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The Wild Rumpus I’m Not e-Reading

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“You cannot write for children. They’re much too complicated. You can only write books that are of interest to them.”   (Maurice Sendak)

It’s hard to imagine, in a world where we have children’s literature (ahem) with titles like Zombie Butts From Uranus, and The Fart Book: Whiff it, Sniff it, Lay it, Rip it! – Milo Snotrocket’s Gross-out Guide to Thunderpants and Toilet Tunes and Go the F*** to Sleep [1], that Where the Wild Things Are caused a bit o’ controversy when it was first published in 1963.

Some parents said that the book’s illustrations of fanged and clawed, googly-eyed creatures were too grotesque and frightening for a children’s book.  Of course, most children (and adults) thought otherwise, and Maurice Sendak’s tale of imaginative Max’s journey is now a beloved classic. Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the book’s publication by giving a copy to a child of any age who doesn’t have one, or break out your own well-thumbed copy for a re-read, and let the wild rumpus begin.

*   *   *

“F**k them is what I say. I hate those ebooks. They cannot be the future. They may well be. I will be dead. I won’t give a s**t.”      (Maurice Sendak)

With all apologies to the late, great Maurice, spinning (slowly, naturally, without the aid of technology) in his grave: I gave up (in?) and bought an eReader.

We had one in the family: MH’s birthday gift, from K and Belle and I, was a Nook .  When searching for MH’s gift I’d researched the various models available, and went with the recommendations of a techie whose name I cannot recall.  Also, I liked the Dr. Seuss-ish sound of the device.

Dead tree scrolls I’ve not forsook
Since I broke down and bought a Nook.
I like to read by hook or crook [2]
and when I look open up the Nook
I’m treated to a new ebook.

seuss hat

It turned out to be quite the popular device.  Belle used money from her after school job at Noodles & Company and bought herself the same version as MH.  I had leftover gift $$ to spend (thanks, Mom!) and got the HD version for me, as I want to be able to see hamster and whistle and other images from The Mighty Quinn’s cover page in glorious e-color.

*   *   *

Inauguration, schmauguration

(written on Monday, January 21: There are going to be two prayers during President Obama’s inaugural ceremony: an invocation and a benediction. I will not watch today’s ceremony, for that reason.

Various Christian conservatives are arguing over what it means to have the first “lay person” (i.e. non-clergy, first woman, to boot) give the invocation [3] and a non-evangelical [4] blather the benediction they.  As always, they miss the point.  There should be no argument because there should be no deity-invoking in a secular procedure.

The founders of our nation, when forming the nation’s governing document, made it god-free.  Religion is mentioned merely twice in the U.S. Constitution, and then only in exclusionary terms:

-“…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” (Article VI, Section 3)

-“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” (from the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution)

theocracy

The United States is the most diverse country on the planet in terms of world view or belief systems.  Twenty percent of us are the “nones” (freethinkers, humanists, Brights, atheists/agnostics or the “non-affiliated”); the rest of us claim affiliation with denominations described [5] as mainline Protestants, evangelical Protestant, Catholic, historically black churches, Jewish, Mormon, Buddhist, Jehovah’s Witnesses, “other Christian,” Orthodox, Hindu, Wiccan, “other world religions” and “other faiths.”  One of the few things people pledging allegiance to different religious beliefs can claim in common is their willingness to be live in this country and be united through our system of governance.

The presidential oath of office, laid out in Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution, is secular, in accordance with our secular democracy.  There is no mandate nor even mention of placing a hand on (anyone’s) scriptures; no “so help me God”:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States,
and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The Constitution does not mandate religious oaths; it prohibits them. Yet once the religious verbiage got appended in the inaugural oath, woe unto those who might consider removing it (surely, that would be evidence that they are Kenyan socialists!).  And so Obama, like every pandering politician president since Chester Arthur in 1881, will follow suit, and place his hand on a collection of monarchy-upholding, Bronze Age fables one particular version of one particular denomination’s scriptures, and by doing so he’ll violate the Constitution in the act of promising to uphold it.

