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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 Netherlands I’m Not Grooming

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

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

REALLY

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

Yikes, that makes me sound old.

*   *   *

Speaking of things that make me feel old:

2014:  The Year of Californians Wedding Frequently

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

WEDDING

*   *   *

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

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

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

Look out world, it's my year.

Look out world, it’s my year.

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

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

SAMURAIpng

 

U-WA-ji-may-a!

U-wa-ji-MAY-a!

U-wa-JI-may-a!

UUUUU-wa-ji-may-a!

Go ahead.  You know you want to.

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

*   *   *

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

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

OSCAR

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

Once again, I digress.

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

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

*   *   *

Friday’s Fun Food Fact

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

SOLDIER FART

Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

*   *   *

I read the news today, oh boy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SKIRT

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

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

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

No, please – don’t answer that.

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

*   *   *

No fashion for you, Gilda.

No fashion for you, Gilda.

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


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

[2] And who isn’t, these days?

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

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

[5] Stage name Leonardo DiCaprio.

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

[7] Offbeat = $$$$.

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

The Christians I’m Not Mingling

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Yet another reason Roger Ebert died too soon

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

SHARK

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

*   *   *

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

OHNO

Department of Really?

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

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

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

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

They changed the home page menu drop shadow?  Nyoooooooo!

They changed the home page menu drop shadow? Abomination!

*   *   *

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

Khhhhhhaaaaaan!

Khhhhhhaaaaaan!

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

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

Ahem.

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


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

[2] Boring Old Lady Beige.

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

[4] Hey! Those things work!

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

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

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

The 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 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 Power Within I’m Not Unleashing

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Remember the old station wagons, with the reverse rear seat?  Raise your hand if you were a way way back sitter.  Moiself, too.

Waywayback

The Way Way Back. You must see this film, although you may have to wait until it comes out on DVD.  The life of an independent film during the What’s Left For Bruce Willis To Blow Up?, Boom-Boom summer season blockbusters is a brief one.

The Way Way Back got me to thinking about another independent gem of a film, [1] 2006′s Little Miss Sunshine, which got me to re-watching LMS, which got me thinking about the pivotal scene in which Richard, who is trying to make it as a motivational speaker/life coach via his “Nine Steps to Success” program, confronts the agent who has been avoiding his phone calls, the aptly named Stan Grossman.

Richard:
You said it would sell…!

Stan:
That’s what I thought. At the Time.

Richard:
But it’s a great program! You said yourself!   I don’t understand…

Stan
It’s not the program, Richard, it’s you, okay?  No one’s heard of you.  Nobody cares.

…which got me to thinking about the strange phenomenon that is the circular, bastard stepchild of a pyramid-scheming-evangelical-preacher-snake-oil-huckster, Motivation/Success Seminar empire, of which infomercial giant Tony Robbins is the (self-crowned) king.

TR and his imitators are hawking nothing new – it’s all a repackaging and spinning of the positive-thinking, How To Win Friends and Influence People shtick.  There are and always have been legions of people who will listen to anyone with charismatic oratory skills who dresses and sounds and looks “successful” and talks about how successful he is and how he is therefore The One who can help you obtain the magic success formula (paging PT Barnum, please pick up your residuals check in the lobby).

I can’t help but wonder.  What with the “millions” of people attending TR’s Unleash the Power Within  seminars and rallies and Master University sessions and studying The Ultimate Edge tapes (described on his website as “The World’s #1 Personal Achievement System)”  [2]  – including, as per TR’s unsubstantiated mouth fart claim, “leaders around the world” – why isn’t the world a different, more successful place?

Golly gee, if TR’s [3] ultimate edge formula was even marginally effective I’d expect to be ultimately edged out on a simple trip to the grocery store, what with all those power unleashers and fire walkers (after their second and third-degree burns were treated) successfully congregating in the produce aisle.  They’d be everywhere, right?

