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The Troops I’m Not Supporting

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Would you like to support our troops?

It’s that same woman outside the same grocery store, sitting at the same folding table covered with the same pile of camouflage pens and toys and ribbons and bracelets, and flag pins and bumper stickers and decals.  “Would you like to support our troops?” she says – a statement more than a question – and she waves her hand over the pile of schocky military-themed shit allegedly patriotic crap.

 

*  Is this a private charity, and if so, what is its name?

* Will I find your organization listed on Charity Navigator and/or give well and/or GiveWell and/or CharityWatch and/or other independent organizations that vet charities for cost effectiveness and transparency and efficiency and efficacy of donation usage?

* Do you have a statement on your administrative overhead/costs? If not, can you tell me where does the money go? How much do you make on each plastic brimmed camouflage hat, and what percentage of the sale of this…merchandise…goes to “the troops,” and by “the troops” what do you mean….?

Those are the questions I thought to ask, but didn’t. Instead, mindful that I had things to do/places to be, I responded tersely, but truthfully. I paused at the table, looked at the WTF? collection of items, then favored her with what I hoped was an expression of genuine regret at the ignorant naiveté of her request, and not the disgust I felt welling up.

“No, sorry, but buying plastic crap made in China does nothing to ‘help the troops.’ ” [1]

Her eyes glazed over; she did not engage me further but didn’t miss a beat calling out to the next person exiting the store. So when I saw her last Wednesday night, doing her same shtick, it was good thing she didn’t catch me because I’d vowed if she ever solicited me again I would waste a precious ten seconds telling her that what our troops really need is our help in electing leaders who will not send our soldiers to fight senseless, strategy-less, endless, oil-dependency fueled wars.

 

 

Feeling guilty about sending young Americans to fight overseas while you stay at home enjoying the comforts of your LazyBoy ® ? Not to worry, saying "Thank you for your service," to a soldier in uniform, plus sticking any of these decals on your vehicles is the equivalent of serving one tour of duty in Dumbfuckistan and crafting a rational foreign policy.

Feeling guilty about sending young Americans to fight overseas while you stay home enjoying the comforts of a LazyBoy ® ? Not to worry, saying “Thank you for your service,” to a soldier in uniform, plus sticking any of these decals on your vehicles, is the equivalent of serving one tour of duty in Dumbfuckistan and crafting a rational foreign policy.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of That Which Defies Description  [1]

When Mariya Karimjee was little, members of her family made a decision that would affect her entire life. Years later, she wants to know why.

Such a down-to-earth introduction to a mind-blowing, heart-rending and yet ultimately, I’d argue, triumphant story – a story that (surprise!) is not about the Holocaust.  [2]

If you are up for a dose of humanity, please listen  [3]  to  Whose Great Idea Was This?”, from the most recent edition of This American Life: Who Do We Think We Are.

 

*   *   *

A Somewhat Happier Dose of Humanity; aka,
Department Of Making The Best Of Things Via Fun With Eggcorns

 

One of the few upsides of having an elderly, cognitively sketchy, memory-impaired parent, who is also hard of hearing, is having an exchange like that which I recently had with my mother  [4].

Context: phone call with my mom, updating her re various family members.  [5]   She asked about my son, K, who is, I assured her, in a happy place. He’s working at a job he likes, renting a house with friends, and – bonus for us! – he took one of the cats with him.  [6]

Moiself: “You may recall that MH and I have three indoor cats. The one named Tootsie – she’s with K, now.”

Mom: “I remember her. She’s the one with many toes. K took her? How nice.”

Moiself: “Yes, she’s living with him.”

Mom: “Oh, that’s a shame.”

Moiself: “Uh…what’s a shame?”

Mom: “That she’s an invalid.”

It took me a beat to realize, “She’s living with him” got translated as, “She’s an invalid.”

 

*   *   *

Department of And One More Thing

It can – and indeed has – been argued that living with any cat is like living with an invalid. A fussy, demanding, hard-to-please invalid.

