
Because The Rest Of Us Can

Sometimes, during my early morning walks, I speculate about the entertainment value I provide to my neighbors, should they happen to look out their windows/step off their porches to retrieve their newspapers at the moment when moiself, reflective gloves clutching my walking poles and speaker wires dangling from earbuds to the phone in my jacket pocket, strides past their houses. Do they wonder about the middle-aged woman snorting in derision and/or motioning as if to slap one of her Exerstrider ® poles against her forehead in WTF? astonishment?

I confess to indulging in a wee bit o’ face-palming during last Friday’s walk, when I was listening to a podcast of the radio show Fresh Air, of host Terry Gross‘s recent interview (May 10) with writer/director Jill Soloway.

Soloway is best known for creating the Amazon Original TV series Transparent. The Fresh Air interview was ostensibly about Soloway’s new project, another Amazon series, the mahhhhhvelously titled, I Love Dick[1]

I Love Dick is about a self-identified feminist woman, a maker of independent films, who puzzles over her attraction to Dick, a macho, swaggering, dismissive, self-absorbed artist. However, Soloway seemed determined to scurry past publicizing I Love Dick in order to promote the subject most dear to her heart: I Love Talking Dick About Myself.

Early in the interview, Terry Gross played an excerpt from the show, then questioned Soloway about how the ILD characters unintentionally skewer their own as well as the art world’s pretentious, often nonsensical,semiotics jargon-babble and aesthetic and “cultural theories,” via the dialogue Soloway writes for the show’s characters.

Terry Gross: So…do issues like “does trauma need aesthetic” and language about the materiality of death transferring to the living, does that kind of, like, cultural, aesthetic, semiotic kind of language mean anything to you?

JS…That’s funny to me ’cause I don’t even know what that means, does trauma need an aesthetic. I laugh at that joke because it’s 100 percent nonsense to me. I’m not an academic at all, so we’re just kind of, you know, splashing around in these words.

As the interview went on [2]  it became face-palmingly hilarious to moiself how totally un-self-aware Soloway was regarding her own splashing around in a related set of these words.  Solloway took every opportunity to preach use her own particular jargon-babble, re her recent embrace of a nonbinary gender queer non-femme-presenting status-life – what she described as “my own evolutions.”

…I think I’ve always had that struggle my whole life of feeling a little bit more gender neutral, feeling more comfortable as a creative person when I’m dressed like a boy – when I’m dressed more masculine.

…So if I’m working, I like to…feel kind of masculine because it makes me really focus on what I’m doing. It puts the work first, which is odd to even say that and even realize that little codes and cues – like, I don’t need to be looked at…I don’t need to be pretty – allow me to be more creative. I mean, just that sentence is totally fascinating. And I’m only realizing it right now.

…I’ve become more queer and more gender-nonconforming and basically gotten rid of everything that one would consider femme-presenting in my life.

…what I was talking about was gender dysphoria or gender fugue or something that’s very common for people who identify as nonbinary.

…So I’ve evolved a lot…. And yeah, I’m so much more comfortable now in my public presentation of myself.  I never dress femme at all… I identify as queer now and nonbinary.

And for me, having met so many nonbinary people, met so many genderqueer people and realizing that another way you can move through the world is to be neither male nor female, has been so inspiring.

 

 

Apologies for the femme-specific/binary snark.

 

 

 

I’m a cradle to grave feminist, appreciative of the reality of nuanced apprehensions of gender and class presentations. That said, I thought I was listening to a freshman student in a Sociology of Gender Studies class. You know the kind: an enthusiastic yet ultimately tone-deaf (despite touting her own “evolution”) intellectual neophyte whose earnest proclamations make you cringe in embarrassment for her as she prattles on without the modicum of introspection it would take for her be embarrassed for herself as she engages in the oratorical equivalent of a six-year-old waving her hand and yelling, Look at me! I’m so special!  [3]

(Soloway) And I think my evolution became not just about being queer and not just about being a lesbian, but really being willing to look at my own gender. And identifying as genderqueer [4]  felt even more like I was getting to something….

 

 

 

Terry Gross, gracious interviewer that she is, jumped on the boat Soloway obviously wanted to float.  When Soloway gave a specific example of one of the dilemmas her evolution/genderqueer identification hath wrought, TG offered to help role play possible responses:

Soloway: …once I start to see myself as nonbinary, if a host at a restaurant says, right this way, ladies, I just, like – I start to get really angry ’cause I’m like, I’m dressed like a man. What is making him say lady? Like, where is the lady that he sees when he’s bringing me to this table?

TG: So do you say anything to the person who’s saying, right this way, ladies? Or do you just get angry to yourself?

Soloway: …I haven’t quite figured out how to do it. Should we practice? Do you want to say – “Right this way, ladies” – and I’ll practice?

