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The Politician I’m Not Hosting

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 The host will be happy to seat you now…
In our special chair reserved for fanatical spew-mongers

OUCH

Duff-mouth demagogue (“some refer to him as Virginian State Senator”) Stephen H. Martin, who apparently thinks oratorical douchbaggery is tax deductible, recently referred to a pregnant woman as just a host for a fetus.  Martin’s misogynist disgorgement thoughtful reflection came in response to his receiving a card from a reproductive rights group asking him to protect reproductive health options in his state.

“… once a child does exist in your womb, I’m not going to assume a right to kill it just because the child’s host (some refer to them as mothers) doesn’t want it.”

*   *   *

Stand back – I’m going to try science

double down on this, dudes

double down on this, dudes

Thanks to the data obtained by the Kepler space telescope, NASA announced the discovery of 715 new planets outside of our solar system.  This discovery almost doubles the number of known planets!  Such a finding is worthy of doing the Happy Dance, for oh-so many reasons, including the fact that these planets are going to need identification.  In other words, they are going to be named.

HAPPY

The planets’ ids will be assigned by the International Astronomical Union, aka The Organization That Does Such Things When It Comes To Objects  d’ Cosmos. Most of the planets will probably be assigned numbers, noting distance from or proximity to stars and other objects.  But I want them to have names.  The magnanimous part of me hopes that NASA and the IAU realize the PR potential of holding 715 planet-naming contests, which could be a boon for sparking the-universe-is-cool-let’s-study-it interest among schoolchildren. Another part of me wants to name them.  By myself.

oh oh oh – pick me!

oh oh oh – pick me!

Really, NASA, I want to name those planets.  I want to give them names of heavenly bodies (sorry) popular during the 1950s, for some reason.  I want to name them all Jayne, Marilyn, and Betty Lou. If you still want to assign numbers, we can work that out.  Betty Lou M31, Betty Lou M51….  [1]

*   *   *

MUM

My dear Swenadian [2] friend SS called to let me know she lost her mother last night.  With true Canadian affection and style, SS always referred to her mother as her “Mum.”  Mum was 90 years old and had been battling round three of pneumonia, which is no picnic at any age but especially vexing to someone also afflicted with ALS .  SS’s mum died in her sleep –  the kind of passing we all wish for, eh?

The mums are for SS, and memories of her Mum.

*   *   *

JOHNNYTREMAIN

Coming attractions:  March 5 is World Read Aloud Day . WRAD is the brainchild of LitWorld, a nonprofit organization promoting…wait for it…worldwide literacy. [3]

The purpose of WRAD is to “call worldwide attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories.”  I and other writers will be celebrating WRAD by making a video/audio “visit” to classrooms.  Thanks to a certain software applications (rhymes with “hype” – this is not a commercial endorsement), I’ll be reading excerpts from The Mighty Quinn to two classrooms: one in Seattle and one in Pakistan.

I have fond memories of being read to, and hope that you do as well.  Mrs. Solomon, my 3rd grade teacher, read the Winnie the Pooh books to her class every day, for fifteen minutes, following lunch recess (and ever since then, I cannot hear any version of Eeyore with substituting her voice).

I remember derisive snorts from a few classmates when our 7th grade social studies teacher announced she would open the class by reading to us. [4]  Every day, she read aloud one chapter of Johnny Tremain.  The skeptics soon changed their tune, from, “I’m sure, reading aloud to us, like we’re third graders,” to, “Don’t leave us hanging – please go on to the next chapter!”

Next Wednesday, March 5, find your favorite read-aloud-book and a willing audience.  If no such audience is to be found, you have my permission to annoy delight and entertain strangers at a bus stop or coffee house or other public venues by reading aloud – to yourself, if not to them.  Simply remove a book from your coat pocket, backpack or purse, and softly but enthusiastically, go for it.

Here is Edward Bear, coming down the stairs now, bump bump bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin…. .

POOH

And, of course, let the hijinks ensue.

 Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Five paragraphs without a footnote?  This is wrong, just wrong.

[2] Canadian, married to a Swede.

[3] Or, is it an organization promoting worldwide arson?  Touch call, given the moniker.

[4] Move along, no footnote here to see, folks. Stay behind the tape and move along.

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 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 Well I’m Not Meaning

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Happy 2014!

I hope the holidays brought you the new science oven of your dreams.

MICROWAVE

*   *   *

Miscellaneous observation on the human condition/New Year’s Resolution mash-up

I resolve never to mean well, nor to have a heart that induces others to bless it.

You know what I mean, even if you think you don’t.