 

"No, I said I wanted the mice purée served at room temp and my footbath steaming hot. It's so hard to find good help these days...."

“No, I said I want my mice purée served at room temp and my footbath steaming hot. It’s so hard to find good help these days….”

*   *   *

May you be inspired to help – troops, or anybody – in ways that truly do;
May you appreciate the whimsy of eggcorns, no matter the source;
May you enjoy kind of pleasure that comes from foisting off a yet another household responsibility onto sharing a beloved pet with your adult child;
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] And yet, someone finds the strength to do so.

[2] Although it could be argued it is about another kind of Holocaust, wherein a group of people are abused solely because they belong to a certain category as defined by those in power.

[3] You could get the transcript, but I think there is more power in hearing the voices of those in the story.

[4] Assurances for the easily concerned: my mother has no computer access, doesn’t read my blog, doesn’t know that I write a blog, doesn’t know what a blog is….

[5] That is, repeating the same information during every phone call (and often more than once during the same call).

[6] Now, if only he would take one or both of the snakes….

The Relevance I’m Not Maintaining

Comments Off on The Relevance I’m Not Maintaining

Department of Thanksgiving Hangover

Yet another thing for which to be thankful – a spate of recent crisp, [1] clear mornings late last/early this week, when I could see the moon as I walked at dawn.

dawnmoon

 

Department of My Irrelevance

Medical doctors are trained in the importance of pain assessment , including how to differentiate between the many and problematically subjective human experiences of pain. Current thought on the matter is that storytelling, via descriptive prompts from doctor to patient, is a valuable lead-in to pain assessment.

Tell me about your pain. Would you describe it as:

burning, shooting, tingling, radiating, lancinating, or numbness
or achy, throbbing, or dull;
or squeezing, pressure, cramping, distention, dull, deep, and stretching

The pain I felt on Tuesday morning began as a burning in my ears. The sensation quickly radiated up the auditory nerve to my auditory cortex, where it translated into a deep, throbbing ache. It was all I could do not to jerk out my earbuds and fling my iphone to the ground.

Lay translation: the podcast I was listening to made my brain hurt.

This American Life , the mahvelous weekly journalistic radio show, follows a distinctive format.  Each show has a theme, and uses a combination of essays, first person narratives and interviews, archival sound recordings and sometimes even short fiction to explore and illustrate their show’s themes, in segments of up to three or four “acts.” TAL’s themes range from current events and popular culture to particular aspects of human nature. The one that made my brain hurt was This American Life #573: Status Update.

“Most of the time, the updates we share about our lives are small and inconsequential. This week, status updates that interrupt daily life.”

I had to force myself to finish listening to the first act – the ominously [2] titled, Finding the Self in Selfie. TAL host Ira Glass interviewed three teenage girls on the complex and constantly changing social media map that is primarily distributed and maintained via their cellphones. The interview consisted of the girls (Julia, Ella, Jane) explaining why they feel they must constantly tell their friends they are beautiful on Instagram and other social media sites, as well as post pictures of themselves on the same sites, which are in turn subject to commentary.

 

socialm

 

There are complicated and unwritten – yet widely known and seemingly accepted [3] –  “rules” for such social media interaction. And listening to the girls explain it made me want to puke.

Navigating the social strictures of high school was hard enough in The Olden Days, ® when your social status rose and fell via lunch table and locker room gossip. Now, kids have to obsess about their “relevance”  – they use that term, I kid you not – as per their peers’ reactions to their social media presence, a relevance (read: social ranking) both ephemeral and life-altering, which can change in minutes, even seconds.

And even as the girls complained about or acknowledged the shallowness behind the obligation of social media, they admitted to voluntarily and rabidly participating in the same.

(excerpt from a transcript of the episode)

Ira Glass: I have to say…oh my god, this is such a job.

Girls: Yeah.

Julia: It’s like I’m– I’m a brand, and I am like–

Ella: You’re trying to promote yourself.

