Home

The Saudis I’m Not (yet) Terrorizing

Comments Off on The Saudis I’m Not (yet) Terrorizing

It’s been a while since I’ve undocked my laptop from the mother ship and taken it to a coffee shop.  I don’t need the caffeine but I will need the wifi in order to post this.  Our landline/modem are down (as well as my cell phone’s voicemail, a glitch that has no technical relation to the former problems, but it all happened at once, all of a sudden and apropos of nothing, so WTF?).

When informed about my various technical/communications snafus, perspicacious friend SCM asked, “What have you done to piss off the NSA?”

*   *   *

The Grammar cop is always on her beat.

Tuesday’s New York Times featured a cover story about labor and safety demands made by Nepalese Sherpas in light of the Mt. Everest avalanche tragedy.  The Grammar Cop is issuing a warrant for the arrest of the mountaineering company owner who was quoted in the story.  The charge: illegal (yet admittedly impressive) usage of two torpid terms [1] in a row, thus creating an emphasis redundancy:

“The bottom line is, at the end of the day, if the Sherpas aren’t happy….”

Remember, every time you make a typo, the errorists win.

*   *   *

Hoping the Terrorists Win This One

 Saudi Arabia has issued a combination of royal decrees and legislation which, according to Human Rights Watch, will serve to criminalize virtually all dissent thought or expression, and which define terrorism as, “Calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based.”

Oh-so-disturbing, but oh-so-hardly surprising. Saudi Arabia has a dismal, to put it mildly, human rights record. [2]  Its inexorable oppression of women has been likened to gender apartheid, and – imagine this! – the Islamic monarchy remains one of the very few countries in the world not to accept the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Yo, King Abdulla and your misogynist, racist, Islamite religionist, Stone Age stooges: this Royal Turd Trophy is for you.

*   *   *

Dateline: San Francisco, mid-1980’s.  A friend and former college apartment mate, who’d moved to the East Coast to pursue his master’s degree, was back to The Coast for a visit, and arranged for us to meet up at the dive bar of his choice.

Much to the amusement (and sometimes, annoyance) of our other roommates, Yanny [3] and I liked nothing better than to chew the intellectual fat.  That night in SF we were in fine form, chomping far and wide, so to speak.  I can’t remember which one of us brought it up, but the night (and drinks) ended with us gnawing on this proposition: if you could be endowed with tremendous or fantastic abilities/features/talents in one area, what would you choose?  And which trait do you think would have the most impact upon your personal and professional life?

You can have genius intelligence – you could understand at a glance Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity and see where Max Plank should have tweaked his quantum theory.  Or, you have perfect pitch, can sight read music, possess a singing voice that causes Vladmir Putin to embrace kittens and weep with joy when he hears you belt out Time to Say Goodbye.  Or, your athletic ability is such that the decathlon isn’t enough of a challenge for you, and the International  Olympic Committee decides to add a fweptathalon (that would be the term for forty-one events, right?) to showcase your abilities.  Or….

I mentioned the obligatory caveat, that many historical figures deemed genius were not all that content with or successful in their personal lives. Then Yanny and I, almost simultaneously, brought up the idea that one extreme attribute, the one that involved the least amount of aptitude and/or effort, was also the one trait most likely to affect your life in a positive manner:  that of being good-looking.

The world is our oyster…whatever that means.

In various psychology and sociology classes we’d read about the “perks of pretty,” or what was sometimes called the “Beauty Effect.” [4]  Controlled studies show that, absent any behavioral or verbal cues, beautiful people are regarded to be more talented, kind, friendly, competent, honest and intelligent than their less attractive counterparts, and that “people go out of their way to help attractive people — of the same sex and opposite sex —because they want to be liked and accepted by good-looking people.”

Yanny and I, while hardly trolls, had long been aware of our place among the pulchritude-inally challenged.  We swapped the-entire-lecture-hall-snorted-with-duh-osity stories about the times our professors had brought up a Beauty Effect story. Say it ain’t so, prof – beautiful people have an advantage/get special treatment in this world? Stop the presses!  Alert the National Guard!

