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The Resolutions I’m Not Breaking

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I hope y’all had/are having a Merry Happy Festivus Christmukkuh , however you acknowledge (or spell) your favorite holiday celebrations.

festivus

This week I received two early bird publication notifications.  Translation: due to the mysteries of publishers’ scheduling, stories that were slated for publication in 2014 instead just made it in 2013:  My story “Souvenir” is featured in the December/Winter 2013 edition of Hospital Drive and “Requiem” is in the Voices From the Porch anthology.

K is home from college on semester break until MLK day. All four of us (MH, Belle, K and moiself) carried on with our tradition of having Christmas Day lunch at Jake’s Grill, after which we walk (or waddle, depending on the Jake’s menu) to Powell’s Books. Another if sporadic Christmas Day tradition is going out to a movie, which we fulfilled by catching the last matinee [1] showing of Frozen.

There is much to like about the latest Disney Princess Movie ® (insert appropriate groan- gasp), aside from the stunning animation, memorable songs and several genuinely funny sidekick/comic relief characters. [2]

 viewer-approved sidekick Olaf

viewer-approved sidekick Olaf

Belle and I talked afterward, about how refreshing it was to see an animated (or any kind of) movie that featured than one main female character (gasp again), and also to find that finding a prince for the princess was not the main plot point…and how pathetic it is that we have to consider those things “refreshing.”

If they can see it, they can be it.”

Mere words cannot describe how much I love that quote.  Really elaborate ones might help, but I’m trying to savor one of my favorite times of the year – the span between Christmas

XMAS

and New Year’s –

NYE

 and it would require too much concentration to get all sesquipedalian on y’all.

Instead, I’ll let the quote-generator herself, Geena Davis, actor and founder of the Institute on Gender in Media, do the talking. Best known for her role as Thelma and Louise‘s avenging assault victim, Davis is a righteous warrior when it comes to battling inequality in her chosen field.  Thelma Davis takes aim at gender disparity in the movies in her recent guest column in the Hollywood reporter, Two Easy Steps to Make Hollywood Less Sexist.

THELMA

The basics are that for every one female-speaking character in family-rated films (G, PG and PG-13), there are roughly three male characters; that crowd and group scenes in these films — live-action and animated — contain only 17 percent female characters; and that the ratio of male-female characters has been exactly the same since 1946. Throw in the hypersexualization of many of the female characters that are there, even in G-rated movies, and their lack of occupations and aspirations and you get the picture. 

It wasn’t the lack of female lead characters that first struck me about family films. We all know that’s been the case for ages… It was the dearth of female characters in the worlds of the stories — the fact that the fictitious villages and jungles and kingdoms and interplanetary civilizations were nearly bereft of female population — that hit me over the head. This being the case, we are in effect enculturating kids from the very beginning to see women and girls as not taking up half of the space.

 Moiself has long thought Hollywood [3] has a bit of what I call an Islamist sensibility when it comes to simple gender demographic representation.  Watch a “crowd scene” filmed in an Islamist country, whether it’s a documentary on daily life or a breaking news clip of a demonstration outside of an embassy.  What you will see is a sea of male faces.  Where are the women?  Somebody with lady parts had to make all those bearded boys.  Oh, wait – what’s that?  A moving, mummified column?  Could be a female, but it’s hard to tell under all that casing.  We know they are there but they are cloistered, whether mentally and emotionally inside the home as well as literally when they are “allowed” outside.  They are…infrastructure.

*   *   *

But I digress.

On to a new segment I call

Happy New Year – and you do know it’s gonna be 2014, right?

A special Welcome to the nineteenth Century – whoops, that should be twenty-first, where did the time go? – to those Wacky Elders of the LDS.  Yes, the Mormon church, always Johnny-on-the-spot re human rights, has come out as no longer being officially racist, with their declaration (way back in 2013) that dark skin is no longer a sign of god’s curse.

