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The Speech I’m Not Policing

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Department Of The Optimism I Wish I Held

“His recent book Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis, could hardly be more timely.
And it has a fascinating twist, seeking links between how individuals deal with crises – with insights from his clinical psychologist wife – to how nations succeed or fail when confronted with a crisis.”

That blurb is from the description of “How It Can All Fall Apart,” a recent episode of Alan Alda’s Clear and Vivid podcast.  Professor, historian, and Pulitzer Prize-winning popular science author Jared Diamond (“Guns, Germs and Steel“) was Alda’s guest.

As with many podcast guests, Diamond had a new work to promote (the above-mentioned book, which just may join the ever-expanding pile of *read-this-and-you’ll-be-a-better-or-at-least-smarter-person* tomes by my nightstand).  What I found most captivating about the interviews Diamond has been giving is the cautious optimism he expresses about what positive awakening may arise from the COVID-19 crisis:

…if there is a solution found, a majority of people may finally realize that *global problems require global solutions,* which could result in the setting aside of political differences and working together to find solutions to problems from which  no artificial barriers of borders or international politics can shield us  (read: Global Warming/Climate Change.

I wish I could believe Diamond is right.  The USA should, of course, be a leader in this and other issues.  Instead, it may take our country many months – how long until the election? – to be able to fully get on board in this matter.  Chief Little Bunker-Bitch [1] I mean, that festering gallstone of a human being – okay; remember, we’re going for the spirit of cooperation – our pathetic excuse of a leader…  I’m sorry, world, but the truth is….

 

 

Ok.  How shall moiself  put this? If you know even a smidgen of #45’s personal, business and political history, you also know that the one comment any teacher would *not* write in the report card of his life is, “Plays well with others.”

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Department Of Since You’ve Asked

Inquiring Minds:
“What is your diagnosis of the greatest problem facing humanity?”

 

 

All-righty then, to rephrase:

“What would you say is humanity’s biggest mistake, or weakness?”

Moiself:
Humanity’s *blunder grande* is our misplaced faith in certitude, vis-à-vis both our factual knowledge and our sense of ethics.   [2] 

Giving the probabilistic nature of our world (including our very existence as a species), strength and resilience lies in people who are able to see and act on the grays in life, instead of labeling everything either black or white.

Fly your gray banner; keep open to the possibility that you may be wrong, but don’t let this entangle you in the morass of uncertainty that some use as an excuse for inaction (“Since we can’t know for certain then we can’t know at all”).

Wow. That’s a lot of profundity for one keyboard to spew.  I need a beer.

 

“Don’t waste it on her; she doesn’t even drink beer.”

 

*   *   *

 Department Of Terms Worth Picking A Few Nits Over

I’ve written in the past (and given our current “cancel culture”   [3]  and the unfortunate, seemingly liberal-led trend of looking under every verbal rock for aggrievements, I will likely have cause to write again) of my disdain for people who criticize/judge/assume they know the opinions of other people who don’t use the “proper” or “accepted” terms in discussing social issues.

Moiself  deplores the censoring of ideas and the alienating of allies which results from when you focus on *how* someone says something, versus paying attention to *what* they are trying to say (i.e., confusing style with substance).  But, language is tricky. None of us can accurately claim to be an expert of verbal and written communications, which are the conduit between our forming ideas and our expression of them.

 

 

The choices we make matter, as do our words, which both express and influence our ideas and worldviews. I try to view each case separately recently, I’ve learned of a couple of centuries-old terms which moiself  thinks are very much worth changing, for the important reason of the terms’ subtexts.

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for creating the 1619 project at The New York Times, which tracks the legacy of slavery.  In Terry Gross’s Fresh Air interview with journalist Hannah-Jones, (which I referred to in a recent blog post as influencing my opinions about reparations for slavery), TG asked Hannah-Jones about why she uses the term “enslaved person” and not “slave” in her writing (my emphases):

“It was very important in the 1619 Project and whenever I write about this, to not use language that further dehumanizes people who every system and structure was designed to dehumanize.

