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The Questions I’m Not Answering

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҉     The Opening Rant   ҉    

I recently received the following correspondence, which caused me to invoke the smiting powers of the FSM before I got to the email’s second sentence.   Forthwith and in all due haste I forwarded the misbegotten missive to SCM, a fellow writer and kindred snarky misanthrope keen-eyed observer of the human condition, with whom often I commiserate about The State of Publishing.

darkstormynightjpg

Oh, yeah, the email:

 (name redacted)

Subject: author questions

 hi, my name is (name not capitalized), I recently became an author and found your name under a list of oregon  authors and i wanted to get in contact with someone to see if they could answer some questions of mine  I  completely understand if your  too busy, but if you could take a little time and possibly answer some questions that would be great.

 How  did you get published? Im  currently using createspace to publish my books.

 How  did you market your book? Did  you have a marketing team or did you self market and what did you do if you did?

 do    you have any tips you could give me for helping my book along.  currently  im  going to faires   and trying to sell them there, but im    open to pretty much anything to help my book along. its  already on amazon, and the createspace marketplace, but I  would love some help as to how to get it moving better into peoples  hands.

compshock

 

Oh, oh, oh, (name not capitalized). Where do I begin?

For one thing, take the time to learn the difference between your and you’re and plurals and possessive plurals – as well as what and when to capitalize (name not capitalized, you are no e e cummings) and how to spell and punctuate – before you plan on soliciting time and advice from a “fellow” author.

If such frank advice (which you solicited, remember) makes you confused or surprised or hurts your feelings in any way, not to worry.  After all, you have it together enough to have learned to use the apps from Amazon and createspace that allow you to claim, “I recently became an author.”

And yes, I am too busy to help you, although I do appreciate the email as a worthy addition to my Exhibit A collection illustrating why I do not want to mentor anyone who intends to self-publish….

*   *   *

Deep, cleansing breath, y’all. I did not say any of those things to (name not capitalized). I did not reply to the email. I could not do so and respect myself without being honest, and really, I’m not that cruel (read: helpful).

If for some reason (name not capitalized) stumbles across this blog posting, I will leave this one piece of advice: one of the most important things a person should to do to “become an author” [1] is to develop a thick yet permeable skin; that is, a hide that can stand up to and appreciate honest criticism and that is porous enough to let seep through a realistic assessment of your innate talents and willingness to learn a craft.

As devoted (or at least sober)  readers of this blog know, I have ooooooooooooooooooodels of complaints about the traditional publishing model and industry.  And yet.  Past and especially recent experience reinforces the need for gatekeepers.  Thanks to the rise of self-publishing services, not only are the barbarians at the gates, they are scaling the fences and crossing the moats, using copies of their young-adult-fantasy-steampunk-speculative-Fifty-Shades of Vampire-murder-mysteries as makeshift ladders and rafts.

Without gatekeepers the entire literary marketplace becomes one big slushpile, deluged by a monsoon of unaudited, unedited work .  Today, someone like (name not capitalized) can “become an author” and “publish” via a few strokes of a keyboard and an EFT to a publishing app vendor.

yourbookhere

 

I don’t care if I rarely showed up to practice, didn’t bother to learn the fundamentals of the game and sucked at defense – I was on the soccer team, my name is on the roster, and dadgummit, I’m going to get a trophy for participating.

When anyone who wants to do so can be a “published author,” where is the merit in being published?  If any (name redacted) can “publish” as long as (name redacted) has the funds to produce a paperback or e-book, having a book published isn’t any more noteworthy than downloading your story and illustrations to a thumb drive and having Office Depot’s Document Printing Services department  run off and bind some copies.

badauthor

*   *   *

҉   The Middle Section’s Short but Heartwarming Family Anecdote    ҉   

 The Upside of the Empty Chateau

What with K and Belle gone to college, MH and I get to feed Andy (ball python) and T’Pol (corn snake).  No grocery list is complete without a reminder to stop by the pet supplies store and stock up on small and medium-sized frozen feeder mice.

T'Pol relaxes at the day spa.

T’Pol relaxes at the day spa.

*   *   *

҉   The Brief Contemplation of a Contemporary Phenomenon    ҉   

 Both Sides Now [2]

sunnycloud

To be described as having your head in the clouds is, by and large, not a flattering assessment of one’s character. The phrase’s various idiomatic meanings include being out of touch, unrealistic, naive, impractical and inattentive. Thus, it strikes me as odd – and, okay, just a teense ominous – that we [3] have adopted The Cloud as an umbrella term to refer to Internet software and services, and that we increasingly entrust our documents and applications to this ethereal location.

