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The Headline I’m Not Walking In

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"Is it hot in here, Gov. Perry, or is it just me?"

“Is it hot in here, Gov. Scott, or is it just me?”

What follows is not something made up by The Onion.

*   *   *

Department of No Comment

From salon.com:  “A slew of unconfirmed reports indicate that Florida Governor Rick Scott has banned state officials from using the term ‘climate change’…. Despite Scott’s repeated denial that such a law exists, in a new video released by climate activist organization Forecast the Facts, Director of Florida Division of Emergency Management Bryan Koon clearly tries to avoid using the phrase in a public hearing.

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On Second Thought : Comment

Climate Change! Climate Change! GLOBAL WARMING WARMING
WARMING Climate Change! Climate Change! Climate Change!

Dang…there goes my career in Florida politics.

Now that I’ve nothing to lose: Gov. Rick Scott – this ass hat award’s for you.

AHat

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The Rhythm Method

K and Belle were home last week, for their Spring Break. After they returned to college it took two days for me to realize that the schools here (Oregon) are on Spring break this week. Is there some holiday/teacher contract day I don’t know about? I wondered to moiself during my morning walk on Monday, when I noticed the absence of students waiting at the curbside bus stops. I noticed the same thing Tuesday morning, and subsequently my brilliant powers of deduction that sense of oh, gee, school must be out kicked in.

Einstein

I’d heard about this from other parents, about how when your kids go off to college and/or work, the rhythms of your personal/professional life and family schedule – which revolved in large measure around your children’s school schedules – seem to disappear.  [1]

*   *   *

Department of Education

I think I learned a wee lesson in compassion this week.

A marketplace has emerged, where public humiliation is a commodity and shame is an industry. How is the money made? Clicks.  The more shame, the more clicks; the more clicks, the more advertising dollars.
We’re in a dangerous cycle. The more we click on this kind of gossip, the numb we become to the lives behind it. And the more numb we get, the more we click. All the while, someone is making money off of someone else’s suffering.”

If, like me, you were fascinated/angered/bemused/repulsed by the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal of seventeen years ago, you need to hear Monica Lewinsky’s TED talk on The Price of Shame.

Lewinsky was the same age then as my son is now when she began an affair with her boss which led to, among many other events, the first national case of what we now call cyber bullying and/or slut shaming. Listening to her speech, I realized for the first time (a) how young she’d been when she (admittedly and profoundly regretfully) did something really, really stupid, [2] and (b) how painful the consequences were, for herself and her family, of having her mistake made public.

Even if you think you had/have little interest in the pathetic affair, you heard the stories and the jokes, and we all formed opinions on the ensuring events based, at least in part, on the ensuing gossip.

Listen to her speech. We – the American public – owe it to both Ms. Lewinsky and ourselves to imagine, as she puts it, “walking a mile in someone else’s headline.”

cyberbully

*   *   *

Blast From the Past

Whatever prompted the following stroll down Memory Lane, [3] I cannot recall, but I am grateful to the whimsical brain breezes which produced it.

Dateline: a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away – a galaxy which happened to have a Barnes & Noble bookstore. Friend LU and I were cruising the B & N stacks, looking for – surprise! – a book (the title of which escapes me now..I think it was something by Stephen Jay Gould).  As we passed by the religion section stacks I noticed a display rack in the Christian Nonfiction section for books whose titles proclaimed the glories of “Submissive Womanhood.”

Naturally, I decided an act of guerrilla feminism was called for.

LU stood as lookout for B & N employees (a task she performed admirably, despite almost pissing herself with laughter) while I moved the entire submissive pile of shit stack of books to the section labeled Christian Fiction.

"Dear Lord, why does having a brain make my ass look big?"

“Dear Lord Jesus,
does having a brain make my ass look big?”

*   *   *

The Problem With Inspirational Quotes

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
(Eleanor Roosevelt)

Uh…okay.

BTW, Ellie – may I call you Ellie? – here are just a few of the things that scare me:

* sticking my hand down an active garbage disposal
*running over my neighbor’s “un-schooled/free range” kid when he darts into the street from between parked cars

* stepping into an open septic tank
* boarding the light rail and realizing, after the train takes off, that the car is filled with rival gang members
* eating a carton of yogurt that is years past its expiration date
* encountering a pissed-off ____ (bear; cougar; moose) when I’m hiking and have to go off-trail to take a leak.

Hmmmm. Which one shall I do today?

Got it; this is your spot – I'll just move on.

Got it; this is your spot – I’ll just move on.

*   *   *

I recently finished reading two rock musician memoirs. The first was Punk Rock Blitzkrieg, the byline of which reads Marky Ramone with Richard Herschlag. Most of my fellow writers know full well what with means in a byline. The name that follows with (aka as told to) is the name of the person actually wrote the book – it is the name of the writer who cobbled together a coherent narrative after the famous-person-who-is-not-a-writer spent weeks or days downloading their thoughts to a tape recorder.

Despite having been ghostwritten, the Marky Ramone book was an enjoyable read. IMHO, with managed to capture the self-deprecating charm, boyish enthusiasm and generous spirit the Ramone’s drummer had and still has, after all these years, toward his music and his bandmates.

Then, there was Kim Gordon’s Girl in a Band.  Which was written all by her lonesome, apparently, as there is no with listed.

Pity.

Let me just say that I am not going to make it through this book was my mantra (until I actually finished it).

Yeah, I get that Gordon never intended to be in Sonic Youth, or in any band (or so she proclaims in every other chapter) – I get that ART (always capitalized, in intent of not punctuation) was her goal and muse.

Oh, the names she drops and hoists, again and again, of the art crowd, curators and gallery owners, the painters, the showings, and the paintings… There was a _____   ! [4] in the gallery, imagine that.

Gordon does make some interesting observations about feminism in the music and art worlds, but the performance art-style posturing tone of the book was a little too precious for moiself.  It made me want to invite her to my house and show her my art collection – a variety of works, from sculpture to pottery to paintings, by talented Pacific Northwest artists unknown to the Manhattan bozos bohos but nonetheless talented.  I may not have a Richard Prince in my “gallery,” but I do have a have a Tucker, a Henson, several Haworths and a Gabriel and another Gabriel and two Bonofiglios and a Grover and a Visse and Aukshunas and a Pickering [5]…and my pride and joy in my original pieces by S. Wagnell and E. Wagnell.

Original drawing by E. Wagnell

Original drawing by E. Wagnell

Original sculpture by S. Wagnell

Original sculpture by S. Wagnell

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Department of Over Compensating

On the subject of art and pretension, after my outing to Portland’s Pearl District last week, I have an open suggestion to the vertically-challenged man wearing a leather biker jacket and an ill-fitting rug who paused to check his reflection in the driver’s side mirror before he locked his Lamborghini:

Dude, why not just get a vanity plate that reads, TINYPNS ?

Another thing that don’t make no sense: Duuuuuuuude, if you can afford a car like that, what’s with the Dollar Tree toupee?

Now, that's more like it.

Now, that’s more like it.

*   *   *

May your automobile choices be compensation-free,
may your life choices scare the crap out of Eleanor Roosevelt,

and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] However, having worked for a private OB/GYN practice and several Planned Parenthoods, I have nothing good to say about the rhythm method or those who practice it.

