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The Birds I’m Not Strangling

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I am, really and truly, trying to keep shiny happy thoughts in my head about our neighborhood’s avian inhabitants. But they start singing outside my bedroom window at 4:10 in the morning, and WTF’s with that, tweetie pie?

♫ I know you're in there.  Get up and feed the cats. ♫

♫ I know you’re in there. Get up and feed the cats. ♫

 These Kids Today

Dateline, July 3:  The University of Puget Sound  sent its Class of 2018 students a list of dorm supplies the students need to bring with them.  Belle asks me if I would go with her tomorrow to shop for items on the list.

Moiself:  “Sure. But remember, tomorrow is July 4th.  Have you checked to see if the stores you want to visit are open?”

“Why wouldn’t they be?” Belle looks confused.  “It’s not as if it’s a national holiday or anything.”

Huh

SPOCK

*   *   *

Total Surprise of the Week
aka, Mum’s the Word

I’m sure you were as shocked – shocked! – as I was to learn that another conservative politician [1] who champions Abstinence-Only “education programs,” and also opposes the ACA’s contraceptive mandate, now has to do the I-supporter-my-daughter-who-will-be-facing-many-challenges tap dance; i.e., the announcement of his 17 year-old (unmarried) daughter’s unplanned pregnancy.

"That, like, so never happens!" 

“That, like, so never happens!”

When I worked at Planned Parenthood, some of us snarky experienced clinic worker bees had a term for the Abstinence Only gals. We called them MUMs [2] in the making.

 *   *   *

It’s Still Working

The sound of footsteps at the front door is accompanied by the sound of muffled voices in consultation, followed by the sound of…nothing.  Yet another knock and/or ring of the doorbell was averted.  I can only guess that they, who/whatever they are, saw The Sign.  And they took The Sign as a sign, and did the right thing. [3]

I work out of a home office, and have come to loathe the interruptions from door-to-door salesfolk, proselytizers and petitioners.  Even so, I never wanted to post one of those NO SOLICITING signs by the front doorbell.  This is FAVOR, [4] including

*  such signs seem hostile, or at least unsociable, and I want my neighbors to feel welcome to stop by;

* several friends and neighbors who have posted No Solicitors notices told me that their signs are often unheeded; [5]

*  in My Ideal World ® , such signs should be unnecessary.  Why should I deface my house because some presumptuous blowholes think my family needs their opinions as to which imaginary friend we should worship and/or which political issue we should support?

MH and I vowed that we would not harass our neighbors when it came to underwriting K’s [6] and Belle’s school and extracurricular activities.  I can count on the fingers of one finger the times we allowed either of them to participate in those dreadful fundraising drives.  Suffice to say, we were not the most popular family amongst the school fundraising organizers. I discretely but firmly explained to a series of teachers, administrators and PTA Nazis (make that presidents) that while we while we supported ___ activity (if, indeed, we did support it) and would contribute the expected per child amount for our own child to participate, we would not send our children door to door, imploring our neighbors to purchase toxic-to-pets-and-infants, Go Team USA! made-in-China plastic water bottles and unrecyclable gift wrapping paper to finance the school’s lacrosse team mouth guard fund.

nosoliciting

Many other families apparently held no such sentiments. Thus, over the years there were a series of disappointed kiddie solicitors leaving our porch.  We were kind to the children, even as we were irritated to be put in the position of honing our gracious, “Oh, sorry, no thanks” response on wide-eyed eight-year olds. [7]

I wanted to get the point across, firmly and directly, but with humor.  My first solution, several years ago, was in the form of a topical Non Sequitur comic strip.  I was so pleased when I saw it (this is perfect!) I contacted the strip’s syndicating organization and paid the fee to receive a copy of the panel, which I laminated and posted under the doorbell.

The panel has long since been destroyed by the elements. I can’t find a copy of it online (how can this be?!?!?!?), so a description will have to suffice.  It was a single panel comic: a couple of solicitors pause on the sidewalk, outside of a house which has a sign on its front yard gate. The sign, which read something like, “Welcome, we love solicitors! Please, do tell us why your religion is better than ours!” is posted above an iconic coroner’s chalk-mark on the sidewalk that outlines where a body has lain.

After we posted the comic strip sign we let certain families in the neighborhood know of our policy (and the rest, I think, caught on). For families we actually knew/liked/recognized, [8] their children were welcome to pitch us their fundraisers, and we would support the activities if such activities were in line with our interests and values (e.g. nothing in which plastic swag was involved, nothing promoting religion or divisive politics, nothing where money would be funneled through non-legit “charities,” and nothing just plain lame-ass stupid).

As mentioned previously, I work at home, and used to get a lot of visits from the door-to-door crowd.  The comic panel sign worked…but only for about 50% of solicitors. The rest would smile broadly as I opened the door, and would immediately point out that sign and say, “That’s great!” or “That’s really funny/cute!”

To which I would respond, “And you think it doesn’t apply to you, do you?”

Most people would sheepishly and graciously retreat at that point. However, some did not, and would attempt to get in their spiel about how they were not actually selling anything – oh no! – they were giving away good news, for free!  I was surprised by the sheer lack of self-awareness and brass balls persistence of those who believe they have something their gods/political gurus/10,000 Friends of Oregon want them to share to people who have specifically and repeatedly said, no way/go away.

So.  I came up with the following.  The graphics, used with permission (and even encouragement) are the logo for The Brights. The text is my own.  And, it works. [9]

brights_icon_100x100

Welcome, friends and neighbors!
All others:  No doorspam, please.

Translation: No soliciting.
Nope, none at all, be it
political, religious, or otherwise.
(Yes, this means you)

*   *   *

The Future Is In Their Hands

This week Belle and five of her high school friends (two boys, three girls) [10] went on their first no-adults overnight trip. [11] They drove up the Columbia Gorge, stopping at Multnomah Falls and Hood River before crossing the Columbia to head for their final destination, a cabin in the mountains belonging to one of the girl’s parents.

Belle was quite conscientious about providing MH and I with Required Parental Details ® , including the names of the cabin owners, [12] the location and phone number of the cabin, the names of the other attendees, their departure and return plans and time frame, and the description of the vehicle they’ll be riding in.  Belle didn’t know the vehicle’s license plate, so when her friends arrived Tuesday morning to pick her up, I went outside to say hello/goodbye/have fun, and wrote down the license number.

Contemporary, non-vanity Oregon driver’s licenses consist of three numbers and three letters. “You’ve got an easy one to remember,” I said to the driver and another passenger, who stood outside the vehicle while Sadie squeezed her duffel bag between back seat passengers.  I pointed to the minivan’s license plate.  “DDE – those are a president’s initials.”

The two girls looked at me blankly, their eyes only lighting up in comprehension when I followed up with, “Eisenhower – Dwight David Eisenhower.  You know, the WWII general; the one with the ‘I like Ike’ campaign slogan?”

“That poor man,” Passenger Girl laughed.  “His parents probably named him Dwight David ’cause they thought, ‘Who could ever make an embarrassing nickname out of that?’, and he ends up being called, ‘Ike.’ “

*   *   *

 May your nicknames be campaign-worthy and your proselytizers be mock-worthy, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] This time it’s Bill Cassidy, state congressman, Louisiana.

[2] More Unmarried Mothers.

[3] i.e., they left skidmarks as they fled our porch.

[4] For A Variety of Reasons.

[5] The proselytizers say, “Oops, I didn’t see it until I’d already rung the bell….”

[6] Our kids turned out to be like-minded, imagine that. One of the first intentional profanities I heard son K utter had to do with his declaration that he wasn’t going to do any of that “@#!& fundraising #$!?^.”

[7] And had we said yes to a mere fraction of the solicitation the financial outlay would have been substantial.

[8] It’s amazing, how many of the kiddie funraisers were not from our neighborhood, but trucked in from miles away. Yep, I asked if I did not recognize the kids, and yep, they told.

[9] Except in the case of about 4-5 people who have said, as I opened the door, that they were going to leave  when they saw the sign but really wanted to tell me how much “I really love the term ‘doorspam,’ ’cause you know exactly what that means, and I’m leaving now, I promise….”

[10] Revealing the mixed gender makeup of the group prompted a totally unsolicited reassurance, from Belle to her bemused parental units, that there was no kind of romantic interest amongst any of the parties.

[11] They’re all eighteen, so legally adults, but…really. How many adults take Disney animated movies with them to sleepovers?

[12] Who will not be there, as it’s a kids young adults-only vacation.

The (made-in-China) Flag I’m Not Waving

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Release the piccolos!

Release the piccolos!

 

There’s nothing like hearing the classic obbligato from arguably the best patriotic march ever composed [1] to set the mood for Independence Day.

*   *   *

 Happy 4th of July!

 Do these fireworks make my butt look big?

Do these fireworks make my butt look big?

