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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.

The Fly I’m Not Casting

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I have as much authority as the Pope.  I just don’t have as many people who believe it.
(George Carlin)

The talking heads think we all just can’t get enough of that papal resignation stuff. Me, I’m trying not to sound or think like one of the old folks (What happened to February? Where does the time go?!). Meanwhile, Washington Post opinion writer E.J. Dionne Jr. tried one more tactic to get us to care about the papal succession, and threw in his two ducat’s worth, by positing that the best choice for pope may be a nun.

Dionne admits to certain pesky impediments, such as the fact that in the RC-world, “Women, after all, are not yet able to become priests, and it is unlikely that traditionalists in the church will suddenly upend the all-male, celibate priesthood.”  Nevertheless, he opines that handing leadership to a woman (read: a nun) “would vastly strengthen Catholicism, help the church solve some of its immediate problems and inspire many who have left the church to look at it with new eyes.”

Amazingly, Dionne’s bio lists him as an opinion writer, and not a humorist.

I understand and recognize jesting, and satire and irony.  Dionne’s article is free of all three.  The dude is actually serious.

Appointing another pope, no matter what the shape, color or national origin of its genitalia, will not help anyone with 21st century eyes to look at Catholicism with new eyes.  As for helping his religion solve some of its “immediate problems,” those of us who’ve left any – and every—  religion know that it doesn’t matter how you dress it up or down.

Although I have to admit, Sister Mary Clarence  would rock that papal mozetta .  Well, almost anyone would be an improvement, style-wise.  Even Sister Bertrille for that matter,

shoopi

 Religions – from the liberally acceptable and/or relatively benign Wicca, Neo-paganisms, women-and-gay-ordaining protestant denominations, to fundie Mormon wife collectors, Pentecostal snake handlers, foam at the mouth homophobe evangelists, pontificating papal pederasts, and all the “moderates” in between – are simply incorrect. Their (mis)understandings of the world are based on mythologies and unsubstantiated claims that, while defensible for illiterate, scientifically ignorant Bronze Age denizens to have held,  have no basis in reality.[1]

Absurdity playing dress-up is still absurdity.  Donning the robes of religion does not make the illogical tenets of theology logical. Changing the gender, age, ethnicity or national origin of a religion’s figurehead is a meaningless PR gesture, as the figure will still be nunsense  nonsense in drag.

flyingnun

 “I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition [Christianity] one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded upon fables and mythologies.”
(Thomas Jefferson)

*   *   *

I don’t know what triggered the following, college-days memory.  But, unlike the remnants of the vegetarian chili I had for lunch, I’m grateful for its resurfacing.

GS, a friend who lived down the hall from me in my dorm, had to write a VIP [2] for his physiology class.  The class was mostly filled with pre-vet school students ,[3] who were very competitive with one another.  The assignment: delineate the actions of all muscles, both separately and in tandem, involved in executing a certain task of your choosing (e.g., opening a jar of pickles or blinking an eye).

The professor warned his students that the assignment was far more difficult than they realized; thus, he was going to give them two shots at it, so to speak.  Those students who were able to turn in (what they thought were) their completed research papers at the end of the week would receive the benefit of the professor reading, but not grading, their papers over the weekend.  The Prof would note suggestions for improvement and/or expansion and return the papers to the students on Monday, thus giving them a chance to revise their work before the final version was due on Tuesday.

GS, who had done a bit of trout fishing in high school, decided to describe the process of casting a fly.  He was humbled and frustrated as he researched and wrote his paper and tried to describe the various muscular actions involved in what, to him, had seemed a simple, almost instinctive action.  This paper consumed his life, all week, and his dorm friends heard all about it…but he was able to turn in his paper on Friday.  On Monday he received his paper back, with his professor’s comments.  The Prof noted that although GS’s detailed analysis of the kinetic choreography of the shoulder, upper arm, forearm and hand was impressive, as an avid fly fisherman himself the professor knew that GS had neglected to consider and enumerate the lower body motions (hip rotation, pelvic propulsion, foot placement, etc.), involved in casting a fly. [4]

GS realized he was way in over his head, and had a dark night of the soul Monday evening.  I saw that he was still pacing the halls, his paper in his hands, when I left Tuesday at 5:30 am to go for my morning run. I didn’t run into him again until Friday evening in the dining commons.  I, of course, asked what had happened with his revisions.  He said he’d turned in his final paper as originally written, with no changes except for an addendum to his opening thesis: “This paper analyzes the coordinated muscular action of a person casting a fly, the person being a T-4 paraplegic, confined to a wheelchair, with no voluntary muscle movement below the nipple line.”

His paper received the highest grade in the class.

