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The Seat Change I’m Not Accommodating

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A Mind is a Terrible Thing To Waste

The dream I had Wednesday night was, perhaps, a plausible consequence of having teased my brain with two very different reading materials earlier in the evening.  The first was Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys, the memoir of Viv Albertine, former guitarist of the seminal punk band, The Slits. The second was a foo-foo foodie blurb about varying key ingredients for a difference in thickness of vinaigrettes.  Hours later, I dreamed I was a musician in a punk tribute band, who did mostly Ramones and Sex Pistols covers. I was the bassist, and took the stage name Cyd Viscous.

Bitchin' name but you spell it like a wanker.

Bitchin’ gob name, but you spell it like a wanker.

*   *   *

Return of the CSA [1]

The produce is here! The produce is here! Yesterday was first weekly pickup of our CSA’s season, which, depending on weather and other farmy  [2] factors, runs ~ mid-to-late April through October.

I loooooooooooooooove going out to La Finquita del Bujo (“The little farm of the owl”), in the scenic Helvetia farmland just north of where I live.

Physician-farmer Lynn (Left) and farmer Juvencio (right)

Physician-farmer Lynn (Left) and farmer Juvencio (right)

I get a feeling of indescribable…tranquility comes closest, when I visit the farm, to load my basket with fresh/seasonal/local produce (I’ve missed having access to Chinese broccoli, which is rarely found in stores), count the farm goats’ kids and try to spot the swallow’s nests in the barn rafters.

Yummers – lots of green for dinner tonight.

greens

*   *   *

Enough with the waxing bucolic. This is my blog, after all. Must be time to complain about something.

Department of Hormonal Ranting

You may have stepped in this pile of festering oral turd spew run across the story in several news venues. It seems that Texas businesswoman Cheryl Rios, CEO of a Dallas PR firm – the aptly named Go Ape Marketing –  said that although she supports “equal rights,” a woman “shouldn’t be president” because of “different hormones” and “biblical sound reasoning.”

facepalm

BBBRRRRRRRAAAAAAAA. I’m sorry, Tex-Ass CEO, but that buzzer means you’ve forfeited your chance to play in the Double Jeopardy round.

Women and men do *not* have different hormones – although the ones affecting this particular woman’s neuromodulators need some tweaking, as her asshat statements indicate. On the other hand, you have different fingers, in the case of most of the blather involving the word hormones, it is likely that she is simply ignorant, rather than willfully sexist.

Hormone, schmormone. Let’s all take The Hormone Pledge ®  and stop using the term as a catch-all, mysterious gender chemical label – because it isn’t. People who say “hormones” affect behavior are likely referring to (what they think are the) “sex” hormones, and totally forgetting the incredible assortment of the body’s most powerful behavior regulating hormones (e.g., leptin, one of the key regulators of appetite) – that, like the majority hormones, have nothing to do with gender.

A hormone is, in simple terms, a chemical messenger produced by human organs and tissues that is used for sending signals to other organs and tissues, to coordinate the body’s activities. The vast majority of hormones (and there almost one hundred) are involved in regulating digestion, metabolism, respiration, tissue function, sensory perception, sleep, stress, growth and development, ambulation….you know, * everything.* All hormones are found in both men and women, in amounts that vary only slightly between genders in the case of estrogens (mistakenly referred to as “female” hormones – men also have estrogen) and androgens (mistakenly called “male” hormones – females also have androgens).

Back to the story, hormonally balanced boys and girls.  As per the Huffington Post‘s account, Ms. Rios the Texas CEO (which in her case must stand for Christian Empty-headed Organism)  made a Facebook post in which she “…stressed that ‘there’s an old biblical sound reasoning why a woman shouldn’t be president.’ ” But, golly gee whizzing snakes in a garden, she didn’t cite any biblical verses to support her view.

As for her – or anyone – citing “biblical reasoning” to justify anything – by now y’all are aware on my opinions on that matter.  Ain’t enough hormones on the planet to explain that Go Ape Shit.

tapeshit

*   *   *

Preview of Coming Attractions

Mark your calendars, local book lovers: A week from this Saturday, on April 25, the Beaverton City Library will hold a book fair featuring local (Washington & Multnomah county) authors.

2015 Author Fair

The event, ingeniously titled Author! Author!, is free, open to the unwashed lit-loving public who, from 10a – 1p may browse and (hopefully) purchase selected titles of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and children’s literature penned by local authors, as well as rub shoulders [3] with authors and fellow bookworms.

Yours truly will be there, with copies of The Mighty Quinn, and also my short fiction collection, This Here and Now . [4]  Do stop by, if you can, to say howdy, browse the titles, and maybe bring me some celery sticks.

TMQcover4x6THAN Cover OWC

*   *   *

Department of Are We (Still) Having Fun Yet?

Recently there have been several articles, in the New York Times and other news outlets, about how flights to and from the Tel Aviv airport [5] have experienced delays and disruptions when ultra-Orthodox Jewish men refuse to be seated next to women.

Andrew Roffe, 31, a writer based in Los Angeles, said he and a friend wound up debating the ethics of the situation after Mr. Roffe described his experience on a flight….. When passengers started to board, an ultra-Orthodox man stood in the aisle, refusing to move and delaying the departure for 15 to 20 minutes until another passenger volunteered to switch seats.
“My buddy who is Orthodox was saying this is a traditional thing — he doesn’t want to be tempted when his wife wasn’t there. And I said, ‘Are you kidding?’ This was just some woman flying to work or home and minding her own business.”
(When a Plane Seat Next to a Woman Is Against Orthodox Faith, NY Times, 4-9-15)

cooties

In many of these incidences, airlines and/or passengers have tried to accommodate the Orthodox ortho-assholes’ men’s demands, a fact that is almost as infuriating to me as the idiocy of the demands themselves. Such “tolerance” is in fact abetting ignorance, discrimination and bigotry – don’t do it, folks. Would you accommodate a demand from a member of Christian Identity, or one of the other religious groups that believe in the separation of “the races,” if he refused to be seated next to an African or Latino or Asian man?