During the ensuing role-play I was disappointed that Terry Gross played it safe; i.e., that she did not reply with some version of what an actual restaurant seating host might be thinking…or of what I probably would have said, had I been given the role of the host:

I’m sorry to have inadvertently offended you. I’m just trying to do my job, which is to escort you and your friends to your table so you can have a nice meal. I didn’t know you were going to practice your dissertation on me.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Lest You Think I Did Not Enjoy The Afore-Mentioned Interview

 

I Love Dick. 

 

 

 

Being reminded of the new series’ title brought back a fond memory for me – one of those , Proud Parent Moments, ® shall we say.  [5]

Dateline: circa five or six years ago, when son K was on his high school’s Cross Country team. One day after practice the team’s coaches made an announcement to their runners: Liberty High School’s XC team was going to participate in the local Adopt-a-Road program. Seeing as how the team regularly practiced on the series of gravel roads which traversed the farm country north of the school, it was fitting that they would adopt one of them: Dick Road.

After the coaches made the announcement, K raised his hand and suggested that the XC team have custom tee-shirts made, imprinted with a slogan proclaiming their commitment to the project:

Liberty Cross Country Loves Dick

K told me he also shared his suggestion with one of the school’s track team coaches, who was a personal friend of our family, and that when he did so the coach growled, You are your mother’s son.

 

 

 

*   *   *

The Astoundingly Negligent SoCal Escrow Company I’m Not Naming

 aka

Department Of You Had One and Only One Job To Do…
And You F***ed It Up

Imagine you are at a grocery store which has a curbside carry-out service. [6]  After paying for your groceries you are given the receipt; the store employee who bagged your groceries is also given a copy of the receipt, and asks you to confirm the make and model and license plate of your car and what parking stall in the grocery pickup area you will drive to. You give this info to Grocery Bag Boy; GBB transfers your bagged groceries to a cart and begins to push the cart out to the pickup area, while you exit the store and go get your car.

When you drive you car into the designated pickup stall, there’s no sign of either Grocery Bag Boy or your groceries. After waiting five minutes you go back into the store to find out why this simple transaction is taking so long. When GBB sees you he sheepishly confesses that he went to the stall as directed, but another person claiming to be you and asking for your groceries was already there, parked in the adjoining grocery pickup stall. Although this person had no receipt for your groceries and was driving a totally different car than the one you described car, GBB loaded the groceries in the other person’s car and waved to them as they drove away.

Now then, boys and girls. How do you think the grocery store would handle the situation?

  1. The store manager profusely and sincerely apologizes to you for the astounding negligence and incompetency of GBB, while other story employees, using your receipt, scurry around the store and stock a cart with the items which had been stolen from you. In addition to replacing your groceries down to the very last item, manager also offers you a store gift card and/or some free-of-charge service as an acknowledge of the inconvenience and loss of your time.
  2. The store manager, upon being apprised of the debacle, cowers in his office and sends the store’s attorney to speak to you. The attorney says, “I am sorry for the loss of your groceries,” and makes no offer to reimburse you in any way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Option B wouldn’t even occur to you, right?

There is no perfect analogy here to convey my family’s shock and frustration. How do you analogize the theft of a family’s home equity with…anything?

The Escrow Company I am Not (Now) Naming  [7]   is in the process of making things right. Or so they claim. A contact inside the company says that they regret their “panic” (such is their excuse), which caused them to hide behind their attorney’s too-bad-it sucks-to-be-you visage and not admit responsibility for their employee’s egregious dereliction of duty.  [8]  And although the escrow company is, of course, bonded and insured, they balked on reimbursing us for the stolen funds, thus forcing us to sue them.

Translation, short version: The escrow officer, despite having received and confirmed specific verbal and written/notarized/signed instructions from our family’s financial representative as to the transfer of funds from the sale of our parents’ house, fell for  [9] an email scam and transferred the funds to an entirely different/sham account of an entirely different financial  institution – this, less than two hours after speaking with our rep, and without even bothering to pick up the phone to confirm the (sham) changes with our rep…without even just reading the email carefully and noting the numerous red flags contained therein, including the fact that the message did not use our rep’s actual email address… [10]

Translation, long version : Names will be named, and all the embarrassing (to the escrow company) details will be provided, if the company does not Do The Right Thing. ®

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

May you do your job right, no matter how many jobs you have to do;
May you have the opportunity to do a role play scenario with Terry Gross;
May you, too, come to appreciate or even love Dick (Road);
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] The series is based on the 1999 novel of the same name.

[2] I was going to write, “progressed,” but…no.

[3] Read that last sentence aloud without taking a breath. Dare ya.

[4] So now the modifier queer needs a modifier?

[5] And if we didn’t say anything, at least I did.

[6] I’ve been to such stores and used such services a time or two.

[7] But will soon, by moiself this blog and by my family and newspaper business reporters and TV consumer fraud reporters, if they do not own up to their mistake and reimburse us.

[8] They fired the escrow officer who made the fraudulent transfer, which is an admission of guilt.