*   *   *

Beware literary journals helmed by MFAs [6]:

I have a file, once hard copy, now on my computer, labeled Most Pretentious Writers Guidelines.[7]  Always happy to add another entry to the file, my happiness was doubled this week, when I came across the following as I was checking out a journal that had put out a call for material.  The first blurb is from the journal’s how-we-journal-came-to-be description, the second from their About the Editors listing:

Several members of the editorial board of “The Lofty Spleen Review”[8] are graduates of the prestigious MFA in Creative Writing program at Pompeux College, one of the top five programs of its kind in the nation.  As a highly educated, highly motivated group…. 

Editor Richard Knoggin[9]  completed his M.F.A degree in Creative Writing at the prestigious Pompeux College of Cleftpan, Iowa.[10] The low-residency program he attended is rated as one of the top five in the nation….

Yeah, I get it.  Y’all think highly of your pretentious prestigious, highly educated selves.

snobs

If there’s anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot immediately!
(Douglas Noel Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

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Happy reading.  May hilarity ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Okay, so this title is not marketed at children.  Way too funny to share it with them.

[2] Obscure Anglo/Irish expression of disputed origins meaning “by any means necessary.”

[3] Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil rights hero Medgar Evers.

[4] Rev. Luis Leon, a liberal pastor at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

[5] By organizations that keep track of such things; e.g., The Pew Charitable Trusts & Religious Tolerance

[6] Use your best Mr. Rogers voice: “Can you say, prestigious?  I knew you could! Now see if you can find a reason to use it, as many times as you can.”

[7] Writers guidelines, for those of you sane enough to be non-writers or those unacquainted with the term, are guidelines from a journal or publishing house that specify their requirements for material from writers.

[8] Not the journal’s real name.

[9] Not the editor’s real name.

[10] Not the college’s real name or location.  Except in my dreams.

The Panini I Am Not Ordering

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 Slap some pesto or mustard on two slices of sliced ciabatta stuffed with roast veggies and mozzarella or provolone, and press the concoction on a warming grill. Mmmmmm.

It’s a yummers dilemma for me – although I do appreciate the above-described gourmet sandwiches, I don’t like ordering them in restaurants.  Whenever I hear myself saying panini I feel as if I’m using an Italian pejorative to mock the waiter’s manhood.

*   *   *

Every week should have a Yee-Haw! moment

Yeehaw owl

After Monday’s four-way Skype conference with Scarletta Press’s publisher and editor and publicity gurus, my head was spinning[1] with the details leading up to the launching of The Mighty Quinn.  I now have an even stronger appreciation for Scarletta’s social/media and PR directors, whom I picture as incarnations of the beautiful and fiery Durga, the multi-armed god of multitasking.[2]

I should be getting the final galleys for TMQ by the end of the month, and am so looking forward to seeing the additional drawings from Katie and Aaron DeYoe, TMQ’s illustrators.  Aptly described on Scarletta’s website as “the cutest pair of redheads you’ll ever meet,” Katie and Aaron’s delightful, whimsical line drawings capture the essence of TMQ’s characters, including the nemesis, Matt Barker.

matt_caveman*   *   *

On Wednesday I received info re another book that is approaching its launch date.  The editor of the Joy: Interrupted anthology sent a group email to the book’s contributors,[3] reminding us that proofs of our articles are due back to her by a certain date.  My name was on the email’s Good for You list  of authors who had already returned their edits, which got me thinking about the errors I’d discovered while checking the anthology galley.  Once again, while proofreading a story of mine (that had already been copy-edited by an editor, I was mystified and amused by the ghost in the machinery: the typos, missing or inappropriately inserted or transposed punctuation, and other boo-boos that were not present in the original document.

This is a common experience, in my experience.  For every five continuity errors a wonderful copy editor catches in one of my stories (“You describe your protagonist Arthur as a gap-toothed redhead in chapter two and a toothless blonde in chapter four”), I’ll find one randomly inserted apostrophe, inverted quotation mark, or the like.

Publishers, authors, editors – many if not most of us literati-types thought that electronic transfer of files and documents would eliminate the pesky errata gremlins.  You email the file, they open and/or save it as is.  What could possibly go wrong?  But, noooooo.  The phantom, inappropriately placed em dash strikes back.

MH, with with his years of chip testing/design and computer systems experience, is my go-to tech consultant.  I showed him the original document I’d sent to the anthology, alongside the galley copy I received with the mystery insertions.  I told him how frequently it happens with other publications, and therefore I don’t think it’s anything the editors are doing…and, so, what gives?  He admitted to being puzzled over the situation before offering this insightful reply:

“Something happens.”

