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The Virus I’m Not Defeating

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I do not do well with fevers. My own, that is (I have no problem with yours). This may be your brain on drugs, but it’s mine when my temperature rises above 100.º

BRAIN

 I woke up Tuesday morning and promptly wished I hadn’t.  Fever, congestion, cough-sneezing and sore throat.  I’d felt something coming on Monday, uttered those famous last words (it’ll go away) to myself, and tried to rest most of the day, in order to fulfill my March 5 World Read Aloud Day commitment.  I was scheduled to read excerpts from The Mighty Quinn to two classrooms: Tuesday eve at 9 p Pacific Time (which translates to 10 am March 5, Pakistan time) to a classroom in Karachi via a Skype call, then on Wednesday to a classroom in Seattle.

I tested my Skype connection, practiced (whispering, to save my increasingly hoarse voice) my excerpts and set my phone alarm for the evening, so I wouldn’t sleep through the call from Pakistan.  I assumed the fact that I looked like something the cat dragged in – and we have four cats, so that’s a lot of dragging – would be attributed to the computer connection.

oh, poor widdle yuppie model, pretending to be sick - dude, never have I looked this good, even at 98.6º and even when...not a dude.

oh, poor widdle yuppie model, pretending to be sick – dude, never have I looked this good, even at 98.6º and even when…not a dude.

The call from Pakistan never came.  My attempts at connection were for naught, as the teacher remained offline.  Then, the next day, when my fever rose, I had to cancel the WRAD session with Seattle, when I realized that being conscious (not to mention vertical) for 30 minutes was not an option.

Wednesday eve I told pathetically whined calmly articulated to MH how in the last couple of days, the most exercise I’d gotten was putting my socks on when I got chilled and then taking them off five minutes later when I was feverish and overheated.  With all due spousal support and sympathy, MH told me I seemed to be taking a Karate Kid approach to my convalescence.  Socks on; socks off….

wax on...wax off....

wax on…wax off….

 *   *   *

While cleaning my office last week I found a CD I’d purchased in December, buried under a stack of scratch papers.  So, this means that, for more than 8 weeks, I have been unmindful of the thereabouts of my “Mindfulness: An eight week plan for finding peace in a frantic world” guided meditation CD.  Does this mean I’m ahead of, or behind, the plan?

DOGOM

Wednesday eve my son sent me a link to a draft of his undergraduate research grant proposal, with the request that I give it a “proof.”  I’d warned him about my fever brain, and said I’d try to get to it…whenever.

Thursday morning my temp dipped to under 100º – yay!  (and then slowly rose as the day went by – boo.).  I took a copy of my son’s paper and my Red Pen of Proof ©   upstairs, figuring I could take a crack at it every fifteen minutes or so, between sleeping through whatever horrendous shows were on the Overheated Brain Pacification Device (TV).  Scratch that – my convalescent viewing was to alternate bouts of consciousness while playing my recently acquired, used-but good condition DVDs of the first season of Once and Again).

But I digress. The research paper. Working title: Investigation of the activities of MalA, a maltase from the predatory bacterium Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus.

Imagine my surprise, to find that sentences such as

GH13 enzymes are known to display a wide variety of hydrolase activities such as α-1,4-glucosidases, as well as isomerase and glucanotransferase activities. GH 13 enzymes specifically act on molecules containing α-glucoside linkages. GH13 enzymes employ the retaining mechanism, meaning that their product’s anomeric carbon will have the same configuration as their substrate’s anomeric carbon

 are somehow less intimidating to me when I have fever-brain. Instead of, WTF? my reaction is, wow, man…this is so true.

Oh, and to my amazing son, K:  Honey badger may not care if it’s your birthday tomorrow, but I do. Happy 21st to my guy!

Oh, and K – your sister has the best present for you, in the making.  Like all true works of art it won’t be done overnight, and I’m hoping she (and you) will let me post a picture of it here, when it’s finished.

*   *   *

 ҉    Let us pause for a moment to consider another one of life’s mysteries     ҉    

Nasty for any reason:  a paper cut.
But worth it:  when said cut is procured while opening a box of Lindt 85% cocoa Extra Dark chocolate.

Can you tell I minored in Philosophy? [1]

PIX:CHOC caption: just what the doctor ordered

 *   *   *

May your all fevers be fleeting, all your thermometers be oral, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] That’s a lie. Further proof of illness: only one footnote?

The VD I’m Not Celebrating

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Valentine’s Day.  I always thought that Hallmarkification of that day was a sexually transmitted malady, and thus enjoyed its abbreviation, VD.  But nowadays we have STDs, not VDs.  The new-fangled acronym spoils all the fun.

Anyway.

I know it’s a corporate conspiracy to make single people feel lonely and miserable, and make those who are coupled, happily or otherwise, feel pressured to spend big bucks and Do Something Special.  Still, if you can stand it, Happy VD, y’all.

CAGEpng

*   *   *

Oh no, the family moans, the Winter Olympics are here.

Summer or Winter games, I like ‘em both.  For two weeks, when the Olympic Games are televised, I have to fight the urge to nest on the family room floor and watch every event.

Some urges are easier to fight than others.  For instance, I don’t care to watch the luge, for several reasons.

1.  The name of the event, Luge, sounds to my eternally-amused-by-a-nine-year-old’s-sense-of-humor portion of my brain has something to do with boogers.
2.  It’s probably a blast to do, but it’s a rather passive sport to watch.  The riders hop on, and you watch them either hold on or fall off.
3.  The inward turned leg position a successful luge (there it is again!) rider must hold atop the booger-sled luge reminds me of salmon steaks.  And while I adore salmon in most any form, for some reason, I do not like the cut of salmon steaks. [1]
4.  Did I mention boogers?

LugeSALMON

Salmon steak, or luge?  Can you spot the difference? 

*   *   *

Tuesday morning I emailed friend LAH, another member of the <!–aAWWAF (Adult Women Who Adored Their Fathers) club.  L’s father, Jesse, died a little less than two years ago.–>

I wondered why I woke up thinking of you and Jesse.  Then I looked at my calendar: Chet died 5 years ago today.  Hmmm.

I also subsequently had  this email exchange with friend SCM (and daughter P):

My calendar says my dad died five years ago today, which seems at once bizarre and yet, “Oh, yes, it’s been five years.” 

One of the things-I-never-got-around-to-doing with him was to take him out for sushi.  Being both a seafood and soy sauce loving man, and willing to try anything (if his daughter recommended it), I think he would have liked it. If you & P are available I’d like to take you to sushi lunch, in Chet’s honor. 

Has it been five years? Damn. I am so sorry you never got to take him for sushi. Maybe it is a Kentucky thing, but ______ (SCM’s husband) will eat anything at least once. Or maybe it is a military food thing.

I think it may be a southern/poverty thing – they’ll eat anything at least once, because growing up dirt poor like my father did, I got the feeling he had to eat anything…and often more than once.

We met for lunch, at a sushi spot in Portland.  I took one of my most cherished pictures to show P:  of my father astride his Palomino stallion, “Stardust.” P was suitably impressed, and SCM said Chet was quite the handsome dude in his cowboy days, and also, that she saw a resemblance between my son K and his grandfather, something I’d never thought of before.