[9] Or abetted…I am still not convinced of the escrow officer’s innocence – it is easier to believe she could be in collusion than she could be that incompetent.

[10] Including the fact that none of this information had been previously supplied via email, due to our rep’s and the entire financial community’s (except, apparently, for one inept escrow officer) awareness of the prevalence of email fraud.

The S*** I’m Not Fixing

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Department Of Now Who Can Argue With That?

 

 

 

“You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.”
(Jim, aka The Waco Kid, Blazing Saddles)

 

 

Happy (belated) birthday to Mel Brooks. He shares a birthday with my nephew, BPV, who turned 26 on Tuesday while Mel is…can it be…90?

In Mel’s honor, I had to watch a certain movie Tuesday evening. I have three of his films in my DVD collection; Blazing Saddles won out.

I am ever so fond of Brook’s boisterous Western spoof for many reasons, [1] including that it has come to remind me of my offspring.

 

 

 

 

Gladly, Neil. The weeks preceding each of K’s and Belle’s births, I had an après-diner DVD (or video rental) film fest – two movies per night, screening my then-current or all-time favorite comedies. I was trying to laugh ’em out.

While watching Blazing, I wondered yet again: if the movie were made today, how likely is it that the film’s dialogue would include such copious usage of the N-word?  [2]

Brooks was an equal opportunity offender and master genre satirist. Blazing includes some of my favorite movie dialogue, including the authentic frontier gibberish speech opening this post. One line from the movie (can you guess which?) was nominated for the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Greatest Movie Quotes. [3]

 

 

And, of course, there is the scene which altered the art of the western cinematic genre. For decades after the release of Blazing Saddles, directors complained that they could no longer include any incident involving a campfire, due to Brooks’ lampooning of that iconic Western setting.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of This Is Going To Make For Interesting Dinner Table Conversation

It’s been a movie-watching week at dinner time. MH was late getting home on Monday, and I settled into one of our comfy chairs and put in a Netflix video: the documentary, “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry.”  A few minutes past the title sequence MH returned home. He began watching the documentary, which included having to watch me squeal with delightful recognition as one of my college professors, journalist and historian Ruth Rosen, made an onscreen appearance.

MH asked me a few questions about the documentary’s subject matter – the resurgence of what historians call 2nd wave feminism (circa 1960-1972). This prompted me to ask him if he’d ever read The Feminine Mystique, or Sexual Politics, or The Feminist Papers, or….I gestured toward the shelf on our family room’s ceiling-to-floor bookcase where those books, and other seminal (so to speak) writings of the feminist movement may be found. Uh…no?

Alright then, what about Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice? Nope?  Okay, not even (I did not use those words) Black Like Me?

MH said something about one disadvantages of not going to a liberal arts college (he attended Caltech) was not having those books on his reading list.

 

 

 

 

And I was flummoxed.

I sat there thinking…stuff I mostly didn’t say. Once again I indicated our bookshelf by the fireplace. I read those books, and not because I attended a “liberal arts college” where they were required reading. I attended UC Davis, a public research university with (at the time) a mostly science/agricultural bent and reputation. Some of those books I read were mentioned in a couple of the classes I took, in the classes’ supplemental/extra reading syllabi, but were not “required” reading. All of them (and many other titles) should, in my opinion, be required reading for every citizen, regardless of their academic interests. Because of THE PROFOUND SOCIAL, CULTURAL, AND ECONOMIC CHANGES both documented and/or foreshadowed in them; because….  Oy vey.

 

Consider yourself warned.

 

 

Equality of opportunity for all people, regardless of any ism, is something MH and so many Good Men ® like him espouse and practice…and also, in some ways, IMHO, take for granted, often times because of how they were raised. But MH is no historical ignoramus; thus, I sat…and wondered. I wondered why so many men of his age, class and ethnicity who are (considered to be) well-educated, seemingly display little curiosity about why those books were written and the historical context in which such manuscripts and manifestos could be – had to be – produced?

People who have a science- or evidence- or reality-based view of the world (I consider both MH and I to be in that category) want to know how the world works. That is one of the strongest incentives MH and I had for eschewing the religious indoctrination of our respective childhoods and families: “It” (religion) is not a rational explanation for How Things Work. ® .

I am puzzled by people who hold a reality-based worldview and yet seem to lack the curiosity to understand the many other ways in which the world “works.” Perhaps it’s simply because those other ways are just too damn complicated. Even as complex as understanding the biology, chemistry and physics of life is trying to understand and dissect the pesky, messy, human political and cultural processes…including how a person may be an unwitting beneficiary of systems he did not design but by which he profits and therefore has no vested interest in dismantling…or even fully recognizing.

 

 

 

 

Our brief exchange on the matter made me think of a term which makes many people defensively (unfortunately) cringe. It’s in the category of those terms which can be seen as cultural yellow alerts – ala “microagressions” or  “heteronormative” –  terms which cause a certain number of people to close their ears, minds and hearts the moment you use them.

