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THE MYTH OF THE 40-HOUR WEEK

Who the hell thinks it is okay to ask anyone to work 80 hours a week? What happened to the weekend? The evening? Sleeping? Eating? Why is no one questioning the bald statement that faculty are going to be working 80 hours a week without so much as a “say what”? Why is no one stopping to calculate what the hourly rate would be for an 80 hour week at the average professor’s salary and wonder why the highly trained, highly skilled professionals are being expected to work for so little compared to others with a comparable level of education and a similar skill set?

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THE ANECDOTE

There are a lot of people out there who need a lot of reality training. Take, for instance, this woman my mother met in the grocery store one day who said “What do we need farmers for? I get my food from the grocery store”. Or the women who constantly told my mother she was inferior because she was “just a housewife”. Or the….

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RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Does religious freedom mean the freedom to decide what kind of Christian you will be? Some people believe this – that religious freedom applies only to Christians. Others are somewhat magnanimous, extending that freedom to all the religious. Then there are actually those who think, gasp, that religious freedom extends to everyone, including the non-religious, and includes the freedom not to believe. (By the way, this is what the authors of the First Amendment believed, but you won’t find that in Scalia’s “original intent”).

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IS IT LIVE? OR IS IT CELLULOID?

It is common knowledge among theatre professionals that there are fewer good parts for women than for men. This is true not only in Shakespeare, but across the spectrum. Some may not be aware that, like in the movies, this increases with age. Middle aged women scarcely show up at all in stage plays; women seem to disappear between the ages of 35 and 65, when they are once again allowed as the voice of wisdom, someone to be mocked, or the kind and gentle old grandmotherly sort who picks up the slack when the younger woman’s mother (the you-know-what) runs out on her with the first trucker who accidentally slams the cab of his truck into the living room. And she takes the family dog, so everything is bad. That’s the woman we don’t usually see, or hear her side of the story, unless she comes back when she’s older, so that her now 20-something daughter can lambaste her with her awfulness and show the world how strong she is…oh, and reclaim the family dog.

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HAVE YOU BEEN SERVED?

The shunning of those who do not agree has a long history, dating back to as far as we have records. Refusal of service for those you dislike or disagree with has been on the Republican wish list for some time, and in a recent Supreme Court case, they got at least part of what they want (more on that in a later column!) when the court allowed a baker to refuse to make a cake for a gay couple. In addition, a number of so-called religious freedom acts have been enshrining the right of people to refuse service to those they disapprove of on religious grounds…usually same sex couples, but also women who want birth control, mixed race couples, trans-people, and any others who meet the definition of religiously unacceptable. Many on the left are using this as justification for refusing service – we’re simply doing to them what they have demanded. Just make it on religious grounds, some say. Others say they have an ethical imperative not to serve evil people.

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IT’S SCIENCE!

I was listening to a conversation this morning at breakfast, and I must admit, it made me cringe…uh, think. The young men were talking about a scientific study they had seen posted on Facebook, and what it meant. They were very earnest, and taking this very seriously, and I thought, oh, how nice, they’re interested in science. Actually, no, I didn’t. My thought process was quite a bit more complex, so it my take me a little work to move through the stages of the things going through my head.

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THOSE DAMNED COASTAL ELITES

Hi, there, “coastal elites”. A message for you from flyover country. I’ve been living here for most of my life now (like, decades!) and I have been watching with fascination as the pundits have been fingering you for being out of touch, misguided, and contemptuous of those of us here in the heartland. I would just like to add my voice to the mix, as someone who has actually lived in flyover country (unlike most of the people writing the pieces about flyover country, who have mostly flown over, and decided to stop over for a night or two and talk to the first six people they met before they hopped back on the plane to write a piece about flyover country from the enormous experience they had just acquired).

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DEAD LETTER OFFICE

Myself, I hastily indicated that I had mailed a letter that week, and then was stricken with remorse when I realized that, although I had written a letter, it repined still on my desk, and that I had not yet mailed it.  I was going to Hell!  (Sorry for the outburst—I’ve been reading Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man).  Though the responses to the poll were rather scattershot, they were marginally less discouraging to penfriend hobbyists such as myself than one might expect; the “I mailed a letter this week” crowd just about matched “I’ve never written a letter”, “I’ve written a letter this month” vote was close to “It’s been years”, and so forth, with the intermediate categories being the biggest, thus producing a quintessential bell curve.

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OF MOTHERS AND MOTHERHOOD ON MOTHER'S DAY

Let me state my position up front. I am against motherhood. I am not against mothers, unless of course it is lousy mothers, scary mothers, abusive mothers, hurtful mothers…but I realize that every one of us has at some point in our life had a mother, and that many of us love our mothers. We love them so much that we all get together once a year to erupt in a giant flood of love for our mothers, buying them cards and flowers, taking them out to dinner, and telling them how much we appreciate them. That’s good, because it will encourage Mother to keep doing all those things we appreciate but don’t mention for the rest of the year.