During the after après-holiday dinner cleanup, you graciously but firmly refuse your notoriously ham-fisted aunt’s offer to dry the stemware.  Smiling and cracking wise, Auntie pushes you aside and grabs a dishtowel and within seconds there is the jaw-clenching jingle of shattering glass.  Your mother takes your elbow and steers you into the hallway, delivering her comment in a there-there voice, which is meant to assuage your distress at the fact that your aunt smashed your husband’s family heirloom, Waterford crystal champagne goblets, given to you as a wedding gift from your in-laws.

Oh, Aunt Erva – she means well.

Observation has led me to this point:  One must strive to never, ever, mean well.  Inevitably, whenever an anecdote is followed by “s/he meant well,” it was preceded by followed by the description of a boner of a comment and/or action by “s/he.”

I’ve noted a similar correlation with “bless his heart.”  Uncle Harry, bless his heart. This seemingly benign consecration/invocation [1]  is sometimes used when Uncle Harry has somehow fallen into misfortune (The doc told Harry the tumor metastasized to his lungs, bless his heart).  More commonly, it accessories a certain kind of description — one that never includes tales of competence and/or intelligence.  Rather, you are about to hear confirmation that Uncle Harry can’t find the play button on his remote control, so to speak.

images75JF20WH

Woe unto you if the two are ever put together – you may as well check yourself into the Loser Asylum.  If I’m ever on the receiving end of, Bless her heart, Robyn means well…., I will hesitate to gaze skyward lest I espy vultures circling.

*   *   *

Two Thumbs (both opposable) Up

Although I really, really wanted to edit it down to less than two hours, I nevertheless recommend seeing American Hustle.  Who would have thought an entertaining movie could come from the story of a forty year-old corruption sting? I assume the story of the ABSCAM  operation was made more cinema-worthy by the fabrication of a love triangle between an FBI agent and two informants – and also by copious boob shots of the female leads (insert director’s disco area clothing excuse). And ya gotta love a movie that has a side joke about how incredible microwaves (“the science oven”) seemed in the 1970s.  Plus, an all-around stellar cast. And mancurlers.

MANCURLERS

I’d raise my opposable big toes [2] if I had them for Saving Mr. Banks.  My movie-going friend LAH and I agreed that this is a movie we both are going to be processing for some time, for both personal and professional reasons. The story of author PL Travers‘ resistance to Walt Disney’s pursuit of the film rights to Mary Poppins is vastly entertaining in its own right, and also has several thought-provoking sub plots, including wrestling with how a person can succeed or fail at loving – and “saving” – their family.  If you had or have a loving and problematic relationship with your loving but deeply flawed father, this might be the movie for you…or, it might break your heart.

MP

For writers, the movie deals with the dilemma of selling (and selling out) your characters and stories, even as you grapple with the realization that your motivation for creating them in the first place might be far more complicated than you realize.

Special Bonus: SMB stars Emma Thompson, whom I want to be when I grow up.

Whaddya mean, I’m already grown up [3] and I’m not Emma Thompson [4]?

Emma Thompson

Emma Thompson

Not Emma Thompson

Not Emma Thompson

Happy effin’ New Year to you, too.  And may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Really, what is it?

[2] Which I do not possess despite sharing 96% of of my DNA with chimpanzees, thank you for your concern.

[3] Trust me, that assertion would not stand up in a court of law.

[4] Not only that, I’m two and a half years older than her, and yet she somehow became herself before I did. Damn!

The Christmas I’m Not Dissing

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 Living Well is the Best Revenge

Awesome friend LLL celebrated her graduation from CU by making a trip to Oregon.  LLL left the Pacific NW for Denver ten years ago, and her Oregon friends have been clamoring for her return ever since.  Her visit coincided with my birthday, thus her stay with us was a celebration times two.

Speaking of my birthday, it was mostly good, thanks for pretending to care (dramatic sigh).  The day started off with a congratulatory email from my sister RAV, which included a preemptory warning : “Having some regrets about the card I impulsively sent…you’ll see.”  I did see, or rather, heard.  It was a belching birthday card.  I don’t know why my baby sister would think it might not be the classiest thing to send, considering that she knows I keep this on my google version of speed dial:

But I digress.  LLL was able to join us for my family birthday dinner at one of my favorite Portland restaurants.  Plus, due to LLL’s B.M. (“Blonde Moment”);. i.e., what may go down in family lore as The Unfortunate Incident with the Kettle… [1]

BOOM

…I now have a new electric teakettle , courtesy of LLL’s deal with Santa’s elves.

Attentive, intellectually-gifted readers of this blog [2] may recall LLL as having been previously and memorably featured in my post of post of June 28, wherein I imaginatively if profanely slagged coolly scolded LLL’s festering turd of a husband for the underhanded, craven, scrotum-shriveling manner in which he dumped her.

