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Archive for the ‘Observed’ Category

Impressions

A potential employer has called me in for an interview. I really want this job. What will I wear? I have a business suit for this purpose, and worn with an understated top, modest jewelry and matching accessories, it is the appropriate uniform for the occasion. I will appear to be a responsible, sober, capable person who takes this job seriously. This is not the time to express my preference for a roomy sleep shirt and bare feet. I know how to make a good impression.

Tattooed guy on the A-train.

Tattooed guy on the A-train. © JustHavingFun

How we are exposed to things creates impressions. The frequency, the popularity, the acceptability seem to grow proportionately. I remember a time when a boy with an earring was a rarity, a rebellious type to be avoided. Now? I’ve seen guys with dangly earrings as well as holes as big as quarters in their lobes. And tattoos? I’d heard stories growing up about crusty, tattooed sailors. It wasn’t considered to be suitable for nice folks. Now they’re all the rage.

First impressions count—it’s not just a worn adage. The subtlety of impressions cannot be emphasized enough. They get worn into our brains, drip by drip, until an impression is formed. Like water on a rock, with time enough, a path can be carved. The Grand Canyon proves this theory.

Impressions are also formed by the media. What we consume as humor and entertainment become realities. Like mouthy, bratty, know-it-all kids. Remember the fantasy of Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show? I can’t imagine Opie being mouthy without consequences. Or Richie on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Nowadays children on sitcoms mouth off and are bratty, and that is considered normal. Not in my house, honey. If my kids had been as fresh as those on TV, they’d have had what to be upset about.

SNL Screenshot

Screenshot. © NBC

What happens when the media steps past a societal boundary, more than just a breach of good taste? Saturday Night Live last week ran a skit that I thought pushed the boundary too hard. Here’s what I sent to NBC as a comment on the show:

DESPICABLE. That’s the “World’s Most Evil Invention” skit from 5/20/17. Child molestation must NEVER be exploited for humor, never mind ironic use. Yes, the behavior is really, really evil, but it’s no laughing matter. When SNL uses child abuse for humorous purposes, it diminishes the horror of the act, the level of sickness it embodies. Child sexual abuse should be verboten, like rape, making fun of handicapped people, or even saying the “N-word.” Push the envelope, but use restraint.

There are certain things we should not joke about or hint at in humorous settings. I draw the line at child sexual abuse. I shudder to think that this evil act can be made as acceptable as tattoos. I don’t think I’m over-reacting. The more people are exposed to things, the more “normal” they seem and the less sensitive they become to those topics. I like to think that we are a society that wants to be good and do right. In order to do that, we need to make the right impression on ourselves. Think about that. How do we do that?

The media have a lot of power. As I’ve said before, whether you love him or revile him, Donald Trump is the President of the United States. Most of the photos I’ve seen of the President show a snarling, warped visage. The camera seems always trained on him mid-grimace. Perhaps if the media were to show him smiling, some of the rancor would diminish.

Likewise, if the media were to treat actions like rape, sexual abuse, sexual trafficking, child molestation, death by gunshot, and other acts of horror seriously and not gloss over them, perhaps there would be more attention paid to the plight of the victims.

Just saying. I’m really worked up about this topic and there is no room for humor about it. There are some things that cannot become commonplace or humorous.

Rack Attack

Sometimes I get an urge to buy clothing. Not often, because it’s hard to recover from sticker shock. I keep thinking that I should just buy the fabric and make the little schmatte for a quarter of the cost–not that I do so. It goes against my grain to consider paying $80 for a simple skirt. Ah, but doers do and critics squawk. I dislike the experience of buying clothes so much so I prefer to kvetch instead.

I was at Target and passed the Women’s clothing section. Normally I wouldn’t even stop, my eyes squinting in the distance for Housewares or Pharmacy, but I was in no rush. Every once in a while I open my wallet under that happy fluorescent retail lighting for items other than toilet paper or cough medicine.

