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The Hakuna I’m Not Matata-ing

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That Didn’t Take Long, Did It?

Okay, I’ll get this out of the way.

SOAPBOX

The seat cushions of the 114th Congress – which is 80% white, 80% male and 92% declared Christian and yet gets called “one of the most diverse (Congresses) in American history” – are barely warm, and guess what the religious right is up do?

Rep. Walter Jones (R, N. Car.) introduced a bill, H.R. 153, which aims to “restore the Free Speech and First Amendment rights of churches and exempt organizations by repealing the 1954 Johnson Amendment.”

The Johnson Amendment, a change in the tax code, prohibits churches (or other nonprofits with 501C tax exemptions) from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Hiding behind the free speech flag waving is the bill’s real agenda – religious electioneering and the effort to erode the wall of separation between church and state.

carlin

As per this alert from The American Humanist Association:

If pastors are given the right to endorse candidates from the pulpit, their parishioners may be coerced into supporting specific candidates because of a perceived religious obligation. This is fundamentally un-American, and weakens the state of our democracy by giving religious leaders untold influence. Stand up for church-state separation by opposing this harmful bill.

Church and state are separate for a reason, and attempts to de-secularize our government are opposed by levelheaded people of all worldviews, from humanist to religious believers.  Please, take a minute and make your voice heard by contacting your Representative.

*   *   *

andnow

DVD pick of the week : Murderball

This award-winning 2005 documentary about the U.S. quad rugby team, a team composed of paraplegic men, is highly entertaining. However, the film is not exactly in the mode of Reader’s Digest Inspiring Stories when it comes to portraying the psychologically transformative power of living with a disability.  In other words, if the macho asshole sensibility was your guiding force in life before you were disabled, chances are you will continue to be a macho asshole in your souped-up wheelchair.

murdrerball

*   *   *

Department of Oh Please, Please, Make It Be True

In the latest issue of The Week‘s It Must Be True I Read it in the Tabloids section, there is a blurb about a new home-renting service: Airpnp.

Nah, I thought, it can’t be real, although it’s a great prank on airbnb…then I searched, and found the service’s website:

Find a clean, comfortable bathroom no matter where you are. Airpnp gives you access to a ton of restrooms all over the planet. Whether you’re just out and about, at a big event, or need to find a place to go in a new city we’ve got you covered. 

Apparently, someone made it so.

*   *   *

Department of Too Good To Be True, But It Is
Aka, The Updated Version of Our Bestseller will Be Titled
The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven: And Lied His Ass Off for Jesus

There’s a whole industry based on books where people “die” and then come back to life with firsthand accounts about what it’s like in heaven and what a really nice guy Jesus is. To American Christians, this is like deep-fried foods – they just eat it up, no questions asked. Because it verifies what they already believe, but can’t prove.
(Bill Maher, “Heavenly Fodder”)

You may have heard that Christian Evangelicals and religious booksellers all over the nation were peeing their pants with capitalist delight over the book that the gullible believers faithful  flocked to purchase.  The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven: A True Story, the 2010 “memoir” of a boy’s recollection of his tour of heaven during his comatose state that followed a car accident, is being pulled from shelves after the (now) 16 year old boy admitted he made up the tale. [1]

The boy’s name?  Alex Malarkey.

*   *   *

Speaking of malarkey, Pope Not-As-Big-A-Cretin-As-The-Others-But-Still-a-Pope Francis went on his Hell Freezes Over [2] tour of the Philippines. He led an outdoor Mass last Sunday in Manila, during which he praised the faith of “simple people” (translation: those willing to swallow whatever codswallop the church dishes out).

The F-pope also spoke out against “poverty, ignorance and corruption,” giving those of us who are religion-free yet another thigh-slapper.

laughing

After all, the church’s Holy Trinity of poverty, ignorance and corruption is what sustains their hold over the ignorant, fearful, deceived masses faithful.

" Y'all pray for the poverty-stricken masses while I wave this solid gold cross."

” Y’all pray for the poverty-stricken masses while I wave this solid gold cross.”

*   *   *

Department of Really Stupid Stuff I Nearly Said
Sub-Department: This is Going To Come Back To Haunt Me Someday

As my groceries were being rung up I was about to comment on the clerk’s unique hand tattoo but, fortunately, took a second look before I opened my mouth…and realized that what had caught my attention was not ink art on the back of the clerk’s hand, but rather a tangle of varicose veins.

