Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Swattable Fear

There was a spider crawling along my ceiling wearing a backpack and panniers, and I took a photo of her from the floor so I could zoom in and find out who she was. If I'd been a squeamish sort I could probably have taken a picture of her through the window from the sidewalk out front. She was sturdy, is what I'm saying. A little on the hairy side, also. And she had a pretty good strut to her. My picture came out fuzzy on account of her struttiness but I got enough to determine she was a good old jumping spider. I don't know where she is now.

It occurs to me that there are a lot of people who would want to keep tabs on such a spider, at the least, if they couldn't keep a rolled-up newspaper or a can of napalm on her. There are people of my own acquaintance who would be rooted to the spot pointing until an assassin showed up drawn by the hyperventilating. If a spider like my hairy friend later turned up missing, these people would have to put their house on the market to get any sleep.

It's pretty clear I'm not one of the people so afflicted. Right at the moment--and we're in the season--there are cobwebs in the corners of all my windows. I can't bear to vacuum them up because somebody's still using them, I think, and if I'd built myself a house and someone knocked it down, I'd be upset, especially if I had to reconstruct a whole new one out of my own butt. Also, I'm lazy, and my mom's not coming over.

My poor mom. She was very tidy. She lived with a man I'm also related to who liked bringing things home to photograph. Your snakes, your lizards, what have you. Sometimes they got away. Sometimes they got away in the house. Mom was an outwardly calm person, but chronic repressed heebie-jeebies probably took a toll on her. Dad took a lot of pictures of spiders although he didn't bring them home for the purpose. Legend had it he was scared of spiders as a child and made a point of getting to know them in order to get over it. That was probably an apocryphal story but we all need heroes.

Anyway I'm not worried about my missing spider at all. I base this on finding them interesting and having not been harassed by any. There are probably a hundred big spiders in this house and I've been bitten maybe four times, ever. The bites are always on my fanny. I assume I roll over them in my sleep and you can't really blame a small critter for objecting when substantially sat upon. I certainly don't think spiders are making a point of being assholes.

What we're afraid of usually doesn't make much sense. We're afraid to fly but we'll tailgate at sixty miles an hour while checking our phones. We're afraid of anyone who isn't in our own tribe, just in case. Some of us are being instructed to be afraid of liberals now, possibly the least threatening, least organized, most hapless class of nice people on earth.

But the thought that we are looking at a mass extinction in another twenty or thirty years? And an unsurvivable climate in another fifty? Too big to grasp. Doesn't compute. If we can't solve it with a fly swatter or an AR-15 assault rifle, it might as well not exist.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Just Relax And Enjoy It

Apparently baseball is boring, and we need to speed things up a little if our pharmaceutical companies are to make any money.

I don't think baseball is at all boring. Or, if it is, it's boring in a way we could all use more of. It's a Jane Austen novel in a twitter world. You should be able to go to the potty during a game and not miss anything. Baseball is a game in which something really exciting could happen at any time, but probably won't. Just like life: and is it really healthy to be on constant alert all day long? It is not. Life and Cracker Jax should be savored.

Yes, it's true that the Red Sox players' beards are measurably longer at the end of the game than the beginning, but did you have anything more important to do than watch them? Maybe, but you're not doing it.

Nevertheless, when it comes to baseball, the younger set is all Too Long, Didn't Read. So we have new rules in place to help move things along.

Sure, Americans will watch soccer, even though no one ever scores and all they do is run around. It's like watching an ant farm. If the players didn't all have such nice butts there wouldn't be any point to it at all.

Football? Please. You got one guy sprinting around while a bunch of men the size of major appliances jam into each other at close range. It's like watching a human sodium atom and hoping it ionizes.

But baseball players get to wear pajamas, and some of them are shlubs, and they still make the majors. They're relatable.

Well, I was dubious, but it doesn't look like the new rules have ruined the game. For instance, now pitchers can take a limited number of practice pitches more or less coinciding with the commercial break but that's it. Same goes for testicle rearrangement: if you're a scratch player, you no longer get to do that all day long.

