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The “Women And Children” I’m Not Protecting

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Dateline: Tuesday. Confidential to the woman who exited the grocery store ahead of me:

 Dear Multiple-Scented One,
Unless you began your day by bathing in the effluence of unaltered male ferret musk, dried off by rolling in a pile of festering, freeze-dried lutefisk, then gargled with a puree of 50 raw garlic cloves before heading out to your day’s errands, your body’s unmasked odors could not possibly have been worse than the plethora of perfumed potions with which you doused yourself, thus fumigating every public space you visited.
Please, for the sake of the ozone (and the mucous membranes of my nostrils and lungs), consider going au natural when it comes to the fragrances.

*   *   *

Department of Veteran’s Day Reflections

Dateline: Monday, 1-11-19. I made a spur of the moment decision to see the movie “Midway,” to mark Veteran’s Day.  Moiself left the theater feeling rather pensive, thinking about a trope I’d grown up with (although of course it wasn’t called that at the time) which was often used as a justification for war or as a motto to inspire our military’s fighting men:

We Must Protect The Women And Children.

One of the reasons cited for excluding women from the military and/or serving in combat (“the front lines”) was that the Women and Children ® must be protected. (We now know that, throughout history, women *have*served in the front lines and in combat – just not “officially” as in, getting credit – or in some cases, permission – for doing so).

Here’s the thing: those vaunted women and children supposedly being protected by the menfolk?  In any and every war, civilian/non-combat-related casualties have always outnumbered military casualties.  [1]  And during wartime the civilian population is largely – altogether now – women and children.  When I was a young girl I remember thinking, whenever I read or heard stories of war, that I’d rather have the opportunity to fight if my country or village came under attack, rather than passively die in a bombing raid or via disease or starvation or any other of the many ways that civilians being “protected” die during wartime.

 

 

In WWII, Admiral Doolittle‘s raid on Tokyo shattered the Japanese Imperial Army’s notions that their revered capital city was impenetrable.  Doolittle and the 79 other B-25 bombers/flight crew members did not have enough fuel to return to the aircraft carrier from which they’d launched; thus, they deliberately glided as far as possible after their fuel ran out and (crash) landed on the (Japanese-military-occupied) Chinese mainland.   [2]   Sixty-nine of the airmen, including Doolittle, escaped capture or death, many due to being helped by Chinese civilians.

In retaliation for the Tokyo raid and the help offered by the Chinese to the American airmen, the Japanese military occupied, ravaged and then torched many Chinese cities and villages, killing over 250,000 – yes, a quarter of a million –  civilians:

“(An American missionary) observed the result of a Japanese attack on Ihwang:
“They shot any man, woman, child, cow, hog, or just about anything that moved, They raped any woman from the ages of 10 – 65, and before burning the town they thoroughly looted it…. the humans shot were…left…on the ground to rot, along with hogs and cows.”
The Japanese marched into the walled city of Nancheng…beginning a reign of terror so horrendous that missionaries would later dub it “the Rape of Nancheng.” …
Over the summer, Japanese soldiers laid waste to some 20,000 square miles….
(Civilians who were suspected) to have helped the Doolittle raiders were tortured…. soldiers forced (civilians) who had fed (Doolittle’s airmen) to eat feces before lining up ten of them for a “bullet contest” to see how many people a single bullet would pass through before it stopped. In Ihwang, (a man) who had welcomed an injured American pilot into his home, was wrapped in a blanket, tied to a chair and soaked in kerosene. Then soldiers forced his wife to torch him.”
(Excerpts from “The Untold Story of the Vengeful Japanese Attack
After the Doolittle Raid,”  Smithsonian.com )

Give me a death on the battlefield any day, over that.

 

( “Women in the American Revolution,” from American Battlefield Trust )

*   *   *

Department Of Another Fitting Movie For Veterans Day

Do you know who was the first woman to lead an armed expedition during the Civil War? Go see the movie about the amazing freedom fighter/escaped-slave-turned-abolitionist,  Harriet Tubman, if you haven’t already.  Or read up/refresh yourself on her story…on second thought, don’t be content with just that.  It’s a really good movie. Then ask yourself why is Harriet Tubman’s name and image not on all of our currency?