Other than convincing less successful and/or minimally edged people to give him lots of $$, making him wealthy and adding to his I know the secret to wealth credentials (in the minds of the kind of people who consider purchasing lottery tickets to be a reasonable financial investment strategy), what has TR actually accomplished?  I mean, other than surviving the first and only Clydesdale-to-human head transplant:

TonyRobbins

*   *   *

Consumer Alert
The consequences of online shopping:

After ordering a festive housewarming gift for a friend, you may receive the following email from the seller’s customer service department:

Are you satisfied with Hawaiian Aloha Hula Girl Yellow Skirt Desk Home Office Computer Duster?  Dear Robyn Parnell, we want to ensure you’re satisfied with Hawaiian Hawaii Aloha Hula Girl Yellow Skirt Desk Home Office Computer Duster! If you’re dissatisfied in any way, give us a chance to make things right….    

That’s thoughtful, but, totally unnecessary.  How could I – how could anyone – be dissatisfied in any way with a Hawaiian Hawaii Aloha Hula Girl Yellow Skirt Desk Home Office Computer Duster?

HULAGIRL

*   *   *

“Why is it that when people die, we make such an effort to turn them into saints?
Especially when the entire reason we loved them so much in the first place is because they weren’t.”

That is just one of many passages I highlighted from a book in which I least expected to find highlight-worthy passages.  (It’s okay; read that sentence several times, sober or otherwise, and it’ll eventually make sense).

The book is by actor and standup comedian Alison Arngrim, best known for playing the love-to-hate-her character Nellie Oleson in TV’s long-running Little House on the Prairie. While looking for a picture to accompany a posting on The Mighty Quinn Facebook page (topic: memorable book villains and/or bullies), I came the name of the memoir Arngrim penned.  Who am I to resist a title like, “Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated

NELLIE

I was initially surprised at my enjoyment of both the book and the author’s style, until I considered her years on the stand-up circuit, where she had time to develop her “voice.” Arngrim’s conversational, droll ironic narrative deftly serves her recounting life with her unconventional parents [4] and then was like an anvil to my head when she matter-of-factly recounts her years of physical and sexual abuse by her older brother.

I love this passage, from a chapter wherein she describes her friendship and early encounters with the man who would become her husband.  No wonder she married him.

I called his home number one day and got his answering machine. I was greeted with a terrible, high-pitched grinding sound, a screaming roar from the pit of hell. I later asked him what on earth it was.

“Oh, that’s my guitar solo,” he replied.

“A guitar solo?” I asked incredulously. I didn’t even know he played guitar.

“Yes. It’s from a song I’ve been working on. It’s called ‘Gozdilla Christmas.’”

Godzilla

*   *   *

As part of our CSA membership we are required to help with the harvest at least twice during the farm’s  29-week growing season.  Son K and I did a harvest help shift on Wednesday, picking herbs, 3 varieties of green beans, and finally tomatoes.  While gathering bushels of the latter crop, I came upon a special specimen. “This one is mine,” I gloated, for obvious reasons.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

May all your produce be as photogenic, and let the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] With an incestuous relationship to TWWB, as per shared cast members, studio and production staff.

[2] The #2 “personal achievement system” is some kind of battery operated marital aid.  Or so I’m told.

[3] Or Jim Rohn or Jack Canfield and his “Chicken Soup” or any of the stars on the Self Motivation tour.

[4] Her father was a closeted (if only is his mind; it was obvious to every around him) gay who was Liberace’s personal manager and her stardom-seeking mother provided the voices of, among many cartoon favorites,   Gumby and Casper the friendly Ghost.

The Baby Sloth I’m Not Wrangling

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Some pre-release book publicity for a good cause? Forgive the self-serving if ostensibly noble combination.

Oak Grove Elementary School in Milwaukie, Oregon is having an Earth Day/work-party day this Saturday, April 20th.  Tree planting, courtyard sprucing and other activities will begin at 10 am, followed at 12 noon by a pizza party, and a reading (for kids young and old) by yours truly, from The Mighty Quinn.  Check http://www.solv.org/get-involved/events/oak-grove-elementary-earth-day-beautification-project for directions and more details.

No matter what your plans, on this upcoming Earth Day weekend there are plenty of other ways to Love Your Mother (Earth, that is).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

*   *   *

“There’s pretty much sloths everywhere you look around here.”