There's also a new limit on visits to the mound, which is not as sexual as it sounds. Catchers, in particular, need to visit the pitcher on the mound upon occasion, when their signals get crossed up. It's the catcher that chooses the pitch, because it's his head in the strike zone, and he needs to have an idea where the missile is coming in.

There is a camera on everything in the field. There's a camera just to see what the pitcher is doing with his fingers inside his glove. When the umpires are called upon to review a play, they get super slo-mo camera work from every conceivable angle including the Space Station. And that is important because sometimes when you're 250 pounds and you're sliding into second, the planet spits you back. During that nanosecond of levitation, was the tag on you? Now we know. We have seen the view under your armpit. We have seen your pants flap and your cheek pleat up on the base. They've got cameras strapped to earthworms. Sparrows.

Notably, there's always a camera pointing at the crotch of the catcher, where he's fluttering his fingers in front of his nuts. Anyone could see what pitch he's calling, but nobody wants to look.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Heavens To Murrgatroyd

I think it can be safely said, now that the Red Sox are in the World Series, that God is involved in sports once again, but it's hard to hold his attention for long. Nevertheless efforts to engage him continue to be made on the playing field.

Gestures change with the times and it's hard to keep up. We're starting to see the end of the double-fist-bump on the heart, which is good, because I'm always worried it signals palpitations. That's a general salutation anyway, not directed toward the Almighty so much as one's fans. But it's nice and short, and the shorter you keep these demonstrations, the less likely the game will be delayed. Experienced practitioners can whip out a sign of the cross between the wind-up and the first pitch. It signifies that the batter is from the Dominican Republic.

You don't see a lot of genuflecting on the field, though. This should be left to catchers, who have springs for knees. Again, it is important to speed up the gesture and not linger overlong with one knee on the ground, lest the player be mistaken for a black man with an opinion, which is something black men are not licensed to have in this country. If you're at all arthritic you shouldn't even try.

We do not have a surfeit of Muslim baseball players and it's just as well. There's no way to speed up the prayerful position, even if it occurs naturally during a slide into second base, inasmuch as the player would then have to ascertain which way is west and point his heinie in that direction. It's a tough call in a domed stadium.

I do think we are achieving the ultimate efficiencies in God-acknowledgment with the current fad of looking skyward while pointing one index finger straight up. The message being sent here is something along the lines of "glory be to God on high," which is certainly how I would feel if I ever landed on first base with a solid hit. (My usual reaction is "holy shit," actually, but that's close.) So far God has not seen fit to install me on base except on a fielder's choice and that's not the kind of thing people like to give God credit for; not disease or hurricanes or dropped pop flies either, although I would imagine he's equally responsible for those.

The specificity of the direction is interesting. For many people, God has an actual address, and it is almost universally assumed, at least by Christians, to be located "up." If a baseball player hits a triple and points somewhere over the horizon, everyone in the stands would turn and look in case there was an incoming asteroid or something. If you think about it, if all the Christians in the world pointed up at the same time, the whole globe would be bristling with fingers going every which way. Which makes sense, if God is indeed everywhere.

For behold, the kingdom of God is within you, or so I recall from my early training, though nobody wants their baseball heroes pointing at themselves even though they made a spectacular play and have worked hard to hone their skills for years and years. It's just not done. But many ascribe to the notion that if God exists, he exists in each of us, and so it might be nice to level a finger at your teammates, especially if one of them just winged you the ball from a rolling horizontal position just exactly where you'd need it to tag the runner. There's no better explanation for a play like that but that God is directing things from the vicinity of that person's chest. Go ahead and point.

As long as he's not a Yankee.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Patch Me Up

It was all about the patches.

Once you got to be a Camp Fire Girl, you got a vest, and then you could start accumulating these cool patches. I don't know what they were for, because I never got that far. They could've been for anything. Conservation. Service. Congeniality. Typing. Showing up. Marshmallow cuisine. Patch-sewing. Patriarchy-fighting. I don't know.

You had to be a Blue Bird before you could be a Camp Fire Girl, so I was. That got me an outfit, thus enlarging my school wardrobe by 50%, because I got to wear it to school one day a week. We had meetings. We had officers. I was Secretary. All I knew was Secretary was a thing I could be, because Mom had been one before I got invented. I was hoping it was a ceremonial title, but they made me take minutes and stuff.