 

 

Harriet, the movie, is directed/co-written by actor/director/screenwriter Kasi Lemmons.   Cinema buffs may know Lemmons for giving us the luminous Eve’s Bayou, and also for playing Ardelia, Clarice’s fellow FBI special agent, in The Silence of the Lambs.

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [3]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

The Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, by The Moosewood Collective
Recipe:  Tunisian Vegetable Stew

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher    [4]     

*   *   *

Department Of Well Duh

“…(a computer scientist) describes how he examined cloud-computing services from Google and Amazon Web Services that help other businesses add language skills into new applications. Both services failed to recognize the word ‘hers’ as a pronoun, though they correctly identified ‘his.’ ”

 

 

Something that should come as no surprise, but still is disheartening to consider: The process of “training” AI (Artificial Intelligence) devices  to know what we know – e.g., by having them scan/download the sum of human writings, both fiction and non-fiction – will also imbue said devices with our historical and cultural biases, thus fostering the continuation – even propagation –  of prejudices and preconceptions.

“….while researching a book on artificial intelligence, computer scientist Robert Munro fed 100 English words into BERT (Google’s new AI language algorithm): “jewelry,” “horses,” “house,” “money,” “action.” In 99 cases out of 100, BERT    [5] was more likely to associate the words with men rather than women. The word “mom” was the outlier.

“This is the same historical inequity we have always seen,” said Dr. Munro…
Now, with something like BERT, this bias can continue to perpetuate.”

And if that doesn’t depress you enough, these biases – surprise! (read: not) extend toward cultural and ethnic discrimination (my emphases):

Researchers have long warned of bias in A.I. that learns from large-amounts-data, including the facial recognition systems that are used by police departments and other government agencies as well as popular internet services from tech giants like Google and Facebook.
In 2015, for example, the Google Photos app was caught labeling African-Americans as “gorillas.” The services Dr. Munro scrutinized also showed bias against women and people of color.


BERT and similar systems are far more complex — too complex for anyone to predict what they will ultimately do.
Even the people building these systems don’t understand how they are behaving,” said Emily Bender, a professor at the University of Washington who specializes in computational linguistics.

( All excerpts from, “We Teach A.I. Systems Everything, Including Our Biases:
Researchers say computer systems are learning from lots and lots of digitized books and news articles that could bake old attitudes into new technology.”  NY Times, 11-12-19 )

“What Brave New World shit is this?”

*   *   *

Department Of Ok, That Was Depressing…Back To The Movies

The Cinematic Count So Far

As mentioned previously in this space, in the past few years I have vowed to see at least one movie per week in an actual movie theater. In 2019, with 7.5 weeks to go, my movie count is 47. From Welcome to Marwen (early January) to the most recent, Pain and Glory, my favorites of the bunch include:

On the Basis of Sex; If Beale Street Could Talk; Captain Marvel; Us; The Aftermath; Hotel Mumbai; Booksmart; Late Nite; Once Upon a Time In Hollywood; The Farewell; Blinded by the Light; Ad Astra; JoJo Rabbit; Harriet; Parasite; Pain and Glory.

My walk-out count (i.e. movies moiself walked out of, due to a combination of disgust/boredom) is, fortunately, only two:  What Men Want, and Little.

Winner of Best Speculative Review Before Having Seen The Movie:  why, that would be moiself, when son K told me he was off to see Lighthouse with a friend.  I make it a point to never read a review of a movie before I see it; I do see a lot of movie trailers because I’m in a movie theater every week.  I’d seen one preview for Lighthouse, which gave away next-to-nothing about the plot and made me skeptical as to whether or not I wanted to see it.  [6]  Before K left for the theater he asked if Lighthouse was on my must-see list.

MoiselfI dunno, it’s, what – a movie about two men in an isolated lighthouse?  So, 90 minutes of masturbation and farting and snoring and peeing and pooping and arguing…?

K’s first comment to me when he returned from the theater:
HOW DID YOU KNOW ?!?!?

*   *   *

May you realize that artificial intelligence can never override natural stupidity;
May you and yours never have to bear the label, civilian casualty;
May y’all see at least one movie a week before the year’s end;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] In the cases where a country is invaded.  Our country’s most recent wars have not been fought on/in our country; rather, we’ve shipped our fighting overseas.

[2] Sixteen B-25s launched; 15 crashed in China, and one made it to Russian territory.