A flight from New York to Tel Aviv was delayed by half an hour last week after a group of male ultra-Orthodox Jewish passengers refused to sit next to women, the third such incident in recent months….The cabin crew tried to find seats for the men, but were met with refusal by other passengers, some of whom who took a dim view of the reasoning behind the request.
(“Groups of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men keep delaying flights by refusing to sit next to women,” The Independent, 4-16-15 my emphases)

A dim view, ahem.  Once again, I ponder the dimmest of views that the backward thinking which produces the shrouding of women, both literally and metaphorically begets. Religions and cultures which preach restrictions for women, and for men’s contact with women, almost always cloak (yuk yuk) or justify such restrictions about women as being a protection for women; specifically, to preserve women’s modesty and/or privacy, to prevent them from being considered sex objects, to shield them from the less than gracious gaze of the menfolk, yada yada yucka.

Aside from the fact that religions which forbid or severely restrict intra-gender contact outside of marriage [6] are JUST PLAIN MYSOGYNIST and severely fucked up, the restrictions (for both men and women) end up doing the opposite of what the proponents of them say they do. Restrictions and proscriptions for women deeply and relentlessly sexualize women.

Limiting women’s physical presence in/access to public society and limiting inter-gender contact combined with shrouding the female form – these practices practically scream to men, LOOK, IT’S A WOMAN !!  Males raised in societies where they have little or no contact with unrelated females learn a warped, circular, paradoxical social dynamic – ’tis a  Catch-22 situation that reinforces the dangerous nonsense they are taught. They don’t get to know girls and women as people, but as The Other. This mysterious, dangerous, Other’s mere presence will tempt them to stray from whatever path they’ve been taught they must follow…and yet, they must desire this Other, as per Allah’s/Yahweh’s plan for family and procreation. Since the men in such societies don’t get to know women as friends, mere acquaintances or co-workers, women are either relatives or potential mates – potential seductresses! – who therefore must be cloistered and….round and round and round again.

burqua

Although there is nothing arguably or intrinsically private or provocative about a human being’s elbow, human nature being what it is, if you are indoctrinated with the idea that catching even a glimpse of a woman’s uncovered  ____ (hair, feet, elbows, nostrils) is provocative, then it will become that forbidden fruit.  I saw her suggestively wrinkled arm joint and  felt a pang of lust – it must be true — praise Yahweh/Allah/Fox News and get that hussy away from me! [7]

I keep thinking about the Orthodox man on the airplane, who said he didn’t want to be “tempted” by sitting next to a woman. [8] Poor schmuck. The average American man boarding a crowded plane is not thinking about avoiding temptation when he is seated next to the average American woman. Yo, Ortho dude, here is what normal, rational people think about on airplanes: they wonder how long/late the flight will be and what will happen to their luggage, and will their rental car reservations be messed up like the last time they flew to Cleveland. They are hoping the human beings seated on either side of them are not Amway distributors looking for new recruits or the type of people who chow down three garlic sauerkraut chili dogs from the airport’s Baby Got Brat kiosk before boarding a six-hour nonstop flight.

♫ I like big brats and I cannot lie... ♫

♫ I like big brats & I cannot lie…♫

 

*   *   *

 

May all of your fellow travelers in life be healthfully-hormoned, and superstition- and sauerkraut–free, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] You knew that was Community Supported Agriculture and not Confederate States of America, didn’t you?

[2] Sorry to get all agricultural-technical on you, and in only the second paragraph.

[3] And elbows or other non-sexual body parts, which still may be threatening to Ultra-Orthodox Jews (story to follow).

[4] Which is out of print – RIP, Scrivenery Press – and may only be obtained from the author herself, ahem.

[5] And, more and more, other destinations, as the high-birthrate Orthodox population increases, and encounters the rational – i.e. non-Orthodox – world.

[6] e.g. most strains of Islam, Hasidic and other varieties of Ultra-Orthodox Judaism.

[7] Although I’m singling out conservative Jews and Muslims here, I hold the same contempt for conservative Christians’ Purity Movement and similar organizations, which over-emphasize and warp human sexuality via their obsessive teachings on “sexual purity” (shudder).

[8] Time to tempt SCM with another footnote to nowhere. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

The Headline I’m Not Walking In

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"Is it hot in here, Gov. Perry, or is it just me?"

“Is it hot in here, Gov. Scott, or is it just me?”

What follows is not something made up by The Onion.

*   *   *

Department of No Comment

From salon.com:  “A slew of unconfirmed reports indicate that Florida Governor Rick Scott has banned state officials from using the term ‘climate change’…. Despite Scott’s repeated denial that such a law exists, in a new video released by climate activist organization Forecast the Facts, Director of Florida Division of Emergency Management Bryan Koon clearly tries to avoid using the phrase in a public hearing.

*   *   *

On Second Thought : Comment

Climate Change! Climate Change! GLOBAL WARMING WARMING
WARMING Climate Change! Climate Change! Climate Change!

Dang…there goes my career in Florida politics.