I intuitively understood “privilege,” the first time I heard the word used to frame matters of social inequalty, [4]  because it was a concept I’d previously defined to myself as “luxury.”

Many men – including MH and our son, K – are decent folk who would never (consciously) think of oppressing, limiting or defining someone because of race or gender or sexual orientation or economic or social class.  Nonetheless, MH and K and manparts-people like them, as people born into this country’s dominant/normative gender/race/class, have the luxury of not having to think about their dominant or privileged status, simply because it isn’t part of their daily experience (unless it is “required reading” in some academic or theoretical setting).

The thing about privilege is that it’s invisible to we who have it. The ultimate privilege is the fact of not having to think about privilege, or to even notice that it exists.

Oh, and this privilege, luxury, or whatever you want to call it – it’s not inherently a bad thing. As scientist and atheist/feminist writer and activist Jen McCreight has pointed out, we all have some kind of privilege over somebody. What matters is whether we’re aware of it, how we use it, and that we not dismiss the concerns of the people who don’t share our particular form of it.

 

Young man, if you honestly think this country doesn’t care about religion or race, then you are privileged. You have grown up in an America that has enabled you to not know otherwise.
And I don’t need to you to be sorry about it, because you didn’t create that. I’d just love for you to someday understand it.

(Mary Elizabeth Williams, We Don’t Need Your Apology, Princeton Kid written in response to an essay published by a Princeton student who claimed he’d “checked his privilege” and decided he need “apologize for nothing.”)

 

Okay; deep, cleansing breath. Writing this makes me feel…old. Like I’ve failed my kids. Wasn’t my generation supposed to fix this shit?

 

 

Yep – totally your job!

 

 

*   *   *

Speaking of generational shit:

Department Of Saving Time And Heartache And Maybe An STD Or Three

“Booze gave me permission to do and be whatever I wanted.”
(Blackout: Remembering The Things I Drank To Forget,  by Sarah Hepola)

 

I wish I could get all teens through twenty-somethings to listen to author Sarah Hepola‘s interview on the June 21st  edition of Fresh Air, in which she discusses her participation in the “hook up” culture of college and the reality of sex without the “liquid courage” of alcohol. It would be wonderful if young men and women could have the insights at age 19 that Hepola didn’t recognize until age 35.

 

*   *   *

May you feel responsible for fixing a modicum of shit attributable to any generation;
May you appreciate the well-written campfire scene;
May you remember the insights at age 35 when you’re way older than that;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Not the least of which is singing along to the marvelous title song. I still can’t believe Brooks got the singer of so many iconic Westerns, Frankie Laine, to do it with a straight face…or straight vocal cords.

[2] According to an interview with Brooks I read many years ago, co-screenwriter Richard Pryor is to thank for that.

[3] Yes, it’s now official – there is a list of Best 100… for everything.

[4] E.g., white privilege or male privilege.

The Fun I’m Not Missing

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Department Of What’s The Point

The problem with speaking the truth to power is that power can’t be bothered to listen.

*   *   *

Department Of Pleasant Surprises

Last Saturday morning when I finished exercising I popped out the workout DVD and did my cool down/stretches to the background noise of a college football game on TV. During one brief timeout in the game over a disputed call or something I swear I heard one team’s marching band play the distinctive opening riff to the White Stripe‘s Seven Nation Army.  It was at once bizarre and totally appropriate…and almost as emotionally satisfying as hearing the Roto Rooter Goodtime Christmas Band ‘s rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s psychedelic rock anthem, Purple Haze.

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Yet Another Podcast Adventure

The podcast, an interview with a historian specializing in ancient Rome (Mary Beard/Fresh Air show), began with the show’s host reciting an intriguing description of the guest’s professional accomplishments: “…a professor of classics, does TV and radio documentaries, writes a well-read blog…and has become somewhat famous for taking on internet trolls.”

 

 

I couldn’t help but wonder: Why, oh why, would someone do that, or become “famous” for doing that?  Especially someone who is an academic, or at least educated. I thought that, by definition, if you “take on” an internet troll, or engage them in any way, the troll wins.[1]

I am not fully convinced that individual internet trolls exist.  I think there is a troll generator somewhere, created and controlled by a man-boy who resembles a cross between Jabba the Hutt and a meerkat. This Jabbakat occupies a bunker designed to resemble his parent’s basement, where, hunkered down amid cases of Red Bull, Hot Pockets and survivalist grade toilet paper, he froths and seethes over the Unfairness of Life ® , including what happened eight years ago when, after hearing that girls go for guys in uniform, he dropped out of community college to take a job as a pizza delivery boy.

My favorite comment/observation about trolls of any kind is from Tina Fey, in her book, Bossypants . [2]

Bring on the babes.