Does that quote sound familiar?  If you think heard something like it, perhaps from the HR person during your interview tour of your company’s cubicle land, then it’s time to look for a new job.  Here’s the title of my dream job:  Baby Sloth Wrangler, at the Costa Rica Sloth Sanctuary.

School spirit: Try to contain your enthusiasm.

school-assembly

I’ve occasionally received text messages from my offspring when they were stuck at a mandatory snorefest high school assembly.  Typically, they were bored out of their gourds by the blah blah blah from their school’s administrators and/or lame “artistic” presentations from fellow students.  I, on the other hand,[1] remember my high school’s assemblies with fondness.  The assemblies were rare and welcome breaks from routine, and were also, for the most part, entertaining, with little to no speechifying by adults/administration.

From what son K has told and now daughter Belle is telling me, their high school finds numerous reasons to have assemblies, often merely to disseminate school/logistical information that could have easily been relayed via the teacher, in the classroom…information that is forgotten five minutes after the assembly has ended.

There are those kind of assemblies.  And then, there are other assemblies.

Yesterday around noon I received the following text from Belle, during her school’s assembly, at which the choir and band were to perform.

OMG…this assembly is cursed.  The color guard did a performance, and one girl got hit with her gun in the face and bled everywhere.  Then ___ (Belle’s friend from the track team) passed out in the stands and had to be carried out.

Don’t think they’ll be forgetting this one so soon.

*   *   *

The Boston Marathon bombs.  At the time I’m writing this, those responsible have not been apprehended, nor identified.  Much has already been said about the tragedy.  One thing hasn’t:  that such horrific incidents only go to show, in this Bright’s opinion, how the most basic tenet of a certain theology gets it all dead wrong.

I’m referring to Original Sin and other such mental ass cheek flapping religious doctrines that teach of an innate, even inherited, fallen humanity.

There are seven bajillion of us on this planet.  If human beings were truly and inherently evil at the core of their being, we would have blown ourselves up – we would have torn each other to pieces – a long, long time ago.

Look for the good, the kind, the rational, the helpful.  You don’t have to look far. Yes, there are some incredibly sadistic asshats[2] fighting for slop space in this world.  And there are the others. They don’t usually make the headlines, because there are so many of them.

I saw footage and photos of people in Boston, from professional first responders and civilian bystanders, running to help their fellow human beings.  People were running toward the sites of the still-smoldering explosions, even as they had no way of knowing whether there were more blasts to come.

humanist

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

(Fred Rogers)

*   *   *

One of my favorite dialog sequences from one of my favorite movies, The American President.

Janie (Presidential Aide) : The 10:15 event has been moved inside to the Indian Treaty Room.  

President Andrew Shepherd: 10:15 is American Fisheries?  

Janie: Yes, sir. They’re giving you a 200-pound halibut.  

The President: Janie, make a note. We need to schedule more events where somebody gives me a really big fish.  

Janie: Yes sir. [starts making note]  

The President: Janie, I’m kidding.  

Janie: [Stops and starts to smile] Of course, sir.

After a trip to our favorite market, the awesome New Seasons, I realized I needed to do more grocery shopping where somebody gives my daughter a really big fish. [3]

fish

*   *   *

Dateline:  long ago in a galaxy far, far away. [4] It was a beautiful, Bay Area day, clear blue skies, mid-70s with no breeze.  A co-worker had called to trade shifts at Planned Parenthood, so my morning was free. I had work to do, but even a freethinker like moiself who scoffs at the s-word knew it would be a sin to work indoors.  It was the perfect day for one of my favorite drives: taking La Honda Road (highway 84) to the coast.

Sitting in my favorite spot under a sandstone cliff facing the ocean, I had the beach (San Gregorio) to myself.  Midway through editing the final draft of a story, I looked toward the water and saw a man and his golden retriever walking in the shallow surf.  Man and dog turned inland, headed in my direction, and attempted to make conversation. [5]

“Great day, thought we had the beach to ourselves….”  Man’s banter was neither interesting nor original, but also not (intentionally nor particularly) annoying.  He was friendly…and also sliding into flirtatious.  I was polite but not encouraging.  I made a point of petting his dog and shooing his dog away from my manuscript and shaking the sand off of said manuscript with my left hand, making sure that my wedding band was on display.