Summer after fourth grade, we got to go to Camp Mawavi. I was plenty excited. Mom and Dad saw me off when we filed into school buses. I was in line with all my friends and when we got to the front of the line they asked us our ages, and all my friends said Nine and went in one bus, and I said Eight and they sent me to a different bus, like Auschwitz. It was horrible. I squeaked and pointed but I had no experience arguing with an adult, and quickly ran out of options. The buses pulled into camp and my friends went one direction and I never saw them again, and I went with the Little Kids in the Little Cabins, where they checked on us at night by shining flashlights in the window and telling us it was the fairies. The next day they doubled down on the fairy story to point out the fairy dust shining in the dirt, but my older sister was a rockhound and I knew it was mica flakes, and said so. It didn't go over well.

This is how far I would go into the ocean.
I was miserable. We made lanyards out of gimp and potholders out of little loops. The worst was they kept trying to teach me to swim. All week I pretended I had a cold so they wouldn't make me put my head underwater, but at the end we were supposed to demonstrate our ability to put our heads underwater by navigating an obstacle course in the lake. We were supposed to duck under the big floaty thing and come up the other side, and I must have looked mighty wretched, which is how you look when you're only eight and contemplating your own death, because I remember the adult waiting and waiting and finally lifting up the floaty thing so I could go under it with my nose out of the water, and I passed. She must have realized she'd be stuck with my sorry fake-sneezy ass all summer if she didn't.

After that my friends all Flew Up, right there at camp. That's what it was called when you shed your Blue Bird wings and become a Camp Fire Girl and got the patches. If there's anything I hated more than putting my head underwater, it was flowing up. Also, they eliminated our school so we all had to go to a different school for fifth grade. And guess the hell what? All my friends went to Tuckahoe and I went to Taylor Elementary and didn't know anybody. That had to do with our house being in the Nearly Negro section of the county. We were red-lined out of a lot of things, including, not coincidentally, the public swimming pool. I went from being the most popular girl in Mrs. Rejuney's fourth-grade class to being a real nobody with still only two outfits and no friends, and I got an attack of bashful that lasted for years. Never really quite pulled out of it until I got me a little social currency in the form of real titties. Once the dress code was abolished and you could wear hippie jeans and a hippie work shirt to school and still be cool, my remaining obstacles had been lifted.

All of which is to note that I never got to earn patches for a vest. But now I have a hat. A Metro Volunteer Hat, earned for being a frog egg counter for the regional gummint, and I have five Birdathon pins to stick on it too. Shiny ones. Also, I can put my head underwater. I'd rather not, but I can.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

G.I. Joe vs. The Dead Huns

I just got my first Big Girl pneumonia shot. Evidently I have reached the magic age at which it is assumed I can't afford a full-price movie ticket, and I'm likely to keel over in the presence of a microbe. I do tip over easily.

I woke up the next day feeling a little off, though. For instance, I got up at the usual time and took a dump but instead of getting dressed I went back to bed, just because. Long about mid-morning it occurred to me to take my temperature, and sure enough, it was up to 99.9. Right in the dreaded stinkhole! No, I took it orally. My shoulder was sore where I'd gotten the shot, too.

So, awesome. I have a case of miniature shoulder pneumonia. My bicep is hard at work fending off disabled microbes and frankly, I couldn't be prouder. It's like the Attack Of The Dead Huns! This would be a practice run. Somebody has dumped off a shipment of Dead Huns and all my personal warriors have run out to stab them with daggers just to get the feel of it so they're not squeamish when the real thing arrives.

This is the sort of scenario you cook up when you're running a fever and need to feel okay with it. You want to feel ready for the Huns.

So because there was laundry to hang out and dishes to put away, I spent the morning looking up the Huns. Huns are supposed to be fierce, like pneumonia. Turns out one of the first peoples the Huns attacked were the Alans.  The Alans. How hard could it be to beat up the Alans? Clearly, I needed a different visualization.