*   *   *

Department  Of Just Think About All The Fun You Missed

Wednesday was my annual Ladies Lefse dinner party. It is not too late for you to plan your own.  You don’t even have to make it an all-lady affair – you can define the term “lady” loosely (as most of us do these days, yuckity yuckaroo). In the spirit of open-minded heteronormativity, [3] you could make it a party for Lefse Ladies and Those Who Identify as Lefse Ladies.

 

Who wouldn’t want to identify with these festive, frisky females?

 

*   *   *

I kept hearing erstwhile respected actor Danny Glover’s voice on a TV ad, publicizing a medication to treat “pseudo bulbous effect.”  And I kept thinking, Wow, there’s a drug for everyone, including people who obsessively don large fake noses.

I stand corrected. It’s Pseudobulbar affect, and it’s apparently a thing. Pseudobulbar affect is a neurological disorder, that just happens to have one of the best disorder nicknames ever:

“also known as emotional incontinence.”

 

I can quit any time I want to, okay?

 

*   *   *

A Special Holiday Message For A Special Guy

To the dude I was driving behind on Monday – the guy in the Ford pickup heading west on Cornell Road in the early afternoon. After watching you weave in and out of traffic lanes and tailgate other drivers, I humbly suggest that your holiday thankfulness this year be directed toward the following government agencies and employees:

* the DMV, for not having a basic reading comprehension and IQ test as part of its licensing procedures

* those current and former U.S. Marines, [4] who might be embarrassed/appalled by your proudly displayed ignorance as evinced by your various anti-Obama, anti-government, bumperstickers and window decals sharing bumper and window space with your pro-U.S. Marines stickers.

BTW, duuuuuuuuude: Obama is an American, not a Kenyan, for crying’ out loud in the fucking Halls of Montezuma‘s sake.

I can only assume your truck’s OR license plate was crafted personally, for you, and that YRT 987 stands for, Your Retard Tendencies 987 (on a scale of 990). [5] [6]

 

 

He forgot the sticker that says, Honk If You’re Following a Bigoted Asshat

*   *   *

Holiday haiku

At this time of year
no joy is as pure as that
which arises from

seeing Christian
right wing nutjobs twisting their
tinsel-lined panties

when they hear the phrase
Happy Holidays! and/or
another greeting

which acknowledges
the wealth of celebrations
at this time of year.

It’s Merry Christmas
or nothing for those pinch-nosed

paranoid Scrooges.

Their faces turn red
and green – which, fittingly, are
the Christmas colors.

I am delighted
to wish them, “Happy Solstice,”
and hope that one day

they’ll understand this:
“Axial tilt – The Reason
For (all the) Seasons!”

*   *   *

May you avoid troll engagement;
May you embrace the season’s greetings;
May you remain emotionally continent;
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] Or at least, you lose.

[2] Look it up. You won’t regret it. While you’re at it, just read the whole damn book.

[3] Belle is going to be taking a Gender Studies class next semester. I’m practicing.

[4] Government employees, yep – although not often thought as such. Who pays the military salaries?

[5] I know, I know, retard is no longer an acceptable pejorative. I’m making a New Year’s Resolution to stop using it.

[6] If you believe the previous footnote, you’re a ‘tard.

The Back I’m Not Talking Behind

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Department Of If Vegetables Could Talk

This one might say, “I’m Not A Crook!… but I am the Third [1] Memorial Richard Milhouse Nixon Eggplant.”

 

*   *   *

Department of Succinct Advice On How To
Handle Today’s Cutthroat, Back-stabbing Social and/or Business Culture

 

If someone talks about you behind your back, just fart.

 

 

Now you know what that iconic scene was really about.

 

*   *   *

Department of H.E.L.L. [2]

Remember to involve your children in age-appropriate party prep and hosting tasks.

 

*   *   *

Department of Ugly Pretty Things

Two days ago my morning walk listen-to was the Fresh Air podcast of a recent interview with American singer/songwriter Iris DeMent. Dement was raised by a Pentecostal parents and had a very conservative religious background – beliefs that for the most part, she has since left behind. Still, her music, which critics have variously labeled in the folk/country/gospel/bluegrass genres, reflects her roots.

Early on in the interview FA host Terry Gross asked Dement to play a song that has “stayed with” her and influenced her. Dement chose a gospel tune, Pass Me Not:

DEMENT: (Playing piano, singing)

Pass me not, O gentle Savior. Hear my humble cry.
While on others thou art calling, do not pass me by.
Savior, oh, Savior, hear my humble cry.
While on others thou art calling, do not pass me by.

 GROSS: That was beautiful. You know, I…

 DEMENT: That’s a pretty song….

(from the Fresh Air Transcript)

And I’m thinking, seriously? You call that beautiful?

 

 

I had to turn off the rest of the interview to keep my stomach from turning over. I’m just not as good as I used to be when it comes to pretending I don’t hear things.

Yes, the song’s piano melody had a lyrical, almost haunting simplicity, as did Dement’s high lonesome vocal styling…but, in classifying the song as “beautiful,” did either the host or guest actually pay attention to the lyrics?