I am happy to report that, with the support of kind friends, a whip-smart attorney and her own strength of character, LLL successfully survived the Douchebag Husband-ectomy .[3] It warmed the cockles of my heart…

 Heart cockles pix unavailable, but this Scottish lass could use some warming.

Heart cockles pix unavailable, but this  winsome Scottish lass could use some warming.

 …to see that LLL is not only surviving but thriving, and looking forward to what the New Year will bring. 

*   *   *

Before the New Year comes Christmas, which provides a convenient segue to my annual forthright, sincere, family-friendly,

Heathens Declare War on Christmas © post.

SANTA

     The Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that “the early Christians who  first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.”[4]  Because of its known pagan origin, Christmas was banned by the Puritans, and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts until 1681.[5]

Heathen’s Greetings

untitled

“Do you celebrate Christmas?”

Heretics/apostates non-Christians happy heathens often hear this question at this time of year.  The inquiry is sometimes presented in ways that imply our celebration (or even acknowledgement) of Christmas is hypocritical.  This implication is the epitome of cheek, when you consider the fact that it is the early Christians who stole a festival from our humanist (pagan) forebears, and not the other way around.

Who doesn’t like a party/celebration, for any reason? And really, we who are religion-free don’t mind sharing seasonal celebrations with any religious folk– sans the superstition and government/church mumbo-jumbo — as long as they accept the fact that the ways we all celebrate this ‘festive season’ predate Christianity by hundreds of years.

The fir boughs and wreaths, the Yule log, plum pudding, gift exchanges, the feasting, the holly and the ivy and the evergreen tree….It is hard to think of a “Christmas tradition” that does not originate from Teutonic (German),Viking, Celtic and Druid paganism. [6] A celebration in the depths of winter, at the time when, to those living in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun appears to stop its southerly descent before gradually ascending north, is a natural instinct. For thousands of years our Northern Hemisphere ancestors greeted the “reason for the season” – the winter solstice – with festivals of light and gift exchanges and parties.  The Winter Solstice was noted and celebrated long before the Roman Jesus groupies pinched the party.

 But, isn’t “Jesus is the reason for the season?

The reason for the season?  Cool story, bro.  Since you asked; actually, axial tilt is the reason for the season.  For all seasons.

 AXIAL TILT

 And Woden is the reason the middle of the week is named Wednesday.[7]   My calling Wednesday “Wednesday” doesn’t mean I celebrate, worship or “believe in” Woden.  I don’t insist on renaming either Christmas, or Wednesday.

"Go find the sheisskopf who took the Woden out of Woden's Day!"

“Go find the sheisskopf who took the Woden out of Woden’s Day!”

The Winter Solstice is the day with the shortest amount of sunlight, and the longest night. In the northern hemisphere it falls on what we now mark as December 21 or 22.  However, it took place on December 25th at the time when the Julian calendar was used. [8]   The early Romans celebrated the Saturnalia on the Solstice, holding days of feasting and gift exchanges in honor of their god Saturn. (Other major deities whose birthdays were celebrated on or about the week of December 25 [9]  included Horis, Huitzilopochtli, Isis, Mithras, Marduk, Osiris, Serapis and Sol.)  The Celebration of the Saturnalia was too popular with the Roman pagans for the new Christian church to outlaw it, so the new church renamed the day and reassigned meanings to the traditions. [10]

In other words, why are some folk concerned with keeping “the Christ in Christmas” [11] when we should be keeping the Saturn in Saturnalia?

044-happy-saturnalia

 Whatever your favorite seasonal celebrations may be, I wish you all the best.  Let the fruitcake-free holiday hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] You really do need to plug in an electric kettle; it is not stove-top-friendly.

[2] That’s all of y’all, right?

[3] Unfortunately, this vital procedure is not yet covered by the ACA.

[4]  Increase Mather, A Testimony against Several Prophane and Superstitious Customs, Now Practiced by Some in New England (London, 1687).  See also Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday, New York: Vintage Books, 1997.

[5] Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday.

[6] “Learn not the way of the heathen…their customs are vain, for one cuts a tree out of the forest…they deck it with silver and gold…” Jeremiah 10:2-5

[7]  Wednesday comes from the Old English Wōdnesdæg, the day of the Germanic god Wodan (aka Odin, highest god in Norse mythology and a big cheese god of the Anglo-Saxons until the seventh century.

[8] The Julian calendar, adopted by Julius Caesar ~ 46 B.C.E., was off by 11 min/year, and when the Gregorian calendar was established by Pope – wait for it – Gregory,  the solstice was established on 12/22.