Ironic Rack-Mates

Ironic Rack-Mates, © JustHavingFun

[As an aside: For those of you not familiar with female clothes shopping, “Women’s” sizes are also called plus size. This department is usually smallish and tucked behind the more prominent “Misses” (i.e., so-called normal-sized departments). We’re bigger but our retail footprint is smaller. There are more of us than ever before, too. But it doesn’t make clothes shopping a way happier experience for me. More on size acceptance, body-shaming, and “fatshion” at another time.]

Clearance Sign

Clearance” by Damian Gadal, used under CC BY 2.0

I wound my way toward the back: I saw the clearance racks. No new styles for me, no sir. If it’s not on sale, I don’t even look. Thirty percent off! Seventy percent off! Would I strike gold? Is there a bargain waiting for me? I doubted it but expertly strode to my goal.

What I saw struck me in the oddest way.

The white plastic clothing hangers have beautiful, brightly colored tabs on their tops showing the sizes. (Thank you, Target!) That’s an improvement over other stores and a balm for the shopping experience. I know I can ignore all of the green and fuchsia hangers and zero in on the blue or orange ones, say. At this particular Target store the staff is diligent about hanging the correctly sized clothing on their corresponding hangers. Pleasantly tidy racks greeted me instead of them looking like a typhoon raced through the department. (You’ve been there after women shop hard. Things can go flying!) But that was not the case here. No, something more insidious was happening on the racks.

Somebody didn’t think through how the plus-size shopper would be affected seeing size 00 jeggings and skinny pants adjacent to 4XL blouses! Red alert! Ironic rack attack!

Is it just me? Is it that nobody else notices things like this? When did size double zero become a thing? And finally, what the heck are jeggings?

CBS News Feedback

Sick of Israel-bashing. We must speak up when we see wrong being perpetrated. Language cements ideas in peoples’ minds.

If you repeat a lie enough times, it becomes the truth.
The Big Lie

I sent the following note to CBS News after seeing the referenced article. Borrowing language from D. Lubinsky’s letter and CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America)  analyst Gilead Ini, I was emboldened to add my voice in protest.

I urge all of you to speak up when you see Israel being maligned in the media. Drop by drop water can wear a hole even in impervious stone. It goes both ways.


To CBS News,
RE: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/israel-jewish-settlement-homes-palestinian-west-bank-trump/

The title of the above-referenced article, “Israel okay’s 2,500 new Jewish homes in Palestinian territory,” unfairly labels land in Israel as belonging to Palestinians. This is biased and inflammatory language. The photo illustration shows the city of Maaleh Adumim, and in the caption identifies it as “the West bank Jewish settlement.”

Why do you refer to “Palestinian territory” rather than “disputed land” or even “occupied West Bank”? Why does the CBS News use such distorted terms against Israel and no other country?

There never was a Palestinian state in the West Bank. Jordan controlled that land until 1967 and did not refer to it as “Palestinian territory.”

Biased language that accepts Palestinian territorial claims as fact while ignoring reasonable arguments to the contrary should be avoided by impartial news sources. Journalists are not judges sitting in international courts. It is not for them to unilaterally solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I am ashamed at the lack of objectivity shown by the once august CBS News organization. I hope the article’s title will be edited online to contain less nuanced language.

This type of “reporting” only fans the flames of hate. Be a part of the solution CBS, not the problem.

A copy of this has been sent to CAMERA.


Words can build; words can also create devastation. Let’s be builders rather than destroyers.

Open Letter to NPR

I listen to NPR programming throughout the day and am struck how there has been little mention, if any, of the fires consuming Israel for the past week. Certainly this maelstrom has not been mentioned at the top of the hour news briefs. News about Syria, however, has been reported in that brief time. On the Middle East section of your website, as of this writing on 29 November, the latest story is dated 24 November: “Tens Of Thousands Evacuate As Wildfires Rage In Haifa, Israel” presented on All Things Considered, elapsed time 2 minutes 59 seconds.

