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The Culture I’m Not Promoting

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Today’s theme – broadly interpreted (by this broad) – is Arts and Literature

That's funny! No, that's pathetic!

She’s funny! No, she’s pathetic!

*   *   *

Department of Things I Am Not Afraid to Confess

“Carefully orchestrated pandiculations follow a routine: Lips part, the tongue hunkers down, and muscles in the face, mouth and diaphragm engage as the head tilts back.”
(Laura Sanders, Science News, May 7, 2011)

I am a pandiculator; that is, I am one who pandiculates. And it has nothing to do with fantasizing after watching a certain Daniel Day-Lewis movie. [1]

You want to pandiculate. Admit it. And you already (probably) do, and don’t realize it.

Your cat pandiculates (just as you’ve always suspected), and so does your dog and your hamster.  Your snake?  Well, that might be stretching it (rim shot!).

Why do quadrupeds have all the fun?

Why do quadrupeds have all the fun?

*   *   *

Blast From the Past: The Domes Live On

“The trill of panpipes from a yurt wafted across the mulch hillocks of the Domes, a 1970s experiment in communal housing in which students live in igloo-like fiberglass domes….”

Thus begins Wednesday’s New York Times article about The Domes at UC Davis. I was surprised and pleased to see the article; I had no idea the domes still existed.

I was not a Dom-ie during my UC Davis years. My on-campus housing situation consisted of spending four quarters on the legendary 3rd Floor of Bixby, [2] one of the campus’ high rise dorms.  I had an acquaintance who lived in the Domes, and visited her there, once.  Although I admired the concept of the Domes I loathed the name students gave the complex (“Baggins End”). [3]

Still, they were – they are – kinda cute.

UCDDomes

*   *   *

Department of Theatrical Plays You Must See

We licked postage stamps…
we didn’t have answering machines, you had to call people back!

No one was more surprised than moiself to find moiself tearing up at a Christopher Durang comedy. Specifically, during Act 2 of Portland Center Stage’s production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.

Vanya’s poignant, digressive tirade – prefaced by the apology/declaration Boomers feel is necessary when expressing a longing for something from our past – contained two comments/observations that made me catch my breath in recognition and sadness.  I found myself mourning the validity of Vanya’s comments, then, an hour or so later I wondered,  does even recognizing the validity of those comments mean that I’ve gotten old?

I’m NOT a conservative!… But there are things I miss about the past.
We have no shared memories anymore!

Regarding the latter, I realize that you can’t miss what you’ve never had.  Nevertheless, I’ve tried to explain to my (now young adult) children the collective consciousness of popular culture that arose from the post WWII era, that began to fade with the advent of cable TV, and that no longer seems possible in these days of 24 hour broadcasts of 758 channels (not to mention the plethora of internet media outlets). Sure, many of the shows were lousy or just plain dull.  But we all watched them, and thus had the same references.  We all watched the same lousy shows.

...and we could all sing along to the lousy theme songs!

We could all sing along to the lousy theme songs!

 

During the play I was seated next to two lovely [4] gentlemen, and struck up a conversation with them after the final curtain.  One of them has extensive experience in the performing arts and writes reviews of regional theatrical productions.  If you like live theatre, [5] check out his blog, DennisSparksReviews.

*   *   *

Department of, But, Really

Content warning: seriously petty snark ahead.

A known photo-phobic such as moiself has no right to criticize the unattractiveness of another person’s publicity shot.  That said, guess what I’m about to do?

It’s like this. I assume that when a musical group is taking or posing for a promo shot, they want to look “good,” whatever that entails for …well, for their individual egos, for the image the band is trying to project, for the fan base to which they are trying to appeal, their musical genre, etc. The elements that make for an “attractive” picture for The Dead Kennedys [6]

I feel pretty, oh so pretty....

I feel pretty, oh so pretty….

 

…likely are significantly different than those of the promo shots commissioned by The Portland Cello Project.

Do these ginormous violins make our butts look big?

Do these ginormous violins make our butts look big?

Different strokes – yep. I get that.

Still… I could search the universe of inhabitable planets, other worlds, other species, both virtual and speculative, and it is hard to imagine that I would find a sentient being with a more homely, less attractive hairstyle and overall “look” than that borne by the sole female member of The Decemberists, [7] who is featured front and center in the band’s just shoot me now I can’t believe someone approved this shot photo on the cover of The Oregonian’s arts & entertainment section last Friday.

Decemberists

 

The male members of the band fare a smidge better, if you go for the Awkward and Slightly Bored Bohemian Accounts Payable Clerk ®  mode. As for the lady boho, nothing says Hipper-than-Thou-Indie-folk-rock-Darlings like musicians who project all the free spirit vibe of a runner-up to the Miss 1919 Frumpy Librarian contest crossed with your dowdy Aunt Erva’s it’s-five-o’clock-where’s-my-Jim-Beam-tumbler sneer.

I’m trying to think of an excuse.  Was there no one there to look through the photographer’s lens and say, whoa, Betty!?  Friends don’t let friends photograph drunk.

*   *   *

Department of But What Matters in the End Has Nothing To Do With Your Hair
Aka, Books You Must Read

Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

 After reading this amazing, absorbing, provocative, compassionate, thought-provoking book, a certain thought kept coming to my mind:

When it comes to end of life medical care, safety – rather, the concern over/illusion of safety – is the enemy of happiness and purpose.

Anyone who has older friends and family members – or friends and family of any age who are facing mortal illness – should read this book. You who will, one day sooner or later, be older and in more frail health than you are today – you should read this book.