Just thinkin.’

stormcloud

*   *   *

҉   The pun-not-intended Pet Peeve    ҉   

I use Nordic trekking poles during my morning walks, for a variety of reasons, and have discovered that, along with increasing the workout and simply giving your arms something to do, they have the unanticipated benefit of protection.  On more than one occasion I have used the poles to fend off an aggressively postured dog.

Yep, a 120 lb canine, ears laid close to head, eyes narrowed and challengingly fixed on mine, lips open and drawn back to expose teeth bared in a snarl, hackles raised and tail fluffed and extended straight out from body, approaches – and is off leash, of course – as its owner calls out to me, “It’s okay, he’s real friendly – DON’T MAKE ANY SUDDEN MOVES!”

You, of course, are not now and never will be this dog owner. [4]

*   *   *

      ҉   The Department of Apropos of Nothing    ҉   

Due to a precipitating incident I cannot now specifically recall, longtime friend JRC once gave me a year’s subscription to National Review .  This was during our sophomore or junior year in college, when JRC was attending UCLA and I, UC Davis.  During one of our periodic phone calls, wherein we chewed the fat about everything in general and nothing in particular and The Big Issues of Life, JRC, an intelligent, witty, creative guy [5]who held inexplicable/WTF [6] conservative political opinions, said he thought I needed to expand my news sources.  At the time I worked in UC Davis’ Periodicals room and regularly read a variety of news journals – certainly more than JRC, I taunted him – including the Wall Street Journal.  But that wasn’t enough for JRC, who said he thought I’d appreciate William F. Buckley’s wit and way with language. I retaliated repaid JRC’s generosity by gifting him with a subscription to Mother Jones Magazine.

As far as I know, JRC received a year’s worth of Mother Jones issues.  I read each National Review that came to me, and although it would have cost me nothing to continue to receive them, I cancelled the subscription after six or seven months.  I tried, I really tried….

It wasn’t the magazine’s conservative slant that bothered me – for crying out loud in a Ronald Reagan film festival, I was born and raised in Orange County – it was the overt, obnoxious, patronizing, dripping with disdain, East Coast chauvinism.  The magazine’s writers oozed a snide, barely disguised contempt when addressing anything having to do with the West Coast.  I felt complicit even reading it.

 

"I won't insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe that scientists have discovered culture west of Boston."

“I won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe that scientists have discovered culture west of Boston.”

I am still in touch with JRC, who holds the dubious distinction being the person, other than my siblings, with whom I’ve had the longest peer-type association.  From grade two through high school we shared at least one class.  Imagine all the embarrassing things we might be able to recall about one another, were we not now so decrepit we can only remember the good stuff…right? [7]

*   *   *

      ҉   The Amusing Send-off    ҉  

Friend JWW presented me with a gift when she came to Sunday dinner. Mere words cannot descript my utter bewilderment joy when I beheld the…object; this, pictures will have to do.

JWW said that this gift was to help me with that pesky Empty Nest thing.  I thanked her for the addition to my Rubber Chicken crew. She said it wasn’t just another rubber chicken, and told me to squeeze it.  So, I did, and the chicken laid an egg…sort of.

Yes, I took a video of a rubber chicken’s hinterland. Before you judge me too harshly, remember that you just voluntarily watched a video of a rubber chicken’s hinterland.

*  *  *

On the subject of judging someone, harshly or otherwise, let us all remember the timeworn admonition, an aphorism that uses Shiny Happy treacle to mask a morsel of inadvertently wiseass advice:

Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.

Go ahead, put on the shoes, and then pass judgment.  If the man gets pissed off, well, you’re a mile away and you’ve got his shoes.

angrybarefoot

*   *   *

 

May your footwear of choice give you comfort over the miles to come, and may the judgment-free hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] That is, assuming the magical snap of a finger “There, you’re an author!” is intended to last for more than one book fair weekend.

[2] Three cheers and a big yellow taxi ride for those who get the Joni Mitchell reference.

[3] “we’ as in They, and perhaps you, but not me.

[4] And if you were I’d slap you upside the head with my trekking poles.

[5] And awesome blues guitarist.

[6] IMHO, considering JRC’s family’s impoverished circumstances and resultant need for the much-decried-by-conservatives, social welfare services.

