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The Shows I’m Not Watching

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Department Of I Dare You To Listen To This Without Crying

The 11th: A Letter From George

I need to rephrase that, because moiself  *wants* you to listen to this Radio podcast, even though it will make you cry.  [1]   Because a person you love, maybe even your own self, is either walking in Matt’s shoes, or will be, someday.

Matt is the grieving man who is interviewed in this The 11th: A Letter From George  podcast, which, as per the Radiolab website, is part of a series

“… of mini pep talks designed to help us all get through this cold, dark,
second-pandemic-winter-in-a-row.
But this is about someone trying to get through something arguably much more difficult, something a pep talk can’t solve, but that a couple friends — and one very generous stranger — might be able to help make a little more bearable.”

 

 

In the interview, Matt tells how he wrote about his loss and grief to a man who was, essentially, a stranger, after a friend had given Matt an excerpt from a book by this stranger, the author George Saunders.  Matt found Saunders’ writing touching, and beneficial in that it wasn’t cliched:

“….he didn’t say it was going to get better;
he didn’t expect me to think that it was going to get better.
All it was, was just making me feel that the way I’m feeling is okay.”

Matt read from the letter he wrote to Saunders:

“Hello.  I just lost my fiancé two weeks ago, and she was buried last Saturday. She was 29; we had just moved into our first house together and we were about to start our life. A friend send me an excerpt from your new novel and I keep it with me always…. I don’t even know if anyone will see this, but I just want you to know that you have helped me.  I don’t even know what to do anymore, so thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve never experienced loss like this, and the only thing that’s keeping me from taking my life is that I know what it does to others. Be well.”

To Matt’s surprise, Saunders wrote back. 

“Dear Matt. Oh, I am so so sorry for your loss.
That must be just unspeakably difficult….
I don’t really know what to say, except that someone told me this recently: that grief is a form of praise.
You are praising the wonder of the person you lost. The great pain you are feeling means great love.  I can’t imagine that helps, but it is true.
It is like cause and effect, you really saw and knew and cherished her – that’s what your grief is proving
, and proving that she was wonderful, and that you appreciated that….”   [2]

 

 

Saunders later reached out to Matt on social media, to check in with him.  Their correspondence is beyond touching.

You deserve, and probably need ,  [3]  a good cry, followed by a good uplift.  You’ll get both if you listen to that episode.

*   *   *

Department Of Not The Murder Mystery Show I Was Expecting

 

Trigger warning: The following contains references to a “fact-based” TV series about murdered family members.

Dateline: two weeks ago, MH and I began watching A Confession, a six part BritBox series currently streaming on various services.  I knew next to nothing about it; I thought it was going to be a typical murder mystery.  But there wasn’t much of a mystery: the person who *seemed* to be the obvious perpetrator *was* the perpetrator.

Moiself  only made it to the first part episode three when I realized where the series was headed.  Despite the stellar acting and writing, I had to get up and leave the room.

 

 

It’s not a genre I spend a lot of time watching (or reading); still, it seems to me that in the typical murder mystery, the murder itself is or becomes almost a side note, to get the plot rolling to focus on

* the investigation and the antics of various law enforcement stock characters
(the jaded veteran, the /overenthusiastic but naive new recruit, etc.);

* the machinations of the legal/criminal justice system;

* what the crime and/or its investigation says about the larger culture.

The victim and family are not the primary focus.  In many cases where the story is an adaptation of a murder/mystery novel, you don’t even care about the victim, who is portrayed as an unsympathetic character, thus sparking the whodunit intrigue (“Whodunit?  The dude was a devious, hateful SOB – everybody who knew him had reason to dunit to him.”)

But A Confession, during the second episode, began to home in on the aftermath for the murdered young women’s families – their profound sorrows, horrors, regrets; their wrenching questions which will never be answered.  This change in focus is a change I welcome for the genre…in theory.  In practice, it turned out I was unprepared, and it proved to be too much for moiself  to continue watching.

 

 

Perhaps because the subject personal is to me, I can’t help but wonder:  do people who write these stories actually have close friends or family members who have been killed? I’m not talking about the classic or typical murder mystery series, many of which (e.g. the genre’s novels by Agatha Christie; Sayers, Grafton’s “alphabetical series”  [4]   )  seem to be almost…comical is not quite the word I’m looking for, but the tone is definitely light.  

