You’ve Probably Heard This Quote – But Do You Know Its Origins And Meaning?

This quote – and versions of it, sometimes rather mangled – has been around for nearly 40 years.

It’s appeared in at least a half-dozen book titles, including these:

On a t-shirt and matching pillow:

On a button and a sticker:

A record album:

And was embraced and used by some politicians, including these:

An interesting note is that even though the quote says “Ginger Rogers,” I find no record of her ever saying this, or anything like it.

First:  Who was Ginger Rogers?

Ginger Rogers (1911-1995) was an American actress, dancer, and singer during the Golden Age of Hollywood.

She appeared in comedies and dramas, and won an Academy Award in 1940, but she’s best known for the nine films she made with dancing/singing partner Fred Astaire in the 1930s, during the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Astaire, called a “peerless dancer,” and Rogers,

“…revolutionized the Hollywood musical by introducing dance routines of unprecedented elegance and virtuosity with sweeping long shots set to songs specially composed for them by the greatest popular song composers of the day…The resulting song and dance partnership enjoyed a unique credibility in the eyes of audiences.”

I’ve never watched any of those nine musicals all the way through, but I’ve seen many of the dancing scenes on YouTube and elsewhere, like when I’m channel surfing and hit TCM, the Turner Classic Movies channel.

Ginger and Fred’s dancing is amazing to watch.  I can’t even begin to imagine the endless practice required, the discipline and coordination and strength needed, the sheer ability to move your body in so many different ways while smiling at your partner and making it all look easy.

If dancing was an Olympic event, Ginger and Fred would have brought home the Gold.

I thought about this recently when I landed on TCM and they were airing Ginger and Fred’s 1937 musical, Shall We Dance?

The answer to the title question was a resounding “Yes!” and Ginger and Fred danced, danced and danced some more.

And what you can’t help but notice is that Ginger matches Fred step for step, move for move, leap for leap, but she’s often dancing backwards…

And in high heels:

Same movie, another scene – again in a long dress…

And in another scene, on roller skates:

Hence, that iconic quote:

Ginger did indeed match Fred step for step, but she did it backwards and in high heels.

So, second – where did that quote come from?

From here:

This is from the comic strip Frank and Ernest by Robert Thaves (1924-2006).  The comic strip was nationally syndicated in 1972, and this image appeared in 1982.

I can find plenty of online references to Thaves and the quote, but nothing to explain what prompted Thaves to say it – through his cartoon characters – or what he was thinking when he created it.

Or if he experienced any backlash when he did.

As to what prompted Thaves and what he was thinking, I’ll hypothesize that he was a pretty enlightened guy back in 1982, and at least somewhat aware that women were capable of – as one writer put it in 2019 – “achieving everything men do on top of the ‘traditionally female’ work – raising children, cleaning cooking – that society has thrust upon them.”

So now we know the exact quote, the source, and what it means.

One last note – back in 1937, while Ginger was doing everything Fred did in Shall We Dance?

This is from a 2017 article on KQED.org, a Northern California public broadcasting station:

“It’s true that in 1937, Fred Astaire made $211,666 to Ginger Rogers’ $124,770…”

In 2021, women are still dancing backwards and in high heels, and still…

For less money:

How Many Companies Does It Take To Screw Up A Lightbulb?  Just One.  This One:

According to the California Energy Commission, there are six Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs) in California.  The Big Three are, from north to south:

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E):  5.2 million households in the northern two-thirds of California, from Bakersfield and northern Santa Barbara County, almost to the Oregon and Nevada state lines.

Southern California Edison (SCE):  5 million residential and business accounts…in a 50,000-square-mile service area within Central, Coastal and Southern California.

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&):  3.6 million people in San Diego and southern Orange counties.

And according to this recent article, the Big Three charge us big time for electricity:

“PG&E customers pay about 80% more per kilowatt-hour than the national average, according to a study by the energy institute at UC Berkeley’s Haas Business School with the nonprofit think tank Next 10…Southern California Edison charged 45% more than the national average, while San Diego Gas & Electric charged double.”

Each of these three Investor-Owned Utilities also prompts headlines that range from tragic to outrageous: 

Since I live in San Diego County, my focus is on SDG&E.

And it has been for quite awhile.  I started lambasting SDG&E on this blog back in early 2018, and the company has given me plenty of fodder since then.

I’m sure this post won’t be my last.

But this time…this time…something is different.

Instead of SDG&E putting the screws to us customers, SDG&E is giving back some of our hard-earned money:

You’ll notice the mention of “bulb.”

They’re referring to lightbulbs.

Now, I know how to screw in a lightbulb, but how do you screw UP a lightbulb?

Here’s how SDG&E did it, starting back in 2017.

According to a recent article in the San Diego Union-Tribune,

“…SDG&E initiated an Upstream Lighting Program to encourage residential customers to buy energy-saving lightbulbs.  Under the project, SDG&E could earn a performance-based incentive.

“…the program aimed to reach customers who would not typically buy energy-efficient bulbs because of their expense, and prioritized stocking bulbs in small, independent grocery stores, drug stores and in lower-income markets.”

For my own education – research time.

I learned that there are three main types of energy-efficient bulbs:  halogen, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).  

They come in a variety of shapes and sizes – here are some examples, along with an old incandescent lightbulb (far left), similar to what we’ve been using since Thomas Edison started selling them in 1880:

In general, halogens, CFLs and LEDs are cheaper to use and more energy-efficient than incandescent lightbulbs.

But they’re also more expensive.

So SDG&E came up with the idea of buying lots – millions – of energy-efficient lightbulbs at a discount, shipping them to smaller stores and to stores in low-income markets.  Many people would buy the lightbulbs, and voila!

Energy is saved, and SDG&E is a hero.

SEC – Southern California Edison – also started a similar program, also in 2017, so you’ll be hearing more about them, as well.

So perhaps my blog headline was incorrect:

It took two companies to screw up the lightbulbs.

This discovery came about thanks to two organizations. 

You know – those pesky consumer watchdog groups that look after the interests of the consumer:

The Public Advocates Office, an independent organization within the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC):

And TURN, The Utility Reform Network:

On September 9 CPUC approved an agreement that SDG&E reached nearly a year ago with these two consumer advocate organizations.

CPUC hasn’t yet issued a decision regarding Southern California Edison’s program.

Here are some highlights from the investigative report commissioned by CPUC:

  • SDG&E and SCE lost track of millions of light bulbs, shipping potentially hundreds of thousands to stores that did not sell light bulbs in the first place.
  • SDG&E and SCE shipped the discounted bulbs to more than 170 different stores, with a few stores receiving more than 150,000.
  • The total number of bulbs shipped exceeded the total number of bulbs sold in California by three times in 2017.
  • The bulbs shipped in SCE’s and SDG&E’s case were a mixture of CFLs and LEDs, with about a $1 discount per bulb for CFLs and a $3 to $4 discount for LEDs.  About 80 percent of SCE’s program bulbs and 95 percent of SDG&E’s program bulbs might not have been sold to customers and were likely overstocked or missing entirely.  These discrepancies made up about 60 percent of SCE’s and 80 percent of SDG&E’s total Upstream Lighting Program bulbs, according to the report.
  • Investigators called 83 retail stores that received lightbulbs from SDG&E and SCE, but 20 of the stores said they had not sold lightbulbs at all for the past three years.  Meanwhile, SCE and SDG&E programs claimed savings for bulbs shipped to these stores.

And, specific to SDG&E:

  • At least one manufacturer falsified invoices to SDG&E and the utility paid for bulbs that were never delivered or simply dumped at some locales.
  • Members of the SDG&E team did not follow correct procedures nor conduct inspections to make sure manufacturers and retailers were not overstocking bulbs.
  • The SDG&E Customer Programs team was aware of the violations by manufacturers but did nothing to correct them.
  • Some SDG&E employees raised concerns, but four people at the manager/director levels still filed reports with the CPUC without noting those concerns.

How many missing lightbulbs are we talking about?

Around 15 million.

Let’s pause and put that number in perspective.

Let’s say a lightbulb is six inches long.

Laid end-to-end, 15 million lightbulbs would stretch for 1,420 miles – the distance from San Diego to Stillwater, OK:

That’s a whole lot of missing lightbulbs.

And how about the cost to us SDG&E customers?

About $55 million.

That’s a whole lot of money.

There are a whole lot of people who could have put that money to much better use.

CPUC determined that the refund SDG&E owned to customers is $51.6 million.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune article:

“The package comprises $45.44 million for the money the utility spent on the lightbulb program from 2017 to 2019 and $6.12 million the company will return from incentives it earned from the program.”

This $51.6 million will be paid by shareholders to us customers, and not us customers footing the bill.

But wait – there’s more:  A very fine fine:

“The $5.5 million fine is assessed for filing a false statement to the CPUC.  The fine will be paid by shareholders of Sempra, the parent company of SDG&E.  The money from the fine will go to California’s general fund.”

Don’t for a minute think that SDG&E was willing to do this.  Though a company spokesperson said this after the settlement was announced:

“SDG&E took ownership of what went wrong and worked diligently with consumer advocates to develop the appropriate remedies and reach a fair settlement.”

Back in March 2020 SDG&E was saying something very different, according to this article:

“SDG&E disagreed with TURN’s recommendation to refund ratepayers for the missing bulbs and asked the CPUC for more time to evaluate the investigator’s report.”

The article noted that “SCE also disagreed with TURN’s recommendation that ratepayers be refunded.”

SDG&E discontinued the Upstream Lighting Program in January 2020.

But – how much longer would this have gone on, if not for the Public Advocates Office and TURN?

How many more lightbulbs lost?

How much more would we SDG&E customers have been forced to pay?

So I take a great deal of satisfaction in that this time – on this oh-so-rare occasion – we SDG&E customers aren’t getting screwed.

But I take no satisfaction in this:

“SDG&E will provide whistleblower training at shareholder expense for all employees and conduct classes on ‘timely reporting.’”

Or this:

“‘…several employees had already left the company’ and others had been let go.  Those still at SDG&E ‘received significant and appropriate discipline’ based on their roles.”

And what will my refund be from SDG&E?

Whatever it is, I’ll take it and do a few rounds of the…

And then a few months down the road, SDG&E will ask CPUC for a rate increase, and CPUC will agree, and whatever money I got back will go right back to SDG&E.

That’s the way it works.

That’s how we in San Diego County and California pay – and pay – to keep the lights on.

Finally – you know and I know that the people in decision-making positions at SDG&E knew what was going on. 

They knew, and did nothing.

They were found out, but they probably were not the ones who “left the company” or “had been let go.”

We know that SDG&E begrudges every penny that’s coming back to us customers.

We also know that SDG&E isn’t the least bit sorry for what they did.

They’re just sorry as hell that…

A Video Game Showed Me How Prejudice Can Be Inadvertent – But Still Invidious

Angry Birds is a video game that’s been around since 2009, which I know makes it practically SO 20th century.

The premise of the game, as described by a disinterested third party (Wikipedia), does not sound promising:

“A game where a bird is flung at pigs using a slingshot.”

I’m not going to suggest that “Oh, no, Angry Birds is much more nuanced than that!”

The birds are angry because the “Bad Piggies” stole their eggs, and the game’s creators decided retaliation would take the format of different kinds of birds being flung – via a slingshot – at the Bad Piggies.  The goal is to blow up all the Bad Piggies and as much of their surroundings as possible for the highest number of points.

No nuances here.

But – I enjoy it, and I’ve been playing it for years.

The version I play has a theme that changes weekly.  The theme may be topical – like Halloween or Christmas – or something the game creators devise.  For instance, last week’s theme was The Good, Bad & The Piggies, a takeoff on the 1966 movie, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly:

Of course, the birds are the “good,” and the piggies the “bad” and the “ugly.”

I jumped right in and opened Round 1, ready for my Angry Birds fix.

Then I noticed something that gave me pause.

This:

Here’s a closeup of what caught my eye:

See that big piggie at the top?  The one with the black hat?

Clearly, he’s the baddest and ugliest of the Bad Piggies. 

Let’s go back and look at all the Round 1 piggies again:

You’ll notice that none of the other piggies is wearing a black hat. Brown hats and white hats, but no black hats.

They’re also not sporting a black mustache, and a bandolier full of bullets.

The other piggies have round eyes, while the big pig has menacing, tip-tilted eyes:

It struck me that that one image with the menacing eyes, black hat, black mustache and bandolier was – perhaps – stereotyping.

And that the pig looks like a stereotypical Mexican bandit.

In other words, a stereotype:

“A stereotype is a mistaken idea or belief many people have about a thing or group that is based upon how they look on the outside, which may be untrue or only partly true.  Stereotyping people is a type of prejudice because what is on the outside is a small part of who a person is.”

Was I overreacting?  Seeing something that wasn’t there?

I went online and googled “Mexican bandits,” and here’s just some of what I found:

An ad for an “authentic Mexican sombrero,” complete with menacing eyes, black hat, black mustache and bandoliers:

A film actor, complete with menacing eyes, black hat, black mustache and bandoliers:

A Homer Simpson greeting card.  His eyes aren’t particularly menacing, but once again – black mustache and bandolier:

An image from a website called “Deviant Art” – menacing eyes, black mustache and bandolier:

And remember that rock band The Monkees?  Apparently they were in a movie playing Mexican bandits, with black mustaches and bandoliers all around:

It seems to me that our Bad Piggie with the black hat, etc. is at least something of a stereotype.

I suspect it was inadvertent, a word I used in this post’s title.  I don’t think the game creators intended to use, or perpetuate, a stereotype. 

But what this suggests to me is that this Mexican-bandit-bad-guy stereotype is so pervasive, it was in the minds of the game creators.

The game creators who work at Rovio, a company based in Finland.

Prejudice against Mexicans is rampant here in the U.S., but in Finland – I suspect not so much.

Hence my use of the word “invidious,” also in this post’s title:

Let’s go back to The Good, Bad & The Piggies, this time to Round 2:

There’s the black-hat Piggie, front and center, as he was for every round in every game and the whole week.

That’s 18 games, possibly perpetuating a stereotype.

Now, some might suggest that I am the one doing the stereotyping.

That I’m the one who’s prejudiced.

That I’m projecting my prejudice onto a video game.

And that Mustache Bad Piggie is just…another Bad Piggie.

To that I’ll say…

Times are Tough – And…

No matter how badly our economy is doing – and according to numerous stories like this one…

…it’s doing badly.

But here’s one thing you can count on:

You can count on Sharper Image to make available exactly the necessary item or items you need to see you through these dark days.

I’m not talking about want.

I’m talking need.

And you need

The Sharper Image NFL Hover Helmet:

Your weary eyes are not deceiving you – this item…

“…has an electromagnetic base that makes it levitate in midair 24/7, plus built-in LEDs for gentle illumination.”

The helmet is an “officially licensed, half-scale replica” that’s “designed to stay on 24/7.”

