Can We Talk About George?

In the fire-hose of stories about men (well, mostly men, there was Mariah Carey, who I gather is a popular singer) abusing their social and professional leverage to inflict themselves sexually on relatively underpowered members of the gender of their choice, the George Takei story seems to be provoking wind in the grass, and crickets.

It bothers me. The story, the denial, and the silence. Briefly, a model and actor named Scott Brunton suddenly went public with a story he claimed to have “been telling [privately] for years,” in which Takei secured his phone number during or shortly after a breakup Brunton was enduring, later invited him over for drinks, and then, while Brunton was in an intoxicated haze — seeming to suggest a Cosby-like drugging — committed what we shall call manual sexual interference. Brunton says he pulled himself together, resisted, objected, and left.

Takei’s response is right out of a familiar playbook. He is “shocked and bewildered,” he has “wracked his brains” trying to remember who Brunton is, and such conduct is “antithetical to his nature.”

I want to believe Takei, the creator of a beloved sci-fi character, snarky gay activist of a dozen PSAs, hero of the Resistance to Trump’s America. But I can’t wriggle away from the observation that he sounds like the Mayor of Casablanca here. Or like scads of men with moral, social and political leverage who have discounted accusations of sexual bad behavior.

Let me hasten to remark that the world is not black and white. In my teens, I was a little on the ruthless side. The Bard College Campus Christian (we only had one) could have lodged a complaint against me for sexual harassment. His evangelizing was obnoxious and his bony frame was toothsome, and he oozed dick-in-a-knot sexual thwartedness at every pore. But really, it would have been classier not to put the blocks on him after he said he wasn’t interested, even if he kept sending mixed messages. On the other hand, I was nineteen, and had imbibed the myth that all men really, really want to get laid, just as some men have apparently internalized the idea that all women really want it. I grew up.

Takei, at the age when this allegedly happened, was forty-two or -three. At that age I was going through a divorce, had had a lot of time to grow up, and would not have forced myself on a carrot.

So if the story is true in whole or substantive part, even if it was half a lifetime ago for Takei, and something he would never repeat — part of a past self, say — it is something that a man should own. Maybe it’s not true and Brunton is an opportunist or has been put up to it, but then, that’s what Roy Moore says about his accusers. Maybe I will be able to go on enjoying my fondness for the man who satirizes homophobes and inspired a terrific musical and fenced his way through the Desilu sound stages. But I don’t like the story so far. And no one is covering it past the moment it broke, not even to the extent of the apparently well loved Kevin Spacey’s misdeeds (seriously: contemporary pop culture has long gotten away from me; I know he was something in something). This should not be the case; we love it when a Christian tightass founders, but a hero of social justice? Sorry, all flesh is grass.

The comic Louis CK — another showbiz person I wouldn’t know if I sat on him — issued a mea culpa that resonated over Twitter and hence into my news feed, to the effect that yes, he’d been an asshole; yes, he realized now what damage he’d done; yes, he was going to retreat and reflect. I don’t know if that’s redemptive, but it at least amounts to owning your own shit. Again, I don’t know the facts of the Takei case, but I may be the only person to react (on his Twitter feed) by saying that an apology of this sort would be the best stance if there is any truth in what Brunton said.  It all seems to be either “we love you George” or “you are a lying POS.” Meanwhile, most media seem asleep.

We live in a moral jungle, in which people are told that their sexuality is wicked and damning — the more so if they are gay or otherwise nonconforming — while other forces demonstrate the wink, the snicker, the implication that everyone says one thing and does another. Shit like this is going to happen until we have a social order in which an enthusiastic Yes is okay, a definitive No is respected, and everyone has learned the responsibility for seeking and abiding by the distinction.

George, I want it not to be true. But if it is, fricking own it. No one gets knee jerk exoneration, not Roy Moore, not Donald Trump, not you.

 

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Deja Poo

Speaking of farting — as in my last, reblogged post, and also in this one — well…

It was sort of the fault of the tortellini. I think. Or maybe the artichoke tapenade. What happened was, as is occasionally the case, the Engineer and I were stuck for a quick dinner, I was woozy with hunger from a long day without any time to eat (sleeping and working out come first), and we did something we often do, picked a stuffed pasta from the freezer and tossing it with some browned bits of vegan sausage, Parmesan and a vegetable relish. This time we mixed two, one with artichoke and tomatoes and one consisting only of coarsely comminuted tomato and garlic. Fergie is crazy for Parmesan so there is always entertainment value in this type of meal; he always gets his share of the grated cheese, and there’s your dinner entertainment. Big salad, and Bob’s your uncle. This was an especially serendipitous combo, with a hearty aroma that gladdened the hungry heart.

The next morning I noticed the house still smelt of it a bit at times — nothing surprising.  I  bucketed off to the gym, and, as one will alone in the car, popped one off at a stoplight — in the arena of cutting the cheese, little more than slicing into a lunchbox Bonbel or one of those square Laughing Cow travesties. It should have been inconsequential, but a rich, Italian-restaurant aroma rose unmistakably from the region of the car seat, accompanied by an eerie sensation of deja vu.

I have only experienced this phenomenon one other time; it involved some Swiss garlic soup that I made thirty years ago, prepared with steamed cauliflower, tomatoes, and two entire heads of fresh garlic simmered slowly to bring out their sweetness, then everything pureed in a blender. It was divine. I ate it for lunch. About nine in the evening, great gong-like explosions of gas commenced, fueled by the indoles in the cruciferous cauliflower. You could have been forgiven for believing I was cooking another batch of the soup. The garlic fumes would have stunned Count Dracula a block away. As I was opening windows a housemate entered and called from the foyer “Wow! Whatcha cooking? Can I have some?”

This was not so explosive, but persistent. I kept slinking around the gym pretending I hadn’t been where I’d been, until I found myself alone in the locker room and just let pressure completely equalize. Of course, that was the moment I heard entering footsteps. Inescapably busted, I winced, then saw that the woman in the doorway was wearing some ridiculous “I’m afraid of the flu” face mask and probably couldn’t smell anything but her own toothpaste.

Saved by germophobia.

There’s some of this stuff left over in the fridge but I’m not sure what to do. It tasted fabulous, but I work with the public.

 

 

Philosophers on Farting

I am a longtime fan of the Bookshelf Battler, whose blog originally featured head to head combat between geeky books for space on his bookshelf, hence the name. He has branched out into both fiction and philosophy, and the eleven-year-old boy in my soul is still braying with delight at this post that I just caught up with a few days ago. In these dark times, dear Goddess, we need all the erudite yet puerile humor we can get.

Bookshelf Battle

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Think before you stink.

Hey 3.5 readers.

I surveyed the following philosophers on the topic of farting.  Here is what they said:

Socrates – If you want to know whether or not you should fart, ask yourself if you should or should not fart.  The answer to this fart question dwells within you and by asking yourself about farts, you will draw out the answer about farts.

Plato – Before you are born, you get to chill out in Heaven, where there is a mold of everything in the world, including farts.  You forget about that mold after you are born, but the knowledge of that fart mold is still in you deep somewhere, so think real hard, and you will come up with the answer about farts.

Aristotle – The answer to a fart question isn’t with you but it does lie within the world somewhere.  Study farts and…

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La Rubia

Thirty-some years ago, stuck for the weekend in the apartment of a guy who was really kind of a dud, I read from end to end a novel about the last days of Leon Trotsky.  I recall very few details now, but what made me sit up was the near postscript involving the Corrido del Leon Trotsky (probably one of several; you can find a version on YouTube), describing, as a news service to those without newspapers or radios or basic literacy, how Trotsky, something of the celebrity resident, was killed in Mexico City by a coerced assassin using “un zapatica alpinista.”

I loved the idea of the corrido, a cross of sorts between the town crier and the folklore of culture heroes, legends, and adventure tales. They are still made, even in these days of widespread literacy and the Net. We need our hard news, but sometimes you want music and poetry to tell how the news makes you feel.

I have a new hero, and she is the mayor of San Juan in Puerto Rico, Carmen Yulin Cruz. I suspect that in this case the line forms to the left. Three days ago I had not even heard her name, but Thursday night she burst onto the news clips and everyone’s volleying retweets with eloquence, anger, and poise, using every journalist willing to turn his camera or mike toward her as a megaphone to plead for her constituents and the whole Commonwealth.

If you have been living under a rock, Federal aid to Puerto Rico, an American possession, which has just missed following the island of Atlantis to the bottom of the ocean and is struggling without power, drinking water, fuel, telephone service in most places, or sufficient food, is not just a day but about a week late and a damn sight more than a dollar short.  A few leaks, as yet unconfirmed, claim that the administration went silent after receiving estimations of the aid that was needed, suggesting no plans to help the island at all. The governor of Puerto Rico, probably knowing what kind of person he was dealing with, has been kissing White House ass, the government representatives on the ground have actually been calling the situation a “good news story,” and Yulin Cruz is having none of it.

“…I cannot fathom the thought that the greatest nation in the world cannot figure out the logistics for a small island of 100 miles by 35 miles. So, mayday, we are in trouble… I am begging. I am begging anyone that can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying. And you are killing us with the inefficiency and bureaucracy.”

For her trouble, she got called names by our Tweeter In Chief, who seems to think that people on the island would be fine if they just put in a few hours work and stopped asking other people to “do everything for them.” Those Tweets hit the Internet at about the same time as a photo of Yulin Cruz up to her beltline in filthy water going from door to door looking for survivors. In another clip, she thanked a religious charity for solar lanterns which she was distributing to people searching for water in the dark.

This is not a bright shining moment for the United States. I’m embarrassed as hell. A whole island is stripped and broken, people are waiting all day for gas and cities of sixty thousand are getting deliveries of two thousand meals, hospitals have no power, while the administration here in DC took eight days to lift a bureaucratic rule about foreign ships putting in at the Port of San Juan because “the shipping industry likes it.” Celebrities and bush pilots and international chefs and members of the “Alt-Gov” Twitter collective are flying in with food and out with sick, desperate people, but our own Navy’s hospital ship was only got under way on Friday.

There will be a lot of heroes when this is over. They will all deserve a corrido, if that tradition has spread to the other Spanish speaking Americas from Mexico,  but my imagination is starting with San Juan’s mayor. In my fantasy, the ballad is called La Rubia, the blonde lady, and like the best ballads, it will tell of the mayor performing supernatural feats: carrying a pallet of water on her back over a road too broken for trucks, shedding light from her bare hands, towing a boat full of survivors, or lifting up a child at the brink of death only to hear a healthy cry. And in the last verse, it will say, “No one person can do these things? No, you are right, one person cannot. It is done by you all, you are all heroes. But a single person with a big voice can breathe on the flame of courage, to be sure all these things are done.”

I can’t write it though. It has to be written in Spanish, by a Puerto Rican citizen, who’ll know how to put those sentiments into meter. But I will hum along.

Peach In Our Time (II)

Yes, again — I hope.

Incomparable narrative artist and general culture-f**ker Donna Barr has launched a campaign for the revival of the delicious comfit-box of a musical based on her signature creation, the Desert Peach. If you are a regular visitor to this blog, you must have noted or even checked out the tab on the homepage devoted to this show. I first learned that it existed in late 2007 — not long after the death of my late and ex, who would have loved the Klezmer riffs in the overture and the two-different-keys love duet between the Peach and his previously straight intended. I bought the CDs and plotzed at the quality of the composition – uneven, granted,  because the composer, Michael Seyfrit, was literally terminally ill during the creation and rehearsal of the piece. You could hear the places where he had at most sketched in the music lines and the company, largely amateur, did its best. But at its best, it was the kind of stage music that makes you stand up and twirl in the middle of your living room. And now Donna has a composer on tap to fix the sketchy spots and gloss everything up for a concert performance in 2018.

But you have to pay musicians and hire a hall and that, so there’s a Kickstarter fundraiser, 

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which has about a month to go. And not nearly enough recognition. So I asked my unofficial godson, the video editor and animator, about software that an old fart could manage in a hurry, and here is what the world needs to know about the Peach:

Look, in America in 2017, anything that resists Nazis is vital. Especially if you can hum the tunes.

Next time your Nazis come they’ll have a new disguise
They won’t be wearing jackboots, they’ll have three-piece suits and ties
They’ll tell you things you want to hear, you’ll never know they’re lies.

Written in 1992. More of us should have been listening.

Damn annoying you can’t embed links in Youtube videos other than to your own website. Working on that problem. Meanwhile, I churned out another short subject (bonus: hot guys!)

I’m not vain enough to think I have a future in PR, but my heart is in this.

 

Conde Nasty

Yeah, I’m looking at you, Conde friggin’ Nast. Try this again and I’ll ask for a restraining order.

What happened was, I was about to leave the house to buy food, just trying to get through the day, when a last check of my e-mail informed me, via PayPal, “You just sent a payment to Conde Nast,” a notorious publisher of overpriced, useless magazines, for the gulp-inducing total of 89.99. Seriously?

My first thought, of course, was that someone had hacked my account, though God knows why you’d do that just to buy some crappy magazines, and by the time I had tied myself completely in knots, been put on hold, been unable to change the password because you can never change the password when you need to, locked the account and called the associated credit card company on my other phone, a nice man with a delicate Bombay Welsh accent came on the line.

“You do not have to worry that someone has got into your account today,” he said. “I see this was pre-authorized in July.”

And I immediately knew what happened. Because all summer I have been getting rid of broken, frayed, splintering things around the house and replacing them, mostly from a discount site called Wayfair, which I like because they will sell me cheap, attractive rugs with skid-proof backings that I can throw into the washer. When you limp yourself, and have clients so tottery from afflictions like MS that it’s not strange for them to do a full face plant every week or two, you like that skidproof feature, and with six cats around the house, the washing machine thing is primo. Your cat can barf at 9 a.m. and the rug is ready for clients at noon.

And the last time I started getting unwelcome magazines in my mailbox — some stupid damned Southwestern cooking magazine — and the time before that — a really disgusting fashion publication, rife with ads for ten thousand dollar watches and reeking of migraine-inducing perfume — it was because I hadn’t unchecked a little tiny box way on the other side from the order details of a Wayfair checkout form. At least I wasn’t charged, they were “trials,” but both times I lost twelve or fifteen minutes I’ll never get back telling Conde Nast I didn’t want their magazines. Not any of them.

(Wayfair, we’ll get to you. There have to be better ways to keep your prices low than this scam. But first things first.)

Who the hell even reads magazines any more? As far as I can tell, they exist only to leaven the boredom in dental waiting rooms and possibly absorb the goo in the bottoms of kitchen wastebins. They are forty per cent advertising. They harbor loathsome inserts that either reek of synthetic scents, or merely fly everywhere and create litter to pick up. And who in jeebus’ name at Conde Nast thought anyone shopping for a thirty-buck rug was going to make an impulse purchase of a ninety-dollar subscription to some friggin’ thing or other that I will never actually know what it even was?

It’s bad enough you buy a perfectly useful piece of software like a PDF converter or  a tune-up utility and it tries repeatedly during the install to foist some clunky antivirus or toolbar on your machine. Now they’ve honed the art of the involuntary dead-tree subscription.

(Let’s not get started on the paper catalogs you get because you bought something from some other catalog. Ever try to stop them coming? It’s your whole afternoon if you were actually to go through with it.)

“Do not feel bad,” said Bombay Dafydd as he signed off, having cancelled everything. “If you don’t mind my saying so, you need a magnifying glass to see these things they use to sign you up. I cannot see that well myself.”

Now I still have to go shopping, and if it weren’t for the lyric sound of Dafydd’s voice, I would probably be at risk of mutilating some idiot woman or out-of-control child in the grocery aisles. Dafydd knows not whose life he saved today.

The Revenge Of The Phone

It was bound to happen. When I upgraded from a FartPhone(tm) I was dead cert something would go south and drive me up a motherfracking wall: yet months went by and the little bugger performed like a trooper, storing way too many cat photos, occasionally allowing me to check blogs on the fly (on a crappy wet day the gym bike session can run forty minutes), supplying me with endless news-bites via Twitter, which in the era of global PTSD (Post-Trump Stress Disorder) has become a lifeline to events as they happen. So I was living with a false sense of security when I fired it up several evenings ago, ready to surf the news from my favorite after-dinner chair.

It’s an Android, by the way. I know people who have iPhones are loyalists for whatever reasons, but I just hate Apple; during the ghastly eight month interregnum when I opened my cellar guest room to a hapless millennial with a case of ADHD on steroids, there were constant panics about things like lost charging cables, which at Radio Shack cost twenty seven dollars. (A knockoff cable finally turned up at the Seven-Eleven for nine even.) Since you can get a basic USB-to-mini cable cheaper than a Starbucks sugar bomb, I decided I wasn’t letting the ghost of Steve Jobs jack me for more.

So it did its little Androidy thing, month in and month out, until the fateful moment when I powered it up, began shuffling through the Home screen and a popup suddenly appeared — it lacked only the black border of a death notice — announcing mournfully, even tragically: “Unfortunately, TouchWiz Home has stopped.”

The only other thing inside the white popup box was a live link reading: “OK.” Things did not seem OK at all, but I tapped it, only to find myself in an endless cycle of lather, rinse, repeat.

We consulted Dr. Internet. Dr. Internet advised us that the phone could be run in Safe Mode, which involves a simultaneous depression of various buttons that you need to be an octopus to do exactly right, though I sorted it eventually. This means that virtually no apps function. If you want to follow Twitter, etc., you have to log onto the phone’s dedicated Internet browser. Fine.

We hunted around a bit more. Various sources recommended a factory reset, in which you restore your phone to the condition it was in when you opened the box. Some hundreds of photos transferred to PC and a few days and drinks later, we held our noses and jumped (by now the Engineer was all over this project).

The phone whirred and screens succeeded other screens. Apps and programs updated at cumbersome length. At one point, the little green Android man

Android

appeared on the screen, announced he was performing a system update, waggled his antennas several times, and then keeled over prone with his casing faded to a jaundiced yellow and his entrails exposed, followed by another tragic caption: “Unfortunately, Android could not update at this time.”

This did not bode well. However, somehow, the phone began to run again, I had my app logos back, I keyed up Instagram to see how many kitten photos I had missed, and then once again the blazon appeared:

Unfortunately, TouchWiz Home has stopped.

Did anyone ever tell the developers how fucking rude something called “TouchWiz” sounds? It sounds like someone trying to pound his pud and somehow wetting himself instead. Which was kind of what the phone had done.

I got back on the Net.

TouchWiz, as I had found out on my first surf, is the “launcher,” the software that kicks up the Home screen and determines its interface. And generations of Samsung users –apparently it is the pet launcher of Samsung — have reported this problem and hated it. Finally, I drilled down to a blog post that suggested a third party launcher, a thing called Nova, which I was able to install from my PC, at least the store said it was installed,  but I had to restart the phone — NOT power it down and then back up, which didn’t help several times — before I got the option of selecting it.

Problem solved. So far. Everything is working. I feel like a smartphone stud, sort of.

There is nothing about this in the phone’s manual.

Sometimes I think we are all participating in an uncontrolled study of who will be allowed aboard the lifeships when Planet Earth finally roasts in its own effluvia. I’m working on it.