.chet on stardust

*   *   *

Happy Belated Darwin Day (February 12 [2]).  If you don’t already have this on your calendar, mark it for next year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our Darwin Day dinner celebration included Primordial Soup:

Primordial Soup (serves 3-4; soup is vegan friendly if you lose the dairy garnish)

-1T EVOO
- one medium white or yellow onion, chopped
-1/2 green and ½ red bell peppers, seeded and diced
-4-5 garlic cloves, minced
-1 small celery stalk and 1 peeled carrot, sliced
-1 generous t ground cumin
-1/2 chili powder (chipotle, if you have it)
-pinch of cayenne pepper
-2 c no or low-salt vegetable stock
-1/2 c frozen organic white corn
- ~ 2c cooked black beans or black soy beans
-chopped fresh cilantro and/or Italian parsley for garnish
- (optional) sour cream, Greek yogurt to garnish

1. In a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat, sauté onions in EVOO ~ 8 m, until just starting to brown.  Add celery, carrots, green peppers, sauté for 2 m.
2.  Add garlic to pot, stir until fragrant (30 sec – 1 m).
3. Add remaining ingredients (sans garnish), bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover pot & simmer for 25 m.
3.5  Ain’t no step 3.5  You could do the prep dishes while the soup simmers. Better yet, floss your teeth (they probably need it) Since that won’t take 25 m, floss someone else’s teeth, too.
4. Let soup cool a bit, transfer to blender or processor and puree it, then transfer soup back to the pot.  Better yet, use a hand blender if you have one – and you really should have one if you frequently make soup – to puree the soup right there in the pot. More fun than watching a luge race!
5.Taste for seasoning: add salt, pepper, more cumin, whatever you’d like to taste.
6. Serve garnished with fresh herbs, and a spoonful [3] of cream or yogurt.
7. Wait for the complex organic polymers to arise.  Or, just enjoy the soup.

primordial soup

*   *   *

My son K’s FB message to me re the Bill NyeKen Ham debate:

ended up watching more of the bill nye debate.
man I want a sample of whatever ken ham is smoking.

There were those who thought Nye lost the debate just by showing up; that is, by legitimizing creationists’ whackadoodle alternate reality  [4] as being capable of rational debate.  Then there was the post-debate, informal poll on the website Christian Today, in which a whopping 92% of respondents – presumably, people who even know there is a website called  Christian Today — said that Bill Nye won the debate.

I suppose it comes down to how you define win.  Bill Nye got to do his geeky, sincere, Science Guy presentation, which perhaps sparked the teensiest seed of hmmmmm? in a few true believers who may have dropped their blinders just long enough to notice that Ham’s version of refuting scientific claims was the intellectual equivalent of a third grader’s Nyah yah nyah nyah nyah (“Well, you weren’t there so how do you know?).  Ken Ham got a wider-than-usual audience for his blind faith fables.

JESUSSAUR

*   *   *

There was the potential for a nasty, man-slap brawl at the Nye-ham debate, as there is when any testosterone-laden beings disagree. But the participants for the most part kept their cool.  Could it be that they suffer from….low T?

Pre-peri-post-persistent-paleolithic-menopause – when it come$ to redefining a human being’$ natural life a$ a di$ea$e proce$$ that mu$t be managed and treated (read: medicated),  Big Pharma ha$ pretty much exploited women a$ much a$ they can.

Menfolk, don’t say you weren’t warned.  It’s your turn.  And the trouser-snake oil purveyors know what’ll get your attention:  a T & A show! [5]

You may have noticed the increasing amount  of commercials, articles and emails – even  youtube videos, FFS – with such ominously titillating titles as How to Tell if Your T is Low and How to Increase Your Testosterone Level.  The underlying assumption the T-teams are trying to hammer into that Male Pattern Balding head of yours is that your natural aging process is faulty, and can and should be “fixed,”  Specifically, the ebbing of men’s  testosterone levels be bad, and increasing men’s “T level” be much more better.

Don’t forget to follow those links in the ads, which will take you up the creek down the yellow brick road to the products those fear-mongering, money-grubbing whitecoat quackery  selfless angels who are concerned only with your well-being have concocted to raise your guy-juice levels.

BEFORE

After

After

Although many if not most of these hormone peddlers will be wearing the Hallmark of Sciency Authenticity (a white lab coat  [6]), their spiels won’t contain anything resembling the real science behind the issue of testosterone supplementation.  It’s a safe bet that they won’t be touting the results of the Boston medical researchers’ trial which found that that men taking testosterone supplements had five times the number of “cardiovascular problems” [7]  vs. those taking a placebo (a finding which caused safety monitors to end the trial earlier than planned).  They’re trusting you’ll fall for claptrap about vim and vigor and the other/usual limp dick scare tactics and won’t want or care to read, say, articles like the one in this week’s New York Times Science section, A High Price For Vigor.

Testosterone declines naturally with age.  The lifestyles of many American men can exacerbate this decline; however, as Internist John LaPuma points out in his New York Times op-ed, Don’t Ask your Doctor About “Low T”, clinical testosterone deficiency “isn’t nearly as common as the drug ads would have you believe.”  And the “tried and true way to naturally boost testosterone levels” – losing weight, [8] limiting alcohol consumption, “eating more of the right foods and fewer junk foods”…well, that’s just not as sexy a sell as popping “a prescription for a risky drug to treat a trumped up disease.”

I pity the fool who thinks Mr. T needs more T

I pity the fool who thinks Mr. T needs more T

*   *   *

 Linguistic  Rumination

Why is “trousers” such a great word?  You can wear pants or slacks, britches or breeches or knickers.
But if given my druthers [9] (another great word!), I’d choose trousers.

But not these, even if they were the last trousers on earth, and wearing them would bring world peace and cure cancer.  Nope. Sorry.

But not these, even if they were the last trousers on earth, and wearing them would bring world peace and cure cancer. Nope. Sorry.

*   *   *

Sometimes It’s Better to Stay Awake and Organize The Sock Drawer 

I had a dream.  Not your noble speech-inspiring, Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. I Have A Dream kind of dream. Rather, it was the kind of dream where you are trying to wake yourself up because the dream really sucks, and finally you do wake up, but damned if you don’t fall right back into it when you close your eyes.

I had been conscripted into the army.  They had given me a backpack and a list of supplies with which to fill the pack.  I was concerned that I didn’t have enough wool socks, and should I bring a toothbrush and vitamins and…?  It was getting late; I didn’t want to report for duty, but I had to.  At the check in station, which was in a large, airplane hangar-like building, I was directed to the “Welcome Area For New Recruits.”  I sat down at a large table with other conscripts, and we spoke of our mutual fears re what was in store for us.  I told them I wanted to talk to my dad before I left (ouch), because he knew something about war.  The other draftees, male and female, looked SO YOUNG to me, as if they were in junior high school.  I was my real/present age in the dream, and wondered why They (whomever They were) would want me at my age? And yet, in that out-of-character reality peculiar to dreams, it never occurred to me to protest.

SOLDIERSjpg

I woke up wondering about this pesky aging think.  If I had no mirror to remind me otherwise, on many other levels I can fool myself into thinking I’m still in my late twenties/early thirties.  So, how did I get to be the age I am?

In a moment of (what passes for me as) mathematical genius, I came up with

☼     THE FORMULA THAT EXPLAINS IT ALL [10]     ☼

Q:  “How did I get to be x (where x = your present age)?”

A. By not dying at x-1

You’re welcome.

But please, save the congratulatory phone calls. I need to keep the lines open for the Nobel Committee.

FIND X

*   *    *

Mathematical Rumination

You know what’s odd to me?  Numbers which are not divisible by two.

That's so funny my camel forgot to laugh.

That’s so funny my camel forgot to laugh.

May your worst joke delight your best beast of burden, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Give me a filet, any day.

[2] Chuck Darwin shares a birthday with Honest Abe.  Good to know.

[3] Or a dollop, if you prefer that term (and who doesn’t?).

[4] including such pseudoscience gems as humans hunted dinosaurs to extinction a few thousand years ago after peacefully using them for transport companionship (“Buford, Jethro, y’all seen Rex’s saddle?”)