Julia: The brand. I’m the director of the–

Ira Glass: And you’re the product.

Jane: You’re definitely trying to promote yourself.

Julia: To stay relevant, you have to–

Jane: You have to work hard.

Ella: Relevance is a big term right now.

Ira Glass: Are you guys relevant?

Ella: Um, I’m so relevant.

Jane: In middle school. In middle school, we were definitely really relevant.

Ella: (SARCASTICALLY) We were so relevant.

Jane: Because everything was established. But now, in the beginning of high school, you can’t really tell who’s relevant.

Ira Glass: Yeah. And what does relevant mean?

Jane: Relevant means that people care about what you’re posting on Instagram. People–

Julia: Care about you.

Listening to the story, I felt…I’m not sure how to describe it. I felt like some kind of Amish anti-tech/media advocate. 

 

There be no more Snapchat for thee, young ladies!

There be no more Snapchat for thee, young lady!

 

Of course, those seemingly benign Amish can get downright nasty when it comes to their community’s insular social status, and shun their own who fail to toe the line. But the threat of ostracizing, bullying or relevance banishment seems so much more pervasive in today’s all-knowing, all-reporting world of social media.

I wanted to slap some sense into those girls and envelop them in a mama bear hug, all at once.

It’s like I’m– I’m a brand…
…and you’re the product.

I wish feminism came in a can, like Red Bull, that girls and young women could chug. I wish there was a “product” to rev up their perception metabolism, a formula that would make them want to stop shoring up the system that perpetuates looksism and a bajillion-hundred other insecurities and forms of disempowerment.

 

wecandoit

*   *   *

Department of Holiday Hell

A recurrent seasonal nightmare of mine involves having a friend who participates in That Most Fiendish Holiday Of Events © . This friend invites me to attend said event, and in a moment of weakness truth-telling I blurt out that I would rather dive face first into a vat of eggnog-laced hyena feces than attend a Singing Christmas Tree show.

 

Santa, shoot me now.

Santa, shoot me now.

*   *   *

Department of Holiday What The Hell

Every time the traveling company for the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon has come to Portland I’ve tried to get tickets, and every time I have failed.  I did succeed in convincing MH and our son, K, in accompanying me to the next best thing: a matinee performance of The Book of Merman, which we saw last Sunday.

The Book of Merman is the story of what happens when two novice Mormon missionaries unexpectedly encounter “the undisputed first lady of the musical comedy stage.” (Well, of course it is).

I tried to make our outing as multicultural as possible. When one thinks of Mormons and/or Ethel Merman, the cuisine that naturally comes to mind is something Ricky Ricardo would appreciate. Thus, we dined before the show at Portland’s best Cuban café, [4] Pambiche,

BTW, you should know that Ethel Merman did one of the all-time great movie cameo appearances, in Airplane!

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Don’t Make Me Say It 

Is it December, already?

I thought I advised you not to make me say it.

And while I religiously dodge Singing Christmas Tree invitations I do enjoy a seasonal song or two.  There is no shortage of good Christmas carols for atheists, [5] including, White Christmas, Sleigh Bells, Deck the Halls, Rudolph…and I’d say almost any tune by Tim Minchin qualifies, especially the lovely, cheeky and yet sentimental, White Wine in the Sun. A new-old favorite of mine is I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas. [6]  And please, get you and yo mama some seasonal spirit by singling along with the greatest rap Yule tune of all time, Christmas In Hollis.

 

 

*   *   *

May your unexpected encounters be Merman-esque;
may you be emotionally healthy enough to not give a flying flounder’s flatulence about your social media relevance;
and may the holiday hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Not exactly thrilled about the 20˚ temps…but the moon is worth it.

[2] For someone my age who loathes selfies.

[3] At least, by the teenagers involved.

[4] Well, it’s the best Cuban restaurant – Perdóneme, el mejor café CubanoI’ve been to in Portland (okay, so there are, like, maybe three).