The “Fire Intifada” wrecked thousands of lives. A warped, desperate culture of violence spawned this destructive and terrifying activity. NPR apparently chooses to report on Israel only when it can point a critical finger at Israelis. NPR serves as the battlefield for this image war, but NPR chooses the rules.

beit-meir-fires-credit-jerusalem-post-courtesy-israel-police

Beit Meir fires. Photo credit: Jerusalem Post, courtesy of Israel Police.

There have been many more fires since that time. Residents from the small town of Beit Meir, 9 miles from Jerusalem off the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, were evacuated in the middle of the night. To be fair, apparently a flare fired by Israeli border guard troops set off the fire during while they chased suspicious individuals. But what were those people doing there? Fire engorged the sole entrance of the town.  Over 100 families, and dozens of boys residing at the yeshiva, fled in the pre-dawn hours.

Footage of arson, West Bank. Credit- Israel Nature and Parks Authority.jpg

(Video) Footage of arson, West Bank. Photo credit: Jerusalem Post, Courtesy of Israel Nature and Parks Authority

Indeed, arson is the cause of some of Israel’s fires, the so-called “Arson Intifada.” At least 35 suspects have been arrested on suspicion of arson this past week, and there is video evidence of an arsonist setting fire in the northwestern Etzion region. To date, over 100,000 people have been displaced—innocent civilians—and thousands of homes damaged or destroyed.

Certainly this maelstrom was not mentioned in the top of the hour news briefs. News about Syria was reported in that short time, so it can’t be an issue of NPR not reporting international news. Furthermore, on 27 November, 4 minutes 40 seconds were dedicated to “Abused Animals Find Refuge In A New Sanctuary In Jordan” on All Things Considered. Sheesh!

Indeed today, Israeli troops at a West Bank checkpoint stopped 3 Palestinians who were trying to start a blaze near Ariel in Central Israel. I consider that to be relevant news.

NPR reported on 3 deaths caused by wildfires near Gatlinburg today. I do not mean to diminish the devastation experienced by those people in the least, nor minimize the suffering and loss of the residents, but that tragedy pales in scope compared to what is happening in Israel—except it is US news.

NPR’s Middle East reporting is so unbalanced. NPR seems to only publish news about alleged Israeli aggression against the Palestinians. With this recent rash of fires, NPR had the opportunity to congratulate the many countries that assisted Israel in fighting the fires—including Russia, Turkey, Greece, France, Spain, and the US. That was a true gap in coverage.

NPR get your act together. Report news about Israel fairly, because in the end, you shape public opinion.

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No Second Thoughts

As happy as a cat being toweled dry after a bath.

This is how I feel. “Towel Dry” by Christina Welsh, used under CC BY-ND 2.0

How would I describe this presidential election season?

I choose from a whole slew of adjectives at hand to choose from—endless, tiring, shameful, contentious, disgusting, embarrassing, slimy, frightful, and jading to name a few—but irritating fits the bill as well as any. It’s bland enough to go about with your daily business but strong enough to worry at like a hangnail. For in the end, I am convinced that there is not much I can do to avoid the choice between awful and terrible.

I feel twitchy, restless, and apprehensive. Really irritated. So much so that this morning, Election Day, I dare not turn on the radio. I don’t want to hear the pundits. This has been going on too long. The process is broken. The trial balloons started rising in 2014, fer gosh sakes. That’s two years ago! I wish they had popped and never left the ground. I cast them in lead and drown their first-born. I salt their earth and inveigh the wrath of the Heaven against the universe that spawned them.

Figuratively, that is.