[5] You were thinking T & A as in testosterone and androgens, right?

[6] Similar to the one worn by your veterinary tech or manicurist.

[7]  Including heart attacks and strokes

[8] Belly fat depresses testosterone levels, as do obesity-caused or exacerbated diseases like diabetes II, and also steroids and opiates and BPAs (commonly found in plastic food containers)….

[9] And please do give me some, because we’re all out of fresh druthers.

[10] Remember, all caps means, “this is where you’re supposed to pay attention.”

The Netherlands I’m Not Grooming

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Dateline: Wednesday, 12:07 pm, text from daughter Belle:

Conversation overheard in the bathroom:
“OMG do we have the same pants?”
“Wow, maybe!  Lemme feel your ass.  Nike yoga pants, shut the f up we do have the same ones!”
*lots of squealing*
“Hi I’m Tiffany, what’s your name?”

REALLY

I’m surprised Tiffany and her new BFF didn’t whip out their phones and take selfies of their, like, totally awesome like-trousered asses…or whatever such vapid creatures do these days.

Yikes, that makes me sound old.

*   *   *

Speaking of things that make me feel old:

2014:  The Year of Californians Wedding Frequently

Two nieces and one nephew from my side of the family are getting married this year.  One in April, two in October, and all three weddings will take place somewhere in SoCal. We’d love for all four of us to be able to go to all three marital hitchings.  K doesn’t know if his midterm schedule will allow for a weekend away in April; K and Belle will be in college, facing midterms, for the October weddings, K in his senior year and Belle in her freshman year…blah blah blah.  Of course, there are complicated logistical/travel and financial considerations for getting all four of us to one wedding, let alone three.  But hey, there are three California weddings.  Yikes and Yee haw!

WEDDING

*   *   *

It seems I have mis-titled the previous section.  It should read,

2014: The Year of Californians Wedding Frequently During the Year of the Horse

Gung Hay Fat Choy, or Happy New Year, to my Chinese-American SIL, “Joey,” and to all who celebrate the lunar new year.

Look out world, it's my year.

Look out world, it’s my year.

My favorite lunar New Year activity, one that might confound my sweet sister-in-law as much as it has embarrassed my offspring, [1] involves roaming the aisles of the Asian supermarket Uwajimaya.  If you’re looking for Japanese linens and dishes and sake serving sets or Chinese teapots and greeting cards, or Hello Kitty men’s boxer shorts [2] ; if your recipe calls for lotus root or bitter melon or tatsoi or other hard-to-find Asian vegetables,  or Cambodian fermented fish paste or 75 varieties of dried black mushrooms or fermented tofu or spot prawns or uni for your sushi bar or fish you didn’t even know swam in our oceans, you can find it at Uwajimaya.

I make several pilgrimages a year to Uwajimaya, but  it’s not the fact that I shop there that causes consternation to my offspring.  Rather, it’s the fact that when I push my cart up and down the aisles I am overcome by the irresistible urge to chant my Uwajimaya mantra: I say the store’s name, over and over, mumbling in my pathetic imitation of a fervent samurai, changing the enunciation with each recitation.

SAMURAIpng

 

U-WA-ji-may-a!

U-wa-ji-MAY-a!

U-wa-JI-may-a!

UUUUU-wa-ji-may-a!

Go ahead.  You know you want to.

Warning:  the recitation is both calming and addictive.  Say it once, say it twice, and one day you may find that the CRAMAWL [3] roaming the aisles is you.

*   *   *

One Thumb Up (but up  in my nostril) for Blue Jasmine

In my yearly quest to see all films that have garnered the “major” Oscar nominations [4] – a quest I have never, ever completed, and will not complete this year, as I loathe the Golden Pumpkin Headed Boy [5] and will not see the much- nominated film in which he stars – I rented Blue Jasmine, which has two nominations for acting (lead and supporting female) and one for Original Screenplay.

OSCAR

Many years ago I was a fan of WA’s films, but his characters’ neurotic New Yorker schmeil shtick, and ever more evident, disturbing and self-serving ethics, began wearing thin long before his real-life  incestuous-bordering-on-pedophilia relationship with his longtime partner’s daughter sealed the ICK deal for moiself.  I’ve mostly boycotted his films since then (1992) ; [6] thus, MH was surprised to see just what it was I’d popped into the DVD player.  I assured MH that Blue Jasmine, like most Woody Allen movies of the past ten years, does not feature Woody Allen acting in it – which is one of the major objections MH has to Woody Allen movies.

Once again, I digress.

May I have the envelope, please? Acting:  Cate Blanchett was indeed terrific in the lead role, a formerly wealthy but naive, clueless, pill-and-booze addled, mentally unstable, down on her luck, hard to like, rather pitiable character.  The supporting role, that of her sister?  Meh.  Original screenplay?  Hardly original, for Mr. Allen – a familiar tale of lower and upper class stereotypes, most of them with heavy New York accents and/or attitudes, all of them whining.  About those accents and attitudes….

What really frosted my butt about the film was that it was ostensibly set in San Francisco (present day scenes, with flashbacks set in New York).  If it weren’t for a couple of outdoor shots of SF’s iconic hilly streets and the Golden Gate Bridge, you’d think you were watching a typical Woody Allen set-in-New-York movie.  I could not suspend disbelief and pretend, not even for a minute, that Blue Jasmine’s characters lived…well, anywhere on the West Coast, but especially in The City.  How could Allen think anyone who had ever spent more than ten minutes in San Francisco would buy that his characters were from, or lived in, San Francisco?  From physical appearance to wardrobe to dialog, the cast embodied Allen’s hackneyed, New York/Brooklyn staple characters. Did Allen lose a bet, or was he trying to disprove the notion that he can only film in New York?  And why would anyone want to film in San Francisco, one of the most scenic and distinctive cities on the planet, without incorporating or depicting the sights and sounds and social and cultural diversity and distinctiveness that is The City By The Bay?

*   *   *

Friday’s Fun Food Fact

Frozen cauliflower, as it thaws on a plate by the sink, will slowly but inexorably  fill your house with the odor of what your house would smell like it if twenty-five Marines, whose rations for the past six months had consisted of nothing but cauliflower and beer, decided to celebrate going on military leave by having a flatula-thon in your kitchen.

SOLDIER FART

Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

*   *   *

I read the news today, oh boy.

All New York Times newspaper days are equal, but some days are more equal than others. And for moiself, some days are easier to ready than others, in that there are the once-a-week sections of the paper I highly anticipate and usually enjoy in their entirety (the Science section on Tuesdays and the Dining section on Wednesdays), or the ones I forthwith relegated to the bottom of the pile (Sports Mondays). Thursday is an “easy” read day, in that there are two sections in the Thursday NY Times that require little of my attention before they are relegated to the recycling bin.  These sections are Home and ThursdayStyles.

The Home section is an ratcheted up version of your typical newspaper home & garden section, and features stories about People Who Are Much More Adventurous (and richer) Than You, Doing Cool Things You Can Only Dream About.  This week’s Home section features an archetypal story about some folks who decide to build a home on a remote Scottish island.

The Lure of the Hebrides,Drawn by the beaches and ethereal light,
a family builds an offbeat [7] island home.

Such stories can be entertaining, in that drive-by accident-gawking kind of way, and so I usually give the Home section a look-see.  ThursdayStyles is almost always a five-second-at-most, flip-through-giggle-then-toss-it exercise for moiself, and the seconds fly by as I wonder aloud how anything involving style and fashion can be considered print-worthy.  I know, I know, it’s a bug bucks portion of certain economies and thus can have a financial excuse for being deemed” news.” New York City may be the fashion hub of the world, but fashion hub of the world is one step up from motorized ear hair clipper hub of the world, in terms of its relevance to my world.