I don’t recall either Yanny or moiself confessing, screw integrity, we’d take the beauty superpower. I also don’t recall ifI felt we’d lied about that.

*   *   *

This, of course, brings me to Julia Sweeney.

Segue smackdown!

Sweeney is a comedian/screenwriter/actor/author/essayist/playwright – yes, she’s one of those multiple slash identity people.  Most folks know her as the creator and star of the “It’s Pat”  series of Saturday Night Live sketches.

I greatly admired Letting Go of God, Sweeney’s moving and amusing memoir (and subsequent theatrical monologue show & movie), in which she recounted her journey to letting go of Catholicism and taking hold of a “precarious, messy, cruel, and glorious,” natural worldview.  I’d heard her speak at two Freedom From Religion Foundation annual conventions, most recently during last year’s gathering, at the FFRF home base in Madison, WI.  Sweeney’s speech included an uproarious excerpt from what was to become her latest book, and I made a note to self:  get that one.

If It’s Not One Thing It’s Your Mother is that book.  It contains many interwoven stories, most of which revolve around how Sweeney adopted her daughter Mulan[5] from China, and how she met the man she would later marry via an email solicitation from her future husband’s gay brother.

One of my favorite chapters concerned Mulan’s school experiences.  A friend of Sweeney’s sent his three kids to the same upscale Santa Monica preschool Sweeney’s daughter briefly attended.  [6]  This friend provided Sweeney with a spot-on explanation of the abundance of Young, Beautiful and Thin Mothers ® at the school (in response to Sweeney’s astonishment at the spectacle– “It’s like a beauty pageant around here!”):

 A lot of women come to Hollywood because they are very beautiful…they come here because this is where you can really exploit your luck at being born gorgeous. Maybe they want to be actresses. Maybe the part of being an actress they like most is the part where people admire your beauty. Sometimes they make it in show business. Most, however, do not.

 Then, you have a lot of very successful men in Hollywood. Many of them were overlooked in high school. They have a deep psychological need to be with a knockout. This need is a gasoline that powers their desire to dominate. The women decide that their best bet is to marry these men and seal the deal by having a couple of kids. They’re like anyone assessing their prospects in the face of their declining value because they’re getting older. Can you blame them? It’s a smart move…And many of them do not work outside the home, and they have the time, and the desire, to hang out at the school, parading their beauty for all of us to enjoy.
(from Chapter Twenty-Two, “An Education,” If It’s Not one Thing It’s Your Mother)

I recommend the book for an entertaining read.  If you read it in public – say, during your commute or lunch hour – you will also provide entertainment for those around you.  You’ll laugh; you’ll cry; you’ll retch. The chapter on her daughter discovering the mechanics of sex courtesy of a frog project at school made for laughing-so-hard-I-cried reading.  As for the retching, that came from reading about Sweeney’s encounter at a playground, a few days after Sweeney and Mulan returned from a Hawaiian vacation. A Korean mother approached Sweeney and chided her for the robust tan Mulan had acquired:

“You know, we don’t let our kids get that dark…I mean she looks like she’s black,” the Korean mother said.  Making a disgusted face, she added, “A Korean mother would not let that happen.”

*    *   *

Simple Pleasures of Spring: the Return of (our) Blue Man Group

Simple Pleasures of Spring, the Sequel

Walking home from lunch at a local Lebanese-Persian café, I got caught in a hailstorm.  I had my trusty rain hat on, but discovered that my favorite “water resistant” pants have apparently adopted the Borg mantra: Resistance is futile.

*   *   *

May all of your man groups be blue, may your resistance be effective, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1]  Torpid terms are vapid words and phrases used in place of vital ones (e.g. using “the bottom line” instead of conclusion, keynote, upshot, main point), as per the Thesaurus of alternatives to Worn-Out Words and Phrases

[2] I feel kinda dirty even using the words “Saudi Arabia’ and “human rights” in the same sentence.

[3] The etiology of his nickname comes from a long involved story about my implying that there was a Norwegian somewhere in his family’s allegedly exclusive Jewish woodpile…a story I cannot remember in its entirety, for which you should be grateful.