And talk about versatile, wow!  The NFL Hover Helmet…

“Floats motionless in midair, or tap it to give it a slow spin.”

And in case you have any doubts about how necessary this item is to have a meaningful life, Sharper Image assures us that the NFL Hover Helmet is “a must-have for your office desk.”

But wait!

Before you plunk down $119.99 for this item – or more, since “it makes a great gift for any pro football fan” – consider pairing it with this:

The Sharper Image NFL Hover Football.

Yes!

Like the NFL Hover Helmet, the NFL Hover Football is officially licensed, half-scale, designed to stay on 24/7, and – as you were hoping – it, too, “floats motionless in midair, or tap it to give it a slow spin.”

But…brace yourself…the Hover Football also

“…features built-in LEDs (now with an on/off switch), a USB port to charge devices and a Bluetooth speaker.  Simply pair your smartphone and jam out to tunes while repping your favorite team!”

And at just $149.99, it, too, “makes a great gift for any pro football fan!”

But wait!

Or rather, don’t wait, because the NFL season has already started, and you don’t want your desk to look like this…

When you can proudly display this:

See?

Necessary items.

The Sharper Image Fall Preview 2021 catalog is packed with similar necessary items, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the next ones.

Especially since the holidays will be here before we know it, and we know holiday shopping can be stressful.  Sometimes, in desperation, we resort to generic items, like gift cards and Maseratis and coffee mugs.

So here’s a Sharper Image item that they call the “Ultimate Personalized Gift,” and I call the…

The Sharper Image Custom Bobble Head:

And Double Custom Bobble Head!

Was I right about that “ultimate wow,” or what?

Doesn’t the Superman Bobble Head look exactly like the guy in the photo?

Isn’t that Double Bobble Head couple just double adorable?

All you do is place your order and…

“…you’ll receive a voucher in the mail that you can use yourself or give as a gift.  Then, upload digital photos and choose a body style from over 1000 options, including sports, occupations, children, comedy and more!  Our expert sculptors will recreate your image true to likeness.  Only approve your Bobble Head when you are 100% satisfied.”

Easy peasy, and satisfaction guaranteed.

The catalog suggests that the Custom Bobble Head and Double Custom Bobble Head are perfect for Bobble Head collectors, and we all know plenty of those.

But to help us even more with our holiday shopping list, Sharper Image takes it a step further and suggests “For Children, For Her, For Him, Graduation, Holiday, Occupations, Sports, Wedding Cake Toppers and more.”

“Wedding Cake Toppers”?  What an extra-ultimate idea!

You give the bride, your BFF, this perfect wedding gift:

Onto the wedding cake it goes, and at the reception, every guest who pauses to admire the cake will give those Bobble Heads a bobble.

Perhaps more than just one bobble, thanks to the open bar.

What fun!

And if the wedding cake ends up looking like this…

Instagram opportunity!

At just $99.99 for a single Bobble Head and $189.99 for a double Bobble Head, you can give everyone on your holiday shopping list exactly what they need in these troubling times:

Their own personal true-to-likeness Bobble Head.

But – and this is critical – don’t overlook yourself.

In fact, why not order several Custom Bobble Heads for yourself, including one for your desk at work?

Kind of a desk-on-desk à deux…

OK, I know I should stop.

Perhaps stop quite some time ago.

But that Sharper Image catalog is like AM/PM minimarts.  You know…

Here’s my last – and perhaps most necessary – Sharper Image item for these challenging times.

Challenging – like when you can’t get the exact tee time you want for your $600 round of golf at Shadow Creek Golf Course:

Meet the Sharper Image Driver Drink Dispenser:

The item, says Sharper Image, “looks like a golf club and fits in any golf bag.”

For sure, it looks exactly like a golf club:

The description continues,

“It’s totally discreet and easy to use, and eliminates the need to carry cans or bottles onto the course.  Great for ice water, iced tea, coffee or hot chocolate.”

For sure, because we all know golfers get thirsty, especially for “hot chocolate.”

The Driver Drink Dispenser:

  • Holds 48 ounces.
  • Is insulated for hot or cold beverages.
  • Has a wide mouth for ice cubes and easy cleaning.
  • Comes with its own long-handle bottle brush.

And at just $69.99, isn’t this the must-have for your long, hard day of golf?

Now there’s no need to slog all the way back to the 19th Hole – you can carry it with you!

And be “totally discreet” about it.

Unless, of course, after consuming those 48 ounces of “hot chocolate,” you end up like this …

What Do These Two Images Have In Common?

What the two images above have in common is that they each represent a human behavior.

One human behavior is stupid.

And the other human behavior is smart.

First, stupid.

The above image on the left is a milk crate – an ordinary item, nothing remarkable about it.

Until some humans got the idea of piling them into a pyramid:

And challenging themselves and other people to climb on them.

It’s called the “Milk Crate Challenge,” and like so many stupid things, it’s recently gone viral, shared by millions across social media.

Many are calling it the “funniest challenge since the Ice Bucket Challenge.”

Many are calling it a “public health hazard largely fueled by social media.”

And many doctors are asking people to stop climbing on stacks of milk crates, reminding us that:

Welcome to a pandemic Emergency Room – we have a bed for you right here, next to a COVID patient.
  1. You who participate in this are showing up in emergency rooms with injuries including shoulder dislocations, rotator-cuff tears, ACL and meniscus (knee) tears, broken wrists and spinal cord injuries.
  2. You who show up in emergency rooms are putting more stress on hospitals already dealing with the overwhelming surge in coronavirus infections.
  3. You are behaving stupidly.

OK – #3 was me, speaking on behalf of the doctors.

I’m going to spare you the torture of going to YouTube or some other platform and watching the awful Milk Crate Challenge videos.

I did it for you.

I learned it’s a simple, two-step process.

After you’ve stacked your milk crates – and the higher and less stable, the better –

(Costumes are optional.)

Step 1:  Climb the milk crates:

Step 2:  Fall, sustain injuries:

Lest you think this activity is experienced only by badly dressed white guys, I saw all manner of people climbing – and falling off – milk crates:  male, female, black, white, including this female:

Two last thoughts.  First:

Earlier I mentioned those who described the Milk Crate Challenge as the “funniest challenge since the Ice Bucket Challenge.”

There is no comparison here.  The Ice Bucket Challenge, which we heard a lot about starting in 2014, at least had a purpose.  It: 

“…raised awareness and over $200 million for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease…It put ALS on the map and attracted more investigators and investment to the research.”

I’m finding nothing online to indicate that the Milk Crate Challenge has any goal with regards to raising money for a worthy cause.

Or any goal at all.

Second:

I went online to see if anyone was posing – and answering – the question, Why are people doing this? and found a thoughtful response in this article:

The article said, in part:

“According to Julie Ancis, a cyberpsychology expert and professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, the answer is complicated.

“The concept of a ‘dare’ or a challenge isn’t new, nor is trying something outrageous for an adrenaline rush or for attention, Ancis said, but the internet has changed our relationship to these kinds of stunts.  Instead of feeling pressure to perform for our friends or family, many crave impressing peers, or really anyone, who’s part of their online community.  It’s all about likes, shares, views.

“All humans have a need for recognition, Ancis told ABC News.  ‘This is an opportunity for millions of people to see you engaging in something that seems so extreme…The attention or competition for attention is very fierce, and it makes these dares more and more extreme to capture attention.’”

So the answer is complicated.

But the people are not.

They’re behaving stupidly.

Especially since this outcome is almost inevitable:

Now let’s go back to the sheep image at the top of this post.

The sheep represents a smart human behavior.

This:

This is an image of sheep in a pasture, in a heart formation.

When I saw this, I thought,

“That’s impossible – isn’t it?”
“Who did this?”
“How did they do it?”

Sheep have the reputation of being not very bright, but according to this and many other articles:

Sheep are actually pretty darn smart.

But – even if they’re four-legged Einsteins, there no way a herd is going to run into a pasture and form itself into a heart shape.

There’s a “who” involved in this, and a smart one, at that.

The “who” is a sheep farmer named Ben Jackson of New South Wales, Australia (pictured). 

In late August, Jackson had recently lost an aunt to cancer.  He planned to attend her funeral in Queensland, about 250 miles away, but the border between the neighboring states was closed to restrict travel because of a coronavirus outbreak.

Jackson couldn’t attend the funeral, but he still wanted to express his love.

Here’s how he did it.

He used grain dropped from the back of a truck onto a large pasture to form a heart. 

When the heart shape was completed, Jackson opened the gate to the pasture to allow in scores of hungry sheep.

The sheep did what comes naturally – they ate, following the trail of grain.

And Jackson followed the sheep with a drone overhead to videotape it:

Jackson added his aunt’s favorite song – Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water – for a soundtrack, and the video was played at his aunt’s funeral.

He also posted the video on social media, where it’s had more than a million views just in his homeland.  “This heart that I’ve done for my auntie, it certainly seems like it’s had a bit of an effect across Australia,” Jackson said modestly.

“I just hope that when I did it, she was having a peep through the clouds and was able to see it.”

Wow.

Smart and sweet.

So, where does all this leave us?

I guess all we can do is hope for less stupid human behavior stories like this:

And this:

And more smart human behavior stories like this:

And this:

I’m Not Saying It Ain’t So, But I Am Just A Bit…

In late August the Associated Press ran this short story which was picked up by media outlets all over the country:

Though the headline talks about a “large chunk of Mars rock,” the story says,

“A Maine museum will play host to a chunk of rock it said is the largest intact Mars rock on Earth.”

So now we’ve gone from “large chunk” to “largest” on Earth.

Here’s the rock they’re referring to:

The story goes on to say,

“The museum said the rock was the result of an asteroid impact on the surface of Mars that ejected material into an Earth-crossing orbit in space.”

I was curious, not because I care about Mars rocks – I don’t. 

I was curious about the provenance of the Mars rock:

You hear a lot about provenance from art dealers, museum curators, on Antiques Roadshow – appraisers and potential buyers want to know who owned the item before you did, and what person before that, and the person before that person…all the way back to whomever acquired the item from its creator.  Or discovered the item. 

It could be a painting, furniture, jewelry, a rock – anything. 

But when it comes to authenticity, provenance is everything.

So when the Associated Press reported what the museum said about the Mars rock’s appearance on Earth – that is what made me curious.

Curious enough to go to the museum’s website – the Maine Mineral & Gem Museum (MMGM) in Bethel, ME.  That’s where I found this August 24 news release:

Which said the rock weighs 32 pounds and measures 9” x 10” x 6.5” inches, and…

“This specimen was acquired for the Museum by meteorite dealer Darryl Pitt in April 2021 from a Mauritanian meteorite and desert truffle hunter.”

So – who’s Darryl Pitt?  Are we readers of this news release supposed to say, “Oh, Darryl, sure!  Great guy!”

According to Meteorite-Times Magazine – and who knew there was such a thing – Pitt is…

“…the curator of the celebrated Macovich Collection, the largest collection of aesthetic iron meteorites in the world.”

But “aesthetic iron meteorites” notwithstanding, it doesn’t explain how Pitt came to acquire the rock from the “Mauritanian meteorite and desert truffle hunter,” whom they say found the Mars rock.

And who is not named, so I’ll refer to her/him as “Unnamed.”

The news release goes on to say that the Mars rock was “recovered from near Taoudenni, Mali – a desert salt-mining center 400 miles north of Timbuktu.”

Here are Mauritania and Mali, in west Africa:

I marked Taoudenni in the northern part of Mali.

Taoudenni (pictured below) is described on Wikipedia as,

“…a remote site in the hottest region on the planet, located over a hundred and sixty kilometers [99 miles] from the nearest inhabited location of any size.” 

So Unnamed from Mauritania is across the border in Taoudenni, an area also described in a Los Angeles Times article as a…

“…sand-scoured outpost of misery…It spans an area so vast it could swallow entire European nations and still have emptiness to spare.”

And Unnamed is desert truffle hunting and/or meteorite hunting in this wasteland? 

And just happened across not just any Mars rock, but the largest Mars rock on Earth?

If Unnamed was hunting for truffles, did they lift this 32-pound thing up to look for truffles underneath it?  And while Unnamed had the rock in hand, they thought, “Well, I’m not scoring any truffles, but this rock looks interesting.  Maybe I’ll contact Darryl about it”?

How did Unnamed connect with Darryl Pitt?  Sure, I googled Pitt (pictured) and found him online, but that’s because I googled his name.  When I googled “meteorite experts” and “Mars rocks experts” I found no Pitt.  That isn’t to say he isn’t an expert – only that he didn’t appear in my searches.

Did Unnamed connect directly with Pitt?  Or did the rock pass through numerous other hands before it reached Pitt?

And it seems rather coincidental that this unnamed desert truffle hunter also just happened to be a meteorite hunter who just happened upon a meteorite from Mars.

I’m thinking about what the appraisers on Antiques Roadshow would make of this provenance:

Again, from the museum’s news release:

“For confirmation of his belief this could be Martian, Pitt sent a small sample to Dr. Carl Agee – the director of the Institute of Meteoritics and one of the world’s most renowned classification experts of Martian meteorites.”

And we Earthlings encounter so many Martian rocks that someone – thank Heavens – has become a “renowned classification expert”?

There was a peer review of Dr. Agee’s analysis and confirmation, and everybody (I guess all the less renowned?) agreed the rock was from Mars, and now it’s on view at the MMGM.

So, expert+ peer review = indubitable?

Read on to see why I’m not convinced…

Want to see the Mars rock?

$15, please. 

Seniors, $12, students $10, children 12 and under, free.

The news release has some meteor-ese language, like “extraordinary chemical and isotopic markers” and “pyroxene, olivine and maskekynite,” and while it was all very impressive, it didn’t convince me that this rock absolutely came from Mars.

There is too much unexplored in space, and too many planets and moons and asteroids moving around and sometimes crossing paths…

How do we know the rock didn’t come from Kepler-452b, discovered in 2015, an Earth-like planet that resides 1,400 light years from Earth, according to space.com?

I think we don’t know.

I think these folks saying it’s so – doesn’t make it so.

That’s why I thought of this when I read the Mars rock story:

Relics.

Objects of religious significance from the past.

People of many religions revere relics and have for centuries.  I respect their right to their beliefs, and I hope they can respect mine.

Because this is another area about which I’m…

This relic, for example, is identified as St. Francis Xavier’s humerus, in St. Joseph’s Church, Macau:

Francis Xavier lived from 1506 to 1552.

The humerus is the arm bone between your shoulder and your elbow. 

What’s the provenance here?

Who did this church acquire it from, and who had it before that?

How could anyone possibly know that what we’re looking at today, did in fact come from the body of Francis Xavier?  The Catholic church doesn’t send items like this humerus to labs for DNA testing and radiocarbon dating.

The Catholic church simply says, “We have the humerus bone of St. Francis Xavier.”

And,

“It is so because we say it’s so.”