I enjoy many bluegrass-influenced songs and musical groups, but that Pass Me By song crystallized my objections to much of religious/gospel-influenced bluegrass and country music. Such “beautiful” melodies and instrumentation are ruined – for moiself, anyway – by lyrics depicting a world of obsequiousness and fear-mongering – a world extolling the “beauty” of people kept on their knees with their eyes blinkered; a world where humans must continually assuage the ego of an insecure, capricious and petulant deity; a world where people question their own worth and “salvation” and plaintively beseech a so-called loving savior not to pass them by….

 

Let not thy noodly appendage pass by your most unworthy servant.

 

*   *   *

Department of H.E.L.L., The Continuing Saga

Don’t waste valuable menu planning time fretting over your home’s appearance.

 

 

 

*   *   * 

Department of Bad Halloween jokes

Consider yourself warned.

 

 

What is a ghost’s favorite Halloween party drink?
Ghoul-aid

What is a Mummy’s favorite music genre?
Wrap.

Why do female ghosts diet?
So they can keep their ghoulish figures.

What kind of makeup do ghosts wear?
Mas-scare-a.

Why couldn’t the skeleton cross the road?
He had no guts.

Why Count Dracula use a mouthwash?
Because he had bat breath.

Why do ghosts patronize bars and pubs?
They go for the boos.

What happens when ghosts have too many drinks at those pubs?
They get sheet-faced.

Told ya.

 

*   *   *

Who’s in Charge of Feasibility Studies for Aphorisms?

I hear on the radio that old cliché about someone preparing to run for political office, and so when I got home I tried to toss my hat into the ring. It doesn’t work.

 

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*   *   *

Department of Almost Random Thoughts Almost Apropos of Nothing

Or perhaps simply another scary thought that I can blame on Halloween time.

A while back I was cleaning up my home library and found a book a friend had lent me over 10 years ago (ahem). [3] I had fond memories of reading it way back when, and flipped through the book’s forward, which noted that the author had died at a relatively young age. This led to me googling said author and finding out he’d died of AIDS.

Whenever I read something about the historical aspects of the AIDS outbreak, I come across recitations of one of the few positive aspects of the epidemic – stories about how the gay community came together and took care of “their own.” During the early years of the outbreak the medical and scientific establishments were confused about the disease’s etiology and transmission, and medical personnel often acted indifferent, even hostile, toward the afflicted.

I’ve read touching stories of dying gay men, many if not most of whom had been abandoned or shunned by their biological families, being tenderly and courageously cared for by gay friends, neighbors, and even strangers – lesbians in particular. Although the AIDS epidemic in this country was initially almost exclusively confined to gay men, a high percentage of the caretakers were women (sure enough, the afore-mentioned author was, at the end of his life, nursed by his ex wife).

Any cynical – or would that be realistic? – moiself  couldn’t help but wonder then (and still wonders now): if the AIDS epidemic in America had, for whatever epidemiological reasons, struck lesbians instead of gay men before spreading into the general population, would there have been the same stories of care-giving?  Would gay men have organized to care for their dying gay women friends?

Methinks not.

There is no way for me to “prove” this. Except for extrapolating from that pesky thing called history.

 

 

Gaymen, schmay men – they are still men. And no matter their interest or lack of interest in women for sexual or other reasons, men grow up with the culturally induced expectation that women will serve and care for them.

I remember reading [4] a history of the “lavender menace” as recalled by a lesbian activist, who wrote of her disappointment in the early 1970’s with both the feminist movement and the gay rights movement. Straight feminists didn’t want to take up what they saw as the “distraction” of lesbian rights. Gay rights organizations were dominated by gay men, who discounted or ignored the lesbians’ opinions when the women tried to organize and speak out, showed little interest in getting to know the women personally but still “…expected us (women) to bring them coffee.” To paraphrase the author, “The (straight) women broke our spirits, but the gay men broke our hearts.”

 

“If the world were a logical place, men would ride side-saddle.”
Rita Mae Brown

*   *   *

Department of H.E.L.L., Die Hard with a Vengeance

Welcome your guests with a hot beverage and a smile that says, I’m so glad you’re here.

 

*   *   *

Happy Halloween!

*   *   *

May your Halloween Night be truly fit for a Bright, [5]
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Yes, more than once in my years of vegetable procurement I’ve returned home from the market/farm to discover that my produce basket contains an eggplant with a profile resembling that of our nation’s 37th President. I have led a charmed life.

[2] Holiday & Entertaining Labor-saving Lists.

[3] Yes, I returned it.

[4] In Ms. Magazine? Rolling Stone? ‘Twas way back in the 80s, I think. I remember the article, but not the source.

[5] SCM will be upset if there aren’t at least five footnotes.

The Second Act I’m Not Staying For

1 Comment

 

Department of Duh

The opening, thumping drums and guitar riff to The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army is mesmerizing, to say the least. It is also an unfortunate earworm to wake up with at three a.m., if your intention is to return to sleep. And mine was.