I think when we hear the word “slave,” we think of slavery as being the essence of that person. But if you call someone an enslaved person, then it speaks to a condition. These people were not slaves. Someone chose to force them into the condition of slavery, and that language to me is very important, as is using the word “enslaver” over slave owner because these people didn’t have a moral right to own another human being, even though the society allowed it, and I think it needs to be active, that this was an active system of people choosing to treat other human beings as property.”

 

I think this change in terminology is adoption-worthy and will henceforth try to consistently to use those words.  If someone comments on it (“I’ve noticed you say, ‘enslaved person’ and ‘enslaver’ instead of ‘slave,’ and ‘slaveowner’ “),  then there is an opportunity for dialogue.

However, I will not turn into a member of the Speech Police, and hope that other Well-Meaning People ® act accordingly.  Joe Dude who seems open to the idea of reparations for enslaved persons is a potential ally; don’t turn him off if he starts to say, “I realize there is validity in reparations for descendants of slaves…” by jumping in with a correction, no matter how well-meaning: “Whoa, Joe – the proper term is, ‘enslaved persons….’ “

In these Twitter Mob Times ® it so easy to criticize *how* someone is expressing an idea that we often neglect to listen to *what* they are trying to say.  When it comes to style vs. substance, go for substance. Every Time.

 

“There’s the guy who said ‘disabled’ instead of “person with a disability’ – let’s get ’em!”

 

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Department Of The Things We Leave Behind For Others

One day in 1961, the famous physicist Richard Feynman stepped in front of a Caltech lecture hall and posed this question to a group of undergraduate students:
“If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence was passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?”

….we posed Feynman’s cataclysm question to some of our favorite writers, artists, historians, futurists – all kinds of great thinkers. We asked them, “What’s the one sentence you would want to pass on to the next generation that would contain the most information in the fewest words?”

(Radiolab, The Cataclysm Sentence,)

 

One of my favorite Feynman quotes. If you want to know what his “cataclysm sentence” was, you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

 

I thought about that question for several weeks after hearing that podcast.The answers given, by Feynman and others, could be rephrased as, What would you leave behind for others?  My cataclysm sentence, which needs some serious editing, would have something to do with embracing embrace curiosity; try to understand reality and do not be satisfied with stories that purport to assuage your fears about what you don’t know….

One day during one of my early morning walks, I put those What would you leave behind for others? thoughts on hold, and have yet to return to them.  I was crossing a residential street, mulling those profound thoughts, and I noticed two brown plops, and a brownish line of…ick…stretching from the center of the street to the gutter, and then up on the sidewalk, for a total plop-streak of about 20 feet.   Moiself  realized it was a series of feces droppings, from a doggie which was evidently on the move.

 

 

Not wanting to fall into the trap I just wrote about – making up stories for that what you don’t understand – moiself  nevertheless used my powers of deductive reasoning to come up with the most likely scenario: dogs, when they’re on their own or are being led by a human on a walk or run, stop to squat when they defecate.  Why was this dog in such a hurry that it could not do so?  It was either being chased by something…or being pulled by someone.  I realized that the speedy early morning jogger I’d passed earlier, on that very street, her leashed dog trotting a good ten feet behind her, was the likely source.

And it made me wonder about how many of the countless dog-accompanied joggers and cyclists I’ve seen consider themselves to be responsible owners and the kind of people who always pick up after their dog… Except, when you’re moving at those speeds, essentially forcing your dog to run with you, it has to “go” on the run,  [4]  and since it is trailing behind you, you don’t see what is happening….  And you run or cycle merrily along, blissfully ignorant of the shit trail you have left behind, for others to deal with.

 

Book ’em, Danno.

*   *   *

Whaddya think, is there some kind of life metaphor in all that crap?