And,

“To view this relic, pay at the admissions window.”

The Catholic church has been doing this for centuries.  It’s what could be called a “revenue stream.”

And how about relics of the “True Cross”?

They’ve been in churches and monstaries for centuries. And today, they’re still everywhere:

So many relics of the “True Cross,” said John Calvin (1509-1564), that…

“…if all the pieces that could be found were collected together, they would make a big ship-load.  Yet the Gospel testifies that a single man was able to carry it.”

We’re just supposed to believe, I guess.

For me – I guess not.

The Maine Mineral & Gem Museum was already claiming to be home to the “largest piece of the moon on Earth”:

Though after the Mars rock’s debut, as of September 1 it was off with the old and on with the new.  The “largest piece of moon” reference has vanished, and the Mars rock was now front and center:

So I guess now the public can plunk down their $15 and get a twofer – a two-for-one:

The largest piece of Mars on Earth and the largest piece of the moon on Earth.

The Mars rock unveiling took place on September 1:

Literally…

The crowd went wild:

And this scientist:

Could barely contain her emotions:

“I’m trying not to get giddy.  I think I’m supposed to look professional but I’m just about two seconds away from doing a happy dance and dancing around the rock.”

Maybe we could get ole Bill Haley and His Comets to resurrect their 1950s hit, but with an updated title:

But – heads-up:

If you have a craving to go to Maine and see this:

You’ll have to hurry – according to the museum’s Facebook page, as of September 1:

“This specimen will be on display in the Space Rocks gallery for one week before heading out for its national debut at the Hard Rock Summit in Denver!  It will return on September 24th.”

So, perhaps we should just say…

To hell with provenance.

We humans believe what we choose to believe.  Or what we’re told to believe.

Perhaps the Mars rock in the Maine Mineral & Gem Museum is the real deal.

Or perhaps not.

This rock from outer space was the real deal.

Until it wasn’t:

Never Sneer At A Woman And Say, “So, What Are You Going To Do About It?”

Remember the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral?

We could call this story One Deceased, Two Wives and Two Funerals.

We could call it Show Me the Ashes!

But I want the focus on the “woman” in the post’s title:

Demetra Street.

And when a guy sneered at her and said, “So, what are you do about it?”

She did something about it.

She’s suing him for $8.5 million.

Here’s the story, according to the lawsuit quoted in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, Great Britain’s Daily Mail and other sources:

Back in January in Baltimore, Ivan Street, 67 (pictured), died suddenly from congestive heart failure.  He and his wife of four years, Demetra, 52, were separated and living apart at the time, but they were still married.

According to the Washington Post,

“Demetra went to the funeral home, identified Ivan’s body and provided her marriage certificate to prove she was next of kin.  She entered into a $2,500 contract for Ivan’s cremation and a memorial service with the funeral home.”

Ivan’s framed picture would be placed next to the urn containing his ashes, and Demetra would sing at the service.

But before the cremation and service could take place, someone at Wylie Funeral Home contacted Demetra and advised that another woman had appeared, claiming to be Ivan’s wife.  

The woman had provided the funeral home with a marriage license from October 1997 – though it was lacking an official seal – and the woman insisted that Ivan be buried, not cremated.

Again, according to the Washington Post, Demetra “told them to ignore the woman, who she said had no authority to make changes to the funeral plans.”

The Post declined to name the woman, “since her identity was not independently verified.”

The Daily Mail had no such hesitation about naming the woman:

Renee Cook.

Who appears to be the person who later posted this message on the Ivan Street page on the Wylie Funeral Home website, but under the name “Renee Wright”:

Demetra’s service for Ivan went ahead as planned, then a strange thing happened, says the lawsuit.  A funeral employee allegedly took the urn and hid it away.  When Demetra asked the funeral home to turn over Ivan’s ashes, she says the staff refused.

Two days later, Demetra said she received a puzzling email from a funeral home worker, revealing that Ivan had been laid to rest at Mount Zion Cemetery.

Three days prior to the service Demetra attended.

Then, says the Post,

“When Street protested to one of the owners by phone – identified in the lawsuit as ‘Mr. Wylie’ – he allegedly told her, ‘So, what are you going to do about it?’”

Bad idea.

When Demetra received her husband’s death certificate from the Maryland Department of Health Division of Vital Statistics, it confirmed that Ivan had been buried at Mount Zion Cemetery in Baltimore on January 20, three days before the alleged sham memorial service Demetra paid for. 

Demetra lawyered up.  Her lawyer’s name, somewhat ironically, is Alexander Coffin.

According to the Daily Mail, Coffin and Demetra’s federal lawsuit was filed in mid-August…

“…in the US District Court for the District of Maryland, alleging breach of contract, negligence, malicious fraud, misrepresentation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other claims.”

“The complaint claims that in the wake of the incident, Demetra has been seeing a psychiatrist and taking prescription Zoloft for her depression, panic attacks, post-traumatic street disorder and social anxiety disorder.”

Did two women – Demetra Street and Renee Cook – pay for two funeral services, one a fake?

The funeral home’s president, Brandon Wylie, told the Baltimore Sun that he denies Demetra’s claims:

“Due to restrictions imposed by our confidentiality requirements and the existence of pending litigation, we are not at liberty to disclose all of the information relevant to this matter.  However, we vehemently deny the claims advanced by Ms. Street and assert that the underlying matter was handled with the utmost sensitivity toward the loved ones of the deceased.”

There are a lot of “alleged” this and “allegedly” thats in the media coverage, but here’s what seems fairly clear-cut to me:

Wylie Funeral Home held two services for one dead man.

Two women paid for two services for one dead man.

Somebody’s…

But until this is sorted out, the Wylie team can stand tall, knowing that they kept the promise on their home page.

Demetra Street definitely has “impactful final memories” of her late husband:

When It Comes To Commercials, It Seems Like…

If you’re a fan of old movie musicals, you may have seen one pictured above.

The music and lyrics were written by the brilliant Cole Porter, including the title song which contains these lyrics:

In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking.
But now, God knows,
Anything goes.

Those “anything goes” lyrics popped into my head after I recently saw a 15-second commercial for a Gillette grooming product:

I also thought back to a blog post I did about a month ago, where I suggested that perhaps there are some human activities that should not be shared.

That was after I’d seen a 60-second commercial for a probiotic, in which the word “poop” or some variation of it was used about every three seconds.

Now, after the Gillette commercial, I’m thinking that perhaps there are some human features that should not be shared.

The Gillette commercial didn’t talk about poop, but instead about…

Pubic hair:

Specifically, “New Venus Pubic Hair and Skin.”

“To prep, protect and maintain.”

“The new way to care…for down there.”

You know.

Down there.

Those “tricky areas”:

Did a revolution happen when I wasn’t paying attention?

A revolution that proclaimed, “Everything’s on the table!  Every body part, every body function and misfunction, it’s all fair game when it comes to advertising!”

It’s not so much that I’m shocked, it’s more of a…

Isn’t anything private anymore?

I guess not.  I guess…

But – perhaps that 15-second commercial was a one-off?  A Gillette experiment?  A “we-tried-this-and-it-wasn’t-effective-so-we’re-done” thing?

Alas, no.  Gillette didn’t stop with that brief commercial.

I found this Gillette two-minute-and-six-second tutorial online:

Featuring this perky spokesperson:

Who begins by advising us that…

“There is finally a line of products designed to work with and not against your pubic hair and skin.”

I was not aware that there were products designed to work against pubic hair and skin.

But now there is a Gillette pro-pubic line of products, and what a line it is.  Just watching this video exhausted me.  Who do they think is going to use all this stuff?

Or pay for all this stuff?

According to Ms. Perky, we start with Product 1, Skin Smoothing Exfoliant:

We’re advised that this product “Can be used on or in between hair removal days to smooth your skin and help protect against nicks and cuts.”

Note to self:  Mark “hair removal days” on calendar.

Then, says Ms. Perky, comes Product 2:  2-in-1 Cleanser + Shave Gel:

The “clear gel formula,” we’re assured, “lets you see what you’re doing while shaving delicate areas.”

Note to self:  You’re supposed to watch while you’re doing this.

Product 3 is tool time:  the Venus for Pubic Hair & Skin Razor:

This is not your everyday razor – it’s “designed for tricky areas…to help reach tricky areas.”

Note to self:  Got it.  “Tricky areas.”

And finally, Product 4:  Daily Soothing Serum

Use this “after you shave” and “between shaves.”

Note to self:  Not to be confused with Product #1, Skin Smoothing Exfoliant, which “can be used on or in between hair removal days.”

But I am confused about Products #1 and #4!

No worries – Gillette has thoughtfully provided French translations on the labels to assist us:

Product #1:  Lisse le peau Exfoliant
Product #2:  Nettoyant + gel à raser 2 en 1
Product #3:  Pour le peau et les polis pubiens
Product #4:  Sérum apalsant quotidien

Ah, merciJe suis vraiment reconnaissant.

Now there’s no way I’ll mix up Lisse le peau Exfoliant with Sérum apalsant quotidien.

And there’s another reason for that classy French labeling – it now makes sense that these four products are going to set you back…

Our Gillette tutorial includes up-close-and-personal demonstrations:

With this heads-up at the bottom of the screen in small print:

“Recommended to use product in shower on wet skin.  This demonstration modified for filming purposes.”

Note to self:  Not to be used while operating heavy machinery.

The tutorial ends with Ms. Perky marveling,

“Wow…Fancy skin care…for my pubic hair?”

So the tutorial ends – but Gillette wasn’t finished.  They had a commercial and a tutorial – why not a catchy song, as well?

According to this article:

“Gillette wrote a jingle.  Featuring a singing hair.  In the animated video The Pube Song, the hair bemoans its lowly, unspoken status ‘just hoping to be recognized and treated like every other hair on your body, with care and confidence!’”

Here’s the premise:

Here’s the video name:

Here’s the singing hair:

Here’s the singing hair with singing hair friends:

I’m sure Gillette created The Pube Song and video for purely altruistic reasons, and not to sell product.  Why am I sure?  Because when they announced the new product line, Gillette said:

“Women want to reclaim the narrative around the language and description of their bodies.”

“Our new collection not only offers women more options for pubic grooming than we ever have before – but starts a new conversation about using language that accurately and respectfully represents the female body.”

Thank you, Gillette, for recognizing that women have been on fire for a “new conversation” that includes…

Singing pubic hair.

What’s it all mean?

In the past 30 days I – and you – have been bombarded with commercials that liberally use the words “poop” and “pubic hair,” and variations thereof.

Women sitting on toilets, women shaving those “tricky areas.”

My takeaway?  I guess…

But – I am wondering if men are feeling left out of all this…fun? 

Are men maybe wanting to have that “new conversation”?

If so, I can suggest a male body feature that Gillette and other advertisers might want to address.

How about…

And in the meantime…

Which body feature or function will we be subjected to next?

Have Computers Simplified Our Lives?  Sometimes, Yes.  And Sometimes…

Back in the mid-70s, as computers were becoming more common in workplaces and homes, some brainiac wrote an article for Business Week in which he predicted we were heading for what he called the “Paperless Office.”

Most record handling would become electronic, he said, so big supplies of this in office storerooms…

… would become unnecessary.

That was then.

This is now.

Realty check:

If your workspace doesn’t look like this, obviously you’re slacking off:

Every office has lots of these, full of guess what?  Paper:

Here’s an attorney with his 15 boxes of 50,000 pages of documents for just one case in 2019:

Instead of paperless offices, according to this article…

“…Between 1980 and 2000 global paper consumption doubled.”

And according to Statista.com,

“…the global consumption of paper and board amounted to an estimated 399 million metric tons in 2020.  It is expected that demand will increase steadily over the next decade, reaching approximately 461 million metric tons in 2030”:

So much for the “paperless office.”

Granted, not all of those metric tons of paper are used for printing in our offices and homes – there are lots of other products like toilet paper, paper towels, books, magazines, newspapers, boxes, egg cartons, six-pack beer carriers, postage stamps…

And, once upon a time, if you were really stylin’, this Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup paper dress:

Which FYI, is now available, framed, on eBay for just $4,999.

So paper is used other than for office and home printing, but let’s get real here.

The paperless office idea became so ludicrous that books were written about it, like The Myth of the Paperless Office, in 2003.

Again, back in the mid-70s, another widely accepted belief about computers was that they’d make our lives much easier.  And it’s true – in some ways computers have made our lives easier.

But in some ways…

Take, for example, computer usernames and passwords.

Take, for example, for my home computer.

I have more than 40 passwords for my home computer.

Why so many?

Because according to computer security experts, Rule #237 in their guidelines for strong passwords is:

Never use your password for other websites.

So, I have a different password for my phone, my bank, my Amazon purchases, my email account, my wireless account, my car insurance account, my library account, this blog account…

And before you know it, you’ve got more passwords than you’ve got family members and friends combined.

I don’t have those 40+ passwords written down, because that is also an absolute no-no, according to Rule #632:

Never write your password down; a password that has to be written down is not strong, no matter how many of the above characteristics are employed.

The “above characteristics” for strong passwords are actually below, and of course you’ve seen them many times:

  • At least eight characters – the more characters, the better.
  • A mixture of both uppercase and lowercase letters.
  • A mixture of letters and numbers.
  • Inclusion of at least one special character, e.g., ! @ # ? ].

I swear, if I did everything the experts told me to do, each of my 40+ passwords would look like this:

Tpry!01rncZ392tUnLqv83#zx5]54WoPkng614xhfR87B!ThisMakesMeCrazy4BPouy40lmed72!!hujoP063#lmnoPenw820Ydh!munP020reLak390lk2uyBN47AQ???minp98n0v

But even that’s not enough.

I’m supposed to change my passwords every three months.

I barely remember to change my smoke detector batteries once a year, and I’m supposed to remember to change all my passwords every three months?

And commit them to memory?

But wait!

Before I hammer my computer, I’m remembering that lots of websites ask if I want the website to remember my password:

Isn’t that nice?  Shouldn’t I do that instead of trying to remember 40+ passwords?

Absolutely not, say security experts in rule #981:

While the fact that we’d no longer have to remember each different password for our online accounts may seem ideal, relying on the browser to remember them for us presents a security risk.  Browsers leave an opening for a hacker to review a user’s list of passwords.

I figured I’d pretty much run out of options when I remembered something called an “offline storage device.”  

They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes:

And these devices – not me – will remember my 40+ passwords!

Marvelous!

Magic!

My match made in Heaven?

Because before I can access my passwords on my spiffy new offline storage device…

I must have…

Another password.

Book Review:  These Women Were The Power Brokers Of Their Day

Publication date:  April 2021

Category:  Biographical Historical Fiction

Review, short version: Three roses out of four.

Review, long version:

Shortly after I started reading Renée Rosen’s The Social Graces, I realized I needed to give myself a good, swift kick in the mindset.

“Ew, ick!” I’d been thinking.