I think that covers it.

Well, what are you waiting for?!

What are you waiting for?!

*   *   *

☼   K Explains It All   ☼

“Do you know what this is?” I asked my son.

K had entered my office, attracted and bemused by the danger!-explosion!-chase!-pow!-kablooey! coming from my computer screen. I’d clicked on a video posted on a friend’s FB page – a trailer for an upcoming movie I’d never heard of, based on a book I’d never read.

“It’s like the Hunger Games, only shitty,” K sneered. “Another YA book about another dystopian future, where everyone is evil or in peril until they are saved by the one special snowflake character.”

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

BOOM

*   *   *

May your special snowflake be there when it matters (packing serious heat, of course, and a fetching hipster hairdo), and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] I will find you!

[2] Third floor Bixby had groupies – students living on other floors of Bixby, or even from other dorms, who came to our floor to hang out because we were way too much fun.

[3] There seemed to be no escaping Tolkien references in the late ’70s, which was torture for those of us who found the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings books and their cultish fans to be an interminable, that’s-so-junior-high snooze fest.

[4] I adore being able to accurately describe someone in that way. I’m using my Masterpiece Theatre typing accent, in case you didn’t notice.

[5] And if you don’t, you should. No pandiculating required.

[6] Whatever happened to Jello Biafra, one of the great band member names of all time?

[7] Some of their songs I live very much, as much as I loathe the Portland Special Darling status they have acquired with some local critics (a status certain members of the band seem to take seriously) .

The Orthodox Eyes I’m Not Polluting

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We now pause for a moment of rejoicing before the rants.

new kayak

The new kayak is here! The new kayak is here!

We now return to our station’s previously scheduled programming.

*   *   *

Department of WTF
Aka, One of the Saddest Things I’ve Read During the Past Week.

Yes, the terrorist attack in Paris was sadder.  And then, there was the article in the NY Times: Newspaper in Israel Scrubs Women From a Photo of Paris Unity Rally .

Angela Merkel and other world leaders and dignitaries were removed from the picture by the Israeli newspaper’s editors because the image of female forms are a temptation and presumed pollutant to an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish man’s eyes.

Got that? An Ultra Orthodox Jew’s eyes must remain “pure” – eyes that, because they belong to a Jew, would have been removed from history just a generation ago, if another group of orthodox fanatics had had their way.

So. Your Ultra-Orthodox (men’s) eyes will be “pure” – whatever the superstitious fuck that means – while your minds will remain ignorant, closed and prejudiced.  Pray on, brothers.

Does my bigotry make my butt look fat?

Does my bigotry make my butt look fat?

*   *   *

“The role of a cartoon is in fact to insult and ridicule and to attack and to defend against the overreach of people and institutions who, in the name of God or in the name of government or the name of whatever the particular institution it is, threaten the right and security of people to freely express their own ideas and live their lives.”

( Steve Benson, Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist for The Arizona Republic,
Ex-Mormon, eldest grandchild of LDS Church President Ezra Taft Benson,
interviewed on Freethought Radio, 1-10-15 )

Je suis Charlie.

Except that, of course, I’m not.

Last week I did not comment on the murders at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.  I held my tongue [1] for a variety of reasons, from the principled to the pedestrian. The former would include my disdain for the instant analysis (read: lack of introspection) that seems to be inspired by the plethora of internet social media outlets. The latter includes the fact that I just hadn’t the stomach for it.

One week later, now I can claim distance, wisdom, and introspection?  Maybe just a steadier gut.

The following is not one of my legendary digressions.

You'll find the segue. I know you will, boys and girls.

You’ll find the segue. I know you will, boys and girls.

I’ve previously mentioned how fiction writers’ guidelines for certain literary publications [2] have made me both laugh aloud and cringe. Literary journals often flatter (read: embarrass) themselves by the pretentious, self-important and bombastic claims they make for the kinds of work they seek and publish.  What particularly frosts my butt are statements from journals that claim to seek work that is “brave” and or “risk-taking.”

Brave?

REALLY

I always make it a point to look at sample issues of journals whose guidelines make such claims, and have yet to find any story or article in them makes me admire – or even think of – the “courage” it must have taken to write it. A journal says it seeks stories that are “brave” and “risk-taking” – brave, how? I wonder, and risking…what…for what?

Ah, you dared to use non-standard grammar and punctuation; you had the courage to ignore standard plot conventions?  [3] You bold, heroic risk-taker – you penned  (yet another) another titty-ass nihilistic sex scene, that you wouldn’t have dared to do in your creative writing class or community arts center “memoir-ring your life” workshop?

We flatter (read: embarrass) ourselves for the most part – we North American writers – by even daring to think that we take risks that in any way require strength of character or some form of ethical bravery.

When I was submitting The Mighty Quinn manuscript I received feedback from several editors and publishers who directly or obliquely implied that the book would be a hard sell because:

* it featured non-religious, free-thinking children (and adults) as protagonists
*  although it had sympathetic religious characters, Quinn’s antagonist was a religious bully (and the son of an abusive preacher man)
*  without “toning down” the freethought- related themes, a publisher would risk negative reviews (or reviewer and bookseller boycotts) when word spread in the religious community.

Poor me.  How brave of me to keep submitting the manuscript.  Except, not.  Not at all.

burning book

Despite veiled intimations of boycott, TMQ eventually found a publisher. TMQ’s publisher’s (then) publicity director alerted me to one of the reviews of TMQ, written by a reviewer using the title Rev. _____. [4]  The review was generally positive, and also revealed the reviewer’s ambivalence for liking the book  (“…I was a little concerned with the handling of religion and the fact that the boy with the biggest problems was the son of a family that was religious. This could potentially open up lots of questions that should be primarily handled by parents…”).