But, don’t ya know it, this week’s flip-through of ThursdayStyles had a gotcha! for me. My curiosity was momentarily piqued, and I had to at least skim whatever story could follow a headline like this.

Below the Bikini Line, a Growing Trend.
“Women are increasingly going with the natural look
when it comes to their nether regions.

Peter Pan, Wendy?  Looks like we’re not in Neverland anymore.

SKIRT

Welcome to Nether-land, with miniature headshots of four Celebri-ons [8] who “…have all expressed a preference for a fuller look in their most private areas.”

Silly me, for thinking the phrases “expressed a preference” and “private areas” would be mutually exclusive.

Yo, Famous Ladies whose names rhyme with Mady Tata, Grinneth Malcrow and Shameron Peeass:  are y’all so feminist consciousness-retarded that you think your nether regions needs to be “groomed,” or needs a “look” other than what is naturally there?  I know it’s been said that no publicity is bad publicity, but are y’all really so whorisly PR-desperate that you think the world welcomes knowing how you groom your lady bits?

No, please – don’t answer that.

On second thought, enquiring minds – or at least those belonging to Tiffany and her new bathroom yoga pants buddy – want to know.

*   *   *

No fashion for you, Gilda.

No fashion for you, Gilda.

I base most of my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch. (Gilda Radner)

May you be fashionably late, may you feel free to scratch where it itches, and let the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Well, Belle has sometimes seem embarrassed, but K…I suspect he is amused, perhaps even proud.  I’ll make an aisle-mutterer of him yet.

[2] And who isn’t, these days?

[3] Crazy-ass middle-aged white lady.

[4] Screenplay, acting, directing, best picture.

[5] Stage name Leonardo DiCaprio.

[6] Worthy of a post, but not today, are the ruminations re separating the artistic worth of a work from the moral achievements or shortcomings of the artist.

[7] Offbeat = $$$$.

[8] The mutant offspring of celebrities and morons…would that be a creature of redundancy?

The Christians I’m Not Mingling

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Yet another reason Roger Ebert died too soon

He never got the chance to give a thumbs up or down to Sharknado .

SHARK

I am, in truth, recommending that you watch the movie.  Yes, all of you.  And, yes, there must have been something in the eggnog over the holidays.

*   *   *

Thursday morning I awoke to this emergency e-plea from my intrepid if reptilian- podiatrically afflicted friend, SCM:

Are you interested in a semi-spontaneous lunch/pedicure outing tomorrow? My feet are crocodilian and something must be done.

I tried to reassure my friend that, as an appreciator of science, she must realize her crocodilian tootsies are worthy of photographic submission to Scientific American (that, or Ripley’s Believe It or Not), and not a scourge to be alleviated.

Her email caught me in the midst of my semi-annual submissions cleanup [1], a task slightly less pleasurable than trimming my nose hairs with a weed whacker.  You’ll never guess what ensued.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And SCM’s feet?  Not the least bit crocodilian-looking before the pedicure (IMHO) and certainly not afterwards.  Even if she did opt for the BOLB [2] polish.

*   *   *

To celebrate my toes in all their purpleness I made a chickpea, roasted carrot, preserved lemon and chard stew for dinner that evening.  While at the market rounding up the ingredients I chanced upon a biodynamic wine from California, whatever that is [3].  Some marketing doofus genius had decided to call the wine GroundSwell, which, of course, my mind immediately translated as GroundSwill…and so I had to get a bottle, just to see if it resembled swill of any kind.  For $5.99, how swillish could it be?

OHNO

Department of Really?

While reading an article on slate.com, my attention was diverted [4] by a sidebar headline:

Why is no one enraged about the New York Times redesign? 

I copied the link for this post but had no interest in reading about the tragedy of the redesign. Moiself, the idea of being “enraged” about a change in a newspapers’ web design is annoying, petty, butt-crack-pickin’ stupefying – it is all these things, and more.  However, I am not enraged about the perspective-free trivialization of an adjective that should be reserved for situations and actions that are truly infuriating.

The Darfur genocide; global indifference to global warming, Islamic morality police flogging girls who dare to go to school; Texas politicians forcing a dead woman to be an incubator against her family’s wishes – get your rage on, y’all!  Having an aesthetic snit-fit over changes in a web site?  Get your something-else-to-think-about hat on.

They changed the home page menu drop shadow?  Nyoooooooo!

They changed the home page menu drop shadow? Abomination!

*   *   *

We Interrupt Today’s Blog Post To Bring You One of My Favorite Basketball Quotes [5]

“They say that nobody is perfect. Then they tell you practice makes perfect.
I wish they’d make up their minds.” 
Wilt Chamberlain

*   *   *

Dateline: recent past, out with family, having dinner at a local sports grill.  We were [6]surrounded by wall-mounted big screen TVs tuned into various basketball games.  On the screen nearest our table the play of a group of hyperthyroid-afflicted individuals lobbing a spherical object through a toroidal object [7] was interrupted by a commercial for a Christianmingle.com.

Belle, eyes a-twinkle, diverted her brother’s attention to the screen: “Hey, K, that’s the service for you!”

Indeed, someone seemed to think so, K replied, as his spam filter had recently been inundated with Christian hookup/booty call for Christ dating service ads. I said something about how I found that odd: considering the plethora of spam I’d been receiving, with a noticeable increase over the holidays, you think I’d get at least one religious match-making come on.  Nope and nada.

Later that evening I checked my own spam filter.  And there arose a great wail and gnashing of teeth as I discovered not one but four messages from Christianmingle.com .

Khhhhhhaaaaaan!

Khhhhhhaaaaaan!

I accused My Dear Son © of somehow steering Jehovah’s Yentas ® my way.  Not only did K deny having anything to do with it, he suggested my own reputation might be to blame.

“Well, Mom, I guess they figured you’re the kind of person who likes to “Do unto others…”

Ahem.

And may y’all ensue unto the hijinks what the hijinks ensue unto you.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] As in cataloging and opening and closing of manuscript submissions to editors, agents and publishers…and shame on you and the S & M horse you rode in on for thinking otherwise.

[2] Boring Old Lady Beige.

[3] The biodynamic part, I mean.  I know what wine is and I know what California is.

[4] Hey! Those things work!

[5] Didn’t know I had favorite basketball quotes, did you?  I am a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma…and surrounded by cat hair.

[6] The CDC has determined that reading footnotes is as effective as homeopathic remedies when it comes to preventing the transmission of influenza viruses.

[7] Thank you, author John Green, for his contribution to the ultimate distillation of the game of basketball.

The Resolutions I’m Not Breaking

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I hope y’all had/are having a Merry Happy Festivus Christmukkuh , however you acknowledge (or spell) your favorite holiday celebrations.

festivus

This week I received two early bird publication notifications.  Translation: due to the mysteries of publishers’ scheduling, stories that were slated for publication in 2014 instead just made it in 2013:  My story “Souvenir” is featured in the December/Winter 2013 edition of Hospital Drive and “Requiem” is in the Voices From the Porch anthology.

K is home from college on semester break until MLK day. All four of us (MH, Belle, K and moiself) carried on with our tradition of having Christmas Day lunch at Jake’s Grill, after which we walk (or waddle, depending on the Jake’s menu) to Powell’s Books. Another if sporadic Christmas Day tradition is going out to a movie, which we fulfilled by catching the last matinee [1] showing of Frozen.