[3] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[4]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who would eat anything, would like this.  

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

[5] BERT (“Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers”) is Google’s neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP) pre-training. 

[6] Which I eventually did.

The Service I’m Not Thanking

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Department Of What Are We Thankful For?

Answer: turkey substitutes.

In the past, our family has often hosted a Thanksgiving dinner at our house. We’re missing daughter Belle this year – she’s out of state, working at a wildlife refuge, and gets no holidays off  [1]  And somehow, the day just snuck up on us.  Translation: no one else made any plans, possibly hoping/assuming that someone (read: moiself) would step up and say, Here’s what we’re doing.

But we’d been busy and traveling and now MH and K and I have all come down with something flu-like (fever), and no one seems to have the energy to plan A Big Feast ® . Instead, the non-turkey eater announced that she would make herself an oven roasted steelhead filet, plus a few of of her favorite foods that she’d be “willing” to share, along with the suggestion that MH and K make/purchase a turkey or whatever they’d like to have.  Turns out both of them preferred a roast chicken, which they got at a Whole Foods market, and our dear family friend LAH was up for being spontaneous and joined us, also contributing to the feast. Sometimes, the simple is the best.

 

*   *   *

Speaking Of Turkey Substitutes….

The US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has recalled turkey products linked to a salmonella outbreak. The CDC announced the outbreak linked to raw turkey products in July, but more people have gotten sick, bringing the total to at least 164 in 35 states. One person in California has died, and 63 people have been hospitalized….

Just two days before Thanksgiving, the CDC warned US consumers to not eat romaine lettuce, as it may be contaminated with E. coli.

(“Watching out for these illnesses tied to recalled foods at Thanksgiving,”
CNN, 11-21-18)

I have a feeling I’m not the only plant-based   [2] eater who sees the headlines, laughs (mostly to moiself), and thinks, Hey, meat-munchers, perhaps this might be the time to transition to a plant-based diet... or at least swear off the turkey Caesar salad leftovers.

 

 

*   *   *

Department of EEEEEEEEEEK

Well, at least it was an easy fix.

During the past midterm election season, I noticed I kept getting political mailers, from all parties, addressed to Robyn Gween Parnell.  I know *I’ve* never registered moiself thusly; I know how to spell my own name(s). After the election I checked the online voter’s registry and sure enough, there it was. Funny, what one extra keystroke will do. Now I’m wondering, did I technically commit voter fraud, by voting under that name?

*   *   *

Department Of The Question That Is Apparently On Everyone’s Mind

Dateline: earlier this week, at an Office Depot. I am shipping a package to daughter Belle, who is temporarily living in Arkansas. (Recurring Readers ®  may recall from previous posts why she is there, and that MH and I visited her three weeks ago.) The OD clerk notes the shipping address, says she can’t remember ever having shipped a package to Arkansas, and asks if I’d ever been there. When I reply in the affirmative, she blurts out what seemingly every person does – usually in all sincerity and with genuine confusion – when my visit to Arkansas comes up in conversation:

Why?

 

 

 Why? For the scenery, of course.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Obligatory Apologies

The management would like to apologize for the cultural stereotypes implied in the pictures chosen to illustrate the sentiments expressed in the previous blog segment.  [3]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Still Thinking About It

On Veterans’ Day, MH, K and I went to lunch at a local Red Robin.  The restaurant was getting slammed; I’d never seen it so busy. When a server finally got to our table she apologized for the wait, and explained that on Veterans’ Day, soldiers past and present who have their military ID (or show up in uniform) eat for free.

They (RR) have been doing this for several years, our server explained, and the offer  is so popular that Veteran’s Day is the one day when *everyone* works – no RR staff member can ask for the day off unless they make special arrangements six months in advance.  Non-veteran customers in the restaurant, when they find out what RR is doing, praise them for it and don’t seem to mind the extra crowds/wait, the server said, so it makes for a nice atmosphere, and thus she likes working on Veterans’ Day.

That idea – of freebies for vets    [4] – stuck in my head, due to conversations I’d had with my father.  During the end of our meal I told MH and K that although Chet Parnell had been proud of his military service  [5]  and wouldn’t begrudge any other veteran of any age from accepting a restaurant’s offer of a free meal,  I was confident that, were he here with us, he wouldn’t have claimed such an offer for himself.