*   *   *

Who was that masked man anyway?

On my way to running errands/get lunch, I tuned in to my favorite (okay, my only) classical radio station.  Without warning I heard the infamous and exuberant pounding cymbals and staccato strings – some Philharmonic Orchestra’s rendition of the William Tell Overture.

Specification:  I used the phrase “without warning” because some kind of intro would have been nice, seeing as how the overture to Rossini’s William Tell opera is one of the pieces of music that fits into my Move The Furniture/Pull Over genre.

If I am at home or work and a MTF/PO song comes on the radio, space must be cleared for dancing.[4]  If I’m in the car and a MTF/PO song is on the radio, in consideration of the safety of the other drivers I must pull over to the side of the road.  When the William Tell Overture[5] is in full swing I am Ke-mo-sah-be, Tonto, Silver, Scout – I am the entire cast of The Lone Ranger, galloping full speed over and through the faux-sagebrush-festooned Hollywood backdrops great plains and arroyos of the American West.

Safely parked on a side street, I caught my breath as the overture ended, and had a mild epiphany of sorts.  I am not a hardcore classics aficionado and am unfamiliar with Rossini’s opera in its entirety, and for the first time in my life I began to wonder about the rest of the work.  Imagine, attending a performance of The William Tell Opera, which would open with…well…The William Tell Overture. And The William Tell Overture is just that – the overture.  Not the after-ture, or the middle- ture, it is the overture.[6]   Imagine hearing it for the first time and thinking, after you’ve stopped hyperventilating, “Okay, now, what?   What could possibly follow this?!”

Clarification:  what, exactly, qualifies a song for the coveted MTF/PO status?  It’s difficult to explain.  With apologies for my appropriation of  SCOTUS Justice Potter’s infamous definition of pornography, I’ll just say that I know what it is when I hear it.  And Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Sealed, Delivered is a slam dunk in this category.

 *   *   *

Confession/Caveat

Even if your home-from-college-son is in the other room supposedly immersed in a computer game and with his headphones on, and you are in the kitchen with the garbage disposal running, do not assume you will be safe from his detection if you squeeze out a barking spider.[7]

You’re welcome.

*   *   *

There was to be more to this post.  Much more….  You could have be afraid, very afraid.  There were several deserving candidates for Asshat of the Week, etc.  What can I say – saved by the MTF/PO.  Push that sofa to the wall, get down with your bad self and shake your groove thang[8].  It’s time for hilarity to ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Spinning in a good way, as opposed to the Exorcist/projectile, pea-soup spewing way.

[2] Variously depicted as having anywhere from 8-18 arms, Durga is actually the Hindu deity representing the power of the Supreme Being that preserves moral order and righteousness in the creation. Which sounds like multi-tasking to moi.

[3] My story “Maddie is Dead,” first published in the literary journal The Externalist, will be in the anthology.

[4] Which in my case sometimes means just running around in a frantic if joyful circle.

[5] Someone smarter than you or moi defined an intellectual as “a person who can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger.”

[6] An overture is an instrumental composition intended especially as an introduction to an extended work, such as an opera or oratorio.

[7] Barking spiders – what farts are blamed on when there’s no dog available.

[8] Or accept that robo-call from Bangalore if your groove thang has been outsourced.

The Candelabra I’m Not Hearing

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THE  NEW  NECKTIE  IS  HERE!  THE  NEW  NECKTIE  IS  HERE!

I like things made from felt. Colored balls of felt strung together make the best necklace.[1]  When I’m really playing dress-up[2] I prefer neckties, but although there are a quajillion felt crafters in this world (try doing a “felt” search on etsy), none of them made felt neckties.  And then I found her: LeBrie Rich.

LeBrie Rich is the proprietor and felt artist (feltrist?) of Penfelt.  Once I saw the variety of hand-crafted felt items on her website, from wearables to objects d’art, I said to myself, “Self,” I said, “this crafty craftsperson may be up to a custom order.” And indeed, HRH Ms. Rich, the self-titled (and deservedly so) Duchess of Felt, was game for a challenge.  As per my input she designed for me a skinny, pumpkin-orange felt necktie.  Adorned with little orange felt balls. My happiness knows no bounds.

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You may say I’m a dreamer….