He soon got around to, “Whatcha working on?,” a question I’ve since learned how  to deflect [6] .  I thought if I answered him truthfully – if he realized that, indeed, I was not on holiday but was working – he’d half-heartedly apologize for the intrusion and be on his way.  Instead, I had found myself in what is a fairly a common experience for writers:  receiving unsolicited advice from a non-writer as to how, or what, a writer should write.

He incorrectly assumed that I was a novice, unpublished writer.  Wishing not to prolong our interaction, I did not disabuse him of that assumption.  “I hear fiction, for adults, is really, like, difficult to break into,” he offered, with a wide-eyed look that was obviously intended to be helpful.  “Have you ever thought of working your way up, by, uh, like, writing stuff for children, first?”

He seemed taken aback at my hearty guffaw, and his expression quickly morphed from helpful to confused as he found an excuse to return to his dog walking duties.

“If you write comedy, you’re sitting at the children’s table.”
(Woody Allen)

children's table

A common misconception among non-writers is that writing “for children” is somehow easier, and less prestigious, than writing “for adults.”  Authors who’ve been published across the various (and somewhat arbitrary) age groupings scoff at the former notion even as they grapple with the latter – that a “children’s author” is a second class citizen in the world of literature.

This snobbery sometimes comes from a select list of fellow writers, those who take themselves and their I Am an Author of Important Lit-ra-chure credentials oh-so-seriously.  These writers are invested in this alleged hierarchy of prestige, and wish to maintain what they see as the ghetto of being on the children’s list.  And yet, the children’s list is a relatively recent phenomenon.  It was only twelve years ago that the New York Times Book Review made the controversial decision to start a children’s bestseller list, separate from that of adult fiction.  This was due in part to the rumored complaints by some self-styled Big Boy writers who got their Serious Literary Underpants ® in a knot when they found themselves increasingly sharing (read: ceding) top rankings with Harry Potter  [7].

But, apparently, sharing list-space with Fifty Shades of Meh or the latest “adult” schlock literary sensation is reputable…enough.

When I was invited by local schools to do readings of my first children’s book, My Closet Threw a Party, the teachers usually introduced me (to their students, and/or to other school staff) as a writer, or sometimes as a “children’s writer.”  When it was the latter, I gently corrected the distinction…and then had to explain why I wasn’t objecting to it, but simply felt that it was inaccurate.

Although I write for all ages, the vast majority of my published works have been for an adult audience.  I’m just a writer.  I didn’t feel then, nor do I feel now, that being referred to as a “Children’s Author” is in any way depreciatory.  Quite the opposite.  If anything, I feel I am not deserving of the moniker.  I can’t think of a better kind of writer to be.  Think about it:  who – truly, deeply and loyally – loves a book more than a child?

*   *   *

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
(Groucho Marx)

Get your favorite book, for children of all ages (I’m partial to Green Eggs and Ham), turn on the light inside your dog, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] On the other hand…you have different fingers.

[2] Including the talking heads who insinuate the identities of the perpetrators when they have no reliable evidence.

[3] Our freezer is full of halibut filets, halibut scraps for fish cakes, halibut stock for halibut chowder….

[4] The Bay Area “peninsula,” 20+ years ago.  Is that long ago/far far away enough?

[5] The man talked.  The dog slobbered.

[6] People often have strange reactions when encountering a writer, writing. Sometimes I just say I’m an editor.

[7] By 2001 the top three places on the hardcover fiction list were held by JK Rowling titles, and a fourth Harry Potter book was on its way.

The Thumbs I’m Not Lowering

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Roger Ebert loved movies.
Except for those he hated.

So begins the Chicago SunTime’s feature on the death of film critic and author Roger Ebert.  Ebert was one of the few critics (in any field) whose work I respected, even when I disagreed with his opinions.  I’ve always suspected Ebert secretly loved those movies he supposedly hated, because they afforded him the opportunity to pen the most entertaining of his critiques.  Check out these two collections of some of his most scathing reviews, his books I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie, and the exquisitely titled, Your Movie Sucks.