But A Confession was quite dramatic and realistic,   [5]  in terms of showing the overwhelming emotional consequences haunting a murder victim’s family and friends.  And thus, my wondering:  would anyone who has experienced this kind of a tragedy write such a story for…entertainment? And that’s what it is, isn’t it?  We are watching a story about murder, to…pass the time, and amuse ourselves?  Even if “fact-based,” the stories are not documentaries; we’re not watching them for edification, or to be informed as to, say, how we can avoid serial killers. And that proposition seems odd, to me.

Confession A: I was riveted to “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” the HBO documentary based on the book of the same name, about the serial rapist and murderer known as the Golden State Killer.  Even though I knew what happened and how it ended,  [6]  moiself  still wanted to see the portrayal of (at least partial) justice done, as I felt a connection to the story.  I was in college near the area where the GSK started his crime spree – back then he was known as the East Area Rapist ( moiself  previously blogged about his capture).

Confession B: Silence of the Lambs is one of my all-time favorite movies – although I’ve no doubt it would *not* be if it were a true story.  Still, are A and B hypocrisies, or inconsistencies, on my part? 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Watch This Instead

That would be the National Geographic documentary, The Rescue.

You are likely at least somewhat familiar with the against-all-odds, how-the-hell-didn’t-they-all-die ?!?!?, amazing true story The Rescue tells. If not, here’s a teaser:

One day in June 2018, members of Thai boys soccer team and their coach went for a hike in the Tham Luang cave.  Most of the boys had been inside the cave before – exploring it was something of a local rite of passage, and they wanted to go further inside than they’d gone before, as part of a team-building exercise.  (Two team members, who were tired and/or not feeling well did not go into the cave).

The cave became flooded; rising waters from sudden torrential rains blocked the exit and trapped twelve boys (ages 11 -16) and their 25-year-old coach when they were 2.5 miles from the cave’s entrance.  Despite heroic efforts by Thai Navy SEAL divers,   [7]  search and rescue efforts were obstructed by the rising waters and strong currents within the cave.  Having no contact with the trapped party for a week, Thai authorities summoned British rescue divers specializing in cave diving, who found the group alive, trapped on a cave ledge.  But how the heck were they going to get them out?  An international rescue operation was mounted….

 

You’ll feel baby-sloth-heart-warmed, after watching this inspiring story.

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Flawless Segue To Yet Another Content Warning:

 

 

Department Of Next Time, Why Not Adopt An Egalitarian Mixed Breed?

Did you know that at least 60% of Golden Retrievers will develop cancer, and that cancer is the leading cause of death in all but 11 purebred dog breeds?

Calling all dog lovers:  please consider boycotting watching the Westminster Kennel Dog Show, and all other such grotesque spectacles which celebrate the dog “breed standards,” which contribute to people’s preference for purebreds, which is responsible for the lack of genetic diversity within “pure” breeds and the resulting decline in the health of such dogs.

Holy doggy-do disposal device – think about it: the very term “purebred” reeks of…well, privilege (and even canine racism, one could argue).

And remember, the  so-called “royal” families around the world have shown us what inbreeding can lead to.

 

 

“By age five, for example, half of all King Cavalier Spaniels will develop mitral valve disease, a serious heart condition that leaves the dogs susceptible to premature death. By the same age, up to 70 percent will suffer from canine syringomyelia, a debilitating neurological disorder in which the brain is too large for the skull, causing severe pain in the neck and shoulders, along with damage to parts of the dog’s spinal cord. And although Cavaliers may be a particularly obvious case of purebreds with problems, they aren’t alone. Most purebred dogs today are at a high risk for numerous inherited diseases….

For almost 4,000 years people have been breeding dogs for certain traits….But the vast number of modern breeds—and the roots of their genetically caused problems—came about over the past two centuries, as dog shows became popular and people began selectively inbreeding the animals to have specific physical features. Over time the American Kennel Club (AKC) and other such organizations have set standards defining what each variety should look like. To foster the desired appearance, breeders often turn to line breeding—a type of inbreeding that mates direct relatives, such as grandmother and grandson.”
(“Although Purebred Dogs Can Be Best in Show, Are They Worst in Health?”