 

*   *   *

Yet Another Sign of the Times

berrychickenJPGBERRY

During raspberry-picking season I look like a cowardly and/or incompetent self-cutter.

*   *   *

I can think of few better ways to celebrate our nation’s independence from hierarchical hegemony than to kick a hallowed institution.  But, first….

 *   *   *

White People Problems – #568 in an unending series
The Warning That Ruins Lives

Don’t you, kinda yeah maybe well sure, want to know things?  As in, when a certain variation of A Good Thing to Do has a deleterious or dangerous side effect, and there is a better version of or way to do The Good Thing ®, wouldn’t you want to know about it?

It's too much to handle! Let the little #$&!s get melanoma!

Another helpful hint – it’s too much to handle! Let the little #$&!s get melanoma!

Dateline: A Sunday morning, at the Oregon Zoo’s Cascade Grill.  Two Mommy Friends ©, each accompanied by one ambulatory toddler and one infant in a stroller, are chatting outside the entrance doors to the café.  One of the women is pregnant.  Preggers Woman reaches into her stroller’s storage bag for an aerosol can of sunscreen and begins to spray her toddler’s legs.  As the sunscreen mist envelops her child from toes to torso she complains to her friend about how she just read somewhere that pediatricians are advising parents to refrain from using spray sunscreen on their children, because

(a) spray-on sunscreens are not effective as the rub-in lotions, and
(b) children can inhale the sunscreen mist, which is harmful to their lungs.

“And I thought, really?” PW rolls her eyes and snorts with disgust as she snaps the cap back on the spray bottle and tosses it in the stroller bag. “I mean, really – it’s just so frustrating!  So now what else can’t I give my kids?!

What else can’t you give your kids?

How about lead paint? Or an overdose of Tylenol, or….?

*   *   *

And now, let the kicking begin.

The honeymoon is over

Although the relationship was doomed from the start, I’m surprised more friends didn’t intervene and say, “He’s just not that into you.”

I refer to the liberal religiositati’s [2] high hopes for the latest head of the Catholic church, Pope Francis.  He threw them a few bones about caring more about the poor than about divisive social issues and they were practically tripping all over themselves, using their ACLU membership cards to mop up their deferential drool.

It may be true that, as one friend put it, P. Francis is “better than the Nazi,” [3] but talk about damning with faint praise.

PF has consistently dodged questions about raising the status of women in his church, and last week responded to a journalist’s query about the underlying misogyny in the Catholic church by making a “joke” :

Francis replied: “The fact is that woman was taken from a rib.” PF then laughed “heartily” before saying: “I’m joking. That was a joke.”

That’s one wacky dude!  Hard to believe he traded in a promising stand-up comedy career for vows of celibacy and poverty.

Living the vow of poverty, gold-plated Vatican-style.

Living the vow of poverty, Vatican-style.

Not only is the latest high priestess of Isis RC witch doctor holy chicken bone mumbler pope maintaining his church’s separate and unequal gender wall, he seems prone to reinforcing it, as when he spoke a few weeks back about, the need for “… fertility in maintaining a Christian marriage.”

Frankie baby blamed a “culture of well-being” and comfort for convincing married couples that a carefree life of world travel and summer homes was better than having children. He said married couples should look at how Jesus loves his church to learn how to be faithful, perseverant and fruitful in their vocation.

REALLY

Pay attention to whatever the man in the dunce cap pointy hat – surely a signifier of supreme intellectual aptitude if there ever was one – tells y’all.

pointyhat

Yo, Catholic married couples. Your Jesus (according to RC doctrine) never married and was childless; therefore; it logically follows that to be faithful to this Jesus and his church you should marry and must have children.  If it breeds, it leads! Or…something. [4]

Why anyone heeds the admonitions of a childless celibate who presumes to lecture other people on the supposed virtues – and strictures – of a breeding marriage….  RCs, get your heads out of those orifices.

HEAD   Head_up_ass

Or perhaps Francis the talking mule O’Pope was trying to divert attention from the latest Catholic business as usual scandal. “Our own little Holocaust,” is what an Irish Mirror writer called the discovery of the bodies of ~ 800 toddlers and babies who died of disease and malnutrition in the Irish institutions that housed their unmarried mothers, who were shamed and damned by the cultural stigma against sexually active females and “bastard” babies – a stigma invented, promoted and implemented by the church.

On the really, really dim bright side, will yet another set of these latest revelations finally help to break the RC stranglehold on Irish culture, law and politics?

“After the revelations that Irish priests raped countless little boys and Irish nuns beat and starved countless little girls forced to work in the Magdalene laundries, we can’t take any more. The children in the homes were even used as guinea pigs for pharmaceutical companies to test vaccines. .. Never again should the Catholic Church dare to point the finger at any young woman contemplating abortion, or lecture on the sanctity of human life.”
The Week (6-20-2014)

 *   *   *

That was fun, wasn’t it?

And now for something completely different.

 So Glad I’ve Lived to Experience This Breakthrough For Humankind

Last week I had my annual mammogram. [5]Tuality Hospital’s Breast Health Services center is quite proud to be up on the latest technology for diagnostic screening, and instead of the usual titty in the wringer mammogram they offered me Tomosynthesis.

Tomosynthesis is better known as 3D mammography – you know, where it seems like the breasts just come flying off the screen at you.  The mammography technologist looked at me blankly when I asked her if I could wear the special glasses.

They're too scary, Mommy – make them go away!

Too scary, Mommy – make them go away!

 *   *   *

Where liberty dwells, there is my country.
~ Benjamin Franklin ~

Happy Independence Day!

Let us all proudly wave our American flags and light our fireworks (both made in China) and then stare at our computer screens, comparing Facebook pictures of other people’s celebrations.

And may the red white and blue hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] John Philip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever.

[2] Yeah, not an OED-recognized word. But it should be.

[3] The always observant SCM was referring to Joseph Ratzinger, better known by his slave name, Pope Benedict.

[4] No footnote here. Move along folks; there’s nothing to see.

[5] Insert your favorite/paranoid grumblings about the wisdom and costs of routine medical testing.

The Doves I’m Not Angering

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Sight of the Day

Thursday afternoon: returning from New Seasons market, I was entranced by the sight of our two resident, usually docile mourning doves, who swooped down from the tippy-top top of our deodora cedar and engaged in a coordinated attack upon two much larger crows.  The crows flew nonchalantly, even as the doves chased them to our rooftop, from where one crow safely launched itself up and away from the doves.  The other was chased off of the roof and then down the block.  The doves took turns dive-bombing the crow, forcing it to fly lower and lower until it found shelter in a neighbor’s shrubbery.

Protecting their nesting site?  Impressive courtship display (“Oh baby, you know how I love it when you harass the corvids)?  Or just feeling bodacious?  Whatever the reason, I enjoyed the doves’ aerial show.

angrydoves

*   *   *

WTF, SCOTUS?

I’d like to send some angry doves to Washington to peck some sense into a certain group of chickenhawks.  The SCOTUS’s four Resident Retrograde Catholic Assholes [1] were at it again, and were joined by swing asshole Justice Kennedy in their latest yep-we-done-lost-our-shit 5-4 ruling, this one involving Christian prayers at government meetings.  I’ll sum up the majority reasoning rationalization: You see, boys and girls, violating the Constitutional, if someone has[2] been doing it for years, ceases to be a violation and becomes protected “tradition,, “history” and/or culture.

PRAYHYPOCRITES

Now that they’ve reamed the First Amendment a new one, let’s all go out and have our way with the others.

Yessum, Mr. U.S. Attorney, we-all in Bunnyboner, Mississippi kinda heard ’bout that Fourth Amendment  prohibiting warrantless searches and all, but our Sherriff’s department been bustin’ into houses and ransacking shit for decades – it’s our law tradition.

*   *   *

Another religion-politics face palmer was brought to my attention by MH, this one involving Monica Wehby, the Portland doctor who’s thrown her neurosurgeon’s cap into the political ring for Oregon’s Republican Senate primary race.  Wehby is apparently not conservative enough for her party’s wingnuts, who’ve criticized her stance on abortion, which is a teense too prochoice for their tastes. Oh, yeah, and she’s identified herself as a Catholic.

We’ll likely never know if Wehby is a practicing/believing Catholic or merely a “cultural Catholic.” Or, she might be the kind of self-identified RC (as I suspect many politicians are) who no longer practices and/or believes the tenets of her religion, but who doesn’t want to rock the ark and does want to claim a label that (used to) guarantee a bloc of votes.  As reported in The Oregonian, in an early primary debate, when the subject of abortion came up, that’s when she played her RC card:

Wehby said abortion should be a woman’s choice – although she’s also quick to emphasize that she’s a Catholic who is personally pro-life. 

Some of us would like to quickly emphasize that the proclaimed Catholic Wehby is divorced, and is sympathetic to gay marriage [3] and that, like abortion, both divorce and gay marriage are ginormously big no-nos in the Catholic religion.

