Wednesday, December 13, 2017

And We Shall Purify

Boy howdy, some year, huh? We women are getting us some justice after a lifetime of abuse, or possibly the whole of human history--anyway we're finally holding the boys to account, and it's exhilarating. We got 'em by the balls and we're dribbling down the court for the score. Seems like the good guys were due for some kind of win, since it didn't work out for Colin Kaepernick and the gang when they tried to respectfully point out that the police were getting away with murdering them. You could sort of see why they might be aggrieved, what with all the death, not to mention the previous three hundred years of dehumanization, but unfortunately for them it turned out they were just overpaid niggers who hated America, as the President clarified, and they didn't get much traction. Maybe some other year. Maybe more death. Maybe it's not quite their time yet.

But it's sure our time now, right, ladies? We are done with being groped and cat-called and having to keep quiet lest we lose our jobs and the whole bit, which we get to call the Rape Culture because there's nothing that can be said that hyperbole doesn't say even better and louder. Women are refusing to remain silent in the face of oppression and men are finally learning how pervasive it has been. This is a good thing. Many men were unaware of what we've been going through, especially the ones who up till now had labored under the delusion they were innocent even though they are clearly equipped to be on the rapist side of the rape culture ledger.

This is particularly fun for me because I've never been in a mob. I was only one year old when Joe McCarthy was in his heyday, so my memory of it is patchy, although I certainly remember "the Commies" serving as the bad guys for decades. (We call them Muslims now.) Of course this is different. All those people accused weren't actual Commies and it shouldn't have mattered if they were, whereas now we know who's truly guilty on account of all the penises. It's wonderful to see men getting what they deserve. From off-color jokes to rape, it's all the same. We're through.

Show you just how much we mean it: we'll take down good ol' Al Franken. He's been an effective senator on the right side of durn near everything when we don't have any good senators to spare, but he engaged in shenanigans. Sometime. Probably. Ha ha! Take that, Al! Bet you're sorry you allegedly did all that stuff you probably might have done! Sure, it's the kind of stuff I've done myself, like butt-grabbing without permission, and if you'd done it to me it probably wouldn't have offended me or the next fifteen women, but it offended at least a few, and that should be that. It's our time now, baby. We've got a big net and we're fixing to catch a lot of men in it. We've all been groped and leered at but we ourselves are pure and we're taking you down. Zero tolerance, baby. It's the very definition of principled.

Maybe another day we'll have time to take aim at some other principles. Maybe we'll take a hatchet to radical capitalism and the party that primarily promotes it, the politicians who serve none but the rich and have seen no commons that shouldn't be privatized for profit, no resource that shouldn't be mined or harvested for profit, no population that shouldn't be demonized or destabilized or destroyed to smooth the way for more profit, no warmaking that can't be turned to profit. Who feel no shame about stumping for guns and against abortion whether they care about those things or not, because it will fool so many people into voting for them, so they can continue to wreck everything for profit. Who will happily devastate the living earth. For profit.

Talk about your rape culture.

[Author's note: today is International Margaret Day! You all know what to do!]

Saturday, December 9, 2017

86 The 86

Squirrels are all around us in the environment, occasionally seeping into our houses, where they manufacture mayhem in the form of gnawing on things that do not belong to them, such as electrical wiring, with the ultimate goal of setting us on fire or otherwise demolishing our bank accounts, and you can't always see them, but you know where they've been because they leave behind little piles of masticated figs, in season. And that's how you can tell them from radon.

Radon is even sneakier. Radon cannot be seen or felt, and nevertheless can cause great harm, just like squirrels or the plutocracy. It is a colorless and odorless gas and has such a strong invisibility component that it can make an entire high school disappear, as it did not too long ago right here in Northeast Portland. As the sad case of the disappearing high school demonstrates, radon is not a problem at all until it's detected, and then all hell breaks loose, in spite of which people are now working on more detection instead of less.

Formerly Adams High School
Radon was discovered initially over a hundred years ago and was often found to be lurking in coal mines and causing lung cancer in miners, which led to a demand for more ventilation in mines, thus rendering them safe as hell except for the coal dust, explosions, and the possibility of imminent mountain collapse. Once the mines were taken care of, nobody gave a shit about radon for a good 85 years, until a nuclear power plant worker named Stanley showed up at work glowing eerily. He, alone among his coworkers, tested high for radiation, so someone followed him home and discovered his house packed with radon. This led to job growth and a healthy boom time for radon detection and mitigation.