Now that I’ve nothing to lose: Gov. Rick Scott – this ass hat award’s for you.

AHat

*   *   *

The Rhythm Method

K and Belle were home last week, for their Spring Break. After they returned to college it took two days for me to realize that the schools here (Oregon) are on Spring break this week. Is there some holiday/teacher contract day I don’t know about? I wondered to moiself during my morning walk on Monday, when I noticed the absence of students waiting at the curbside bus stops. I noticed the same thing Tuesday morning, and subsequently my brilliant powers of deduction that sense of oh, gee, school must be out kicked in.

Einstein

I’d heard about this from other parents, about how when your kids go off to college and/or work, the rhythms of your personal/professional life and family schedule – which revolved in large measure around your children’s school schedules – seem to disappear.  [1]

*   *   *

Department of Education

I think I learned a wee lesson in compassion this week.

A marketplace has emerged, where public humiliation is a commodity and shame is an industry. How is the money made? Clicks.  The more shame, the more clicks; the more clicks, the more advertising dollars.
We’re in a dangerous cycle. The more we click on this kind of gossip, the numb we become to the lives behind it. And the more numb we get, the more we click. All the while, someone is making money off of someone else’s suffering.”

If, like me, you were fascinated/angered/bemused/repulsed by the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal of seventeen years ago, you need to hear Monica Lewinsky’s TED talk on The Price of Shame.

Lewinsky was the same age then as my son is now when she began an affair with her boss which led to, among many other events, the first national case of what we now call cyber bullying and/or slut shaming. Listening to her speech, I realized for the first time (a) how young she’d been when she (admittedly and profoundly regretfully) did something really, really stupid, [2] and (b) how painful the consequences were, for herself and her family, of having her mistake made public.

Even if you think you had/have little interest in the pathetic affair, you heard the stories and the jokes, and we all formed opinions on the ensuring events based, at least in part, on the ensuing gossip.

Listen to her speech. We – the American public – owe it to both Ms. Lewinsky and ourselves to imagine, as she puts it, “walking a mile in someone else’s headline.”

cyberbully

*   *   *

Blast From the Past

Whatever prompted the following stroll down Memory Lane, [3] I cannot recall, but I am grateful to the whimsical brain breezes which produced it.

Dateline: a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away – a galaxy which happened to have a Barnes & Noble bookstore. Friend LU and I were cruising the B & N stacks, looking for – surprise! – a book (the title of which escapes me now..I think it was something by Stephen Jay Gould).  As we passed by the religion section stacks I noticed a display rack in the Christian Nonfiction section for books whose titles proclaimed the glories of “Submissive Womanhood.”

Naturally, I decided an act of guerrilla feminism was called for.

LU stood as lookout for B & N employees (a task she performed admirably, despite almost pissing herself with laughter) while I moved the entire submissive pile of shit stack of books to the section labeled Christian Fiction.

"Dear Lord, why does having a brain make my ass look big?"

“Dear Lord Jesus,
does having a brain make my ass look big?”

*   *   *

The Problem With Inspirational Quotes

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
(Eleanor Roosevelt)

Uh…okay.

BTW, Ellie – may I call you Ellie? – here are just a few of the things that scare me:

* sticking my hand down an active garbage disposal
*running over my neighbor’s “un-schooled/free range” kid when he darts into the street from between parked cars

* stepping into an open septic tank
* boarding the light rail and realizing, after the train takes off, that the car is filled with rival gang members
* eating a carton of yogurt that is years past its expiration date
* encountering a pissed-off ____ (bear; cougar; moose) when I’m hiking and have to go off-trail to take a leak.

Hmmmm. Which one shall I do today?

Got it; this is your spot – I'll just move on.

Got it; this is your spot – I’ll just move on.

*   *   *

I recently finished reading two rock musician memoirs. The first was Punk Rock Blitzkrieg, the byline of which reads Marky Ramone with Richard Herschlag. Most of my fellow writers know full well what with means in a byline. The name that follows with (aka as told to) is the name of the person actually wrote the book – it is the name of the writer who cobbled together a coherent narrative after the famous-person-who-is-not-a-writer spent weeks or days downloading their thoughts to a tape recorder.

Despite having been ghostwritten, the Marky Ramone book was an enjoyable read. IMHO, with managed to capture the self-deprecating charm, boyish enthusiasm and generous spirit the Ramone’s drummer had and still has, after all these years, toward his music and his bandmates.

Then, there was Kim Gordon’s Girl in a Band.  Which was written all by her lonesome, apparently, as there is no with listed.

Pity.

Let me just say that I am not going to make it through this book was my mantra (until I actually finished it).

Yeah, I get that Gordon never intended to be in Sonic Youth, or in any band (or so she proclaims in every other chapter) – I get that ART (always capitalized, in intent of not punctuation) was her goal and muse.

Oh, the names she drops and hoists, again and again, of the art crowd, curators and gallery owners, the painters, the showings, and the paintings… There was a _____   ! [4] in the gallery, imagine that.

Gordon does make some interesting observations about feminism in the music and art worlds, but the performance art-style posturing tone of the book was a little too precious for moiself.  It made me want to invite her to my house and show her my art collection – a variety of works, from sculpture to pottery to paintings, by talented Pacific Northwest artists unknown to the Manhattan bozos bohos but nonetheless talented.  I may not have a Richard Prince in my “gallery,” but I do have a have a Tucker, a Henson, several Haworths and a Gabriel and another Gabriel and two Bonofiglios and a Grover and a Visse and Aukshunas and a Pickering [5]…and my pride and joy in my original pieces by S. Wagnell and E. Wagnell.