So. My shoulder is full of highly excited plasma cells. The little girl plasma cells are off somewhere trying to read and the little boy plasma cells are in my shoulder with a set of G.I. Joe antibodies, lining them up and going pew pew pew at the invading dead pneumonia microbes and getting all steeped in the culture of violence so that some day when they grow up they can go to war for real, and the girl plasma cells can get some reading done. Everybody's yelling at them to keep it down in there, but that shoulder is going to be sore until they run out of G.I. Joes.

By the next day my fever is back to normal. The plasma cells have been instructed to put away their toy soldiers and register for Selective Service, and peace has returned to the body.

What a wonderful thing is the vaccine. Most of us remember that the first one was developed by an 18th-century physician who'd heard that milkmaids didn't come down with smallpox, possibly because they'd been exposed to cowpox, but it's not true. For one thing, it was probably horsepox all along. Also, the Chinese had him beat by 800 years. They did it old-school. They scraped smallpox scabs off of dead people and ground them into powder and made people snort it.

I don't want to hear anyone complaining about modern vaccines again. Roll up your sleeves and your kids' sleeves. We'll come up with a cure for imaginary autism later.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

It Is My Dooty To Report

Reader and Friend Of Pootie Nisa Blackmon recently corrected me about a misapprehension I had concerning how sea urchins take a dump. If this is not the only blog you'll read today that starts out like that, I hope it's the first.

As she explained, they don't really take a dump, at least not in the gravity-assisted way we have grown accustomed to. Their anus is on the top of their body. That seems like really poor design but we have to remember they're underwater for the event, and presumably their effluent leaves the immediate area. Up until now I had not considered that the ocean is basically a giant toilet. This cements my determination to avoid it, especially as it is not airworthy, and I do not have gills.

Well. Under the circumstances it only makes sense to put the anus on top. Those circumstances being that the urchin's mouth is on the bottom end, where it can hoover algae and such from various surfaces, and in general animals are designed to poop as far away from their mouths as possible. Flip yourself upside down to mow algae on the sea floor with your lips and you will note that your anus is on top, too.

Urchins have five-fold symmetry, which is unusual in the animal kingdom. You'd think that if they were doubling up, however many times, they'd come out even. But they start out bilateral like us, and then the left side only gets busy and divides, and the right side stays put to be the oddball. We end up with a basically spherical animal, like Chris Christie.

It's hard to argue with success. That anus arrangement has been going on for a long time. And individual urchins apparently keep growing, however slowly, until something eats them, such as a Japanese person. They can get to be a hundred years old, or even 200, with few signs of aging, which is understandable in a critter that starts out with sprouty hairs and dribbles poop on itself. What more could it do, keep the turn signal on? Scientists have learned a lot about their longevity by measuring the Carbon-14 in their little round suits, thoughtfully deposited during the nuclear bomb testing of the 1950s. They really don't know how old an urchin can get, although science is intrigued by the discovery of a massive urchin with what is thought to be catapult dents.

I just had a little fun at the sea urchins' expense, so let me correct the record to note that even old urchins do not dribble poop on themselves, but eject it forcefully. (Related sea stars have anal cones for the same purpose so as to distance themselves from their personal magma.) They probably do have to get up to go several times a night, though.

Aristotle, who had the benefit of being a curious fellow in a time when nobody knew anything, studied almost everything, including urchins, and he referred to the purpose of the anus as providing "issue of the residuum." I plan to work this into my vocabulary as soon as possible.

So there's a mouth and an anus and lots of tubes inside for organizing stuff once it's in there, but what about sex? It's a little disappointing. Female urchins expel eggs that float freely in the water, and male urchins produce milt that can fertilize any eggs it encounters. This method is scientifically known as "jacking off," or, if it keeps up for a long time, "on and onanism."

It doesn't seem like much of a plan, but urchins have been around for 450 million years. That's a pretty good run for something that has an asshole at the top. Take heart, America.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A Rags To Bitches Story

So I found out, and never mind how, there's no reason to get into it on a Sunday, that my fine young friend buys reusable cotton flannel menstrual pads, which I didn't even know were a thing, but they are. And I was grateful yet again for being a post-menopausal liberal.