There is much to like about the latest Disney Princess Movie ® (insert appropriate groan- gasp), aside from the stunning animation, memorable songs and several genuinely funny sidekick/comic relief characters. [2]

 viewer-approved sidekick Olaf

viewer-approved sidekick Olaf

Belle and I talked afterward, about how refreshing it was to see an animated (or any kind of) movie that featured than one main female character (gasp again), and also to find that finding a prince for the princess was not the main plot point…and how pathetic it is that we have to consider those things “refreshing.”

If they can see it, they can be it.”

Mere words cannot describe how much I love that quote.  Really elaborate ones might help, but I’m trying to savor one of my favorite times of the year – the span between Christmas

XMAS

and New Year’s –

NYE

 and it would require too much concentration to get all sesquipedalian on y’all.

Instead, I’ll let the quote-generator herself, Geena Davis, actor and founder of the Institute on Gender in Media, do the talking. Best known for her role as Thelma and Louise‘s avenging assault victim, Davis is a righteous warrior when it comes to battling inequality in her chosen field.  Thelma Davis takes aim at gender disparity in the movies in her recent guest column in the Hollywood reporter, Two Easy Steps to Make Hollywood Less Sexist.

THELMA

The basics are that for every one female-speaking character in family-rated films (G, PG and PG-13), there are roughly three male characters; that crowd and group scenes in these films — live-action and animated — contain only 17 percent female characters; and that the ratio of male-female characters has been exactly the same since 1946. Throw in the hypersexualization of many of the female characters that are there, even in G-rated movies, and their lack of occupations and aspirations and you get the picture. 

It wasn’t the lack of female lead characters that first struck me about family films. We all know that’s been the case for ages… It was the dearth of female characters in the worlds of the stories — the fact that the fictitious villages and jungles and kingdoms and interplanetary civilizations were nearly bereft of female population — that hit me over the head. This being the case, we are in effect enculturating kids from the very beginning to see women and girls as not taking up half of the space.

 Moiself has long thought Hollywood [3] has a bit of what I call an Islamist sensibility when it comes to simple gender demographic representation.  Watch a “crowd scene” filmed in an Islamist country, whether it’s a documentary on daily life or a breaking news clip of a demonstration outside of an embassy.  What you will see is a sea of male faces.  Where are the women?  Somebody with lady parts had to make all those bearded boys.  Oh, wait – what’s that?  A moving, mummified column?  Could be a female, but it’s hard to tell under all that casing.  We know they are there but they are cloistered, whether mentally and emotionally inside the home as well as literally when they are “allowed” outside.  They are…infrastructure.

*   *   *

But I digress.

On to a new segment I call

Happy New Year – and you do know it’s gonna be 2014, right?

A special Welcome to the nineteenth Century – whoops, that should be twenty-first, where did the time go? – to those Wacky Elders of the LDS.  Yes, the Mormon church, always Johnny-on-the-spot re human rights, has come out as no longer being officially racist, with their declaration (way back in 2013) that dark skin is no longer a sign of god’s curse.

It will be interesting to see if, in the coming year, the continuation of the church’s “I’m a Mormon” print and media ads, [4] will bring about the revision if not the elimination of other LDS whackadoodle other beliefs, including:

1.  The American continent was originally settled by ancient near easterners.
2.  Native Americans are descendants of ancient Israelites.
3.  The Book of Mormon [5] is an historically accurate work, translated by Joseph Smith from gold plates buried by the prophet Moroni.
4. The Osmond Family – now, that’s entertainment!

mouthfuls of enormous, white teeth are a sign of god's favor

mouthfuls of enormous, white teeth are a sign of god’s favor

*   *   *

New Year’s and Resolutions Ruminations

*  Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve. Middle age is when you’re forced to.  (Bill Vaughan

* New Year’s Day… now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. (Mark Twain

* 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

* I can’t believe it’s been year since I didn’t become a better person. (Anonymous) 

* The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad. ( Friedrich Nietzsche) 

* Those who break New Year’s resolutions are weaklings.  Those who make them are fools. (Anonymous)

The only New Year’s Resolution I’ve successfully kept was the one I made way back in the 1980′s, which was to not make New Year’s Resolutions.  But that was so…well…80′s. [6]  Perhaps it’s time to give it another try.

In 2014 I resolve to:

1. stop making lists
B. be more consistent
9. remember to count
F. never again use the word “Osmond” (at least in public)

Whatever you resolve, may you leave ample room for the hijinks to ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Also a tradition: see the movie at the cheaper show times.

[2] Such characters are difficult to pull off, and often trip over the line between amusing and obnoxious.  Jar-jar Binks, anyone?

[3] Meaning the film industry, whether it’s a blockbuster filmed in the actual So Cal soundstage or an indie on the streets of Portland or Austin….

[4] The LDA-s million dollar pr campaign a multi-million dollar marketing campaign about “ordinary Americans who are also ordinary Mormons.”

[5] The LDS hold scripture, not the musical. Although there is more rational evidence for the historical accuracy of the musical.

[6] Are you picturing harem pants for men, Valleygirl mallrat side ponytails and Miami Vice designer stubble?  You know you want to.

The Best -Of Lists I’m Not Making

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My annual Ladies Lefse Party was this past Wednesday.  I’ve been hosting the LLPs on the second Wednesday in December for…a long time.  LAH, SCM and daughter P, Belle, JWW and I had a grand time, and SCM graciously left behind her homemade pumpkin whole wheat soy milk cranberry biscotti [1] to torture me the following morning.  Stalwart attendees SS, RB and JR were not able to attend this year, due to pressing other engagements, respectively, a son’s band concert, jury duty, and a husband’s laparoscopic cholecystectomy . [2]  Besides her joi de vivre and take-no-prisoners wit, JR is known for her festive, self-made millinery, which was much missed – my Bieber Meets Santa Pez creation of a few years back was a poor stand-in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While cleaning up after the party I was reminded of the late [3] great, dear friend and neighbor Glenda Jones.  Seventeen years ago, back in The Old Neighborhood (Jackson School Neighborhood of Hillsboro), Glenda had been tickled pickled beet pink when I brought lefse to one of her parties.  Being of Norski stock herself Glenda expressed something akin to shame at never having made lefse, and asked me for detailed written instructions, which I gladly provided.  A few weeks later, I received a frantic/embarrassed phone call from Glenda one Saturday night:

“I’m following your instructions exactly….and…uh…
there’s flour ALL OVER the kitchen.”

I assured Glenda she must be doing it right.

Here is a copy of the party invitation, just so y’all won’t feel left out.  Even though you were.

*   *   *

Mark your calendars and set your e-minders:
Here comes the second Wednesday in December…. 

Which this year, 2013, falls on December 11.  Yes, there are only 20 days remaining
ntil 2014 rears its nagging head

and demands you account for the past 365 days. 

Notable events on past December 11s include:

*1688:  James II of England abdicated the throne by throwing the Great Seal of the Realm into the River Thames (my guess is the great seal smelled like lutefisk.).
* 1941: Germany and Italy declare war on the United States, following the U.S.A.’s declaration of war on Japan (the Ladies’ Lefse Lovers Society’s “Make Lefse, not War” slogan was for naught in those troubled times.)
* 1962: Convicted murderer Arthur Lucas is the last person to be executed in Canada (in an unusual punitive snit, prison officials denied Lucas’ last meal request for lefse).

 Royal peeves; war, execution…let’s redeem December 11.
Hold on to your fruitcakes; it’s time for the annual 

Ladies Lefse Party
Wednesday December 11, 2012, 6:30 pm 

As always, your high-minded hosts will provide lefse preparing accoutrements and serve lefse and Norwegian meatcakes for supper, in a festive, Gangnam style-free environment. 