Who knows what happened (or is still happening) re TMQ‘s reviewing and distribution status.  Silent boycotts and other kinds of subversion can be organized (e.g. a refusal to stock or review a title) without fanfare and opportunity to counter-protest. The book, while hardly biting satire, contains several thematic elements involving characters openly joking about/raise questions about religion. No one (to my knowledge) threatened editors or bookstore owners with vandalism or assassination if they considered publishing or stocking The Mighty Quinn.  But, if you are a European editorial cartoonist who satirizes religious fanaticism, you and your colleagues are at risk of attack and murder, as we’ve seen too many times in the past and now, in Paris.

Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government or society itself, into improvement.
Although satire is usually meant to be humorous, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon and as a tool to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society.

(Wikpedia definition for “Satire”)

I assert that the right to hold all ideas up to scrutiny, the right – some of us say, the obligation – to mock that which is mock-worthy is as crucial to a functioning democracy as the right to peaceably assembly or cast a ballot.

“The only way to get even with anybody is to ridicule them.”
“After all the people that (Hitler) was responsible for killing and after utterly destroying half the world, I just thought the only weapon I’ve really got is comedy. And if I can make this guy ludicrous, if I can make you laugh at him, then it’s a victory of sorts. You can’t get on a soapbox with these orators, because they’re very good at convincing the masses that they’re right. But if you can make them look ridiculous, you can win over the people.”
(Mel Brooks)

Hitler

*   *   *

Speaking of the two hallmarks of democracy – freedom of the press, and the obligation to mock that which needs or deserves mocking – just as I collect (or, used to collect [5] ) pretentious and overblown writers guidelines, fellow writer/attorney friend SCM and I alert each other when we come across a really juicy Author’s Bio. I recently received this email from her:

I was interested in reading one of this woman’s novels…until I read her bio.

The best (read, of course: worst) author’s bios are always/obviously penned by the writer, and usually corroborate the dictum that the less professional and self-confident the writer, the longer the bio (in some cases, like the one SCM cited, they approach novella length).

I had to follow the link, and was so taken with the sheer self-aggrandizing, TMI, verbal diarrhea-osity of it I had to meet SCM for lunch to celebrate her find.  Also, I wanted to encourage SCM to follow up on her brilliant idea, to start a blog: Bad Author Bios. This blog will consist solely of links to…can you guess?  We discussed the possibility that, after a few weeks, she will be receiving so many links from readers the blog will practically write itself – except for the part where she will have to include screen shots as well as links. [6]

To past, present and future composers of authors bios: here’s what readers need to know. What is relevant about a writer is what you write and what you’ve written. Your mommy and daddy and your former grade school teachers may be interested in your lifelong love of hamsters, your current triathlon training and your name-dropping of Celebrity D list activists you brushed shoulders with in college.  The rest of us, not so much.

highhorse

Behold the Contributor Notes section of The New Yorker.  These writers are published in The New Yorker, FFS. They get one or two lines about their story or latest book.  Concise, and classy.

I understand that certain publishers or editors want more, and will sometimes ask their authors and contributors to “flesh out” a bio because…because it’s their policy, or whatever. I’ve been there. [7] But it’s unlikely they asked you to list the literary equivalent of your high school sports awards, the location of the births of your children, your academic scholarships and your devotion to your superstition religion.  When it is your choice, keep it short.

Speaking of which, in next week’s blog, I’m going to be recommending a book by an author who lists himself as First Name Last Name.  That’s it.  He is a physician, a highly educated and skilled and respected medical doctor, but does not bill himself as First Name Last Name, M.D.  So. If this accomplished person, who has written three best-selling books and articles for the New York Times and directs a center for health systems innovations and chairs a nonprofit organization which works to make surgery safe globally – if this person can be humble, you, who are just a writer and not also a doctor and a writer, [8] can cut the 90 paragraph bio, okay?

*   *   *

Don’t be humble. You’re not that great.

Golda Meir

*   *   *

 

May you be successful enough to have strangers enjoy (and critique) your bio notes,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] “I held my typing fingers” just doesn’t do it, for me.

[2] Primarily located in the USA or Canada.

[3] “Speculative” fiction; i.e., you haven’t the talent to write a story that makes sense.

[4] Which indicates the reviewer wants you to know he’s an ordained Christian minister.

[5] It got so depressing I deleted the file one day…much to my regret. There were some gems in there.

[6] Writers who find out they’ve been shamed on the blog can, of course, edit their bios and attempt to cover their ego tracks.

[7] And made up silly stuff in an effort to be entertaining, if not personally revealing.

[8] Yeah, yeah, the petty part of me hates him for that.

The Toxins I’m Not Cleansing

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Department of Just Sayin’
Aka, Is It Over Yet?

I hate New Year’s Eve.  Always have. Correction: there have been breaks in the “always.”  Including the years my family celebrated with neighbor/friends, sharing a dinner-and-games night.  But mostly, it has always been a strange, awkward(t) kind of evening – an I should be having fun dammit/why am I not light-hearted and care-free kind of night. Instead, it’s a reminder of how quickly the last year flew by, what was intended and what fell through the cracks, one more reminder of dreams gone by/deferred, one more year closer to admitting dreams that were never to be realized….