[7] BTW, JRC, I never told your mother that you lied to her about how you broke your leg after you fell while swinging from a tree (which she’d forbidden you to do), although I think you ‘fessed up to her yourself after she didn’t fall for your story about tripping over a bbq grill cover .

The Nest I’m Not Emptying

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It started early this summer. Subtle hints dropped, direct and dire predictions [1] flung (“Those were the best times of your life, when your kids were at home; oh, you’ll look back on those days and wish….”), and everything in between….

I’d tried not to give it an inordinate amount of brain wattage, but people kept bringing it up.

Yep, son K is back to college for his senior year, and daughter Belle begins her first.  On the drive back home to Hillsboro, after we’d taken Belle to her UPS freshman orientation, I said to MH, “It’s not like we just dropped her off for summer camp, is it?”

 Anyone know what this is?

Anyone know what this is?

The She Meant Well  [2] award re this situation goes to my maternal unit, as per our Tuesday phone conversation.  We talked about MH and I taking Belle up to college for freshman orientation last week, and how K would be returning to Tacoma this week.  My mother asked me if I was going to miss my offspring.  I said something like oh yeah, big time, already, even though K is still at home (he caught the train to Tacoma on Wednesday).

 “I find it interesting [3] that you think you’ll miss them” she said.

 “Uh…really? Why?” moiself responded. “I like them.”

 “Well, you always seem to have so much else going on in your mind…”

Oh.  Yeah, right. It’s not like I’ll even notice that, for the first time in over 21 years, my two groovy and much-loved children are not around.

What does she think I am, a honey badger?

Honey badger

 honey badger don’t care.

*   *   *

MH has a sabbatical coming up, and we will be doing some traveling. Good timing, I think (hope). What with Belle & K both in college, the Dueling Banjoes of our elderly parents’ health crises [4], and my professional mid-life crisis, I find myself…unable to even pin down what I’m feeling. Floating, for lack of a better word.

Wise compassionate counsel from wise, compassionate friend SCM:

One of my Oregon Attorney Assistance Program newsletters talked about transitions—good or bad, they will always leave you feeling uneasy, and to give yourself time to get used to them, and to be forgiving of yourself if you feel badly (even for good changes).  You’re transitioning with writing (or making some decisions about where to go next) and transitioning with parenting children to parenting adults. Those are both big life changes.

*   *   *

BFAST PLATES

These are the breakfast plates I purchased for K and Belle, a long long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  One section for scrambled eggs and/or my special recipe whole wheat vanilla soymilk tofu (!)  [5] pancakes, the other for fruit (bananas, seasonal berries, kiwi… they both loved kiwi).

Don’t worry about me, I’m doing fine.  Just staring at empty plates. [6]

*   *   *

Something else on the plate.

C’mon out tomorrow to the Downtown Hillsboro Saturday Farmer’s Market.  Hillsboro’s seasonal open-air market is celebrating its 32nd year of operation, and features over 100 vendors and their fresh local produce food and garden products, flowers, baked goods, arts and crafts, live music, and more.

As for the more: wipe the fresh blackberry (mmm, yummers) stains off your fingers and stop by Jacobsen’s books for their summer author signing series, which is held during market hours.  This Saturday yours truly will be at Jacobsen’s, with The Mighty Quinn. I’ll be there from 9a – 1p, except for when I’m slipping out to one of the produce booths to sample some of the gorgeous fresh fruit, or drooling over the Pie Guy‘s wares.

The market is held on Main Street between 1st and 3rd.  Jacobsen’s Books is at 211 E. Main, on the north side of the street.

Be there, or …

SQUARE

*   *   *

 When I learn something new – and it happens every day – I feel a little more at home in this universe, a little more comfortable in the nest.
Bill Moyers

May you feel a little more comfortable in your nest – or fledge quickly and crap all over the nest next door, whatever floats your boat – and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

[1] Mostly from my mother, with the implication that it’s all downhill after this.

[2] “Thank god kids never mean well.” – Lily Tomlin.

[3] The dictionary definition of interesting – “engaging or exciting and holding the attention or curiosity” – is not how my mother typically employs that word.  When she uses it, it is more along the lines of the apocryphal Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”

[4] my SoCal mom has a myriad of physical and mental health problems; MH’s Floridian father is battling the progressive physical and cognitive deterioration of Parkinson’s Disease .

[5] One of those stealth-health things…and they loved them.