Ladies hosting:
-Robyn Parnell & Belle 

Ladies Likely to make an appearance:
- why, you, of course 

Ladies Unlikely to make an appearance (but we can dream, can’t we?):
- Lady Marmalade 

♫ Gitchi Gitchi ya ya lefse…♫

♫ Gitchi Gitchi ya ya lefse…♫

*   *   *

In an interview with Parade magazine, producer-writer-comic-actor Mindy Kaling made a brilliant point about the assumptions we make about women. “I always get asked, ‘Where do you get your confidence?’ I think people are well meaning, but it’s pretty insulting. Because what it means to me is, ‘You, Mindy Kaling, have all the trappings of a very marginalized person. You’re not skinny, you’re not white, you’re a woman. Why on earth would you feel like you’re worth anything?’”
(The 28 Most Iconic Feminist Moments of 2013, Moment #8) [4]

 Favorite albums; best song parody; the year’s tops in food, art, journalism, political boners, drone strikes – it’s that time of the year, when pundits both significant and who-the-F-is-that –worthy trot out their Best of The Year ® lists.

 I already know my best of the Best of Lists—it’s going to be difficult to top The 28 Most Iconic Feminist Moments of 2013 .  They’re all kick-ass, and I love that the Heavy Issues Moments (Malala Yousafzai Speaks at United Nations, Wendy Davis’s Tex-ass fililbuster) are balanced by more light-hearted but nonetheless significant moments, such  as Tina Fey’s and Amy Poehler’s hosting the Golden Globe Awards.

AMY

 Be sure to check out # 17: the Awesome Rape Prevention Video Parody From India that Traveled ‘Round the World.

*   *   *

Here’s my vote for Best Shortest Best of List:  Best Holiday Rap Song, of any year:

Along with Run D.M.C., I wish that you may be chilling and coolin’ just like a snowman, and thus the hijinks will surely ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Recipe, please?

[2] If I had a dime for every time I heard that excuse….

[3] Glenda died in a motorcycle accident in August 1997.

[4] Best of 2013 footnotes: this did not make the list.

The Nothing I’m Not Buying

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You know that just before that first Thanksgiving dinner there was one wise, old Native American woman saying, “Don’t feed them. If you feed them, they’ll never leave.”
-Dylan Brody

Crazy

[2]

 The Day After, aka the BLACK FRIDAY blog

MH and I usually observe Buy Nothing Day , which is no great (or even meager) sacrifice on our part.  I need no encouragement to not join the aggressive, clawing masses that begin lining up in front of major retailers’ doors in the wee hours of the morning…although I must confess to a certain snarky enjoyment the day after, when I read the reports of assaults and even shootings among the greedy swarms of people in the Toys R Us queue who have no qualms about trampling their fellow shoppers while attempting to procure the best deal on Tickle Me Asshole or whatever is the pathetic consumer ripoff manufactured via sweatshops in China or Malaysia   treasured toy of the season.

I’m probably going to spend money, in some way, today – a lunch out, if nothing more.  And while I’ve always supported the Buy Nothing Day ideals, it seems rather precious and self-congratulatory to refrain from shopping on one certain day if we’re just going to go out – or go on [1] – and make the same purchases on another day.

BLACK FRIDAY PIX

*   *   *

It’s tomorrow; can I stop mentioning it?

Aside from Black Friday the Saturday after Thanksgiving is the most important shopping day for small businesses of all kinds, including independent bookstores (yes, there are a few intrepid survivors).  Tomorrow, November 30, moiself and other local authors will be taking shifts at Vintage Books in Vancouver (WA), in celebration of Indies First day.  I’ll be selling and signing (optimistically, she wrote) copies of The Mighty Quinn and recommending other favorite reads.  My shift is from 12 – 1 pm. Stop by, and join MH and I afterwards as we search for a suitable lunch spot across the river.

*   *   *

TDAYjpg

Although Thanksgiving is often listed as the favorite holiday for we USA-ers, Christmas gets most of the attention when it comes to holiday movies, and I think the ratio of Christmas-to-Thanksgiving themed movies is something like ten to one.  Still, there are some memorable films and/or cinematic moments that revolve around Thanksgiving.  Planes, Trains and Automobiles is often cited as “the best Thanksgiving movie ever.”  While I think there is no competition for the title of Most Existentially Depressing Thanksgiving Movie Ever © (The Ice Storm), there are other films that could vie for the Best title, including Hannah and Her Sisters and Pieces of April.[3]  I love Jodie Foster’s underrated Home for the Holidays, particularly the scene where the miscreant Bad Brother played by Robert Downey, Jr. somehow manages to flick an entire turkey in his sanctimonious sister’s lap.

My all-time favorite Thanksgiving-related movie moment comes from Addams Family Values.  I refer to the scene wherein the Addams siblings, miserable at being sent off to summer camp, find a way to liven up the camp’s lame musical production of the first Thanksgiving by leading a revolt of the [4] camp’s social outcasts.

*   *   *

“Thanksgiving, man. Not a good day to be my pants.”
(Kevin James)

Here’s hoping it was a good holiday for you and your pants, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] For the first time, on line shopping is predicted to top in-store shopping during the holiday season.

[2] Thematicpictures.com

[3] An indie delight, with the pre-Tom Cruise Katie Holmes showing her acting chops before life with the Scientology Poster Boy audited the nuances out of her acting.

[4] No footnote needed here.  Everyone knows “the” is a definite article.

The Dispensers I’m Not Activating

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Dateline: Wednesday, Tuality Hospital, taking MH to get a colonoscopy an amazing procedure we are so grateful to have in this golden age of preventative medical care. In his dressing/waiting/prep room there was a sink and, of course, a motion-activated soap and paper towel dispensers. Which got me to thinking. [1]

I’m all in favor of motion-activated dispensers (and wish they were all this cute):

SOAP

But I long for a more impressive, ground-breaking innovation in substance allotment.  I want an emotion-activated dispenser.  I want a device that intuits when my hands aren’t feeling their freshest; I want a dispenser that senses when I’m too sad or embarrassed or enervated to wave my arms in front of it…and because it cares, so will I.

I have big dreams.  I am not ashamed.

*   *   *

Only 10 Days and I’ll Stop Mentioning It

The Indies are coming!  The Indies are coming!  Actually, they’re already here: Independent bookstores.  And the Saturday after Thanksgiving, traditionally an important day for businesses of all kinds, is especially vital to independent bookstores, including Vintage Books in Vancouver (WA).  Vintage Books, along with independent bookstores nationwide, will be celebrating Indies First Day on Saturday November 30.  Indies First is the brain child of author Sherman Alexie, who urged all “book nerds” (read: authors) to be booksellers for a day and help support independent book stores. [2]

I’ll be at Vintage Books, sharing shifts with other authors, (hopefully) selling and signing copies of The Mighty Quinn and recommending other favorite reads.  My shift is from 12 – 1 pm. Vintage books specializes in hard-to-find/out-of-print and rare books, so stop by and browse for that copy of Tattooed Mountain Women and Spoon Boxes of Daghestan[3] you’ve been dying to find for your Russophile uncle.

Another holiday shopping opportunity comes courtesy of Scarletta Press.  Scarletta, the publisher of The Mighty Quinn and a slew of other entertaining and provocative, vampire-less and Fifty-shades-of-any-color-free, fiction and nonfiction books, encourages one and all to give the gift of books this holiday season – and if you order through Scarletta’s website and you’ll receive 20% off your purchases.

HolidaySlider8

*   *   *

Coming Attractions 

One day I shall blog
exclusively in haiku
Wait for it; you’ll see. 