Scientific American )

Because some humans think it’s cute for a dog to have, for example, a smashed-in face (ala the pug and bulldog varieties), dogs have been bred to emphasize features and traits that humans find adorable but which are in fact genetic disorders and malformations.

 

That’s shocking…but, what about cats?

 

The multi-exotic-breed-mania has infected the cat world to a lesser degree.  You don’t see the extremes in domestic cats:

*  43 – 71 recognized breeds (depending on what authority you listen to) ranging in size from a 5 lb Singapura to a 20 lb Main Coon

that you do in dogs:

* 360 recognized breeds, ranging from a 4 lb Chihuahua to a 300 lb English Mastiff.

Many veterinarians, biologists, cat breed associations, and other animal lovers want to keep it that way.  Noting that it is cruel to breed animals with genetic deformities intentionally, they protest the breeding of The Munchkin (aka “sausage cat”), a relatively new breed of cat characterized by very short legs caused by a genetic mutation.

While many people think Munchkins are cute (and call them the “wiener dogs” cats), their stunted limbs impact their mobility – they struggle to run and jump, and suffer from back and hip problems similar to those experienced by short-legged dog breeds.   [8]

 

Cute? Sure, if you think animals should be bred for debilitating and painful deformities to amuse you.

 

“Much controversy erupted over the breed when it was recognized by The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1997 with critics voicing concern over potential health and mobility issues.    Many pedigree cat associations around the world have refused to recognize the Munchkin cat due to the welfare of the breed and severity of the health issues,  including the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy.
(Wikipedia, Munchkin cat entry)

“Andrew Prentis, of Hyde Park Veterinary Centre has warned that it’s cruel to breed the cats knowing of their physical defects.  He said: ‘The cat in its natural form has evolved over thousands of years to be pretty well designed and to be very efficient, healthy and athletic.  The idea that someone wants to breed them to have effectively no legs and for entirely cosmetic reasons is very disappointing.’ …

A spokesperson for PETA told Metro.co.uk: ‘Let’s leave cats be and admire them for their natural selves. They’re not bonsai trees to be contorted into unnatural shapes on a selfish whim.

‘The demand for ‘designer pets’ is fueling cruel breeding practices that cause animals to suffer from painful, debilitating conditions such as lordosis, whereby their spinal muscles grow too short, meaning that the spine arches inwards, because their bodies are unnaturally long. People who buy them view them in the same way one might a designer handbag – and once the novelty wears off, many animals will inevitably be abandoned, putting extra strain on already overburdened shelters.

‘And while breeders continue to profit from churning out felines with genetic mutations, thousands of healthy, highly adoptable cats languish in shelters, just waiting for someone to take them home.’

( excerpts from “Vets are warning animal-lovers to stay away from the cruel trend
for so-called sausage cats.”  UK Metro )

Please, please, next time, adopt a mixed-breed, aka, a mutt.  If the demand for “pure” breeds (and “designer” breeds   [9]  and hybrids   [10])  goes away, so will the supply.

  

We’ll see you at the shelter!

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Royal Inbred Family Edition

The 17th century French royalty depleted their treasury…
I guess you could say they were baroque.

What was the Russian royalty’s favorite fish?
Czardines.

My dentist told me that I am a royal descendant!
I get my crown next week.

What member of the royal family should always carry an umbrella?
The Reigning Monarch.

 

*   *   *

May you advocate for the mutts of this world;
May you appreciate the heroic efforts of rescue divers
(while not being reckless enough to need their services);
May you forgive yourself for enjoying Silence of the Lambs;   [11]

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] If it doesn’t, then there’s something wrong with you.  Yes, that’s judgmental of me, but here, in this space, I am The Judge.  What, you didn’t get the memo?

[2] Excerpts from Saunders’ response (my emphases).

[3] Yeah, presumptive of moiself, isn’t it?

[4] “A is for Alibi…”B is for Burglar”… “C is for Corpse”….

[5] From what I saw, which, again, is why I couldn’t watch the series to its conclusion.

[6] I’d read the book.

[7] One of whom tragically died during an attempted rescue.

[8] (e.g. dachshunds and corgis, which were also bred for a naturally occurring but distorting and potentially crippling genetic mutations)

[9] For example, labradoodles, whose creator later lamented his decision to create the breed, saying, “I opened a Pandora box and released a Frankenstein monster.” (“Health Problems in Labradoodles.”)