[2] …and how lucky I and my peers were, to have committed our youthful indiscretions out of the internet’s/social media’s/cell phone’s all-seeing, all-blabbing eyes.

[3] Which is also the real name of a real street near where I lived in Santa  Ana, CA. Strange, that I can’t recall much about Memory Lane….

[4] Insert name of any artist unknown to those outside the Manhattan bohemian scene.

[5] Jimmy Pickering also illustrated my picture book, My Closet Threw a Party. So there’s my name dropping for the day.

The Offer I’m Not Accepting

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A Nice Way To Start The Week

Dateline: Monday, ~ 7:50 am, out for my morning walk. On my way back home I approach a path that cuts through a local park. The path starts near a sidewalk which is a school bus stop for one of the local high schools. Three groups of kids wait at the stop:

* two Latino boys to the far right of the sidewalk, their laughter carrying a block away.

* three girls “in the middle” of the sidewalk, about ten feet away from the boys, are talking with each other. The girls, who appear to be Asian and Latina, are slim, fashionably dressed, and gorgeous.

* and one…well, not a group, but one student stands far to the left of the others. The one is a very tall, very chubby, very white and very lonely looking boy, hair and clothing by Nerdstyle. His gaze is fixed downward at his ratty, generic sneakers.

The dynamic seemed obvious.

lonelyboy

One of the girls glances over her shoulder at Lonely Boy. She looks back at her group, at the other two boys, then leaves her friends and sidles over to Lonely Boy. As I approach and pass by them I hear her ask him about his project.[1]  I also catch the look on Lonely Boy’s face – the shy but noticeable, hopeful, gleam in his eyes.

Someone is paying attention to me.

The act and consequence, however fleeting, of a moment of connection and kindness…. It stayed with me the rest of the day.

*   *   *

The preceding warm fuzzy was brought to by The Treacledown Theory. We return you to our regular shit-talking programming.

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Department of Burning Bridges

This week I received the following offer for publication:

First, let me apologize for the serious delay in my response.  Second, we would love to publish “____________” (name of my story) in ___________ (journal name), for publication in 2016.  I understand there is a good likelihood this piece been picked up elsewhere.  Please let me know if it’s still available.
Thanks so much for your submission. ____________(Editor name)

I had long ago written off that submission (which I do with any submitted work when the editors have not replied within their journal’s stated length-of-reply period) as an assumed rejection.

The story Redacted Journal Name wants to publish was sent to them, by moiself, in January 2012. No, that is not a typo. Longest reply ever. One thousand fifty-four days to consider a 3000 word story. [2] Also, this journal “pays” their contributors only in copies of said journal. [3]

I think I’ll wait…oh, maybe three years or so…to decline their generous offer.

burning bridge

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More From The Wacky World o’ Literature Files

I’ve been a writer for some time, submitting my work, having it be both accepted and rejected. In years of doing so I’ve had many Interesting Experiences, ®  and two Standout Experiences this week alone (one of which is the afore-mentioned longest reply ever).

Interesting Experiences include having manuscripts returned to me that I neither submitted nor penned. That is, I’d sent a manuscript of mine to a publisher, and that publisher returned to me a manuscript that was not mine – one that had been submitted to the same publisher, by another author.

REALLY

Really.

These mistakes I found both amusing (okay, my manuscript was not right for you, but you couldn’t just say “No, thanks,” – you had to send me someone else’s rejected work?) and alarming (Yikes – is this the attentive care you take with all of your submissions?).

In each case of errant manuscript return, the other authors’ last names also started with a P or were vaguely similar to mine (I assume the errors were blamed on overworked or alphabetically-challenged editorial assistants). After alerting the publishers of their respective mishaps, at their request I destroyed the manuscripts…but not before reading the opening pages or chapters, [4] and doing so has given me a high appreciation of what publishers and editors must wade through on a daily basis, and an even higher suspicion of self-published works. [5]

So. On to this week’s Standout Experience #2.

Never have I been addressed as Mrs., nor have I ever used that title, either personally or professionally. This week I received a reply to a query, from a publisher who addressed me as Mrs. Parnell. That is something I’d expect from junk mail/catalog come-ons, not from a publisher…who, BTW, who knows nothing of my marital status, which should be irrelevant in professional correspondence, anyway.

Professionally or personally, it is wrong to refer to me as Mrs. Parnell. I have been, and always shall be your friendDammit, Spock – cease the mind meld at once!

Live long and apologize when necessary.

Live long and apologize when necessary.

I’ll try that again. I have been, and always shall be, Ms.-Parnell-please-call-me-Robyn.

MH, renegade trendsetter that he is, kept his birth surname when we married. So did I. I have never been a Mrs. Anyname.

In over twenty-seven years, editors and publishers have always addressed me as Ms. Parnell. It just struck me as…odd. I was annoyed by that salutation coming from a publisher, then annoyed by my own annoyance.

Mrs.

*   *   *

I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.
(George Bernard Shaw)

Now that I have Mr. Shaw’s permission, I shall spice my conversation:

Our purpose in life isn’t outsourced.
(Robyn Parnell, re how the religion-free create meaning in life)

“…all ministers are slave-traders – all Christian ministers (Paul called himself a slave, Jesus said you should become captive and you should submit and deny yourself ). They are preaching a backward message about life and about purpose.”
 (excerpt from an interview with Dan Barker, Freethought Today radio podcast, 3-14-15 [6])

Yep, that’s  Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Dan Barker, himself a former evangelical minister, referring to megachurch pastor Rick Warren and other such pastors as slave-traders, in an interview about Barker’s new book, Life Driven Purpose. LDP, published by Pitchstone Publishing, aims to be “the first atheist book shelved in the inspirational section” of bookstores.

barker

According to Barker, the whole point of the book is to “flip everything around,” as per the message from books like the Rev. Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, and other “inspirational” titles which claim people cannot have a life of meaning without (their particular brand of) religion. More excerpts from Barker’s interview:

The good news in a nutshell is that there is no purpose of life – and that is great news! Because if there’s a purpose of life, that means we are secondary; we’re having to look up somewhere for someone to hand it to us – ‘here’s what you are’ – we’re like slaves, we’re like servants to whoever this boss is, as the Bible teaches. But the really great news is that although there is no purpose of life – and we shouldn’t want there to be, because life is its own reward – that doesn’t mean that there’s no purpose in life…. Atheists and nonbelievers have immense purpose in our lives….

“I think we atheists are truly in-spired, while (religious) believers are out-spired. They don’t have any in-spiration; they have to get it all from someone outside of themselves telling them, ‘Here’s your marching orders; here’s your rules to live, don’t think for yourselves – it’s not about you,’ like Rick Warren says. We atheists and non-believers find purpose and meaning, we create purpose and meaning within ourselves.”

Whenever I run across a reference to Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, I find myself wondering what purpose drove Warren when he visited Uganda in 2008, where he supported Ugandan Anglican’s bishops in their boycott of other Anglican’s  support for LGBT/human rights  and declared that “homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus is not a human right,” after which the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (originally called the “Kill the Gays Bill”) was introduced in the Ugandan parliament.  [7]

gayugandanajpg

Anyway….

Dan Barker’s book will be released in April, and can be pre-ordered from the usual outlets.