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THE DRUG SONG DETECTIVE IS ON THE JOB

Some of my favorite moments have come when I have been sitting at my desk, quietly doing my regular job, when somebody bursts through my office door in a panic,  requiring my help in determining whether a given song contains any narcotics allusions.  Many years ago, one of my most desperate clients was a co-worker who had just been told by a friend that Simon and Garfunkel were lovers and that “Puff, the Magic Dragon” was a drug song.  Although I was able to reassure him that I had never heard anything about Paul and Art being lovers, and that it seemed unlikely to me—not to mention that if they had been, they were currently engaged in the world’s longest-running lovers’ spat, I had to tell him that yes, “Puff” (to give it its actual title), was indeed a drug song.  And what thanks did I get for this valuable service?  He poutily informed me that when he listened to it, he wasn’t thinking about narcotics, so it was in fact not actually a drug song, therefore elevating the philosophy of solipsism to heights hitherto undreamt of.  So taken aback was I that I never felt able to charge him my usual fee.

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CHIEF WAHOO CONTEMPLATES THE RIVER STYX

I’m almost always behind the curve on this political correctness bit, so I can’t say my passions were quite as stirred as most on this particular question, but I did think that Wahoo was a pretty limp mascot; I disliked his leer and the overwrought red he radiated was a little unsubtle, probably even in his birth year of 1947, and certainly today, when primary colors don’t seem to be part of design palettes any more.

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HOOLIGANS AND THUGS

Next time, before you start that speech, I would like you to stop, take a deep breath, and think before you speak. Then, go ahead and wave your Constitution. Go ahead and read the First Amendment. Explain in all your usual detail about Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists, and give a full history of religious entanglement from the Greek pagans all the way through the Enlightenment – there is one member of the school board who will be pleased you learned your classics, anyway. But then, stop. Shut up. Sit down. Do not finish with your favorite flourish. Don’t acknowledge his right to raise his children the way he wishes, because that is a right that he does not – or at least should not – have.

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WHERE DO I SIGN UP?

Since this isn’t my first post about obituaries, I suppose it would be fair to say that they’re an interest.  Just don’t call them an obsession.  I even had a job back in the day which privileged me to give them a scan every week or two just to keep my part of the assembly line moving.

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LEST WE FORGET

Did you hear that Charlie Manson died the other night?  If you did, it was no thanks to any news I saw the night that it happened or, for that matter, the night after it happened, and I watched a lot of news those nights, owing to my custom of switching to a news channel during the many commercials which festoon the evening’s football game.  Pick your ideology—Fox News, CNN, or MSNBC, and you can even throw in C-SPAN, and…Nada, Zilch, Commandante Zero.  He didn’t even make that cavalcade of trivia that scrolls along the bottom of the screen.  Susan Collins, Al Franken, John McCain, Charlie Rose.  Angela Merkel, Robert Mugabe, Vlad Putin, a merger between two cable outfits, even the death of fifties singer and latter-day ham actress Della Reese-- they were all there, but not the man who at one time was arguably the most recognized man in America.  All of this news is very important and interesting (well, maybe except for the cable TV merger), but does it really have to shove an uber-important death out of our minds?

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Of Predators and Prey

With the recent rash of revelations out of Hollywood, Alabama, and Minnesota pertaining to sexual misbehavior, we have a perfect opportunity to have a national dialogue, and actually make some changes. Of course, we have had many opportunities for that dialogue before (remember Anita Hill?) and we seem to be almost supernaturally able to forgive, forget, and return to business as usual. Then the next incident arises and we are shocked, shocked I tell you, that this is going on, and has been going on for so long. How is it we didn’t notice? How could these men be so predatory without someone knowing? (I’ll tell you a secret – people did know. Lots of people knew about Harvey Weinstein. Lots of people knew about Roy Moore. And since Al Franken was not alone when he misused his proximity to a sleeping woman, it is likely that people knew about that, too.)

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FAQs

Some decades since, when my workplace was trying to familiarize us with using computers at work, in a weak moment one of the head honchos requested that we surf the internet for a while each day to find out what useful treasures were available to us.  Among many other things, I quickly discovered that this was a world which was powered by inscrutable acronyms.  And so it came to pass that one day I innocently asked somebody what the deuce ‘FAQ’ stood for.  I was misinformed.

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What were the Oughties? What are the Teens?

I suppose I should have seen it coming; each decade of my life became a little less distinct.  The fifties were, of course, suburban conformity, though I didn’t spend them in a suburb and my parents were not the most pliant conformists.  The sixties quickly got filed under ‘peace and love’ with a dollop of political activism—though some spoilsport was always ready to point out that more than half of those sixties took place in the seventies.  As for the seventies, things got a bit hazier, but they seemed to be sort of like the sixties except that nobody thought that stuff was so great any more, and some of the activism was elbowed out by political scandal.  Then the eighties, the ‘Greed is Good” decade, and it seemed like the pigeonholed decade was back to stay.

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