Original drawing by E. Wagnell

Original drawing by E. Wagnell

Original sculpture by S. Wagnell

Original sculpture by S. Wagnell

*   *   *

Department of Over Compensating

On the subject of art and pretension, after my outing to Portland’s Pearl District last week, I have an open suggestion to the vertically-challenged man wearing a leather biker jacket and an ill-fitting rug who paused to check his reflection in the driver’s side mirror before he locked his Lamborghini:

Dude, why not just get a vanity plate that reads, TINYPNS ?

Another thing that don’t make no sense: Duuuuuuuude, if you can afford a car like that, what’s with the Dollar Tree toupee?

Now, that's more like it.

Now, that’s more like it.

*   *   *

May your automobile choices be compensation-free,
may your life choices scare the crap out of Eleanor Roosevelt,

and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] However, having worked for a private OB/GYN practice and several Planned Parenthoods, I have nothing good to say about the rhythm method or those who practice it.

[2] …and how lucky I and my peers were, to have committed our youthful indiscretions out of the internet’s/social media’s/cell phone’s all-seeing, all-blabbing eyes.

[3] Which is also the real name of a real street near where I lived in Santa  Ana, CA. Strange, that I can’t recall much about Memory Lane….

[4] Insert name of any artist unknown to those outside the Manhattan bohemian scene.

[5] Jimmy Pickering also illustrated my picture book, My Closet Threw a Party. So there’s my name dropping for the day.

The Offer I’m Not Accepting

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A Nice Way To Start The Week

Dateline: Monday, ~ 7:50 am, out for my morning walk. On my way back home I approach a path that cuts through a local park. The path starts near a sidewalk which is a school bus stop for one of the local high schools. Three groups of kids wait at the stop:

* two Latino boys to the far right of the sidewalk, their laughter carrying a block away.

* three girls “in the middle” of the sidewalk, about ten feet away from the boys, are talking with each other. The girls, who appear to be Asian and Latina, are slim, fashionably dressed, and gorgeous.

* and one…well, not a group, but one student stands far to the left of the others. The one is a very tall, very chubby, very white and very lonely looking boy, hair and clothing by Nerdstyle. His gaze is fixed downward at his ratty, generic sneakers.

The dynamic seemed obvious.

lonelyboy

One of the girls glances over her shoulder at Lonely Boy. She looks back at her group, at the other two boys, then leaves her friends and sidles over to Lonely Boy. As I approach and pass by them I hear her ask him about his project.[1]  I also catch the look on Lonely Boy’s face – the shy but noticeable, hopeful, gleam in his eyes.

Someone is paying attention to me.

The act and consequence, however fleeting, of a moment of connection and kindness…. It stayed with me the rest of the day.

*   *   *

The preceding warm fuzzy was brought to by The Treacledown Theory. We return you to our regular shit-talking programming.

*   *   *

Department of Burning Bridges

This week I received the following offer for publication:

First, let me apologize for the serious delay in my response.  Second, we would love to publish “____________” (name of my story) in ___________ (journal name), for publication in 2016.  I understand there is a good likelihood this piece been picked up elsewhere.  Please let me know if it’s still available.
Thanks so much for your submission. ____________(Editor name)

I had long ago written off that submission (which I do with any submitted work when the editors have not replied within their journal’s stated length-of-reply period) as an assumed rejection.

The story Redacted Journal Name wants to publish was sent to them, by moiself, in January 2012. No, that is not a typo. Longest reply ever. One thousand fifty-four days to consider a 3000 word story. [2] Also, this journal “pays” their contributors only in copies of said journal. [3]

I think I’ll wait…oh, maybe three years or so…to decline their generous offer.

burning bridge

*   *   *

More From The Wacky World o’ Literature Files

I’ve been a writer for some time, submitting my work, having it be both accepted and rejected. In years of doing so I’ve had many Interesting Experiences, ®  and two Standout Experiences this week alone (one of which is the afore-mentioned longest reply ever).

Interesting Experiences include having manuscripts returned to me that I neither submitted nor penned. That is, I’d sent a manuscript of mine to a publisher, and that publisher returned to me a manuscript that was not mine – one that had been submitted to the same publisher, by another author.

REALLY

Really.

These mistakes I found both amusing (okay, my manuscript was not right for you, but you couldn’t just say “No, thanks,” – you had to send me someone else’s rejected work?) and alarming (Yikes – is this the attentive care you take with all of your submissions?).

In each case of errant manuscript return, the other authors’ last names also started with a P or were vaguely similar to mine (I assume the errors were blamed on overworked or alphabetically-challenged editorial assistants). After alerting the publishers of their respective mishaps, at their request I destroyed the manuscripts…but not before reading the opening pages or chapters, [4] and doing so has given me a high appreciation of what publishers and editors must wade through on a daily basis, and an even higher suspicion of self-published works. [5]

So. On to this week’s Standout Experience #2.

Never have I been addressed as Mrs., nor have I ever used that title, either personally or professionally. This week I received a reply to a query, from a publisher who addressed me as Mrs. Parnell. That is something I’d expect from junk mail/catalog come-ons, not from a publisher…who, BTW, who knows nothing of my marital status, which should be irrelevant in professional correspondence, anyway.

Professionally or personally, it is wrong to refer to me as Mrs. Parnell. I have been, and always shall be your friendDammit, Spock – cease the mind meld at once!

Live long and apologize when necessary.

Live long and apologize when necessary.

I’ll try that again. I have been, and always shall be, Ms.-Parnell-please-call-me-Robyn.