The gas seeps up naturally from the ground, chiefly in County Cork, Ireland and Iowa, but also in random locations all over the world, possibly including your house. Look around: can you see or smell anything? If not, you may have radon. The gas is light enough to get into your house but heavy enough to hang out primarily in your basement. It is so sneaky and particular it can even register in one room of your house but not another, and the only way to determine this without a radon detector is to place a middle-aged person in each room, with cable TV and snacks, and wait to see which one gets lung cancer.

There are various ways to mitigate radon in the home. One can punch holes in the house sufficient to let the radon out and keep the cat in, or, better yet, lift the home up on stilts and throw a rubber sheet under it over a ventilation system to coax the radon out from under the sheet and into your neighbor's house. Both options are a pain in the ass that would never have been necessary before that nuclear power plant worker messed things up for us. Gone are the golden days when people just up and died natural and nobody said boo about it. Clearly there is no upside to detecting radon in your home unless you're a smoker, in which case you can take a high radon reading as a reason to say well fuck it and go ahead and smoke inside like you always wanted to.

You'll still need a BB gun for the squirrels.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Ecclesiastes 5:10

An editor in our local rag put in a nice Thanksgiving piece saying how grateful she is to rich people for paying all our taxes for us. Most of us don't contribute much at all, says she, and it is the very wealthy who are supplying the bulk of our revenue. (Thank you, rich people, and please accept our outsized contribution of sacrificial humans for the war machine you make money on.)

It never occurs to her to think there's anything wrong with the fact that a slim sliver of the population has so goddamn much money that they can pretty much fund the government they're trying to shrink, or the interest on the swelling national debt, and yet they're still rich. But there is something wrong here. It's unconscionable. It's immoral. You can take the Pope's word on that, or Jesus's, even though only one of them is a Christian.

There are a few ways to get filthy rich, but they don't track real well with merit. Some of the folks who got hold of a good idea and had decent entrepreneurial skills managed to accumulate a lot of money, and they are busy trying to give it away as fast as they can, which is what any mentally healthy person with too much money would do. Others are just buying warehouses to stash their money in and giving away only so much as it takes to buy off Congress and get them even more money. These people don't need more money. They need therapy.

Most of the truly wealthy have stolen it. You don't need a gun. We're all stealing. When we consume palm oil, which is in everything, we steal land and livelihood from indigenous peoples. We steal our children's future by dumping carbon from deforestation into our atmosphere. We're able to buy stuff cheap because our slave class is in another country. We murder people in the Congo to acquire the minerals for our cell phones. Everything has a cost, even if we prefer to ignore it.

The rich people's money is not theirs. It's stolen too. We used to have living-wage jobs in this country. We used to have pensions. We were doing all right. Then came the campaign to eviscerate the labor unions. Wages stagnated or tumbled and the increased profits that resulted went to the investor class. Our plodding but reliable pensions gave way to the "ownership society." We could do so much better on our own if we just hand over our reduced wages to the financial sector. Only we didn't do better. We gambled it on a game we didn't understand and someone else got the big pot. And it's gone. It's stolen. It trickled straight uphill and we won't see it again. And if anyone truly believed this concentrated wealth was earned or deserved, there would be no talk of repealing the estate tax.

Did you hear Senator Chuck Grassley (age 134, plus or minus fifty years) the other day? He was asked why we should reward the already-wealthy by repealing the estate tax. Why, says he, that's to show a little appreciation to the people who sweated and saved their pennies and invested and contributed to society. Senator Grassley says the rest of us working stiffs spent our money on booze and women and movies.

Booze, and women, and movies.

Oh, Senator Grassley, I do declare! Thank you for standing up for all us little ladies at home in our calico frocks who would be in the catbird seat right now if our worthless husbands wasn't squandering our butter money on booze and broads. Please go right after our Medicare next so the sons of bitches will realize whut they done and mend their ways! But Senator, suh? We do love us some movin' pitchers and a little sarsaparilla now and then. Is that so bad?