It will be interesting to see if, in the coming year, the continuation of the church’s “I’m a Mormon” print and media ads, [4] will bring about the revision if not the elimination of other LDS whackadoodle other beliefs, including:

1.  The American continent was originally settled by ancient near easterners.
2.  Native Americans are descendants of ancient Israelites.
3.  The Book of Mormon [5] is an historically accurate work, translated by Joseph Smith from gold plates buried by the prophet Moroni.
4. The Osmond Family – now, that’s entertainment!

mouthfuls of enormous, white teeth are a sign of god's favor

mouthfuls of enormous, white teeth are a sign of god’s favor

*   *   *

New Year’s and Resolutions Ruminations

*  Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve. Middle age is when you’re forced to.  (Bill Vaughan

* New Year’s Day… now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. (Mark Twain

* Happiness is too many things these days for anyone to wish it on anyone lightly. So let’s just wish each other a bile-less New Year and leave it at that. (Judith Crist

* I can’t believe it’s been year since I didn’t become a better person. (Anonymous) 

* The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad. ( Friedrich Nietzsche) 

* Those who break New Year’s resolutions are weaklings.  Those who make them are fools. (Anonymous)

The only New Year’s Resolution I’ve successfully kept was the one I made way back in the 1980’s, which was to not make New Year’s Resolutions.  But that was so…well…80’s. [6]  Perhaps it’s time to give it another try.

In 2014 I resolve to:

1. stop making lists
B. be more consistent
9. remember to count
F. never again use the word “Osmond” (at least in public)

Whatever you resolve, may you leave ample room for the hijinks to ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Also a tradition: see the movie at the cheaper show times.

[2] Such characters are difficult to pull off, and often trip over the line between amusing and obnoxious.  Jar-jar Binks, anyone?

[3] Meaning the film industry, whether it’s a blockbuster filmed in the actual So Cal soundstage or an indie on the streets of Portland or Austin….

[4] The LDA-s million dollar pr campaign a multi-million dollar marketing campaign about “ordinary Americans who are also ordinary Mormons.”

[5] The LDS hold scripture, not the musical. Although there is more rational evidence for the historical accuracy of the musical.

[6] Are you picturing harem pants for men, Valleygirl mallrat side ponytails and Miami Vice designer stubble?  You know you want to.

The Hat I’m Not Talking Through

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Why doesn’t my washing machine have a spam cycle?

My email’s spam cycle – if there be one, arrrrrrr [1] – is difficult for me to discern.  Not so long ago, days and even weeks would go by with but one to four messages in my spam file.  The last three weeks I’ve been greeted with sixteen or more when I log on. And the content has changed. I never thought I’d be nostalgic for requests from fraudulent Nigerian bankers and Enlarge Your Manhood peddlers, ah, but now I yearn for those simpler times.

It seems the Tea Party’s mental health committee and/or conspiracy theorists have taken over the e-waves. I don’t know what else would explain the fact that so many of my e-spams have a common theme of social media paranoia.  Someone has been talking about YOU, the messages proclaim.

OHNOO

“The public knows the truth about you. Bad Things From Your Past Have Been Posted Online. Is what they say you did really true?  Swift action is necessary if you don’t want EVERYONE you know seeing this awful information, r(___@______) ! [2]

Yesterday evening, a new favorite spam enticement caught my eye: Why are all these celebrities eating this fruit?

It did pique my curiosity, but not in the way the sender likely intended. Instead of following the link to the miracle fruit product (I assume) they were hawking I did a search for “celebrities eating fruit.”  Of all the images the search produced, this was my favorite.

can you name the celebrity armpit that looks like fruit?

which celebrity is…uh…anticipating licking her fruity armpit?

*   *   *

horn tooting

Shameless self promotion, the continuing series

“Porches have a way of evoking early memory — connections that linger, sounds and images of the moon, dream-lit faces, lightning bugs, voices, and song.  Porches, a place where people gather with relatives, friends, and lovers to party, protest, shell peas, knit, play cards, talk and disclose secrets…where stories collect and unfold.”
(Maureen A. Sherbondy, Editor, Voices from the Porch).