A

*   *   *

Ways to feel really stupid inadequate incompetent.
#542 in a series 

In all the excitement during the past couple of years, what with finding a publisher for finalizing the contract for The Mighty Quinn and taking notes for two more juvenile novels, another adult novel and short fiction collection, I neglected to check my own notes to see that I had not, in fact, done the final edits on the novel I had started to submit to agents and publishers.

I discovered this just recently.  Thus, even as I’ve been enjoying the final editing process, I have to take time out ten times a day to do a Holy Jean Luc Picard on my forehead.   I so did not make it so.  Jeesh.

facepalm

The more I thought about the current events of the past week, the more I wished I could be serenaded by goats.

Be careful what you wish for.  Who knew goats could sound like old men complaining about stale toast, and scream like slasher movie victims?

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] I can’t believe I’ve gone this far without a footnote.

[2] Very Important Paper.

[3] UC Davis has a world-renowned veterinary schools. When I was a mere UCD undergrad, the vet students did an excellent job spaying my cat, and didn’t seem to mind that she bit at least two interns during her post op appointment.

[4] No footnote here.  There’s nothing to see, folks.  Keep moving on.

The Panini I Am Not Ordering

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 Slap some pesto or mustard on two slices of sliced ciabatta stuffed with roast veggies and mozzarella or provolone, and press the concoction on a warming grill. Mmmmmm.

It’s a yummers dilemma for me – although I do appreciate the above-described gourmet sandwiches, I don’t like ordering them in restaurants.  Whenever I hear myself saying panini I feel as if I’m using an Italian pejorative to mock the waiter’s manhood.

*   *   *

Every week should have a Yee-Haw! moment

Yeehaw owl

After Monday’s four-way Skype conference with Scarletta Press’s publisher and editor and publicity gurus, my head was spinning[1] with the details leading up to the launching of The Mighty Quinn.  I now have an even stronger appreciation for Scarletta’s social/media and PR directors, whom I picture as incarnations of the beautiful and fiery Durga, the multi-armed god of multitasking.[2]

I should be getting the final galleys for TMQ by the end of the month, and am so looking forward to seeing the additional drawings from Katie and Aaron DeYoe, TMQ’s illustrators.  Aptly described on Scarletta’s website as “the cutest pair of redheads you’ll ever meet,” Katie and Aaron’s delightful, whimsical line drawings capture the essence of TMQ’s characters, including the nemesis, Matt Barker.

matt_caveman*   *   *

On Wednesday I received info re another book that is approaching its launch date.  The editor of the Joy: Interrupted anthology sent a group email to the book’s contributors,[3] reminding us that proofs of our articles are due back to her by a certain date.  My name was on the email’s Good for You list  of authors who had already returned their edits, which got me thinking about the errors I’d discovered while checking the anthology galley.  Once again, while proofreading a story of mine (that had already been copy-edited by an editor, I was mystified and amused by the ghost in the machinery: the typos, missing or inappropriately inserted or transposed punctuation, and other boo-boos that were not present in the original document.

This is a common experience, in my experience.  For every five continuity errors a wonderful copy editor catches in one of my stories (“You describe your protagonist Arthur as a gap-toothed redhead in chapter two and a toothless blonde in chapter four”), I’ll find one randomly inserted apostrophe, inverted quotation mark, or the like.

Publishers, authors, editors – many if not most of us literati-types thought that electronic transfer of files and documents would eliminate the pesky errata gremlins.  You email the file, they open and/or save it as is.  What could possibly go wrong?  But, noooooo.  The phantom, inappropriately placed em dash strikes back.

MH, with with his years of chip testing/design and computer systems experience, is my go-to tech consultant.  I showed him the original document I’d sent to the anthology, alongside the galley copy I received with the mystery insertions.  I told him how frequently it happens with other publications, and therefore I don’t think it’s anything the editors are doing…and, so, what gives?  He admitted to being puzzled over the situation before offering this insightful reply:

“Something happens.”

*   *   *

Who was that masked man anyway?

On my way to running errands/get lunch, I tuned in to my favorite (okay, my only) classical radio station.  Without warning I heard the infamous and exuberant pounding cymbals and staccato strings – some Philharmonic Orchestra’s rendition of the William Tell Overture.

Specification:  I used the phrase “without warning” because some kind of intro would have been nice, seeing as how the overture to Rossini’s William Tell opera is one of the pieces of music that fits into my Move The Furniture/Pull Over genre.

If I am at home or work and a MTF/PO song comes on the radio, space must be cleared for dancing.[4]  If I’m in the car and a MTF/PO song is on the radio, in consideration of the safety of the other drivers I must pull over to the side of the road.  When the William Tell Overture[5] is in full swing I am Ke-mo-sah-be, Tonto, Silver, Scout – I am the entire cast of The Lone Ranger, galloping full speed over and through the faux-sagebrush-festooned Hollywood backdrops great plains and arroyos of the American West.