More stories like this, about river otters returning to formerly uninhabitable habitats ,  is what I want to see in 2013.

*   *   *

Holiday detritus

♫Peace on earth and mercy mild/goddamned sinners reconciled♫
Ahem…that would be,
Peace on earth and mercy mild/god and sinners reconciled.  (Hark the Herald Angels)

While scanning radio channels a couple of weeks ago, I caught the tail end of a program that had apparently featured a Holiday version of Mondegreens.   You know what a Mondegreen is, even if you’ve never heard that particular term.  A Mondegreen is a malapropism of your ears. Instead of mis-saying the wrong word or phrase, you mis-hear it.  The neologism is attributed to writer Sylvia Wright, who in a 1954 Harper’s column wrote about her chagrin at discovering that as a young girl she had misheard the last stanza of one of her favorite Scottish poems, “The Bonny Earl O’Moray.”

What Wright heard: They hae slain the Earl O’ Moray, And Lady Mondegreen.
The actual line was: They hae slain the Earl O’ Moray/And laid him on the green.

Love the experience, hate the name.  Mondegreen?  Such a delightful oops phenomenon, the kind that makes us certain we heard John Fogerty giving an antsy concertgoer helpful directions on where to recycle his beer:

“There’s a bathroom on the right”

when he was actually singing, There’s a bad moon on the rise,  is deserving of a more interesting appellation.  Suggestions, anyone?

My all-time, personal favorite Mondegreen in personal to me in that I might be the only person alive who swears she heard the song this way.  A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I thought rocker Billy Squire was singing an ode to the love that dare not speak its name – that of Liberace for his favorite lighting fixture.

candleabra

 Turns out Billy Boy was not crooning, “My Candelabra,” but rather, My Kind of Lover.  Yeah, suuuuuuure.  Take a listen for yourself , and then tell me I was mistaken.

I’d love to hear your favorite aural mishaps.  Here are some of mine, listed by “Mondegreen,” accurate line (song/recording artist)

♫ “Midnight after you’re wasted.” Midnight at the oasis. (Midnight at the Oasis/Maria Muldaur)

♫ “The girl with colitis goes by.” The girl with kaleidoscope eyes. (Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds/The Beatles)

♫ “I got no towel, I hung it up again.” I get knocked down, but I get up again. (Tubthumping/ Chumbawumba)

♫ “Excuse me, while I kiss this guy.” ‘Scuse me, while I kiss the sky. (Purple Haze/Jimi Hendrix)

♫ “Let’s pee in the corner/Let’s pee in the spotlight.”  That’s me in the corner/That’s me in the spotlight.  (“Losing My Religion”/R.E.M.)

♫ “She’s got electric boobs/her mama, too…” She’s got electric boots/a mohair suit… (Bennie and the Jets/Elton John) 

♫ “Are you going to starve an old friend?” Are you going to Scarborough Fair? (Scarborough Fair/Simon & Garfunkel)

♫ “Baking carrot biscuits.” Takin’ care of business. (Takin’ Care Of Business/Bachman-Turner Overdrive )

♫ “Four-headed woman.” [3] More than a woman.  (More Than a Woman/The Bee Gees)

♫ “Ham on rye.” I’m alright.  (I’m Alright/Kenny Loggins)

♫ “I’ll never leave your pizza burning.” I’ll never be your beast of burden. (Beast of Burden/The Rolling Stones)

♫ “I’m the god of Velveeta.” In the garden of Eden. (In-a-gadda-da-vita/Iron Butterfly[4])

♫ “Pretty Woman, won’t you lick my leg.” Pretty Woman, won’t you look my way. (Pretty Woman/Roy Orbison)

♫ “Secret Asian man.” Secret agent man. (Secret Agent Man/Johnny Rivers)

♫ “Since she put me down there’ve been owls pukin’ in my bed.” Since she put me down I’ve been out doin’ in my head. (Help Me Rhonda/Beach Boys)

*   *   *

Holiday detritus: The sequel

Despite having abdicated my presidency of the National Sarcasm Society,[5] I have sometimes been accused of viewing the world through jaundice-colored glasses.  But my inherent skepticism re sentimentality goes on hiatus for Misty River‘s poignant, Don’t Take Down the Mistletoe. Even a reputed cynic like me can become teary-eyed when I hear this song, with its beautiful harmonies and the theme of appreciating that which so often seems unnoteworthy – the simple joys of what is (and who are) right in front of you.  It gives hope to Old Married Farts® like moi.