Meditation may help soothe me. I will gaze outside my windows, admire the gaily colored leaves adorning the trees, and breathe in (noting the position of my shoulders and rib cage), then breathe out (modulating the velocity of my breath). I will remember my Lamaze training—which I usually conjure during dental work—and go somewhere far away, a pleasant place, where calm and tranquility reign, and the only thing to mar the surface of the lake is the occasional ripple from a gentle breeze. I will cast my mind to far above the clouds, to the Moon perhaps, where eons make a difference, and a footstep on its surface will be evident for centuries to come. Breathe in, blow out, huff puff blow—this baby better be worth it!

I will vote today. My vote won’t count as I’m not in a “swing state” but indeed, I will vote; we’re choosing a mayor here, did you hear? No? Me neither. I listen to public radio and talk shows but there’s not much political news about anyone except the top guy and gal. How do I make an informed decision then?

I hope I won’t have second thoughts about my choices in the election booth years down the road. I hope my country will survive this battle, growing closer together rather than stockpiling worse epithets and stronger artillery for the next bout in 2020 [for which the blasted trial balloons will start to rise even earlier, I suspect].

The future as I see it, stormy weather ahead. © Batya7, Just Having Fun

The future as I see it, stormy weather ahead. © Batya7, Just Having Fun

I’m planning to avoid the news until tomorrow morning. I will wake up like any other day, switch on  my computer and walk away to prepare a cup of coffee. After taking my vitamins, I will return to my desk with a cup of hot solace and breathe in the aroma. Breathe in, hold it, then gently let it out.

Pain free

Time Heals Most

I don’t think more reps can help this one.

I want a pain free day. No itches, no strains, no numbness, no aches, no headaches, no bumps, no tingles nor twinges. What an original thought!

I slept funny a few weeks ago and got a “crink” in my neck. It really put a crink in my life; it hurt to move, sit, stand, lie, and worse-type! I felt like such a whiner, but I couldn’t help it.The pain distracted me from my normal enjoyment of simple things like the breezes coming through the open windows and seeing the leaves change color. Pain tossed a thick veil over my sunny disposition and left a miserable, soggy grouch.

Other people get banged up and carry on normally it seems. Me, I get a paper cut and I’m in agony. For days. My boo boos grow boo boos and I’m the only one who can kiss them better. Poor me-bring out the sappy violin music.

I’m sure it’s a test from Above. I grew the discipline to say “rats” instead of something stronger. That alone is a gift.

Thankfully miracles do happen and angels in the form of physical therapists guide me to relief. Only compassionate people can be PTs. Yeah it hurts, they affirm, but we’re going to get you moving. Time – and doing plenty of reps – heals all… or most.

Hanging On

bee-in-garden

Last Summer’s Bee Hanging On One of the Last Blossoms

The mood of the day is neutral. A gray sky presses on my brow and the mist of rain glimmers my cheeks. In the garden, sharply contrasting with the home’s red brick facade, brightly hued flowers sway with the weight of accrued raindrops.

All summer long fat bees swarmed and danced around this patch of flowers.They filled the air above the walkway, a slalom to negotiate, their important assignment a mission to avoid disturbing. Yet I found the combination pleasing; the contrast of the pleasant porch, the garden, the suburban lawn around it, and the sunny flowers greeting me pressed my happy button. It spoke to me of an illusory freedom, youthful celebration, and the desire to stretch my limbs in exuberant ways that would (sadly) leave me sore the next morning.  Summer Abundance.jpg

Last summer’s bee clung motionless, a mere shell trapped on the blossom. I could examine it fearlessly because it was defenseless, unable to hurt me with its sting. I didn’t delay its mission, nor did I block its path. Its only purpose was that of an item I could photograph.

Many of us wear facades to show to the public: a smile when feeling gloomy; a chipper attitude; cosmetics to brighten the lips or conceal blemishes; uniforms and masks. Sometimes they are proper, as one should never take out bad feelings on others. We enjoy “good customer service” voices. We are schooled when young to “be nice.” But sometimes, like when the facade comes out and we are trying to bond with our friends and fellow travellers, the false fronts we construct and gay, amusing stories we repeat only serve to distance.