Seriously, little senator dude? If you believe a wealthy man--let's assume it's a man, since you do--should be rewarded for his thrift and foresight and hard work, over and above the reward of his own wealth, whyever would you want to dump a ton of money on his kids' heads? Let them scrimp and save, if that's what you truly admire. Let us all start out equal. Heh heh. Just kidding. We ain't at the same starting line. We ain't even in the same race.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

We Heard It From On High

Fake news angel. Angels aren't girls.
Did you know Angelology is a thing? The study of angels? I'm going to admit right up front: I suspicioned that, stacked up against the other sciences, it might lack rigor. But I was wrong. It's got rigor out the wazoo.

My primary source is an article by a gentleman who graduated from seminary school fifty years ago, became a pastor, died, and went home to be with the Lord, so he's got credentials. Dr. Keathley pointed out that just as there are many forms of life lower than Us, we should expect that there are forms superior to us, if not quite as fancy as God. If there was nothing between us and God, that would be like a vacuum. In space. Which would be silly. So dollars to doughnuts it's filled up with angels.

Not only that, but almost all of the heathen mythologies posit the existence of lesser deities. We generally ignore heathen mythologies, but they had to have gotten the idea from somewhere, even if they got everything else wrong, like God's first name.

But the possibility of angels becomes a certainty when we realize that the Bible told us so. Because the Bible is God's word. We know this because God himself told us, and God wouldn't lie outright, although he was not above messing with Job just for fun. Even the weird bits in the Bible that contradict each other are proof that it must be God's word, on account of He is mysterious. Slam dunk, in the can, mortal lock, shut the front door.

As supporting evidence for the existence of angels, we can start with the fact that God is Spirit; and there's a material kingdom, and an animal kingdom, and a human kingdom, so it stands to reason--I believe it's reason it stands to--that there is a spiritual kingdom also, with angels in it. (Dr. Keathley leaves out the viral kingdom and the phlegmish kingdom but those should remain below us, unless there is a terrible reckoning down the line.) Also there is the undisputed fact that a significant portion of Americans believe they have felt the presence of one or more angels, although not as many as believe in aliens and trickle-down economics.

Now THIS is an angel.
What a lot of people don't know is that eventually, if we play our cards right, we will surpass the angels and even be in a position to judge them, and wouldn't that be awesome. Our ace in the hole is that we were created in the image of God and the angels weren't. Yes, we just learned the angels are not physical but spiritual just like God, but if God weren't spirit he'd totally look like us. So once we're redeemed, we'll slide right by them into the end zone and score. Nanner nanner, angels.

I'm willing to go along with this up to a point, even the biblical fact that angels were created before the earth (so, over 6,000 years ago), but when humans arrange that convenient end run around the angels I surmise God's Word has undergone some editing. This is a suspiciously fine result for ourselves. I'm not anticipating it myself. I don't suppose if anyone were to redeem me they'd even get so much as a toaster out of the deal.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Rugs Of Doom

We love Tibetan rugs. They're sumptuous and thick and artsy-craftsy and they must be tasteful, because they cost a billion dollars. Twenty years ago we bought one for the piano room. We probably should have gotten the larger size, but we only had a half billion in our pants at the time.

Piano room, living room, dining room: they're all small and right next to each other, and Dave, who splurges once every forty years (so far) thought we should get Tibetans for all three. Horrible idea! All those colors and designs jumbled together! Chaos! Plus if we got a patterned rug for the living room we'd have to reupholster the furniture. I thought maybe we could get one for the dining room, though. So I went online to see if I could find something affordable.

Yes! I found a rich rosy-red rug with green in the border to match our dark green wallpaper. It looked fabulous in the thumbnail picture on the website. Kind of spendy, so it had to be good. When it arrived, it was duly stunning! Stunning-ish. Vibrant colors, but a little on the thin side. Kind of a sparse design, once you see it full size. But hey! It was shipped and paid for and I decided to love it. It was good! It was good enough.

Kind of.  I mean, jeez, there are those little threads that keep poking out, and it looks a little shreddy, and it won't stay vacuumed for five seconds. But it's fine. Just fine.

Kind of. But then I saw an ad for new Tibetan rugs in town that were practically half price almost. Still expensive of course. But half price! Almost! I told Dave maybe we could just take a little look-see. No charge for looking.