[10] Four Facts About Hybrid Dogs Unethical Breeders Don’t Want You to Know

[11] Which is a finely crafted film, from writing, directing, acting, cinematography and soundtrack – the whole cinematic enchilada.

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.”

*   *   *

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 Cemetery I’m Not Visiting

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Department of AAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH

Radiolab is one of moiself’s favorite podcasts, as readers of this blog may have surmised from my mentioning it several times in this space. Recently the show has featured episodes of a themed series on sex and reproduction, titled, Radiolab Presents Gonads . During a recent morning walk I was listening to the July 26 episode of the Gonads series, Sex Ed. About half way through the episode the announcer made (what moiself considered to be) a startlingly inaccurate announcement:

“So far we’ve talked about condom demos without any condoms, periods, we even went on to talk about the deeply important topic of what happens to all the bananas after condom/banana demos….”

You know how NPR is proud of producing (inducing?) what they call “driveway moments?”  Hearing that announcement was, for moiself, yet another stopping-on-the-street-silently-screaming-to-nobody-who-can-hear moment.

Attention, well-meaning hosts of the Gonad series: No, you have not talked about “periods,” as in, menstrual cycles. Instead, you have presented one story about endometriosis[1]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over 90% of women do not have endometriosis.  But you Gonadians used the story about one woman’s struggle with a rare, painful medical condition as somehow representative or emblematic of “periods.” A consequence of this is, that some of the people who don’t know much about or have no personal experience of menstrual periods – and as you Gonads hosts mentioned, “half the people on the planet do not get them”– are going to conflate this phenomenon of repeatedly experiencing toe-curling pain as being common to all women. And there is enough weirdness when it comes to public knowledge of and discussion about menstrual cycles without focusing on an aberration.

 

 

 

 

 

Go out people-watching one day, to some public place where you can watch the crowds (and not look like a stalker).  Watch the people passing by, and try to figure out which of the women, on their way to and from work or the market or the park or the theatre, are having their menstrual periods. You can’t, because for most women it’s just another day of the week, except perhaps they needed to remember to pack a tampon in their purse….and where’s the sturm und drang   [2]  in that?

Radiolab Presents: Gonads is a multi-episode journey deep into the parts of us that let us make more of us. Longtime staff producer….explores the primordial roots of our drive to reproduce, introduces a revolutionary fertility procedure that sounds like science fiction, reveals a profound secret about gender that lives inside all of us, and calls on writers, educators, musicians, artists and comedians to debate how we’re supposed to talk to kids about sex.

Check out Misconceptions, part of a special exploration of fertility and reproduction from Romper & Radiolab.
(intro to the series, from the Radiolab site)

I’m well aware of the reasons why aberrations make for a “better” story. Like how the proverbial squeaky wheel gets the grease, the story of pain and inconvenience gets the attention. But please, earnest Gonadians, if you want to make a meaningful contribution to, as you say in your show’s description, how we’re supposed to talk to kids about reproduction and sex, why not focus on the more common reality? You could still produce an entirely entertaining segment about periods – say, by focusing on the myths and stereotypes and folklore and personal stories  [3] –  filled with interviews with people like…well, like the millions of women resembling me and my friends   [4] who experienced menstrual periods as just another bodily waste product to, ahem, periodically….

 

 

 

 

…. have to deal with, just another reality which was sometimes inconvenient but which, like with other normal bodily function, we did not customarily go around complaining or even talking about it (Goddamn it, I have to pee again and I just peed yesterday!) unless there was a major inconvenience – or entertaining story – related to it (I foolishly drank 6 cups of coffee before getting on the train only to discover there were no working toilets aboard and no stops for three hours and I was so desperate I tried to find a discrete corner where I could take a camel’s bladder-sized whizz into my briefcase….”).

 

 

 

 

 

And hey, Gonadians, about that last sentence in your intro: I realize the pun refers to another show, but speaking of misconceptions, there are so many about “periods,” and y’all have not serve to clear any up.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I worked in the reproductive health care field, in both “public” and “private” settings.  [5]  I saw firsthand how the depiction of severe menstrual pain as a normality can keep women from seeking medical help when they have an untreated STD or an ovarian cyst or uterine fibroids or other abnormalities which can cause extreme discomfort. Just as importantly, the normalization of extreme period pain fits right into the script of fundamentalist religions and the patriarchy – that girls and women are somehow damaged and crippled).

