Monday Musings

I have some random smatterings bouncing around in the brain today. This will be an empty-me-out sort of post.


I have been reading a book published this year that I found out about on and NPR, called "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks." It's the true story of the woman behind the HeLa cells scientists used to find vaccines for several diseases (including polio) and which have been kept alive in culture for decades. I'm planning to review the book on this blog when I'm done, so no spoilers for now, but here's a quick peek: Henrietta Lacks (HeLa) was a black woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951. The doctors took a sample of her tumor without her permission or her family's. The book probes the development of the question of informed consent in research. All along I have been thinking: Isn't that something that should be a no-brainer? But then I think of historical examples like the Tuskegee Institute syphilis study that started in the 1930s, and I wonder how humans get to the point of justifying acts that, in retrospect, seem like obvious examples of injustice.


Switching gears a bit... I love wordplay. Today I learned about a comedic technique called "Paraprosdokian." It's a figure of speech where the second part of what is said is surprising or unexpected and causes the reader/listener to reframe what was said in the first part.

Mitch Hedberg, a comedian who died in 2005, was master of this style. Some examples:

  • "I haven't slept for ten days, because that would be too long."
  • "I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too."
  • "I'm against picketing, but I don't know how to show it."
  • "This shirt is dry clean only. Which means... it's dirty. "

And some Groucho Marx:

  • "She got her good looks from her father. He's a plastic surgeon."
  • "I've had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it."
  • "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."


Ever since attending a friend's Arbonne party on Saturday, I have been pondering the angles used to market cosmetics to women. (My friend Pam Elmore also blogged about women and cosmetics on Friday.) I want to be better at recognizing companies' sneaky half-truths so I don't get sucked into buying products I don't need. More importantly, I do not want our culture's view of beauty to shape my thoughts on the topic. Here are a list of implied philosophies I noticed lurking behind the sales pitch on Saturday.

  1. The way you look now is not good enough.
  2. You are foolish to use a low-grade product when you could be using quality.
  3. Using this product will change your life.
  4. Aging is shameful; youthfulness is desirable.
  5. Self-empowerment is key. This product will give you that power.
  6. This company is environmentally friendly. If you're using anything else, you're a part of killing the planet.

Those are just some of the arrows I felt flying toward me Saturday night. The funny thing is, I knew beforehand the whole night was going to be a guilt trip, but I went anyway, out of some sense of twisted obligation to support a business I can't even fully agree with. I think most women feel uncomfortable at these sort of events. Why do we go?


Last week I said I was going to try to blog twice per week, and I ended up only blogging once. Seeing how easy it is to let other things clutter my schedule gives me an enormous respect for writers who discipline themselves to write every day. I refuse to throw in the towel this week.


It might look like I am copying the "7 Quick Takes Friday" style started by the Conversation Diary blogger, Jennifer Fulwiler, but I only really had five things to say, and I like to pretend I'm original, so please don't mistake me and think I'm plagiarizing. :)

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Pam Elmore said...

Haha!! Very nice. It did look like a 7 Quick Takes post... thanks for sparing me the effort of counting.

The book sounds interesting. I'm looking forward to your review.

Great analysis of the double-edged lure of beauty-product home parties. It takes the typical deservedness and promise of fulfillment and empowerment, and adds a few dashes of shame/guilt. (Maybe they figure if you don't respond to one, you'll respond to the other. And women are great at responding to guilt.)

Sometime I'd like to turn it on its head... maybe make a paraprosdokian out of it:

"Well, I'd like to buy your product, but I really don't deserve such nice things since I've already done so much to kill the planet."

Clearly I am no Groucho Marx.

Rachel E. Watson said...

Well, I laughed anyway. :) Thanks for your feedback. I would like to read that book you linked to on my f/b.

P.S. Did you already know what a paraprodoskian was before today?

Adam said...

Rachel, I appreciate your penetrating insights on the archery of the cosmetics industry. You are no easy target.

Thank you for the tip on paraprosdokian. Is that what "parapro" stands for?

One last thing: there are two kinds of people in this world. There are dog people, and then there are centaurs.

Pam Elmore said...

Adam: nice. This genre of wordplay is perfect for you.

Rachel: did I already know? I think I'd been introduced to them once before, but it's been a while and I'd forgotten. So when you introduced the term paraprosdokian, it reminded me only of the name of a neighbor from when we lived in the Armenian section of Pasadena.

I think what I like about paraprosdokian (and how is it really spelled, anyway?) is that it plays with a word, but without the groan-factor of a pun. Love it.

Rachel E. Watson said...

LOL!!! Adam I laughed so hard at that. Thanks for giving my morning a great start.

Pam: I spelled it wrong in the link, but the article I linked to spelled it correctly: paraprosdokian.

Thanks for your thoughts, guys!

Rachel E. Watson said...

P.S. Pam, what was the neighbor's name?

Rachel E. Watson said...

P.P.S. Adam, I just noticed your wordplay with the archery analogy. Nicely done.