MH, renegade trendsetter that he is, kept his birth surname when we married. So did I. I have never been a Mrs. Anyname.

In over twenty-seven years, editors and publishers have always addressed me as Ms. Parnell. It just struck me as…odd. I was annoyed by that salutation coming from a publisher, then annoyed by my own annoyance.

Mrs.

*   *   *

I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.
(George Bernard Shaw)

Now that I have Mr. Shaw’s permission, I shall spice my conversation:

Our purpose in life isn’t outsourced.
(Robyn Parnell, re how the religion-free create meaning in life)

“…all ministers are slave-traders – all Christian ministers (Paul called himself a slave, Jesus said you should become captive and you should submit and deny yourself ). They are preaching a backward message about life and about purpose.”
 (excerpt from an interview with Dan Barker, Freethought Today radio podcast, 3-14-15 [6])

Yep, that’s  Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Dan Barker, himself a former evangelical minister, referring to megachurch pastor Rick Warren and other such pastors as slave-traders, in an interview about Barker’s new book, Life Driven Purpose. LDP, published by Pitchstone Publishing, aims to be “the first atheist book shelved in the inspirational section” of bookstores.

barker

According to Barker, the whole point of the book is to “flip everything around,” as per the message from books like the Rev. Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, and other “inspirational” titles which claim people cannot have a life of meaning without (their particular brand of) religion. More excerpts from Barker’s interview:

The good news in a nutshell is that there is no purpose of life – and that is great news! Because if there’s a purpose of life, that means we are secondary; we’re having to look up somewhere for someone to hand it to us – ‘here’s what you are’ – we’re like slaves, we’re like servants to whoever this boss is, as the Bible teaches. But the really great news is that although there is no purpose of life – and we shouldn’t want there to be, because life is its own reward – that doesn’t mean that there’s no purpose in life…. Atheists and nonbelievers have immense purpose in our lives….

“I think we atheists are truly in-spired, while (religious) believers are out-spired. They don’t have any in-spiration; they have to get it all from someone outside of themselves telling them, ‘Here’s your marching orders; here’s your rules to live, don’t think for yourselves – it’s not about you,’ like Rick Warren says. We atheists and non-believers find purpose and meaning, we create purpose and meaning within ourselves.”

Whenever I run across a reference to Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, I find myself wondering what purpose drove Warren when he visited Uganda in 2008, where he supported Ugandan Anglican’s bishops in their boycott of other Anglican’s  support for LGBT/human rights  and declared that “homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus is not a human right,” after which the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (originally called the “Kill the Gays Bill”) was introduced in the Ugandan parliament.  [7]

gayugandanajpg

Anyway….

Dan Barker’s book will be released in April, and can be pre-ordered from the usual outlets.

*   *   *

Department of There Needs to Be Such A Thing

After friend SCM brought her yummy-yum-yummers potatoes to our Sunday St. Patrick’s Day-The Ides of March-Pi Day-Mardi Gras-Spring celebratory dinner, I suggested she and I form PLASMA, which is a scrambled acronym for what would be the Lumpy Artisinal Mashed Potato Appreciation Society. [8]

While I appreciate pureed foods in many forms, I am suspicious of mashed potatoes that have no lumps or “substance” whatsoever. Totally smooth mashed potatoes are a template for lefse but, IMHO, have little purpose outside of that. I prefer my MPs to have texture; i.e., chunks of delicious potatoes.

I volunteer to assume the duties and responsibilities of PLASMA’s The Dowager Lumpy. I will gladly accept suggestions for the title to be bestowed upon the genteel (and gentile, to boot) SCM.

Mashed potatoes without lumps? How middle class.

Mashed potatoes without lumps? How middle class.

*   *   *

Department of It’s Obvious, Dude

To the residents of the really-needs-the-lawn-mown-and-siding-painted house, every window of which is covered with aluminum foil and/or an American flag:

Wouldn’t it just be easier to hang a sign on the front door that says, We cook meth here?

nothin' to hide in here, no sir.

nothin’ to hide in here, no sir, officer sir.

*   *   *

May your salutations be appropriate, may your mashed potatoes be lumpy, may your view stay foil-free, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] The high school they attend has a mandatory Senior Project for graduating students, and this would be the time of the year students would be working on their projects.

[2] That’s 2.6 words a day. Of course I did the math.

[3] I no longer submit work to publications that offer no monetary compensation to writers.

[4] I at first thought they might be my works, and each time this happened I wondered why the publisher had taken the time and expense to return my ms., despite my having clearly requested in my cover letter that the publisher follow the industry standard on hard copy submissions (which is to destroy/recycle the ms. and reply via the enclosed SASE).

[5] I cringe to think that those would-be books I read could make it to publication without having gone through the “gate keepers” (i.e. they were in need of severe editing)…and suck writing can, nowadays, thanks to the self-publishing industry.

[6] Yes – almost the best Pi day date ever!

[7] Rick Warren was not the only American conservative minister to export their anti-LGBT propaganda to Africa.

[8] Artisinal because you can’t spit without hitting artisanal something in the Portland area.

The Green Armband I’m Not Wearing

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I am no longer wearing it. I wore it for three days, starting last Friday, when Leonard Nimoy died. Green is the color of Vulcan blood. You knew that.

symbol

Leonard Nimoy was, of course, best known for his portrayal of the iconic Star Trek character, Mr. Spock. [1] Nimoy was also a talented writer and screenwriter, director and photographer and singer. [2]

Oh yeah, and he also appeared in the “The Challenge,” which is arguably the Best. Automobile Commercial. Ever.