 

 

 

 

 

 

So. Nice try, Gonadians, for tackling “periods,” a – what did you call it, a once “taboo subject” –  and focusing on the less than 10% thing that would put the boo in taboo, rather than the 90% which would make it seem like what it is – another natural, essential, biological process.

Yep, I’m annoyed by PMS – Period Misrepresentation Schmucks.

 

 

 

 

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Department Of Little Known Gems Used As A Post-Rant Segue

What do references to an obscure Michael Caine-Christopher Reeve-Dyan Cannon movie, velcro, Harry Potter & Dracoy Malfoy, and NASCAR  have in common?  Why, that would be the song, Two Guys Kissin’ Ruined My Life:

 

 

 

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Department Of Whistling Through The Graveyard

My two other siblings and I recently received an email from our older sister, which contained pictures of our parents’ respective grave markers.  The occasion was the arrival and installation of our mother’s marker. 

I am not a Gravesite Visiting Type Of Person ® .   [6] It’s not that I deliberately avoid going to the cemetery where my parents’ caskets  [7]  are buried in adjoining plot: I don’t have to be deliberate about it, since the cemetery is in So Cal and I live in Oregon.  Cemetaries; gravesites – it’s just not how I remember people. Should I be in So Cal visiting relatives and, for whatever reason,   [8] a trip to the cemetery is on the agenda, sure, I’ll tag along.  But there will be no purposeful pilgrimage on my part to see the graves.

Nevertheless, I appreciate the pictures my sister sent, and the stories behind them.

 

 

The inscription on my father’s (below the “Beloved husband….”) is an oft-repeated tagline of Chet’s – his mantra, if you will:  “These are the good times.”

When our mother’s gravestone arrived, my sister was surprised to discover that the headstone company had given us a stone slightly larger than the size she’d ordered for our father (and for no extra charge!), even though she thought she’d ordered the same size for our mother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I like the idea of Marion’s headstone being just a wee bit bigger than Chet’s, seeing as how in life, my introverted mother was often (if unintentionally) overshadowed by the “bigger” personality of my outgoing father.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was joking relief expressed by one of the Parnell siblings, that the arrow for Mom’s inscription is pointing the right direction – toward her husband’s marker, indicating with whom she enjoyed the “good times.”  Although I got a kick out of imagining what if it wasn’t – what if the arrow pointed toward the right, to the next gravesite over, to another man’s gravestone.  ‘Twould give passers-by  [9] something interesting to speculate about.

 

*   *   *

 

May you always have something interesting to speculate about;
May you remember to focus on the 90% ;
May you watch that Michael Caine-Christopher Reeve-Dyan Cannon movie;   [10]
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Involving endometrial tissue which, for reasons not understood to medical science, growing outside of a woman’s uterus.

[2] I need to start using more German phrases in this blog. Suggestions are appreciated.

[3] Almost every woman I know has a hilarious story or six about how their own mothers/grandmothers/aunts had to navigate a world in which “such things” were not discussed.

[4] Ok, back when we were young enough to still be having periods.

[5] Respectively, Planned Parenthood clinics and a private OB/GYN medical practice.

[6] Yes, that is one of the lesser known “types” included in the earlier versions of the Briggs Meyers personality inventory, along with Intuitive, Judging, Thinking, Perceiving, Feeling, Gravesite-Visiting, Dentist-Avoiding….

[7] I am also not a casket-approving person. If it were up to me, all burials would be replaced by cremations.

[8] “Your entertainment choices are a trip to the cemetery to visit Mom’s and Dad’s gravesites, or attend your nieces’ and nephews” school talent show where each grade competes by singing their version of “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie.”

[9] Including that anonymous (to us) man’s family members.

[10]Deathtrap.”