[6] It’s time for a lighter footnote. Pretend you’ve just read an outrageously funny fart joke.

The Hair I’m Not Flinging

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The Day of all Days

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the largest seaborne invasion in history, WWII’s Normandy Invasion, aka D-Day.  My uncle, Sgt. Bill O’Malley, was one of the hundreds of US 82nd and 101st Division Airborne paratroopers dropped behind the German lines.  How he ended up not being one of the 12,000 Allied casualties that day was a mystery to him, he would later tell his curious 4th grad niece — that would be me — who asked him about what he did in the war (a question, I later found out, adults almost never posed as Bill had made it plain, after being released from a hospital after the war ended for treatment for “Battle Fatigue” — also aka shell shock, what we now know to be PTSD — that he didn’t want to talk about it).

The enormity and audacity of such an operation…well, there are a many books about it. One of them, Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers, which follows the exploits of a paratrooper division “Easy Company” from D-Day through the Battle of the Bulge to the German surrender, was made into arguably the best mini-series ever.  You need to see it, if you haven’t already. I’m going to watch part of it tonight, and I’ll be thinking of my late uncle, my father, and the other paratroopers, whose courage and tenacity (a part of which was prompted by sheer circumstance and naivete — they so did not know what they were getting into)  needs to be regularly retold, and honored.

Band of Brothers

The Flinging Blonde

That's the flinging blonde, not the singing nun.

That’s flinging blonde, not singing nun.

Dateline: June 1, out for my morning Nordic Walk on a sunny Sunday morning. I approach the grounds of the neighborhood junior high school and see two high school age girls walking on the sidewalk ahead of me.  One girl has long (almost waist-length), shiny, thick, straight blonde hair.  Long Blondie does two cartwheels in the grass beside the sidewalk.   She springs to her feet after each flip and snaps her head forward and back, which causes her hair to cascade over her face and then down her back.  She ceases her cartwheels but continues to fling her head, now from side to side, flipping her golden mane, which shimmers in the sunlight.

 Look at this hair!  Look what I can do with it! Look at me!

 And yes, she had really, really, really beautiful hair.

Stop me before I fling again.

Stop me before I fling again.

*   *   *

Speaking of things to fling…

How Much More Clear Does it Have to Get? 

There are people, in media and social media outlets, who continue to twist themselves with mental gymnastics worthy of a Cirque de Soleil contortionist in order to assert that misogyny was not a prime motivating factor in the Isla Vista Shootings.

Uh huh.

Head_up_ass

 The killer left a detailed, logically composed narrative – a 140 page manifesto – spelling it out.  The killer was a regular participant in chat room forums promoting misogyny, andwas active in the men’s rights (MRA) forums promoting misogyny, and made YouTube videos in which he professed his misogyny, and….

In every facet of his life, he professed and documented his hatred of women.  But hatred of women, according to some denialists, could not have been the prime motivation of his killing spree. These denialists also assert that if we talk about misogyny, and about the parts of our culture that treat misogyny as normal, even acceptable or even entertaining, we are sensationalizing or “politicizing” a tragic event.

Sic ‘em, Greta Christina:

 “When men in Islamist theocracies assault, rape, and kill women, we have no problem calling it misogynist hatred. When they explicitly state that their motivation is to enforce God’s gender roles and put women in their place, we have no problem calling it misogynist hatred. And we have no problem laying the blame, in large part, on the culture that teaches this hatred, and on the thousands of ways both large and small that Islamist theocratic culture teaches this despicable concept of women.

 “So why is it so hard to see the Isla Vista shootings as motivated by misogyny?”

In her righteously WTF? blog post Elliot Rodgers and Misogyny Denialism, [1] author and activist Christina calls out the b.s. in her usual, incisive, rational and pissed off prose…even as she she recognizes the motivations behind our desire to recognize the reality of our culture’s underlying misogyny: because it is just to damn painful, and frustrating, and humiliating.

Read it and weep.  Better yet, read it and act.

ROSIE

*   *   *

 Is the Paint Dry Yet?

Tuesday evening, the last High School Senior Class Awards ceremony I will ever have to snore through have the opportunity to attend.  Belle received four academic awards; local merchants and community organizations gave out community scholarships…and oh, how a certain someone in the audience wanted to sandpaper her eyeballs in frustration when she heard yet another well-meaning, slow-talking older gent preface his bestowal of an award with, “Let me say a few words about the history of….”