 

As soothing as a Brahms lullaby, trust us.

*   *   *

 

MH and I saw the second play of the Portland Center Stage season last Sunday. A part of me was hoping I would find the play boring or just unappealing; thus, when asked for my review, I could justifiably opine, Sex With Strangers is so overrated.” 

 

 

I had no idea.

No idea, that is, as to the reasons I indeed find the play unappealing. It wasn’t a “bad” play. But it wasn’t the play for me, at least at this point in my life.

In general, if I intend to see a movie or play I don’t read reviews about it – or even brief plot summaries – in advance.  A major theme of the SWS play was the intersection/conflict between art and commerce, as played out between the cast, which consisted of two writers. Had I known Sex With Strangers was going to be about writers arguing about writing I would have gone bowling instead.

Not to say it wasn’t done well, and I’m sure most of the audience enjoyed the battle of wits, sexes, and literary mores and intentions between the older, female, more-literary-(read: talented) and-commercially-unknown-but-with-integrity writer, vs. the younger, male, more-financially-successful-and-famous-or-infamous-and-cool-but-once-you-look-past-the-braddadocio-obviously-not-proud-of-what-he-does writer. Older writer was rightly aghast at the mountain of muck that exists due to the advent of self publishing…and how relatively quickly younger writer was able to get her to shelve her integrity and let him construct a false, more hip author’s profile for re-releasing her earlier, neglected novel on his new self-publishing application…

Ick, and ick again. It just sooooooooooo wasn’t for me.

By the play’s intermission I had a nasty headache from clenching my jaw. MH stayed to watch the second half of the play while I took a de-clenching walk around the neighborhood and was temporarily (but rewardingly) sucked into a retail vortex. Thank the FSM for Sur La Table – I found that soy sauce dispenser I’d been so desperately needing.

 

*   *   *

The Return I’m Not Applauding

 

That would be the return of Bloom County.

 

 

I know, I know. I seem to be one of the few FB denizen who isn’t performing the social media version of the Happy Dance, now that the much-beloved comic strip has returned.

 

“Bloom County is baaaaaack!”

 

I did read the comic strip on a semi-regular basis, during its initial publication period, but was never one of its most devoted fans. I couldn’t put my finger on my lack of enthusiasm, until the day I made a list, to confirm my suspicions.

BC major characters:

* Bill the Cat
* Cutter John
* Hodge-Podge (rabbit)
* Michael Binkley
* Milo Bloom
* Oliver Wendell Jones
* Opus (penguin)
* Portnoy (groundhog)
* Steve Dallas

Minor characters include [1]

* Bobbi Harlow
* Frank Jones (Oliver’s father)
* Lola Granola
* Milquetoast the Cockroach
* Mrs. Jones (Oliver’s mother) [2]
* Quiche Lorraine

* Tom Binkley

 

The major characters (including the talking animals) are all male.

 

 

I’m not saying Bloom County was a misogynistic, backasswater Islamic burg; however, to my curious mind at least, there is a connection. Bear with me.

When you see pictures, from still shots to newsreels, of life-out-side-the-home in a conservative Muslim nation, you might wonder how, in a land seemingly devoid of women, all those men were produced. Whether at a political demonstration or just going about the tasks everyday life – walking to and from work, at the marketplace or having coffee with a friend – the lack of females, shrouded or otherwise, is notable…if you pay attention.

Pay attention to contemporary American art and entertainment forms – from plays to movies to TV shows to comic strip. Now, imagine being an alien (or an anthropologist) looking to such forms to try and understand the culture that produced them:  you’d have no idea that females comprise more than half of the US population. [3]

I am woman, hear me roar/in numbers too big to ignore…
I am Woman, written and performed by Helen Reddy)

I love that song, and wish its opening sentiments were correct. But it seems the numbers aren’t too big to ignore when it comes to…sadly…just about any field.

I get that art and entertainment have no responsibility, inherent or otherwise, to be socially or demographically representative. But damnity damn, how it frosts my butt, and makes me feel old and tired, to have to “get that” excuse rationale, over and over and over….

Unlike Islamic state artists, [4]  American screenwriters and playwrights and directors and comic strip authors have the freedom to draw, create, and cast female characters in all kinds of roles. They can also depict them as scantily or as fully clad as they choose…and yet they still – unintentionally perhaps, but effectively – shroud women and girls with the burka of scarcity.

Not being seen is a form of being covered up.

 

Are these women, men, mannequins, corpses, lampposts, bundles of rebar? Who can tell?

 

Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad BC existed. I derived pleasure from many of its story lines, and sincerely believe the comic strip gave us an incalculable, lasting contribution to contemporary culture: an opportunity to appreciate the uncanny resemblance between Bill the Cat and actor Nick Nolte.