Some of us would also just as quickly prefer never to have to think about a politician’s supernatural beliefs, never, ever again.  We are a secular democratic republic; we elect people to be our political leaders/servants, not priests (or doctors, or…).  But Wehby dragged her religion into the public arena, so her hypocrisy, or at least inconsistency, is fair game.  Because, really, Roman Catholic-influenced thought and strategy of any kind is just what we need to bring justice, evenhandedness and stability to our halls of government.

abortion-hypocrisy

(Threatened with a lawsuit for failing to perform potentially life-saving abortion, a Catholic hospital’s defense was: life begins at birth, not at conception – a complete reversal on the Catholic church’s long standing anti-choice position that human life begins at conception.)

*   *   *

When politics is too effin depressing, and writing coherently about it would involve – nay, require – way too much profanity, it’s time to think about art.  Specifically, the theatre.

MH and I are season subscribers to two local theatre companies, Portland Center Stage and Hillsboro’s Bag & Baggage Productions.  This gets us typically one to two plays every four to six weeks, but an unusual set of circumstances/reschedulings have us attending three plays in eight days. [4]  Last Sunday we saw the PCS production of The Last Five Years, a two-person musical that depicts the story of a New York City couple’s relationship in an unusual, innovative way (the woman’s story is told backwards, while the man’s is told chronologically.)  Tonight we’ll take in B&B’s version of Noel Coward’s Private Lives, and then Sunday we’re back at PCC, for Othello .

Our seats were just three rows back from the stage for The Last Five Years, and the actors’ prodigious saliva slinging reminded me of being in the splash zone at the Sea World Shamu [5] shows.  Don’t get me wrong – I’ve no phobia about being pelted by thespian bodily fluids.  In fact, I proudly claim to have been showered with the saliva of many theatrical performesr, including twice on two separate occasions by Lily Tomlin. [6]

splash

*   *   *

bye-bye goodie boxes..for now

I sent the last care package of the academic year to son K, to mark his last week of classes at UPS , which stands for the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma and should not be confused with that other UPS, which is my favorite method for shipping packages to…that other UPS.

Several of the employees in the local Office Depot’s copy/print/shipping department have come to know me the past three years, and they prep a computer monitor for their shipping system as soon as they see me enter the store.  One of the employees, herself a college student, chats with me about the latest Star Trek: TNG episodes she’s seen [7]  while I type in my answer to the contents of package question on the shipping form.  I love listing the package contents as “junk food,” although, really, Pepperidge Farm Milano Mints should not accurately be described as junk.

Finals week survival rations. 

Finals week survival rations.

Good news from K this week included learning he’ll be home in two weeks, gainfully employed for the summer [8], and that he got a research grant for his senior year!  The grant entails helping a chemistry professor do…something.  Like, chemistry-researchy stuff.

Good news for Belle included surviving AP hell week.  She had Advanced Placement tests three days in a row, starting with AP Calculus on Wednesday.  This weekend she’s blowing off steam by attending her high school prom.  There may be prom pictures posted on this blog next week, a sentence I could never have imagined myself writing several years ago.  Also next week, Belle is having another I-could-never-have-imagined-myself-writing-about adventure, for which photographic proof will definitely be needed .  That’s all I’m allowed to say about it, for now.

*   *   *

Department of Hey, Nice Try

Although I have a rule to never donate to panhandlers, I wavered when I saw the sign held by a man in Portland, who was standing by the 16th St. entrance to the freeway.  Just for one moment I thought that the originality was deserving of reward:

Ninjas captured my family.
Need money for karate lessons.

*   *   *

“Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it.”
(Lily Tomlin as Trudy, from The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. [9])

May your reality be stress-free, and may your hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito.

[2] It is really, really, way past time for those old white (and one black) men to die. Too bad they have the best health care our money can buy.

[3] (“I don’t have a problem with gay marriage. … I think it’s not a government decision. I think it’s a personal decision”) – from the same debate.

[4] Three Plays in Eight Days – sounds like the premise of an off-Broadway satirical revue.

[5] Yep,  I’ve seen Blackfish, and even before that, had sworn off seeing animal shows for ethical reasons.

[6] During her one woman play, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.

[7] She and her boyfriend are going through the entire seven year series.

[8] And there was much parental rejoicing.

[9] Written by playwright/director and Tomlin’s longtime partner, Jane Wagner.

The Advice Column I’m Not Writing

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 The potters are here!  The potters are here!

The Oregon Potters Association is holding its annual Ceramic Showcase this weekend.  Today and Saturday and Sunday, the nation’s largest show of handmade ceramic art is on display (and for sale), as over 170 Oregon and Washington artists take over the main exhibition hall of the Oregon Convention Center. Free admission!

Horsley teapot

Teapot by Patrick Horsley

If your head is spinning like a potter’s wheel after a few hours of viewing the coolest teapots on the planet, take a break and check out the neighboring exhibition halls, where more than 200 Oregon artists will display their one-of-a-kind artwork, handmade from metal, beads, glass, wood & hand-woven fabrics.  The Creative Metal Arts Guild, Oregon Glass Guild, Guild of Oregon Woodworkers, Portland Bead Society and the Portland Handweavers Guild have joined forces to present this show, which they refer to as…wait for it… A Gathering of the Guilds.

 but a sampling from my Wall of Faces, many purchased at OPA conventions

but a sampling from my Wall of Faces, many of which were purchased at OPA conventions

This is year 32 for the OPA showcase. I’ve attended this event for at least twenty years, usually accompanied by friends who are also pottery and art admirers and collectors (and even artists themselves). [1]  After years of attending, I’ve no excuse (read: room in the house) for further pottery purchases, be they utilitarian or ornamental.  Or so I thought, until a fortuitous tragic event in December, when a longtime member of the Wall of Faces (only partially pictured above) committed suicide, as it were. [2] And now, there is room for one more.

Chickenface

And there was much rejoicing. 

 *   *   *

Complesults and Insulments.

You’ve probably been on the receiving (or spewing) end at least once, even if you aren’t familiar with these terms, which I (think) am just-right-now making up.  A complesult or an insulment is a sly statement that allows an ostensibly positive remark to cover a dis. Think of disparagement masquerading as praise. Or, an insult disguised as a compliment – sound familiar now?

HISS

 “I can see why you like Carol Burnet’s TV show; she proves that a funny girl can be successful even if she’s not pretty.”

I received that lovely bouquet from a grade school rival.  The other 6th graders standing in the tetherball line didn’t seem to get it, but I sure did.  Hsssssssssss.

And now, I’d like to hear yours.  Uh—not about moiself, thank you.  But, if you’re up to sharing, what are some of the most memorable complesults and zingiest insulments you’ve received?  Or delivered – ‘fess up and don’t worry; I’ll assume the targets were worthy. Judgment shall be withheld.

*   *   *

More From The Department of Withholding Judgment

Earlier this week I received an email from Scarletta Press, the publisher of The Mighty Quinn, notifying their authors that Scarletta’s director of publicity has resigned.  Further communication will reveal who will fill the vacancy.  I’m hoping for someone interested in doing…well…consistent and vigorous promotion.

*   *   *

 A Day Late and a Dollar Short [3]

Ever had a great idea, only to find out someone else – in fact, several someone elses – beat you to it?

Me neither.  Until I toyed with the idea of starting an advice column.

 Please give me some good advice in your next letter. I promise not to follow it.
 (Edna St. Vincent Millay, American poet)

I had the column’s title, format (via another blog, at first) and rationalization raison d’être for the project.  My niche was to be advice in various areas – from personal and professional quandaries to matters of protocol – from and for Brights, Humanists, Atheists, Agnostics, Freethinkers. The religion-free consistently encounter a plethora of WTF? situations, as we navigate a society that bestows privileges and even positive attributes upon religious believers.

I even had some topics in mind, for how I would organize the issues, including:

* Fun with Fundamentalists

* Are those your holy scriptures in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? (dealing with proselytizers)

*  Say What? (how to respectfully but firmly deal with family/friends/neighbors/co-workers who pressure you to participate in their overtly religious rites and ceremonies)….

Oh, what fun.  Oh, what the (mythical realm of eternal torment) was I thinking?  It’s already being done.

facepalm

The Humanist magazine, to which I’ve recently subscribed, is doing it (in their colun, “The Ethical Dilemma”) , as is the Freedom From Religion Foundation,via a relatively recent addition [4] to Freethought Today, their monthly newsletter…which I would have known had I more carefully read the journals’ recent issues instead of passing them on to my son and other interested parties, oy vey.

Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.
(Erica Jong, American author)

And so it goes.  Stay tuned for more info on this project.  Or, less. Until then, my advice to you is to let the hijinks ensue.

 Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] Why aren’t there any footnotes, you may be asking?

[2] Apropos of nothing, it dove (or so it seemed) from its perch on the wall and plummeted to the tile floor.

[3] Yeah, that also has already been done.  Or, said.