My confidence about his response stems from talks we’d had over the years, and in particular, our last, long telephone conversation   [6] about his time in the military, as well as that of his brother-in-law, Bill O’Malley. My Uncle Bill, also a WWII paratrooper, and saw action in campaigns from North Africa to Italy to D-Day to the Battle of the Bulge.  He was hospitalized after the war, in Europe, for (what we now know is) PTSD. When he was well enough to be released, his PTSD, or what was called “shell shock” back then, continued to give him emotional problems when he returned to the States. My Uncle Bill never received any stateside counseling or mental health treatment.  [7]   Instead, he’d gradually “recovered,” he’d told me, when he and I talked extensively about his war stories,  [8]  because of how he was treated by his fellow Americans. As a returning GI, everyone was kind to and patient with him.  “If they knew or even suspected that I’d been a soldier,” Bill said, “I never paid for a cup of coffee.”

Chet chuckled when I told him Bill’s story, then said that he himself had always felt …odd…accepting any kind of kudos for his military service. He was an enlistee, not a draftee, and had proudly signed up for the paratroopers. It was an important job he and the other soldiers had to do, he said, but he didn’t want to make “a big deal” out of it.  He got paid for doing it, and never felt that he was owed him anything nor that civilians were beholden to him in any way. Or, as he put it, “I can buy my own damn cuppa coffee.”

 

Chet Parnell (front row far left) and some of his “stick.”  [9]

 

*   *   *

Who doesn’t want to be thanked for their military service?….
Many people, it turns out….To some recent vets…the thanks comes across as shallow, disconnected, a reflexive offering from people who, while meaning well, have no clue what soldiers did over there or what motivated them to go, and who would never have gone themselves nor sent their own sons and daughters.
To these vets, thanking soldiers for their service symbolizes the ease of sending a volunteer army to wage war at great distance — physically, spiritually, economically. It raises questions of the meaning of patriotism, shared purpose and, pointedly, what you’re supposed to say to those who put their lives on the line and are uncomfortable about being thanked for it.
(Hunter Garth, 26, former Marine who served in Afghanistan) said that when he gets thanked it can feel self-serving for the thankers, suggesting that he did it for them, and that they somehow understand the sacrifice, night terrors, feelings of loss and bewilderment. Or don’t think about it at all.
“I pulled the trigger,” he said. “You didn’t. Don’t take that away from me.”

(“Please Don’t Thank Me For My Service,” NY Times, 2-21-15)

*   *   *

 

May you have a restful post-Thanksgiving weekend;
May you contemplate the existential reasons why a person might visit Arkansas;
May you appreciate being able to buy your own damn cuppa coffee;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Lions and tigers and bears want to eat every day, and don’t understand Thanksgiving.

[2] Plant-based eaters generally exclude or minimize consumption of meat and animal products. Some, like moiself, have fish on occasion. And others, also like moiself, are trying to get Tillamook Pepper Jack cheese classified as a fish.

[3] The management would like to apologize, if only she could do it sincerely.

[4] I sincerely hope all veteran’s order of burgers and fries were not delivered to their tables with that phrase I find at once odious and obsequious: Thank you for your service.

[5] He served in WWII as a paratrooper.

[6] The night before he died.

[7] Both treatment for and knowledge about PTSD was practically non-existent, for WWII vets.

[8] Which flabbergasted my parents when I told them, years later, because, other than a few talks with Chet, a fellow paratrooper, “Bill wouldn’t talk about the war with anyone.” My theory was that while Bill wouldn’t talk about the war with other adults, a ten year old (at the time of our conversation) kid disarmed him with my genuine curiosity and guileless questions – and every question I asked, he answered.

[9] A “stick” is a load of paratroopers in one plane, prepared for a drop.

The Military I’m Not Saluting

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And They Said The Honeymoon Wouldn’t Last

I sliced the steaming, freshly roasted squash down the middle, and sighed. “I love the aroma of roasted Delicata squash.” I waved a piece of squash under MH’s nose, and bid him to inhale.  “I just want you to know that.”

This is good to know, MH replied. He assured me that, upon my death, a Delicata squash would be cremated alongside my body.