[5] “Good” is defined as songs that do not mention deities. And it’s funny, when you do the research, to find out how many Christmas songs were written by atheists and agnostics…and Jews.

[6] Of course, some godless nitpicker will point out that hippo gods were worshiped in ancient Egypt.

The Generation I’m Not Talkin’ ’bout

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The PG (Parental Guidance) Post 

CHARD

Dateline: Monday evening, doing my own sous chef preparation before sautéing shallots and Swiss chard.  As I strip the ruby red chard leaves from their stalks, I remember how much my father loved Swiss chard.

*   *   *

 Band of Memories

 Chester Bryan Parnell, "These are the good times," 8-8-1924 to 2-11 -09

Chester Bryan Parnell, “These are the good times,” 8-8-1924 to 2-11-2009

I think of my father every day, and mention him often (an easy thing to do, as he was a special character), in part to keep his memory alive for K and Belle.  But when my family sees that I’ve brought out the Band of Brothers DVD box set, they know something extra is in the air.

Today would have been Chester “Chet-the-Jet” Parnell’s 90th birthday.  It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around that number.  I’ll let my heart do the binding.

Martin

When Chet wanted to relax he would haul out his old Martin guitar. He loved to serenade his kids.  Beautiful, Beautiful Brown Eyes, a traditional country tune covered by singers from Roy Acuff to Rosemary Clooney, was one of the songs Chet used to sing to me at night.

 *   *   *

 My mother is frail;
“I am winding down,” she says.
She is eighty-six.

Widowed five years now;
Her eldest child lives nearby.
I am second-born.

My two other sibs
Live in the Bay Area;
Mom is in So Cal.

SOCAL

Mom loathed to travel,
even when she was healthy.
And, now she cannot.

Twenty-three years plus
I’ve lived one thousand miles north
with my family.

Mom doesn’t do much;
there’s little to talk about.
Calls can be awkward

She always refused
to learn to use computers.
Her children conspired

We got a gadget:
“technically un-inclined”
is its user base.

TECHNO

A “one-way device,”
it receives and prints email
From select sources.

Pro: she gets no spam;
Con: she gets but can’t send mail
(which is fine by her).

I send her brief notes –
a small something for the day
In her morning mail

Mondays are for jokes.
Who wouldn’t like a giggle
To begin the week?

CAMEL

Tuesdays I phone her.
Her moods and health are falling.
Tuesdays make me sad.

Each Wednesday I send
a Word of the Day feature.
(I choose cheerful words).

Thoughts For the Day
from minds famous and obscure,
are Thursday’s items.

Fridays are for Quotes:
adages and citations
to spark mind and heart.

Saturday, poems:
I send different verse styles,
From Browning to Lear.

Every Sunday
I send my mother haiku,
Two verses, or more.

I write them moiself;
thus, they are not quote-worthy.
Silly, but heartfelt.

POETRY

*   *   *

 A Brief Meditation on Ways to Fail Your Children

Is that a buzz kill subject heading, or what?  If you’re looking for the feel-good post of the week, I suggest returning to the picture of the Swiss chard and using it for a gratitude meditation focal point.

I’m thinking about the many ways my father and mother succeeded, as parents…also, about those ways in which they, and parents in general, failed.

This digression is courtesy of one of my recent morning walk podcast sessions.[1] I was listening to the Freethought Radio interview with the president of a N.O.W. chapter, re activism resulting from the SCOTUS [2] Hobby Lobby decision. This topic was antithetical to the purpose of my morning walks, which are supposed to be somewhat meditative as well as invigorating.  The former purpose took a back seat to ruminative rage as I considered the seemingly unending, fact-free, conservative political and social balloon juice about a woman’s right to right to personal jurisdiction, and other issues that should have been settled so, so, long ago….

And I find myself thinking,

We failed.

We, as in, talkin’ ’bout my generation.

We have failed in so many ways, including imagination.