[4] Something along the lines of “Ask a Freethinker.”

The Trolls I’m Not Feeding

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Monday I made a visit to Forest Grove Community School, where the 5th & 6th grade students are using The Mighty Quinn for their block of study on realistic fiction.  I spent two class periods with them, first with the 6th graders and then the 5th graders.  I read a brief TMQ excerpt as an example of revealing character via dialog, did a Q & A session, and met individually with students to hear their writing samples and banter about story ideas.  The kids were delightful, and one of the best school groups I’ve ever visited.

I got a kick out of observing the students’ interactions (from the back of the class, before the teacher introduced me.  (Yep, I was lurking).  What a difference a year makes.  The 6th graders were obviously conscious of how they might “look” to their peers when asking a question or offering a comment.  Their Q & A concerns focused on their struggles with their own writing assignments.  The 5th graders were energetic, unbounded and out there – one boy shrieked with delight and threw me a high five when I was introduced as the author of the book they’d been reading aloud in class.  The 5th graders’ Q & A session was dominated by personal (to me),  what’s it like to be a writer queries.  One student even asked about my royalties, and was thrilled when I complimented him for knowing the term.  Several students stayed after class, missing part of their recess, to gather around me.  They gushed about how unbelievable it was that they had met a REAL PUBLISHED AUTHOR ® a sentiment I find embarrassing/annoying when expressed by adults, but from those students, it was sweet beyond words.  FGCS 5th and 6th graders, this Pretty Purple Toe Award is for you.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

*   *   *

BELLY LAUGH OF THE WEEK

Tuesday:  in my car, waiting for the left turn signal.  The car in front of me had one of those stick figure family decals in the rear window, which, in general, I find annoying and rarely give a second glance to.  But something about this one caught my attention.

STICK FIGURE FAMILY

*   *  *

BELLY CREEP OUT OF THE WEEK

Wednesday: Back in the damn car again, performing what used to be an almost daily chore that has evolved into a rare errand: sending a manuscript via snail mail.  The nearest mailbox where I might still make the pickup time [1] was a couple of miles away, by a Bi-Mart store. As I pulled into the Bi-Mart parking lot a woman pushing a shopping cart with an infant seat in it crossed in front of me.  Heading for the store, she walked slowly and laboriously and looked neither left nor right.  She just crossed the lane of traffic.

I was ~ ten feet away from her, in no danger of hitting her as I was going quite slowly, but I was annoyed by her negligent pedestrian-ship. FFS lady, maybe you don’t care about your own life but what about the baby?  Further annoying me was the fact that it was 27º outside, and I could see the infant’s bare legs sticking out from the bottom of the child seat.  As my car rolled closer I could see that the woman had a vacant, slack-jawed expression on her face, one that might be explained by a mental or physical disability, and the “baby” in the baby seat was actually a (very realistic-looking) baby doll.

DOLd

*   *   *

“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”
(Einstein’s letter of 3-24-54 to a correspondent who’d asked Einstein to clarify his religious views.
(“Albert Einstein: The Human Side.”)

 One of the great games in the culture wars is claiming the good and smart for your team and pushing the monsters away. Picture Christian and atheist captains in a sandlot choosing basketball teams. “Einstein, we get Einstein!” say the atheists. “No way, he used the word God!… “Oh you WISH!” ….
Albert Einstein is the three-point shooter everybody wants to draft.

(from Dale McGowan ‘s blog post, “Owning Einstein.”)

holding out for free agent status

holding out for free agent status

A link I posted on my Facebook page – to Hemant Mehta’s  blog post about Ron Reagan Jr. taping a PSA for an atheist organization – got me sucked into one of those  discussions.  A FB friend apparently took issue with the younger Reagan’s statements about reason being “the hallmark of the human species.”

FB Friend: Who says that believing in God makes one unreasonable? That is a rather objectionable statement. Most of history’s great thinkers believed in God. I believe in God and I believe im (sic) a reasonable person. You don’t believe? No prob. Its (sic) not my job to force my faith down your throat. We can get along without faith being an issue…

RP:  “Most of history’s great thinkers believed in God.” Now, that is a statement of faith, not fact.   ;-)

FBF: Einstein believed, Newton believed, Galileo believed, Devinci (sic)  did as well. its not a matter of just having faith…

MH also followed the link in my post. He read the Reagan post in its entirety, and thus was confused by FBF’s reaction.  “Why did he (FBF commenter) assume the article said religious people are unreasonable, when it didn’t?” he mused.

My Son K would probably say that I violated the don’t feed the trolls rule by even acknowledging the comment.  You know, stick to posting pictures of your dinner and links to fart jokes.

TROLL

But, no.  That’s too easy.  And besides, the commenter is no troll.  Rather, he is a friend from high school days, and a very nice guy.  So, I posted the Einstein quote that opened this section, and said I’d deal with this more extensively in this blog post.  Here we are.  More extensively, ho! [2]

Although they (of course) are not here now to speak for themselves, I’ve little doubt that many if not most of what we might call the “great thinkers” of the past were religious…at least, in their public personas. People had to make some sort of public religious profession; there were no other options. [3]  What choice did people have, to believe or express opinions to the contrary?

Giordano Bruno was just one of many great thinkers who were tortured and murdered for expressing opinions and/or doing research that the religious/political authorities (often one in the same, in that most unholy of alliances) found threatening or blasphemous.  You need not have a writer’s imagination to posit what would have happened to Galileo if he’d expressed doubts as to the existence of the Jehovah deity, when for merely making scientific (not religious) statements – backed with, hey, evidence! – he was called to Rome and tried for heresy.  Galileo, well aware of the fate of Bruno and others before him, was given a “tour” of the church’s dungeons, and shown the instruments of torture that would be used on him if he did not recant his support for Copernicus’ theory .  Even after he recanted the truth [4] Galileo was confined to his home under house arrest, where he died seven years later, not having been allowed to leave or to receive visitors.

Albert Einstein tried to fit his complex ideas into terms that might interest the lay (as in, non-science literate) population.  The mis-location of Einstein to the Religious Believers’ Great Thinkers Team mostly stems from two of his public figurative comments:

(1) his public statement, reported by United Press in April 25, 1929: “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the orderly harmony in being, not in God who deals with the facts and actions of men,” and
(2) his famously misinterpreted metaphor regarding nature conforming to mathematical law: “God does not play dice with the Universe.”

But in his private/personal and other correspondences, Einstein lamented the misuse of his public statements to infer religious belief on his part.  He made his opinion about such matters quite clear, as in the opening quote and many others, three of which I’ll cite here.

“The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.” [5]

“The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naïve.” [6]

“It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I feel also not able to imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. My views are near those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order which we can grasp humbly and only imperfectly. I believe that we have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding and treat values and moral obligations as a purely human problem—the most important of all human problems.” [7]

Ultimately, the numbers on anybody’s “teams” are irrelevant. The criteria for evaluating the truth of statements – even those phrased as “beliefs” – is not all that complicated.  Which leads me to a brief [8] incursion into what seems to be a minefield for many people:  the difference between facts and beliefs.

MINE

I hold many, many beliefs about many, many subjects.  I believe that Meryl Streep is a great actor and that Tom Cruise is not, that Oregon Pinot Noirs are superior to California Merlots, that is more enjoyable to watch a high school varsity volleyball game than any professional golf tournament, that corn snakes make better pets than mice, that cedar-planked salmon is a tastier entrée than fried razor clams, that MH looks better with a full beard than with just a moustache, and that Elvis, Lady Gaga and the Virgin Mary do not make cameo appearances in the spots on someone’s flour tortilla.

Beliefs can be preferential, like those I listed.  A preferential belief expresses your opinions about interesting but ultimately inconsequential matters.  But beliefs can also express factual or cognitive claims, which call for evaluations of the truth of the propositions or assumptions behind the claims.  For example, if you assert that you “believe in God,” you are also making the assumption that the god you refer to exists.

If you express a cognitive belief but make no effort to justify it, you’re merely telling me your feelings or expressing your opinion.  It may be true that you believe you are the greatest fastball pitcher since Sandy Koufax.  However entertaining that claim may be to your slow-pitch softball league teammates, your belief by itself has no factual value.

koufax

There is nothing admirable about a belief just because you hold it, and cognitive beliefs are not immune to criticism. Cloaking beliefs in the robe of “god” or “religion” doesn’t excuse those ideas from examination.  “Believing” (aka “having faith in”) something doesn’t make an irrational claim suddenly rational, nor does it protect your belief from the test of evidence and reason – from the kind of the evaluation a thoughtful, intelligent person would normally apply to any statement of any kind, be it political, cultural, emotional….

If you want your beliefs to be taken seriously by others, you need to communicate them as something other than personal statements about what you “have faith in.”  Beliefs become objective when backed up by explanations and evidence that can be analyzed.  If you don’t want your beliefs to be subjected to this kind of scrutiny, then you should keep them to yourself.