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Department of There Needs to Be Such A Thing

After friend SCM brought her yummy-yum-yummers potatoes to our Sunday St. Patrick’s Day-The Ides of March-Pi Day-Mardi Gras-Spring celebratory dinner, I suggested she and I form PLASMA, which is a scrambled acronym for what would be the Lumpy Artisinal Mashed Potato Appreciation Society. [8]

While I appreciate pureed foods in many forms, I am suspicious of mashed potatoes that have no lumps or “substance” whatsoever. Totally smooth mashed potatoes are a template for lefse but, IMHO, have little purpose outside of that. I prefer my MPs to have texture; i.e., chunks of delicious potatoes.

I volunteer to assume the duties and responsibilities of PLASMA’s The Dowager Lumpy. I will gladly accept suggestions for the title to be bestowed upon the genteel (and gentile, to boot) SCM.

Mashed potatoes without lumps? How middle class.

Mashed potatoes without lumps? How middle class.

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Department of It’s Obvious, Dude

To the residents of the really-needs-the-lawn-mown-and-siding-painted house, every window of which is covered with aluminum foil and/or an American flag:

Wouldn’t it just be easier to hang a sign on the front door that says, We cook meth here?

nothin' to hide in here, no sir.

nothin’ to hide in here, no sir, officer sir.

*   *   *

May your salutations be appropriate, may your mashed potatoes be lumpy, may your view stay foil-free, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] The high school they attend has a mandatory Senior Project for graduating students, and this would be the time of the year students would be working on their projects.

[2] That’s 2.6 words a day. Of course I did the math.

[3] I no longer submit work to publications that offer no monetary compensation to writers.

[4] I at first thought they might be my works, and each time this happened I wondered why the publisher had taken the time and expense to return my ms., despite my having clearly requested in my cover letter that the publisher follow the industry standard on hard copy submissions (which is to destroy/recycle the ms. and reply via the enclosed SASE).

[5] I cringe to think that those would-be books I read could make it to publication without having gone through the “gate keepers” (i.e. they were in need of severe editing)…and suck writing can, nowadays, thanks to the self-publishing industry.

[6] Yes – almost the best Pi day date ever!

[7] Rick Warren was not the only American conservative minister to export their anti-LGBT propaganda to Africa.

[8] Artisinal because you can’t spit without hitting artisanal something in the Portland area.

The Toast I’m Not Serving

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I went to a restaurant that serves ‘breakfast at any time’.
So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.
~ Steven Wright ~

*   *   *

If This Catches On, Our Culture Is Toast

Its’ a Thing, apparently. And, like with so many Things, I’m far from the first to catch on.  It’s Artisanal toast.

Yes, the apocalypse is at the gates and I’m in my sweatpants.

toastpng

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Yet Another New Thing
Aka Department of
Pack it in, Pack it out

Content warning: a lotta shit-talking ahead

Last Sunday MH and I hiked the Angel’s Rest trail in the Columbia Gorge. I was thrilled to see my first trillium of the season…

trillium

…and then I was not-so-thrilled to see the first of what would be many, many, many, plastic  baggies by the side of the trail, their lumpy shape indicating they were filled with what my father genteelly [1] used to refer to as dog dirt.

This seems to be a new thing with People Who Take Their Dogs Hiking.® The optimistic part of me [2] would like to think that the owners, hiking uptrail when Rover does his business, place Rover’s doggie doody bag in a spot they think they will remember and intend to retrieve the bag on their way downtrail.

yeahright

Oh, sure, I trust ‘em all to remember the exact spot on the trail where they left their dog’s bag, among the 523 bags left by the hikers before them.

Doggie-waste collection bags used to come in two shades: black, or very dark green. Perhaps on the advice of a Poop bag PR firm (which, I imagine, proposed that having a different colored bag will allow you to spot it more easily along the trail or hillside), the bags now come in a variety of colors. As MH and I ascended out of the fern-filled forest, past Coopey Falls and up to a ridge crest which offered a spectacular Gorge view, our view of the trail itself included

* pale pink poop bags
* purple poop parcels

* fuscia feces fetchers
* tangerine turd totes
* shadow  blue shit bags
* strawberry stool satchels
* burgundy buttload bundles
* cream crap carriers

turdbag

I’m glad (at least some) dog owners are bagging their furry friend’s feces instead of leaving it for other hikers to slip on/trip over (although we did see some free range dog turds). Still, why don’t they just take the bags with them?  If you’re one of those dog-hikers who doesn’t, because you think hiking while swinging a sack o’ shit would ruin your Nature Experience ® or whatever your reason is, please consider the experience of the your fellow outdoor lovers who are subject to the sight of your litter.

I spotted several hiking couples who carried their babies with them in backpacks. With the way my mind works, I began to wonder: why don’t they do the same as the dog owners? [3]  As a veteran parent of two long-ago-housebroken-children-now-young-adults, I remember the prodigious poop production of infants.  Yet I didn’t see any baby diapers, solo or bagged, on or near the trail.

I did see one Responsible Dog Owner, © whose dog wore one of those vests that have pockets and/or clip on gadgets which allowed the dog to carry its own poop bag.

Attention, puppy possessors who simply must take your faithful canine companions on the hiking trail:

First of all, make sure your dog actually enjoys hiking and is up to it.  Those of you who take along your foo-foo yipsters  and other petite breeds [4] – do you realize that:

(1)  not all dogs enjoy or have been bred for hiking;
(2)  your legs are four times as long as theirs;

(3)  as your dog struggles to keep pace with you, we who approach you on the trail can see the miserable, winded look on your dog’s face, that you apparently can’t (or choose to ignore)?

And second of all, most of all, get and use one of those Turd Tote [5] vests for your dog.

dogvest

The rest of us nature lovers will appreciate it, so much so that we will serenade you with a special version of the hiker’s anthem, The Happy Wanderer Song:

♫ I love to go a-wandering,
 Along the mountain track,
 My dog’s with me, and he’ll carry,
 His crapsack on his back.  ♫

C’mon, all you Girl Scout and Boy Scout dropouts – join in on the chorus:

♫  Val-deri,Val-dera, Val-deri,
 Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha
 Val-deri,Val-dera
His crapsack on his back  ♫

*   *   *

Department of Well, That’s a First

The song I woke up to Sunday morning that was playing in my head – I have previously blogged about my mind’s propensity for earworms – was the Ramones’ The KKK Took My Baby Away. Which is, aptly enough, from their album Pleasant Dreams.

*   *   *

Department of What Could Be Better for Your Brain Than Earworms

Reading this, that’s what:

It’s Time To Fight Religion:
Toxic Drivel, Useful Media Idiots, And The Real Story About Faith And Violence.

In this searing opinion piece for salon.com, The Atlantic contributing editor and Russia correspondent  Jeffrey Tayler rips news outlets and religious apologists and other a new one for their “misguided notions of tolerance” in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders. Tayler takes these “unwitting recidivist useful idiots” to task for evincing more political correctness than guts when it comes to defending – even understanding – the need for questioning and truth-telling in a free society.

“We need to turn the tables and refuse to let the faith-based or their smooth-talking accomplices set the terms for debate; refuse to cower before the balderdash term Islamophobia; refuse to let faith-mongering fraudsters, from the Pope in the Vatican to the pastor down the street, educate our children or lecture us on morals or anything else. If we do not believe the Bible is true or the Quran inerrant, we need to say so, loudly, clearly and repeatedly, until the “sacred” sheen of these books wears off. And it will.”