Bored2

*   *   *

The Snark Watch, Day Seven

MH and I made a bet as to who would make the first snarky comment re Belle’s tattoo: family friend JWW, or MH’s mother. [2]  I will not reveal who bet on whom. Thankfully, neither of us has (so far) won the bet.

 Cicadatatt

*  *  *

Coming Attractions [3]

* In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.
(Mark Twain)

* When good Americans die, they go to Paris.
(Oscar Wilde)

* Paris is always a good idea.
(Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina Fairchild in Sabrina)

Parisrivewr

* The best of America drifts to Paris. The American in Paris is the best American. It is more fun for an intelligent person to live in an intelligent country. France has the only two things toward which we drift as we grow older—intelligence and good manners.
(F. Scott Fitzgerald)

 To err is human. To loaf is Parisian
(Victor Hugo)

*   *   *

May the erring and loafing begin, and surely the hijinks shall ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] I know, in last week’s post, I refused to mention his name.  There it is.

[2] MH’s parents flew out from Florida last week, visiting for Belle’s high school graduation.

[3] Why are there only three footnotes in this post?

The Book I’m Not Stealing

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“The first duty of a revolutionary is to get away with it.”
Abbie Hoffman, Steal This Book

A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away….

Okay, it was 1971.  American anti-war activist Abbie Hoffman wrote and published Steal This Book.  As intrigued as I was at the time – by the “counter culture” and social activism of the late 60-s – mid 70’s in general, and by Hoffman’s cheeky chutzpah in particular – I declined to pilfer Hoffman’s prose.  Stealing anything was not something I was inclined to do.  I also did not buy his book, because how in good conscience could I lawfully purchase a book that was, essentially if puckishly, advising me not to do so?

Thirty-three years later I find myself wondering:  who, if anyone, bought that book?

STEAL

*   *   *

Spam question of the week: Why is “Nicholas Cage” sending me these emails: Your nasty herpes gone forever – the cure released. 

Nic, it’s over. Thanks for releasing the cure; now, please release yourself from this obsession.  I’ve moved on.

SAD NIC

*   *   *

The evil illness infecting me (mentioned in last week’s thrilling post) has moved on to MH and Belle. I find myself reflecting upon the classic advice to the rhinovirus [1]-afflicted.

afflicted with a rhinovirus

afflicted with a rhinovirus

affectionate with a rhinoceros

affectionate with a rhinoceros

GET PLENTY OF REST AND DRINK PLENTY OF FLUIDS

Not possible, in my experience.  Rest or fluids; you must pick one to plentify.  If you drink plenty of fluids your plenty of rest will be interrupted by plenty of pee trips.

TPHEAD

*   *   *

The Cerebral Discourse Continues

UPS delivered a sturdy, large, thick, cardboard shipping box from a pet supply company. Printed in bold, black, TAKE ME SERIOUSLY letters on the outside of the shipping box is this instruction/warning:

DO NOT OPEN WITH A SHARP OBJECT.

The box is heavy, massive, and contains cases of canned cat food –nothing even remotely possible of being considered fragile. I don’t think my dullest butter knife is going to do the trick. What non-sharp object do those-who-printed-such-inane-advice think will open the shipping box – a spatula?  A shoehorn? A banana peel?

BOX

*   *   *

Belle leaned against the doorway to my office, respectfully but insistently reminding me that I’d agreed to donate copies of two of my books (my short fiction collection This Here and Now and The Mighty Quinn) to her friend A’s senior project…and…uh…A needs those books, now.  Up in the attic, searching for a box for the books, I remembered I had copies of another book of mine – “mine” in the sense that my writing was in it, even if my name wasn’t on the cover – to donate.

FEMPARENT

Feminist Parenting: Struggles, Triumphs and Comic Interludes (The Crossing Press, 1994) – has it really been twenty years since its publication?  My contribution to the anthology was an essay [2] wherein I juxtaposed the naming of my soon-to-be firstborn, K, with how I chose names for my fictional characters.  I was honored to have my contribution included along with a variety of essays, stories, and poems – selections from literary luminaries like Robin Morgan and Anna Quindlen [3] and literary ordinaries like…well, like me.

The publisher-arranged publicity for the book consisted of readings by the anthology’s contributing writers, held at select locations throughout the country.  There were enough contributors from the Pacific Northwest to do a reading in Oregon, which took place one stormy January evening in Eugene, at the erstwhile vanguard of independent feminist bookstores, Mother Kali’s. [4]

May I recommend some light reading-perhaps a political satire or a wacky historical romance?