Not quite like this.

Not quite like this.

*   *   *

Department of Yum

The aroma is wafting[3] in from the kitchen, where a pan of toasted whole spices is cooling on the counter.  I’ll grind them [4] after they cool, then mix them with ground turmeric and coriander, for my special recipe curry powder.

spicesJPG

I love the smell of toasted spices, which lingers for hours, sometimes even overnight.  Belle, not so much.  One of the few plusses to having your children away at college is being able to mix up whatever spice or sauce combinations suit your palate, and not hear the dreaded Eeeeew, what’s that?

On one such Eeeew occasion, a long long time ago in a kitchen far far away, MH helped Belle weather the storm.  I think it was something Thai I was cooking; whatever it was, she didn’t like the smell of it, and he rigged a protective “device” for her — a tissue placed under her nose and held in place by her (relatively new, at that time) eyeglasses.   I was so pissed off My joy at his inventiveness knew no bounds, and I’m still thanking him for his ingenuity. [5]

Sadie nose protector

*   *   *

A few weeks ago someone said I didn’t often post personal info on my blog. I don’t know how much more personal you can get than to show a picture of your pestle-that-could-be-mistaken-for-a-marital-aid; still, I suppose it was a valid observation.

So.  Here are
15 Little Known If Not Exactly Personal Facts About Moiself
Content alert: name dropping

  1. I am interested, to the point of occasional fascination, by reports of inclement weather. (It’s a good thing MH & I are the Last Remaining Neanderthals Who Do Not Now Nor Ever Have Had Cable TV, ® or I would be glued to the various weather channels).
  2. I abhor the taste of black licorice and licorice-like flavors and aromas (if a recipe calls for anise or fennel seeds, I’ll leave it out). It isn’t a true allergic reaction, but even the whiff of a fresh fennel bulb makes me woozy.
  3. There is no third little known fact about me.
  4. One day in the early 70’s Danny Bonaduce (“Danny Partridge”) tried to strike up a conversation with me at Seattle’s Space Needle, where he and Dave Madden (“Reuben Kincaid”) were attending a Partridge Family promotional event. [6]
  5. I have shorter than average toes. [7]
  6. I think it would be great fun to have a glass shattering range (ala a firearms shooting range), where a person could lob full bottles of liquid against a concrete wall.
  7. I have had cats, dogs, snakes, lizards, birds, hamsters, rats, guinea pigs, snails, fish, mice and tarantulas for pets, but never a rabbit.
  8. When I was accepted to UC Davis I received a recruitment letter from their field hockey team.
  9. I worked for the obstetrician who delivered Neil and Pegi Young’s second child. [8]
  10. Oops, looks like only ten little known facts.
"There, there, it's nothing personal, Danny, she just thought your bass playing sucked."

“There, there, it’s nothing personal, Danny, she just thought your bass playing sucked.”

*   *   *

Department of Why I’ll Never Be Ambassador to Kenya

At least once a week, whatever part of my brain is in charge of such things rings me up in the proverbial middle of the night with a must-write-this-down call.  Over the years I have learned that whatever prompts these nocturnal nudges cannot be ignored if I am to go back to sleep; thus, I keep a notepad and pen on my nightstand.

Nine out of ten times I wake up in the morning aware of (mostly) what I’d written down.  Last Saturday was one of the 10% mornings: I knew I’d written something, but wasn’t sure about the content.  In the morning, my scribbles on the note pad read:

Hakuna Matata?
No, Hakuna Frittata.

Oh. Okay. I get it.

Not this:

hakuna

But, this:

fritatta

Don’t you wish your subconscious was as profound as mine?

*   *   *

 May your Wall of Separation keep you safe from encroaching licorice, and allow for an occasional fennel-free frittata to sneak past the border patrol…
and may the hijinks ensue.

  Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Actually, it’s quite sad to read the story behind the story. The accident left the boy quadriplegic; he wanted attention, was raised religious…and the boy and his mother were exploited by both fellow evangelicals and publishers and pressured to remain silent when they wanted to go public with the book’s “inaccuracies.”

[2] Or, was that The Eagles?

[3] Wafting is an aroma’s favorite means of transport.

[4] In a $9 coffee bean grinder I purchased solely for grinding spices.

[5] Or, not.

[6] I thought he was trying to impress me with his celebrity, and I snubbed him. He was surrounded by adults and I was the only person his age nearby…I think he was just a lonely/bored kid trying to connect, and I’ve always regretted not being kinder to him.