And if you enjoy that thought-provoking religion smack down, check out another article by Tayler. This one is about how the assumption that the so-called “Good Book” is actually good– i.e., that the Jewish and Christian scriptures offer nice, morally uplifting and instructional stories and firmly proclaim temperance and chastity – rests on grossly false premises. Also, the article’s title should be worth some kind of journalism award:

The Bible should be X-rated:
The Good Book is loaded with sexy sin – someone tell Mike Huckabee.

Indeed, someone tell Mike Huckabee. Tell him something. Anything.

*   *   *

Department of One More Shot

While I’m on the subject of Hucka-dissing, let’s say you somehow survived years of intellectual deprivation and traumatic brain injuries and thus have decided that Huckabee is your dude for the Republican presidential nomination.  Setting aside his platform of theocracy pandering, LGBT fear-mongering, sexually active women-bashing, science-denying, anti-choice, mandatory pregnancy-supporting and other unmedicated, Fox News-parroting, mythomaniac political positions, consider this:

Would you want This Great Land of Ours © to be led by someone who’s name brings to mind a chain of eateries whose greatest contribution to American food culture (read: the obesity/Type II diabetes epidemic) is their $13.99 “riblet” special?

"Casual, arterial and colon clogging dining since 1980."  (Not their official slogan)

“Casual, arterial and colon clogging dining since 1980.” (Not their official slogan)

 

*   *   *

Department of Let’s Think of Helpful Things For a Change

Panhandlers, and the frustration faced by most good-hearted people: to give or not to give? Actually, for me it’s easy. After doing volunteer work with the people who were professionals in the helping profession – experienced, non-starry eyed workers with the homeless and people living “on the edge” – I follow their advice.

Do not give cash. By doing so you may give yourself one minute of warm fuzzies, but true compassion does not abet or enable. Your money will most likely be going toward addiction of some kind (from nicotine to alcohol to meth to heroin and back again [6]), or you are funding one scam or another and some you’d never thought of.

Let’s say the guy asking for change says he’s doing so because he’s hungry. On the off chance he really is hungry, if you’ve the time, head for the nearest food cart or deli or corner mart and bring him back a burrito or a sandwich or a salad or ___. [7]  But most of us don’t have the time – we’re on our way to work or an appointment or whatever.

So. If you care about such things, tonight or some night soon, when you’re binge watching your latest BBC series, start to put together a Panhandler Kit.  Make a list of what you need for such a kit – some of the items you may already have around the house (we always keep a supply of Max tickets on hand), and some may take a little searching out. You may think of more additions, but here is the very basic kit I keep in my purse.

phandlekit

Panhandler kit:
* All day public transit tickets
* Meal vouchers for local soup kitchens (Sisters of the Road (Portland Area)
* lists of social services in your area (organizations that provide meals, shelter, showers, food, clothing, health and employment assistance – google them, make a document that can be printed out and scaled down to a wallet-sized card)

All items can fit in a business card holder-style wallet, or an envelope you reserve for that purpose. When solicited by a street person, kindly reply that no, you do not have/are unable to offer spare change, but…** and you remove your kit from your purse, pocket, backpack.

** In this day and age I do feel compelled to add “if you feel safe to do so.” Of course, you must use your judgment as to the wisdom of stopping and speaking with someone who gives off dangerous and/or unstable vibes. I, for example, would hesitate to engage a Klingon panhandler.

 

Klingon panhandler

*   *   *

 

 May all of your encounters, on the streets or the trails, be turd-bag free and worthy of the artisanal fad food of your choice, and  may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] He had not-so-genteel words, which he reserved for yelling through the kitchen window when he spotted people who walked their dogs and let them poop indiscriminately on other people’s lawns and sidewalks and – on one infamous (in my family, at least) occasion – on our garden hose.

[2] Yeah, the same part that would like to think Pol Pot had been bullied on the playground and was not merely or intrinsically evil.

[3] I actually began to plan my next guerilla art project: get disposable diapers, fill them with a lumpy substance, tie them neatly, take them along on our next hike and leave them next to dog poop bags.

[4] I’m talking to you, Pomeranian people, and also to owners of the other short-nosed, flat-faced, Brachycephalic breeds which are prone to respiratory distress and/or low endurance (e.g. pug, bulldog, boxer, chihuahua, shih tzu).

[5] Not the official name. But it would be, if I were the Marketing Queen.

[6] Or just to staying on the street and not seeking alternatives if you’re making enough by panhandling to get by.

[7] I’ve done this many times, and have shared stories with others who’ve done the same. The reactions from the food recipients clue you in as to whether the request was sincere. My favorite honest response: “Yeah, I was hungry, but for A BEER.”

The Bucket I’m Not Listing

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I don’t have a Bucket List ® .  I do have, in the dusty corners of my mind, a file of some things I want to do before I die…but not right before I die. That is, I don’t want to do them, and then die.

One of them is to form a retro, San Francisco-style psychedelic band – doing covers of Jefferson Airplane, Strawberry Alarm Clock, and Iron Butterfly songs.  We’ll call ourselves Acid Reflux. [1]

acidrock

*   *   *

Speaking of hallucinogens…

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, an evangelical Christian and son of a Baptist preacher, regularly references his reliance on and so-called relationship with his god and has used his political platform to promote his beliefs. This has led to “The cutest press release we’ve ever issued”, according to FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaynor, which refers to the “genius action by one of our members” as per following story.

 In January Gov. Walker told a group of Wisconsin bankers that he will only run for president if he felt “called” to run. His many statements about how he feels instructed by his deity to make political decisions include his statement to the Madison Christian Business Association that by the age of 13 Walker had “…realized “I’m going to trust in you, Christ, to tell me where to go.” [2] Since Walker has taken the steps prospective candidates take in launching a presidential bid, one can assume that Walker feels instructed by his god to run for president.

godGOP

Thus, a cheeky Wisconsin state member of the Freedom From From Religion Foundation felt called by the forces of reason and rationality to file an open records request as per the state’s Public Records Law:

“Since your terms as Governor, please provide a copy/transcript of all communications with God, the Lord, Christ, Jesus or any other form of deity.”

Despite the fact that the various incarnations of the Christian deity [3] have rarely if ever seemed to be press-shy – at least if you count the actions of their followers – the governor’s staff admitted there is no evidence for governor-deity consultation. The official response to the records request came from the Office of the Governor’s legal counsel, which confirmed that no such records exist.

I'm shocked – shocked, I tell you – by this revelation!

I’m shocked – shocked, I tell you – by this revelation!

*   *   *

But wait – there’s more!

The Christian deity may be press-shy for a mere governor, but for renowned astrophysicist and Hayden Planetarium Director and Cosmos host, Neil deGrasse Tyson ? Oy vey and fire away:

Interviewer NGT: “God, it’s great having you on StarTalk, I’ve been after you for a couple of years to do this, you finally made some time in your busy schedule, so thanks.”

God: “It’s my pleasure, I’m a big fan, Neil. May I call you Neil?”

NGT: “Neil is fine.”

God: “Would you be willing to actually kneel?”

NGT: “Uh, there’s no ‘k’ in my name. And the answer’s no.”