 

squash7

*   *   *

The Verisimilitudinous Vermin of Autumn

I kick through the foliage detritus at least once a day, during my morning walk. Still, I never tire of the splendor of the Fall colors, which have a way of elevating and beautifying everything they surround…including, as I discovered ~ seven in the morning last Monday, the parking lot of a nearby athletic field. A brief portion of the otherwise mundane asphalt surface was transformed, however ephemerally, into Nature’s abstract palate, when I espied the desiccated, flattened carcass of a rat adorned by nature’s seasonal garland.

 

rat

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Belated Veterans Day Thoughts and Wishes

 

Thank you for your service.
(A phrase employed far too often, IMHO, by civilians, directed to military personnel)

I have come to despise that trope of alleged appreciation, even though I’ve no doubt it is used sincerely by many who wish to thank our brave men and women in uniform [1] for doing…well…what the rest of us would rather not spend much time thinking about.

It’s just too easy…it is too sanitized and safe. Thank you for your service – it’s as effective as, I’ll pray for you. It gives the spouter of the phrase the feel-good illusion of action, when in fact you’ve done nothing concrete.

You want to thank soldiers for their service? Lobby or work to insure veteran’s benefit reforms and to get our soldiers out of these never-ending, police-the-world wars…and, oh yeah, end the all-volunteer military and reinstate the draft and/or some form of compulsory national service.

 

REALLY

 

Yes, really. Do you think we’d still be ass-deep in the AfghaniRaquPakistania quagmire if every American family had to face the possibility of their age-appropriate sons and daughters serving in the military?

Once again, I digress.

My intention for this segment was to honor a certain generation [2] for What They Did When They Did What They Had To Do. [3]

Six years ago my father, Chester Bryan (“Chet the Jet”) Parnell, had military honors at the graveside service following his funeral. The honors consisted of a brief observance involving a color guard, a gun salute, and presentation of an American flag to my mother, along with the “thanks of a grateful nation.” It was a ceremony Chet’s usually-not-impressed-with-such-things second born daughter [4] found very moving.

Although he never left the US of A during his military service, Chet was credited with serving in a combat zone. He and his fellow Army paratroopers stationed in Alaska were training for the inevitable invasion of Japan, and were also tasked with guarding the Aleutians, which the Japanese, as part of their Aleutian Islands campaign, were determined to invade and occupy. [5] Thus, Chet was eligible for “full” military honors at his funeral. Although Chet was proud of his WWII service he’d let us know in advance he didn’t want the full treatment (whatever that would involve – military flyover? Invasion of a small island in the Pacific?), out of respect for those soldiers who had engaged in active combat.

One day many years before Chet’s death, when my family was down in SoCal for a visit, Chet asked if MH could copy, enlarge and clarify a photo Chet had discovered while cleaning out his desk. The picture – actually, a small, wrinkled, time-worn copy of a picture sent from a paratrooper buddy – was one the few pictures Chet had from his Army days.  MH put his computer wizard /Photoshop skills to use, and was able to earn Son-In-Law Of The Year ® honors by providing Chet with a cleaned-up enlargement.  MH also had the enviable [6] task of informing Chet about a certain aspect of the picture, what I think of as a Photo With Benefits.  By enlarging the photo, a gesture made by one of Chet’s fellow soldiers – a “military salute” common among paratroopers but heretofore obscured by the photo’s size and lack of clarity – was clearly revealed.

At the time the picture was taken Chet of course was facing the camera, and had no idea how the other guys in the photo had posed. He got such a hoot out of it – which came as no surprise to me.  What was a wonderful surprise was how much my mother enjoyed the photographic revelation: she giggled like a schoolgirl who’d just understood her first A nun walks into a bar… joke  [7].

 

Chet, front row far left, looking tough (but cute).

Chet, front row far left, looking tough (but cute).

 

*   *   *

Department Of Some Phone Calls Are Harder Than Others

And getting through some 12 minute phone calls can seem more exhausting than running a three hour marathon, when I’m constantly “on guard” during said calls, with a pins and needles/jaw clenching concentration, giving myself a headache that lasts the rest of the day, reminding myself of what to say as well as what not to say when the only truthful/logical response to what my elderly mother just asked would be to give the correct information….

However. I have learned from Compassionate Communication With The Memory-Impaired and other resources that when dealing with those afflicted with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other conditions which beget memory-disabilities, compassion must trump rationality and logic. And even truth.