Cry me a river. Pass the popcorn; it’s 12:24 am, is the last yahoo done banging the damn pot lids/setting off the mortars and can I go to sleep now and wake up and pretend it’s March already?

"Is it midnight yet? Have we had fun?"

“Is it midnight yet? Have we had fun?”

*   *   *

Happy New Year, Indeed

MH’s attention was drawn to a certain object on the dish air drying rack. I waited for the inevitable comment.

“What’s this?” he asked, with a Twinkle in His Eye ® . He picked up the object, turned it back and forth in his hand, and attempted to unscrew its top.

“It does not take batteries,” I smirked, “and no, it’s not what you’re thinking.”

a pestle without its mortar is like a fish without a bicycle.

a pestle without its mortar is like a fish without a bicycle.

*   *   *

Start the New Year clean with this “detoxifying” dietary supplement, transdermal patch, kidney-flushing herbal tea, colon cleanser….

The come-on email that somehow escaped my spam filter, caused me pause for a moment to consider the quackery that is not just particular to the holiday season.

“Detoxing – the idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs squeaky clean and raring to go – is a scam.
It’s a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you things.”

“Let’s be clear,” says Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University, “there are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t.”
The respectable one, he says, is the medical treatment of people with life-threatening drug addictions. “The other is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.”

I generally hold and/or bite my tongue when otherwise seemingly intelligent (or obviously dense but well-meaning and nice) folks uses the Important-And-Sciency-Sounding-Poison-Language ©  with me.  The young man who, after finishing giving me a blissful foot massage advised me to drink a lot of water in the next few hours to help my body “flush out of toxins” stimulated by the massage?  I just smiled dreamily.  I was under the spell of the massage’s endorphin rush; I didn’t have the energy to mouth a simple, if sincerely incredulous, Dude, really? What are you saying, and who told you that?

Toxins? What, exactly, are these toxins?

WORD.

I often wonder if the purveyors of toxin-speak even know the definition of the word they use so heedlessly yet authoritatively?

A toxin (from Ancient Greek: τοξικόν toxikon) is a poisonous substance produced within living cells or organisms.

So, you’re saying, without blood test results or other evidence to back up your claim, that there is poison in my body?  What, someone slipped rattlesnake venom in my tea?

When I ask for evidence of specific toxins that are lurking, unflushed, in my body, [1] I receive analogies.  The toxin-believing crowd can’t exactly describe what the toxins are, nor what the detox process is, so they resort to analogies.  False analogies.  “Just like we wash our hair and brush our teeth…”  My favorites are the ones having to do with a machine:  “Just like we must periodically flush our car’s coolant system…”

That is incorrect; you forfeit the bonus round.

As much as it may seem to have a mind of its own, [2] your Honda Civic is not a living organism.  Machines have no way to clean themselves. The crucial systems of the human body evolved to do so.  The kidneys, liver, bowels –  the organs most frequently cited by the Toxin Touters – all are self-cleansing.  When they fail, due to disease or injury or abuse, medical intervention is necessary.

This is your liver.

This is your liver.

This is your liver on David Crosby.

This is your liver on David Crosby 

Like all fast fixes – from miracle diets to wrinkle creams – the idea that we can wash away our lifestyle transgressions with a pill, a drink, a gargle or even an “internal cleanse” [3] is an attractive idea to some, and much easier than making changes to nutrition, exercise and other lifestyle habits. [4] And most of us seem to hold some vague ideas that we are doing something wrong, or that our modern, technologically dependent life contaminates us with…well, with bad things. [5]  And we need to get rid of these bad things.

Harriet Hall, aka “the SkepDoc,” is a retired physician and former Air Force flight surgeon who researches and writes about medicine, so-called “alternative and complementary medicine,” and quackery and critical thinking.  According to Hall, the detox industry’s rhetoric is “… reminiscent of religious fasting and purification rites (Jewish mikvah, shamans using smoke, American Indians sweat lodges). It’s mysticism, not science.”

Our bodies come equipped with livers, kidneys, stomachs, intestines, enzymes and metabolic processes that deal with toxins efficiently with no outside help. When kidneys fail, we use dialysis.  In certain cases of poisoning with large amounts of heavy metals, we may use chelation therapy.  In addiction treatment, “detox” is achieved by simply abstaining from drugs or alcohol for a few days.  …..  there is no medical evidence to support any other methods or benefits of “detoxification.” [6]

 

detox

*   *   *

Department of Ch-ch-ch changes

As of January 1, 2015, Scarletta Press, publisher of my middle grade novel, The Mighty Quinn, is no longer Scarletta Press. The Publisher Formerly Known as Scarletta is now Mighty Media Press. And they have this to say about that:

Mighty Media Press delivers captivating books and
media that ignite a child’s curiosity, imagination,
social awareness, and sense of adventure.
Mighty Kids. Mighty Minds. Mighty Future.
Be Mighty!

Although I like the name change, I be mighty skeptical (if just a bit less mighty hopeful) as to how this will impact their promotion efforts for one of their Scarletta titles…even though, one might reasonably think, The Mighty Quinn, ahem, hello, can you say, “tie-in?”  I knew you could.

"The what formerly known as what?"

“The what formerly known as what?”

*   *   *

Department of Because It Works

Dateline: New Year’s Day.  MH and I, out for a walk.  MH asks if I’m taking him to Sports Look, a local restaurant/sport bar, for dinner.  “For dinner?” I am confused.  I know he’s referring to being able to watch The Rose Bowl game (it’s only being broadcast on ESPN, and we are the holdouts who don’t have cable), which is mildly important to us this year, lukewarm college sports fans that we are, because an Oregon team is playing a Florida team. But the game starts at 2pm, I reminded him, not dinner time.  Also, it’s New Year’s Day, and, remember, I always make Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day.