“These women are SO trivial!”

And to my 21st-century eyes, they were.

So the mindset kick I required was to put myself back in the book’s time period, 1876-1908, and think about not just what these women were doing – but all the things women couldn’t do.

Mother and children, 1880s; if she got a divorce, she’d be shunned by society, but the husband would not, and he always got custody of the children.

Back then, if a woman owned property when she married, the property became her husband’s.  A married woman owned nothing, not the clothes she wore, the chair she sat on, or the glass she drank from.  If she had children, they were her husband’s property.  She couldn’t sign a contract.  If she earned a wage, it belonged to her husband.  A woman had only the money her husband chose to give to her.

It was almost unheard of for a married woman to pursue a divorce, and if she did, she was shunned by society forever.  But for a married man, divorce was much easier and with little – if any – ostracizing.  If a man divorced his wife, he got custody of the children – always. 

A woman couldn’t get her own passport – it was issued jointly in her and her husband’s name.  A woman couldn’t serve on a jury, or devise a will, or go shopping without an escort, and a woman couldn’t vote.

But a woman could be a leader of high society.

The leader of high society.

And that meant New York high society.

This female leader of New York high society could decide which people were worth knowing, which clothes worth wearing, which social customs worth practicing, which social events worth attending:

Enter one of the book’s female lead characters:

Caroline Astor (1830-1908):

Mrs. Astor was the undisputed leader of New York high society, and that society embraced her:

“Mrs. Astor says…Mrs. Astor thinks…Mrs. Astor wants…”

And Mrs. Astor remained the undisputed leader until we meet our other lead character:

Alva Vanderbilt (1853-1933):

Vanderbilt was born into wealth, her family lost everything, then she married wealth.

Astor was born into wealth and married wealth.

They were what today we’d call “socialites.”

Socialite:  a person who is well-known in fashionable society and is fond of social activities and entertainment.

The Astor “cottage” in Newport, RI.

Astor was the leader of New York society.

Vanderbilt aimed to replace her.

If The Social Graces was simply a book about two rich women doing battle over who’s hosting the most expensive parties, wearing the most extravagant clothes and owning the most ostentatious houses – it wouldn’t have held my interest.

The Vanderbilt “cottage” in Newport, RI.

But this story is based on real people and real events, and I enjoy that, especially when the author takes it a step further and suggests their motivations and thoughts.

Astor and Vanderbilt’s motivations were complex.  As were their thoughts, sometimes straying into the realm of wondering if all their machinations to stay #1 or become #1 were worth the time, effort and massive amounts of money:

“Life was so fleeting, so fragile, and in the grand scheme of things, what difference did it make if someone used the wrong fork, or served the wrong wine?  …In the end – did any of this matter?”

Good insights, and an all-around…

Part II:  California’s Recall Election Is A…

On Monday I did a lengthy post about California’s gubernatorial recall election on September 14.

This post is not lengthy, but still…

I get it if you live outside of California and are wondering, “Why should I care about who’s governor in California?”

Here’s why.

It has to do with the U.S. Senate, and California Senator Diane Feinstein (pictured), who’s served in the Senate since 1993.

She is 88 years old.

But it’s not her life I’m writing about.

It’s her possible death.

As of 2020, female life expectancy in the U.S. was 80.5 years.

Consider this potential scenario, which transitions the recall election from a hot mess to a horror story:

  1. In the September recall, a majority votes to oust Democrat Governor Newsom.
  2. In the September recall, Newsom’s replacement is also voted on, and a Republican wins.
  3. The Republican replacement governor serves out the remainder of Newsom’s term – until the November 2022 election.
  4. In the time between the new governor being sworn in and November 2022 election, Senator Feinstein dies.
  5. The Republican governor appoints a Republican replacement senator to finish Feinstein’s term.
  6. The U.S. Senate goes from a 50/50 split to a 51/49 GOP majority.
  7. This guy in back in power:

This horror story occurred to me only after I’d written the Monday post.

The author of this August 10 article was way ahead of me:

The article says,

“In a sort of worst-case scenario for the party, a successful recall could lead to Democrats losing their majority in the U.S. Senate, and have ramifications on some of the biggest issues facing the nation today, according to analysts.

“‘It could potentially grind President Biden’s agenda to a halt for the foreseeable future,’ said Julie Edwards, a local political consultant and former communications manager for U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley from Oregon.”

California Democratic Party Vice Chair David Campos said this:

“One vacancy in the U.S. Senate could alter the course of history and, in the near-term, create some real issues for people.  That’s why people need to understand how critical this is and how much is at stake.”  

Democratic legislation blocked…Democratic appointments blocked…a Biden nominee to the Supreme Court blocked…

And not just this guy back in power:

But with that, comes this:

Part I: California’s Recall Election Is A…

We humans like to have choices.

We may not always like making choices, but we like having choices.

In our country, we have lots of choices.

From which used car company to buy from, to which boutique beer to sample, to do-you-want-fries-with-that – we have choices.

And in California, where we’re hosting a gubernatorial recall on September 14…

We have lots of choices.

I recently received my Sample Ballot & Voter Information Pamphlet in the mail, and it lists all the people who are running to replace Governor Gavin Newsom.

There are 46 people who are running to replace Governor Gavin Newsom:

An overwhelming number.

Our current governor, Gavin Newson, is a Democrat and as expected, many of those running again him are Republicans.  But there are also Democrats, Libertarians, candidates who identify their party preference as Green, and at least a half-dozen who identify “None” as their party preference.

I’ve also received my ballot in the mail, and it’s so long I could use if for an awning over my front door:

But I won’t, because I’m going to use it to vote.

And therein lies the rub.

Our choices are:

Shall Gavin Newsom be recalled (removed) from the office of Governor?

We vote “Yes” or “No.”

If we vote “Yes,” we’re then supposed to select one from that list of 46…

Candidates to succeed Gavin Newsom as Governor if he is recalled

That’s pretty straightforward.

Here’s where it gets tricky.

If we vote “No,” we’re maybe also supposed to select from that list of 46…

Candidates to succeed Gavin Newsom as Governor if he is recalled

Depending on who you listen to.

The governor and the Democratic Party are telling voters not to respond to that second question:

The article said,

“California Democratic Party Chairman Rusty Hicks said in a tweet that leaving the second question blank will save voters time, energy, self-respect and ‘from casting your vote for a candidate who isn’t worthy of your support – or the support of California voters.’”

Hmmm.

Other experts are telling us yes – even if we vote against the recall, we should respond to that second question:

According to the article, California Secretary of State Shirley Weber said,

“Even if you vote no, you should pick a person, because you would still want to have input into who becomes the governor.”

So if the recall part of this process gets a majority, the governor is out.  Of those 46 candidates, says the Examiner article’s author, 

“…the winner is not one who gets a substantial majority, but just plus one vote or more.”

“…a new person can be instated by a margin of a single vote or more.  Think about that for a moment.  A solitary extra vote could determine the fate of the largest economy in the United States and the fifth largest economy in the world.”

It’s a very scary idea. 

And it’s a very badly done process – one single vote, and this candidate could be our new governor?

This is Billboard Queen Angelyne, who describes herself as a “gorgeous blonde with big boobs.”  An LA Magazine article about her included this exchange:

LA Magazine:  What are your hot button issues?
Angelyne:  Hot button?!  Ooh! (squeals)

Just a single vote could make her governor.

Now, there are many who are calling for a revamping of the whole recall process:

And clearly, this is needed.

But it will be too little, and too late, for our September 14 election.

I know I’ll vote against recalling the governor, but then – do I do what the California Democratic Party says, and not answer the second question about who should replace Newsom?

And if I do answer that second question, who gets my vote, out of those 46?

OK:  45 candidates.  I’m fairly certain I can eliminate Angelyne.

But who?

To help with that decision, on August 15, the San Diego Union-Tribune began a series of Q&A articles focusing on six of the candidates whom the newspaper described as having “better fundraising and poll results.”

Five are Republicans, and one a Democrat.  In the August 15 article, each candidate’s article leads with a quote.  What I read was so unoriginal, so predictable, and so cookie-cutter, I was not encouraged:

“Time for an outsider to get it done.”
John Cox, Republican businessman and accountant.

“We need a governor, not a tyrant.”
Larry Elder, Republican talk show host and author.

“I can fulfill our promise.”
Kevin Faulconer, Republican former mayor of San Diego.

“Recall will restore integrity.”
Kevin Kiley, Republican state Assembly member.

“Newsom not up to the challenge.”
Doug Ose, Republican former congressman and small business owner.

“We need someone to be honest.”
Kevin Paffrath, Democrat, YouTube personality

Hmmm.

On second thought, maybe I shouldn’t cross Angelyne off the list. 

In that LA Magazine article, at least she showed some originality when asked why she wanted to run for governor:

“When I was little I wanted to rule the universe but I wanted to make sure everybody was happy.  Who wants to be the ruler of a bunch of sad sacks?”

And as for the one Democrat in the Union-Tribune article, Kevin Paffrath?

CNBC and a number of other media outlets are saying this about him:

And it wouldn’t be the first time Californians have elected a media “star” as governor.  Remember these guys?

In a different article, Paffrath broke with the governor and other Democrats over that second ballot question about choosing a Newsom replacement:

“No matter who Californians support, Paffrath encourages everyone not to ‘squander’ their vote and to weigh in on both of the questions that will be on the ballot.

“If Democrats don’t make both choices, Paffrath noted, they’ll be letting only Republicans and no party preference select the next governor.”

Hmmm.

This seems as good a time as any to recall how the recall hot mess got started.

According to a Union-Tribune article earlier this month, “Many saw the recall as a smear of Newsom by bitter supporters of defeated Donald Trump.”

I’d amend that to “bitter, rich supporters of defeated Donald Trump,” since the recall supporter list of Trump fans includes, to name just a few:

  • John Kruger gave $500,000; he opposed Newsom’s restriction on indoor worship during the pandemic.
  • Geoff Palmer gave $200,000; he donated $5 million to Trump’s 2016 election.
  • Douglas Leone gave $99,800; he gave $50,000 to support Trump in 2020.
  • Susan and Howard Groff gave $75,000; they gave more than $500,000 to support Trump in 2020.
  • Dixon Doll gave $100,000; he’s a longtime GOP donor.

Then, according to the CNBC article above,

“The recall effort picked up momentum during the pandemic as frustration mounted about the state’s shutdown of schools and small businesses, and the slow pace of the reopening even as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations plummeted.

“Newsom critics pounced at the opportunity to highlight the worsening homeless problem and increasing crime rates while taxes and living costs remained among the highest in the country.”

And, back in November 2020, this added fuel to the recall fire: 

Newsom’s boneheaded behavior, now infamous, of appearing – maskless – at a dinner party at the posh French Laundry restaurant, as he was telling the rest of us to mask up and practice social distancing.

So infamous, the incident even made it into a skit on Saturday Night Live:

Alex Moffatt plays Newsom on “Saturday Night Live.”

The Newsom recall has morphed into a one-size-fits-all, “Whether you’re unhappy about the pandemic or high taxes or homelessness or crime or immigration or gun laws or the bullet train or the unemployment fraud or wildfires, or your just plain pissed off that Trump lost in 2020 – it’s all Newsom’s fault, so let’s recall him!”

And speaking of just plain pissed off, I am, when I read about the cost to us taxpayers for the recall.  Estimates are running as high as this:

And some of that cost – in addition to the Sample Ballot & Voter Information Pamphlet and the ever-so-lengthy ballot – is for this:

This 33-page, 8” x 10” booklet was mailed to around 22 million registered voters in California.  It includes “Recall Replacement Candidate Statements,” some of which are lengthy, and some of which are somewhat less enlightening:

“Leadership for a brighter tomorrow.”
Holly L. Baade, Democrat

“Can you dig it?”
Dan Kapelovitz, Green Party

“Love U.”
Adam Papagan, no party preference

Is it any wonder that the Sacrament Bee newspaper opined,

“We think the motley list of Newsom’s challengers are unprepared, uninformed, dangerous or all of the above.” 

And if the recall is a Republic power grab – as some suggest – and if they manage to get a Republican elected to replace Newsom, how much do they think their new governor will get done in a state as blue as California with a legislature that looks like this:

As the Union-Tribune said,

“Such a governor would have no grounds to claim any sort of mandate and would find it difficult to lead.”

Now, let’s go back to where we started: 

We humans like to have choices.

The first ballot question is an easy choice for me:  Do I want Newsom recalled?

No.

As for the second question – choosing Newsom’s replacement – first I must choose if I’ll vote on that.

Then, if I choose to vote – for which of the 46 candidates?

I like having choices.

But I won’t like making this choice.

And speaking of media “stars,” in summary, here’s my “Statement” – to all those responsible for this situation:

Up next: Wednesday, Part II

Oh, No!  My IKEA Is Out Of GRÖNSAKSKAKA!

IKEA was in the news recently, and it occurred to me that I’d never been to an IKEA store.

Not for lack of proximity – IKEA has been in the U.S. since 1985, and there are 52 of them, one practically in my backyard, in San Diego.

So why haven’t I been to an IKEA store?

And why was IKEA recently in the news?

First thing first.

I hadn’t been to an IKEA store because I was pretty sure they sold stuff that was DIY – do it yourself.  For example, you buy a box of components for a chair, take it home and assemble it.

Simple for some.

But – DIY is not my middle name.

I don’t even have a nodding acquaintance with DIY.

If I tried to assemble a DIY chair, I’d end up looking like this IKEA customer:

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m not good at some things, like understanding and following complex written instructions.

And that’s OK, because I am good at other things.

Maybe I can’t assemble a chair, but I’m a master at sitting in a chair and…

But there are many – maybe millions of – IKEA fans who are ready, willing and eager to buy and assemble items like these:

And I’ve now learned that, as of a few years ago, there’s been a surge in what are called “IKEA Hacks.”  That is, customers change, alter, or intentionally tweak how a given design is meant to be assembled.

A rather plain chest of drawers was hacked and transformed:

This ordinary bed became a cool beach shack:

And after a hack, this IKEA…thingy…is now a new…thingy:

So, IKEA does sell DIY items, but I’ve learned they also sell no-assembly-required items, like bathmats and knives and plants:

And I’ve learned they sell my favorite thing to shop for:

Food:

Which brings us back to this post’s title, and IKEA being out of GRÖNSAKSKAKA:

Which I didn’t want to buy, but I was intrigued by a food item that ended in…

One food item I expect IKEA never runs out of is their famous – according to their website – Swedish Meatballs, which they call HUVUDROLL:

And I guess the meatballs are famous, because in 2020 when IKEA released their recipe, it was the meatball heard round the world:

And which, to spare you too much more of my meandering, leads us back to the second question:  Why was IKEA recently in the news?