Man, that there is a beautiful rug. And it only costs another fifth more than the rug we already bought that is really kind of shreddy.  Can't justify replacing  that rug though, unless--I know! We can put it in the TV room where nothing is ever clean anyway! That way we won't have wasted the Thin Shreddy But Expensive Red Rug.

"You can always take this rug for a test drive in your home," the rug pusher lady said.

"I could see if it works with the green wallpaper," I said. "I mean, I doubt it, but it might. I certainly am not about to scrape off wallpaper and repaint."

No way it was going to work with the green wallpaper, which I am in no mood to scrape off. I haven't painted a room in this house for twenty years, when I painted all of them, so one could make the case they needed a little freshening up, but that's not the case I was planning to make. I was planning to make the case that any wear and tear would coincide with my own failing eyesight and enhanced ability to not give a shit, and the rooms could remain as is until they finally hauled me out the front door on a gurney, and the new owners could waltz in with a sprayer and a vat of Eggshell White and have a ball. That was my plan.

"You could try it out," the rug lady said again. Well, we could. That doesn't cost anything. So we did.

Rats! Rats! I LOVE the new rug. And it totally doesn't work with the wallpaper, at all. But I could take the wallpaper down and repaint. It would totally be worth it.

"What was your plan for the red rug again?" Dave wanted to know. "Because we could put it in the living room just for now."

It sounded chaotic, but after all, we had the rug already.

"Shoot, might as well try it," I said. "Just for now." His ideas are not always horrible.

We tried it. It looked amazingly not horrible. And besides that, it was now obvious that we really needed a rug in that room. It was way better than the bare floor. Maybe not that exact rug, although it was truly amazingly not horrible. But a different rug. I consulted the rug pusher lady again. We found a good possibility. It was in a warehouse in New Jersey, but maybe they had a deal. Maybe it had a minor flaw and it would be less expensive.

Good news! It did have a flaw and it was less expensive. Not less expensive than the mail-order rug, or the rug I just bought, or any rug I ever contemplated buying ever in my life, but way less expensive than it would have been without a flaw. It was practically a steal. For that kind of rug. I mean, it's just money, right? Just something we'd have wasted on nursing care down the road or something.

Of course, we'd have to have our furniture reupholstered. The green worked with the green wallpaper that has to come down, but it probably doesn't work with the new rug that we might be buying in place of the red rug that will go in the TV room that needs to be repainted. The living room will have to be repainted too. We should probably spring for an arts-and-crafts light fixture in the dining room.

Of  course, if we do paint the living room and dining room, and we leave the door open to the stairs, the color in the stairwell carpeting will look a little weird. And that color goes all the way upstairs to the landing and the wall-to-wall matches it and sort of determines all the other wall colors, furnishings, and quilts I've made over the years.

"Shut the door," said Dave, whose ideas are not always horrible.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Paunch And Judy

Everything was fascinating and new when I was a little kid, and old-lady necks were no exception. They had variety. They wobbled. You couldn't not look. I tried to duplicate that movement on my own self by vigorously wagging my head from side to side, and nothing happened. That kind of activity would win you a trip to the neurologist these days, but my parents just had a glance and went back behind the newspaper, happy that I was occupied quietly. We kids were assured that old ladies had been young once, but that wasn't plausible. Old Lady Neck was just one of those puzzlements.  It wasn't natural; it was like an installation.

Now I know it's the dead giveaway for age. It's the first thing to go. The rest of the face has all those bones in it that can keep a secret for a while but there's nothing much instilling discipline in the neck. You've got that little string of knobby bones hooking up to the skull, but that's way in the back. The back of your neck usually looks just fine. So when the collagen takes a hike, your neck skin has all the integrity of a campaign promise. There might be a way of hitching it all back up again, but it would involve voluntarily presenting your neck to someone with a knife. I guess there are people who will sign up for that, but there's no real point as long as beer is still so affordable.

I've complained about my neck before, of course. I've been watching this particular story unwind for twenty years and it has had its startling plot twists, but I can only feel bad about things for so long. That initial pudding phase seems downright quaint now. And I can admit that the pleating development supplied needed tension. There was that adorable subplot wherein the main character vowed never to point her chin downward when someone else was around, but that never got traction. Now we're entering a new chapter. My neck has developed factions.