I for one wouldn’t go around claiming too many of the “great thinkers” of centuries past for my team.  Great minds who seemed ahead of their time in their niches of music, art, literature, philosophy and/or science may also have thought that the earth was flat, that enslaved peoples were “naturally” inferior to their enslavers, that diseases were caused by evil spirits and ill humors, etc.  Even great thinkers are commonly bound by the ignorance and superstitions – and subject to the cultural and political pressures – of their times.

Down from the soapbox and up to the feel good FB posts.  Truly, those are what I should be posting at this most festive time of year – a sampling of flatus classifications:

Backseater: an odiferous fart that occurs in automobiles, it is usually not very loud and can be concealed by traffic noise.

Cherry bomb: A loud, high-pitched, squeaker fart.

The Rambling Phaduka: One of the most loud and lengthy of farts,  it goes on for at least 15 seconds, often leaving the farter unable to speak, as if he’s had the wind knocked out of him.

The Skillsaw:  sounds like an electric skill saw ripping through a piece of plywood.  It has been known to cause people to back away in terror and confusion.

TGIAF: the thank goodness I’m alone fart. You look around after producing it and say, thank goodness I’m alone.  Then you get out of there, fast.

And may the farting animals compilation video hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 


[1] I didn’t, and ended up driving to the main Post Office.

[2] As in Westward, ho!” and other idioms expressing the desire to go or return to a certain destination, and not as in a reference to skanky pavement-pounders Our Great Nation’s proud sex workers.

[3] Even the option to choose this flavor of Christianity or that flavor of Islam could get you murdered, plundered or banished, depending on which group was in charge.

[4] And some  say he recanted his recanting, under his breath….(Atheism for Dummies, ch. 6, “enlightening Strikes”)

[5] (From Einstein’s letter to philosopher Eric Gutkind, dated Jan. 3, 1954, cited in The Guardian, “Childish superstition: Einstein’s letter makes view of religion relatively clear,” by James Randerson, May 13, 2008).

[6] From Einstein’s to Beatrice Frohlich, December 17, 1952 ( The Expanded Quotable Einstein )

[7] Albert Einstein Creator and Rebel, New York: New American Library, 1972, p. 95.

[8] No really…considering the subject.

The Expression Lines I’m Not Forming

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The Good Life ®

La Finquita del Bujo,  our CSA, put on their annual Harvest Festival last Sunday.  And such a day for it – clear skies with that certain, crisp autumn sun.  The farm was open to all subscribers, friends, neighbors, for a potluck feast and four hour festival.  The farm’s outdoor, hand-built brick pizza oven was fired up: Lyn and Juvencio, the farm’s owners, provided homemade dough, sauce and cheese and attendees brought toppings to share, and everyone provided encouragement to those whose dough-rolling skills were less than professional. [1] A friend of the family was making fresh pupusas on an outdoor griddle next to the oven, and the farm dogs and cats wandered from lawn chair to lawn chair, having a grand old time feasting on everyone’s food offerings.

Entertainment included performances by Hillsboro’s Baile Folklorico Mexico en la Piel , a local bluegrass group, and The Helvetia Alphorn musicians.  I’d never seen alphorns up close, or “live” (Ricola commercials don’t count).  They looked just like this.  Exactly. Well, minus the alpine background.  And the lederhosen.  And the featherduster hats.

ALPHORN

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Have I Got an Expression (Line) For This

I found this blast from the past while searching my files for…I forget.  For something else:

1-7-09, doing post-exercise cooldown.  I ejected the workout DVD and caught the tail end of a local noon news program.  As I moved into downward facing dog pose, the news gave way to a paid programming/extended infomercials, hosted by an aging TV actress (Victoria Principal?) who was shilling her line of anti- wrinkle/anti-aging skin care products (“Reclaim”)Reclaim, the grotesquely preserved still-beautiful performer declared, will “reverse the signs of aging,” smooth  away “visible forehead wrinkles” ( yeah, we’re not too worried about the invisible ones) and even get rid of those pesky “expression lines.”

Hitch up your loincloth, Mahatma Gandhi, and Melinda and Bill Gates, quit your whining about malaria—there’s a new humanitarian in town, and she’s out to rid the world of expression lines.  You know, the lines that come from using the muscles in your face to do something other than to don a mannequin’s smooth-checked, slit-eyed, I-wish-I-could-crack-a-smile-but-I’m-too-busy-reversing-the-signs-of-aging mask.

Expression lines – the ones evince your years of loving your children and laughing at their elephant jokes; the ones that accentuate your reaction to your spouses’ latest pun or your sports team’s heartbreaking loss in the playoffs; the ones that form when you can’t believe your brother-in-law told that story in front of your grandmother, or when you hear yet another Republican elected official make yet another ignorant remark about human biology.  The ones that let the world know you are alive.

I’ll sell you a no-cost, sure-fire way to stop the signs of aging: die young.

What pesky expression lines?

What pesky expression lines?

*   *   *

Why I am Postponing Reading the Latest Issue of P & W

The November/December Poets & Writers magazine arrived earlier in the week.  This issue’s cover shot is of an extremely self-satisfied looking [2] author Elizabeth Gilbert.  I somehow managed not to read Gilbert’s bestselling memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, despite having been chased in airports during the past seven years any time I had a flight booked, by security personnel who screamed, “If you board the plane without a copy of this book in your hands, the terrorists have won!”

So.  We return to our magazine, and to Gilbert’s beaming visage, below which is the title of the article (The Eat, Pray, Love Phenomenon), and then a question: What Happens After an Author Sells More Than 8 Million Copies?

Money

Assuming the question is not rhetorical, WHO FUCKING CARES?

*   *   *

More Reasons to Go On Living:
Two Thumbs up for one Finger Up

You gotta love the intersection of art and political dissent.  This week I loved Czech artist David Cerney’s salute to Czech President President Milos Zeman, in the form of a giant purple [3] hand, middle finger prominently extended, floating on a barge in the River Vltava, facing Zeman’s presidential headquarters in the Prague Castle.

Cerney is – surprise! – not a fan of President Zeman.  Zeman is a self-proclaimed ex-Communist who accepts the likelihood of the Communist party regaining political power, thus enraging Cerney and other Czechs who hated and openly defied the Communist rule of Czechloslovakia (1948-1989).

My Pretty Purple Toe Award ® has got nothing on Cerney (“I just enjoy pissing people off”) and his Purple Finger of political Defiance.

PURPLEFINGER

*   *   *

Wishing y’all a finger-friendly, thumbs-up weekend, and may your own particular brand of purple hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] We make pizza often at home, and I proudly claim that my amoeba-shaped pies are deliberate, as well as artistic. And MH set out to make a calzone, not a pizza.  That was his intention; the fold-over was not to fix the holes.  Yep.

[2] Instead of “Say Cheese!” or “Smile!” the photographer’s prompt was, “Royalties and residuals!”

[3] Purple!

The Phrase I’m Not Saving

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RESCUE 911
 We’re lost in the woods, and need an extra large with mushrooms and double cheese…and a helicopter, please.

Join our thrilling, reality-based series, during which MH and I discover our son’s true concerns should we ever end up lost or injured in the wilderness.

Dateline:  Sunday, July 7.  MH and I planned on driving up to Vancouver, WA to go hiking on a new (to us) trail. We invited son K, who declined. [1]

As I was lacing up my boots I informed K of our destination, and told him I was leaving a map of the trail on my computer.  I decided to test his hiking/outdoor recreation, “Buddy system” safety awareness [2] by asking him, “So, what would you do if we did not return by a certain time?”

“What time?” K asked.

“Absolutely, by dinner time,” I clarified. “But we should be back way before that.”

“Well…” K steepled his fingers in front of his face in a Mr. Spock-like pose of thoughtfulness.  “I haven’t been to Pizza Schmizza in a while….

chopper

                              *   *   *

As already noted on this week’s The Mighty Quinn FB page, my calendar said that July 8 was Toot Your Own Horn day.  (It also said that July 2 was Eat Nothing But Dark Chocolate For Every Meal and Your Teeth Will Be Bright and Your Breath Minty Fresh day.  Don’t you wish you had my calendar?) Thus, I excerpted one of my favorite reviews of The Mighty Quinn, which is on Goodreads, courtesy of fellow writer, SCM:

I should start by saying what THE MIGHTY QUINN is not. It’s not for every middle grade reader, nor is it a book for a bright younger kid whose parents read MG books out loud before bed. (I tried.)

THE MIGHTY QUINN is a smart book, and it’s going to appeal to brighter MG readers. It’s a clever and funny book about the Borgia-like scheming simmering below the surface of elementary school social life.

It’s about what it’s like to be raised progressively when peers are, well, not.

 It’s about what it’s like to be raised in a free-thinking and non-religious home, when peers are, well, not.

It’s about what it’s like to be a clever and funny kid when peers are, well, not.