Having read a news article just days ago about Ebert’s announcement of his cancer’s recurrence, I feared the worst was coming, soon.  Yesterday I intended to forward the article to friend and fellow movie lover CC [1].  I logged on to the computer, and there was the sad news.

Rereading that last paragraph, I’m thinking that while I may have “feared the worst,” Ebert didn’t.  As followers of his blog know, Ebert wrote with clear-eyed eloquence about his battle with cancer and the contemplation of his inevitable demise, from the perspective of a literate, intelligent, contemplative and grateful atheist/agnostic/deist/non-believer/free-thinker…. [2]

Ebert was fond of a quotation by Brendan Behan, which he cites in the following excerpt from arguably his most profound blog entry – you must, must, must read it –  Go Gentle Into That Good Night. [3]

I respect kindness in human beings first of all, and kindness to animals. I don’t respect the law; I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer. 

“For 57 words, that does a pretty good job of summing it up. ‘Kindness’ covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”
(Roger Ebert, 1942 – 2013)

I am happy he lived long enough to share that.  Two thumbs up to a life well-lived.  The balcony is closed.

The key to maintaining a motivated, youthful perspective is immaturity.
Chapter 324 in a never-ending series.

 I rarely listen to music when I’m working on new material.  Doing the bizness stuff – what I consider to be unpleasant, logistical/housekeeping chores of writing – requires both distraction and fortification.  While researching agents to query about my novel, I had the following inspirational song [4] on repeat play. Which may explain my success in querying agents.

*   *   *

 The new updesk is here!  The new updesk is here!

Actually it’s been here for a couple of weeks, but the screw holes for the crossbar of the desk’s left leg were improperly threaded, and so a new left leg had to be sent from the company’s headquarters in Tennessee.

Two years ago, right around the time MH was having surgery on his back, I became concerned with the sedentary nature of my profession.[5]  No matter that I am a lifelong, devoted, daily exerciser – the latest research says that we desk people are sitting ourselves to death.  I installed an ergonomic program on my computer that makes little icons to pop up a regular intervals to nag remind me to get up and move/stretch. That helped…a little.

I began experimenting with a makeshift [6] standing desk, and discovered I liked standing and working. I also discovered that the relief to my back came at the expense of my knees, a discovery predicted by more of that pesky ergonomics research, which says that there are musculoskeletal problems associated with any prolonged posture.[7]  Also, there are times when I just want to sit and work.  Wouldn’t it be great to be able to quickly and conveniently switch between the two modes without having to unplug/schlep everything?

The techno Good Fairies [8] granted the wishes of moiself and others who seek to reinvent our work environment, as I discovered when I searched for adjustable height desks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We received the new desk leg yesterday, and handy husband MH assembled the contraption.  After three weeks of having my office torn apart/rearranged and my papers and materials divide up between the office and kitchen table, I am so behind with everything, and The Mighty Quinn is coming out in four weeks and I haven’t had time to get back to the office and take the desk for a test drive.  Ah, but tomorrow with a push of a button I will be able to raise or lower the desk to two present heights, or any height from 26.5″ to 42.5.”  The future is here (and, as usual, catches me wearing my sweatpants)!

*   *   *

 Future, schmuture:  back to the Middle Ages.  Which means, of course, a breaking news update on an Islamist society.

Get your motors running, gals, and let's go kick some Saudi ass!

Get your motors running, gals, and let’s go kick some Saudi ass!

In yet another stunning stumble leap toward entering the 19th century, Saudi Arabia has lifted its ban on women riding bicycles. As you know, Saudi women may not drive cars, run for public office or vote, or appear in public unless smothered covered head to toe in a black funeral shroud stylish abaya-niquab-hijab combo.  However, as of this week the Mutaween, the kingdom’s notoriously conservative religious police, are allowing female Saudis to ride motorbikes and bicycles in certain areas…providing that a male relative or guardian accompanies the biking babes.

 The Mutaweenies also stipulates that women may not use the bikes for transportation but “only for entertainment,” [9] and that they must not ride near men “to avoid harassment.”

Saudi Leaders March for Equality

Saudi Leaders March for Equality

They’re baaaaack.

Faster than cinema patrons fleeing a Poltergeist sequel showing! More powerful than a politician’s ego! Able to leap inconsistent alibis in a single press conference! It’s SuperCluelessman!