In late 1979 or early 1980, my parents drove up from So Cal to visit me and check out my first post-college apartment in the Bay Area. A week before the trip they asked me if I wanted them to bring along their old black and white TV set, which, they said, was mine if I wanted it (they’d recently purchased a new color TV, and they knew I had no TV set of any color.). I said thanks, but no. I didn’t watch much television at the time, except for the occasional special event (e.g. The Olympic Games). [3]  I called them back in a couple of days and asked them to bring the set along – I ‘d just found out that Star Trek reruns were going to be broadcast on some local channel.

Upon hearing the news of Nimoy’s death, my siblings and I exchanged a series of emails, in which we reminisced and recommended our respective favorite Star Trek “Spock-centric” episodes, which got me to thinking about the impact a piece of art and an artist [4] can have on one’s life.

I have never attended a Star Trek (nor any fan) convention nor have I ever had the slightest interest in doing so (other than having a fleeting curiosity about attending a ST convention with a cultural anthropologist’s mindset to observe the behavior of obsessive social misfits devoted fans). Still, the Star Trek series and its television and movie sequels and prequels and spinoffs have been an important part of my “entertainment life” for over forty years. That’s worth at least three days of official if casual, armband-wearing mourning. And a lifetime of memories.

My friend MM, when he heard the news, posted the most succinctly appropriate sendoff or tribute I’ve seen:

One to beam up.

Nimoy

*   *   *

Department of My Brain Hurts

Sometimes once something gets in print or gets in a textbook or gets on people’s public radar, it just sticks around, even if there’s reason to suspect that the idea’s just wrong.
(Laurie Santos, professor of psychology at Yale University,

Director of the Comparative Cognition Laboratory)

brain

The latest episode of Freakonomics, the radio show that explores “the hidden side of everything,” is inspired by the book This Idea Must Die: Scientific Theories That Are Blocking Progress. Freakonomics’ 3-5-2015 podcast, “This Idea Must Die” is both a treat and torture for idea junkies, and features interviews with a variety of Notable People ® from a variety of professions, all of whom were asked to propose answers to the same question:  “What (scientific) idea is ready for retirement?”

My head felt ready to explode as I began to consider the various propositions, which included

* A professor of cognitive science at University College London would like to kill off the idea that people are either right-brained or left-brained (“an idea that makes no physiological sense”);

* A professor at Harvard Business School wants to retire the idea that that markets are good…and the idea that markets are bad;

* A professor of quantum mechanical engineering at M.I.T. professor of quantum mechanical engineering at M.I.T. would like to retire the idea of “the universe;”

* An oncologist, professor of medicine and director of the MDS Center at Columbia University wants to retire “mouse models” from use in drug development for cancer therapy…

And how about the following for an apoplectic, [5] contemplation-o-rama:

“I think an idea that is bad, that’s really detrimental to society, is the idea that life is sacred.”
(Steve Levitt, Freakonomics co-author, economist at the University of Chicago.)

You owe your brain a listen.

*   *   *

It’s Flicker Time

hammer

No no no no no no no. That’s Flicker Time, not Hammer Time.

But while I’m on the subject, I’m standing here, in my office, staring at this parcel that was delivered  to our house by mistake. I just don’t know what to do. I know I should return it, but it’s addressed to MC Hammer, soooooo, I can’t touch this.

Thank you, Ladies and Germs, you’re too kind.

Back to Flicker Time.

flicker

One of the harbingers of the spring-that-shall-soon-be-here is the sound produced by a Northern Flicker, when s/he [6] is declaring territory with the help of technology.

Northern Flickers (along with most woodpecker species) “drum” on objects to declare territory, warn off rivals and attract and communicate with their mates. Before humans came along to muck up alter the environment, Flickers had to be satisfied with mere tree trunks to drum. They want to make the loudest noise possible from the highest spot possible, which is why, for suburban-dwelling Flickers, paradise is a neighborhood filled with houses that have metallic vents, chimney guards and flashings on their roofs.

I love to hear the sounds of Flicker housetop-drumming when I’m out for my morning walk. The part of me that enjoys petty irritations inflicted upon other people loves to imagine the reactions of the occupants whose houses are selected for Flicker drumming. I speak from experience: the first time you hear that noise, reverberating down your chimney and bouncing off the walls, it can be quite disconcerting until you figure out what the heck it is, where the heck it is coming from and who the heck is doing it.

"Everybody look at meeee! I've got my own drumming spaceship!"

“Everybody look at meeee! I’ve got my own drumming spaceship!”

*   *   *

Happy (early) 22nd Birthday to my son, K.

Hard to believe that my adorable “leaf boy” is twenty-two.

October 1995, near the Mackenzie River.

October 1995, near the Mackenzie River.

*   *   *

My Daughter the DJ

Keep it locked on the sound, 90.1 KUPS.

Excuse me for yet another a parental pride freak-out, but that’s my daughter on the air, announcing her college radio station’s motto.  All together now:

AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.

Cat’s Got Your Tongue is what Belle is calling her show on KUPS, at the prime slot of Wednesday mornings, 6 am.. Her focus is “Indie folk,” which means that lucky listeners such as moiself get to hear songs about how “the robots are going to help us find our crystal” (after the pirates have stolen it). [7]

KUPS is a college radio station and sounds like one – interesting if sporadic programming, there are gaps in their schedule, and their website needs updating (Belle’s shift is not listed, ahem). Oh, and apparently no one at the radio station can agree about why their mascot is…what it is.