Because if I were a liberal woman still in the throes of unasked-for fertility, I would then have to go purchase these myself, and use them and wash them out in order to keep yet another single-use throwaway item out of the landfill, because that is the curse of a liberal, to worry about such things, and because it's not as if the throwaway kind ever saved much on laundry anyway, since there wasn't a single month in forty years in which I did not manage to doody on something I shouldn't have, even if I wore two corks and a pad so large it has a tag on it that says DO NOT REMOVE UNDER PENALTY OF LAW.

If I were a pre-menopausal conservative I wouldn't have to give this a second thought. I would be worried about some colored person breaking into my house or being blown up by a Muslim war refugee or raped by a Mexican or the fact that God is both all-powerful and somehow kept out of the schools or that some liberal is going to force me to use curly light bulbs or some stinking Socialist is going to steal my Medicare or someone is going to call me a racist just for having the guts to call a spade a spade or, and this is the very worst thing, my own husband might some day be accused of something he didn't do, something that totally never happened on account of there being no witnesses except that one really drunk dude who hasn't remembered anything he's done in thirty years. Any woman could accuse him of such a thing at any time and then go cash her check from the First National Bank Of Libtards and it wouldn't matter how many creative explanations my husband made up to explain the naughty bits in his yearbook. And his life would be ruined unless he makes it to the Supreme Court and is right back on top. As it were.

As a conservative woman I would be able to assume that life began when I was born, and being able to wear sweaters inside in the summer and drive my Ford Extortion to the corner store and throw away a plastic pod every time I make coffee is just what the world owes me. Certainly I would assert there was no life before pads and tampons. Just because women survived for a million years without them until a hundred years ago does not mean that we could survive without them today.

They did, though. Admittedly, history has not been overly interested in the concerns of women. Hypatia is an exception. That 5th-century mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher once discouraged an unwanted suitor by smacking him with her menstrual rags, although some scholars dispute this account, pointing out that she could have just waved them around and he'd have dropped dead of his own accord. Unfortunately, Hypatia was a woman of great and beguiling beauty, otherwise known as Satanic wiles. She and her big brain and beauty got into a nest of early Christians and that was pretty much that, for soon enough she was murdered, sliced up, dragged in pieces through the street, and burned.

And for this alone I might have donned the cotton rag in Hypatia's name. But now I don't have to, thank God. Or whoever's in charge.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Prom Night In Alaska

It was like being a chaperone at the junior prom.

K.C. and Scott let us get our breath after Denali, served us some delicious chunks off her 286-pound halibut (what the hell, Alaska?), and then walked us a mile or so into the woods near their house. Where, instead of terminating at what would have been a perfectly acceptable mushroom or salamander, we stood on the banks of a wide, graveled, braided river and watched sockeye salmon churn upriver in ardent anticipation. Thousands. Thousands of cherry-colored fish on their way to a very important date.

Cherry-colored. Why? They start out blue and white like any sensible ocean-going fish, but then, as the urge strikes, they turn bright red and their heads turn green and the males get long in the nose and develop a hump; make of that what you will. Why green heads? Because nothing goes better with red. It is possible there is a more involved explanation than that but beauty has its purpose.

The involved explanations would also have you believe that redness indicates fitness and salmon choose each other on that basis, as though they're conducting a job interview, but what else is beauty? You might as well say they choose the beauty. After all, we do too. Sockeye salmon, like other salmon, get the pigments in their flesh from what they eat, primarily nice pink krill and the like. That's also why tomatoes, and your better flamingos, aren't white. Carotenoids. You spend a few years in the ocean eating what nature intended and you're going to look really appealing on the plate, not that that's much of an evolutionary driver.

So when things feel just right, and hormones start acting up, and you're a sockeye, you turn red and green and humpy. Trust me, there is nothing weird you can't blame on hormones. You turn red because those terrific pigments you hoisted from your dinner start to move toward the skin under your scales, and your scales are transparent.

I've wondered about the nature of the salmon's motivation to spawn before. Sure, we fling around phrases like "biological imperative" and we know that whatever scoots them along gets rewarded in progeny. But still. It's not like anyone sticks anything in anyone else. Or even, really, touches. It's hard to imagine the draw. Until you remember new love.