Factions. It's not all of a piece anymore. There are tuck areas and crease areas and a separate location where a sinkhole is beginning to emerge, and now I see an interesting pair of knobs at the base of the chin that sort of look like suitcase handles when I do a Grumpy Cat face, so that my entire frown appears to be holding up a duffle. Or, in a different light, it looks like stage rigging. The chin line is thus responsible for operating the set of curtains that billow and swing below. I don't know exactly what's coming next, but God, I hope it's going to be a puppet show.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Phallically Burdened

Well goodness gracious, it hardly seems possible that it's been such a big secret all this time that women (A) are frequently devalued and harassed and worse and (B) don't like it, but evidently that's the latest news. Like, we've had five thousand years of recorded history and it's just coming up now.

I don't know why, to take a common yet current example, a man would grab a woman and jam his tongue into her face. I do know that it always comes as a shock--you don't see it coming. And that it's not trivial. It's gross as hell. It feels like you're being probed by an alien, but not in a good way.

Some of us are mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore, and others of us have a more nuanced reaction. The really angry, take-no-prisoners women tend to skew younger, in my observation. Some of us elders perhaps have more expectation that things will change. We're having a moment here, and things are going to be different. We base this on having had more decades of seeing things actually change. The degree to which women used to be considered a decorative, inferior form of human can hardly be imagined now. It used to be a staple of comedy that "girls" were to be chased around the boss's desk, or sit around home waiting to be comforted when their cakes fell flat. Our concerns were trivial, and our reactions childlike. We were lesser beings. We were inconsequential.

When I was a kid, I accumulated some forty-plus stuffed animals and every one of them was a male, except for rubber-faced Mrs. Teddybear, who was a hand-me-down. She wasn't interesting. The rest had jobs and hobbies and personalities. Almost none of my classmates' moms worked outside the home. We grew up to be "Women's Libbers." That was a pejorative, but it did get us out and about, and able to have our very own checking accounts, even if we were still expected to cook the brown rice casseroles for the boys running the revolution.

One reason this old broad gives more leeway to certain miscreants than others is that I remember being a part of it all, doing things that shouldn't have been done, going along with things that used to be considered comedic, playing it for laughs. It's well established that I couldn't enter politics if I wanted to because there's way too much shit in my closet. There's not much (and not many) I haven't done. I've got plenty to be ashamed of, if I were inclined that way and had a memory. And even so, I think I'm an okay person with stuff to offer the world. I think some of the men who have something to atone for are, too. Check for signs of authentic contrition: it exists. We need way more women in positions of power in every field, but males should be allowed to evolve. And I trust they will.

I'm not saying my former complicity with the patriarchy is on a par with the unearned, malignant power of the males who exploited it. I don't suppose much of what I did actually hurt anyone. I probably haven't even broken any hearts, except for that one guy back in '71, and he really wasn't emotionally stable, just between you and me.

So yes, I think things can and will change. I never thought people would stop lighting up cigarettes any damn where they wanted. I never though people would pick up dog poop. Yet the air is fresh and I can go months without having to scrape my shoes against the curb.

Many men are now worried that "anything" they might do or say will be misinterpreted. But, guys, it's pretty simple. Pretend, as hard as you can, that women are fully your equals, until it starts to feel natural. And be willing to take no for an answer. It's quite easy to know when a line is being crossed. At least, it is for us. We've negotiated and enjoyed years of friendly banter and flirtation and never had any trouble finding that line. We can feel it. We know when someone is looking right through us and not seeing us. We know when we've been discounted. We know when someone is assuming ownership, is prepared to take possession. When we have a situation on our hands.

Let's get it all out there and put men on notice their secrets are no longer safe with us, and things will change. They will. It's happened before. But let's remember there are degrees of offense. A humiliating or dismissive ass-pat isn't as bad as a forcible kiss. Which is not as bad as rape. Which is not as bad as murder. Which is not as bad as war.

Which is not as bad as plundering a sweet planet and extinguishing its life-forms and enslaving its humans in order to shovel ever more treasure into a few, fat pockets. Focus, people, focus.