[7] As confirmed by many a shoe salesman, one of whom said, after espying my naked feet, “Wow, if you had, like, normal length toes your shoes would be one or two sizes larger.”  Guess who didn’t make that sale?

[8] And I’m pissed at Mr. Young for dumping Pegi after 36+ years for…Daryl Hannah?

The Baby Card I’m Not Sending

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Happy New Year – Pick Your Battles

Every morning I send an email to my mother (from my end it’s an email; from her end, it’s more like receiving a fax [1]). The emails are neither particularly personal nor conversational – I save that for our phone calls. Rather, they are another way of keeping in touch, another way of letting her know I’m thinking of her, another way to provide her with a modicum of cognitive stimulation and something to read besides that loony-ass shit the Billy Graham people send her. [2]

Each day’s email has a theme. Mondays are Jokes for the day, and I send her select stories and gags I’ve culled from a variety of “clean” humor websites.

corny joke

On another day she receives a Word for the Day, and there is a Quote for the Day, Poem for the Day, and so on.

Thursdays are Thoughts for the Day: two or more meditative or philosophical passages I gather from a couple of sources, including one called (wait for it) Thought For Today.

The TFT website describes its function as providing:

 “…daily Medication for the soul. Quotations and words of wisdom to motivate and inspire. Since January 2008 we have provided a Thought for the Day from famous and not so famous individuals, some still living, some not.
We believe that words are powerful, they have the power to tear you down and they have they have the power to build you up….”

The TFT site posts a list of quotations/meditations/thoughts that change daily.  No matter the attribution, the words of wisdom are listed as being presented on the site by “The Thought Collector’s Wife.” Which frosts my butt, every time I read that.

OHNO

Yesterday, I decided that it’s butt-thawing time, and sent the TFT site the following email.

I enjoy reading your collection of motivational quotes. As you so wisely put it in your About Us statement, “Words are powerful, they have the power to tear you down and they have they have the power to build you up.” I agree wholeheartedly that words matter – that how we say something can be just as important as what we are saying.  Thus, I request that you please change the name of “The Thought Collector’s Wife” to “The Thought Collector.” The former “title” is a sexist remnant, reflecting the times when only a man was thought to have ownership of occupations and ideas – times when, for example, a man who farmed was referred to as a farmer, and the woman who also farmed would be called “the farmer’s wife.”
“Wife” and “husband’ are terms denoting relationship, not occupation.  If a woman collects thoughts, she is a thought collector – her marital status is irrelevant.
Thank you for your consideration of my request.

*   *   *

 

falling

OPRAH DROPS FOUR SIZES ! ! !

Yikes! I hope they didn’t land on anyone’s noggin.

That is my favorite spam of 2015. The year is young, I know.

spamlite

*   *   *

Speaking of canned meat by-products,  although it pains me to waste precious seconds by typing the name, Sarah Palin (ye-ow, that smarts) was something I thought I’d be grateful for, in the new year.  Grateful as in, I’ve yet another year to appreciate the concept of bullet dodging.

As in, we dodged a bullet.

Big time.

All of us.

Which we did by not electing the McCain-Palin (ouch) ticket.

I also thought I’d be grateful that the dropout governor/former mayor of the meth capital of Alaska was seemingly/relatively gone from public life….

Silly moi.

And then, one of her mutant offspring [3] stepped on the new family dog, and for some reason Palin (owwww) posted a picture of the abuse charming domestic scene on a social media site.  Animal rights accusation flinging ensued, and Palin (stop that!) eagerly dove headfirst into the slop bucket jumped into the ring.

Pet abuse, schmet-abuse – the real story is, why did she respond at all?  Is it simply that she continues to be infected with the quasi-celebrity mentality that any press is good press, and it’s been some time since she’s had a headline?

I actually read part of her screed, before I was overcome with a return-to-sanity-inducing, WTF am I doing?!  bout of self-reproach.  And I felt a chill – yep, the actual, [4] proverbial chill running down my spine – to read her strident, two-steps-short-of-intelligible harangue; I felt chilled to realize that such an immature, superficial, petty and vicious person was, for the most manipulative and cynical reasons [5], chosen to be placed in a position a few EKGs away from the presidency.