You can listen to more of Neil’s Conversation with God here, on the podcast StarTalk Radio.

god cartoon

*   *   *

Department of Is it Equanimity, or is it Valium?

Wednesday night, circa dinner time, making a last minute run to the nearest market to pick up some I-forgot-these items, I spotted a man walking up and down the aisles of the store, accompanied by his (presumed) daughters, guestimated ages 6 and 3. The three year old was totally losing her shit; daddy remained calm, with an almost disturbingly serene smile on his face, despite being the recipient of many lasered, why won’t he do something about that? stares from unsympathetic adults.

I’d like to take this moment to thank Belle and K for being such relatively easy kids to raise. No matter what they did at home, they mostly held it together in public places.

Laissez les bons temps rouler.

Laissez les bons temps rouler.

*   *   *

Department of Simple Pleasures

I love being able to use my MS Word Add Words To Your Spell Check Dictionary feature for terms like “wedgie.”

*   *   *

Department of How You Know When It’s Time to Quit

but it looks so glamorous when the rock stars do it....

but it looks so glamorous when the rock stars do it….

Dateline: Monday morning, ~ 6:58 am, out for my morning Nordic walk. I detected an unfortunately familiar scent on the cool morning breeze, my head instinctively if disgustingly turning toward the direction of the smell, to confirm that it was yet another  of another husband/wife banished to the porch/garage for their morning nicotine fix.  This time it was a man, slouched on a lawnchair on his front porch, wearing tennis shoes and a too-small (his wife’s?) pink terrycloth robe.

The robe looked nothing like this.

The robe (and the man) looked nothing like this.

The very next (Tuesday) morning, the very same smell, the very same turn of my head, only it’s a double turn, as in double take.  This time, it’s a woman at the same house, sitting in the same chair on same porch, and she’s wearing the same ratty pink robe. She takes a deep drag on her fag and I’m thinking, ah, how cute, it’s the shared smoking robe.

Wednesday morning – nah. I took a different route.  I was a smidge curious (would there be a third wearer of the smoking robe?), but, there are so few mysteries left in life….

smoking jacket

*   *   *

Department of I Still Can’t Get Over This

The past few years…decades…have shown us that far too many [4] Republican legislators have an obsession with women’s reproductive systems. Surprisingly—NOT – these same lady-business-is-my-business conservative whackadoodles  seem to have little understanding of how the human body is constructed and actually functions.  Time and time again, their rhetoric indicates they wouldn’t know an actual female reproductive system from the proverbial hole in the ground.

The GOP's Va-jay-jay patrol.

The GOP’s Va-jay-jay patrol.

Latest pathetic example: State Rep. Vito Barbieri (R – Idaho) apparently thinks a woman’s stomach is connected to her vagina.

REALLY

Really. I may be a fiction writer but I can’t make up shit like this.

Whhile questioning a physician who was testifying against an Idaho State house anti-abortion bill, Representative aren’t-you-glad-my-salary-is-paid-by-my-constituent’s-tax-dollars Barbieri, whose intellect is evidently only rivaled by Idaho’s famous potatoes, asked the doctor  “if women could simply swallow a camera in order for doctors to perform remote gynecological exams.”

facepalm

I’m going to suggest Rep. Barbieri simply use a suppository camera so neurologists can perform a remote scan of his brain.

*   *   *

He no play-da-game. He no make-a-da rules!
(variously attributed to several politicians and/or public officials, referring to the Pope’s stricture against contraception)

 

May you only play the games where every player agrees to the rules,
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Go ask Alice, when she’s ten feel tall.

[2] As quoted in Freethought radio broadcast

[3] Yahweh, Jehovah, Jesus, Jesus Christ, The Holy Ghost,

[4] The correct number of legislators would be zero.

 The Bush I’m Not Beating Around

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Happy Day-After Darwin Day

Darwinday

It’s not too late to celebrate it, if you missed it or forgot.

There are several organizations that wish to make International Darwin Day an internationally recognized holiday, in order to inspire people:

“…throughout the globe to reflect and act on the principles of intellectual bravery, perpetual curiosity, scientific thinking, and hunger for truth as embodied in Charles Darwin.”

So, there’s that.

Closer to home, you could be inspired to keep up the fight for truth, justice, and the rational way, or follow my example – when in doubt on how to commemorate something, make a special meal. [1]

Oh, joy, another celebratory dinner.

Oh, joy, another celebratory dinner.

Last night I made a Darwin Day primordial fish soup. I made a rich fish stock as a base, for which I must thank the always-helpful New Seasons Market fishmongers, who ventured into the big freezers to fetch me some halibut bones. On to the second stock [2], which I pureed, then added cubed cooked celeriac (aka celery root) and steamed green beans and chunks of cooked fish.

Most any mild, white-fleshed fish would work well with this recipe. Considering that many of Darwin’s contemporaries variously feared for or threatened the fate of his “immortal soul,” I thought a filet of Dover sole would be appropriate.

Hint for a really amazing fish soup: cook the fish separately and add it to the soup just before serving. I cut the filet into smaller pieces and poached them in olive oil. I forget where I got that tip – Julia Child?  Jacques Pepin? Lady GaGa? – but it was easy, decadent, and delicious.

♫ Can't read my, Can't read my, no he can't read my poach-fish face...♫

♫ Can’t read my, Can’t read my, no he can’t read my poach-fish face…♫

*   *   *

Another commemoration, of sorts.

Wednesday marked the 6th anniversary of my father’s death. Chet Parnell would have liked the fish soup.  This picture of us was taken at Christmas, 1975.

 

ChetandRobbieDoll1975

*   *   *

Attention, Old Persons and Sports People

I recently purchased a foot acupressure mat, which came with several roller tubes and other foot massage devices. I have treated myself to professional foot massages on several occasions, and would like to be able to do something similar at home.

Not for a moment do I believe the woo about how pressing on certain “energy points” on the sole of my foot will “free a blockage,” stimulate a vital organ, restore “total health,” or effect any of the other silly claims made by the mat’s makers. It’s just that an acupressure or reflexology-based foot massage Feels. So. Good.

Extra feel-good bonus: the mat, manufactured in India or SW Asia, comes with two delightfully stilted, isn’t-it-amazing!-lost-in-translation, English language instruction sheets which, for entertainment reasons, I can’t bear to recycle right now:

Ideal for * House Wives * Office Executives * Old Persons * Sports People
Computerised foot shape…helps you to place your feet in correct direction (not in haphazard manner)
Mat is made up from very tough, long lasting, virgin material [3] to avoid back supporting board which is disturbing factor for energy flow.

I’m sure a good giggle stimulated my energy meridians far more than the mat’s Micro Point charger! and New Computerised design! could ever do.

biomat

*   *   *

Department of This Explains A Lot

I was listening to a Fresh Air interview with author Jennifer Senior, whose book — All Joy and No Fun explores some paradoxes of modern parenting. In response to a question about the neurological underpinnings of teens’ and young adults’ foolish risk-taking and other exasperating behaviors, the author shared some intriguing information about the latest science behind what we call the adolescent or teenage brain – which actually goes past the teen years, until around age twenty-five :

“…the adolescent brain is this really interesting thing. First of all, the prefrontal cortex is not quite done developing. And the prefrontal cortex is what is responsible for kind of rational decision-making and planning and impulse control. So there’s a reason that teenage kids take dumb risks. You know, the mechanism that actually should be functioning as their brake pedal is not fully developed. It’s a rather weak brake.