Because IKEA has now done their own “hack,” and transformed their meatballs into this:

The reason, according to many articles – this also made news round the world – is:

“The candle is part of the ‘IKEA Store in a Box,’ a limited-edition collection of all of the most indelible sensory experiences of going to IKEA.  An IKEA spokesperson declined to comment on what other items would be included, telling Food & Wine that it would be ‘a surprise and a delight.’ 

“The HUVUDROLL meatball-scented candle and the rest of the ‘IKEA Store in a Box’ items were all created for the 10th anniversary of IKEA’s free loyalty program, IKEA Family.”

So it appears that IKEA has pushed the envelope of its current candles with names like HÖSTKVÄLL, VANSKLIG and MEDKÄMPE, and is bringing you that “indelible sensory experience” of lighting a candle and – to paraphrase the Food & Wine writer – filling your home with the mouthwatering smell of…

Something you can’t eat.

But that’s OK.

Because I finally decided it was time to push my own envelope, visit IKEA, buy something simple to assemble, and do it myself:

You’re Making A List, Checking It Twice…

You are feeling so virtuous on this fine August Saturday morning in the San Fernando Valley.

You’re up early, dressed, grocery list in hand, and headed to your local Ralphs.  It’s around 6:30am, and you’re going to get this boring task done so you can relax and enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Bravo!

Traffic is light, you make good time, and park in the lot.  You grab a cart, head inside, and as you decide where to start, something catches your eye.

This:

There’s a bear.

In the grocery store.

Uh-oh.

Is this your fault?

You wrote “Bear” on your grocery list – did you somehow magically conjure up what’s there, before your very eyes…

But that “Bear” on your list was just your shorthand for a grocery item:  Haribo Gold Bears…or maybe it was Bear Claw pastries…or was it Bear Bush cannabis…

Oops, no – wrong store for that last item.

But you’re not standing and staring at a bear while you try to remember why you wrote “Bear” on your list.

To hell with the groceries.

You beat-feet out of that store so fast, it’s like you were bearly there.

Smart.

Smarter than these people just standing around in the aisle, gazing at the bear that just walked by them:

Smarter that the people who, according to this article:

“…tried to pet and feed the bear.”

You’re smarter than anyone who stayed the store that Saturday morning, taking pictures and videos of a 125-pound wild bear.

Including actress Tisha Campbell, who daringly paused long enough to shoot video of herself in the store with the bear, AND post her encounter on social media:

Then, and only then, did she leave the store, filming herself as she was in her car in the parking lot:

And assuring us:

“I made it to my f—ing car, but this is some bulls—.  It’s not like I’m in a secluded area.  I’m in my f—ing local grocery store!”

Ah – the sacrifices one makes for one’s social media followers.

Now, some stories I read referred to this 125-pound bear as a “cub.”

This is complete disinformation.

At birth, a bear cub is so small, its weight is measured in ounces – see?

That is a bear cub.

This 125-pound bear has long, sharp teeth, and long, sharp claws, and a voracious appetite for just about anything, including…

But you, oh Smart One?

You are out of the store and into your car, windows closed, doors locked.

You head for home, making one quick stop.

And later that day, you hear on the news that some of the grocery store staff chased the bear out of the store…

…after which it was tranquilized and transported by California Fish and Wildlife into the Santa Susana Mountains.

You hear, though you’re not paying all that much attention.

Because that one stop you made earlier, on your way home?

Was to pick up these, to commemorate your safe escape:

My Salute To Steve

This isn’t the first time I’ve saluted Steve Breen in this blog, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Steve Breen is the brilliant, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist who’s been with the San Diego Union-Tribune since 2001.

Breen’s work appears regularly – almost daily – in the Union Tribune, and regularly – almost daily – my husband or I will say, “Great Breen today!”

This past Saturday, the cartoon was a take-off on this iconic image of actor W.C. Fields in the 1940 movie, My Little Chickadee:

Here’s the Breen cartoon:

In the cartoon, Fields is holding a fake vaccination card.

Death is looking over Fields’ shoulder and saying, “Good hand.”

And for good reason:

Though perhaps not such a “good hand” for people who are caught using fake vaccination cards, like the two in this recent story:

The article says, 

“Gary Yamashiroya, a spokesperson for state Attorney General Clare Connors, said that the two tourists were arraigned Thursday morning and face up to one year in prison, as well as a maximum of $5,000 in fines.”

The tourists were Norbert Chung, 57, and Trevor Chung:

This News Is SO Last Week.  But Still, It’s …

I know this news is so last week.

And I know I did a post about unruly airplane passengers not that long ago.

But what happened to this unruly passenger is so satisfying, so enjoyable, so it’s-about-damn-time, that I did a high five, a fist pump, and a happy dance, all at once:

NOT a frequent occurrence for me, but well-warranted in this case.

What prompted all this physical activity on my part?

This August 3 story:

Maxwell Berry got SO out of line that he ended up duct-taped to his seat, and remained so till the end of the flight, when he was arrested and charged with three counts of battery.

I particularly like the juxtaposition here, of 22-year-old Berry duct-taped, and later in his mug shot:

Here’s another view of taped Max:

SO satisfying.

The story is, on the evening of July 31, Berry boarded Frontier Airlines flight #2289 from Philadelphia to Miami.  I presume he’s not generally allowed out in public without supervision, so he must have somehow escaped his keeper.

Accounts vary somewhat, but it appears that during the flight:

  • Berry consumed two alcoholic drinks and after he finished them, he brushed his cup against a flight attendant’s buttocks.
Berry winds up to punch a flight attendant.
  • Berry ordered a third alcoholic beverage but spilled it on his shirt.  He went to the bathroom and when he came out, he was shirtless.  The flight attendant told Berry he needed to be clothed and helped him get an extra shirt out of his carry-on bag.
  • Berry walked around the plane for 15 minutes before he groped a second flight attendant’s breasts.  She told him to sit down and not to touch her.
  • Berry then approached both the first and second flight attendants, put his arms around them and groped their chests.
  • A third attendant asked Berry to remain seated and Berry punched the attendant in the face.

It’s as if Berry had a checklist of offenses he wanted to complete before the flight landed:

Passengers intervened by using duct tape to “tape him down to the seat and tied him with a seatbelt extender for the remaining flight.”

(Though in a video I watched, it appeared that a flight attendant was also involved in the duct-taping.)

Passengers cheered and jeered.  Berry called for help several times…

…until his mouth was taped shut:

For reasons that are unclear, at some point during his performance Berry loudly advised everyone on board that his parents were worth “two million goddamn dollars.”  According to the most recent online articles, “Messages left by phone at his family’s home in Ohio and by email were not answered,” so Berry’s parents’ net worth has not been verified.

And, says the Miami Herald, Berry’s statements also included:

“You guys f—ing suck!”  

“You know what?  You f—ing suck!”  “Shut the f— up!”

Berry was charged, alas, only with misdemeanors, but, according to this article:

“The FAA has fined several passengers tens of thousands of dollars this year for clashing with airline crews over mask requirements and other safety instructions.  Earlier this year, the agency imposed a zero-tolerance policy for interfering with or assaulting flight attendants that carries a fine of up to $35,000 and possible jail time.”

Here’s a July 6 news release from the FAA:

According to the release, since January 1, 2021 the FAA has “proposed more than $682,000 in fines against unruly passengers.”

I think a fine for Maxwell Berry sounds like a fine thing:

This Makes…

We have a family member who lives in Texas.

You know – Texas, where the recent headlines look like this:

And this:

And this:

This past Saturday, we and other family members got this email from the Texas family member, leading me to think that maybe there aren’t enough COVID opportunities in Texas – so she and her husband are traveling 7,355 miles to find more:

“If everything goes as planned here, we are getting on an airplane Monday with an ultimate destination of Tashkent, Uzbekistan.  Following a ten-day tour we fly to Baku, Azerbaijan from whence we will spend 12 days in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia.  Then we go to France for 2½ weeks, flying home on September 22.”

In case the travelers are interested – which they obviously are not – here are the most recent fully vaccinated rates for those first four countries:

Uzbekistan:  3.7%

Azerbaijan:  22.5%

Georgia:  8.6%

Armenia:  2.1%

We couldn’t help but wonder why the hell they were taking this trip now

Her email continued,

“In the midst of COVID, one may well wonder why the hell we are doing this.  Well, I guess it’s because it was all planned long ago and has already been cancelled once.”

That makes about as much #*?@%$! sense as my suggesting there wasn’t enough COVID in Texas for them.

She closed with this information:

“Assuming our Covid tests (first one this afternoon) are clean we can get on a plane Monday afternoon, and then we will be day-to-day for each segment of the trip and each new COVID test.  We’ll keep you posted.”

Oh, great!

A trip planned around getting multiple tests for COVID and then waiting for the test results.

And if they test positive, then what?  Maybe quarantine for 10 days in a cozy little B&B in the Nagorno-Karabakh area…

…where Armenia and Azerbaijan were at war, until a November 2020 ceasefire that’s been described as “unsettled – the conflict has only been postponed, not resolved.”

I guess the Texas travelers weren’t interested in that, either.

Well, they’re both fully vaccinated, and all I can do is hope they stay safe and come home to healthy to Austin, Texas.

Of course, Austin is no walk in the park, either:

I Don’t Like Sharing The Road With People On Bicycles.  There.  I’ve Said It.

This past Friday my blog post about bicyclists was benign.  This post?  Not so much…

When I’m driving and up ahead I see a cluster of people on bicycles…

I dread it.

Even a solo bicyclist on a back road fills me with dread:

I’m convinced that someday, some bicyclist somewhere is going to sneeze or hit a rock or a pothole, and fall under my car tires…

And it will be my fault because in California, bicyclist tule the road.

Or so it seems to me.

OK:  I get that a bike doesn’t pollute our world like gasoline-driven cars do, and every person who’s on a bike instead of driving a car makes for less congestion, and riding a bike is a healthy thing to do…

Well, most of the time…

But in California, I think it’s gotten out of hand.

Take this, for example:

Yes – the city of San Diego removed 400 parking spaces to accommodate bicyclists.

The article didn’t say anything about San Diego creating 400 other parking spaces nearby.

Bicyclists: 1. Drivers: 0.

Then there’s this law, passed on behalf of bicyclists:

According to the article,

“…vehicles must stay three feet away from cyclists when passing them on the street…Breaking the law carries a $35 fine.  If a collision results from breaking the law and a bicyclist is injured, the motorist can be fined $220.”

So I have to stay three feet away from people on bikes – but there’s no law that says they have to stay three feet away from me?

Suppose I’m the mandated three feet away from a bicyclist and she/he suddenly swerves toward my car?  Am I supposed to swerve to the left to avoid a collision?  Maybe I can have a head-on collision with an oncoming car, but at least the bicyclist is safe?

Biyclists: 2. Drivers: 0.

And how about the fact that before I can drive, I must possess a driver license, but bicyclists?

Nope.

They’re occupying the same streets that I am, but they don’t have to take a written test and a driving test and have their eyes checked and a hideous picture taken and pay for a driver license.  They can just hop on their bikes and ride into the street and do this:

Apparently this bicyclist is unaware of VC 21205, “must leave a hand on the handlebars at all times.”

But then, most of the bicyclists I see seem unaware of those pesky laws that apply to them, just like they apply to us drivers.  You know – obeying traffic signals and stop signs and stuff.

When I approach a traffic signal that’s red, here’s what I see:

When bicyclists approach a traffic signal that’s red, here’s what they see:

They just roll through that red light like it’s not there.

And stop signs?  For drivers, no ambiguity here:

But for bikers?  Here’s what they see:

And did you know that in California, it’s illegal for me to hold a phone and talk on it when I’m operating a vehicle, but it’s perfectly OK for a bicyclist to do the same?

So, if I’m driving and an on-the-phone distracted bicyclist falls under my tires, no doubt that will be my fault.

Bicyclists:  3.  Drivers:  0.

And then there’s VC 21208, about bicyclists using the appropriate hand signals to alert drivers that the bicyclist is about to turn, slow down or stop:

Sure.

Bicyclists do this…

I’ll also mention CVC 21210, “Bicyclists may not leave bicycles on their sides on the sidewalk or park bicycles in a manner which obstructs pedestrians.”

So, here’s my Memo to All Bicyclists:

I accept that driving near a group of you or even just one of you will always fill me with dread.

I accept that I’m going to be seeing more – not less – folks on bikes.

I’ll do my best to keep my me and my 3,500-pound car from coming into contact with you and your 20-pound bicycle.

This works better when it works both ways:

Ah, August…Our Time For Sweet Corn On The Cob, National Lazy Day (August 10), And The Philly Naked Bicycle Ride!

I like to think that I’m not prudish…

But I confess I was taken aback by this NPR story:

Not the part about covering their faces.

The “Naked Bike Ride” part.

Masses of people riding bikes, naked?

I’d never heard of this. 

Time to educate myself.

I went online and sure enough, there’s a website…

With a colorful poster…

And a Philly Naked Bike Ride scheduled:

Saturday, August 28

So…why a naked bike ride?

According to the website, the Philly Naked Bike Ride – or PNBR – is about “Riding together to promote fuel-conscious consumption, positive body image, and cycling advocacy.”

I can’t argue with any of that.

You don’t have to ride naked – it’s a “Bare As You Dare” event.  You don’t have to pre-register, just show up.  You don’t have to pay to participate, but donations are welcome.

And you don’t have to work up a sweat – the ride is not a race:

“The ride is a slow, conversational pace.  It meanders through the city of Philadelphia for a total of about 10 miles.  At this rate, it typically takes 2-3 hours for the front of the group to get from the starting location to the ending location.  It is NOT a race by any means!”

OK, but…the naked combined with the bicycle seat sounds like it could be…uncomfortable?  Worse?

That’s addressed on the PNBR website as well:

“You should try it!  Otherwise, we recommend wrapping something soft around your bike seat, such as a t-shirt, a bandana, a swatch of velvet, or anything else that will make your bum feel happy.  If you are renting a bike, we strongly recommend wrapping your seat.”

That last is a particularly good suggestion.

It turns out that the Philly event is part of something much bigger:

The World Naked Bike Ride – WNBR – is “an annual, worldwide bike ride that highlights the vulnerability of cyclists everywhere and decries society’s dependence on pollution-based transport.  It’s also a lot of fun and it’s free for all!”

Again, I can’t argue with any of that.

On the WNBR site I learned that:

“…the World Naked Bike Ride originated as a protest against society’s dependency on oil.  Today, especially in Portland, Oregon, many people ride to promote cycling not only as a viable mode of transportation, but a form which should be celebrated!”

And when they say “World,” they mean it – it’s easy to find images of participants from Vancouver to Zaragoza, Spain to London to Cape-Town, South Africa:

And not everyone is naked.  Some wear clothes, and some get pretty creative with body paint…

…Others with hats and costumes and anything else they think of:

Riders are cautioned, however, to…

“Carry your clothes with you, in case you wind up having a bike malfunction or needing to stop at a store to use the bathroom or grab some water, etc.”