My mother’s truth, her reality, can change from day to day. I am well aware of this; still, the ups and down sometimes catch me seemingly unaware. This week I was pleasantly surprised by her lucidity and higher-than-usual energy mode – I’m always the one who calls, but she called me on my cellphone (she’d remembered– with a caretaker’s reminder – that she’d been napping when I’d called the previous day)! We were having a nice if boring conversation, and in a normal (for her) voice she asked how long it had been since MH’s father had died (Hey, she remembered he died! I silently rejoiced). When I answered her question about the relative suddenness of my FIL’s passing (Well, he’d been living with Parkinson’s for many years…), and she reacted with shock and horror to a fact she’s known for over a decade.

“No!” she gasped. “No!  How awful! I had no idea!’

I gently tried to steer the conversation to another subject, which led to the inadvertent revelation that she’d forgotten MH’s sister is married and has a 14 year old son. Her overt change of atone accompanied the implied, painful, fearful accusation: Why have you/has everyone been keeping this information from me?

And during our phone conversation next week she may well remember what she’d forgotten…and then forget something else. Like the existence of my children.

Her sudden plummet into the memory abyss hit me harder than usual this week. I found myself sitting in my car in a parking lot, fighting off a crying jag, holding my cellphone to my ear and nodding reassurances to someone who wasn’t there.

“Old age is no place for sissies.”
Bette Davis

elderly bird

*   *   *

Department of Can You Run A Tab At An Urgent Care Center?

Speaking of children I do remember, Belle is back to practicing with the UPS Women’s Rugby team, although she will not be playing in any league games until next semester, due to her broken finger and resultant surgery. Last week she took a hard blow to the chest during a practice. A visit to the Student Health Center and subsequent x-ray confirmed her coach’s fear: Belle had suffered a separated rib.

Belle’s (severely) broken finger occurred during a practice in early September. Last year’s injuries included a cracked rib and…I forget what else. Going through the mail last weekend, I told MH that it just isn’t a normal week unless we receive yet another Explanation of Benefits form from our insurance company, along with a bill from a doctor or a physical therapist or an urgent care center….

 

Good news – post game party in the Emergency Room, drinks are on Belle!

Good news – post game party in the Emergency Room, drinks are on Belle!

 

*   *   *

Department Of Need I Say More?

Happy Belated Exploding Whale Day! Forty-five years ago, yesterday, a day that put Oregon on the map…and gushy whale parts on anyone standing within a quarter mile range of the event:

*   *   *

May you remember and appreciate the service (and “salutes”) of others;
may your fondest memories be as fuzzy or clear as time permits;
may you find beauty in unexpected places and sights (and rodents);
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Another clichéd phrase I loathe.

[2] No, not “the Greatest” generation, and damn you, Tom Brokaw, for that well-meaning but inaccurate description…which Andy Rooney, bless his atheist heart, tried to counter at every opportunity.

[3] Which was actually Steven Spielberg’s first choice for the title of his epic WWII movie (okay…actually…not). Can you believe Saving Private Ryan won out?

[4] That would be moiself.

[5] They succeeded in occupying two: Kiska and Attu.

[6] In my opinion. MH was a little hesitant to reveal what he’d found, thinking it might be embarrassing (“Uh…will they – meaning my parents – be okay with this?”).

[7] A nun, badly needing to use a restroom, walked into a bar. The place was hopping with music and conversation, and every once in a while the lights would briefly flicker off and then go back on, whereupon the patrons would erupt into cheers. However, when the crowd saw the nun, the room went dead silent. The nun approached the bartender,and asked, ‘May I please use the restroom?”

“Sure,” the bartender replied, “but I gotta warn you: there’s a statue of a naked man in there wearing only a fig leaf.”

“Thank you; I’ll just look the other way,’ said the nun.

The bartender showed the nun to the back of the restaurant. After a few minutes she came back out, and other patrons stopped what they were doing and gave the nun a loud round of applause.

“Excuse me, sir,” she said to the bartender. “Why did they applaud for me just because I went to the restroom?”

“Well, now they know you’re one of us,’ said the bartender. “‘Would you like a drink?”

“No thank you,” said the puzzled nun, “but, I still don’t understand.”

“You see,” laughed the bartender, “every time someone lifts the fig leaf on that statue, the lights go out.”