And no one has much of an explanation for that. Someone catches your notice and sparks your flesh, and there's a quake within you, and you are drawn inexorably to that person, pulled right across the room to that person, and nothing is more important than closing the physical gap between you, and who can reason that out? Is there any point in trying? You are in such thrall you will offer up the secrets of your heart. You will vibrate the silky web. You will show your reddest meat.

The biggest, reddest males have the most success at this business, and get to swim next to their beloved and shoot sperm over her dropped eggs, but sometimes the lesser males get a squirt in too, later, after everyone's gone. Just like at the prom.

We're standing by the punchbowl watching the feints and fumbles and surges and urges. Love and beauty, that's what we're watching.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

I Pledge Allegiance To The Swag

Sometimes you have to hear things a few times before they sink in.

For instance, in a thread questioning why a woman would put herself through the threats, humiliation and abuse that Dr. Blasey-Ford did if she were not sincere--a question I had taken to be rhetorical--I was startled to read the following comment:

"It's their 15 minutes of fame. Paid for, I'm sure by the Left. Otherwise, why come out now. They've been ashamed to go public until now, why not keep quiet?"

I dismissed that right away. Until the very next day, when Judge Kavanaugh loudly clarified:

"This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump...revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups."

And suddenly, I saw the light. And I was deeply ashamed.

Yes, I am remiss in my contributions to The Left, and here it is Pledge Week already. It's time to step up and pay my dues on behalf of the Clintons. That child-sex ring isn't going to run itself.

That's right, Bob, a lot of our listeners probably don't even know how much goes into running a successful left-wing operation. For instance, sure, we can see the up-front costs associated with a pedophilia ring, such as salaries and travel expenses, but what about behind the scenes? What about the rent for the pizza place, or what about the sacrificial goats for the Satanic ritual abuse? What about the murders and coverups? They don't come cheap.

So true, Starchild, and let's not forget The Clintons themselves. As you know, they come as a set, but that's expensive to maintain; especially since Bill has been dead for years, and we've had to re-stock and train a cadre of doubles, all ready to deploy like Lassie, and that costs money, even though they've gotten so much skinnier.

Yes, Bob, and so to all of you listening today, let's chip in and together we can continue to make progress! We still have babies to kill and guns to confiscate. Every little bit helps, and whatever amount is right for you is right for us. Join today at the $20 level and we'll thank you with a hemp tote bag with our logo, the silhouette of a family of fleeing Mexicans! You'll know you're doing your part to contribute to the surge of immigrant gang members and rapists that we need to broaden our base.

True enough, Starchild. Don't forget, each tote bag can hold up to thirty pounds of fair-trade coffee and heirloom tomatoes, but, Starch, what if our listeners don't want to tote their own tomatoes?

Well, Bob, if they join our Karl Marx Society, with a monthly contribution of $1000, we'd love to send them a pair of actual Mexicans! Not only can they tote like nobody's business, but each one comes with a certificate of proof of voter's registration and his, her, or their own food stamps.

That's awesome, Starchild! how about our crisis actors, though? Do we have enough in the pipeline?

Never too many, Bob. And it is surprisingly expensive to get some goon to go on national TV and pretend his little girl was gunned down at school. Early on, you could get one for beer money, but there's been a shortage since the Trump rallies have drained off the supply. And who could have predicted we'd still be seeing Trump rallies two years into his administration?

Not I, that's for sure. But I know what our listeners are thinking: there's not that much money in working for non-profits--can't someone else carry the load? Well, Starchild, we really have only the one billionaire, so it's up to each of us to step up to the plate, tee up that puck, and get us over the goal line. And what better place to start than with our basic $35 membership, for which we'll be happy to send you a travel mug? Each mug is emblazoned with an American flag, which you can disrespect in the privacy of your own home.

But what if our listeners don't do any traveling, Bob? So many of us are trying to limit our use of fossil fuels.

Well, Starchild, the travel mug is still great for that volunteer stint at the soup kitchen, and it fits in a bicycle water bottle cage. You don't actually have to be going anywhere.

And thanks for reminding me, Bob, to tell our listeners to be sure to enter before the end of our pledge drive Saturday to win a trip for two to nowhere at all! This year we're excited to announce we're also throwing in a dinner with Merrick Garland. He's not going anywhere either!