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

You shouldn’t fart in an Apple store; they don’t have Windows.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Just One More And Then I’ll Stop, I Promise

My dad burst into my room and said, “Wanna hear a joke?”
He proceeded to fart for a whole minute, then said,
“Sorry; that was a long-winded story.”

Okay; make that, just two more.

After letting out a trumpet of a fart the toddler stopped, gasped,
looked up at her mother and said, “Did you just hear that elephant?”
She’s going to be a great dad someday.

 

 

*   *   *

May you be mindful of what you leave behind;
May you recognize and celebrate life’s gray areas;  [5]

May you have the optimism to believe that a world which produces fart-dad joke combos
can come up with a cure for a pandemic ;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] 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, this is one of the milder monikers we use.

[2] Aka, “right” and “wrong.”

[3]  As per dictionary.com, cancel culture refers to “…the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive. Cancel culture is generally discussed as being performed on social media in the form of group shaming.”

[4] I have seen  more than one dog, running alongside its jogging/cycling owner, stop to squat and then get jerked/dragged along by its leash, while its owner kept on going.

[5] Except for those involving dreadful novels with “shades of” in the title.

The Cheesecake I’m Not Serving

Comments Off on The Cheesecake I’m Not Serving

The new line drawing is here!  The new line drawing is here! [1]

Scarletta Press‘s managing editor/idea guru Nora Evans came up with a wonderful idea to cap off the cover design of my book.  Instead of using the standard, black & white thumbnail photos of the author and artists she’ll have The Mighty Quinn’s illustrators, Aaron and Katie DeYoe, do line drawings of the author and artists, in the style of the book’s text illustrations.

I’ve always wanted to attain artist’s rendering status.  The Picasso-esque [2] sketch college roommate LMW drew of me ~ 30 years ago doesn’t count.

The picture will be something ala this style, without the spaghetti-flinging.

*   *   *

Insert your own, favorite (and graceful) segue here.  ‘Cause I’m all out of ’em.

One of the most intricate, fascinating, and overlooked (IMHO) aspects of The Gun Thing ®  is the research into what happens during actual gunfights; i.e., real, live human beings shooting at one another, as opposed to dueling computer game avatars, one-shot-takedown cinematic secret agents, or politicians shooting off their mouths.

No matter what you think you think about the various proposals to have armed guards in every nook and cranny and orifice in America, it would be worthwhile to acquaint yourself with “Your Brain Under Fire,” (Time Magazine, January 28 issue). This article gives an overview of the science behind how your brain reacts when you are shot at, or when you shoot at someone.  It’s a fascinating read – a mere three pages of text, should only take ten minutes of your time.  Or twice that if you are a NASCAR fan or were home-schooled at the Michele Bachmann Academy of Historical Reading Comprehension [3] or are a regular viewer of Toddlers & Tiaras.

*   *   *

Sitting on our counter is a delicious slice of Marionberry [4] goodness.  Not as in His royal badness, former DC mayor, Marion Barry

What’s on the counter is the remainder of a piece of Marionberry pie I hid in the freezer a couple of weeks ago (I wanted a taste of it before my son K used his I’m-returning-to-college-tomorrow excuse to finish it off).   Mere words cannot describe the berryliciousness of this treat, but since I’m not a fan of interpretive dance, language will have to suffice.  Yummers.

For the past x weeks we’ve been the beneficiaries of friend LAH’s project to cook her way through Rustic Fruit Desserts: Crumbles, Buckles, Cobblers, Pandowdies, and More, the cookbook from Portland’s legendary chef, restaurateur and James Beard Award winner, Cory Schreiber.  We’ve had fruit cobbler in the refrigerator, chocolate cake on the table, and more.  We’ve had cheesecake on the counter…but none in the boudoir.

Cheesecake in the boudoir

Believe it or not, Ripley, this particular segue will eventually make sense.

Televangelist Pat Robertson, arguably the first person to survive a partial brain abortion, has fought a lifelong battle with chronic AIM (ass-in-mouth) syndrome.  The unintentionally comical Robertson  can always be counted on to produce a bizarre brain boner during a slow news week.

