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The VD I’m Not Celebrating

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

Anyway.

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

CAGEpng

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

LugeSALMON

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.chet on stardust

*   *   *

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our Darwin Day dinner celebration included Primordial Soup:

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

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

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

primordial soup

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

JESUSSAUR

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

BEFORE

After

After

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

 Linguistic  Rumination

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

SOLDIERSjpg

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

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

☼     THE FORMULA THAT EXPLAINS IT ALL [10]     ☼

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

A. By not dying at x-1

You’re welcome.

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

FIND X

*   *    *

Mathematical Rumination

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

That's so funny my camel forgot to laugh.

That’s so funny my camel forgot to laugh.

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Give me a filet, any day.

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

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

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

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

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

[7]  Including heart attacks and strokes

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

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

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

The 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 Resolutions I’m Not Breaking

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

festivus

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

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

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

 viewer-approved sidekick Olaf

viewer-approved sidekick Olaf

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

If they can see it, they can be it.”

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

XMAS

and New Year’s –

NYE

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

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

THELMA

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

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

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

*   *   *

But I digress.

On to a new segment I call

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

New Year’s and Resolutions Ruminations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 2014 I resolve to:

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


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

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

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

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

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

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

The Christmas I’m Not Dissing

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 Living Well is the Best Revenge

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

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

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

BOOM

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

Heathens Declare War on Christmas © post.

SANTA

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

Heathen’s Greetings

untitled

“Do you celebrate Christmas?”

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

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

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

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

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

 AXIAL TILT

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

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

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

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

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

044-happy-saturnalia

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


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

[2] That’s all of y’all, right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Best -Of Lists I’m Not Making

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

I assured Glenda she must be doing it right.

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

*   *   *

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

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

and demands you account for the past 365 days. 

Notable events on past December 11s include:

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

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

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

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

Ladies hosting:
-Robyn Parnell & Belle 

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

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

♫ Gitchi Gitchi ya ya lefse…♫

♫ Gitchi Gitchi ya ya lefse…♫

*   *   *

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

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

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

AMY

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

*   *   *

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Recipe, please?

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

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

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

The Nothing I’m Not Buying

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

Crazy

[2]

 The Day After, aka the BLACK FRIDAY blog

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

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

BLACK FRIDAY PIX

*   *   *

It’s tomorrow; can I stop mentioning it?

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

*   *   *

TDAYjpg

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


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

[2] Thematicpictures.com

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

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

The Dispensers I’m Not Activating

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

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

SOAP

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

I have big dreams.  I am not ashamed.

*   *   *

Only 10 Days and I’ll Stop Mentioning It

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

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

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

HolidaySlider8

*   *   *

Coming Attractions 

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

Monkey bars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

Tday

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


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

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

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

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

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

[6] And I have tried.

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

The Monthly Novel I’m Not Writing

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

SOAPBOX

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

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

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

Just what the literary world needs: lower standards.

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

automatic_wine_drinking

And then.

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

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

Opinions are like assholes – everybody’s got one.

bad smell

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

Oy vey.

*   *   *

The Wisdom That Cometh With Age

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

DROODLE

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

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

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

LAWYERS

*   *   *

Stand back, I’m Going to Try Science

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

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

*   *   *

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

DRYER

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

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

May the ho-ho-ho hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Statistic from Publisher’s Weekly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Phrase I’m Not Saving

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RESCUE 911
 We’re lost in the woods, and need an extra large with mushrooms and double cheese…and a helicopter, please.

Join our thrilling, reality-based series, during which MH and I discover our son’s true concerns should we ever end up lost or injured in the wilderness.

Dateline:  Sunday, July 7.  MH and I planned on driving up to Vancouver, WA to go hiking on a new (to us) trail. We invited son K, who declined. [1]

As I was lacing up my boots I informed K of our destination, and told him I was leaving a map of the trail on my computer.  I decided to test his hiking/outdoor recreation, “Buddy system” safety awareness [2] by asking him, “So, what would you do if we did not return by a certain time?”

“What time?” K asked.

“Absolutely, by dinner time,” I clarified. “But we should be back way before that.”

“Well…” K steepled his fingers in front of his face in a Mr. Spock-like pose of thoughtfulness.  “I haven’t been to Pizza Schmizza in a while….

chopper

                              *   *   *

As already noted on this week’s The Mighty Quinn FB page, my calendar said that July 8 was Toot Your Own Horn day.  (It also said that July 2 was Eat Nothing But Dark Chocolate For Every Meal and Your Teeth Will Be Bright and Your Breath Minty Fresh day.  Don’t you wish you had my calendar?) Thus, I excerpted one of my favorite reviews of The Mighty Quinn, which is on Goodreads, courtesy of fellow writer, SCM:

I should start by saying what THE MIGHTY QUINN is not. It’s not for every middle grade reader, nor is it a book for a bright younger kid whose parents read MG books out loud before bed. (I tried.)