[10] In 601 A.D., Pope Gregory I issued a now famous edict to his missionaries regarding wooing potential converts: don’t banish peoples’ customs, incorporate them. If the locals venerate a tree, don’t cut it down; rather, consecrate the tree to JC and allow its continued worship.

[11] And nothing in the various conflicting biblical references to the birth of JC has the nativity occurring in wintertime.

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.

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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 Trolls I’m Not Feeding

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

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

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*   *   *

BELLY LAUGH OF THE WEEK

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

STICK FIGURE FAMILY

*   *  *

BELLY CREEP OUT OF THE WEEK

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

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

DOLd

*   *   *

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

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

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

holding out for free agent status

holding out for free agent status

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

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

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

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

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

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

TROLL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MINE

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

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

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

koufax

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And may the farting animals compilation video hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[8] No really…considering the subject.

The 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?

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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 Monthly Novel I’m Not Writing

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November 1?  Gotta get this out of the way. National Novel Writing Month.

SOAPBOX

Reality check re this write-a-novel-in-month jive.  This is from the Authors Guild Bulletin Spring 2013, Along Publishers Row article: “Temperance Hasty-Gonzales (not the author’s real name) wrote a 50k novel in 30 days.  Five years and 15 drafts later, the novel, he The Quick and the Dead (a real novel, but not written by TH-G), was published in February.

She wrote a novel in 30 days!  Except that she didn’t. The very second sentence of the blurb reveals that she didn’t write a novel in 30 days, hello.  She had some kind of first draft that was awful/incomplete enough, by her own description, that it took her FIVE YEARS and FIFTEEN DRAFTS to get into publishable form.

National Novel Writing Month. I smite the concept as well as the acronym: NaNoWriMo.  It sounds as incomplete and shoddy, as baby-talk dribbly, as a novel “written” in a month is likely to be.  But wait, there’s more.  The author featured in the blurb goes on to say that she considered herself a perfectionist, and that NaNoWriMo forced her to ignore her incapacitating inner critic and keep going: “It forces us to lower our standards.”

Just what the literary world needs: lower standards.

Have an idea for a story?  Don’t fall for trendy/”motivational” stunts.  Take  time, make time, invest time.  Chances are you can get your final draft in two-three years rather than five.  And, yes, the world is full of crappy novels that took much, much longer than 30 days to write (Atlas Shrugged, anyone?)  Still. It doesn’t need any more. At any speed.

*   *   *

Less than one percent of the total published books released in a year get reviewed via a traditional book reviewing outlet; i.e., a reviewer hired and paid by a newspaper, journal, magazine, book review tabloid. [1]  When my publisher forwarded the reviews for The Mighty Quinn, MH asked whether they were “good.” Knowing the stats, I reminded him that TMQ was ahead of the game [2] by even getting a review in the first place.  It was gravy to me that the reviews were good – a quibble here and there, but mostly positive, and some downright glowing.  Even so I had to force myself to read them, force myself to drum up interest, which I did by thinking of my publisher (Good for them; they’ll like this one.).

It was peculiar to me, comparable to having an out-of-body experience, looking at myself looking at the reviews.  I knew what I’d written, how “good” I thought it was, and how good others whom I respect thought it was (enough to publish it, at least).  When it comes to considering my own reviews or publicity, composure and perspective, plus a dose of humility, are my mantras (keeping in mind the sage advice of Golda MeirDon’t be humble; you’re not that great.).  If a negative review won’t rock my boat then why should I let a rave review rock my world?

My ambivalence toward reviews stems from many facts, including what I know of writers and human nature. [3] Also, there’s the pesky fact that I moiself have never cared for book reviews and rarely read them. [4] I rely on choosing reading materials through my own particular triage of browsing, both in stores and online, and friend-talk.  Other than being alerted to the reviews by my publisher, I don’t check my own press.  I am also not one of those authors © who obsessively tracks her book’s sales rankings on the major online book sellers.  There’s not a strong enough antacid on the market to help me do that.  What I need to know about that stat will come with my royalty statements. [5] Gulp.

automatic_wine_drinking

And then.

I was updating a website posting and checked The Mighty Quinn’s links to the major online booksellers: Powell’s, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. The Amazon page featured a new industry review, or at least one I hadn’t seen, and had put it as their lead review (one of the reasons [6]  I’m going to steer readers toward Powell’s.)  Although the reviewer had some bits of tepid praise, the same supporting characters described by other reviewers as “memorable” and “delightful” she dissed as  “too cute” and “unnecessarily highlighted” (whatever that means).  The same dialog and action she found “cumbersome” and “drab” are cited by other reviewers as “engaging” and “fast-moving.”