So, naked bike rides.

Something I knew nothing about – I now know at least a bare minimum.

(I had to make at least one “bare” joke, didn’t I?)

The Philly Naked Bike Ride:  A good cause, could be fun.

So, if you happen to be in Philadelphia on August 28, stopped for a red light, and see this…

…You can close your eyes.

Or you can just…

I Can Bring Home The Bacon…Except In California

Back in the last millennium a woman recorded a song, I’m A Woman, that proclaimed,

I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan…

“Bring home the bacon” is an old idiom for earning money.

When that song came out, the reality of a woman bringing home the bacon was not widespread.

Today we’d sing,

I can bring home the bacon, but YOU can fry it up in the pan…

Except in California where, come January 2022, it may be that no one is bringing home the bacon:

The “pig rules” in the headline are explained in the article:

“At the beginning of next year, California will begin enforcing an animal welfare proposition approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2018 that requires more space for breeding pigs, egg-laying chickens and veal calves.

“National veal and egg producers are optimistic they can meet the new standards, but only 4% of hog operations now comply with the new rules.

“Unless the courts intervene or the state temporarily allows non-compliant meat to be sold in the state, California will lose almost all of its pork supply, much of which comes from Iowa, and pork producers will face higher costs to regain a key market.”

A funny thing happened on the way to the ballot box back in 2018.

Nobody told us that voting “Yes” on this:

Could mean, come 2022, no more of this:

I guess we Californians figured the pork and veal and egg producers had plenty of time to get with the guidelines, so no interruptions to having my favorite, the BLT:

That’s right – pile on the bacon, lettuce and tomato, plenty of mayo on that toasted bread, and I’ll show you what “bringing home the bacon” really means.

And when it comes to eating pork, I’m not alone – again, according to the article, Californians consume roughly 15% of all pork produced in the country, about 255 million pounds.  Our farms produce only 45 million pounds, so we’re dependent on out-of-state producers not just for a lot of ham and bacon and sausage, but these, as well:

Seriously – no more sausage and pepperoni on my sausage and pepperoni pizza?

And what about this icon:

Did we – unwittingly – vote all 13 varieties SPAM out of our lives?

What about all those luscious, made-from-pork deli meats, served up on charcuterie boards and in antipastos – pancetta, prosciutto, mortadella, salami, capocollo and soppressata?

Banned?

And what about Dr. Seuss’ famous book:

Damned?

It sounds like I’m making light of this subject – and I was.

But – what were we Californians thinking, back in 2018, when we voted in favor of Prop 12, but never considered the unintended consequences?

Was our hubris, or arrogance, or just plain ignorance so great that we assumed all the pork, veal and egg producers outside of California would just nod and say, “Sure thing, Californians, we’ll comply with whatever you say!” with no negative impact on us?

Again, from the ABC News article – it appears that veal and egg producers will meet our new standards; however…

“…only 4% of hog operations now comply with the new rules.”

And the reason is simple:

Money.

ABC News:

“In Iowa, which raises about one-third of the nation’s hogs, farmer Dwight Mogler (pictured below) estimates the changes would cost him $3 million and allow room for 250 pigs in a space that now holds 300.

“To afford the expense, Mogler said, he’d need to earn an extra $20 per pig and so far, processors are offering far less.”

If Mogler and other farmers don’t comply with the Prop 12 guidelines, they can’t sell their pork in California.  This will cause a pork shortage here, and that will cause pork prices to increase.  Those increases will be paid for by us, in grocery stores and restaurants.

If Mogler and other farmers do comply with the Prop 12 guidelines, then to cover their increased costs, they’ll pass those costs on to us in grocery stores and restaurants.

After Prop 12 passed, Kitty Block, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said:

“California voters have sent a loud and clear message that they reject cruel cage confinement in the meat and egg industries…millions of veal calves, mother pigs and egg-laying hens will never know the misery of being locked in a tiny cage for the duration of their lives.”

I get it. 

Hell, I voted for it.

But when I cast that ballot, I – and I think most of us – just didn’t think about those…

And come January 2022, if – when – this prediction comes true…

…It appears we Californians will be faced with three choices:

  1. Pay more – a lot more – for pork.
  2. Eat less – a lot less – pork.
  3. Head across the state border to buy pork.  Perhaps Nevada, Arizona and Oregon are even now getting ready for us…

Quotes Are Cool

I love a good quote.

I love when someone puts together the just right words (not too many, not too few) in just the right order, and says something that’s wise or funny – or both.

It might be something I read, or something I hear.  I’ve been known to pull my car to the side of the street so I can write down a great quote I heard on the radio.

I’ve collected quotes for years, and what follows are a few of them.  When I know the attribution, I include it:

Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.  – Unknown

The graveyards are full of indispensable men.  – Charles de Gaulle

I don’t mind getting older – it’s the aging I hate.  – Unknown

I can forgive and forget…it is so much less exhausting.  You only have to forgive once.  To resent you have to do it all day, every day.  You have to keep remembering all the bad things…I would have to make a list, a very, very long list and make sure I hated the people on it the right amount…No, we always have a choice.  All of us.  – M.L. Stedman, The Light Between Oceans

I never learned anything while I was talking.  – Larry King

Children are smarter than any of us.  You know how I know that?  I don’t know any children with a full-time job and children.  – Bill Hicks, Readers Digest

Teachers don’t teach for the income; they teach for the outcome.  – Unknown

Don’t look back – we’re not going that way.  – Unknown

A bad breakup is pain from a onetime source, like surgery; a bad relationship is every day and indefinite, like torture.  – Carolyn Hax, advice columnist

When science finally locates the center of the universe, some people will be surprised to learn they’re not it.  – Bernard Bailey

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.  – Oscar Wilde

We never gave each other presents, either, because every day we spent together was a gift.  – Isabel Vincent, Dinner with Edward

And, because we are…still…in a pandemic:

It’s Time To Put Another Old Queen To Rest

When Queen Mary (pictured above), wife of King George V of England, died in 1953 at age 85, she was buried with the pomp and circumstance befitting a queen in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle:

An appropriate ending to a long and full life.

Now another Queen Mary, this one also 85 years old, is at the end of her long and full life, and nobody knows what the hell to do with her.

She is this Queen Mary:

This Queen Mary resides in, and is owned by, the city of Long Beach, CA.

Queen Mary of England was quite the grande dame, and no doubt considered her namesake ship a fitting tribute to her…grande dame-ness.  

The 80,000-ton Queen Mary was built by England’s Cunard-White Star line, with construction beginning in 1930 at a Scottish shipyard.  The ship cost $17.5 million, more than $338 million today.

The Queen Mary sails into New York Harbor, 1936.

When the ship took her maiden voyage in May 1936, she wasn’t just huge (more than 1,000 feet long) and fast – she was “the grandest ocean liner in the world,” according to queenmary.com.  Celebrities and other wealthy passengers enjoyed five dining areas, two swimming pools, beauty salons, a grand ballroom, air conditioning in some public rooms, and a host of other luxurious amenities.

In 1939, with the second World War on the horizon, the Queen Mary was converted to a troopship, carrying soldiers to various battlefronts. The ship’s hull and funnels were painted battleship gray, earning the ship the nickname the “Grey Ghost,” and it could carry up to 15,000 soldiers at a time:

After the war, the Queen Mary was refitted for passenger service, and she continued sailing until her retirement in 1967.  Her second life began in Long Beach, opening as a tourist attraction, hotel and museum in 1971.

It was a good idea then.

But that was then, and this is now:

It’s not a surprise that an 85-year-old ship may be sinking.

It’s not a surprise that an 85-year-old ship requires a lot of expensive maintenance.

And it’s not a surprise that there’s a lot of blame and finger-pointing about who didn’t provide that maintenance and who’s going to pay for it now – the city of Long Beach, which owns the ship, or the most recent of the various companies that have operated it.

What is surprising to me is how many really bad options there are for the Queen Mary’s future, including these, according to various articles: 

  • Spend $23 million in immediate repairs to prevent it from potentially capsizing.
  • Spend $175 million to preserve the vessel for the next 25 years.
  • Spend between $200 million and $500 million to preserve it for the next 100 years. 
Long Beach City Council Member Suzie Price; she is NOT standing on the deck of the (probably sinking) Queen Mary.
  • Spend between $105 million and $190 million to transport the Queen Mary to a scrap facility and dismantle it.
  • Transfer responsibility for the ship to Long Beach’s Harbor Commission, which I guess would put them on the hook for the costs.
  • One wit on the Long Beach City Council, Suzie Price, suggested making the ship a national monument, and putting it under the control of a federal agency.  That would then put all of us taxpayers on the hook for the costs.

Memo to Council Member Price:

Then there was a reference to a vague plan to “build entertainment around the ship would generate the tens of millions of dollars needed to do more repairs,” and I can see some possibilities in that. 

For example, the city could host daily “Will the Queen Mary Sink Today?” parties and charge admission to watch in person.

Or how about selling raffle tickets – “Guess the Sinking Date of the Queen Mary!  Whoever Comes Closest – Wins!”

Or how about Long Beach charging people to come aboard the ship dressed in costumes from 1912, and do a reenactment of the sinking of the Titanic – with an actual sinking ship?

“This ship is actually sinking!” “Yeah! Cool!”

And that sinking would be the real deal, because just like the Titanic, the Queen Mary has lifeboat problems too, said the Los Angeles Times article:

“…the ship’s lifeboats and lifeboat support systems show significant signs of rotting and deterioration and need to be removed and replaced.”

Other issues:  “Structural steel is corroded, the bilge system is aging, the hull is compromised, and leaks and safety hazards abound.”

Not only that – the Queen Mary has been closed due to COVID since May 2020, and no reopening date is scheduled. 

It’s clear that something must be done with an 80,000-ton possibly sinking pile that’s generating no revenue.

And there is an option, also in that $105 million to $190 million range, that will give the Queen Mary a third life – and life to lots of others, as well:

The Queen Mary could become an artificial reef.

According to DiveMagazine.co.uk,

“For decades old and decommissioned vessels have been scuttled and purposely sunk to create artificial reef structures.”

Just one example is the retired Navy ship Spiegel Grove, now a massive artificial reef off Key Largo, FL:

An article about the ship-turned-reef says,

“Before the Spiegel Grove was put down on the bottom, basically we had a sandy, flat bottom; with no structure, no complexity, no coral at all.  This structure has provided incredible relief and complexity for use of marine life.”

That marine life includes delicate corals and invertebrates, and more than 200 species of fish.

And fish aren’t the only benefactors – the Spiegel Grove has also had a significant economic impact on Key Largo, generating an estimated $25 million in tourism revenue in it first 10 years as an artificial reef:

So…

Perhaps it’s time for the City of Long Beach to give the Queen Mary the final – and environmentally helpful and revenue-generating – resting place she deserves.

Perhaps it’s time for the City of Long Beach to remember that old saying about boats:

When They Finished Shooting This Commercial, Were They…

I’m of the old school – maybe really old school – of thinking that…

There are some human activities that should not be shared.

Flossing your teeth at a restaurant table is one.

Picking your nose…enough said.

And another human activity that should not be shared – I say this as strongly as possible – is this:

What’s she doing?  I’ll talk about that in a moment.

First, let’s set up the scene.

It’s family dinner time.

We’ll start with #1, our Fantasy Family – everyone eating, enjoying each other, sharing stories about their day, smiling and connecting.  Quality time:

Now we’ll move on to #2, our Reality Family – everyone eating, on their devices, smiling and not connecting, at least not with each other:

Now here’s Family #3 having dinner, everyone eating, but this time sharing the same device – the television:

Let’s stay with Family #3.

They’re eating dinner and really focused on the TV.  A commercial comes on, and at eight seconds in, they all see this:

She’s the same woman seen above, but now you get the big picture:

She’s sitting on a toilet.

She’s sitting on a toilet, talking about…

“Pooping.”

During the dinner hour.

And this isn’t a one-off – she’s joined by other toilet-sitting, poop-talking women:

During this 60-second commercial we’re treated to a number of statements, such as:

“I’m comfortable talking about poop.”

“I love pooping.”

“Don’t be shy about pooping.  Pooping is powerful.”

Because I knew you’d want to know, I counted the number of times we hear the word “poop,” or some variant, in this 60-second commercial:

That’s about once every three seconds.

Here are more of those statements:

“I’m a woman, and I poop.”

“I’m a woman, and I poop.”

“I’m a woman, and I poop – regularly.”

We’re also treated to the bowel movement euphemism “#2,” both in the voice-over, and here:

So we now know that this 60 seconds of magic is brought to you by Garden of Life, a company that makes probiotics, which are described on some websites as follows:

“Probiotics are live microorganisms promoted with claims that they provide health benefits when consumed, generally by improving or restoring the gut flora.  Probiotics are considered generally safe to consume, but may cause bacteria-host interactions and unwanted side effects in rare cases.  There is little evidence that probiotics bring the health benefits claimed for them.”

But the Garden of Life commercial doesn’t mention that, probably because the actresses are too busy saying…

“You poop, girl.”

“I poop, she poops, all women poop.”

“This is my favorite part of the day.”

This last referring, of course, to the woman’s time on the toilet.

There are two other women in the commercial, but they are not sitting on toilets:

I mention them because the one on the left in the pink bathing cap will make a later appearance you do NOT want to miss.

I’ll also mention that none of the women ever say the words “Garden of Life” or “probiotics.” 

“Poop-splaining,” yes.  “Probiotics”?  No.

It’s almost as if the advertising agency who created this commercial did two separate commercials and spliced them together.  One for Garden of Life, and the other – some sort of video manifesto about being not just a woman, but a proudly pooping woman.

And speaking of the advertising agency, I wish I could have seen the casting call announcement when they were looking for these actresses.  I’m imagining…

A bit of research revealed that Garden of Life’s ad agency is Humanaut, and their motto is, “Poop today, penises tomorrow!”

My research also revealed that some media outlets made a…stink?  About the “poop-powerment” commercial:

According to the article,

“‘We made an ad talking about how in the year 2021 women and commercials should be okay talking about poop,’ explained David Littlejohn, Humanaut Chief Creative Director.  ‘And then to our surprise we had our ad rejected by several networks, telling us it’s still not okay for women to use a four-letter p word ending in oop.’”

That was the good news…for some viewers.

The bad news, for Family #3 and the rest of us:

This commercial is running through the end of the year.

I started this post by suggesting I think there are some human activities that should not be shared.

Remember that lady in the locker room – the one wearing the pink bathing cap?

At the very end of the Garden of Life commercial, she gets the last word.

We’ve seen that Garden of Life does think this human activity should be shared.

And – apparently – this human body part, as well:

Let’s Establish This Up Front:  I Am No Fashionista.

If I were ever featured in one of those Fashion Dos and Don’ts articles, I’d be in the Don’ts column, with a black box over my eyes, like these images:

But as fashion-ignorant as I am, even I am aware that at one time, this was fashionable:

This was the “hobble” skirt.