[4]Beautiful people get more of everything positive in life – from pay raises to social status and career and academic opportunities , and probably less crappy stuff, like mosquito bites and bedbug infestations and spam email….

[5] Yes, Mulan is her real/given Chinese name; she was not named after the Disney princess, as Sweeney will be explaining for life.

[6] Sweeney soon realized the school’s fancy, creepily opulent atmosphere was not for her, and enrolled Mulan in public schools.

The Thumbs I’m Not Lowering

2 Comments

Roger Ebert loved movies.
Except for those he hated.

So begins the Chicago SunTime’s feature on the death of film critic and author Roger Ebert.  Ebert was one of the few critics (in any field) whose work I respected, even when I disagreed with his opinions.  I’ve always suspected Ebert secretly loved those movies he supposedly hated, because they afforded him the opportunity to pen the most entertaining of his critiques.  Check out these two collections of some of his most scathing reviews, his books I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie, and the exquisitely titled, Your Movie Sucks.

Having read a news article just days ago about Ebert’s announcement of his cancer’s recurrence, I feared the worst was coming, soon.  Yesterday I intended to forward the article to friend and fellow movie lover CC [1].  I logged on to the computer, and there was the sad news.

Rereading that last paragraph, I’m thinking that while I may have “feared the worst,” Ebert didn’t.  As followers of his blog know, Ebert wrote with clear-eyed eloquence about his battle with cancer and the contemplation of his inevitable demise, from the perspective of a literate, intelligent, contemplative and grateful atheist/agnostic/deist/non-believer/free-thinker…. [2]

Ebert was fond of a quotation by Brendan Behan, which he cites in the following excerpt from arguably his most profound blog entry – you must, must, must read it –  Go Gentle Into That Good Night. [3]

I respect kindness in human beings first of all, and kindness to animals. I don’t respect the law; I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer. 

“For 57 words, that does a pretty good job of summing it up. ‘Kindness’ covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”
(Roger Ebert, 1942 – 2013)

I am happy he lived long enough to share that.  Two thumbs up to a life well-lived.  The balcony is closed.

The key to maintaining a motivated, youthful perspective is immaturity.
Chapter 324 in a never-ending series.

 I rarely listen to music when I’m working on new material.  Doing the bizness stuff – what I consider to be unpleasant, logistical/housekeeping chores of writing – requires both distraction and fortification.  While researching agents to query about my novel, I had the following inspirational song [4] on repeat play. Which may explain my success in querying agents.

*   *   *

 The new updesk is here!  The new updesk is here!

Actually it’s been here for a couple of weeks, but the screw holes for the crossbar of the desk’s left leg were improperly threaded, and so a new left leg had to be sent from the company’s headquarters in Tennessee.

Two years ago, right around the time MH was having surgery on his back, I became concerned with the sedentary nature of my profession.[5]  No matter that I am a lifelong, devoted, daily exerciser – the latest research says that we desk people are sitting ourselves to death.  I installed an ergonomic program on my computer that makes little icons to pop up a regular intervals to nag remind me to get up and move/stretch. That helped…a little.

I began experimenting with a makeshift [6] standing desk, and discovered I liked standing and working. I also discovered that the relief to my back came at the expense of my knees, a discovery predicted by more of that pesky ergonomics research, which says that there are musculoskeletal problems associated with any prolonged posture.[7]  Also, there are times when I just want to sit and work.  Wouldn’t it be great to be able to quickly and conveniently switch between the two modes without having to unplug/schlep everything?

The techno Good Fairies [8] granted the wishes of moiself and others who seek to reinvent our work environment, as I discovered when I searched for adjustable height desks.

We received the new desk leg yesterday, and handy husband MH assembled the contraption.  After three weeks of having my office torn apart/rearranged and my papers and materials divide up between the office and kitchen table, I am so behind with everything, and The Mighty Quinn is coming out in four weeks and I haven’t had time to get back to the office and take the desk for a test drive.  Ah, but tomorrow with a push of a button I will be able to raise or lower the desk to two present heights, or any height from 26.5″ to 42.5.”  The future is here (and, as usual, catches me wearing my sweatpants)!

*   *   *

 Future, schmuture:  back to the Middle Ages.  Which means, of course, a breaking news update on an Islamist society.