Gray days like today require perseverance. Hanging on like that dead bee requires no effort. Unlike that creature, I’m hanging on by doing small tasks in 5 minutes apiece. I’m accumulating minor activities, like grains of pollen, to abate the clutter of my surroundings and cobwebs in my thoughts. Though the mist outside dews my face, I’m hanging on, hanging on.

Grouchy but Passionate

I’m having a grouchy couple of days.

To divert my attention from the ouchies and aches that distract me from my usual attitude of focusing on happiness, I’m thinking about things that I’m passionate about.

The Boys of Summer, 2007 (c) JustHavingFun

The Boys of Summer, 2007 (c) JustHavingFun

First answer that popped into my head: My kids.  Then, … the sound of crickets.

Oh, I have my yarn to knit and crochet, watercolors to smear into new paintings, and my fabric stash to quilt and sew. I have my blog to write, and the entire World Wide Web to feed my curiosity about anything I want to learn. And of course, I have my library card. Maybe I’m not too passionate these days. I expect passion to evoke some wild, urgent feelings, and frankly, my ouchies are the only ones that feel urgent. Sneer. Grumble. Hand me a pain-killer, or find a way to let me sleep through the night.

Paul Hudson wrote in Elite Daily  10 Things That Truly Passionate People Do Differently“:

1. Start their days early.
2. Always have their passions on their mind.
3. Get excited more than the average person.
4. Get pissed off and emotional more than the average person.
5. Willing to risk more and put more on the line.
6. Devote their lives to their dreams.
7. Surround themselves with their work.
8. Can’t help but talk about their projects.
9. Tend to either be pushing ahead full throttle or are completely still.
10. Always think positively about the future.

So I’m reading the list and mentally checking off the Yes/No boxes. It seems to me they’re mostly “no”:

1. Rarely. Night owl. Always was.
2. Nope.
3. Not me. I’m pretty calm.
4. Pissed off? Me? Slow to anger…
5. Not a risk taker. Anymore. Would like to get a motorcycle, however.
6. Last night I dreamed about buying yarn in Iceland.
7. I’m surrounded by … clutter.
8. Got nothing [interesting] to say.
9. Completely still. That’s one I can get into.
10. Think positively about the future. Well, yeah, duh!

I guess my passion is the future. Then I can indulge in all of my interests. Things will be good. My sons are growing into wonderful, caring men and I look forward to seeing how they turn out. In the future there will be freedom from this pain; all the ouchies will go away.  Like Manhattan’s Second Avenue Subway line, it is anxiously and happily awaited.

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Baltimore Burns

image

chametz, that is. Thousands of Jews raced to the famed Pimlico Race Track today, the eve of Passover, to burn bread, bagels, cereal, crackers, and pizza, boxes and all. City police wearing fluorescent green vests guided the cars into the parking lot and toward available spaces. City Fire Marshals stood by ready to prevent accidents. They even parked a fire truck for children to explore.

Entire families, young and old carry all sorts of containers laden with leavened products, or chametz, which Jews are forbidden to own or have benefit from during the eight-day festival.

People living in neighbouring houses watch the spectacle. Some people avoided the parking lot and parked on the side streets. Imagine the sight of three white-shirted young men sporting black fedoras emerging from a car. They are carrying garbage bags into the parking lot, joining the throng there. Following them is a young pregnant woman pushing a stroller trailing her husband and a few other children. They nod to and thank the officer guiding them in the crosswalk.

Still, the main event is in the parking lot by the 20-or-so barrels blazing behind safety rails. I feel the mad heat as I toss in a Trader Joe’s bag with my leftover chametz. My bag hits the target and plops into a raging turmoil.

image

Other people aren’t as neat about it. All sorts of bread products litter the base of the cans. Since care is taken to not burn plastics, people try to pour cereal into the fires but found the heat too hot to keep their hands there. So the cereal, or bread, pouring out of the plastic bags landed on the ground. I saw one enterprising man spear a bagel through its center hole and toss it back into the fire.