What’s more, it’s the rare book for smart MG readers and their parents to read together. A smart MG reader is doing most reading without parents. This is, in some ways, a last hurrah for those bedtime reading rituals that parents miss more than kids—although it never seems to feel like that when you’re reading Mike Mulligan for the hundredth time.

Bonus: there’s plenty that will make parents laugh.

SCM gave the book a 5 star rating, and states that it is not for every middle grade reader [3].  I liked that. I for one am turned off by reviews which proclaim, Everyone will/must like this book! Because, that’s never the case, is it?  Also, the same, I-like-these qualities the reviewer lists about TMQ would be red flags for those people (certain adults, I think, more than certain children) who, sadly but frankly, are predisposed to not like a book that presents a sympathetic portrayal of kids who “…are raised progressively.”

And so it goes.

Oh, and now that I don’t have to do it every night, I do miss reading Mike Mulligan. MikeMulligan

*   *   *

This week I attended my first professional baseball game in…I truly do not remember how long it has been. [4] Growing up in So Cal, my summers were filled with trips to Chavez Ravine for Dodger games and Anaheim Stadium for Angel games (and if you climbed to the top of our backyard’s big pine tree you could see the stadium’s halo light up when an Angel hit a home run).

I forget what year it happened, but after one player/owner strike too many – when I asked myself, hmmm, which group of millionaires do I feel sorry for? – I lost interest.  I went from a high schooler who subscribed to Sports Illustrated, someone who could quote lengthy passages from Ball Four, someone who, much to MH’s befuddlement, could whip anyone’s ass in a 1970s Dodger’s baseball trivia contest, [5] to someone who just didn’t give a flying festering fartbag about professional sports.

Except, of course, when Kirk Gibson hit his gimp, game-winning home run during the 1988 World Series, which cause my younger sister (whose husband was rooting for the Oakland A’s) and I to exchange, gloating phone calls: YEEESSSS!

Once again, I digress.

So, on Monday I dragged MH, son K and his friend and moiself to Hillsboro’s new baseball stadium, home of the Hillsboro Hops, Hillsboro’s new new minor league team .  I really, really, could have done without the inane announcer’s patter and the kiddie tire races and kiddie hoop shooting contests and kiddie bunny hops and the other “amusements” between innings (Hades forbid we should be content to merely sit with our thoughts or converse with other attendees – we must be ENTERTAINED at all moments).

That irritation aside, hearing the distinctive slap of a 94 mph pitch hitting the catcher’s mitt, watching fit young men in fit uniforms [6] loping around a field on a hot summer evening, savoring a bag of peanuts roasted in the shell – the night brought back primal memories for me.  The night also provided a reminder of a most epic parental fail, when my 20 year old son made a comment which indicated he did not know how many innings are in a baseball game.

Ball Four

*   *   *

“It has never been easier to be a writer, and it has never been harder to be a professional writer.”
(Adam Gopnick, The New Yorker, as quoted in the Spring 2013 Authors Guild Bulletin)

sadwriter

Because the Authors Guild takes their mandate seriously (“…the nation’s leading advocate for writers’ interests in effective copyright protection, fair contracts and free expression….”), their bulletin is full of the news that matters to writers; i.e., reports on how AG attorneys and advocates are fighting the good [7] fight against the erosion of authors’  income streams and copyright and royalty protection and trends in e-publishing….  Almost all of it is really, really, really depressing:

E-books are way less expensive for publishers to produce, but instead of being more generous to authors, the major publishing houses all rigidly insist on clauses limiting e-book royalties to (that which gives authors ) roughly half the traditional royalty on hardcover books….Five of six major publishing houses were sued by the DOJ’s anti-trust division for fixing e-book prices…numerous pirate sites (supported by advertising on Yahoo and Google) offer new and old e-books for free (and too many Americans, especially younger ones, seem to believe that if it’s on the internet it belongs to everybody – even while they pay for cable)…Amazon acquired a patent to re-sell e-books… [8]

I think when the next issue of the Authors Guild Bulletin arrives I’ll save time and, before turning the first page, assume my custom-designed, Author’s Yoga Pose ®.

YOGA

 Whattheasana
(aka Author’s Pose)

Whattheasana is a pose of realization.  It transfers tension from your neck, shoulders and back to your brain bucket, where tension belongs.

(1) Begin in a kneeling position, on the hardest surface you can find.

(2) Drop your buttocks to your heels. Exhale and stretch your torso down and forward, lengthening your tailbone from the pelvis as you rest your abdomen atop your thighs, your forehead on the floor. Inhale one long breath of futility.

(3) Exhale. Place your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms up in the universal gesture of surrender. Visualize your most recent royalty statement and/or the Ten Must-Have Marketing Strategies for Writers! conference come-ons in your email inbox. Let the weight of the world rest on your shoulders, broadening your scapulae across your back and further grinding your forehead into the floor.

(4) Inhale, extend your cervical vertebrae and raise your forehead several inches above the floor. Exhale, release your forehead to gravity and chant your author’s mantra (“d-uh”) as your forehead hits the floor with a chakra-satisfying thud.  Repeat this sequence, staying in the pose for one to five minutes, or until the half-hearted urge to even consider enrolling in any Social Media Web-inar/Tutorials subsides.

*   *   *

Pacas and Toucans and Turtles, Oh My!

a baby leatherback turtle heads for the ocean at Pacuare

a baby leatherback turtle heads for the ocean at Pacuare

Belle returned late Tuesday evening from a nine day trip to Costa Rica.  She and 17 other Oregon Zoo Teen leaders were participating in an Ecology International Field Service Project.  The kids and their adult guides helped biologists at La Suerte [9] Biological Field Station and the Pacuare Nature Reserve gather data on sea turtles, and the Costa Rican mosquitoes helped themselves to fresh American teenage blood.

The pangs of missing my daughter didn’t hit me until July 4, when I was out running errands/having lunch with MH.  I passed the time at the local animal shelter while MH roamed the aisles of Lowe’s, and at the shelter I saw The Cutest Kitten In the World ® which, fortunately, had a sign on its kennel indicating it had already been adopted.  Belle would have adored the kitten, I thought…and it’s a good thing she’s in Costa Rica, because she just possibly would have found a way to talk MH and I out of our Crazy Cat People  Limit. [10]

After home improvement errands MH & I had lunch at Red Robin, where I was reminded of something I do not miss about my daughter, or my son, now that both of them have been housebroken for some time.  When I used the RR’s restroom I overheard the distinctive dialogue which indicated the presence of a Six Legged Monster [11] occupying the handicapped stall.

“Mommy, I did a stinker!”

“Yes, honey, you did a stinker.”

“No, YOU did a stinker!”

“Okay, I did a stinker – no, wait, don’t open the door, your sister isn’t done yet….”

sequential

Two minutes later, in the parking lot, there was yet another parent/child/potty story unfolding: a young mother was changing her infant son’s messy diaper, using the rear of her SUV as a changing table. With the car’s hatchback door up, passersby (including yours truly) had quite the view.

I’m not going to tell the story in all of its Technicolor glory.  I’d like to save the phrase poop-encrusted scrotum for 2014.

Happy Independence Day, indeed.  And the hijinks ensued.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] There were, as always, aliens to be battled in cyberspace.

[2] Always inform friends and family about your trip itinerary, ideally include a map and tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return….

[3] I like her subtle nudge re how TMQ appeals to the “brighter” reader. Ahem.

[4] Remembered during the edit! It was in October ’92, at Baltimore’s beautiful Oriole Park: MH & I with my groovy friend and fellow Ball Four lover Ernie Kyger, with a special guest appearance by Baltimore Sun sportswriter (and high school friend) Peter Schmuck .

[5] Name the Dodgers infield that played together for more than eight seasons — a major league record! (Cey, Lopes, Russell & Garvey)

[6] I’m married, not dead.

[7] If ultimately futile, in my humble yet realistic opinion.

[8] These feel-good excerpts are from the From the President article by AG President Scott Turow.

[9] Idiomatic translation: good luck with the heron-sized mosquitoes.

[10] I say it’s four (naturally, we have four cats).  Belle insists you’re not truly in Crazy Cat People territory until six.

[11] A mother and her two young children.

The Cabbage I’m Not Climbing

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(I think) I wrote in last week’s post that I would mention the reasons behind the relative lack of content in said post. Many contributing factors led to last week’s I-have-no-time-to-do-this-blog realization, including

* a week-long visit from MH’s parents

* MH, Belle, K and I caring for a friend’s 6 year old child (who had her first overnight sleepover – Big Girl territory! – at our place) so that her parents could get up very early the next morning and go to the hospital for the mother’s surgery[1]

* going to the hospital with my friends, to have the honor of being their Surgery Buddy

*returning from the hospital in the afternoon, tired, but happy for my friend, whose surgery went smoothly and who was thus relieved of a large burden [2]

* receiving a phone call that same afternoon from another (long distance but equally dear) friend, the witty, kind, loving and trusting (oops) LLL, who had suddenly and unexpectedly been struck by a burden of her own, the kind of affliction that surgery cannot fix. Unless some Nobel-winning doctor has perfected the DoucheBag Husband-ectomy.

manpig

After that phone call, any attempt at blogging would have resulted in an f-laden tirade.[3]

LLL will be so, so, so, – and did I mention so? – much better without that lying, spineless weasel, self-absorbed sack of shit him. Still, there is the inhumanity of his methodology.