I see no reason to alter my long held if not entirely original philosophy re reviews, which I privately (well, up until now) I referred to as the Rectal Theory of Criticism:

Opinions are like assholes – everybody’s got one.

bad smell

As for the worth and relevance of online consumer reviews, my suspicions re their validity and potential for abuse [7] have oft been confirmed, most recently by this creepy story. A vengeful merchant, peeved at a less-than-stellar review posted on yelp  from a would-be client, googled client’s name, discovered client was a novelist, and took it from there: “When your book comes out on Amazon, I will personally make sure our entire staff reviews it in kind.”  Bad Merchant went on to threaten the novelist by getting people to post a “deluge” of “scathing reviews” for the novelist’s upcoming book.

Oy vey.

*   *   *

The Wisdom That Cometh With Age

Dateline, Monday afternoon.  I’d was in downtown Hillsboro to mail a manuscript, enjoying the opportunity/excuse [8] to do an afternoon walk on a crunchy autumn day, kicking through the leaves carpeting the sidewalks.  I rounded the street across from the Washington County Courthouse and fell in step behind two gotta-be-lawyers-to-dress-like-that-on-such-a-fine- day men walking side-by-side.  Or, I could describe them as “two men walking abreast,” but that conjurs up too many memories of fifth grade droodles.

DROODLE

My pace was faster than theirs but there was no room to pass them, so I slowed down and checked them out from the only view I had.  Both were of similar height and, from the rear view at least, attired almost identically, in tailored, expensive-looking, dark brown suits and white dress shirts and dark brown shoes.  I noticed that the one on (my) left wore bad shoes.  His shoe’s heels were very noticeably and unevenly worn down, toward the inside of the foot.  So incongruous with the rest of his lawyer suit.  Lawyer dude on the right had nice shiny shoes with no VHW (visible heel wear).

What an odd thing to notice.  Still, it bothered me.  I really, really wanted to say something to him, even as I was chiding myself for wanting to say something.  As a public service announcement, of course. Hey buddy – your over-pronation is, like, to totally ruining your Serious Lawyer Look.

At the end of the block they both moved to the curb, pausing by a brown (yes!) car that I assumed belonged to one of them.  I passed them. And said nothing

LAWYERS

*   *   *

Stand back, I’m Going to Try Science

Calling all budding evolutionary biologists:  I can’t remember the prompt, but I recently woke up with an interesting first morning thought [9] :  How is it that omnivorous species came to “know” they were omnivorous?  How did our hunter-gatherer ancestors get to the hunter part? Or bears, for that matter.   Foraging through the meadow, by the stream, chewing on leafy greens and berries///who-what had the lightbulb moment:  “Hey, I bet that leaping salmon/hopping rabbit is more caloric and nutrient-dense than these camas roots, plus, no cud-chewing aftertaste!  Win-win!”

I posted that question on my FB page, and got many many hallow snarky speculations a few thoughtful responses and suppositions (okay, I got one).  I’m still wondering.

*   *   *

“If you talked into your hair dryer and said you were communicating with something out there in the nether space, they’d put you away.
But take away the hair dryer, and you’re praying.”  -Sam Harris

DRYER

Dear Lord, please bring me a pony and a plastic rocket. [10]

November.  Already.  Like a pair of K-mart undies, the holiday season is creeping up on us.  Let us note that which is to come.  Back by popular demand, my favorite ode to the joys that are to come, courtesy of The Dropkick Murphys.

May the ho-ho-ho hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Statistic from Publisher’s Weekly.

[2] Sadly, that’s what the publicity-review thing is: a game. With really scary rules.

[3] It’s way mo fun-ner to flaunt your devastating wit by writing snarky pans than heartfelt paeans.

[4] Unless it’s a particularly scathing review forwarded by friend/fellow author (and New York Review of Books reader) SCM, about an author we mutually loathe.

[5] And when people wish to inquire about such matters they often ask, “How is your book doing,” a seemingly innocuous, probably meant-to-be-supportive query, until I ask what they mean by that, and then they usually  ask about sales figures, at which point I have to refrain myself from perkily chirping, “I’ve no idea – how many copies did YOU buy?”

[6] Aside from the fact that Powell’s is the grooviest bookstore in the world. And yes, I’ve visited them all.

[8] A few years back I’d have the opportunity to do that walk every other day, but most editors and publishers take (and prefer) email queries and manuscript submissions.

[9] Other than the usual laundry list of feed the cats and get them to eat slowly so they don’t barf it all back up….

[10] Three cheers sci fi nerd noogie for those who got the Firefly reference.

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!

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