The Knockers I’m Not Upping

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They’re baaaaaaaaak….

Halloween was the harbinger. Now, the rest of the Holidays approach.  Or, as some jolly folks like to say, The Season’s Upon Us. Readers of this blog, you know what that means.

Don’t you feel better prepared now, for all the seasonal wretched inanity merriment that is to come?  I know I do.

*   *   *

Speaking of the holidays….

♫  Let Me Hang My Balls On Your Christmas Tree  ♫

Moo-oom!

“I am NOT making this up,” I would protest in vain, when Belle and K insisted I stop singing that Christmas ball song.  “Really, it was a holiday favorite from the Dr. Demento show…”

Still and of course, my offspring thought I was making it up.  Thanks to that nifty invention of Al Gore, I can prove it to them.  The song (actual title, “Christmas Balls” by Ben Light & his Surf Club Boys) made it to Dr. D’s Nifty Fifty for 1972 list, and I have Internet evidence.

Dead Puppies; Pencil Neck Geek, It’s a Gas, the Vatican Rag, Pico and Sepulveda, Shaving Cream.  If you are old/lucky enough, you may remember those songs from the Dr. Demento radio show, which my friends and I were fortunate enough to have discovered in high school.  Diligent scholars that we were, no trigonometry study party would be complete without the study break reward – listening to a tape of Dr. D’s latest show.

Dr. D

Dr. D’s show was not merely mindless entertainment.  His show helped us equal opportunity humor feminists to discover mentors like Rusty Warren, [1] the musician-comedian with a New England Conservatory of Music B.A. degree [2] who showed that the women could hold the stage with men when it came to the risqué humor and witty wordplay found in what were called “novelty songs.”

Warren’s Knockers Up was one of our favorites.  Another of Warren’s odes to empowerment began with a variation on a patriotic call to arms:

You know girls, it’s great to live in a democracy today, where freedom is everywhere. But girls, we often take this freedom for granted: freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and freedom of action…. So come on, fellow females of the 20th century! Be glad that you’re an American! Proclaim your freedom! Stand at attention! Pledge Allegiance! And…
Bounce your Boobies

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Department of Also Somewhat Holiday Related

Every week since I gave MH the book for his birthday, MH and I have been doing a hike or two from Portland Hill Walks [3] . PHW is a guidebook that gives tours of Portland’s many parks, nature preserves and neighborhoods.  Each walk takes you through a variety of venues, from wooded canyons to its exclusive neighborhoods built atop ancient lava domes peaks, and the book provides historical, cultural and architectural background and idiosyncratic observations (guess who died in this old house?) for each route.

PHillwalks

On Tuesday we hiked a loop from the Leach Botanical Gardens to the Willamette National Cemetary. It was somewhat of a coincidence that we did that particular route on Veterans Day, and  I found myself reflecting upon – surprise! not favorably – the knee-jerk Soldier Worshiping currently infesting our public and political rhetoric.

Excuse me; we technically don’t have Soldier worshiping because we don’t have soldiers, marines, sailors or even GIs anymore.  Like Muslims who cannot mention their religion’s prophet without the appendage His Name Be Praised, we have created this all-encompassing entity:

OBI MAWU.

OBI MAWU is not the moniker of a minor Jedi apprentice from one of the interminable Star Wars sequels prequels. Rather, it is my scrambled acronym for a term we are all too familiar with:

Our Brave Men And Women In Uniform.

Y’all know the drill:  whenever addressing an OBI MAWU personally or referring to them in any context, we must also then add, “Thank you for your sacrifice.”

If you don't give us a better Jedi nickname we're going back to the sandbox.

If you don’t give us a better Jedi nickname we’re going back to the sandbox.

I did (and do) think about my father, grandfather, uncles, cousins, neighbors, friends, co-workers and others I’ve known who’ve served in the Armed Forces. [4]  My beef is not with (most of) those who choose military life.  Here’s the thing that frosts my butt: this blind uniform worship is…so….cheap, not to mention a tad self-aggrandizing (Look at me; I’m like, so considerate!  I expressed appreciation your service!).