Or, I’ll use tanka
A Japanese verse form: five
lines: the first and third
composed of five syllables,
the other lines of seven

*   *   *

Was Is This a Stupid World, or What?
(Another Chapter in the continuing saga)

A few weeks ago my friend received an email from her daughter P’s 1st grade teacher, about an “incident” wherein three older (2nd grade) boys pulled up their shirts in front of P, in class, [4] then asked her to reciprocate.  P allegedly declined to do so but showed them her superhero underpants instead.

I’m fairly certain my parents did not receive a phone call or note from my 4th grade teacher regarding the isolated incident wherein many times I and my uppity female comrades purposefully showed the boys our underwear.  I was old enough to “know better,” but was organizing a feminist protest (years before I understood the f-word) to prove that the sight of JC Penny cotton underpants would not cause the boys to go blooey.

Monkey bars

That such silliness could even be an issue was due to such pathetic facts as:

*  a long long time ago in a grammar school far far away, pants and/or shorts were verboten for girls, who were required to wear dresses or skirts to school.
*  thus, when girls climbed up on the jungle gym or did twirls and stunts on the gymnastic bars, their undies were sometimes in view.
*  thus and thus again, there were five possible ways to solve the Appalling Undie Viewing Predicament:

(1) ban girls from certain playground equipment
(2) ban boys from certain playground equipment
(3) designate separate playground equipment for boys and girls
(4) there was no fourth way
(5) yes, the most sane and/or logical solution is always the last one listed:

let girls wear play-appropriate clothing for fuck’s sake.

My protests and the resulting disciplinary actions (getting “benched” – having to sit out lunch and recess play times as punishment) were not for naught. [5]  In the latter half of my fourth grade year the school administration released a Playground Procedures/Dress Code announcement: girls would be allowed to wear shorts, over their underpants and under their skirts or dresses, IF the shorts were worn because the girls intended to play on the jungle gym, monkey bars, etc.

I always wondered how, or if ever, the IF provision was enforced:

“Heads up, Jenny – here comes the playground supervisor and you’re wearing shorts under your skirt but you’re only playing foursquare.  QUICK! Get your girly parts to the uneven parallel bars and hang upside down!” 

*   *   *

Thanksgiving approaches, which means that all across This Great Nation of Ours ® people will soon be flipping the bird with family and friends.

Tday

This year MH has been assigned eagerly volunteered to be our Turkeymeister.  He’s unsure as to how he will prepare his gourmet gobbler, and has turned to the cyber cooking world for suggestions. Internet search wise, you can’t spit [6] without hitting a elaborately illustrated food blog, resplendent with elegantly styled phtographs of the preparation and presentation of the ultimate holiday meal.  But I quickly tire of looking at the picturesque perfection – I wonder about the castoffs, the flotsam of meals prepared.  Are not the scraps and scrapings of plants sacrificed for our gustatory gratification (e.g. my simple yet most beloved autumn “side dish” – roast delicata squash) worthy of documentation?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

May you and yours celebrate Thanksgiving with a delicious feast, the visual presentation of which is paparazzi-worthy, [7] and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] An admittedly dodgy activity, but not much else to do while waiting for them to take my man to The Procedure.

[2] You can read Alexie’s wonderful letter here .

[3] An illustrated book on the vanishing art of the tattoos found on women in the Islamic Russian Republic.

[4] Where was the teacher during all of this, you may ask? As did P’s parents, and the non-answer to that and many other questions they had about the school is why it is now P’s former school.

[5] Hot damn, that was fun to type.

[6] And I have tried.

[7] Placing life-size cutouts of George Clooney and Beyoncé at your dining table may also guarantee attention.

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

**********************************

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 Keys I’m Not Losing

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Lettuce and Taters and Beets, oh my!

Okay, no potatoes this week, but there be lettuce and beets, and an extra share of beet greens (hands down and earlobes up, my favorite greens), plus “dinosaur” kale, [1] broccoli, green beans, spaghetti squash, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, garlic, hot kung pao peppers and sweet red and yellow sweet peppers and basil….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All in our weekly CSA share.  La Finquita del Buho was bountiful this week. Fresh hot peppers will lead the way for tonight’s dinner…whatever it shall be.  All I know is that it will be tahini-free.  I usually love the stuff, but I happen to be holding a grudge.

*   *   *

That’s the last time I help an old man find tahini

I have one of those faces, or attitudes, or combination of attributes – oh, fine, surrender to the woo-woo:  I apparently project an aura that leads some people to think I know Where Things Are.  In general, no problem.  Today, ’twas the impetus for the panic experienced by Mature Individuals [2] that can only come from fearing you’ve lost something vital (today it’s the car keys, tomorrow it’s my offsprings’ names… how many kids do I have, anyway?).

Perhaps it was the fact that I was staring at packages of dried chilies with a look of smug disappointment (what kind of Hispanic Foods section doesn’t carry dried ancho chili peppers?!). There were other people wandering the aisles of the grocery store, store employees, included, but FOG (Friendly Older Gentleman) thought I was the one to help him find something “exotic.

FOG approached me, and asked if I happened to know where he could find…he paused and looked down at his shopping list…tahini? I led him to where I thought that item should be shelved [3], Et voilà !   We chatted amiably about his dinner plans, FOG showing me the shopping list his wife had written for him and both of us chuckling at his admission that he had no idea what tahini was and had wondered, Did she mean I’m supposed to find a condiment from Tahiti?  He gently squeezed my forearm, patted me on the shoulder and thanked me several times for my assistance.  I wished him a happy and tasty dinner, and took my bag to the checkout counter.

As I was unloading my bag at the counter I answered the clerk’s customary query, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” honestly:  Well,everything but Mexican oregano and dried ancho chili peppers.  With a look of confusion that morphed into concern, the clerk scanned my items and returned them to my bag and asked, “Did you try looking in the Mexican Foods section?” I smiled and nodded, keeping my Whaddya think, considering that four of the eight items in my bag came from the Mexican Foods section? to myself.

And then, no car keys.  Could not find them.  Maybe they fell into my grocery bag?  Nope.  I returned to the checkout counter and alerted the clerk. I retraced my steps throughout the store (asking every store employee along the way if they’ve found any car keys), exited the store to the parking lot and retraced my route into the store.   checked everywhere, checked every item on my person, giving myself a pat down worthy of a horny/ethically challenged TSA agent.  Nada.

I girded my loins and told myself to calm down, things could be worse…

KEYS

 …and made the Phone Call of Panic and Shame to MH, who said he’d leave work as soon as he could, get the extra set of keys to the Zoom Zoom[4] and come to the store.  I returned to the checkout counter and asked the clerk where I could leave my contact info in case anyone found my car keys.  A smiling young woman who stood by the clerk looked at me and said that she had found some car keys and, she pointed toward the Customer Service desk.  I thanked her profusely and I asked her where she had found them.  She indicated what shall forevermore be (by moiself) referred to as That Damned Tahini Aisle.

*   *   *

Happy Writing Stuff

While I’m not happy about waking up several times the past few nights with the buzzing-in-my-head-that-needs-to-be-written-down-or-I-won’t-get-back-to-sleep, I am happy that in the mornings I have been able to decipher (well, uh, mostly) my in-the-dark scribblings.

Oh yea? You try it

Oh yea? You try it

I am going through my The Mighty Quinn Book #2 file. Picture an actual file folder, filled to bulging with notes on dialog, setting, plot points, character descriptions….  I’m not sure if a computer file can be said to bulge, but that’s what I’ve got, and it is both exciting and intimidating to start the virtual paw-through.  I’ve enough ideas and material for two more books, and now have to start the outline process and determine what ideas go where.

I already have the title for the second Quinn-and-Neally-and-company book, a rare pleasure for me to know what it will be (and good omen, the non-superstitious moiself hopes), as coming up with a title for a story is one of my least favorite aspects of  writing.