*   *   *

That’s enough for a heart-warming interlude.  Leave the mistletoe up, sure, but it’s time to get re-pissed about something.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, former astronaut Mark Kelly phoned his wife, the former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who as we all know was gravely wounded in the 2011 Tucson shooting.  As per an interview with the Washington Post, Kelly said to her, “Gabby, we can’t just put out a statement anymore….If we just talk about it, things won’t change. We need to try and help.”

I applaud Giffords’ and Kelly’s launching of an anti-gun violence organization to take on the NRA and pro-assault weapons lobbyists and push for legislative changes in America’s gun laws.  This is a pathetically long-delayed baby step[6] in addressing an incredibly complicated issue[7]…but all the legislation in the world won’t make a difference until there is a critical mass of attitude adjustment. This country needs a movement to change awareness and perception re firearms, ala MADD.

I’ve heard it said that the slack jawed and simple-minded good-hearted denizens of Droptrou, Alabama will never understand the benefits of regulating civilian ownership of military weaponry, and will cling to their guns like cheap, zero-ply, recycled environmentally-friendly toilet paper to a dingleberry.  But there are reasons for hope.

Can you picture today, in 2013, someone bragging about how he consumed three six-packs at ____ (Thanksgiving dinner; Joe’s Bar; his mother’s bat mitzvah), then drove home and took out his neighbor’s lawn jockey when he tried to park in his own garage but ended up on their front porch?

Uh…you can imagine that?  Yeah, me, too.

Okay, there are still yahoos like that, and probably always will be.  But the number of fatalities related to DUI has been declining in the past 30 years and continues to fall.  This is due in large part to a radical change in societal attitudes towards DUI since Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was founded in 1980.

It may be hard to remember that prosecuting attorneys used to defend themselves for not pursuing drunk drivers because they could rarely get a conviction. The P.A.s (and the drunk’s defense attorney) could count on at least a couple of jurors thinking to themselves, “Gee, I’ve driven ‘under the influence’ and I’m not a bad person – besides, the defendant didn’t mean to crash into the station wagon and kill that woman and her daughter and injure her husband and two sons[8]….”

Society needs a MADD-style movement applied to guns.  We’ll never be fully able to reason with a truly deranged person; I got that.  But I think that the alteration of the association of machismo and even patriotism with civilians having and using guns for anything other than sport shooting and subsistence hunting[9] is possible.

Many hunters hold nothing but scorn for their so-called peers who use semi-automatic or other assault style guns.  They consider it ungallant, unsportsmanlike[10] to say the least, and note that no “true hunter” should need – or want – an Uzi to bag a deer.

The drunk driver, once an inspiration for comedy and boys-will-be-boys type excuses, is now an object of revulsion.  In addition to the criminal penalties and civil liabilities resulting from a DUI conviction, I think the vast majority of Americans would be horrified, ashamed and humiliated to be known as someone who drinks and drives.  Imagine the change, if the same could be said about guns.

Dude, you bought an AR15?  What’s the matter – the Viagra not working for ya?

 Disclaimer:  my support for the attitude-adjusting work of MADD is in no way intended as a slight against a related organization, D-DAMM (Drunk Drivers Against Mad Mothers).

gunnut

“Speaking personally, you can have my gun, but you’ll take my book when you pry my cold, dead fingers off of the binding.”  ― Stephen King

*   *   *

One of these days I’ll gripe blog about yet another fiction writer’s dirty little secret: the lack of time to read other people’s fiction.  Here’s a recent read I’m glad to have found time for:  Lost in Lexicon: An Adventure in Words and Numbers by Pendred Noyce .[11]

(I loathe the “age range” rankings common to the (American) book selling biz, and although both Amazon and Barnes & Noble put this book in their 9-12 readers category I recommend this book for adventurous readers aged 9 to 90.)

It doesn’t seem right to be at a loss for words when describing a book with “Lexicon” in the title, but that’s where I find myself after reading Noyce’s unique tale. Nevertheless (however; even so; all the same; as Emily the llama might suggest) I’ll give it a try.