And it was a really, really bad idea.

Maybe it wasn’t the worst fashion idea ever – that would be hard to determine, as we have so many bad ideas to choose from.  Like this:

1970s: The Osmond Brother wearing polyester leisure suits – it doesn’t get better than this.

And this:

1980s: Leg warmers; how do your calves get chilly when working out?

And this: 1990s to today: Platform sneakers, platform shoes, platform anything:

What got me started on hobble skirts?

I was watching a documentary about the United States in the years 1900-1914, and saw film footage of women dressed like this:

And like this:

They were taking baby steps, some quickly, some slowly, but baby steps.

Why baby steps?

Because their skirt – that “hobble” skirt – was impeding their walking.

Let’s talk about that word “hobble.”

One definition is to “walk in an awkward way, typically because of pain from an injury.”

Another definition:

“A device which prevents or limits the locomotion of an animal, by tethering one or more legs.  Although hobbles are most commonly used on horses, they are also sometimes used on other animals.”

This is what a horse hobble looks like:

You can see the resemblance:

Who came up with this dreadful idea?

Well, who are the primary designers of women’s fashions?

Men.

And the man who claimed credit for the hobble skirt was Paul Poiret (pictured), a leading French fashion designer and master couturier during the first two decades of the 20th century.

The way I figure it is, back around 1907, our pal Paul was sitting around one day, trying to come up with a new idea for his next fashion show collection, and…

“Sacrebleu – I’ve got eet!  I will deezine an outfit wiz zee skirt so narrow, oui? it will restrict how zee woman walks.  Rather like zee hobble on zee horse, oui?

“And I will call it…zee Hobble Skirt!”

And when Poiret’s assistant asked him why, Poiret replied, “Eet’s new!  Zat is all eet takes, for fashion to be new.  Zee women will wear eet, and zay will love eet!”

And many Parisian women did, starting around 1908.  New York women soon followed:

Zee – I mean, the – hobble skirt had arrived.

Women who were already suffering the horrible constrictions of corsets on their upper bodies…

…now chose to equally constrict their lower bodies by hobbling their legs with their skirt.

And the world rushed in to accommodate them.

Bertram L’Estrange wrote a song for dancing in a hobble skirt:

And when New York women struggled to board streetcar steps due to their hobbled legs – forcing other riders to wait and wreaking havoc with the streetcar schedule – a special “step-less” car was designed, and debuted in New York in 1912:

The back of the postcard says, in part:

“The central portion of the cars is built close to the ground and the doors are in the center of the car, the steps being only about six inches from the ground.”

Those “hobble skirt cars” were pretty darn nice of the New York transit system.

But not everyone was as nice about hobble skirts – like this writer in the New York Times in 1910:

“The ‘hobble’ is the latest freak in women’s fashions.  The hobble skirt suits none.  But many, too many, women will wear what the fashion authorities decree.”

And women did, until the hobble skirt’s popularity waned as all fashions do, and it was considered passé in 1914.

And now, in 2021, women are too smart to wear such a ridiculous, restricting style.

Yup:  This is 2021.

And alas, so it this:

Amazon, July 26, 2021:

And don’t be fooled by the “Pencil” stuff – a hobble by any other name is still a hobble:

What I Feel About Bugs Is What Indiana Jones Felt About Snakes:

I hate bugs.

When a bug comes into my home, I kill it.

I didn’t invite that bug, it’s unwelcome, and it’s dead.

As long as the bugs stay outside, I leave them alone.

But a bug in my house in a dead bug walking.

Or flying.

Or crawling.

So you can imagine my revulsion when I saw this headline:

With this photo:

Eat bugs?

The article assures us that,

“Around the world, two billion people in 130 countries eat insects regularly.”

So what?

If those same two billion people decided to jump off a cliff, does that mean that I should, too?

No.

I hate bugs.

I will not eat bugs.

I don’t care how many pictures and how many examples they give me about yum-yum items made with bugs.

Like this:

This is Tiziana Di Constanzo, and she puts cricket powder in her pizza crust.

She also holds cricket and mealworm cooking classes in her London home.

She and her husband, the above-pictured Tom Mohan, have a startup company, Horizon Insects, which is looking to join, says the article, “Europe’s nascent edible insect scene,” which already offers lots of bugs-included stuff like chips made from crickets:

Beer “flavored with protein from insects”:

And pasta with “mealworms as one of the main ingredients”:

By now you may be wondering – as am I – why I’m spending so much time looking at this dreadful stuff.

This was an effort to reassure myself that this bug-eating madness is confined to other countries, not to my country.

Alas – I am not reassured.

My research revealed A Guide to Buying Edible Insects updated just last month:

The article begins,

“Welcome to the exciting world of entomophagy!” 

Entomophagy means “the practice of eating insects, especially by people.”

There’s even a word for this.

Ugh.

The article continues,

“Below you will find a list of North American companies producing edible insects in various forms…”

Oh, no.

Bug-eating has already infested my country.

The site lists U.S.-based companies offering insect-based ready-to-eat food, protein powders and bars, edible insect flours, and “Just Plain Edible Insects,” like these:

There are, apparently, a whole lot of people out there making edible bug products and eating edible bug products.

But…

Not me.

No, nope, never will I eat bugs.

Except…

Have I been – unknowingly – already eating bugs?

Going back to the Associated Press article,

“…humans may end up eating more insects indirectly because the market that shows the most promise is for feeding animals…The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it for chicken feed in 2018…”

Oh, no…Caterpillar crud in my chicken today…tarantula in my steak tartare tomorrow…

You think I’m kidding?  Check out this article, which includes an image of Tarantula Tempura, as featured on the Smithsonian Channel in 2018:

OK:  But even without insects added to the food fed to animals raised for human consumption, my research has made me aware that I’ve been consuming insects – indirectly – all my life.  According to TechnologyNetworks.com:

“Insects are naturally eaten by cattle, pigs, poultry and fish as part of their species-appropriate diet.”

Chickens happily feast on ticks, grasshoppers, pillbugs, spiders, termites and flies.

Animals were already eating insects; I eat meat and fish; therefore, I eat insects.

And since it’s unlikely I’m going to go vegan, it appears that I will continue – indirectly – to eat insects.

So I guess I’d better put on my Big Girl Pants…

And deal with it.

Care to join me for lunch?

The giant weta is among the largest and heaviest insects in the world. With a side salad, serves four.

I Keep Thinking TV Can’t Get Worse. I Keep Being…

I was researching information for a blog post when I happened across something I’d never heard of.

This occurs a lot – encountering things, events and people I’ve never heard of.  This often leads to more research and, hopefully, an opportunity to slightly decrease my ignorance.

Also, sometimes, an opportunity to skewer that thing, event or person.

The thing I’d never heard of was this program on the Discovery Channel:

The premise of Naked and Afraid is putting two strangers, naked, in some of the most extreme environments on Earth.  They’re left with no food, no water, no clothes, and only one survival item each as they attempt to survive on their own.

After 21 days, the participants are supposed to end up at something called the “designated extraction point” where they’re picked up by helicopter or some other vehicle.  They’re also given their updated PSR – Primitive Survival Rating:

But…why naked? 

And why are they doing this?

I learned that Naked and Afraid has been on the air since 2013, for 12 seasons. 

How have I never heard of this?

Partial explanation:  It’s a reality series, and I don’t watch reality series.

I also learned that each episode’s two participants – a woman and a man – are survivalists.

Survivalists – people who practice survivalism – have a “mindset with the goal of keeping themselves alive through adverse circumstances.  These circumstances could be anything, from a devastating flood or earthquake to a nuclear attack or civil war.”

Or, in this case, surviving a reality TV show.

I immediately formed an image of naked young or young-ish people, probably in good shape, cautiously moving through a dangerous place, looking for something to eat, while trying not to get eaten by something.

I’m picturing people with a knowledge of how to hunt animals, what plants are safe to eat, when water is or isn’t safe to drink, capable of building a shelter, capable of existing without cell phones or Starbucks or wine.

And in Naked and Afraid, they’re supposed to do this for three weeks.

I still wasn’t learning…

My research continued, and led me to this very helpful article about the “naked” part, written in 2013, right at the time of the show’s debut:

The author observed,

“When the first clips of Naked and Afraid hit the internet, the show got a lot of attention, as shows with naked people tend to do.  It seemed like the latest series to push the bad taste envelope:  Survivor, but nakeder.

“But the show is more serious-minded than that; the body parts are blurred out and the participants are so busy with the daily tasks of surviving there is no hanky panky or embarrassment at all.  The title promises a titillation the show doesn’t even try to deliver on, while doing what good titles should do:  bring the show attention.”

So…body parts blurred…or strategically cropped out:

This answered the “naked” part:  It’s used in the title is used to…titillate people.

That still leaves the…

Why do these people do this?

Since a picture – or in this case, a video – is worth a thousand words, I decided it was time to have a look at Naked and Afraid.

In addition to that why? I wanted to see what has kept viewers interested for eight years and 12 seasons.

I went on YouTube and randomly chose a three-minute video with this description:

“Elite survivalist Matt Wright manages to catch a warthog to bring back to camp in Africa.”

I had NO idea what I was letting myself in for.

Wright – who is naked but not blurred or cropped, at least in this image – uses a bow and arrow to shoot and kill a warthog:

Wright speaks to the camera:

Wright raises his fist in triumph:

Wright guts the warthog, and we get to see the guts:

Warthog guts.

End of video viewing.

I did – sort of – get an answer to the why? in this article:

According to the article,

“The official description of the show states that the contestants must survive on their own for 21 days and that ‘the only prize is their pride and sense of accomplistment.’”

And,

“…several interviews with former cast members revealed that they are on the show for the experience and the reaffirmation that they can indeed survive in the wild.”

However, the article continued, in 2014 it was revealed that participants…

“…are given a ‘weekly stipend to compensate for their lost wages.’  The rules of Naked and Afraid posted in 2014 revealed that the contestants would be paid $5,000 in cash.  Additionally, they would also be given round-trip flight tickets to the location of the survival challenge and put up for two nights in a hotel.”

I’ve answered my why? questions, and come to this conclusion:

Overall, Naked and Afraid sounds like a really horrible, way-too-long first date. 

So, what happens to the participants afterwards?

Do they hook up and have a happily-ever-survivalist after? 

Do they go their separate ways, with their “pride and sense of accomplishment,” and new Primitive Survival Rating bragging rights?  Like the afore-featured Matt Wright:

Finally – and none too soon – in the interests of ending this on an upbeat note, I’ll share a truly inspiring story of another Naked and Afraid participant, who describes herself as the “ultimate survivalist”:  Kellie Nightlinger:

According to numerous online sources, Kellie and her fellow-survivalist were starving after spending two weeks in the wild when…

“…she devised an innovative way to catch fish using her private parts as bait and then trapping her meal between her legs:

“Said Nightlinger, ‘We were very hungry and needed fish for our survival.  We needed something with protein and because the water was so muddy, traditional fishing methods wouldn’t work, so I had to improvise, adapt and overcome.’”

Inspiring, yes?

This also inspired an idea.

The Discovery Channel features fishing shows, like Life on the Line and All on the Line:

I think they should give Nightlinger her own fishing show, and call it…

Hmm, let’s see. 

We’ve got Life on the Line and All on the Line – how about…

Movie Review:  Get It.  Watch It.  Bring Kleenex.

Release date:  2015.

Review, short version:  All thumbs up.

Review, long version:

I’m semi-reluctant to write about Dark Horse for fear of not doing the film justice.

I thought Dark Horse was such a good story, so well-done, and it resonated with me so deeply, but…

Can I do it justice?

Well, here goes.

Dark Horse is, on one level, about a horse.  But it’s not a “horse” movie.

On another level, it’s about horse racing – steeplechase – but it’s not a “horse racing” movie.

Steeplechase: Take a racetrack, add many obstacles.

Dark Horse is about a group of people who dreamed.

And they dared to dream big.

To get started we head to Blackwood, a town of about 24,000 people in southern Wales:

It’s a working-class town – the average income today is around $34,000 annually, so most people in Blackwell doesn’t have money to burn.

They averaged even less money back in 2000, when Jan Vokes (pictured) was working two jobs, one as a barmaid at the Blackwood Working Men’s Club.  Getting involved in horse racing had never crossed her mind – thoroughbred horseracing is, after all, known as the “sport of kings” because generally, only royalty and the very rich can afford it. 

Think Queen Elizabeth II and her thoroughbred, Estimate:

QE II and her horse, Estimate, after it won at Royal Ascot, 2013.

Owning a thoroughbred racing horse is a very expensive proposition.  Figures I found from 2019 suggest that buying a championship quality thoroughbred “costs between $100,000 and $300,000” plus expenses, including a trainer; feed and bedding; blacksmith, veterinarian and dental services; entry fees for races; trainer and jockey fees if your horse does well in a race.  Add in various types of insurance, plus taxes, and it’s indeed a sport for the wealthy, not the working class.

And the reality is, you can spend enormous amounts of money on a thoroughbred, and for whatever reason, it turns out not to be a winner.  Or it’s a winner, but it gets hurt and can’t race again.  Or its injuries are so severe, it must be euthanized.

A bad day for the horse and the jockey.

Owning and racing a thoroughbred horse is so far out of the reach for most people, that most people don’t even think about it.  And that included Jan Vokes, back in 2000.

Jan wasn’t a stranger to animal breeding – she’d bred champion whippets, both show dogs and racers, and once won a prestigious Welsh pigeon race.  But a horse?

“Uffern na!” (Hell, no!) as they say in Wales.

Jan was at work at the bar one night when she overheard a local talking about how he’d lost a lot of money when he got involved with a racehorse, and that he’d promised his wife he’d never do anything like that again. 

Something clicked for Jan.

It’s called a dream.

Howard Davies and his wife, Angela.

She tracked down the man from the pub, Howard Davies, and “asked him if he’d show me how to set up a syndicate.  He thought I was dotty…”

Dotty:  British slang for somewhat mad or eccentric.

Syndicate:  A group of people who agree to invest in something together; in this case, the success of a horse that hadn’t even been born, much less run, or won, a race.

A huge part of the charm of Dark Horse is seeing these residents of Blackwood tell their unlikely story:  Jan, who had a dream.  Howard Davies, who’d promised his wife never again.  Jan’s husband Brian, who, when she shared her dream, told her, “You can’t, you silly mare.”

And the friends and acquaintances whom Jan approached about joining her syndicate for 10 pounds a week.  They also thought Jan, or at least her idea, was dotty.

Until something clicked for them, as well.  Jan’s dream became their dream.

And the group’s horse became “Dream Alliance,” the “dark horse” of the film.

Brian and Jan Vokes with Dream Alliance.

The phrase “dark horse” means, in part, “a candidate or competitor about whom little is known.”