My short story “Requiem” is being included in the anthology, Voices from the Porch, to be published by Main Street Rag. The anthology is available for advance ordering .

BookPorchesAnth

*   *   *

MH, Belle and I will be attending the upcoming FFRF Convention in the organization’s hometown of Madison, Wisconsin.  As always, those wacky Freethinkers have scheduled a variety of thought-provoking, riveting and crazy-ass hilarious speakers, including Savage Love advice columnist, author, and It Gets Better Project founder Dan Savage, and SNL veteran comedian/actor/author/playwright Julia Sweeney .

Last year the convention was held in Portland, which was great fun and oh-so-convenient for us. One of the 2012 convention highlights was keynote speaker Richard Dawkins. The distinguished professor, author, evolutionary biologist and freethought champion appeared to accept the FFRF’s The Emperor Has No Clothes award. [3]

In his acceptance speech (titled, “On Mormons & Metaphors“), Dawkins had a jolly good time informing an American audience, prior to our 2012 presidential election, about the misuse of metaphors in religious and political language, and why politicians’ religious beliefs should be up for discussion, just as are their views on economic theory and foreign policy.

Emperor

The US Constitution states, “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” That’s very different, Dawkins noted, from saying voters should ignore candidates’ beliefs when deciding who to vote for:

“I wish that presidential debates were more gloves off when it comes to the religious beliefs of candidates.  Why does Mr. Obama limit himself to criticizing Mr. Romney’s taxation policy, medical policy, foreign policy and so on? Why does he ignore the elephant in the room, which is that his opponent is capable of holding beliefs which, in England, we call barking mad, and here, you might call batshit crazy.”

Dawkins then listed an amazingly brief summary (considering the subject) of some of the absurdities of Mormon “revelation:”

* – Joseph Smith, whom Mormons revere as the prophet/founder of their faith, said he was guided by an angel to dig up some golden plates upon which were written characters of an ancient language which Smith called “reformed Egyptian” (a language unknown to any linguists or archaeologists, by the way)

* – Smith placed a “seer stone” in a hat, buried his face in the hat, looked at the stone and translated the Egyptian scripture that he said appeared in the stone; [4]

* – Smith’s oral translations were written down by a scribe, who was seated behind a curtain so he couldn’t see what Smith was doing….[5]

“Everything about the Book of Mormon reeks of fake.  Joseph Smith was an obvious charlatan. [6] That’s not an interesting fact in itself. There have been numerous charlatans down the ages. The point is that Mitt Romney, candidate for the job of most powerful man in the world, with his finger on the nuclear button, is a gullible fool who believes Joseph Smith.” 

I’m not an American voter, but if I were, I would want to know that my president has the critical intelligence needed to be a president. Anybody who can’t see that Joseph Smith was a charlatan and a liar doesn’t have critical intelligence.”

"Ollie Ollie oxen free!"

“Ollie Ollie oxen free!”

Of course, others  have pointed out that almost all political candidates profess religions which have more ancient origins than Mormonism – religions that also make absurd claims that do not stand up to the scrutiny of logic, reason, or science. Due to the numbing effects of familiarity, these religions don’t always come under the same scrutiny. Isn’t, for example, Obama’s Christianity just as ridiculous?

True.  However….

You can argue that the Hebrew and Christian bibles, the Quran, the Buddhist and Hindu scriptures, can get something of a pass in that they are Iron Age writings and teaching that have been passed on for historical and cultural as well as religious reasons. There was no discipline of science to investigate the claims nor investigative  journalism to report the goings-on when those ancient tales were collected.  And then, there is the matter of Dawkins doubting the authenticity of Obama’s public religion:

“I think there’s an excellent chance that Mr. Obama is not a Christian….. But in any case, the fact that he professes Christianity means absolutely nothing. He’s an elected American politician. And if you are an elected American politician, that has to mean that you pretend to be religious. There’s no other way about it. [7] So that doesn’t really mean anything. 