KUPS

*   *   *

When I’ve completed a new project and am researching publishers, one of the first things I do is check out the manuscript submission guidelines that are found on the publishing houses’ websites.  I am not a writer of genre fiction; thus, I rule out publishers that specialize in genres (unless they also publish literary fiction).  Sometimes, even when it is obvious from first glance that a publisher is genre-specific, I linger at the site, just to get an idea of how many ridiculous sub-categories there are and imagine the minds of people who read that shit genres are out there.

Such lingering occurred early this week, when I ran across a relatively new publishing house that specialized in the Romance genre. I was struck by the extensive sub-categories of Romance, some (okay; most) of which I had no idea existed:  Adventure Romance; Dark Fantasy; Futuristic; Gothic; Interracial; LGBT; Medical; Military; Paranormal; Regency; Rock ‘n Roll; Science Fiction; Time-Travel;Urban Fantasy…

Oh, and the publishers noted they were particularly interested in Amish Romance.

REALLY

Amish Romance?

I’d heard of the Christian – aka Inspirational – Romance genre, the guidelines of which are fairly strict: protagonists must behave according to “Christian tenets” and shun alcohol, tobacco, profanity and drugs; sexual desire and content is only hinted at or avoided entirely and must be heterosexual in nature; no nookie before marriage, and romantic encounters must lead to marriage or the promise of it somewhere in a golden horizon that is planned by their god; relationships with non-believers are either forbidden or presented in a negative light unless the plot involves the heathen love interest being “led to Christ.” A typical blurb for a mainstream Christian romance novel:

Bethany La Chasteté and  Rick Granarbor are not ready for the feelings that may blow apart their plans for their lives. Can they learn to trust that God has his own?

Once again, I digress.

An Amish romance novel? Who would read it – certainly not an actual Amish person. So then, who is the target audience? The comparatively frisky Mennonites?

Are those bees in the girls' bonnets or are they just happy to see us?

Are those bees in the girls’ bonnets or are they just happy to see us?

I’m trying to picture what, exactly, might constitute conflict and tension in an Amish Romance novel. An exchange of longing gazes over buttonhooks; the gentle stroking of a beard while sneaking surreptitious glances at an apron string fluttering in the sultry summer breeze; the coveting of the neighbor farm boy’s well-endowed buggy….

Joseph, Samuel and Jacob – is it hot in here or is it just me? Excuse me while I lie down and loosen my bonnet.

Although Rebecca's fiery temper has driven away every suitor, Reuben was ready to p lough the fallow fields of her heart.

Although Rebecca’s temper had driven away every suitor, Reuben was ready to plow the fallow fields of her heart.

 

*   *   *

May you live long and prosper, may you be the target audience of the genre of your choice, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] Nimoy was also instrumental in developing the character’s history, distinctive body language and personality, according to Star Trek writers, producers and fellow actors.

[2] No…he was not a talented singer, as evidenced here.

[3] During my college and Young Adult Working Years © I missed many television shows now considered iconic (Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, ad nauseum) and had to learn about them in other ways, to fill the gaps in my popular culture knowledge, which is important for doing crossword puzzles.

[4] Yes, I’m counting a television show as art.

[5] Well, perhaps, if you’re religious, just that idea might send you into fits. I fully agree with retiring the idea that life – that anything – is “sacred,” but not for the (economic) reasons Levitt cites.

[6] Both sexes will drum and call to declare and protect their territory.

[7] Dillon’s Hey Beau.

 The Bush I’m Not Beating Around

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Happy Day-After Darwin Day

Darwinday

It’s not too late to celebrate it, if you missed it or forgot.

There are several organizations that wish to make International Darwin Day an internationally recognized holiday, in order to inspire people:

“…throughout the globe to reflect and act on the principles of intellectual bravery, perpetual curiosity, scientific thinking, and hunger for truth as embodied in Charles Darwin.”

So, there’s that.

Closer to home, you could be inspired to keep up the fight for truth, justice, and the rational way, or follow my example – when in doubt on how to commemorate something, make a special meal. [1]

Oh, joy, another celebratory dinner.

Oh, joy, another celebratory dinner.

Last night I made a Darwin Day primordial fish soup. I made a rich fish stock as a base, for which I must thank the always-helpful New Seasons Market fishmongers, who ventured into the big freezers to fetch me some halibut bones. On to the second stock [2], which I pureed, then added cubed cooked celeriac (aka celery root) and steamed green beans and chunks of cooked fish.

Most any mild, white-fleshed fish would work well with this recipe. Considering that many of Darwin’s contemporaries variously feared for or threatened the fate of his “immortal soul,” I thought a filet of Dover sole would be appropriate.

Hint for a really amazing fish soup: cook the fish separately and add it to the soup just before serving. I cut the filet into smaller pieces and poached them in olive oil. I forget where I got that tip – Julia Child?  Jacques Pepin? Lady GaGa? – but it was easy, decadent, and delicious.

♫ Can't read my, Can't read my, no he can't read my poach-fish face...♫

♫ Can’t read my, Can’t read my, no he can’t read my poach-fish face…♫

*   *   *

Another commemoration, of sorts.

Wednesday marked the 6th anniversary of my father’s death. Chet Parnell would have liked the fish soup.  This picture of us was taken at Christmas, 1975.

 

ChetandRobbieDoll1975

*   *   *

Attention, Old Persons and Sports People

I recently purchased a foot acupressure mat, which came with several roller tubes and other foot massage devices. I have treated myself to professional foot massages on several occasions, and would like to be able to do something similar at home.