The Metaphor(s) I’m Not Ignoring

Comments Off on The Metaphor(s) I’m Not Ignoring

Department Of It’s The Apocalypse…
And Here I Am, Still In My Yoga Pants

“…what does not kill me makes me stronger.”
(often paraphrased “That which does not kill me/us makes me/us stronger,” from Twilight of the Idols, by German philosopher and scholar Friedrich Nietzsche

While inspiring at first glance, that line always makes me think of…the alternatives. That which does not kill me may make me stronger, OR it may…

* suck all the energy out of my nostrils and leave my withered parsnip of a body slouched on the couch, good for nothing but cat hairball storage….

* ricochet off my lower jaw, leaving a nasty scar and ruining my burgeoning career as a WaterPik ® model while also taking out the totally innocent dude who had the misfortune of sitting  next to me on the light rail train…

* leave me with hemorrhoids and stretch marks and a petty yet profound, WTF?!?!? resentment of those who remember the excruciating pain of unmedicated childbirth as the happiest day of my life….

Not that any of the above are bad things.

*   *   *

Also not a bad thing – cute animal pictures.

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Speaking Of What Does Or Doesn’t Kill You

Longtime friends and former neighbors, a Swedish-Canadian couple, temporarily relocated to Sweden last month. Over the years I have enjoyed getting their perspective on American culture and politics. In response to a recent lament from moiself re the current state of affairs, the female Swenadian had this to say:

We’re fine on this end of the ocean. Like everyone one at home we are sickened by Trump’s reign of terror so far….We’ve decided we need to have Trump-free conversation times so every dinner isn’t hijacked by the a******….

She encouraged me to hang in there by passing along this observation from the other Swenadian: He (Trump) is old, doesn’t eat healthy, and is always mad. Shouldn’t that add up to a heart attack?

Ah, sweet dreams are made of these…

…until I considered the fact that, in my experience, such people don’t have heart attacks, they cause them in others. They are carriers. Typhoid Mary, meet Cardiac Agent Orange.

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Department of Fuck, Yeah

For a moment I sez to moiself, can you believe it’s gotten to this – I’m hoping for a heart attack on someone? Considering the alternatives….

 

 

 

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Ever since the Women’s March I keep having these epic/spectacle, Cecil B. DeMille cast of thousands/ dreams…and I am so dating myself by are using that reference. Perhaps it should read, George Lucas/CGI cast of green screen avatars….

Yet again, I digress. Y’all may get the point, anyway. In these dreams, I am living in a society attacked by outside forces which have mind-controlled many of the society’s citizens. There is a Resistance Movement, organized and guided by a young woman who looks like a cross between the lead actor in Rogue One  and the child actor who played Laura Ingalls in the TV series Little House on the Prairie…which may not bring to mind visions of smart/cutting/courageous leadership, but trust me, she’s effective.

Although I am an active participant in the dreams I am also vaguely aware that the scenarios are dreams, and keep trying to get myself out of them because, frankly, they are exhausting. I manage to wake myself up, get a drink of water, return to bed, go back to sleep…then, despite my best subconscious efforts, the pattern repeats.

After three nights of this I realized what my subconscious was/is telling me: I feel like we are in some kind of resistance, in our own country, against those who presume to lead us. Those who present us with frightening Orwellian concepts like alternative facts seem to be totally unaware that they are doing so, and likely have no firsthand knowledge of the concept Orwellian. They seem to be as culturally illiterate as they are morally bankrupt, even to the point that their leader, the Agent Orange/Predator-in-Chief essentially bragged about how he doesn’t read books.

Yet we marvel at Orwell’s prescience, as his Newspeak, Blackwhite, Doublespeak and other totalitarian obfuscation concepts have gone from to dystopian fantasy to Trumpian reality, in the form of what the CHOTUS [1] himself, his inner circle, and his supporters are saying, with jaw-droppingly straight faces.

Alternative facts.

 

 

I never thought I’d live to see the day when such cognitive buggery was flaunted!

 

 

 

The Rest of Us ®  can help out by refusing to use the far-right’s language of obfuscation. The Alt right movement sounds…relatively harmless, like a genre of rock music. [2]   Call those people and organizations what, upon examination of their beliefs and ideals, they actually are: social media savvy versions of the White Supremacist/NeoNazi/White Identity movements.

Facts do not have “alternatives.” Five is not an alternative answer to the question, What does 2+2 equal?  You may have your own feelings and opinions about what a fact means to you, but you can’t have your own facts. The alternative to a fact is, in fact, a falsehood…a fiction…a fabrication…an untruth – an ignorance at best, but most realistically and expediently as per the Trumpsters, a lie.