And thus, the first Pretty Purple Toe Award of 2015 goes to…well, to all of us. We do a lotta dumb shit, but at least we did not go down that path.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

*   *   *

҉    New Year Reflections Continued    ҉

The Department of She Meant Well
Chapter XVI: The Problem with The Problem Child

The following discourse is courtesy to flashbacks sparked by the family wedding photos I received with this year’s Christmas cards and letters.

Dateline: either in late junior high or high school.  was visiting a friend at her house. My friend, Friend’s Mother and I were talking about…parent-child relationships, perhaps? I cannot remember the subject. Whatever the topic, it apparently inspired Friend’s Mother to tell me the story of how my mother had confided in her that I was my mother’s “problem child.”

Looking back, I think FM sincerely (if mistakenly) thought that by sharing this story she might bolster my self-confidence and paint herself as a hero –  my champion – as the anecdote also included her response to my mother:

“Well, if that’s a problem child, give me that problem any day!”

problemchild

Problem child. A moniker which, I imagine, most true problem children bear with pride.

It confused me, then. Still does.

I attended a Southern California high school that had a socioeconomically and ethnically diverse student body, and which was majority Hispanic by my senior year.  My fellow students were kids from poverty-stricken neighborhoods with gang problems and rich kids with drug problems and surfer kids with Dude, where’s my brain? problems, and everything in between.

Moi? I was a smart ass, with opinions. I talked back – and forth, and up and down – at home, at school, at church. I questioned; I had political and social and cultural attitudes and interests that were not always shared nor understood by my parents or teachers.  I also was a straight-A student, involved in my church’s youth group and in school sports and student government and journalism programs, and by my senior year had my own editorial column in the school paper’s op-ed page.

I was not doing drugs/violence/the track coach under the bleachers. Where, exactly, was the problem?

Not my long-lost high school picture.

Not my long-lost high school picture.

Through the miracle of time travel we return to the recent past, to one of last year’s three family weddings.  My niece’s wedding ceremony was late (surprise!) in starting.  Sitting in the second row, I struck up a conversation with one of the three wonderful women who are employed as my mother’s round-the-clock, live-in caretakers (“Mom’s Ladies” is how my sisters and I fondly refer to them).

Looking around at the other guests, I’d noticed I seemed to be the only female not attired in something on the purple-blue end of the color spectrum. I pointed to my black skirt and made a crack to the Mom’s Lady sitting nearest me, about how I obviously “hadn’t been sent the wedding attire memo.”

Mom’s Lady winked at me and said, with conspiratorial affection, “Well, of course – black sheep of the family.”

Interesting…that the label had apparently changed (progressed?) from Problem Child ® to Black Sheep ®.

Still, youch. I just wasn’t expecting that blast from the past.

The thing is, the only reason one of Mom’s Ladies could have known I had been given that label is that is that someone – my mother is the likely suspect – had to have said that to her.

Why does such a label – or the story of it – persist? It may be due in part to the fact that I am the only (openly) religion-free person in my immediate family. But, really. FFS, I’m in my fifties.

 

Yeah, I'm black. You tighty whities got a problem with that?

Yeah, I’m black. You tighty whities got a problem with that?

*   *   *

Department of Pipe Dreams

Ababies

Aka, The Congratulations Card I Probably Won’t Send

What with all the weddings in my extended family during the past year, there’s bound to be some imminent breeding. Here is an example of the baby congrats card I’d love to send…but won’t.[6]

Congratulations on the birth of your new little atheist!

Congratulations on your new little atheist!

 

All babies, including those born to religious parents, are born atheists.  Atheism is not a philosophy or belief system – really, it’s not an ism at all. It is a term which simply denotes a lack of theistic belief, which is where we all begin – it is a human being’s natural state. We are born without supernatural beliefs, or beliefs of any kind.

Religions need to be inculcated.  Beliefs are learned [7].  You have to be carefully taught.

 

*   *   *

And You Thought Wedgies Were Uncomfortable

Animal name of the day…year…century.  Behold, the cockchafer.

Imagine having that for your species name. Just, because, okay?

Who's the cute little cockchafer?!

Who’s the cute little cockchafer?!

*   *   *

Overheard

Dateline: Wednesday, during our family tradition of playing cards at dinner (dealer chooses the game). Over a game of Knock (aka Kings in the corner), MH came up with a somewhat mild double entendre while Belle, K and I were discussing the latest Downton Abbey episode.

“Dad!” Belle gasped in astonishment and delight. “Did you just make a dick joke?!”

MH smiled enigmatically, but did not reply.