Cousins Daphne and Ivan get more than they bargained for when, attempting to relieve their boredom on a rainy day, they embark on a treasure hunt that takes them from a magical cupola in their Great Aunt Adelaide’s barn to and through the enchanting, mind-boggling and sometimes frustrating Land of Lexicon.  As with all remarkable treasure hunts, a quest is involved: all of the children are missing from the various bordering, bickering villages of Lexicon, and their disappearance has something to do with the extraordinary, shimmering lights in the sky. The cousins must keep their wits (and nouns and adjectives and verbs…) about them as they traverse the peculiar, charming worlds of Lexicon, where they must solve a succession of puzzles involving imaginative syntax and math mysteries …

Gotcha, you sneak! – you might say at this point – this is a book adults want kids to read.  As in, give ‘em an alleged adventure story to stealth-bomb them into absorbing some grammar and algebra lessons? Yes, it’s fantasy with “educational elements,” but the learnin’ stuff is expertly woven into the story (it is the story), and there’s nothing sneaky about it. Occasionally the narrative is too clever for its own good (if that can be considered a criticism) and the cast of village characters can be hard to keep track of, but it is refreshing to find a book that entices, rather than insults, the intelligence of both its characters and its intended audience.  Plus, you gotta (okay, I gotta) love a cast that includes Emily the loyal, thesaurus-ical llama, the verb-loathing Noun Man, the Mistress of Metaphor, bee-keeping witches, Mr. Prosaic, and other quirky characters prone to spouting lines like, “These lands exist as theoretical constructs, not tourist attractions!”

Oh, and the kids save the day and survive getting stung by grammar-sensitive bees.dogbee Hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Because I say so, that’s why. Also, whenever I wear a felt ball necklace someone always asks if they may touch it, which gives me the opportunity to graciously reply, “Yes, you may fondle my balls”.

[2] And for me, it is playing.  Anything other than my workout clothes or tie-dye t-shirts is dress-up.

[3] There needs to be a special award for this one, because a four-headed woman would be more than (just) a woman…wouldn’t she?

[4] The band themselves, drunk during a rehearsal in 1968, botched the lyrics, and decided to keep them this way. That is, the in-a-gadda way, not the Mondegreen, cheese-product way.

[5] official fundraising motto: “Like we need your support.”

[6] Paging Congress: report to Giffords and Kelly to be fitted for your testicular implants.

[7] Is anyone willing to substantively address the failure of deinstitutionalization?

[8] Which is what happened to friends of my family, 11:30 on a Sunday morning, on their way to church.  A drunk driver blew through a red light. The surviving sons both suffered permanent brain damage.

[9] And those rare cases of real and specific threat to one’s self or family (e.g., being stalked by a gun nut)

[10] Until you arm deer or quail or whatever you target with equal weaponry, I consider all sport-hunting of animals to be the ultimate definition of unsportsmanlike.

[11] Disclosure: although I’m no relation to the author and have never met her, my book The Mighty Quinn is forthcoming from Scarletta Press, Lost in Lexicon‘s publisher.

The Butt Cheeks I’m Not Cooking

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Lizards may not have lips, but fish have cheeks.  The former are imaginary; the latter, delicious.

I’d ordered fish cheeks at restaurants but had never found them available for purchase.  An Oregon coast fishmonger told me that the much-prized fish cheeks were sold mainly to restaurants and were rarely available in retail markets.  The first time I saw halibut cheeks on sale was over ten years ago, at the newly opened branch of a locally-owned organic market (a shout-out to our beloved New Seasons!).  I checked out fresh meats section of the store, passing by other patrons who stood in front of the beef, poultry, lamb and pork cases while the butchers took their orders. When I reached the seafood display case I nearly mashed my nose against the glass with excitement, and the fishmonger smiled in appreciation.

“Look what you have!”  I blustered.  “You have halibut cheeks!”

Butt cheeks?”  The woman to my right gasped and dropped a freshly wrapped package of New Season’s house-made chorizo in her shopping cart.  “They sell BUTT CHEEKS?”

I exchanged bemused glances with the fishmonger, who, I could see, was about to enlighten the aghast shopper.  Greedy moi launched a preemptive strike[1].  “Yes, they do.” I grinned at gasping sausage woman, and cheekily (sorry) patted my own behind.  “They are considered a delicacy in some Eastern European countries.”

I was able to buy ‘em all: two pounds of halibut cheeks.