Note to all quasi sentient, allegedly male beings who are not total sphincter-brains:  grow a pair, or find some that you may clone and/or borrow, so that if you decide to leave your wife of 12+ years you are able to man up and face her and tell her, directly and honestly, what you are doing.  Do not end the relationship by booking her for a half day spa treatment (ostensibly to atone for your recent aloof behavior) and then moving all your belongings from your house while she is at the spa, leaving nothing but an “I don’t want to be married to you anymore” message on the answering machine, and having a sullen process server present her with divorce papers less than 24 hours later.

You know who you are [4], you urethra-catheter excuse for a human being.  Karma will, eventually, catch up with you, and when it does, it’s going to be one angry, turn-your-head-and-cough, vengeful bitch.

angrygodpng

I’ve got to find a segue…

Last Wednesday there was some good news for humanity: the CDC reported that the smoking rate for US adults was at 18% – an historic low. I heard the news on the radio, while I was on my way to my favorite organic foods market. As someone who has lost many loved ones to smoking-caused pulmonary diseases, I felt a need to celebrate the announcement. My jubilation was short lived, thanks to the stinky gray haze I inadvertently walked through in the New Season’s parking lot, in the form of a cloud of smoke that was emanating from the side of…some guy’s Prius?

Yep. There he sat, beside his car, hipster porkpie hat on head,

hiphat

sucking on his unfiltered American Spirits like he was minutes away from the Dead Man Walking promenade. I stopped and stared at him as he crushed his last cigarette next to his car’s front tire (leaving the smoldering butt on the blacktop) and loaded his groceries into his car.

Dude.  Really? You shop organic/local, drive a gas-conserving vehicle, and litter and pollute the air and your own lungs because, yeah, you care so much about the environment.

Makes me want to, I don’t know, climb to the top of a really big, pointy cabbage.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

*   *   *

Questions I hate

“How is The Mighty Quinn/your book doing?”

How is the book doing?  Oy vey! It never writes, it never calls, it won’t return my texts, the ungrateful little….

I know, or rather I assume, that such an inquiry is meant to convey interest, but when I’ve asked the askers to elaborate, I discover that the implied query is really one for which I have no answer. Because it involve Sales Figures. As in, how many copies have been sold?

Well, how many copies have you bought?

Sorry. I don’t and can’t, for sanity’s sake, keep track of that.

Like most publishers, mine gives royalty statements biannually.  So, if you really want to know that statistic, ask me again in 6 months…and be prepared for a NOYB response, or an equally personal question in return: I’ll show you mine if you show me yours). [5]

writing money

*   *   *

Sometimes, I think, are we still at two steps forward and two steps back?  I remember 1973, and you never could have convinced me then that we would be having this misogynistic, wasteful, distrustful, keep your laws out of my uterus argument in 2013.

I had few words of comfort for my teenage daughter, the fiercely intelligent, kind-hearted, justice-oriented Belle, when she came into my room Tuesday night. Tears of anger and frustration welling in her beautiful eyes, she plopped down on my bed and said, “They broke their own rules! They cheated and they don’t care…” referring to the Texas state senators who tried every trick in their book to thwart one of their own, Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, from filibustering the jive-ass bill that would have enacted comprehensive abortion restrictions in the Lone  Woman With Integrity Star State.

We thought, at that time, that the asshats’ tactics had won, but the morning brought better news. Mere words cannot describe the awesomeness that was Wendy Davis this week. Fortunately, internet memes to the rescue.

wendyjames

*   *   *

The afore-alluded-to, Visit From The Kinfolk was mostly a good one, with a certain relative who has taken to proselytizing mostly refraining from doing so…except for bringing along two issues of The Lutheran magazine, just in case, you know, we have a burning desire to know about what’s going on with “New Thinkers in the ELCA” (one of the magazine issue’s title story).

As of today, the magazines sit where they were left, with no one in my family, to my knowledge, even taking a peek.

It’s funny for me to realize that, not too many years ago, I probably would have peeked — for curiosity, if nothing else. There is not even a smidgen of that, now.

“New Thinking” about a false hypothesis? [6]  Yawn. There can be nothing new or curious-worthy or relevant about that, other than a new angle of spin.

tadal

*   *   *

The best thing about Friday is telling my coworkers ‘What is the chip-shop owner’s favorite day? Fry-day!!!!’ One day they will laugh. One day…
(anonymous)

May one day be today, and let the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Technically elective, but necessary.

[2] Actually, two

[3] Which I shared instead with MH and the kids.  I have an amazingly patient family.

[4] Actually, you probably don’t, as that would take self-awareness, humility and introspection.

[5] tax returns, bank statements, cup and/or jock size – I’ll look at whatever ya got.

[6] The best definition I’ve heard for religion(s) is one that encompasses them all: religion is a hypothesis, that the natural world is the way it is because of the supernatural world.

The Match I’m Not Lighting

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The Random Acts of What the? edition

Don’t be humble, you’re not that great
(Golda Meir)

“Bullying, competition, hot and cold friendships, male and female peer role models, and comic relief are just a few of the 10 year old issues presented in the fun and fast moving plot pages for this humorous chapter book. Comic black and white illustrations decorate chapter beginnings and endings, and a comic portrait gallery of the cast of characters aids in fast comprehension. Who would believe the healing power of an ability to belch the alphabet? A suspenseful plot and precise sleuthing sells the story and teaches that Turner Creek School rocks and so does The Mighty Quinn!” — Midwest Book Review

Reading the latest review for The Mighty Quinn more than compensated for the non event at last week’s Beaverton’s First Friday street fair.  Five local authors were asked to participate, and shared three tables on the sidewalk outside of a sandwich shop (and yes, the connection still baffles me).  In summary: a yoga instructor left some flyers featuring a picture of a limber, lithe & lovely young yogi [1] on one of the tables, and, to sum it up, those flyers got more attention than the books and their friendly authors.

It was difficult for said Friendly Authors to strike up a conversation with passersby for several reasons, including (1) there wasn’t much in the way of sidewalk traffic, (2) the oldies band playing across the street made up in volume for what they lacked in vocal proficiency, and (3) the few passersby lived up to their moniker – they were passing by, and looked to be single-mindedly on their way to see something else.[2]

I did the right thing [3] – participated when asked – despite my experiences with such events which makes me deem them ill-suited (read: a waste of time) for writers.  Fine arts & craft, wine & food celebrations lend themselves to…well…fine arts and crafts and wine and food.  When I attend such events, it is to partake of/ browse/sample and maybe even purchase fine arts and craft and wine and food.  I don’t think, “Oh, and what a great place to find a good novel.”  The rare times I seen people selling books at such events I don’t even stop to take a peek anymore.[4]

The Book Table can’t compete with (nor even complement) the Free Samples of Ragin’ Cajun  Chocolate Salsa Sauce table.  The arts & crafts are on total display: you can see them for what they are, and you either like the painting or the macramé plant hanger or you don’t.  You can sample the wares from the various homemade gourmet merchants before buying – there is no preamble or teaser quotes or first chapter to the bottle of salsa or tub of hummus or glass of craft beer – a couple of sample tastes and you know what you’ll be getting, the whole way through.  You can hear the band or the lone musician playing, and on that basis decide to purchase their CD.  A book is a different animal, especially at a street fair or similar event.  You can’t just take one or two sips and be confident in what you’re getting; the decision to purchase one is more akin to taking a gamble.

At least I picked up one good tip for the next time I grit my teeth and Do The Right Thing:  Forget your standard book promo materials, and get a flyer with eye-catching graphics.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

*   *   *

Department of Will Someone Please Explain to Me…

As a kid, I didn’t understand the light a match reference, nor the presence of a pack of matches in the bathrooms of most people of my parents’ generation.  Even after it was explained to me by an adult [5], it still seemed rather silly.  Was it a last resort, an act of religious penance (Forgive me, Father, for I have blown Satan’s bugle[6]) or some kind of ritual atonement (setting oneself on fire rather than face the shame of emerging from the host’s bathroom after you’ve stunk it up)?

Matches eventually gave way to the Bathroom Air Fresheners industry – including the aptly if not discretely named Poo-pouri [7].  This was a great loss to the budding pyromaniac that lurks in most six year olds, and also provided yet another variation on things that don’t make much sense.