May I recommend some light reading-perhaps a political satire or a wacky historical romance?

MH, sitting in the in audience with our son K on his lap, later noted that I was the only one of the speakers F-parenting in what (used to be) the normative child producing/rearing relationship:  I was a woman married to a man with whom I was raising our child.  There were four of the anthology’s contributors present: One lesbian mom, two divorced/single moms, and moiself mom.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

*   *   *

Related to my previous musings re Abbie Hoffman’s book: In my ongoing if intermittent effort to understand and contextualize the zeitgeist [5] of my formative years, for the past few months I assembled and viewed my own film festival, of sorts.

Selections ranged from the absorbing, insightful, thought-provoking 2002 Academy Award-winning feature documentary, The Weather Underground [6] to the pedantic and flat out boring docu-interview-athon, Underground; from historical, archival footage-enhanced documentary (Berkeley in the Sixties); to a fictionalized political thriller (The Company You Keep) and a mildly amusing but ultimately inconsequential “home movie” of the times (F.T.A.) … and a few things in-between, including

* The Times of Harvey Milk
* All the President’s Men
* Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst
* The U.S. vs. John Lennon
* Wounded Knee

 The Weather Underground came from my own collection; the rest were courtesy of Netflix and PBS.  My incisive, four-part review of the festival:

(1) everyone should watch The Weather Underground (I think it should be required viewing for high school civics/government/US History classes)
(2) no one with a pulse should watch Underground [7]
(3) fans of The Grateful Dead and/or Lawrence Welk might enjoy F.T.A.
(4) you think I’m kidding re (3)? Get a load of Lawrence and the gang groovin’ in all their yellow sunshine [8] sartorial splendor:

  

*   *   *

May your pastel polyester pantsuits be bad-trip-free, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Fancy-pants word for the most common viral infective agents that cause, in humans, the common cold.

[2] “What’s in a Name?  Ask My Pal, Barry.”

[3]  I particularly enjoyed Quindlen’s essay, “What About the Boys?”

[4] I know, I know.  The bookstore was named in the 70’s, okay?

[5] A German term, attributed to the philosopher Hegel, for the historical horseshit  intellectual, cultural climate l influencing the popular culture of a particular period in time.

[6] About, wait for it, The Weather Underground.

[7] Save for hopeless insomniacs, who might find it a side-effects-free substitute for Ambien.

[8] A certain type of strong LSD.

The Thematic Consistency I’m Not Maintaining

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Breaking literary news:  my short story “The Assassin,” an excerpt from my (as-of-yet-unpublished) novel, Looking Up, is featured in WIPS: Works (of Fiction) in Progress.  Read it here.  And for a special treat, an interview with the author can be found here.

*   *   *

Is that a mournful train whistle I hear in the distance?  The second semester for university students begins next week, after MLK Day. This morning I’m taking K to the Amtrak station, where he’ll catch the train back to Tacoma. It was so nice to have my son home for winter break (all together now: They grow up so fast [1]).  There is always a heart clutch to see him go, even if it’s not quite the dramatic departure as portrayed in cinema.

MOVIE

*   *   *

Four Things I have learned to appreciate with age:

1. Dim lighting.
2. That’s about it.
3. There is no third thing. [2]
4. Did I mention dim lighting?

One Thing That Frosts My Aging Butt

If I hear or read one more time about how Forty is the new thirty, heads will roll.  Not your head and not mine, and maybe just doll heads, but still….

HEADS

Fifty is the new forty!  It is ignorant insult masked as encouragement; it is a clueless commentary buttressing ageism and stereotypes.  And we (women in particular) are supposed to find it complimentary, even as it implies that whatever age you are, don’t worry, you actually look or act younger, and younger is always better, so how dreadful to actually think of yourself as ___(whatever age you are) when that age is…no longer what it used to be.

Eighty is eighty and seventy is seventy and sixty is not the new forty, or even fifty.  And Fuck you is the new fifty-seven, okay?

UPYOURS

*   *   *

How many times do you have the opportunity to look at pretty pictures of the bottom of someone’s feet?  This is one of those times.   You’re welcome.

SOLE

sole2

*   *   *

Silly question of the day:  is it time for flatulence humor?