“I think you’re ready to play Cards Against Humanity,” [8] Belle declared.

*   *   *

May you be ready for any game your children will play with you, and for all shades of sheep that may roam the pastures of your life, and may the covert dick jokes and hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] She has a device which allows her to print email from selected sources (thus, no spam), but she cannot reply. The device caters to and is marketed at the elderly/frail/computer-disinterested and/or phobic.

[2] No, she does not read this blog (and has no means to do so) – whaddya think, I’m crazy or something?

[3] I know, I know, don’t pick on the kids. At least I didn’t employ a slur that is supposedly directed at the mentally impaired (hint: rhymes with pee chard).

[4] Notice I did not type, “literal,” as, literally, that word has been officially declared so 2014, or whatever.

[5] You really must read Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime. Preferably while chugging a strong anti-emetic.

[6] Because, after all, don’t want to give ‘em any more Black Sheep ammunition.

[7] And, fortunately, can be unlearned.

[8] My offspring have promised to play that game with me, but have steadfastly refused to do so with their more genteel father.

The Toxins I’m Not Cleansing

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

Happy New Year, Indeed

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

Toxins? What, exactly, are these toxins?

WORD.

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

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

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

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

That is incorrect; you forfeit the bonus round.

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

This is your liver.

This is your liver.

This is your liver on David Crosby.

This is your liver on David Crosby 

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

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

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

 

detox

*   *   *

Department of Ch-ch-ch changes

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

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

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

"The what formerly known as what?"

“The what formerly known as what?”

*   *   *

Department of Because It Works

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

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

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

Remember how well it worked last year?

Remember how well it worked last year?

*   *   *

Department of Making My Daughter Groan

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

rainbros

*   *   *

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

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

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

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

[2] Especially when piloted by teen drivers.

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

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

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

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

The Possum I’m Not Herding

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The Department of Feasting

My family – the one MH and I created – has several holiday season traditions, some of our own making and some adopted/adapted from our respective families of origin.  The elves that hide in every downstairs room to watch you from atop the curtain rod, hanging from the bathroom lights or peeking out from a potted plant watching you – that’s from my family.  The every-piece-of-art-with-a-face-wears-a-Santa-hat mandate, that’s from the weirdo festive mind of moiself.

a clock may not be art, but it has a face.

a clock may not be art, but it has a face.

 

Many of our traditions involve (surprise!) dining.  Depending on when the Solstice falls, there are several days in a row of special meals.  Solstice Soup & Salad Supper; Little Christmas Eve,[1]  and of course Christmas Eve. [2]  On Christmas Day we go out for lunch to a fancy-schmancy restaurant, then for dinner it’s homemade pizza. Come Boxing Day, I swear I’m never going to cook/eat again…a vow that I am most happy to break in the New Year.

 

Mmmmm...lefse.

Mmmmm…lefse.

*   *   *

Department of Holiday Guerrilla Art Projects

Much to the chagrin pride of my family, I’ve been working on a…new project.  Friend and legitimate artist LAH refers to my project as a kind of performance art.  I’ve composed a variation on the typical lost pet posting that you see on kiosks, neighborhood post office boxes and lampposts, and for the past few days I have been posting these flyers around the “greater” [3] Hillsboro area.

LOST PET: REWARD FOR RETURN OF OUR BELOVED DOG!
503-555-9929
He is a purebred Welsh possum herder, answers to the name of:

Llanfairpwllgwyngyll

uglycat

Physical description: 15 years old,weighs approx. 10 lbs, brown, mange-ridden fur
blind in left eye, arthritic, toothless, asthmatic, incontinent….

On second thought, never mind.

 

* Yes, Virginia, Llanfairpwllgwyngyll is the actual name of a Welsh village;
* Yes, Virginia, there is no such thing as a Welsh possum herder dog;
* Yes, Virginia, the picture is not of a dog, but that of a pretty sorry looking cat

 

*   *   *

pagantree

“Thus saith the Lord, learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with teh axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.”

(Jer. 102-4)

 After last week’s post, specifically the blurb about the essay No, Virginia, There is NO Santa Claus, I feel compelled to explain that I like the Santa Claus thing.

I loved the folklore of Santa Claus when I was a child, even as I can’t remember a time that I actually believed Santa was a real entity.  It was a marvelous make-believe that got both kids and grownups to play an elaborate kind of dress up.