Thanking someone for their service or their “sacrifice” is expedient, jingoistic lip flapping; it is a feel-good-do-nothing substitute for actually addressing the real concerns – alarming PTSD, suicide and unemployment rates – facing veterans.  Also, it has the side effect of elevating military service to that-which-must-be-praised-and-not-questioned, and thus becomes one more factor contributing to our reluctance to have difficult, intricate conversations about the consequences of the USA being willing to act as the world’s night watchmen.

Such a conversation might include considering the question, should there be a return to a military draft and/or other compulsory national service? [5] Do you think the Afghan-Iraq follies of the past 10 + – yep, that’s  TEN PLUS – years would still be sputtering on if everyone’s Young Men and Women had the potential (and involuntary) chance of becoming the OBI MAWU fighting these wars?

Also, this OBI MAWU veneration feeds the dangerous notion that everyone in the military is theoretically prepared to give “the ultimate sacrifice.” And thus it is unpatriotic to question military service.  When we hesitate to truly and vigorously debate the wisdom and morality of the causes for which our armed forces fight, we make another, perhaps not ultimate but no less crucial sacrifice – that of our own individual and national integrity.

WAR

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My Proudest Moment
# 1666 in a (hopefully) infinite series

The trigger credit for this particular digression goes to my son K, who sent me a link to an article about Internet reaction to Disney’s releasing the name of the upcoming Star Wars VII movie.

A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away, [6] I saw The Empire Strikes Back on the first day it was released. I used vacation time and was able to wrangle a day off from work (I think it was a Wednesday), and found a theatre where I could purchase a ticket in advance for one of the first showings of the day.  Most of my friends and co-workers were also Star Wars fans, also were eager to see the movie, but were unable to take time off. They planned to see TESB on the weekend,  congratulated me on being able to see the movie on its release day, and sternly warned me to NOT drop any spoilers on them.

The theatre was a five screen venue, four screens of which were devoted to back-to-back showings of TESB, beginning in the early afternoon. I stood in line with other eager and elated Star Trek nerds fans, and was able to get into the second showing of TESB.

TESB

After the movie was over, I exited the theatre with my fellow moviegoers. We were filled with an amalgam of elation, shock, and anticipation (That was amazing…now we have to wait for the 3rd movie to find out what happens?!), and apparently, from the reactions of the people waiting in line for the next showing, we all sported similar, WTF?! expressions.  One boy standing in line with his parents gestured to the people leaving the theatre, tugged at his mother’s sleeve and asked, “What do you think they saw in there?

The line for the next TESB showing stretched from the theatre entrance around the block to where I’d parked. On my way to my car I walked past a group of four to five college-age guys standing in the line. One of them fixed his troglodyte sights on me, and began to spew the inexcusable/unwarranted [7], “Hey baby hubba hubba oooga chaka” come-on.

Like any female biped I was familiar with that dynamic, which I typically handled by ignoring the cretins’ catcalls.  But that time, on that day?  Nah.  Couldn’t let it go.

The realities of the situation and my options for response zipped through my mind in a nanosecond:  Dude, really?  You are of an age where you had to make special arrangements to be here, at this time, and on this day, to see this movie. You are in line for the movie you have long anticipated – the movie I have just seen. I have the knowledge, the power, and you dare to taunt me?

I actually, almost, felt sorry for the guy.

I did an about face and strode back to the line. Smiling seductively, I grabbed Mr. Oo0gaChaka by the collar and pulled him away from his comrades. Standing on tip toe so that my hot hubba hubba baby breath was close to his ear, I whispered the five words I deeply and sincerely hoped would break his heart and shrivel his scrotum:

Darth Vadar is Luke’s father.

Another 180, and I triumphantly marched away, to the soundtrack of…nothing, save for the sweet silence of a justice-filled universe.

The Force is strong in this one.

The Force is strong in this one.

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May the forces prevailing against oogachaka be strong in you, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Special kudos to those who remember her immortal line, “Ladies you’re not marching!”

[2] A degree Warren referred to as the “Bawdy Arts.”

[3] If you live in or near Portland, you need this book.

[4] Most (seemed to have) served with pride, honor and integrity.  Others…well, twenty years of peacetime desk job service for a lifetime PX discount and free health care  – hell yeah!

[5] Something I would like to see, for the reason/question that follows.

[6] Okay, May 1980.

[7] Although not inexplicable, as it is seemingly related to the dynamic of a group of males spotting a lone female.