Yeah, I get the point of, or rather I understand the supposed need for, commercial bathroom air fresheners.  But other than serving as an effective irritant to asthmatics and people with fragrance allergies I think it is arguable that they “work.” In my experience in other people’s houses and in restaurants, businesses and other “out” venues, it’s a tossup as to whether air fresheners eliminate [8] or enhance the odors they are designed to combat.

stinky toilet

And the varieties of masking perfumes, ay yi yi.  Here are just some of the olfactory auras available to you, Discerning Consumer, thanks to the scentmeisters of Glade, Renuzit, et al:

Frosted Pine
Clean linen
Creamy Custard® & Apple Cinnamon
Angel Whispers [9]

But really, who’s kidding whom?  Here are your choices.

Bathroom usage sans air freshener:  it smells like someone took a dump in here.

Bathroom usage with air freshener:  it smells like it whispering angels stood by as someone took a dump on a pine tree/in your clean linen/on your apple custard dessert.

Not to get all Bathroom Buddhist ® , but it is what it is.  Embrace the stone age, y’all: light a match.

A day of Firsts

Son K took his first all-by-himself road trip on Tuesday.  He drove up to Tacoma to deliver his first batch of borrowed furniture to his first off-campus rental home, and the next day, on his way back home, had his first encounter with An Officer of The Law and received his first speeding ticket.

speedtickeett

*   *   *

My father, who grew up on a farm in Tennessee, once told me that one of the worst insults you could fling was to call someone that so-and-so pea picker.  I wish I could ask him why, because after spending three hours picking peas (and kale) at my CSA [10] on Wednesday, I think the pea-pickers of the world deserve a whole lotta respect.  Do you know how many pea pods you have to pick to get 78 pounds of pea pods?

I must now pause for a moment to appreciate That Which Made It  Possible for me to spend three hours outdoors, in mid-June, surrounded by pollen-spewing organisms, in relative respiratory relief (no machine gun sneezes!):  drugs.

All hail, ye mighty pharmaceutical industries.[11]  I (almost) forgive you for coming up with scents named angel whispers and Creamy Custard® & Apple Cinnamon.

blow noses

*   *   *

Whatever the wind may carry this weekend, from angel whispers to Satan’s bugles, may it blow gently over you and yours this weekend, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] A yogi is a person who practices yoga.  Got that, Boo-Boo?

[2] My guess is the belly dancing exhibition that was taking place across from the bbq put on by the Masonic Temple (I am not making any of this up).

[3] Authors are never supposed to turn down an invitation to a public event and/or publicity. Unless they do.

[4] I used to, then found myself in the awkward situation of trying to get away from the table ASAP, as a glance at the covers and back pages of the books revealed that they were amateurish, obviously, self-published efforts…as in, really poorly written and in need of serious, competent editing.

[5] By my uncle Joe, accomplished match lighter, may he rest in peace.

[6] a high-pitched, keening wail of a fart, as if summoning Satan’s minions from one’s nether regions.

[7] I am not making this up, and you have to read the product reviews.

[8] Sorry.  Potty-pun unintentional. No shit really.

[9]  Because we all know what angel whispers smell like.

[11] In my case, the makers of generic Zyrtec.

The Bread I’m Not Winning

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Okay, so it’s not a gig in Beautiful Downtown Burbank.  Beautiful Downtown Beaverton’s First Friday  will have to do.

\
Next Friday – that’s one week from today, June 7 – two other authors and I will be participating in the monthly celebration of art and craft, live entertainment and refreshment that takes place in Beaverton’s core downtown area.  Look for me at Beaverton Sub Station (12248 SW Broadway) from 5-8p,[1] selling and signing copies of The Mighty Quinn and trying to be heard above the surrounding bands.

Be there or be…you know.

besquare

*   *   *

Summer preview

Aka, Department of 20-20 Hindsight

 With son K home from college and Belle with less than two full weeks of school left, I have begun yet again, to contemplate my work.  As in, I’m thinking about The Lack of What Should Get Done ® that happens during mid June through August.

Summer is a strange time for me.  The freedom I thought would get with the kids growing older – they’ll be monitoring (and transporting) themselves right? – it hasn’t happened yet.  The schedules (and interruptions) remain, and are more sporadic and unpredictable than during the school year. It’s still child care, in a different form and with slightly bigger britches (theirs, not mine.  I promise).

beach

I try to set lower professional goals for myself during the summer, both for my sanity’s sake and for the enjoy-the-time-with-the-kids-while-you-can thing.  The subject of professional goals provides a convenient segue to the department of If I’d known then what I know now:  I should have rented an office, or office space.  Or convinced MH that a condo or loft would be a good investment, and worked from there.

I didn’t need to read the recent articles on the brouhaha about working from home vs. going to the office to know the reality, for me.  In terms of professional productivity, going-to-the-office wins the mud wrestling match, no question.  Also, there is the delicate topic of respect, from both family and even working-away-from-home peers, [2] and the assumed responsibility for the lion’s share of household chores (because, after all, there you are, at home [3])…and the anecdotal but nonetheless real evidence:  the times when I have had regular opportunities (and a place) to work away from my home office, I got

So. Much. More Done.

Of course, the reality of writing literary fiction (read: pays next to nothing) does not justify the added business expense…unless you heed the adage of you’ve got to spend money to make money and with the extra time who knows how much more productive I could have been…and would that have translated into enough income to justify the investment?

Like a piece of speculative fiction written by a Gen-Y-er, this post is going nowhere.  It must be time to complain about some other aspect of The Writing Life. ©

*   *   *

Things About Which I Have Strong Opinions

I’ve said this before and will likely say it again:  the dirty little secret of writing fiction is that it is much easier to make money from other writers (“aspiring” or wannabes or actual writers) than it is from writing fiction.

ang

The various writers’ trade journals proclaim this reality with their print and classified ads and with their e-newsletters and weekly updates, all of which feature some come-on like the following, which was in a weekly e-update from one of the professional trade publications to which I subscribe: 

“PERFECT YOUR NOVEL – Writing a novel is tough, but polishing it is nearly impossible to do alone. With the Writers’ Hackathon Weekly [4]  Advanced Novel Writing course, writers don’t have to tackle the process alone!”

This is the point where any writer worth their post-it notes should slam the door shut in the face of the virtual door-to-door insurance peddler.

Polishing (your novel) is “nearly impossible to do alone” – WTF? Actually, it is quite possible.  Actually, writers do it all the time. Actually, 99.99% of novelists have somehow managed to “polish” their work themselves, without the being scammed into paying for the ripoff that is aid of writing tutorials, seminars, conferences, market trend analyses, MFA programs – all of which are relatively recent boils on the ass trends in the history of literature.

The ad goes on to tell you how the course’s instructor will work with certain chosen individuals, and concludes with this additional appeal to ego: 

“This course is not for beginners. Rather, it’s for writers who are ready to get published and want specific feedback on what’s working-or not-with their manuscripts. This is the final ascent to publication!”

The final ascent!  No wonder I feel a need to grab my oxygen mask – I’m almost to the top.  Oh, wait a minute – This course is not for beginners. Rather, it’s for writers who are ready to get published.  That sounds like a beginner’s mindset to me.  Not yet published, or not yet “ready” to be published?

My second piece of advice for writers (after the first, which is, never ask writers for advice on writing) is more warning then recommendation:  writing fiction is ultimately a solitary activity.  You do it by yourself, on your own, not with your writing tutor or your writing support group or your therapist, or your professor or your Ten Sure-Fire Steps To Success course instructor. 

“Of all the higher arts, it (writing) is the most self-taught…in the end, you have to find your own way.”   (John Updike)

*   *   *

Department of Much ado About Well, Duh

Conservative blogger and Fox News “personality” [5] Erick Erickson became the latest primitive mouthbreather to be pissing in his man-panties over the recently released PEW Research Social & Demographic Trends survey, [6]  which show that  40% of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family. [7]  Because, dude,, female breadwinners will destroy society as we know it.

(Cave) Men:  ooga chaka ooga ooga  chaka

Womans! Give us back our bread!

crazy-cabbie-caveman-dragging-woman-by-hair-in-hoboken

Someone pass the sourdough boule, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] The logical place for authors invited to your event is to give them space in a sandwich shop.

[2] “real work” involves leaving the house, and your working time is always interrupt-worthy because, after all, you work at home – you are your own boss and have flex hours and can set your own schedule, right?

[3] And if the cat comes in and barfs under your desk you have no choice but to clean it up, whereas it wouldn’t do that if your desk were somewhere else, and you could return home and like everyone else, pretend not to notice the mess until someone stepped in it.

[4] Not the publication’s real title.  Dammit.

[5] This is an identity?

[6] analyzing U.S. Census Bureau data.

[7]  “Breadwinner moms” breakdown:  37% are married mothers whose income is higher than their husbands, and 63% are single mothers, who, by definition (or so it seems to me) will have the highest income in their household if they have the only income in their household.

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