Before I leave I pause to say the formulaic nullification of chametz in Aramaic. These words connect me with millions of Jews throughout history who have said this very same declaration. I am here and now in Baltimore, and I am there and then in Babylon. The year is not a circle. Rather, it is a spiral through time. We celebrate our Redemption from slavery in Egypt on this night. And this day we remove our are puffed up egos burning leavened products. Next year in Jerusalem!

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Awkward Geography

Maryland holds the dubious distinction of being the First Candidate for the state with the most “Awkward Geography.” (Hawaii, a collection of islands, doesn’t count.) A spindly, sickly state, Maryland cants heavily to the east—despite Delaware’s rude surgery and squared corner in Wicomoco County. West Virginia bit a huge chunk out its western regions and Virginia eviscerated the center. Even the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., self-aggrandized with bloviators, gnawed a square-edged, thumbnail-sized chunk out of Maryland’s gut.


Map Courtesy of Digital-Topo-Maps.com

Furthermore, the Chesapeake Bay cleaves the east into two cruelly misshapen legs. Some oceanfront beaches tantalize crowds with promise of crabs galore, but sadly, Virginia in a mad coastal land grab truncated Worcester County’s coastline to the south, leaving poor Maryland with a measly 31 miles of ocean coastline.(1)

Then there’s Baltimore, another square-edged nibble into Maryland’s land. To clarify, I mean Baltimore City, not to be confused Baltimore County of which Baltimore City is not a part.(2) Confused yet? I am.

Nicely delineated states like Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico (except the ruffled border with Texas), have beautifully-drawn borders, ruler-straight, and comprehensible. Semi-natural states rely upon natural boundaries such as rivers to define their territory. Iowa, bordered by the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and having horizontal northern and southern borders, pleasantly represents this category.

Poor Maryland. Awkwardly drawn, ripped apart by waterways. It’s a wonder it hasn’t melded with the surrounding states. It suffers from lack of orientation. Is it an east-west state? Or a north-south state? From my perspective, it’s leaning: head at NNW and foot at SSE (as much as a state so oddly shaped can have a head and a foot). It’s like a traffic barrier between the North and the South, hastily erected and somewhat malleable. Here, take another chunk of me.

The Fall Line cleaves eastern Maryland further. To its north and west is the Piedmont region, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and Pennsylvania. To its east and south is the Coastal Plain. Baltimore, the jewel, sits on the Fall Line. Then the Chesapeake Bay coastline drips down down down to St. Mary’s County and terminates at the scruffy little islands off Somerset County’s western shore. Awkward. Messy.

Probably the most awkward portion of the geography, Assateague Island is a finger in the ocean. Not even wholly owned by Maryland, this narrow barrier island was amputated by Virginia’s claim. It’s embarrassing enough that Ocean City, that rollicking vacation destination, shares real estate with Delaware. But Delaware is not the bully that Virginia is. For shame, Maryland, for shame.

No. I’m wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. I spoke too early about border islands being the most awkward feature. I nearly forgot Maryland’s “waist,” a 1-mile wide portion of land in the panhandle. It’s been called a geographic anomaly.(3) With Pennsylvania and the Mason-Dixon line to the north, and the Potomac River to the south, the “waist” claims the town of Hancock and the intersections of Interstates 68 and 70. Awkward 3-state views can be seen from there.

Do you agree? Place your nominations for Most Awkward Geography in the comments. Alas, there is no prize. It is, however, a whimsical diversion on a sunny afternoon in Maryland.


1. Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report for Congress. “U.S. International Borders: Brief Facts,” November 9, 2006.
2. Baltimore City is the largest independent city (i.e., not belonging to any particular county) in the United States.
3. Maryland’s Waist: Narrow Strip is Geographic Anomaly, L.A. Times, October 8, 1987 [accessed April 17, 2016]

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