Being raised in a religious family, I took the various birth-of-JC stories for granted, although they didn’t interest me nearly as much as the other trappings of the Solstice season.  All the things I loved most about Christmas – Santa and the reindeer, candles and lights, festive greenery and Christmas fir trees, the idea of giving and receiving gifts – were, I later realized, secular traditions and symbols predating Christianity. These traditions and symbols were later stolen adopted and adapted by Christians, in a practice called Interpretatio Christiana, as a strategy for relating to and ultimately converting their pagan neighbors.

I know all that.  Still, I love the Santa thing for several reasons, including the fact that Santa Claus is a Freethinker/Bright?Atheist/Rationalist/Humanist’s best friend.  Or, as author and educator Dale McGowan put it, Santa Claus is “the greatest gift a rational worldview ever had.”

Asanta

Santa Claus is an entertaining and culturally acceptable way to introduce children to the fact that sensible-appearing people who claim to have good or altruistic reasons for doing so often “believe in” something that is exceptionally improbable…and these same, otherwise sensible people tap dance their way around answering the sticky questions children ask when they notice things like, “How come Santa brings more gifts to rich kids than to poor kids?”

By allowing our children to participate in the Santa myth and find their own way out of it through skeptical inquiry, we give them a priceless opportunity to see a mass cultural illusion first from the inside, then from the outside. A very casual line of post-Santa questioning can lead kids to recognize how completely we all can snow ourselves if the enticements are attractive enough.
Dale McGowan, from his essay “Santa Claus, the Dry Run

*   *   *

uglyXmas sweater

Only 364 days until the next UCS [4] Fest.

*   *   *

Happy Boxing Day!  And may the hijinks ensue.

*   *   *

 Make it so...festive

Make it so…festive

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Little Christmas Eve is the Eve before Christmas Eve, an obscure – to everyone but my family – holiday supposedly celebrated by my paternal grandfather’s tiny Norwegian village.  The LCE dinner menu varies year to year; this year, at K’s & Belle’s request, roast rack of lamb.

[2] CE menu never varies: Norwegian lefse and meatcakes.

[3] The farther away from Hillsboro, the greater you get.

[4] Ugly Christmas Sweater.

The DMV I’m Not Suing

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

 *   *   *

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

Not this bad.

Not this bad.

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

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

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

Really.  A bad picture.

Almost this bad.

Almost this bad.

*   *   *

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

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

Also, there was the lefse party.

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

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

*   *   *

Department of Pretend There Was An Artful Segue

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

(my emphases)

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

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

 1984
Candide
Grapes of Wrath 

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

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

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

advisorypng

Holy fucking inappropriate love scenes.

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

And, “Grapes of Wrath,”  really?

REALLY

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

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

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

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

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

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

I just feel like kicking something.

ignorance

*   *   *

Department of, awwwww…..

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

Well, yeah.

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

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

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

Actually, it was a quarter.

Of course I had to take it.  For two reasons

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

*   *   *

The Return of the Santa Hats

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

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

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

 *   *   *

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

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Yep, I’m talkin’ you, BOM.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Accordion I’m Not Throwing

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

 

shuttlecraftnutmegshuttlecraft

*   *   *

Chappy Chanukah [2]

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

Gentlemen and Ladies, start your latkes.

Gentlemen and Ladies, start your latkes.

*   *   *

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

Fruitcake for the Holidays:  A Special Recipe  [4]

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet another victim of Aunt Erva's Holiday Fruitcake.

Yet another victim of Aunt Erva’s Holiday Fruitcake.

*   *   *

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

myfruitcake

*   *   *

The Department of Not Holding My Breath…

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

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

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

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

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

AHat640

*   *   *

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

“Is that velvet?  Velvet and plaid?”

I nodded, and let her caress my sleeve.

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

velvetplaid

*   *   *

Department of What If

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

dispenser

*   *   *

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

However….

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

vuvu

*   *   *

 

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

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

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

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

[3] That would be spatula.

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

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

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

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

The Nothing I’m Not Buying

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

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

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

What cheese surrounds a medieval castle?
Moatzeralla 

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

stinkly cheese

*   *   *

Department of Name Your Poison

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

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

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

adbusters_everything-is-fine-keep-shopping

*   *   *

Making Ursula Proud of Me

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

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

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

Yeah – that’s the ticket.

*   *   *

Just Wondering

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

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

I’m thinking of calling it, Free Willy.

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

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

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

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

[2] Adbusters

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

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

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

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

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