Get your motors running, gals, and let’s go kick some Saudi ass!

In yet another stunning stumble leap toward entering the 19th century, Saudi Arabia has lifted its ban on women riding bicycles. As you know, Saudi women may not drive cars, run for public office or vote, or appear in public unless smothered covered head to toe in a black funeral shroud stylish abaya-niquab-hijab combo.  However, as of this week the Mutaween, the kingdom’s notoriously conservative religious police, are allowing female Saudis to ride motorbikes and bicycles in certain areas…providing that a male relative or guardian accompanies the biking babes.

 The Mutaweenies also stipulates that women may not use the bikes for transportation but “only for entertainment,” [9] and that they must not ride near men “to avoid harassment.”

Saudi Leaders March for Equality

They’re baaaaack.

Faster than cinema patrons fleeing a Poltergeist sequel showing! More powerful than a politician’s ego! Able to leap inconsistent alibis in a single press conference! It’s SuperCluelessman!

I refer of course to the spectacle that is the political resurrection of Mark Sanford, the self-awareness-impaired former governor of South Carolina.  This week Sanford emerged from the slime seemingly out of nowhere to win his state’s Republican House primary, held for the special election that will fill the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Tim Scott.  The special election, slated for May 7, will pit Sanford against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, Stephen Colbert’s sister.

Brief background info:  In 2009 Sanford resigned as chairman of the Republican Governors Association after he admitted to an affair with an Argentinean woman. [10] Sanford was later censured by both the House Judiciary Committee and the South Carolina House of Representatives, as per Sanford’s misuse of state travel funds to conduct his affair.  But the real fun had come earlier in the year, when Sanford, the executive administrator of his state, became the subject of nationwide news coverage because for seven days his location was unknown to anyone – not his constituents, not his wife, not the State Law Enforcement Division which provided security for him.

Providing material for late night TV for weeks, Sanford had told his staff that during his absence he would be hiking the Appalachian Trail.  When a reporter caught him arriving at Atlanta’s airport on a flight from Argentina, Sanford quickly organized a news conference, during which he admitted that when he was supposedly hiking the Appalachian Trail he was actually pursuing some Argentinean tail. [11]

Oh, but that was then and this is now.  Sanford is now back on the campaign trail, and between self-righteous proclamations of change and milking the politics of forgiveness (he’s made mistakes, you know, and none of us is perfect, praise Jeeeeeesus), he also wants you to know that no one seems to know anything about his opponent aside from the fact that she is Stephen Colbert’s sister. On April third he made a point of highlighting this fact on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show:

“She’s not held office. Right now, the one thing that people know about her is that she is Stephen Colbert’s sister. Well, at the end of the day, Stephen Colbert is a very popular, well-regarded comedian, but at the end of the day he’s not on the ticket.”

Oh really?  At the end of the day?  Why not, at the beginning of the evening?  Or, in the middle of the afternoon? Or at the cusp-if-not-quite-not-the-edge-of-the-dusk….

Forget all the other crap Mark Sanford has done and said.  The most compelling reason for not voting in this lying, cheating, censured sack of shit into office is that he used that vapid idiom TWICE, IN THE SAME SENTENCE. Which I didn’t even think was possible.

May the hiking hijinks ensue.

*   *   *

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Our nicknames for each other, when planning our movie dates, are Gene and Roger.

[2] These and other labels were given, by others, to Ebert, who refused all labels for this himself.

[3] which also served as the last chapter of his memoir, Life Itself.

[4] Included as a cardboard record in a 1963 issue of Mad magazine.

[5] Translation: my back began to hurt.

[6] Translation, the sequel: monitor & keyboard propped up on lots of books and other non-desk items.

[7] Translation, the last:  “ouch”

[8] Chill out, you paranoid dudes, it’s a compliment.

[9] Riding around in a circle to amuse yourself and your “male guardian” is kosher (ahem), but Allah forbid a women might actually use a bike to get somewhere.

[10] To whom he is now engaged.  Whaddya think, should I send them a toaster oven, or candlesticks?

[11] Not his exact words.  You can credit me on this one.