 

 

Cartoonist Berkeley Breathed was – and is – widely lauded [5] for creating Bloom County’s whimsical/imaginary world in Middle America, with storylines that lampooned big and small town culture and politics. I did enjoy (most of) BC’s take on the political ambiance of the 1980s, [6]  and hope that Breathed will do as well or better with the strip’s present day incarnation. [7]

Still, what I didn’t need then and do not desire now is for yet another artist to create yet another world, real or imaginary, wherein females are peripheral.

Yeah. Hear me fuckin’ roar.

 

*   *   *

Department of While I’m On The Subject

Listening to a recent Fresh Air podcast of the October 9 show, Steve Jobs: The Man, the Book, The Film produced two aha moments – one of which I’ve had before, both of which explain my almost visceral aversion to those who worship at the altar of Apple.

At one point in the interview, Walter Isaacson, author and Steve jobs’ biographer, addresses the issue of Jobs’ legendary volatility.

It’s one of the dichotomies about Jobs is he could be demanding and tough – at times, you know, really berating people and being irate. On the other hand, he got all A-players, and they became fanatically loyal to him…an artist who was a perfectionist and frankly wasn’t always the kindest person when they failed “

That is the near-perfect description of a cult leader.

 

 

Isaacson also compares the styles of Steve Jobs vs. Jobs’ rival and collaborator, Bill Gates:

Steve Jobs was more intuitive, operated in a much more volatile manner…. the biggest difference is that Jobs was very much a genius when it came to aesthetics, design, consumer desire. And Bill Gates…was much more of a focused businessperson than Jobs was.

Jobs’ intuition and artistic sensibilities are described several times in the interview, and those qualities are presented as strengths which enabled Jobs to envision and produce Apple’s “revolutionary” products and marketing. If Jobs had been a woman trying to make it in that field, those same qualities – intuition, volatility, focus on aesthetics – would have been seen as weaknesses. No one would have listened to her.

 

*   *   *

Department of Family In-Jokes

“You’re out of croutons!”

*   *   *

Department Of The Customer Is Always Right…
And Sometimes Rightly Pissed Off

Dear Surly Checkout Clerk at a Major Pet Supplies [8] chain store,

I’m so sorry for interrupting your important slouching time last week, when I annoyed you by causing you to have to do your job. How persnickety of me to notice that you rang up my purchases without asking me for your store’s frequent buyer number – the number that gives me discounts on future purchases; the number your store’s clerks are supposed to ask for at the beginning of the transaction. I regret the pain I caused you when I meekly pointed out your oversight; the number of muscles employed to roll your eyes appeared to have been agony-inducing, as was the effort you put in to pointing your finger toward the payment screen and verbalizing your thinly-disguised disgust with what you mistakenly thought was my concern: “It doesn’t change the price.”

When I smiled at you with the patience your attitude did not merit and replied, “That’s not the point,” I selfishly caused you to grimace with the five seconds’ worth of effort it took to void and then reenter my purchase – a grimace which implied a colossal waste of your valuable slacker time (I’m sure you had better things to do with those seconds, despite the fact that there was no one else in line behind me, nor at any other register in the store) and which used facial muscles that clearly caused you discomfort, being as they were in such close proximity to your festering, so-hip-so-five-years-ago ear gauges.

Forgive me for entertaining, even for a nanosecond, my totally ungracious impulse to jam a feline hairball chew supplement down your throat when you once again took the effort to point out a factor which was not my concern – “It didn’t change the price” – but which, in your infinite, churlish wisdom, should have been my top priority.

I offer one more mea culpa for the small-minded thoughts I had while leaving the store – thoughts having to do about the importance of a brick-and-mortar store’s customer service [9]– especially these days, when we can often find the products we seek online, at a lower cost. Consumers rarely have the incentive to think about courteous customer service– how kind of you to go out of your way to inspire me to consider the concept.

Sincerely and contritely yours,
Another enlightened customer

*   *   *

May your customer service exceed all expectations,
may your second acts be tolerable if not inspirational,
may your earworms be lullaby-worthy,
may you never run out of croutons,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] “Minor” = having appeared in the strip in “sideline” stories that were not central to the strip’s development and overall story arc (e.g., Bobbie, Quiche and Lola were love interests of the major characters).

[2] That’s her identification –Oliver’s mother and Frank’s wife. Oliver’s father at least gets a first name.

[3] Forbes magazine, hardly a bastion journal of feminist thought, even addressed the discrepancy by publishing  Women Still Ridiculously Underrepresented in Movies.

[4] If such exist, they are, sadly, well-hidden.

[5] Much to the chagrin of actual editorial cartoonists, Breathed’s Bloom County won a Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1987.

[6] Can you believe that Donald Trump has provided fodder for cartoonists for 30+ years? Of course you can.

[7] I also hope he will continue to be patient with those of us who continue to mispronounce his surname.

[8] Hint: not Petco.

[9] In all fairness to the chain itself, their customer service dept.  was promptly responsive to the complaint I filed on line.

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