FART

Really, when is it not time for a fart joke?  Even better than your average fart joke is, the discovery that there is an Muslim version of The Onion. It’s called The Wadiyan, and alert readers will appreciate its coverage of breaking news, including the controversial law proposed by a sharia-following Indonesian city council to ban females from audibly passing gas.

Hard to believe that the preceding story escaped my attention when it was first published.  I can only assume it was a somewhat silent but deadly warm up for April Fool’s day. 

Carpe that diem, y’all.  And may the ageless hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Or, They look almost human when they’re sleeping…or whatever your favorite offspring adage is.

[2] But there is a second footnote.

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 Ring I’m Not Wearing

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When in doubt, blame the weather

This article in The Oregonian blamed last weekend’s amazing weather for the fact that Portland’s annual Wordstock literary festival was “as quiet as a library.” Several attending authors were mumbling similar sentiments: who wouldn’t rather be outside in such a gorgeous weekend, likely the last such weekend of the year?

From my vantage point at the Oregon chapter of the SCBWI table, I wouldn’t have suspected the downturn in attendance had I not heard others commenting about it.  It was my first Wordstock; I was pleased that this year it had been scheduled on a weekend when I was not out of town/laden with previous engagements.  Sure, “traffic” seemed a little slow, but my tablemates and I performed our volunteer duties – touting the benefits of SCBWI membership to inquiring writers and illustrators – while, of course, looking for opportunities to show our own works.  I sold a whopping one copy of The Mighty Quinn (which I considered to be gravy, as the primary mission of those volunteering at the SCBWI table was to promote SCBWI)…and at least I didn’t end up with a negative inventory. [1] Also, I enjoyed meeting and chatting with other SCBWI members, including illustrator Carolyn Conahan (whose works include the delightfully illustrated and titled Bubble Homes and Fish Farts). Carolyn and I shared a Saturday afternoon shift and, it turned out, a mutual loathing of the terms platform and industry.

FISHFARTS

*   *   *

I never wore an engagement ring, for a variety of reasons, including this one.  I just didn’t get the point of it – excuse the senior moment.  Yeah, right.  Make that, I damn well got the point of it, and what I got about it made me ill.

Would you wear an engagement ring? I asked MH, a long long time ago in a dating world far, far away, when we were discussing Our Future ®.  If a woman and a man are both engaged to be married, what’s the point – other than that point which is analogous to dog pissing around a certain spot to mark its territory [2] – for the woman and not the man to wear such a signifier?

engagementring

MH, knowing me well, [3] didn’t bother with The Ring when he proposed marriage. We later chose simple gold wedding bands with a double weave design (and had the date of our wedding engraved on the inside of the band, for those pesky moments when you need a memory prompt.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As of this writing, neither MH nor I are wearing our wedding rings. A couple of weeks ago MH said he wanted to tell me, in case I’d noticed and had wondered [4] his ring was “missing,” that he’d been experiencing painful arthritis-like symptoms in his finger joints and had removed the ring in order to massage the joint. He feared he would be unable to remove the ring later if his joints continued to swell.

The next day I took off my wedding ring.  Since then, I’ve discovered (after looking and asking) that quite a few married couples do not wear wedding rings, usually for medical or similar reasons. [5] My motivation for ring-doffing was similar to my not-wanting-an-engagement-ring reason.  There was no spite or snit fit involved; just pure and practical (to me) relationship logic: I’m not going to wear my ring if MH isn’t wearing his.

I notice my ring’s absence several times a day, when instinctively performing what has become my après-hand washing ritual for the past twenty-five years (twisting the ring and blowing on my ring finger to dry underneath the ring).  I’m aware that it’s not there, but I don’t exactly miss wearing it. I was never a ring-bling person, and other than the two months in high school when I wore the class ring my parents insisted I purchase, [6] I’d never worn a ring prior to getting married (not counting the groovy Man From U.N.C.L.E. spy ring I got in a box of Cracker Jacks).

man_from_uncle

If you want us to wear wedding rings, I said to MH, perhaps we could have new ones designed, with some kind of custom feature (a latch of sorts, that would not pinch the skin) to make removal easy and allow for future, uh, joint expansion.  Belle seems rather pleased with the solution she proposed for our ring dilemma: finally, a legitimate excuse reason to urge her parents to get “tatted.”

RING TATS

*   *   *

Happy Trails to you, Aunt Bug.