Robertson’s face-palm worthy howlers have included attributing same sex attraction to evil spirits , earthquakes to voodootropical cyclones to legalized abortion , endorsing wife-beating and nuking the State Department .  The latest manifestation of his AIM comes in the form of his blaming “awful looking women” for marital monotony.

Which, of course, made me think of cheesecake in the boudoir.

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Please give me some good advice in your next letter. I promise not to follow it.
(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Letters)

As an adolescent growing up with politically conservative parents, I looked at friends’ copies of the LA Times for actual news reportage, and read the Orange County Register [5], the only newspaper in our household, for entertainment. Besides The Register’s editorial page, few of its regular features were more entertaining than The Worry Clinic, a syndicated advice column written by George Crane .

The Worry Clinic was a six days a week venture for Dr. Crane:  two days to worry about love and marriage, and one day each devoted to worrying about business, child-rearing, personality development, and what Crane called “mental hygiene.” (As Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Green noted, apparently Dr. Crane saved the seventh day so that he could worry himself, after worrying for everyone else the other six days.).

I don’t remember if The Register printed all of The Worry Clinic columns; I do remember they ran the ones that dealt with relationships and child-reading.  Dr. Crane, who somehow managed to receive several degrees from Northwestern University, liked to say that he learned most of what he needed to know working as a farm hand during summer vacations from high school and college. It showed.

Each of The Worry Clinic‘s columns was illustrated with a line drawing of a woman and/or a man, whose clothing and hairstyles were 1940-50s suburban caricatures.  No matter that it was the 1970s, few men sported hats, let alone fedoras, and women/housewives (the terms were synonymous in Dr. Crane’s world) seldom wore Betty Boop dresses and pearl necklaces when doing the dishes.

My parents clipped select TWC columns and scotch-taped them on that most passive-aggressive of family communication devices: the refrigerator door.  I penciled snarky comments next to the columns’ particularly flaming, WTF? passages, and enhanced the illustrations with moustaches and googly eyes.  I was never called on that vandalism editorializing by my parents, who therefore, I reasoned, never re-read the columns they’d taken the time to clip and post.  The postings themselves were evidence that my parents read TWC, and for different reasons than I, who used them as a horrifying/amusing, negative barometer of sorts. Indeed, Crane’s “advice” provided many of the formative, click moments that reinforced my growing feminist understanding of the world.

 There was certain egalitarianism to Crane’s counsel.  No matter if the advice seeker was man or woman, young or old – TWC advice, in a nutshell, [6] consisted of three tenets:

1.  If wives are not slavishly praising their husbands they are nagging their husbands.
There is no  in-between.
2. All marital/family discord is due to wives not serving their husbands
enough “cheesecake in the boudoir.”
3. See (2)

Your husband ridiculed your father’ s re-telling of his How I Single-handedly Won the Battle of Iwo Jima story during Christmas dinner, and now your parents aren’t speaking to you? You obviously aren’t serving your husband enough Cheesecake in the boudoir. 

Your children are doing C- work at school and smart-mouthing you at home?  The wife should be serving her mate more Cheesecake in the boudoir. 

Although you correct them at every opportunity, your in-laws refer to your disabled daughter as “that cutesy-wootsy Mongoloid?”  Hubby needs Cheesecake in the boudoir.

Ashamed by your failure to be a loving husband after you criticized your wife for developed a bleeding ulcer when your son returned from the Vietnam War a heroin-addicted, double amputee?   Your wife needs to serve you more Cheesecake in the boudoir.  

Boudoir-free Cheesecake

This crust-free version has way less calories and fat grams, and thus less guilt (pre- or post-feminist), than your typical cheesecake.