I picked up that tradition – serving black-eyed peas and rice, green and some cornbread concoction “for luck and prosperity in the New Year” –  from my Tennessee-raised father.  I maintain the tradition partially because I like my version of Hoppin’ John, and partially in memory of my dad.

Besides, I explained to MH, I want us to benefit from the folk wisdom of poor people who ate beans and rice every year, believing it would bring them good luck and prosperity, who then again the following year were too poor to serve anything fancier than beans and rice on New Year’s Day.

Remember how well it worked last year?

Remember how well it worked last year?

*   *   *

Department of Making My Daughter Groan

Driving home from lunch, Belle pointed out a rainbow grazing the horizon.  “Now, if there were two of them,” I wondered aloud, “would the first one be the rainbow and the other a rainbro?”

rainbros

*   *   *

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.
(Bill Vaughn)

Happiness is too many things these days for anyone to wish it on anyone lightly. So let’s just wish each other a bile-less New Year and leave it at that.
(Judith Crist)

*   *   *

May the happiness you seek be bile-free, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] And I have done this, with those who have used the toxin jargon.

[2] Especially when piloted by teen drivers.

[3] It’s only two days into the new year and I just don’t want to type enema.

[4] Why give up my bi-weekly craft beer six pack & cheesecake fest when I can do a bi-yearly liver cleanse?

[5] I actually think this is likely true, but want evidence before I put any purported “cleanser” up my hoo-haw, an organ which evolved to expel, not intake.

[6] Detox Quackery (Harriet Hall, the SkepDoc, Skeptic, v. 14 #1 2008)

The DMV I’m Not Suing

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My apologies to those of you wretched, lonely hearts devoted readers who have told me you look forward to sitting down with your coffee on Friday morning and reading my blog.[1]  Technical difficulties delayed its usual early morning posting.  Let’s just say I oppose the death penalty, except for those who create and distribute computer viruses.

 *   *   *

Dateline: Wednesday. Birthday coming up in less than a week.  Driver’s license renewal.  Fastest time ever at the DMV – in and out.  Worst. Picture. Ever.

Not this bad.

Not this bad.

“I need an override,” the woman at the camera station called out to her supervisor.

“What, my face broke the camera, ” I mumbled half-heartedly. The supervisor smiled, clickety-clacked on the computer keyboard and replied, “Only cracked it.”  After she left I asked Camera Woman, “No, really – what did you need to override?”

“When there’s a discrepancy with your past picture, the computer calls for a compare.”  It seems the DVS’s picture processing software is sophisticated enough to opine, “There’s no way this can be the same person…and even if it is, holy facial recognition software, do people have no pride?  She could have at least brushed her hair; oh yeah, lady, but it’s raining outside yada yada yada, nice try with that excuse….”

Really.  A bad picture.

Almost this bad.

Almost this bad.

*   *   *

That was no way to start a Wednesday, or any day, but especially the second Wednesday in December, which was my annual Ladies’ Lefse Party.  But, the day was soon redeemed

Returning home from the DMV, still pissed about the picture incident [2] I decide to play a word game to calm myself down before getting down to work.  It’s the little things that matter, you know?  Like the oh-so-special feeling I get when playing Jumble Jong and I get an AWESOME! message plus bonus points for using the available tiles to spell the word, smuttily.

Also, there was the lefse party.

Lady Marmalade, just some of the Lucky Ladies invited to the Ladies Lefse Party.

Lady Marmalade, just some of the Lucky Ladies invited to the Ladies Lefse Party.

*   *   *

Department of Pretend There Was An Artful Segue

Friend fellow writer and self-described reluctant homeschooler [3] SCM has had trouble “finding her tribe” as she put it… as so sharply evidenced by a local homeschooling list serve posting she sent me (to which she has since unsubscribed), which she titled, From the “I can’t make up this shit” files…

(my emphases)

Messages: Classic Literature I don’t let my kids read.
Posted by: (redacted)[4]
I had a frank discussion with my kids literature teacher after one of my own picked up Grapes of Wrath, which I’ve never read, and read it during our reading time, not outloud. Apparently there are some rather gratuitous love scenes in there or at least one. Never having read it, I’m kicking myself for having trusted the many “classic literature” lists that I’ve printed and clung to while shopping for books to build our home library with.

 I emailed their teacher my list and she went through it and marked the ones that were safe, the ones that weren’t, and the ones she either couldn’t remember or hadn’t personally read. What an eye opener! For starters, here are the ones we removed from our shelves because of such love scenes.

 1984
Candide
Grapes of Wrath 

I’m sure there will be others, but this is just a startling starting point. I don’t mind an occasional bad word or even a string of bad words.

It’s the erotic love scenes that disgust me when I think of my teenage son picking up and reading from material I HAVE PROVIDED! It’s sad to think about the books they’ll be missing out on because of unnecessary inappropriate scenes.

If you know of other not-so-classy “classics”; I would steer away from that are usually found on classics lists, please let me know.

advisorypng

Holy fucking inappropriate love scenes.

I mean, objecting to “love scenes”? In “classic” literature, that you yourself admit you’ve NEVER READ?

And, “Grapes of Wrath,”  really?

REALLY

For the love of butt-fucking pornography, I’m trying to remember what might be determined “inappropriate” about The Grapes of Wrath, a book which  was one of many triggers responsible for the awakening of my political consciousness….. Ah, maybe that’s it. That and, you know, all the scenes featuring poor people striving for a better life amidst political forces determined to keep them in their place.