I refer of course to the spectacle that is the political resurrection of Mark Sanford, the self-awareness-impaired former governor of South Carolina.  This week Sanford emerged from the slime seemingly out of nowhere to win his state’s Republican House primary, held for the special election that will fill the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Tim Scott.  The special election, slated for May 7, will pit Sanford against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, Stephen Colbert’s sister.

Brief background info:  In 2009 Sanford resigned as chairman of the Republican Governors Association after he admitted to an affair with an Argentinean woman. [10] Sanford was later censured by both the House Judiciary Committee and the South Carolina House of Representatives, as per Sanford’s misuse of state travel funds to conduct his affair.  But the real fun had come earlier in the year, when Sanford, the executive administrator of his state, became the subject of nationwide news coverage because for seven days his location was unknown to anyone – not his constituents, not his wife, not the State Law Enforcement Division which provided security for him.

Providing material for late night TV for weeks, Sanford had told his staff that during his absence he would be hiking the Appalachian Trail.  When a reporter caught him arriving at Atlanta’s airport on a flight from Argentina, Sanford quickly organized a news conference, during which he admitted that when he was supposedly hiking the Appalachian Trail he was actually pursuing some Argentinean tail. [11]

Oh, but that was then and this is now.  Sanford is now back on the campaign trail, and between self-righteous proclamations of change and milking the politics of forgiveness (he’s made mistakes, you know, and none of us is perfect, praise Jeeeeeesus), he also wants you to know that no one seems to know anything about his opponent aside from the fact that she is Stephen Colbert’s sister. On April third he made a point of highlighting this fact on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show:

“She’s not held office. Right now, the one thing that people know about her is that she is Stephen Colbert’s sister. Well, at the end of the day, Stephen Colbert is a very popular, well-regarded comedian, but at the end of the day he’s not on the ticket.”

Oh really?  At the end of the day?  Why not, at the beginning of the evening?  Or, in the middle of the afternoon? Or at the cusp-if-not-quite-not-the-edge-of-the-dusk….

Forget all the other crap Mark Sanford has done and said.  The most compelling reason for not voting in this lying, cheating, censured sack of shit into office is that he used that vapid idiom TWICE, IN THE SAME SENTENCE. Which I didn’t even think was possible.

May the hiking hijinks ensue.

*   *   *

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Our nicknames for each other, when planning our movie dates, are Gene and Roger.

[2] These and other labels were given, by others, to Ebert, who refused all labels for this himself.

[3] which also served as the last chapter of his memoir, Life Itself.

[4] Included as a cardboard record in a 1963 issue of Mad magazine.

[5] Translation: my back began to hurt.

[6] Translation, the sequel: monitor & keyboard propped up on lots of books and other non-desk items.

[7] Translation, the last:  “ouch”

[8] Chill out, you paranoid dudes, it’s a compliment.

[9] Riding around in a circle to amuse yourself and your “male guardian” is kosher (ahem), but Allah forbid a women might actually use a bike to get somewhere.

[10] To whom he is now engaged.  Whaddya think, should I send them a toaster oven, or candlesticks?

[11] Not his exact words.  You can credit me on this one.

The Fritatta (for my father) I’m Not Cooking

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Monday, February 11.  I headed upstairs (where the backup TV/DVD player resides), a glass of champagne in my hand.

“You’re going to watch something – what?” K asked me.

“Band of Brothers.”

“Oh,” she replied.  “Of course.”

Monday was the four year anniversary of my father’s death.  He’d called the night before, and we talked for a long time, longer than usual (we talked on the phone at least once a week).  He was in a reflective mood.  [1] One of the many things we talked about was the HBO series, Band of Brothers.  The year after the series came out on DVD I purchased the set for my parents – a Christmas gift, I think.  Besides being one of the greatest mini-series in the history of the genre, B-B was the impetus for many detailed conversations between my father and me, about his experiences as a paratrooper in WWII [2]  and also those of another paratrooper, his brother-in-law, my Uncle Bill. [3]

My family hears the elegiac, haunting main theme wafting down the stairway, and they know where I am.  And what I’m thinking about.