THE MIGHTY QUINN is a smart book, and it’s going to appeal to brighter MG readers. It’s a clever and funny book about the Borgia-like scheming simmering below the surface of elementary school social life.

It’s about what it’s like to be raised progressively when peers are, well, not.

 It’s about what it’s like to be raised in a free-thinking and non-religious home, when peers are, well, not.

It’s about what it’s like to be a clever and funny kid when peers are, well, not.

What’s more, it’s the rare book for smart MG readers and their parents to read together. A smart MG reader is doing most reading without parents. This is, in some ways, a last hurrah for those bedtime reading rituals that parents miss more than kids—although it never seems to feel like that when you’re reading Mike Mulligan for the hundredth time.

Bonus: there’s plenty that will make parents laugh.

SCM gave the book a 5 star rating, and states that it is not for every middle grade reader [3].  I liked that. I for one am turned off by reviews which proclaim, Everyone will/must like this book! Because, that’s never the case, is it?  Also, the same, I-like-these qualities the reviewer lists about TMQ would be red flags for those people (certain adults, I think, more than certain children) who, sadly but frankly, are predisposed to not like a book that presents a sympathetic portrayal of kids who “…are raised progressively.”

And so it goes.

Oh, and now that I don’t have to do it every night, I do miss reading Mike Mulligan. MikeMulligan

*   *   *

This week I attended my first professional baseball game in…I truly do not remember how long it has been. [4] Growing up in So Cal, my summers were filled with trips to Chavez Ravine for Dodger games and Anaheim Stadium for Angel games (and if you climbed to the top of our backyard’s big pine tree you could see the stadium’s halo light up when an Angel hit a home run).

I forget what year it happened, but after one player/owner strike too many – when I asked myself, hmmm, which group of millionaires do I feel sorry for? – I lost interest.  I went from a high schooler who subscribed to Sports Illustrated, someone who could quote lengthy passages from Ball Four, someone who, much to MH’s befuddlement, could whip anyone’s ass in a 1970s Dodger’s baseball trivia contest, [5] to someone who just didn’t give a flying festering fartbag about professional sports.

Except, of course, when Kirk Gibson hit his gimp, game-winning home run during the 1988 World Series, which cause my younger sister (whose husband was rooting for the Oakland A’s) and I to exchange, gloating phone calls: YEEESSSS!

Once again, I digress.

So, on Monday I dragged MH, son K and his friend and moiself to Hillsboro’s new baseball stadium, home of the Hillsboro Hops, Hillsboro’s new new minor league team .  I really, really, could have done without the inane announcer’s patter and the kiddie tire races and kiddie hoop shooting contests and kiddie bunny hops and the other “amusements” between innings (Hades forbid we should be content to merely sit with our thoughts or converse with other attendees – we must be ENTERTAINED at all moments).

That irritation aside, hearing the distinctive slap of a 94 mph pitch hitting the catcher’s mitt, watching fit young men in fit uniforms [6] loping around a field on a hot summer evening, savoring a bag of peanuts roasted in the shell – the night brought back primal memories for me.  The night also provided a reminder of a most epic parental fail, when my 20 year old son made a comment which indicated he did not know how many innings are in a baseball game.

Ball Four

*   *   *

“It has never been easier to be a writer, and it has never been harder to be a professional writer.”
(Adam Gopnick, The New Yorker, as quoted in the Spring 2013 Authors Guild Bulletin)

sadwriter

Because the Authors Guild takes their mandate seriously (“…the nation’s leading advocate for writers’ interests in effective copyright protection, fair contracts and free expression….”), their bulletin is full of the news that matters to writers; i.e., reports on how AG attorneys and advocates are fighting the good [7] fight against the erosion of authors’  income streams and copyright and royalty protection and trends in e-publishing….  Almost all of it is really, really, really depressing:

E-books are way less expensive for publishers to produce, but instead of being more generous to authors, the major publishing houses all rigidly insist on clauses limiting e-book royalties to (that which gives authors ) roughly half the traditional royalty on hardcover books….Five of six major publishing houses were sued by the DOJ’s anti-trust division for fixing e-book prices…numerous pirate sites (supported by advertising on Yahoo and Google) offer new and old e-books for free (and too many Americans, especially younger ones, seem to believe that if it’s on the internet it belongs to everybody – even while they pay for cable)…Amazon acquired a patent to re-sell e-books… [8]

I think when the next issue of the Authors Guild Bulletin arrives I’ll save time and, before turning the first page, assume my custom-designed, Author’s Yoga Pose ®.