“It’s sad to think about the books they’ll be missing out on because of unnecessary inappropriate scenes.”

No, ladyass, it’s sad to think about the books your kids will be missing out on because their mother has a frigid, rigid, prude-drooling fear bucket where her brain should be.

I’m trying to imagine her and others of her ilk, going through her books [5] and marking which ones are “safe.”

NOVELS AREN”T SUPPOSED TO BE “SAFE” – THAT’S THE FUCKING POINT.

And that message of hers sparked replies – a back and forth from fellow home- obscurants schoolers who seemed to be almost bragging about the fact that they have lists of “Classic Literature I Don’t Let my Kids Read.”

I just feel like kicking something.

ignorance

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Department of, awwwww…..

A week ago this afternoon, at the invitation of a staff member, I did a reading of The Mighty Quinn followed by a Q & A session [6] at the Hillsboro Boys and Girls Club.  The group of kids attending would be in the 4th – 8th grade age range…or so I was told.  The kids seemed younger; the coordinator explained that, just before she made the announcement to gather in a meeting room for the reading, someone else announced that a movie was going to be shown in another room, and most of the older kids went to the movie.

Well, yeah.

After the reading (and a Q & A session seriously in need of some mediating [7] ) the event coordinator took a picture of me and the kids, and then dismissed the kids to their other activities.  One girl, who had been one of the most enthusiastic Q & A participants, approached me with a shy gleam in her eye.

“Here,” she said, holding out a coin.  “This is for you.”

I must have had a confused look on my face.  “It’s a nickel,” she explained.

Actually, it was a quarter.

Of course I had to take it.  For two reasons

  1. You cannot refuse such an act of generosity from a child.
  2. Have you seen my last royalty statement? I think she may have.
  3. I said, for two reasons.

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The Return of the Santa Hats

As a part of our household’s seasonal décor, anything that can be classified as art, that has a face, must wear a miniature Santa Hat. Don’t ask for an explanation because I don’t understand it myself (and I’m the one who insists on the practice). This has made for a whole lotta Santa hat-making as the years go by and we keep collecting specimens for our Wall of Faces:

This image represents less than 10% of the faces. Be afraid; be very afraid.

This image represents less than 10% of the faces. Be afraid; be very afraid.

 *   *   *

May your days be merry and bright, may you read the classic books and fight the good fights, may your Santa hats fit you just right, and may the holiday hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Yep, I’m talkin’ you, BOM.

[2] And then more pissed for being so petty as to care about a driver’s license picture.

[3] With a near genius child, no money for non-public school options, living where the public school choice is in the lowest 15% of everything (and sends out how-to-keep-your-grade-schooler gang-free info)

[4] Or should I say, retarded. Which I would, if I thought I could get away with the (now) non-PC epithet.

[5] Or, worse, yet, taking some other patsy prig’s  word for it, as she doesn’t seem to be familiar with the books she criticizes.

[6] “Meet a REAL author, who lives in Hillsboro…and you can ask her why the heck she hasn’t moved to Portland!”

[7] At least these kids didn’t ask me how much money I made, but they did ask why I wasn’t giving them free copies of the book.

The Accordion I’m Not Throwing

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As we dive into the holiday season, that time of year when some members of the human race strive to hold charitable thoughts for all members of the human race, I can’t help but reflect upon the fact that my nutmeg grater resembles a Star Trek shuttlecraft. [1]

 

shuttlecraftnutmegshuttlecraft

*   *   *

Chappy Chanukah [2]

Truly, the FSM has touched me with his noodly appendage. I felt his presence – what other possible, earthly explanation could there be for my good fortune? – while searching for Hanukah-themed bling décor for a friend’s upcoming party.  What unbridled joy, to stumble upon a holiday-themed kitchen gadget that incorporated one of my favorite words: [3]

Gentlemen and Ladies, start your latkes.

Gentlemen and Ladies, start your latkes.

*   *   *

While We’re on the Holiday Theme:
Department of Not Passing the Holiday Breathalyzer Test

Fruitcake for the Holidays:  A Special Recipe  [4]

 

Ingredients:
– one cup each of water and white table sugar
– four large eggs
– two cups of dried fruit
– one teaspoon baking soda
– one teaspoon salt
– one cup brown sugar
– lemon juice
– nuts
– one bottle of whisky

Instructions:
Get out a large mixing bowl.   To ensure whiskey is the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink.   Repeat.

Turn on the electric mixer; beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl.  Add one teaspoon of sugar and beat again.

Make sure the whisky is still okay.  Cry another tup.  Turn off the mixer. Break two leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried furit.  Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets tuck in the beaterers pry it loose with a drewscriver.

Sample the whisky to check for tonsisticity.  Next, sift two cups of salt.  Or something. Who cares?  Check the whisky.  Now sift the lemon juice and strain the nuts.  Add one table.  Spoon.  Of sugar or something.  Whatever you can find.

Grease the oven.  Turn the cake tin to 350 degrees.  Don’t forget to beat off the turner.  Throw the bowl out of the window, check the whisky again and go to bed.

Yet another victim of Aunt Erva's Holiday Fruitcake.

Yet another victim of Aunt Erva’s Holiday Fruitcake.