And I have to choose the characters’ names as soon as I think of the character.  I use baby naming books and other resources, to identify characters with names that hold special meaning, even if only to myself.  Hmmm, how can I denote this character’s total prick-osity without actually calling him a dick?

*  *  *

Speaking of dicks (and thanking moiself for that segue)….

WOW

Dateline:  last Sunday (9-8-13), MH and I in bed,[5] listening to NPR’s Weekend Edition.  My attention was caught and hackles were raised during Rachael Martin’s interview with author Norman Rush re his new novel:

On the surface, Norman Rush’s new novel is about a middle-aged man, Ned, who reunites with a group of college friends after one member of the group dies unexpectedly. But what transpires over the next few days ahead of the memorial service is less about Ned’s relationship with these men and the heady, self-absorbed days of yore, and more about how Ned sees himself. 

In his third, much anticipated novel, Rush takes the reader inside the most intimate parts of relationships — between Ned and his wife, between Ned and his deceased friend, and between Ned and his own expectations. 

Imagine that!, the cynical author part of moiself snickered to moiself while MH breathed deeply [6] beside me.  A novel written by a middle-aged author that purports to take a reader “…inside the most intimate parts of relationships;” a novel that is, the author says (further into the interview), “about friendship.”  Ah, that relationship-y thing again.  And the novel is “much anticipated” and taken seriously, and is also described merely as what it is:  a novel. There is no limiting modifier.

Now, change the gender (for both author and characters) in Martin’s commentary:

On the surface, Nora Rush’s new novel is about a middle-aged woman, Nell, who reunites with a group of college friends after one member of the group dies unexpectedly. But what transpires over the next few days ahead of the memorial service is less about Nell’s relationship with these women and the heady, self-absorbed days of yore, and more about how Nell sees herself. 

In her third, much anticipated novel, Rush takes the reader inside the most intimate parts of relationships — between Nell and her husband, between Nell and her deceased friend, and between Nell and her own expectations.

It’s strange, having a flashback on a Sunday morning in bed, when I’ve never taken an acid trip (in or out of bed).  But that’s what happened as I listened to the interview – I was back to a conversation with friend and fellow fiction author SCM  about an unfortunate, ongoing, literary dirty laundry issue which, thanks to uppity female authors with more clout than moiself, has received some airing in the past few years:

-Novels dealing with (what literary critics perceive to be) ” relationships” are often critically acclaimed when the author is male, and when the author is female such books are dismissed as “domestic/family dramas”…if they are reviewed at all.

Not germane to the rant,  but a cute picture, oiu?

Not germane to the rant, but a cute picture, oiu?

Warning: domestic drama ranting [7] ensues, via excerpts from an email, sent approx.  two years ago re this topic, to SCM):

“I think it’s a very old and deep-seated double standard that holds that when a man writes about family and feelings, it’s literature with a capital L, but when a woman considers the same topics, it’s romance, or a beach book – in short, it’s something unworthy of serious critic’s attention.”  [8]

On my way back from an errand this afternoon I caught the tail end of a rerun of NPR’s Fresh Air 2010 interview with author Jonathan Franzen, recorded not long after the release of his latest novel Freedom.  I felt an almost overwhelming urge to pull the car over to the side of the road, get out and find somebody’s yippie dog and give it a good kick.

The ways Franzen’s novels have been presented and marketed by publishers, and reviewed by the critics, have had me (and many other writers, almost all – surprise! – women) reflecting on the sexism and even misogyny that still pervades the wacky world o’ contemporary literature (well, the world in general).  What sent me into Pomeranian-punting mode were several of Franzen’s ruminations, including [9] :

“I wanted in this book to write about my parents’ marriage and their parental experiences as I observed them … but I…wanted to set it in times contemporaneous with my own. So in that way, too, I turned my parents into people my age; into people I might be or I might know. And that was the real engine. It was something that came from inside.”

“…much of the work on a novel for me consists in the kind of work you might do in a paid professional’s office of trying to walk back from your stuck, conflicted, miserable place to a point of a little bit more distance, from which you can begin to fashion some meaningful narrative of how you got to the stuck place.”

What frosted my butt was not Franzen himself – don’t know him, personally – but the fact that when he, a male author, chooses to fictionalize the subject matter of family, feelings and relationships, the resulting work is touted as a “masterpiece of American fiction” (Time Magazine) and “an indelible portrait of our times” (The New York Times).

The Fresh Air site acknowledged the controversy:  “So many terrific contemporary female novelists cover the same terrain, yet their work receives a fraction of the highbrow fanfare that greets Franzen. It’s like how men still get praised for doing housework and taking care of their own kids: Any male involvement in the domestic realm still merits applause.”

In the interview Franzen spoke extensively about how his own feelings, experiences, family relationships and background influenced his writing.  I was reminded of an excerpt I read many months ago, from article in New York magazine, in which a novelist noted that if a woman writes about herself or acknowledges using material from her own life in her writing, she’s a narcissist, and has no wider interest in or focus outside of [10] the domestic sphere.  If a male novelist does the same, he’s describing universal truths or chronicling the human condition.

Of course, such inequities almost always sound better when put into the mouths of fictional characters.  I love this observation, from the novel, Commencement:

“When a woman writes a book that has anything to do with feelings or relationships, it’s either called chick lit or women’s fiction, right?” one of the characters asks.  “But look at Updike or Irving.  Imagine if they’d been women.  Just imagine.  Someone would have slapped a pink cover onto ‘Rabbit at Rest,’ and poof, there goes the Pulitzer.” 

Here is something the non-fictional character moiself wrote over a year ago, right around the time of the release of Freedom (it’s from one of the documents in my Things I Hate About The Publishing World file.  Oy vey, it’s less expensive than therapy):

Freedom is being hailed as “a domestic drama about marriage and family.”  Effusive, serious praise…for a domestic drama.  Since it is a Jonathan and not a Joanna Franzen who wrote it, the book isn’t being consigned to the “women’s fiction” bin of commentary.  When a female novelist writes about herself, or her protagonists’ ethnicity, age, social and economic circumstances are thinly disguised versions of herself or her peers, she’s a neurotic narcissist.  When a female novelist tackles subjects related to family, feelings or relationships, her work risks being labeled “Chick Lit” (or the faintly more reputable, “women’s fiction”).

A (usually white) male author (e.g. Franzen, Updike, Irving, Cheever, Roth….) does the same thing, writes about the same “territory.”  Do the literary critics – whose  ranks are still overwhelmingly white and male – review his book in the category of…what?  “Dick lit?”  Noooooooo.   He’s illustrating and critiquing the human condition!  He’s doing some serious Li’t-ra-chure!

*   *   *

By the way, if you want to borrow the Dick Lit descriptor, feel free to do so.  Attribution would be nice (or, failing that, cash).  And may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Lacinto

[2] Make that, people age fifty and above.  I’m still waiting for the mature part to kick in.

[3], in my experience, that particular grocery store does not always follow my food-grouping logic (nor logic of any kind when it comes to shelving their stock)

[4] Mazda’s promotional nickname for the Mazda 3. MH & I refer to it as “the fun car” (a nickname we bestowed to distinguish it from our Honda Odyssey minivan, the Utilitarian Parent Vehicle).

[5] Shame on (or, good for) you, but sorry, not that kind of dick reference segue.

[6] Notice I did not type, “snored.”

[7] Still awaiting its critical acclamation. Yes, I’ve mentioned this topic before, and will doubtless do so again.

[8] author unremembered – at least, by me.

[9] (I checked the program’s website transcript to make sure I was recalling them correctly)

[10] No, there is no footnote in the middle of my email. How silly would that be?

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