 

 

I wrote Trumpsters, not dumpsters.  On second thought….

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Department Of And Now For…(oh, you know)

 

 

Blast from the past: Fifty years ago, Bobbie Gentry’s haunting ballad, Ode to Billie Joe, became a national and international hit song. Fifty years later, the song’s lyrical linchpin is still one of the popular music’s best kept secrets, one that, IMHO, continues to best even the theories regarding who was the you in Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain.

Speculation abounds, and we still don’t know what was the somethin’ the song’s narrator and Billie Joe McAllister threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge.  And that, along with the fact that OTBJ is one marvelous, Southern Gothic tragedy of a tale, is what makes OTBJ so compelling, even after all these years.

Bobbie, Carly – girlfriends, are you listening? Please, for the sake of those of us who appreciate the art of a finely drawn mystery: continue to be the class acts you have shown yourselves to be, and take your respective lyrical secrets to your respective graves.

 

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Department Of Once Again I Find Myself Yelling Into Thin Air

Make that thin, windy air, as was the case Wednesday morning when, out for my morning constitutional, I was listening to a Radiolab podcast.  As is often the cast with Radiolab episodes, there were several orbital tales which circled a central issue/event/story – in this case, how the people of Guadeloupe [3] held a special place in their hearts and minds for the Guadeloupe raccoon, largely because the destructive omnivores cute creatures were  thought to be a separate species distinctive to the region, and then how Guadeloupians reacted when taxonomic and genetic analysis done by scientists and natural history museums revealed the Guadeloupe raccoon to be a common raccoon native to North America.  [4]

The episode, titled Stranger In Paradise, was one I enjoyed on many levels, including the fact that it made me think of my daughter Belle, and her work with her school’s Slater Museum Of Natural History. What got me yelling to the podcast myself was when the episode’s host was discussing, with one of the scientists involved in the GR’s “de” classification, the ramifications of the scientific revelation. Most Guadeloupians were not at all happy to have an animal they’d elevated to an unofficial national symbol turn out to be an imposter (re its distinctiveness). The host asked the scientist whether or not it was a good thing for a biological truth to override or correct a cultural legend – essentially, whether or not the truth about GRs should matter:

“One of the deep questions to this story is…you came to a scientific truth, and the question becomes, should that scientific truth win the day?”

“Are you fucking kidding?!?!? I screamed to myself. Withhold facts (aka the truth, the most up-to-date evidence) from people because it might upset them?

 

 

 

 

I was momentarily furious with the host for even asking such a question, until I realized its inevitability. The Guadeloupe raccoon brouhaha: yet another for human cognitive biases, who knew?

We humans like our stories – particularly those which make us feel special. Our own species [5]  tends to criticize, discount and even ignore that which contradicts our beliefs, sometimes to the point of doing the intellectual equivalent of covering our ears with our hands and chanting Nyah Nyah Nyah blah blah I CAN’T HEAR YOU when confronted with new evidence.

Upset our alternative facts with your pesky reality and you’ll deal with the cultural consequences.

 

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Department Of
You Mean You’re The Lunatic Who’s Responsible For Destroying My Country Ship?!

 

Speaking of metaphors….

We need one or two (or a dozen or more) Republican and Democrat representatives with the cojones/ovaries to assume command from a lunatic. Right now, in our country, the in-over-his-head, thinks-he’s-Da-Boss-but-is-actually-the-delusional-maniac-who-will-lead-us-all-to-our-deaths, Commodore Decker is being played by….can you guess?

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you be as taxonomically distinctive as your heart desires;
May you listen to your head when your heart desires stupid shit;
May our current political nightmare stop happening during the daytime;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Cheetos Hitler of the United States, he who is not worthy of the POTUS acronym.

[2] Yeah, Emo music could sound a little too much like “Ricky Nelson doing the Sex Pistols,” but it’s not like it was a danger to society.

[3] A French region consisting of islands in the Lesser Antilles island chain of the Caribbean Sea.

[4] Thus, not only was the RG nothing special, it was likely an invasive species, posing a danger to the islands’ limited ecosystem.

[5] Arguably, the most invasive species on planet Terra.