*   *   *

By the end of this day, publicity-shy moiself will have survived enjoyed another public appearance re The Mighty Quinn, this one involving a reading and Q & A session with thirty-to-forty 4th – 8th graders at the Hillsboro Boys & Girls Club.  If only I had some fruitcake to see me through the ordeal.

myfruitcake

*   *   *

The Department of Not Holding My Breath…

In this case I’m not holding it for an apology [5] from anyone else in the paranoid conservative talk show radio foghorns  media, now that the House Intelligence Report on Benghazi has been released.

Brian Joyce, one member of the talk show radio host contingent, wrote a persuasive and seemingly heartfelt apology. I wonder what we’ll hear from the rest of his colleagues?

We told you the President was covering up what happened in Benghazi. We told you the President didn’t have a “shred of integrity” on Benghazi. We told you the President was providing “cover” for the terrorists who killed four Americans in Benghazi. We told you that the President could have helped the four Americans who were killed in Benghazi, but instead ordered the military to “stand down.” Heck, we even told you the President’s Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, faked a concussion just to avoid testifying on Benghazi!

And after two years of trying our best to convince you that all these things were true, it turns out that we, the media, were the ones who were lying.

To those members of the media – specifically, the unmedicated, verbal crap-wiping legion of Fox News-parroting twitclowns – who created the nonexistent “cover-up” of the Benghazi attack, this Asshat of the Week award is for you.

AHat640

*   *   *

Dateline: Last week.  Scenario: offspring (Belle and K) are home for Thanksgiving break. Belle wanted me to run some errands with her after I was done exercising.  After completing my workout I showered and dressed, and as I exited my room, Belle eyed my shirt and gasped.

“Is that velvet?  Velvet and plaid?”

I nodded, and let her caress my sleeve.

“Oh, wow,” she said.  “It’s like the 90s all rolled into one.”

velvetplaid

*   *   *

Department of What If

What if the paper towel dispensers in public restrooms were not motion-activated, but rather emotion-activated?  It wouldn’t be enough to need to dry your hands – you’d have to really, really, demonstrably, want to dry your hands.

dispenser

*   *   *

As my birthday approaches, I’m going to step out of my comfort zone [6] and reveal something personal.  Not only have I never (successfully) played a musical instrument, [7] it has been said (by moiself) that you could inscribe my innate musical ability on the tip of my pinkie finger and still have room for the Declaration of Independence.

However….

Another little-known personal fact:  despite my lack of musical talent, I have demonstrated perfect pitch. I once threw an accordion in a dumpster, where it landed on a vuvuzela.

vuvu

*   *   *

 

May all your pitches strive for such perfection, and may the holiday hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] If you fail to see the resemblance, a little more eggnog might do the trick.

[2] Y’all know the rules, about the ch- pronunciation, right?

[3] That would be spatula.

[4] Too many people, most of them fruitcake recipe testers (hic), I imagine, claim credit for this recipe, so I’ll leave attribution to the Collective Consciousness of Christmas Culture.

[5] Or even explanation for their fear-mongering slathering passing as “investigative concern.”

[6] I hate that phrase – “comfort zone.” Just typing it makes me feel like a slimy mattress salesman with an ill-fitting toupee.

[7] Being the leader of my high school’s AWMKB (All Women’s Marching Kazoo Band) doesn’t count.

The Nothing I’m Not Buying

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҉   Welcome to the post Thanksgiving-post, food-induced coma edition of my blog.   ҉
It’s lighter, less filling, gluten and dairy free
(unless you count the following cheesy jokes):

What happened after an explosion at a French cheese factory?
All that was left was de brie. 

What is the name of the country near Iraq that is made entirely of cheese?
Curd-istan 

What cheese surrounds a medieval castle?
Moatzeralla 

What do you call a hunk of cheddar that isn’t yours?
Nacho Cheese! 

stinkly cheese

*   *   *

Department of Name Your Poison

It’s the day after.  Is it Black Friday for you?  Or National Buy Nothing Day?  It’s your choice.  I sentimentally and intellectually dread the former [1] and support the latter, particularly the organizers’ [2]  suggestions for playful activities to challenge the “entrenched values of capitalism” and shine a spotlight on consumers’ addictions to immediate gratification.

You could camp out in front of the Apple Store with a bajillion greedy, self-centered selfish over-consuming zombies other gadget fans who would trample their own arthritis-stricken grandmother if it meant they could be one of the first to have the hottest techno toy eagerly await the release of the latest I-yi-yi gadget, but it might be more fun to annoy them by participating in a Buy Nothing Day Zombie Walk:

“The cheerful dead wander around malls, marveling at the blank, comatose expressions on the faces of shoppers. The zombies are happy to be among their own kind, but slightly contemptuous of those who have not yet begun to rot.”

adbusters_everything-is-fine-keep-shopping

*   *   *

Making Ursula Proud of Me

Last week Ursula K. LeGuin gave a kickass speech at the National Book Awards ceremony. She was there to receive an award for distinguished contribution to American letters, and in her acceptance speech the not-so-soft-spoken 85 year old LeGuin rebuked literary profiteers and the “corporate fatwa” [3] which IHHO threaten writers.

“Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art….Books, you know, they’re not just commodities. The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art.”

One look at my royalty statements for The Mighty Quinn (or any of my works) would affirm that my motivation must be art, not profit. [4]

Yeah – that’s the ticket.

*   *   *

Just Wondering

Speaking of pathetic royalty statements (an honest-to-goodness segue!), as I ponder my mid life crisis dwindling career options – specifically, should I jump the fiction writers’ ship and if so, is there a less soul-sucking way to remain a part of the Creative Arts ® ? – I find myself considering a foray into movie making.