I don’t know how to describe the greatness that is Band of Brothers.  So I won’t.  Just watch it, if you haven’t already.  Were I ever to meet Steven Spielberg and/or Tom Hanks, I would thank them, profusely, for producing that series.  Not a word about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or The Money Pit would cross my lips.

*   *   *

Tuesday morning I had leftover frittata for breakfast. Earlier in the week I’m made a kale,[4] potato, onion, Spanish (smoked) paprika, parmesan cheese frittata for dinner.  I don’t know if my father ever had a frittata, for any meal.  I do know he would have liked it.

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A great scene in a greatly underrated movie, Morning Glory:[5]  Grouchy, veteran, respected but currently unemployed television journalist Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford, in a credible Mike Wallace mode) has been essentially blackmailed into becoming the co-host of DayBreak, a ratings-poor, national morning show of the “infotainment” style Pomeroy despises.  Pomeroy tries to sabotage the show by getting drunk, refusing to banter with co-host Colleen Peck (a cheerfully acid Diane Keaton), and by making use of a clause in his contract that allows him to refuse assignments, like cooking segments, that he considers beneath him. Pomeroy eventually forms a mutual if grudging admiration with Becky Fuller, (Rachael McAdams), DayBreak’s new, “Energizer Bunny” producer.  When DayBreak begins to rise in popularity and ratings, Becky receives a job interview from a rival show.  Colleen tells Mike that his refusal to adapt has driven Becky away. He goes to the TV set kitchen where food segments are done, and Becky watches in shock as Pomeroy shows the viewers how to make a frittata.

*   *   *

Always nice to have something to look forward to, and I – we – have May 13 – 19, which is Children’s Book Week.

CBW is the yearly celebration of “books for young people and the joy of reading.”  Every year during CBW author and illustrator appearances, storytelling, parties, and other book-related events are held at schools, libraries, bookstores, museums across the country.

Mark your calendars, if you are a local.  Tuesday, Tuesday, May 14, starting at 7 pm, moiself and two other authors will be doing a reading and book signing at Powell’s City of Books, at their Cedar Hills Crossing (Beaverton) location.  This event has just been scheduled; I don’t yet know all the logistical details it will involve (walking up and down the book stack aisles, wearing a sandwich board advertising The Mighty Quinn?), but you can be certain I’ll post further harassments reminders as the date approaches.

Powell’s is the largest independent new and used bookstore in our solar system, and if you don’t know this, well….  Even if you’re from waaaaay out of town (any New Hampshire readers out there?), you need to make a pilgrimage to Powell’s if you are any kind of a book lover.  If not for my event, then soon.  So, you can’t fly to Portland in May?  Not to worry, there is a Children’s BW event somewhere near you.

Whatever your favorite childhood book is, was, or will be, may the remembrance of it be worthy of the Pretty Purple Toe award.

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*   *   *

No political commentary, nor rehashes of the latest misogynist pinhead proclamations in this week’s post.  I am too focused on fathers and frittatas and positive memories to celebrate, say, the resignation of the leader of one of the most wealthy, opulent, hypocritical, corrupt cults on the planet one mere pope. Now, if we could get all priests, imams, preachers, lamas, gurus, popes — and the ovine followers who give them “authority” – to resign….  Yeah, you can wake me for that breaking news.

*   *   *

In honor of Valentine’s Day, a reminder of that most romantic of date movies, When Harry Met Sally Snakes On a Plane Snakes In a Dish.

snake

Because I can only imagine that when Samuel L. Jackson gets serious about love – about anything – hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] The temptation, of course, is to think he had some kind of premonition.  No evidence or proof of that, on my part. Just gratitude.

[2] In his case, training for the invasion of Japan that never came, due to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

[3] Bill somehow survived actions from North Africa to Italy to D-Day to the Battle of the Bulge.  Not surprisingly, he was hospitalized after the war for what was then called “Shell Shock”, now understood as PTSD.

[4] Observant readers will note that it is bok choy, and not kale, in the picture.  What can I say – all the kale went in the frittata.

[5] I love Roger Ebert’s review of what makes the comedy so enjoyable: “It grows from human nature and is about how people do their jobs and live their lives.”

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