YOGA

 Whattheasana
(aka Author’s Pose)

Whattheasana is a pose of realization.  It transfers tension from your neck, shoulders and back to your brain bucket, where tension belongs.

(1) Begin in a kneeling position, on the hardest surface you can find.

(2) Drop your buttocks to your heels. Exhale and stretch your torso down and forward, lengthening your tailbone from the pelvis as you rest your abdomen atop your thighs, your forehead on the floor. Inhale one long breath of futility.

(3) Exhale. Place your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms up in the universal gesture of surrender. Visualize your most recent royalty statement and/or the Ten Must-Have Marketing Strategies for Writers! conference come-ons in your email inbox. Let the weight of the world rest on your shoulders, broadening your scapulae across your back and further grinding your forehead into the floor.

(4) Inhale, extend your cervical vertebrae and raise your forehead several inches above the floor. Exhale, release your forehead to gravity and chant your author’s mantra (“d-uh”) as your forehead hits the floor with a chakra-satisfying thud.  Repeat this sequence, staying in the pose for one to five minutes, or until the half-hearted urge to even consider enrolling in any Social Media Web-inar/Tutorials subsides.

*   *   *

Pacas and Toucans and Turtles, Oh My!

a baby leatherback turtle heads for the ocean at Pacuare

a baby leatherback turtle heads for the ocean at Pacuare

Belle returned late Tuesday evening from a nine day trip to Costa Rica.  She and 17 other Oregon Zoo Teen leaders were participating in an Ecology International Field Service Project.  The kids and their adult guides helped biologists at La Suerte [9] Biological Field Station and the Pacuare Nature Reserve gather data on sea turtles, and the Costa Rican mosquitoes helped themselves to fresh American teenage blood.

The pangs of missing my daughter didn’t hit me until July 4, when I was out running errands/having lunch with MH.  I passed the time at the local animal shelter while MH roamed the aisles of Lowe’s, and at the shelter I saw The Cutest Kitten In the World ® which, fortunately, had a sign on its kennel indicating it had already been adopted.  Belle would have adored the kitten, I thought…and it’s a good thing she’s in Costa Rica, because she just possibly would have found a way to talk MH and I out of our Crazy Cat People  Limit. [10]

After home improvement errands MH & I had lunch at Red Robin, where I was reminded of something I do not miss about my daughter, or my son, now that both of them have been housebroken for some time.  When I used the RR’s restroom I overheard the distinctive dialogue which indicated the presence of a Six Legged Monster [11] occupying the handicapped stall.

“Mommy, I did a stinker!”

“Yes, honey, you did a stinker.”

“No, YOU did a stinker!”

“Okay, I did a stinker – no, wait, don’t open the door, your sister isn’t done yet….”

sequential

Two minutes later, in the parking lot, there was yet another parent/child/potty story unfolding: a young mother was changing her infant son’s messy diaper, using the rear of her SUV as a changing table. With the car’s hatchback door up, passersby (including yours truly) had quite the view.

I’m not going to tell the story in all of its Technicolor glory.  I’d like to save the phrase poop-encrusted scrotum for 2014.

Happy Independence Day, indeed.  And the hijinks ensued.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] There were, as always, aliens to be battled in cyberspace.

[2] Always inform friends and family about your trip itinerary, ideally include a map and tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return….

[3] I like her subtle nudge re how TMQ appeals to the “brighter” reader. Ahem.

[4] Remembered during the edit! It was in October ’92, at Baltimore’s beautiful Oriole Park: MH & I with my groovy friend and fellow Ball Four lover Ernie Kyger, with a special guest appearance by Baltimore Sun sportswriter (and high school friend) Peter Schmuck .

[5] Name the Dodgers infield that played together for more than eight seasons — a major league record! (Cey, Lopes, Russell & Garvey)

[6] I’m married, not dead.

[7] If ultimately futile, in my humble yet realistic opinion.

[8] These feel-good excerpts are from the From the President article by AG President Scott Turow.

[9] Idiomatic translation: good luck with the heron-sized mosquitoes.

[10] I say it’s four (naturally, we have four cats).  Belle insists you’re not truly in Crazy Cat People territory until six.

[11] A mother and her two young children.

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