They also tend to sort of overestimate the reward that they will get from taking risks, which is interesting to me. Their brains are just awash in dopamine, which is the feel-good hormone, so they feel everything very, very, very intensely – and that’s everything from crushes to, you know, rejection. It’s the good and the bad. So it’s a real adventure having them in the house. What’s so interesting is that it now looks like the prefrontal cortex keeps developing, right into your mid-20s. So the only kind of group of people who seemed to figure this out before neuroscientists was car insurance companies. They actually knew; you do not give a car to anyone under the age 25.

So.  Ahem.

Last week Belle did the ET thing and phoned home.  Fortunately (for her), MH answered, and thus had the unenviable task of passing along the news to me that Belle had fractured a metacarpal bone in her right hand. [4]  After an hours-long study session at the library, she’d finished her chemistry and calculus assignments and moved on to homework for another class. Frustrated by what she perceived to be the idiocy of a four-page instruction handout for a one page assignment, our lovely and talented daughter, valedictorian of her high school graduation class, now a college biochemistry major mathematics minor student, walked outside and punched a wall.

REALLY

Really.

A fucking BRICK wall.

wall

*   *   *

Department of Creepy Coincidence

Last week I came across a New York Times article on Jeb Bush, Evangelicals and the Pandering Question, about the challenges the aspiring Republican presidential nominee will face in courting the religious right wing of his party. The previous day I had highlighted [5] this passage from The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought.

For Ingersoll, the primary danger of entanglement between religion and politics was that invoking divine authority would simply shut down discussion on controversial issues. The requirement that politicians be religious, or at least appear to be religious, ruled out a significant group of independent thinkers from office. Ingersoll decried the public religiosity required of politicians in a statement that is just as applicable today as it was then:

…it is almost impossible for an independent man to success in a political career. Candidates are forced to pretend that they are Catholics with Protestant proclivities, or Christians with liberal tendencies …or that although not members of any church, their wives are…. The result of all this is that we reward hypocrisy and elect men entirely destitute of real principle, and this will never change until the people become grand enough to do their own thinking.”

Do yourself a brain favor and get to know Robert G. Ingersoll, the 19th century attorney, Civil War veteran, abolitionist, Freethinker, orator, civil and women’s rights pioneer — one of the greatest Americans most Americans have never heard of. [6]

 

Ingersoll

*   *   *

While We’re Sort of on the Subject

Please, To Whomever May Be Listening on the Republican Side of Things [7] :

No Jeb Bush!  No more of the Bush family; no Bush of any kind or age or gender or…anything.  No no no no no.

Oh, this is disappointing.

Oh, this is disappointing.

*   *   *

Department of Please Don’t Let Al Sharpton Know About This

Yet another fascinating thing about moiself:

– I am a white supremacist when it comes to popcorn.

Don't even ask, of course, I choose the one on the left.

Of course I choose the one on the left!

*   *   *

“In the fight between you and the world, back the world.”
( Frank Zappa quoting Franz Kafka )

“In the fight between you and the wall, bet on the wall.”
( Robyn Parnell quoting Robyn Parnell )

*   *   *

May you always fight the good fight – or, failing that, at least may you bet on the winning side – and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Why isn’t there a footnote yet?

[2] Diced onion, green & red bell pepper, celery & carrot sautéed in EVOO; then add fish stock and spices (a pinch of saffron & ground white pepper, tomato paste, dried dill week, bay leaf,  parsley sprigs) & simmer for 25 m.

[3] It’s plastic. Virgin plastic.

[4] Yep, the one she writes with. You take a swing at something, you lead with your dominant hand.

[5] There should be more interesting footnotes here, or somewhere in this post. Sorry.

[6] And for the same reason Ingersoll had to champion the memory of Thomas Paine – both men were open and articulate promoters and defenders of Freethought and critics of religion, and thus not favorites of the history textbook writers.

[7] Yeah, I know, I might as well be talking to – or punching – a brick wall.

The Hakuna I’m Not Matata-ing

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That Didn’t Take Long, Did It?

Okay, I’ll get this out of the way.

SOAPBOX

The seat cushions of the 114th Congress – which is 80% white, 80% male and 92% declared Christian and yet gets called “one of the most diverse (Congresses) in American history” – are barely warm, and guess what the religious right is up do?

Rep. Walter Jones (R, N. Car.) introduced a bill, H.R. 153, which aims to “restore the Free Speech and First Amendment rights of churches and exempt organizations by repealing the 1954 Johnson Amendment.”

The Johnson Amendment, a change in the tax code, prohibits churches (or other nonprofits with 501C tax exemptions) from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Hiding behind the free speech flag waving is the bill’s real agenda – religious electioneering and the effort to erode the wall of separation between church and state.

carlin

As per this alert from The American Humanist Association:

If pastors are given the right to endorse candidates from the pulpit, their parishioners may be coerced into supporting specific candidates because of a perceived religious obligation. This is fundamentally un-American, and weakens the state of our democracy by giving religious leaders untold influence. Stand up for church-state separation by opposing this harmful bill.

Church and state are separate for a reason, and attempts to de-secularize our government are opposed by levelheaded people of all worldviews, from humanist to religious believers.  Please, take a minute and make your voice heard by contacting your Representative.

*   *   *

andnow

DVD pick of the week : Murderball

This award-winning 2005 documentary about the U.S. quad rugby team, a team composed of paraplegic men, is highly entertaining. However, the film is not exactly in the mode of Reader’s Digest Inspiring Stories when it comes to portraying the psychologically transformative power of living with a disability.  In other words, if the macho asshole sensibility was your guiding force in life before you were disabled, chances are you will continue to be a macho asshole in your souped-up wheelchair.

murdrerball

*   *   *

Department of Oh Please, Please, Make It Be True

In the latest issue of The Week‘s It Must Be True I Read it in the Tabloids section, there is a blurb about a new home-renting service: Airpnp.

Nah, I thought, it can’t be real, although it’s a great prank on airbnb…then I searched, and found the service’s website:

Find a clean, comfortable bathroom no matter where you are. Airpnp gives you access to a ton of restrooms all over the planet. Whether you’re just out and about, at a big event, or need to find a place to go in a new city we’ve got you covered. 

Apparently, someone made it so.

*   *   *

Department of Too Good To Be True, But It Is
Aka, The Updated Version of Our Bestseller will Be Titled
The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven: And Lied His Ass Off for Jesus

There’s a whole industry based on books where people “die” and then come back to life with firsthand accounts about what it’s like in heaven and what a really nice guy Jesus is. To American Christians, this is like deep-fried foods – they just eat it up, no questions asked. Because it verifies what they already believe, but can’t prove.
(Bill Maher, “Heavenly Fodder”)

You may have heard that Christian Evangelicals and religious booksellers all over the nation were peeing their pants with capitalist delight over the book that the gullible believers faithful  flocked to purchase.  The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven: A True Story, the 2010 “memoir” of a boy’s recollection of his tour of heaven during his comatose state that followed a car accident, is being pulled from shelves after the (now) 16 year old boy admitted he made up the tale. [1]

The boy’s name?  Alex Malarkey.