Safely parked on a side street, I caught my breath as the overture ended, and had a mild epiphany of sorts.  I am not a hardcore classics aficionado and am unfamiliar with Rossini’s opera in its entirety, and for the first time in my life I began to wonder about the rest of the work.  Imagine, attending a performance of The William Tell Opera, which would open with…well…The William Tell Overture. And The William Tell Overture is just that – the overture.  Not the after-ture, or the middle- ture, it is the overture.[6]   Imagine hearing it for the first time and thinking, after you’ve stopped hyperventilating, “Okay, now, what?   What could possibly follow this?!”

Clarification:  what, exactly, qualifies a song for the coveted MTF/PO status?  It’s difficult to explain.  With apologies for my appropriation of  SCOTUS Justice Potter’s infamous definition of pornography, I’ll just say that I know what it is when I hear it.  And Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Sealed, Delivered is a slam dunk in this category.

 *   *   *

Confession/Caveat

Even if your home-from-college-son is in the other room supposedly immersed in a computer game and with his headphones on, and you are in the kitchen with the garbage disposal running, do not assume you will be safe from his detection if you squeeze out a barking spider.[7]

You’re welcome.

*   *   *

There was to be more to this post.  Much more….  You could have be afraid, very afraid.  There were several deserving candidates for Asshat of the Week, etc.  What can I say – saved by the MTF/PO.  Push that sofa to the wall, get down with your bad self and shake your groove thang[8].  It’s time for hilarity to ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Spinning in a good way, as opposed to the Exorcist/projectile, pea-soup spewing way.

[2] Variously depicted as having anywhere from 8-18 arms, Durga is actually the Hindu deity representing the power of the Supreme Being that preserves moral order and righteousness in the creation. Which sounds like multi-tasking to moi.

[3] My story “Maddie is Dead,” first published in the literary journal The Externalist, will be in the anthology.

[4] Which in my case sometimes means just running around in a frantic if joyful circle.

[5] Someone smarter than you or moi defined an intellectual as “a person who can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger.”

[6] An overture is an instrumental composition intended especially as an introduction to an extended work, such as an opera or oratorio.

[7] Barking spiders – what farts are blamed on when there’s no dog available.

[8] Or accept that robo-call from Bangalore if your groove thang has been outsourced.

The Cough I’m Not Suppressing

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Yes, I know it is months before the book’s real-time release, but there is a FB fan page for The Mighty Quinn.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Mighty-Quinn/314422698666956

Like it.
You know you want to.
Please don’t make me beg.

*   *   *

Now that Santa’s left the proverbial pile of coal in select stockings,[1] it seems fitting to haul out the Asshat of the Week award.  I don’t want to be stingy, especially at this time of the year, but really, so many asses, so few asshats.

The Iowa Supreme Court seemed to be a slam dunk, what with their ruling that a woman could be fired if her boss finds her “irresistible.” I’m looking forward to benefiting from the legal wisdumb of the Big Minds in such matters, when  the inevitable lawsuit find its way to the SCOTUS, allowing them to rule on the workplace hazards of those deemed to be too fabulous.

As I was saying, the candidates for the award were legion. And during this Solstice season, with its focus on charitable feelings toward one’s fellow human beings, it seems only fitting to list a few of the other contenders.

It seems the Big Daddies of Catholicism spent a good portion of their holy season getting their rhetorical man-panties in a knot.  The Imbeciles of Italy’s chief blusterhole spokesman, Joseph Ratzinger [2], used his annual Vatican Christmas message to diss marriage equality and other gay’s civil rights advancements as a “manipulation of nature” and an “attack” on the family. Meanwhile, the gentle folk of Ireland were privy to the gibbering of another pontificating baboon, this one taking the form of Cardinal Sean Brady, the Primate[3] of all Ireland (I jest not; that’s his official title).  Brady, one of Ratzinger’s fellow pedophile apologists, used his Cardinal’s holiday soapbox to exploit the death of a pregnant woman in a Galway hospital.[4] Brady misrepresented the proposed content of Irish Constitutional legislation while he urged the Irish people to protest plans for legalized abortion (the medical treatment that would have saved the afore-mentioned woman, who suffered an agonizing death from septicemia).

But wait, there’s more.  Just days before the RC dudes chugged their Kool-Aid, another public figure was caught after indulging in too much eggnog.  I refer to Mike Crapo, the aptly named Republican Senator from Idaho who was DUI’d after a cop caught him blowing through a red light.  Crapo, a Mormon who has said he does not drink alcohol,[5] was a member of last year’s “Gang of Six” budget committee and is was considered a candidate for the top Republican spot on the Senate Banking Committee.  It wouldn’t surprise me, should Crapo play the penitent, that his party would keep him on their list for the committee.  Because there’s nothing our country needs more than a teetotaler drunk Mormon Republican kicking the crap-o out of our nation’s fiscal policies.

Oh, hell’s bells, let ‘em all share it.  Supreme Courts, Popes, Irish Primates, Crapos – this asshat’s for you.

AHat640

*   *   *

This week, the days I think of as the Tweenolidays, are some of my favorite days of the year.  Dec 26-31; the pressure is off while the fun still lingers; there is still another major celebration on the horizon; the seasonal fatigue hasn’t yet set it.

‘Tis also the season to be jolly judgmental.  I had the opportunity to refine this art yesterday, while waiting in the checkout line at a bulk/discount grocery store:

The Woman In Front Of Me, whose cartload of items was being scanned by the checker, was going through her wallet and pockets, counting her cash while her way-too-old-to-be-sitting-in-the-shopping-car-seat son dangled his feet from the shopping seat’s legholes. The boy loudly spewed wetness in my direction; TWIFOM occasionally/half-heartedly admonished her son to cover his mouth when he coughed.  He ignored her. The next time he coughed I got his attention, smiled at him, and mimed covering my hand over my mouth, indicating he should do the same.  He stuck his tongue out at me.

The checker was waiting. TWIFOM apologized for not having enough funds to cover her purchases (“I need to pay in cash”), even as both the checker and I could see that TWIFOM’s checkbook style wallet was bulging with forms of plastic payment.  TWIFOM directed the checker to remove and reverse-scan certain items, to get her total down to cash-on-hand.  While the checker did this I passed the time by silently critiquing TWIFOM’s choices:

 (“No; keep the low-fat mozzarella! Your son does not need that box of Red Dye #2 Krusty Sugar Puffs for breakfast. And neither of you needs that processed lunch “meat,” which, BTW, costs twice as much and has 5 times the fat, half the protein and 100 bajillion times the sodium as the carton of eggs you’re subtracting…Thank you, Sweet Flying Spaghetti Monster, at least she’s removing the Summer’s Eve box – wait,WTF?!  She’s changing her mind…she’s directing the checker to rescan the va-jay-jay douche?).

I shut my eyes and took a brief trip down memory lane, back to when I was a health educator in an OB/GYN practice. I had a spiel for the traveling corporate reps who had the misfortune to try to convince me to stock free samples of their “cleansing wash”:

The vagina, like other bodily organs, is self-cleaning; douches are marketed as part of the primitive cultural baggage that teaches women that genitals are icky. Not only is douching unnecessary, the practice is associated with serious health conditions, including bacterial vaginosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility. My boss, Dr. B—, says that your “Summer’s Eve” should more accurately be named, “Summer’s Deceive.”  Only a douche would try to promote douching…

It’s one of my fondest memories, that of Fleet Laboratory salesreps leaving skid marks trying to flee our office.

But I digress.

I kept my diatribe to myself and seethed in silence. Meanwhile, TWIFOM placed her V-be-gone product next to a jug of blue-colored sugar water in her “keep” pile and removed – this was so painful to watch, my eyes almost bled – a bag of navel oranges, a second carton of eggs, and a gallon of 1% milk. 

Excellent parenting choice. Pay for your lady parts to smell like morning at the bakery while your son’s only breakfast option is to lubricate his Type II Diabetic-inducing cereal with high fructose gel.

WT food

After finally settling with the checker TWIFOM bagged her groceries junk. The checker began to scan my items, and I noticed TWIFOM hds left her open wallet (the thing had so many credit cards into its slots it couldn’t be folded shut) on the checkout counter. I hoisted the wallet and managed to catch TWIFOM before she left the store. “Whoops, you don’t want to forget this,” I said.  I handed her the wallet; she lamely joked about forgetting her head if it wasn’t on top of her neck, but offered no “thanks.”  Nor did she apologize when her son launched one last, obviously intentional, spittle-laden cough in my direction as they exited the store.

On my way to my next stop, the market where I was to purchase the organic produce I am fortunate to be able to afford, I pondered the differing perceptions of, and the relationship between, having good luck and making good choices. I’ll notify the Nobel Prize committee when I figure it all out.

*   *   *

 An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.
(Bill Vaughn, American author and newspaper columnist.)

Until next year, when hilarity ensues.

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Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] It’s too early for a footnote, don’t you think?

[2] Bear in mind that “Pope Benedict XVI” ad nauseum are made-up monikers – attempts to confer an aura of authority to the theology-thumpers .

[3] A fitting label in so many ways, although the RC poobahs would remind you that “Primate” is a title of honor denoting ceremonial precedence in their church.

[4] I blogged about the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar in my November 16 post.

[5] But he supported a federal bill to cut taxes on small beer makers (Mormon farmers in Idaho raise barley for Budweiser and Negra Modelo beers).

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