Little was known about Dream Alliance.

Dream Alliance, 2009.

And then that all changed.

And that’s all I’ll say.

But if I may, two suggestions:

First, don’t go online and read anything about Dream Alliance or Dark Horse, or about Dream Horse, the 2020 feature film based on the story.  Just sit back, watch Dark Horse, and allow yourself to feel – as Howard Davies put it…

The “elation when you can do something, particularly when no one gives you a chance.”

Second, turn on the film’s English subtitles.  English with a Welsh accent is lovely, but can be a bit challenging to understand.

Now:  Join Jan and her friends and, as the Welsh would say…

Breuddwydiwch yn fawr!

Here’s A Must-Miss For Me:

I’m fascinated by sharks.

From the largest:

Whale sharks grow 40 feet long – and longer.

To the smallest:

Dwarf lantern shark.

To my personal pick as the weirdest:

Hammerhead shark.

Though this guy is a close second:

Goblin shark.

So awhile back, when I learned about the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week on TV, I was intrigued. 

Here’s my recollection of the first episode I watched:

First, it’s an hour-long show.

Second, subtract 12 minutes for commercials, so now it’s a 48-minute show.

The first 47 minutes are spent as follows:

Four guys in a boat somewhere on some ocean, looking for sharks:

Guy #1:  I see one!  A shark!  Over there – see?

Guy #2:  I see it, too!  I –

Guy #2:  Oh, wait a minute.  That’s just a floating pile of garbage.

Guy #1:  Oh.  Darn it!

(Some time passes.)

Guy #3:  There’s one – see the fin?  It’s a great white!

Guy #4:  Get closer, you guys!  It’s a great white, for sure!  It’s a…

Guy #4:  It’s a sunfish.

Guy #3:  Oh.  Darn it!

(More time passes.)

Guy #1:  Why don’t we throw some chum into the water?

(Voiceover explains that “chum” is chopped fish, fish fluids, and other material thrown overboard as bait.)

Guy #2:  I’ll do the chum, you guys keep your eyes open.

(More time passes – 47 of those 48 minutes.  And then…)

All Four Guys:  WOW!  DID YOU SEE THAT? 

The End.

I thought – or I should say, I hoped – that this episode was a one-off, and the next show would reveal more sharks.

Instead, what I watched during Shark Week consistently seemed to be people on boats spending much more time looking for sharks than ever actually encountering sharks.

Shark Week and I parted company.

This year, when Shark Week rolled around again on July 11, I rolled my eyes. 

What’s the big attraction? I wondered.

I started doing some research, and learned that Shark Week has been around since 1988 – proof that even if I don’t get it, plenty of people do. 

I learned that a respected institution – NOAA, the National Oceanside and Atmospheric Administration – associates itself with Shark Week:

And that respected publications, like this one, do stories about Shark Week:

I learned that respected (and otherwise) celebrities get involved in Shark Week, this year including Dr. Pimple Popper, Brad Paisley, Josh Gates, and Tiffany Haddish:

And that merchandisers are involved in Shark Week all year round:

The Discovery Channel’s online store offers 11 pages of merchandise, including Shark Socks, Shark Face Masks, and Bobblehead Hammerhead Sharks:

That last item, alas, is sold out.

And I learned the Shark Week 2021 schedule:

Well.

Considering the participation of the very august NOAA, Newsweek, and Dr. Pimple Popper…

Surely I could find a show that interests me?

I’ve still got tonight and tomorrow.  Let’s look at the schedule…OK, this sounds promising:

Monster Sharks of Andros Island:  A team of shark researchers travel to Andros, the largest island in the Bahamas, to determine if it’s a new Great Hammerhead hotspot, and they’re using reports of a half-octopus, half-shark creature known as the Lusca to help them locate massive sharks for their study.

Guy #1:  What is it again, that thing we’re out here looking for?

Guy #2:  A Lusca.  There’ve been Lusca sightings around Andros for decades, but no one has filmed or photographed one.

Guy #3:  It’s a half-shark/half octopus and can grow up to 75 feet long.  Here – I’ve got an artist’s image on my phone:

Guy #4:  Is that what it’s called?  I’ve seen that thing a million times. 

Is This “Involuntary Servitude”? 

When I was a kid, I heard an adult say that prisoners make license plates.

Since an adult said it, it had to be true.

This added to my knowledge about prisons, which then was as follows:

If you did something bad, you could be locked up in a prison, and make license plates.

I confess that until recently, I didn’t give much thought to what people in prisons do.  I’m sorry that there are people in prison, sorry that we need a prison system, and especially sorry when I read about wrongly convicted people.

But as to what kind of work prisoners did?

I didn’t think about it, until I read this recent article by San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Charles Clark:

This led me on a quest for more information, about prison workers in and outside of California.

I’ve now learned that the license plate part was and is true, according to this article:

“About 80% of license plates in the United States ARE made in about eight prisons.  Some of those prisons actually make plates for more than one state.”

And in my state:

According to the article:

“Behind the thick granite walls at Folsom State Prison lies a factory where inmates…manufacture every single license plate used in the state of California.

“Just over 120 employees make up the inmate workforce at the California Prison Industry Authority’s license plate factory – the only place license plates are made in the state.

“The factory operates from 7am to 3pm Monday through Thursday and produces between 45,000 and 50,000 plates a day, making it the largest producer of license plates in the United States.”

It turns out that inmates all over the country in state and federal prisons are working, and they’ve made or are making a variety of items including Books for the Blind, park benches and picnic tables, military clothing, canoes, road signs, and even wearing apparel for both prisoners and the public at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institute:

“Their commercial product line includes apparel with logo designs, blue jeans, jackets, work shirts, sweatshirts, T-shirts, hats and more…”

And according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons,

“Institution work assignments include employment in areas like food service or the warehouse, or work as an inmate orderly, plumber, painter, or groundskeeper.”

During the pandemic, some state-run prisons shifted to supplying government agencies with essentials to battle the coronavirus, like hand sanitizer and protective gear. 

And during California’s wildfire season – this hit particularly close to home – for years, thousands of male, female and teenage inmates have worked as firefighters.

California inmate firefighters, 2015.

One of those firefighters, Amika Mota, was featured in the above Charles Clark Union-Tribune article. 

The firefighting came later; in 2008, when Mota arrived at the California Institution for Women, she refused her first assignment “because the head of the program was abusive to other inmates.”

The punishment, according to the article:

“For a time she lost access to visitation and phones and couldn’t see or talk to family or friends.  She also wasn’t allowed to buy from the commissary, so no more snacks or hygiene items.  And, for good measure, she was put in ‘the hole’ [solitary confinement] for 45 days…”

I was shocked.

In my ignorance, I assumed that prisoners volunteered to work and could request their assignments.  Working, I thought, was a good idea:  It could help alleviate boredom, and possibly provide useful work skills, a sense of accomplishment, and a feeling that they’re contributing to society.

To learn that some prisoners are required to work and required to accept their work assignments, and punished if they refused…

They’re already in prison.  Isn’t that punishment enough?

Yes, it’s true that some prison work – like firefighting in California – is done on a voluntary basis.  But in Mota’s case and many others…

Some people have names for it:

“Forced labor.”

“Involuntary servitude.”

“A vestige of slavery.”

And it’s legal, as written into the United States Constitution.  The 13th Amendment, ratified in 1865, says,

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” 

Involuntary servitude is also currently allowed under Article 1 of the California state constitution, if that servitude is being used to punish a crime.

One could argue that prisoners are paid so it’s not slavery, and it’s true – though some inmates are not paid, many prisoners are.

As a sampling – according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, “Inmates earn 12 cents to 40 cents per hour for these work assignments.”  California’s inmate firefighters “earn as little as $2.90 per day.”  In some prisons, making license plates pays “35 cents to 90 cents per hour.”

And those wages can be garnished for victim compensations, parole violation fines, and/or to offset the cost of a prisoner’s incarceration. 

So prisoners aren’t making much money – but somebody is:

Us.

The taxpayers.

According to an August 2020 New York Times article, “Using incarcerated firefighters [in California] saves the state’s taxpayers an estimated $100 million a year.”

And how about those “45,000 and 50,000” license plates made at Folsom State Prison?  No union wages, no benefits, just more savings for us taxpayers.

That’s only in California’s prisons, and only the firefighters and license plate makers.  Now think all state and federal prisons in all 50 states, and how those savings add up.

The more I learned, the more complex this topic became:  How those few words in the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution enabled the post-Civil War South to continue profiting from the forced labor of the formerly enslaved.  The disproportionate number of minorities doing forced labor due to the disproportionate numbers of minorities in prisons.  Then there’s the whole issue of inmate workers in privately held for-profit prisons.

And this, from a 2017 Los Angeles Times Op-Ed by a former inmate:

The writer said, in part:

“I consider most of the criticism lobbed at prison labor – that it’s a form of slavery, a capitalist horror show – unfair, and even counterproductive in the effort to reform the justice system.

“My prison job made me feel like I was fulfilling my existential duty to society: I was contributing…Any change for good that happened within me while I was incarcerated grew out of my job.”

But…it appears that in California, an opportunity is coming to lessen my ignorance and gain a better understanding of this complex topic.  From the Charles Clark article:

“In mid-June, a bill dubbed ACA 3 moved out of the State Assembly’s Public Safety committee…It aims to amend California’s Constitution with a ballot measure [in 2022] that would completely ban involuntary servitude.

“If ACA 3 gets approved in the Assembly and Senate and is passed by California voters, our state would join several others that have banned such labor in prisons and jails over the last five years, including Colorado, Nebraska and Utah.  At least 12 other states also have similar legislation or ballot measures in progress…”

I anticipate much debate about, and media coverage of, the progress of ACA 3, and I plan to be much better informed before California’s November 2022 election.

I’ve also recently learned that in December 2020, legislation dubbed the “Abolition Amendment” was introduced by Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate.  It failed to gain traction before the session’s end, but last month lawmakers reintroduced legislation to revise the 13th Amendment, according to this article:

The article reminds us,

“Constitutional amendments require approval by two-thirds of the House and Senate, as well as ratification by three-quarters of state legislatures.”

So, a possible amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

A possible constitutional amendment in California, and 12 other states.

To decide if it’s…

“Involuntary servitude”?

Or an “existential duty to society”?

We’re Witnessing The World’s Most Expensive…

Yesterday, July 11, billionaire Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic (and Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin Records, etc.) traveled on his VSS Unity…

…Making him the first billionarie founder of a space company to actually travel into space aboard a vehicle he helped fund.

On July 20, billionaire Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and the world’s richest man, will travel on his Blue Origin New Shepard rocket’s first passenger flight…

…Making him the second billionaire founder of space company to actually travel into space aboard a vehicle he helped fund.

Welcome to the world’s most expensive…

According to the Virgin Galactic website, Branson’s goal is to make the world a better place:

According to the Blue Origin website, Bezos’ goal is to make the world a better place:

And space travel certainly will make Branson and Bezos’ world a better place.

Cost of a reserved seat on Virgin Galactic:  $250,000, with more than 600 reservations at last count.

Cost of a reserved seat on Blue Origin:  To be announced after Bezos’ trip.

While you’re waiting for that announcement, you can – no surprise here – spend some money at Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin online shop:

And talk about making the world a better place – this new industry has given Branson and Bezos unlimited photo opportunities to light up our world:

In addition to making the world a better place, the two billionaire’s approach to space travel has an important similarity:

Their spacecraft are designed to come apart.

According to a July 9 CNN article,

“[Branson’s] VSS Unity will be affixed to a massive mothership, called WhiteKnightTwo, that looks like two sleek jets attached at the tip of their wings:

“The mothership takes about 45 minutes to cruise along and slowly climb with VSS Unity to about 50,000 feet.  Then, when the pilots give the go-ahead, VSS Unity drops from between WhiteKnightTwo’s two fuselages and fires up its rocket engine, swooping directly upward and roaring past the speed of sound.”

VSS Unity’s flight without the mothership lasts 14-17 minutes.

Bezos’ New Shepard vehicle “is a capsule and rocket system that fires off vertically from a launch pad”:

At some point the capsule separates from the rocket system:

The flight lasts about 10 minutes, and both capsule and rocket system return to Earth.

Another similarity:  Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin already are referring to their prospective clients as “astronauts.”

And another:  Astronauts on both the VSS Unity and New Shepherd will experience weightlessness.

And the most important:  If successful, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin will make billionaires Branson and Bezos just what they needed:

More billions.

I labeled this the “world’s most expensive pissing contest,” and it appears at least a few others share a similar – if less pungent – point of view:

And this, perhaps the most excoriating of all:

This writer’s observations include:

“…this will be the summer of the billionaire space race, as we witness who can burn through more money and public attention in the effort to escape the bonds of Earth’s gravity for, well, a few minutes.”

“…any honest assessment of the billionaire space race shows that it’s less the dawning of a new epoch of universal space travel than the world’s most expensive infomercial for a network of self-dealing billionaires who plan to make a lot more money down here on terra firma.”

“At a time when our earthly inequities could not be more clear, it is obscene to allow moguls to pour their untaxed billions, earned on the backs of precarious workers, into private ventures divorced from everyday concern or accountability.”

You’ll notice that both The New Republic and Los Angeles Times reference Elon Musk (pictured), yet another billionaire spacecraft builder. 

Musk’s SpaceX has already carried 10 astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA, and his company’s first private spaceflight is coming up in September for another billionaire who’s purchased a three-day, globe-circling ride.

I haven’t said anything about him, but a few days ago Musk had something to say about Branson and Bezos, in this snarky comment on Twitter:

“There is a big difference between reaching space and reaching orbit.”

A three-way pissing contest!

Musk, at least, is upfront about his intentions.  According to the SpaceX website, a seat on his “Rideshare” program…

…starts “as low as $1M.”

And like Bezos, Musk’s SpaceX has a shop:

During my research for this post, I discovered that humans aren’t the only ones to engage in pissing contests:

Additionally,

“…in scenes akin to a showdown at the OK Corral, the winner of the physical combat almost always turns out to be the lobster that urinated first.  And well after the fight is over, the winner keeps pissing.  By contrast, the loser shuts off his urine valves immediately.”

So, since Branson went into space before either Bezos or Musk, it looks like he gets…

The Signs Seen…

There’s a gas station in Gauteng, which is one of the nine provinces in South Africa:

A gas station story isn’t normally something that would go viral, but the owner of the gas station, Alison Billett, has put it on the online map.

From what I’m recently reading, when Alison bought the gas station years ago, it came equipped with a chalkboard, a perfect place for writing and sharing quotes – some funny, some topical, some inspirational.

Alison decided to continue the tradition, and now people make a point of driving by the gas station just to see Alison’s handiwork.  They, in turn, are sharing this “gas pump wisdom” – on Facebook and Twitter and numerous websites.

And now, because I think Alison’s gas pump wisdom is so well-done, I’m sharing some of her quotes: