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My Muse wandered in this morning at 6:00. Apparently she never went to sleep last night. In an unusual gesture of generosity, she did not wake me up.

I was already awake because I thought I had an early morning CAT scan. I begged her to let me go to the lab for the scan. She told me not to worry about it. When I double-checked the Kaiser website I discovered that I had long ago canceled the CAT scan; it was what I call a zombie appointment.

She dictated a poem and then skedaddled.

How Does It Feel To Wake Up? (click for whole poem)
How does it feel to wake up every morning…
…enveloped with joy and gratitude
…ensconced in the love of three wonderful women

Apparently there was an error in the horoscope factory this morning. This was Vicki’s horoscope, but she’s a Cancer and I’m a Virgo, and this horoscope is clearly mine: “Explore your creative potential this morning because you're in touch with your muse.” Or, rather, she’s in touch.

I am grateful for the 90 minutes I didn’t spend driving to and from Kaiser thanks to her suggestion that I not worry about being late―to a cancelled appointment.
Be the first reader EVER to actually go to my Poetry Corner, a list of all the poems I’ve written since I took up poetry at the turn of the century.

About Women 1

In this week’s column, I have a few things to say about women. I admit,  I once believed men and women were identical. Do they have identical intelligence and capability? Absolutely. Are they completely the same as men? Absolutely not. I want to live in a Barbie world.

Shards From The Glass Ceiling

(length warning)

First, the good news; the UN says we will achieve Gender Equity! By 2310.

As a second-wave feminist, inaugural subscriber to Ms. Magazine and the father of two daughters (THAT oughta establish my bona fides), I am deeply chagrined by how many woman are cut deeply by shards from the glass ceiling, and by how many such ceilings still exist.

The most recent obvious example being Harvard’s first black president, Claudine Gay, hounded out of office after her abuse by a congressional committee. Would Tom, Dick and Harry have been subject to that level of disrespect and harassment? Not in this life.

And, of course, there is the trope that women generally are not made CEO until the company is a hopeless basket case, so they can be left holding the bag.

This has been going on a long time. Even in 1968, I was disgusted by “You’ve come a long way, baby,” the sexist slogan of Virginia Slims. Yes, they sponsored women’s tennis, but really? Cigarettes as a marker of gender equity?

Still, there are glass ceilings being broken; “Look out below!” I am not a huge baseball fan, but I follow it closely enough to know that a female umpire is behind the plate in spring training for a second time, with a chance to make it to the show.

On the broadcast side, women have called play-by-play for years, as the second banana while the primary play-by-play goes to answer nature’s call. Splitting hairs, this week “the first female primary play-by-play voice in Major League Baseball history” started work for the Oakland/Las Vegas/Who knows Athletics.

My point? Why are we still having these firsts? Why do women make less than men? (even after adjusting for age, experience, etc.). Some progress: 60 cents on the dollar when I graduated from college in 1974, 80 cents on the dollar today. I hope I live long enough to see equal pay.

Next Week: Why I Listen To The Women In My Life

Humor Templates 3: Tom Swifties

(In honor of April Fools’ Day, the last and longest entry in this series)

There are a number of humor templates that go in and out of style (mostly out). Most of those from my youth have disappeared. Feel free to rain down your examples, or any genres I may have missed.

According to Merriam Webster, “A Tom Swifty is a play on words taking the form of a quotation ascribed to Tom and followed by an adverb. The site offered several examples:

"The thermostat is set too high," said Tom heatedly.

Let's gather up the rope," said Tom coyly.

"Welcome to my tomb," said Tom cryptically.

"I can't find the oranges," said Tom fruitlessly.

"Don't you love sleeping outdoors," Tom said intently.

"Let's trap that sick bird," Tom said illegally.

"I lost my trousers," said Tom expansively.

"I just ran over my father," Tom said transparently.

"I just dropped the toothpaste," said Tom crestfallenly.

[From Daniel Dern: “I'll have another martini,” Tom said dryly. And a link to more templates]

This template is personal to me. By the time I was 14, I literally owned every Tom Swift book then in print (and a few from my father’s collection of 18 years earlier). Yes, the series did use too many adverbs.

And of course, in the Firesign Theater’s Adventures of Nick Danger, the announcer says, “doggedly, ruthlessly,” followed by a dog barking and Danger saying, “I wonder where Ruth is?”

Tom Swifties with Verbs: “I spent the day sewing and gardening,” she hemmed and hawed.

Martini Jokes
Daniel Dern wonders if martini jokes are a template. This one’s for my MIT readers:

“I'll have a martinum.”
“Don't you mean martini?”
“If I wanted two, I would have said so.”

And this sexist one is for everybody:
Dorothy Parker almost surely didn’t say,
 “I wish I could drink like a lady.
Two or three, at the most.
But two, and I'm under the table
And three, I'm under the host.”

Elephant Jokes
Elephant jokes don’t deserve an entire essay, so check out the Readers Digest collection of elephant jokes.

Frank Bruni: Differential Nature of Memory

From His Newsletter: I was struck by how often, say, a college friend responded to a question I had about a senior-year episode that I considered pivotal with the assertion that some other senior-year episode — one I didn’t even remember — was more consequential. We didn’t have conflicting memories so much as entirely different ones. In my brain, “Brideshead Revisited” was playing. In the friend’s, “Saltburn.”

Americans have been focused lately on our two leading presidential candidates’ failures of recollection. That subject indeed warrants attention: The availability and accuracy of memories are important yardsticks of cognitive health.

But they’re not the only ones. And memories are reliably fickle. (How’s that for an oxymoron?) We lose track of memories we don’t need. We purge memories we don’t want. Consciously or unconsciously, we edit our memories into narratives that conform to our chosen senses of ourselves. They’re two-thirds documentary, one-third historical fiction. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

From me: I have written here before about the differential nature of memory. Michael Feirtag forgot 50 years ago about telling me to buzz off, breaking my heart. The TA who gave me a passing grade on my 18.02 quiz, granting me my MIT degree, couldn’t pick me out of a lineup. Doesn’t even know what she did. Just, maybe, remembers talking to me about Charlton Heston (probably).

Those of you who haven’t written as much as I have (several million words) may not have this experience, but I am always thrilled to see my thoughts expressed exactly and in better words. I’m not jealous, just overjoyed and impressed and spurred to better expression in the future. There is comfort in discovering that “It’s not just me.”

This and That 

I cannot remember the last time I laughed so hard. Rotten Tomatoes: 44 critics/84 audience. The audience is right. Bill Murray, as always is brilliant. The youths (fresh blood) promise more Ghostbusters to come, for which I am grateful.

No More Excuses
My music is now easier to listen to than ever. Check out these YouTube Play Lists:
Paul Sings Paul Love Songs

Ceaselessly Self-Promotional
Many years ago, someone told me I was “ceaselessly self-promotional.” I wonder where they got that idea? It Time Magazine style, my three adjectives are chubby, cherubic and cheerful.

The Power of Positive Thinking

“We become what we think about.”
 – Earl Nightingale

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”
– William James

Another Bar Joke
From my son-in-law Kevin Peterson: A man walks into a bar. The other man ducks.

Go See One Life*****
This film, starring Sir Anthony Hopkins, is a biopic about Nicky Winton, a London stockbroker who rescued 699 children from Prague at the start of WWII. It has the added charm of being true. I knew I would cry for two hours, and I did. Well worth watching. Bring a handkerchief.