Yep, like every other writer (established or wannabe) moiself is [5] writing a screenplay.  Do you think Hollywood (or Bollywood?) [6] is ready for the tale of a gigolo with a heart of gold, who services his lonely clients without asking for payment?

I’m thinking of calling it, Free Willy.

Just say the safe word, ma'am, and I'll put on the orca suit.

Just say the safe word, ma’am, and I’ll put on the orca suit.

*   *   *

May your Friday be every color of the rainbow, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Shopping, for me, is a chore, not a recreational pursuit. The idea of voluntarily shopping on one of the busiest shopping days of the year…. I just don’t get it, whomever you are, People Who Do Such Things.

[2] Adbusters

[3] (read: the Amazon- Hatchett dispute)

[4] Either that, or I’m just an incompetent business boob.

[5] I need at least one more footnote, or my footnote-counting friend SCM will complain.

[6] I’m not picky, and I think my idea lends itself well to a lavish musical treatment.

The Pedi I’m Not Curing

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Eat, Hike, Kayak.

manzanita

Make that eat, hike, eat, kayak, eat, hike, eat, go crabbing, kayak, eat, walk along the beach. And did I mention, eat?

This week marked the end of Part I of MH’s and my sabbatical.  We spent four plus weeks at Manzanita, Oregon.  Disneyland, schmisneyland – Manzanita is, for me, (arguably) The Happiest Place on Earth.

Admiring MH's mussels, during a beach hike.

Admiring MH’s mussels, during a beach hike.

My time spent there was invigorating, relaxing, refreshing and reflective.  Unfortunately, despite my opening riff on a certain popular soul-searching/self-discovery title of a few years ago, there will be no book proposal arising from my experiences.

Alas, I am not a self-absorbed thirty-something woman seeking spiritual and emotional clarity after a nasty divorce.

( Y’all know the title to which I refer; it rhymes with Bleat, Bray, Shove. In 2006-2008 TSA employees detained any woman over the age of 21 who intended to board an airplane without carrying a copy of that book ).

Nor I am the local literary darling whose own spiritual-journey-memoir-flavor-of-the-month-book is soon-to-be-a-major-motion-picture. Nope, I am not a woman devastated by loss who seeks deliverance from her dubious personal choices (promiscuity; drug abuse; the belief that using a symbolic surname as your non de plume confers hipness) via a solo wilderness trek.

I just don’t have that hook – in literary biz terms, some scandal-worthy and/or titillating personal details – which would give me a “promotable platform.” What I do have is a picture of a beautiful place MH and I stopped for lunch during our beach hike from Cannon Beach to Humbug Point. Okay, the tip of MH’s banana is visible in the picture – this is my nod to titillating.

beachhike

*   *  *

Department of What Being Married to Me Has Done To Him

I was informing MH of my upcoming schedule in the 1.5 days we have before we travel again, this time, to attend a family wedding. When I told him I planned on treating moiself to a pedicure, MH wondered aloud if that meant my feet would be subject to the ministrations of a pedifile?

Wanna see my BIG toe, little girl?

Wanna see my BIG toe, little girl?

*   *   *

Previews of Coming Attractions

While attending the Harvest Festival of Manzanita’s Community Garden, MH and I signed up for a trial paddling session with the Nehalem Bay Tiderunners, a local branch of the Wasabi dragon boat paddling club of Portland.  Newbies interested in learning about dragon boats joined the Tiderunner veterans in paddling a dragon boat up and down the Nehalem River one cool/gray Saturday morning.  I wish I had a picture of the curious seal whose bobbing head followed the boat during several practice runs.

The dragon boat paddling stroke is different from the kind of paddling one does in the recreational kayaking I have been doing for years.  The technique reminded me of when I participated in the Disneyland Employee Canoe Races, all those years ago.

MH and I had so much fun we stayed for a second session. I’d been considering joining a dragon boat team ever since I first saw several teams practicing in the Willamette River, but I’d always had scheduling conflicts with the various teams’ practice schedules (plus, there’s the drive to Portland and back).  This year, with the looming sabbatical travel, I didn’t want to make any kind of commitment I could not keep…. but when my schedule calms down, I’ll try to find a boat crew that will accept me. You have been warned.

dragonboat

*   *   *

Department of Trying To See Who’s Paying Attention

MH alerted me to an upcoming volunteer opportunity at the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve.  We both separately filled out online volunteer application forms for the event. The form’s first blanks requested first name, middle name, and title.  The form’s title options consisted of  Dr., Jr., Mr., Mrs., Ms., None, Sr.

Harumpf.  There was no option for me to choose or write in my preferred title: N.a.D[1]  Mature person that I am, I accepted the slight. There was, however, a fourth name-related blank: “preferred name, (nickname, etc).” All righty.  I typed, Boutros Boutros Ghali.

A couple of days after completing our application forms, MH and I received identically worded emails – except for the salutation –  [2] from the Volunteer Coordinator. Here was mine:

Hi Boutros Boutros Ghali,
Thank you for volunteering at the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve....

*   *   *

Just Because…

Oui, c'est vrai, je suis belle.

Oui, c’est vrai, je suis belle.

 Sometimes we all need to look at a proud & pretty Parisian Pigeon.

*   *   *

May your paddling stroke efficiently propel the dragon boat of your heart (sorry; I’ve been refining my treacle-laden wedding toast), [3] and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Which stands for, Not a Doctor.  You knew that, I know you did.

[2] His began, Hi _____ (his first name). Can you believe that?

[3] Which may lead to more footnote-worthy stories in next week’s blog.

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