Sweet and tender, with a flavor and flaky texture that is often compared to with lobster,[2] halibut cheeks are so tasty on their own that IMHO, the KISS[3] doctrine applies to their preparation.  Here’s how we celebrated Little New Year’s Eve[4] at the Black Cat Café,[5] with dear friend and discerning dinner guest, LAH.

Yummers Halibut Cheeks (serves 4)
-1 pound Halibut cheeks (about 8 – 12 pieces)
-EVOO
-Sea salt
-2 ½ T unsalted butter, divided
-2T freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
-lemon wedges

Film two large cast iron pans with EVOO and heat the pans over medium-high heat until the oil is hot but not smoking.  Sprinkle both sides of the cheeks with salt; place cheeks in the pans (don’t overcrowd – give ‘em plenty of gasping room). Sauté the cheeks for 2 minutes.  Flip them over, cook second side for 2 minutes.  Add the butter and lemon juice (dividing them among the two pans). After 30 seconds flip the fish again, so that both sides are coated with butter.  Cook for another 30 -60 seconds (do not overcook; depending on thickness, total cooking time for the cheeks should be a mere 5-6 minutes).  Plate and serve with lemon wedges to squeeze on top.

 Credit: Roy Henry Vickers artcountrycanada.com

Don’t ask don’t tell

During this lovely dinner, I sniffed a cat turd. There’s no graceful segue; it happened.[6]

I heard something scuttling on the floor by my chair,  and with all the holiday goodies we’ve been given (including a package of chocolate goober things called “Moose droppings”) I assumed the cats had once again gotten up on the counters and knocked down some treats down….  And I screamed at K when he said, “Yeah, I was going to say to you when you picked that up, ‘I think it’s a cat dingleberry.'”

Don’t ask.  Oh, but you didn’t, did you?  I told, without being asked. And if you’re a Facebook friend of my daughter’s, you already know.

*   *   *

♫ So this is Christmas/And what have you done
Another year over/A new one just begun ♫ 

As much as I have always loved the Tweenolidays[7] I have a love/hate relationship with New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.  I have been to and hosted my share of entertaining New Year’s celebrations; still, more often than not, it’s a couple of days to tolerate, not anticipate. This is methinks, a combination of three factors:

1)  The Ghost of The Younger Years ® rattling its memory-chain of the Are We Having Fun Yet?! pressure:  It seemed to me that I did not have the kind of festive/bacchanal/out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new adventures immortalized (and exaggerated, yeah, I know) in cinema and literature, and thought that I was supposed to do that, even if I didn’t want to, and that every other person on the planet was Having A Great Time save for moi;

2)  The gut-check of the Mature years:  I’ve passed a certain AARP- significant age, and that effin’ John Lennon song gets played over and over this time of year, the lyrics of which seem to taunt me with the reality of the insignificance of my accomplishments during the past 365 days  (“…and what have you done?…another year over….”)

3) There is no factor #3.

*   *   *

A new year.  Here we are, two thousand and thirteen. Fiscal cliff, schmiscal cliff.  We stared into the void.  Dutiful American © that I am, I am supposed to ponder…something. I believe it is my patriotic duty to declare, “No matter what else happens, at least my taxes might not go up.”

Not to be flippant, but the issue was so complex; I tried to find a study guide to help me understand it, but apparently they don’t make Fiscal Cliff Notes.

cliff

A New Year.  Here we are, two thousand and thirteen.  That bears repeating, because just like the intestinal gas bubbles caused by your uncle’s New Year’s Blowout Chili-dawg casserole, the boogeymen of yesteryear keep surfacing.

Despite the number of professional male athletes who spoke out in support of LGBT on rights in 2012, a recent Los Angeles Times article detailed how gay athletes still feel unwelcome in pro sports.  To come out as gay (which no active NFL, NBA, major leagues or NHL players have done) is considered a “career-ending” truth-telling, largely – gee, I’m just guessing here – due to attitudes like those of Detroit Tigers right fielder Torri Hunter.

The über-masculine named Torri told the Times that he believes an out gay teammate would make him “uncomfortable.”

“For me, as a Christian…I will be uncomfortable because in all my teachings and all my learning, biblically, it’s not right,” Hunter said. “It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”

All his learning.  Okey dokey.  Has Hunter done any learning about how someone with his skin color[8] playing baseball alongside white teammates once made the majority of white Americans “uncomfortable,” because in all their teachings and learning, biblically, the “mixing of the races” was not right?