*   *   *

Speaking of malarkey, Pope Not-As-Big-A-Cretin-As-The-Others-But-Still-a-Pope Francis went on his Hell Freezes Over [2] tour of the Philippines. He led an outdoor Mass last Sunday in Manila, during which he praised the faith of “simple people” (translation: those willing to swallow whatever codswallop the church dishes out).

The F-pope also spoke out against “poverty, ignorance and corruption,” giving those of us who are religion-free yet another thigh-slapper.

laughing

After all, the church’s Holy Trinity of poverty, ignorance and corruption is what sustains their hold over the ignorant, fearful, deceived masses faithful.

" Y'all pray for the poverty-stricken masses while I wave this solid gold cross."

” Y’all pray for the poverty-stricken masses while I wave this solid gold cross.”

*   *   *

Department of Really Stupid Stuff I Nearly Said
Sub-Department: This is Going To Come Back To Haunt Me Someday

As my groceries were being rung up I was about to comment on the clerk’s unique hand tattoo but, fortunately, took a second look before I opened my mouth…and realized that what had caught my attention was not ink art on the back of the clerk’s hand, but rather a tangle of varicose veins.

Not quite like this.

Not quite like this.

*   *   *

Department of Yum

The aroma is wafting[3] in from the kitchen, where a pan of toasted whole spices is cooling on the counter.  I’ll grind them [4] after they cool, then mix them with ground turmeric and coriander, for my special recipe curry powder.

spicesJPG

I love the smell of toasted spices, which lingers for hours, sometimes even overnight.  Belle, not so much.  One of the few plusses to having your children away at college is being able to mix up whatever spice or sauce combinations suit your palate, and not hear the dreaded Eeeeew, what’s that?

On one such Eeeew occasion, a long long time ago in a kitchen far far away, MH helped Belle weather the storm.  I think it was something Thai I was cooking; whatever it was, she didn’t like the smell of it, and he rigged a protective “device” for her — a tissue placed under her nose and held in place by her (relatively new, at that time) eyeglasses.   I was so pissed off My joy at his inventiveness knew no bounds, and I’m still thanking him for his ingenuity. [5]

Sadie nose protector

*   *   *

A few weeks ago someone said I didn’t often post personal info on my blog. I don’t know how much more personal you can get than to show a picture of your pestle-that-could-be-mistaken-for-a-marital-aid; still, I suppose it was a valid observation.

So.  Here are
15 Little Known If Not Exactly Personal Facts About Moiself
Content alert: name dropping

  1. I am interested, to the point of occasional fascination, by reports of inclement weather. (It’s a good thing MH & I are the Last Remaining Neanderthals Who Do Not Now Nor Ever Have Had Cable TV, ® or I would be glued to the various weather channels).
  2. I abhor the taste of black licorice and licorice-like flavors and aromas (if a recipe calls for anise or fennel seeds, I’ll leave it out). It isn’t a true allergic reaction, but even the whiff of a fresh fennel bulb makes me woozy.
  3. There is no third little known fact about me.
  4. One day in the early 70’s Danny Bonaduce (“Danny Partridge”) tried to strike up a conversation with me at Seattle’s Space Needle, where he and Dave Madden (“Reuben Kincaid”) were attending a Partridge Family promotional event. [6]
  5. I have shorter than average toes. [7]
  6. I think it would be great fun to have a glass shattering range (ala a firearms shooting range), where a person could lob full bottles of liquid against a concrete wall.
  7. I have had cats, dogs, snakes, lizards, birds, hamsters, rats, guinea pigs, snails, fish, mice and tarantulas for pets, but never a rabbit.
  8. When I was accepted to UC Davis I received a recruitment letter from their field hockey team.
  9. I worked for the obstetrician who delivered Neil and Pegi Young’s second child. [8]
  10. Oops, looks like only ten little known facts.
"There, there, it's nothing personal, Danny, she just thought your bass playing sucked."

“There, there, it’s nothing personal, Danny, she just thought your bass playing sucked.”

*   *   *

Department of Why I’ll Never Be Ambassador to Kenya

At least once a week, whatever part of my brain is in charge of such things rings me up in the proverbial middle of the night with a must-write-this-down call.  Over the years I have learned that whatever prompts these nocturnal nudges cannot be ignored if I am to go back to sleep; thus, I keep a notepad and pen on my nightstand.

Nine out of ten times I wake up in the morning aware of (mostly) what I’d written down.  Last Saturday was one of the 10% mornings: I knew I’d written something, but wasn’t sure about the content.  In the morning, my scribbles on the note pad read:

Hakuna Matata?
No, Hakuna Frittata.

Oh. Okay. I get it.

Not this:

hakuna

But, this:

fritatta

Don’t you wish your subconscious was as profound as mine?

*   *   *

 May your Wall of Separation keep you safe from encroaching licorice, and allow for an occasional fennel-free frittata to sneak past the border patrol…
and may the hijinks ensue.

  Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Actually, it’s quite sad to read the story behind the story. The accident left the boy quadriplegic; he wanted attention, was raised religious…and the boy and his mother were exploited by both fellow evangelicals and publishers and pressured to remain silent when they wanted to go public with the book’s “inaccuracies.”

[2] Or, was that The Eagles?

[3] Wafting is an aroma’s favorite means of transport.

[4] In a $9 coffee bean grinder I purchased solely for grinding spices.

[5] Or, not.

[6] I thought he was trying to impress me with his celebrity, and I snubbed him. He was surrounded by adults and I was the only person his age nearby…I think he was just a lonely/bored kid trying to connect, and I’ve always regretted not being kinder to him.

[7] As confirmed by many a shoe salesman, one of whom said, after espying my naked feet, “Wow, if you had, like, normal length toes your shoes would be one or two sizes larger.”  Guess who didn’t make that sale?

[8] And I’m pissed at Mr. Young for dumping Pegi after 36+ years for…Daryl Hannah?

The Orthodox Eyes I’m Not Polluting

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We now pause for a moment of rejoicing before the rants.

new kayak

The new kayak is here! The new kayak is here!

We now return to our station’s previously scheduled programming.

*   *   *

Department of WTF
Aka, One of the Saddest Things I’ve Read During the Past Week.

Yes, the terrorist attack in Paris was sadder.  And then, there was the article in the NY Times: Newspaper in Israel Scrubs Women From a Photo of Paris Unity Rally .

Angela Merkel and other world leaders and dignitaries were removed from the picture by the Israeli newspaper’s editors because the image of female forms are a temptation and presumed pollutant to an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish man’s eyes.

Got that? An Ultra Orthodox Jew’s eyes must remain “pure” – eyes that, because they belong to a Jew, would have been removed from history just a generation ago, if another group of orthodox fanatics had had their way.

So. Your Ultra-Orthodox (men’s) eyes will be “pure” – whatever the superstitious fuck that means – while your minds will remain ignorant, closed and prejudiced.  Pray on, brothers.

Does my bigotry make my butt look fat?

Does my bigotry make my butt look fat?

*   *   *

“The role of a cartoon is in fact to insult and ridicule and to attack and to defend against the overreach of people and institutions who, in the name of God or in the name of government or the name of whatever the particular institution it is, threaten the right and security of people to freely express their own ideas and live their lives.”

( Steve Benson, Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist for The Arizona Republic,
Ex-Mormon, eldest grandchild of LDS Church President Ezra Taft Benson,
interviewed on Freethought Radio, 1-10-15 )

Je suis Charlie.