Not for a moment do I believe the woo about how pressing on certain “energy points” on the sole of my foot will “free a blockage,” stimulate a vital organ, restore “total health,” or effect any of the other silly claims made by the mat’s makers. It’s just that an acupressure or reflexology-based foot massage Feels. So. Good.

Extra feel-good bonus: the mat, manufactured in India or SW Asia, comes with two delightfully stilted, isn’t-it-amazing!-lost-in-translation, English language instruction sheets which, for entertainment reasons, I can’t bear to recycle right now:

Ideal for * House Wives * Office Executives * Old Persons * Sports People
Computerised foot shape…helps you to place your feet in correct direction (not in haphazard manner)
Mat is made up from very tough, long lasting, virgin material [3] to avoid back supporting board which is disturbing factor for energy flow.

I’m sure a good giggle stimulated my energy meridians far more than the mat’s Micro Point charger! and New Computerised design! could ever do.

biomat

*   *   *

Department of This Explains A Lot

I was listening to a Fresh Air interview with author Jennifer Senior, whose book — All Joy and No Fun explores some paradoxes of modern parenting. In response to a question about the neurological underpinnings of teens’ and young adults’ foolish risk-taking and other exasperating behaviors, the author shared some intriguing information about the latest science behind what we call the adolescent or teenage brain – which actually goes past the teen years, until around age twenty-five :

“…the adolescent brain is this really interesting thing. First of all, the prefrontal cortex is not quite done developing. And the prefrontal cortex is what is responsible for kind of rational decision-making and planning and impulse control. So there’s a reason that teenage kids take dumb risks. You know, the mechanism that actually should be functioning as their brake pedal is not fully developed. It’s a rather weak brake.

They also tend to sort of overestimate the reward that they will get from taking risks, which is interesting to me. Their brains are just awash in dopamine, which is the feel-good hormone, so they feel everything very, very, very intensely – and that’s everything from crushes to, you know, rejection. It’s the good and the bad. So it’s a real adventure having them in the house. What’s so interesting is that it now looks like the prefrontal cortex keeps developing, right into your mid-20s. So the only kind of group of people who seemed to figure this out before neuroscientists was car insurance companies. They actually knew; you do not give a car to anyone under the age 25.

So.  Ahem.

Last week Belle did the ET thing and phoned home.  Fortunately (for her), MH answered, and thus had the unenviable task of passing along the news to me that Belle had fractured a metacarpal bone in her right hand. [4]  After an hours-long study session at the library, she’d finished her chemistry and calculus assignments and moved on to homework for another class. Frustrated by what she perceived to be the idiocy of a four-page instruction handout for a one page assignment, our lovely and talented daughter, valedictorian of her high school graduation class, now a college biochemistry major mathematics minor student, walked outside and punched a wall.

REALLY

Really.

A fucking BRICK wall.

wall

*   *   *

Department of Creepy Coincidence

Last week I came across a New York Times article on Jeb Bush, Evangelicals and the Pandering Question, about the challenges the aspiring Republican presidential nominee will face in courting the religious right wing of his party. The previous day I had highlighted [5] this passage from The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought.

For Ingersoll, the primary danger of entanglement between religion and politics was that invoking divine authority would simply shut down discussion on controversial issues. The requirement that politicians be religious, or at least appear to be religious, ruled out a significant group of independent thinkers from office. Ingersoll decried the public religiosity required of politicians in a statement that is just as applicable today as it was then:

…it is almost impossible for an independent man to success in a political career. Candidates are forced to pretend that they are Catholics with Protestant proclivities, or Christians with liberal tendencies …or that although not members of any church, their wives are…. The result of all this is that we reward hypocrisy and elect men entirely destitute of real principle, and this will never change until the people become grand enough to do their own thinking.”

Do yourself a brain favor and get to know Robert G. Ingersoll, the 19th century attorney, Civil War veteran, abolitionist, Freethinker, orator, civil and women’s rights pioneer — one of the greatest Americans most Americans have never heard of. [6]

 

Ingersoll

*   *   *

While We’re Sort of on the Subject

Please, To Whomever May Be Listening on the Republican Side of Things [7] :

No Jeb Bush!  No more of the Bush family; no Bush of any kind or age or gender or…anything.  No no no no no.

Oh, this is disappointing.

Oh, this is disappointing.

*   *   *

Department of Please Don’t Let Al Sharpton Know About This

Yet another fascinating thing about moiself:

– I am a white supremacist when it comes to popcorn.

Don't even ask, of course, I choose the one on the left.

Of course I choose the one on the left!

*   *   *

“In the fight between you and the world, back the world.”
( Frank Zappa quoting Franz Kafka )

“In the fight between you and the wall, bet on the wall.”
( Robyn Parnell quoting Robyn Parnell )

*   *   *

May you always fight the good fight – or, failing that, at least may you bet on the winning side – and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Why isn’t there a footnote yet?

[2] Diced onion, green & red bell pepper, celery & carrot sautéed in EVOO; then add fish stock and spices (a pinch of saffron & ground white pepper, tomato paste, dried dill week, bay leaf,  parsley sprigs) & simmer for 25 m.

[3] It’s plastic. Virgin plastic.

[4] Yep, the one she writes with. You take a swing at something, you lead with your dominant hand.

[5] There should be more interesting footnotes here, or somewhere in this post. Sorry.

[6] And for the same reason Ingersoll had to champion the memory of Thomas Paine – both men were open and articulate promoters and defenders of Freethought and critics of religion, and thus not favorites of the history textbook writers.

[7] Yeah, I know, I might as well be talking to – or punching – a brick wall.

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.

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