BTW, this isn’t the first time Hunter’s insight-free jaw flapping statements have gotten him attention.  In a 2010 interview with USA Today about the changing demographics in baseball, Hunter referred to dark-skinned Latino baseball players as “impostors.”

I look forward to Torri Hunter’s Detroit Tigers teammates addressing the question if being on a team with an ignorant religious bigot makes them uncomfortable.  In the meantime, without further ado-doo, Imposter of the Weekgoes to Torri Hunter, for his up-until-now successful imitation of a sentient human being.

catimposter

The TMI Files

I subscribe to salon.com. I usually find their articles an equal mix of cogent, timely and provocative, seasoned with more than the occasional dash of WTF thinks this crap is news? But on Little New Year’s Eve, the article with the story line: “My Sexual Resolutions,” oh, really, salon?  I am so not going there (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz).

I hoped in vain the article would have a subtitle, something along with lines of “…which I vow to keep to myself.”  Alas, no.

*   *   *

This stupid day in history.

On January 4:

- 1649 – English Civil War: The Rump Parliament votes to put Charles I on trial.[9]
– 1885  The first (successful) appendectomy is performed by Dr. W. W. Grant, on Mary Gartside.
– 1974 – President Richard Nixon refused to hand over tape recordings and documents subpoenaed by the Senate Watergate Committee.

Notable births on January 4 included
- 1809 – Louis Braille, French developer of the touch reading system for the blind
– 1960 Michael Stipe, R.E.M. singer/songwriter

Two significant January 4 bucket-kickers
-1903 – Topsy the Elephant (died in America, born in India, ca. 1875) was electrocuted.[10] Yet another reason to hate Thomas Edison.
– 1999 – Iron Eyes Cody, Italian American actor (nee Espera Oscar de Corti) best known for portraying Native Americans (he was the “crying Indian” in the Keep America Beautiful PSAs).

*   *   *

2013.  I’m going to have to start those…how do you say #@!%& French tapes, en francais? There it sits on my desk, mocking me: Rosetta Stone Francais Level 1. I promised Belle that if she sticks with French for all four years of high school, she and I will travel to France after her graduation. It seems as though I may have to keep that promise, and my two quarters of college French seems like a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  Although I’ll have my own translator in the family, I’d like to reacquire some survival basics, other than being able to complain about the lack of TP in the WC (Il n’y a pas de papier dans la salle de bains).

*   *   *

My KenKen books are full, and this is not to be tolerated in a new year.  I’ve become quite fond of the math puzzles[11] and consider doing at least one of them, along with the NY Times Crossword puzzle, a daily, sanity-break necessity. My New Year’s present to moi was a shopping spree on Amazon, where you can (and I did) waste far too much time perusing their puzzles offerings.  I limited myself to three: Puzzle-a-day Kenken; Ferocious KenKen, and Crazy for KenKen. It was a tough call to settle for the third book, the full title of which is Crazy for KenKen: 100 Logic Puzzles That Make You Smarter.  I kept searching for its companion: Batshit Crazy for KenKen: 100 Irrational Puzzles That Blow Your Higher Reasoning Skills Right Outta Your Nostrils.

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The New Year is here; hilarity ensues.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] There weren’t many halibut cheeks in the display. I wanted them all.
[2] Not by me, but by people who like comparing things to lobster.
[3] Keep It Simple, Sweetie.
[4] The eve before New Year’s Eve.
[5] Aka our dining room.  So named for the painting, titled, “The Black Cat Café,” that hangs on one of its walls.
[6] Or, shit happened, as the saying goes.
[7] the days of between Christmas And New Year’s day, briefly mentioned in last week’s post.
[8] Jackie Robinson couldn’t help but be “out” about that.
[9] Some historians believe Charles got a bum deal.
[10] Topsy, a circus/amusement park elephant, had killed three men, including a trainer who tried to feed her a lit cigarette. Although the sadistic trainer was not considered a threat to elephants, Topsy was deemed a threat to humans by her owners and killed by electrocution after the cyanide-laced carrots she was fed failed to do the job.
[11] KenKen is way better than Sudoku, which, IMHO is like watching grass grow while the paint dries.

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