Except that, of course, I’m not.

Last week I did not comment on the murders at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.  I held my tongue [1] for a variety of reasons, from the principled to the pedestrian. The former would include my disdain for the instant analysis (read: lack of introspection) that seems to be inspired by the plethora of internet social media outlets. The latter includes the fact that I just hadn’t the stomach for it.

One week later, now I can claim distance, wisdom, and introspection?  Maybe just a steadier gut.

The following is not one of my legendary digressions.

You'll find the segue. I know you will, boys and girls.

You’ll find the segue. I know you will, boys and girls.

I’ve previously mentioned how fiction writers’ guidelines for certain literary publications [2] have made me both laugh aloud and cringe. Literary journals often flatter (read: embarrass) themselves by the pretentious, self-important and bombastic claims they make for the kinds of work they seek and publish.  What particularly frosts my butt are statements from journals that claim to seek work that is “brave” and or “risk-taking.”

Brave?

REALLY

I always make it a point to look at sample issues of journals whose guidelines make such claims, and have yet to find any story or article in them makes me admire – or even think of – the “courage” it must have taken to write it. A journal says it seeks stories that are “brave” and “risk-taking” – brave, how? I wonder, and risking…what…for what?

Ah, you dared to use non-standard grammar and punctuation; you had the courage to ignore standard plot conventions?  [3] You bold, heroic risk-taker – you penned  (yet another) another titty-ass nihilistic sex scene, that you wouldn’t have dared to do in your creative writing class or community arts center “memoir-ring your life” workshop?

We flatter (read: embarrass) ourselves for the most part – we North American writers – by even daring to think that we take risks that in any way require strength of character or some form of ethical bravery.

When I was submitting The Mighty Quinn manuscript I received feedback from several editors and publishers who directly or obliquely implied that the book would be a hard sell because:

* it featured non-religious, free-thinking children (and adults) as protagonists
*  although it had sympathetic religious characters, Quinn’s antagonist was a religious bully (and the son of an abusive preacher man)
*  without “toning down” the freethought- related themes, a publisher would risk negative reviews (or reviewer and bookseller boycotts) when word spread in the religious community.

Poor me.  How brave of me to keep submitting the manuscript.  Except, not.  Not at all.

burning book

Despite veiled intimations of boycott, TMQ eventually found a publisher. TMQ’s publisher’s (then) publicity director alerted me to one of the reviews of TMQ, written by a reviewer using the title Rev. _____. [4]  The review was generally positive, and also revealed the reviewer’s ambivalence for liking the book  (“…I was a little concerned with the handling of religion and the fact that the boy with the biggest problems was the son of a family that was religious. This could potentially open up lots of questions that should be primarily handled by parents…”).

Who knows what happened (or is still happening) re TMQ‘s reviewing and distribution status.  Silent boycotts and other kinds of subversion can be organized (e.g. a refusal to stock or review a title) without fanfare and opportunity to counter-protest. The book, while hardly biting satire, contains several thematic elements involving characters openly joking about/raise questions about religion. No one (to my knowledge) threatened editors or bookstore owners with vandalism or assassination if they considered publishing or stocking The Mighty Quinn.  But, if you are a European editorial cartoonist who satirizes religious fanaticism, you and your colleagues are at risk of attack and murder, as we’ve seen too many times in the past and now, in Paris.

Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government or society itself, into improvement.
Although satire is usually meant to be humorous, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon and as a tool to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society.

(Wikpedia definition for “Satire”)

I assert that the right to hold all ideas up to scrutiny, the right – some of us say, the obligation – to mock that which is mock-worthy is as crucial to a functioning democracy as the right to peaceably assembly or cast a ballot.

“The only way to get even with anybody is to ridicule them.”
“After all the people that (Hitler) was responsible for killing and after utterly destroying half the world, I just thought the only weapon I’ve really got is comedy. And if I can make this guy ludicrous, if I can make you laugh at him, then it’s a victory of sorts. You can’t get on a soapbox with these orators, because they’re very good at convincing the masses that they’re right. But if you can make them look ridiculous, you can win over the people.”
(Mel Brooks)

Hitler

*   *   *

Speaking of the two hallmarks of democracy – freedom of the press, and the obligation to mock that which needs or deserves mocking – just as I collect (or, used to collect [5] ) pretentious and overblown writers guidelines, fellow writer/attorney friend SCM and I alert each other when we come across a really juicy Author’s Bio. I recently received this email from her:

I was interested in reading one of this woman’s novels…until I read her bio.

The best (read, of course: worst) author’s bios are always/obviously penned by the writer, and usually corroborate the dictum that the less professional and self-confident the writer, the longer the bio (in some cases, like the one SCM cited, they approach novella length).

I had to follow the link, and was so taken with the sheer self-aggrandizing, TMI, verbal diarrhea-osity of it I had to meet SCM for lunch to celebrate her find.  Also, I wanted to encourage SCM to follow up on her brilliant idea, to start a blog: Bad Author Bios. This blog will consist solely of links to…can you guess?  We discussed the possibility that, after a few weeks, she will be receiving so many links from readers the blog will practically write itself – except for the part where she will have to include screen shots as well as links. [6]

To past, present and future composers of authors bios: here’s what readers need to know. What is relevant about a writer is what you write and what you’ve written. Your mommy and daddy and your former grade school teachers may be interested in your lifelong love of hamsters, your current triathlon training and your name-dropping of Celebrity D list activists you brushed shoulders with in college.  The rest of us, not so much.

highhorse

Behold the Contributor Notes section of The New Yorker.  These writers are published in The New Yorker, FFS. They get one or two lines about their story or latest book.  Concise, and classy.

I understand that certain publishers or editors want more, and will sometimes ask their authors and contributors to “flesh out” a bio because…because it’s their policy, or whatever. I’ve been there. [7] But it’s unlikely they asked you to list the literary equivalent of your high school sports awards, the location of the births of your children, your academic scholarships and your devotion to your superstition religion.  When it is your choice, keep it short.

Speaking of which, in next week’s blog, I’m going to be recommending a book by an author who lists himself as First Name Last Name.  That’s it.  He is a physician, a highly educated and skilled and respected medical doctor, but does not bill himself as First Name Last Name, M.D.  So. If this accomplished person, who has written three best-selling books and articles for the New York Times and directs a center for health systems innovations and chairs a nonprofit organization which works to make surgery safe globally – if this person can be humble, you, who are just a writer and not also a doctor and a writer, [8] can cut the 90 paragraph bio, okay?

*   *   *

Don’t be humble. You’re not that great.

Golda Meir

*   *   *

 

May you be successful enough to have strangers enjoy (and critique) your bio notes,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] “I held my typing fingers” just doesn’t do it, for me.

[2] Primarily located in the USA or Canada.

[3] “Speculative” fiction; i.e., you haven’t the talent to write a story that makes sense.

[4] Which indicates the reviewer wants you to know he’s an ordained Christian minister.

[5] It got so depressing I deleted the file one day…much to my regret. There were some gems in there.

[6] Writers who find out they’ve been shamed on the blog can, of course, edit their bios and attempt to cover their ego tracks.

[7] And made up silly stuff in an effort to be entertaining, if not personally revealing.

[8] Yeah, yeah, the petty part of me hates him for that.

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