Vesta Lucile Parnell Parker died on Sunday, the day after her 85th birthday.  My Aunt Lucile never went by her first name.  She was nicknamed “Bug” in childhood, and was always “Aunt Bug” (pronounced in her Tennessean lilt as Aint Bug) to her nieces and nephews.  Lucile was the youngest of the my father’s five siblings, and although you’re not supposed to play favorites when it comes to family, it was obvious to me that Bug was Chet’s favorite.  She married at 18, had five children, and remained in her home state of Tennessee.  Her brother (later my father) Chet, made his life in California after his gig in the army during WWII.

Aunt Bug was a musician, favoring country/gospel/bluegrass tunes (and even composed a few).  She played guitar and mandolin and a host of other instruments, and I love the fact that her obituary mentions the name of the bluegrass group she and other local musicians formed and played in for years, The Lizard Lick Old Timey String Band.

A college friend and I stayed with Lucile in Tennessee during the return loop of our post-graduation, cross-country road trip. One evening, after fixing us a tasty if a-bit-too-monochromatic-for-me [7] supper, Bug played guitar while she told a story, about how she’d recently had a lovely time with “a local feller who lives up the road a piece,” who’d heard she did some pickin’ and had stopped by to play guitar with her.  “Carl is the sweetest man, and he sure can carry a tune…”  Upon further elicitation of details, it became evident that she was referring to Carl Perkins !!!!  Down-to-earth Lucile couldn’t figure out why my friend and I were so drop-jaw impressed;, why, Carl was just another country boy, and really, a sight more respectable than that one-time buddy of his, Elvis, “…who was into the drugs and the women but some folks ’round here talk about that Elvis Presley like he was the second coming of Jesus just because he loved his momma….”

Geography (and budgets) being what they were, Lucile’s visits with our family and ours with hers were few but memorable. When visiting Santa Ana she always gave in to the demands of her nieces to get out our dad’s Martin guitar and entertain us with her rendition of the just-naughty-enough-for-primetime song, “That Old Rooster.”

Chet Parnell’s children knew Aunt Bug as friendly and amusing, quick with a smile and a hug and a joke, although we later discovered she struggled with bouts of staggering depression from the accumulation of tragedies that befell her family. [8]

My favorite memory of Aunt Bug comes from one of her visits to California, one night when we were all gathered in the living room and she startled us with a spontaneous demonstration of what she described as an endangered vocal skill. The woman could yodel!  Prior to that I had no idea that our cat could rise up on her back legs and hop about in abject terror.

Aunt Bug’s version (both lyrics and melody) was better, but this is an approximation of what she always called the “That Old Rooster” song:

Lucile was the last of the elder Parnell siblings to pass.  My father’s generation is no more; my mother’s three sisters are gone, and she, a frail 85 years old, is the last of hers.  I’ve no grandparents and now no aunts or uncles left.  It’s a poignant observation, not a lament. I’m not sure if my siblings and I are ready to assume the Oldest Generation mantle, but such is life.  It isn’t as if you are asked if you are ready, or have to qualify in any way for the title (other than by not dying young).

I do, however, possess the secret to eternal youth: cultivate an appreciation for immature humor and juvenile pranks life-affirming exuberance, and keep a ready supply of  _____ ____ on hand.  (hint:  rhymes with  oopie pushins)

And, of course, always let the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] In two past book fair/author events, I had people walk away with (as in, steal) copies of my first book – which were clearly marked for sale, not for free, when I was distracted.

[2] I’m a hardcore romantic, what can I say?

[3] And yet still wanting to marry me, imagine that.

[4]  I hadn’t noticed, and therfore hadn’t wondered.

[5] Typically weight gain, or joint swelling during pregnancy or as a side effect of medications, etc.

[6] They didn’t want me to miss having that classic high school insignia…which I lost while bodysurfing at Newport Beach.

[7] In true southern style, everything –I mean EVERYTHING, including beautiful, fresh from the garden, ruby red beefsteak tomatoes – ended up yellow (i.e., breaded and fried).

[8] Three of Lucile’s  five children – all of her boys – died young and tragically: two in separate, freak accidents when they were preteens, and her oldest boy, Kirt, committed suicide in his early 20’s. Lucile’s husband, our “Uncle Junior,” took up flying not long after Kirt’s death.  “When he’s up in the air he can just be above all of his worldly cares,” was how Aunt Bug explained the comfort her beloved husband Junior found in piloting his Cessna.  Junior died ~ 20 years ago, when he crashed his plane into a culvert after being unable to pull out of a stall maneuver.

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