“But I think the evidence shows actually Romney does believe it. He was a Mormon bishop. There are records of his excommunicating people. He excommunicated a woman because she left the Mormon Church…. And it’s really much more recently that he, I think really rather obnoxiously, posthumously baptized his atheist father-in-law. If he were professing religion for reasons purely of political expediency, instead of saying he’s a Mormon, couldn’t he say he sort of believes in spirituality or something vague like that? I think it’s pretty clear Romney is a definitely strong-believing Mormon…” 

romney_mormon_underwear

“Christian scriptures are genuinely ancient. The translations from Hebrew and Greek that Christians use are in a language contemporary with the translators. The Book of Mormon is not ancient. The language of its alleged translation is ludicrously anachronistic  [8] . It contains absurdities, scientifically demonstrable absurdities, about the origin of Native Americans,  [9] about people of African descent. [10] “ 

“It’s an absurd piece of work. A man who seriously believes it, it seems to me, cannot be trusted to have the sort of acumen, the sort of critical mind that you need in a leader of a great country….”

“For many Americans, the sticking point is whether the candidate keeps his religion separate from his politics. This was the Kennedy defense, [11] and it has a lot going for it. But I actually want to go further. I’m not an American voter, but if I were, I would want to know that my president has the critical intelligence needed to be a president. Anybody who can’t see that Joseph Smith was a charlatan and a liar doesn’t have critical intelligence…. 

“Maybe people here wish to argue the case that if religious beliefs or disbeliefs, about the stork theory or whatever, are private, we have no business intruding upon them. I’m offering my alternative view, which is that we don’t only want to know what the candidate’s policies are, we want to know whether he has the kind of mind that you can trust to take reliable decisions under difficult circumstances.”

imagine the even sillier religious teachings that could have come, had Joseph Smith translated this hat.

imagine the even sillier religious teachings that could have come, had Joseph Smith translated this hat.

It was a thought- and discussion-provoking speech; you can read the transcript on the FFRF site. I’m afraid you’ll have to use your own hat for translations.

Until next week, let us all meditate upon the progression of humankind….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Talk Like a Pirate Day flashback. Sorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry.

[2] (my name and email, usually misspelled)

[3] The award is reserved for public figures who take on the fabled role of the child in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale and “tell it like it is”—about religion.

[4] The idiomatic “talking through your hat”  (which linguist say arose ca. 1880) means to speak utter nonsense.

[5] Before any of this happened, Smith had built up a track record as a psychic diviner of buried treasure. He claimed to be able to see underground, to see treasure by talking through his ass looking through –  you guessed it – that amazing hat of his.

[6] And was convicted of fraud in 1826 in a suit brought by a treasure-seeker he’d swindled.

[7] When Rep. Pete Stark “came out” as atheist, Woody Kaplan (Secular Coalition of America) interviewed 60 “likely suspects” in Congress and got 20 to admit – only if Kaplan promised total anonymity – that they were also atheists or non-religious. US politicians feel they cannot be truthful about their beliefs because, unlike the rest of the developed world, the non-religious are viewed as unelectable.

[8] Mark Twain’s many unflattering opinions on Mormonism (“Evidently one of the least difficult things in the world, to-day, is to humbug the human race.”) and  the BOM include: “All men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few except the ‘elect’ have seen it, or, at least, taken the trouble to read it. I brought away a copy from Salt Lake. The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so ‘slow,’ so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print.”

[9] Mitochondrial DNA lines show that Native Americans are of Asian extraction.  The BOM teaches that American “Indians” are descendants of Jews who migrated to America from Israel before the birth of Christ, crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a large, ark-like ship. No shit.

[10] Blacks were the cursed descendants of and bore the “mark of Cain” as a punishment for their failures in the pre-existence. Dark skin was a sign of the curse, lighter skin a sign of god’s favor.

[11] While running for President JFK assured the Catholic-phobia American public that he would not be taking orders from the Pope:  “I believe in an America where the separation of Church and State is absolute….”