Thirty years ago, I couldn’t imagine we’d be fighting the same fights. [3]  Sure, a few dinosaur fossils would remain, but I’d hoped that the battle for equality and against sexism and misogyny (at least, in this country) would be history, as in, my son and daughter would learn about it the same way they learned about women’s suffrage (There was a time when women couldn’t vote?!  And it was less than one hundred years ago?!)

I realize that historical milestones are almost never confined to a single day or week…or even era. The campaign for women’s suffrage was not waged and won on August 18, 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified.  Nor was the amendment a one-time antidote to the festering, cyclic, boil-on-the-ass-of-human rights that is the tendency for groups of people to oppress those they view as The Other.

 

suffrage

*   *   *

Power shared = power diminished.

According to one Wise Old White Guy © I had the pleasure of knowing, [4] there is a widely held but false axiom behind bigotry and discrimination. That was the gist of what he tried to explain, one day in our Tuesday morning book group of yore. The group stumbled onto the continuing struggle for civil and women’s rights vis-à-vis religious institutions – a provocative topic for anyone who hasn’t downed their first cup of coffee by 7 am.  I brought up what I saw as the ultimate butt-frosting, teeth-grinding, bloomer-bunching irony: in order to acquire the rights and opportunities that you, say, a woman or African-American, are denied, you have to convince a majority of those in power – the very people who have been denying you those rights – to grant them. [5]

This prompted WOWG to share his “unfortunate observation” regarding human nature:

Few people anywhere have ever easily agreed to share power.

I knew what WOWG meant, but asked him to elaborate.  What follows is my (paraphrased) recollection of his simple but profound Walter Cronkite-ism [6] :

 Power shared = power diminished – this is what people in power believe. But power does not diminish when shared, it multiplies.  Small, stingy, fearful minds don’t understand that – they think power is finite, or is in limited supply, and therefore sharing power with you means there is less of it for them.  This is especially true for those who are (or who see themselves as being) on the lower rungs of the power and status ladders; e.g., some of the fiercest, most vicious criticism of the civil rights movement came from poor white southern men.

He ended with: We failed. Our generation didn’t fix that. Maybe it can’t be fixed; but now, it’s your turn.

 *   *   *

And now, a segue to make us all feel better.

I Am A Bad Person
#359 is a never-ending series

Making travel arrangements for an upcoming family wedding, my brain did that thing it does, and conjured up a memory from a friend’s wedding, several years ago.  I was talking to a teenager at the wedding reception. When I asked her about the rather sour look on her face, she complained to me about how “old people at weddings always poke me in the ribs and say, ‘You’re next!’ “

I told her she could get revenge by saying the same to them at funerals.

 

"I'm sure she meant, next in line for the buffet."

“I’m sure she means, next in line for the buffet.”

*   *   *

Spam subject line of the week:
IF  YOU  DON’T  READ  THIS  NOW  YOU’LL  HATE  YOURSELF  LATER !!!

I didn’t read it “now” (or at all).

It is later.

I don’t hate myself.

Ergo, it must be my turn for an all-caps-three-exclam-attack:


VICTORY IS MINE !!!

Mmmmmwwwwahahahahahaha !!!

Mmmmmwwwwahahahahahaha !!!

*   *   *

 

 

May you always be next in line for life’s buffet, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] During my morning walks I listen to podcasts of some of my favorite radio shows, including Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Freakonomics, RadioLab, This American Life, TED Talks, Fresh Air, and Freethought Radio.

[2] Which, yes, oft times seems as if it should be the acronym for Sexist Codgers (and not Supreme Court) of the United States.

[3] Only with different, and often troll-enabling – technologies.

[4] WOWG lost a brief but fierce battle with leukemia ~ 10 years ago.

[5] I remember, a long long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, trying to explain to my kids, who were dealing with fledgling democracy concepts in school, how women couldn’t vote to give themselves the vote.

[6] “And that’s the way it is.”

[7] Wait a minute…there is no seventh footnote.