– ½ c sugar
– 2 T all purpose unbleached flour
– ½ T pure vanilla
-16 oz Neufchatel or nonfat cream cheese, softened
-2 whole eggs
-3 ounces sweet baking chocolate, melted. (optional). [7]

1. preheat oven to 325.  Put a kettle of water on to boil.
2. Combine sugar, flour, vanilla & cream cheese in a mixing bowl.  Use an electric beater on medium speed to mix the ingredients until they are well-blended.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
3. lightly oil or spray four 5 oz custard cups with neutral [8] cooking spray/oil.  Place cups in an 8″ or 9″ square baking pan.
4. poon cheesecake batter into the cups. Drizzle spoonfuls of the melted chocolate over the surface of the batter and use a toothpick or thin-bladed knife to make as many swirly chocolate designs as your foo-foo heart desires.
5. transfer pan to oven; add hot water to the pan, enough to come halfway up the sides of the cups.  Bake for 45 minutes.
6. Use oven mitts to oh-so-carefully remove the custard cups from what is now their very hot water bath.  The individual cheesecakes will be puffy, and will “fall” a bit as they cool.  When cool enough to handle, cover the cups and refrigerate them overnight, or at least for two hours.

Serve as is, or top with one or more of the following: slices of fresh berries, a dollop of lowfat sour cream or greek yogurt  whipped with vanilla or a dash of lemon juice, shavings of best quality dark chocolate, crushed peppermints or crumbled chocolate creme de menthe thins, (or for a real treat, Ghiradelli’s Peppermint Bark )

*   *   *

Department of StartingTo Sound Like The Old Folks

All together now:  How can it be February, already?

‘Tis a relatively brief but important month, filled with several way-cool happenings, including my daughter’s birthday (number 17, yikes). February 1 has hosted its share of significant cultural events. I shall mention only the most important two:

* the 1954 birth of writer-producer-musician-actor Bill Mumy, beloved by aficionados of bad sci-fi TV as Lost In Space‘s Will Robinson.

* the 1964  attempt by Indiana Governor Mathew Walsh to ban “Louie Louie” for obscenity. Really.  The FBI started an investigation into the matter and concluded, THIRTY ONE MONTHS LATER, that they were “unable to interpret any of the wording in the record.”  Of course, adults tittering over the need for such an investigation was like blowing a dog whistle to horny American teenagers,[9] who spent hours listening to the Kingman’s famously garbled hit single, trying to figure out what the Feds thought they heard and what the rest of us thought we’d missed.  Many a youthful fantasy was shattered when kids finally bought the sheet music for the song and discovered there was not a whole lotta shakin’ going on.

In hindsight, the Your Tax Dollars At Work department should have scheduled J. Edgar Hoover for a 5 minute tutoring session with a middle school grammar teacher, who could have explained to the closeted, cross-dressing, racist, evidence-planting, Commie-baiter defender of American Values the difference between obscenity and unintelligibility.

I would have paid good money to watch those hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Well, not quite yet.

[2] Cubist face; three eyes; one boob.

[3]  Iowa (January 2011) Bachmann declared: “We also know the very founders that wrote those documents (the US Constitution) worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States… Men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country.”  Not only did the writers of our constitution not “extinguish” slavery, they implicitly upheld the institution by regulating it.  And John Quincy Adams? He was extinguished in 1848, fifteen years before the Emancipation Proclamation.

[4] Yet another reason to love Oregon, home to the crossbreed Marionberry, released in 1956. A good year for blackberry hybrids. And Chevys. And women.

[5] Even my parents recognized that the libertarian-leaning OC Register was biased in its coverage of public schools. If I came home with a story about how an African-American student sassed a Chicano student for sneezing on his ‘fro pick during lunch recess, The Register would run a story the next day about how there was yet another race riot at Santa Ana High School.

[6] An appropriate container

[7] Are you allergic to chocolate? No? Then it’s not optional.  Who am I kidding?

[8] “Neutral” refers to the taste the oil imparts, and carries no political inference.  Neutral oils are nearly flavorless; olive oils have distinct flavors and are never neutral, even if the olives are from Sweden or Switzerland.

[9] Pardon the redundancy.