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The Horses I’m Not Scaring

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…the passengers set sail that day
 For a three hour tour, A THREE HOUR TOUR….♫

2 Tots, a Sailboat and a Storm Over Parenting was the headline that caught my attention when I opened Tuesday’s New York Times. The article, about The Kaufmans, husband and wife “sailors,” [1] whose planned trans-Pacific sailboat trip with their two young children ended in “a complicated rescue effort orchestrated by the California Air National Guard and the United States Navy and Coast Guard” when the Kaufmans, faced with a stalled boat and a seriously ill child, called for help.

Mama Kaufman blogged about the (mis) adventure, including posting her pre-trip misgivings (“I think this may be the stupidest thing we have ever done”).  Her in-transit posts included such details as how the baby was “rolling around and unable to sleep because of the ship’s violent pitch,” and how poo-poo pee-pee diapers were being washed in the galley sink.

Reactions to the blog posts ranged from kudos from free-range-style sympathizers (the parents were doing the right thing by following their passion and involving their children) to outrage (report these irresponsible people to CPS and take away their kids!) from parents and others – including Papa Kaufman’s brother – who found the decision to take young children on such a trip ridiculous and asinine at best.

This is not the first time I’ve read about parents taking children on what they hope will be a Swiss Family Robinson-type adventure.  The adults’ excuses motivations typically include the premise that they will take their children on a trip “they’ll never forget.” However, considering anecdotal and neuroscientific research regarding the inability of humans to retrieve episodic memories before the age of four, [2] the Kaufmans might have considered the fact that they were taking their one and three year old children – yes, one and three years old – on a trip the kids would likely never remember.

Given the everyone-can-have-their-15-minutes-of-LOOK-AT-ME-I’M-FAMOUS world we live in, I can’t help but think that, among the many debatable impulses behind such an escapade, the possibility of a book and/or movie and/or reality TV show about their adventure-turned-ordeal somehow figured into the Kaufman’s motivations.

There are many debate-worthy aspects to this story, including prudence of the parental decisions, the value of risk-taking, the risks inherent in everyday life we choose to ignore, and who’s going to foot the bill for the Kaufman’s expensive rescue.  All I know is, adventure, schmenture – I don’t care if they’re my closest friends or beloved family, you will never find me voluntarily inhabiting a sailboat [3] with anyone for even two days, not to mention the months it would take to cross an ocean.

*   *   *

Knowing of my fondness for linguistic innovation, my lovely and talented friend LPH alerted me to a groovy neologism, this one from her own devious mind. I told her she should have it copyrighted:

Just read an article about our local mountain lions. I’m not writing about that though. At the end in the credits was the word “Republication“, immediately it struck me: a category of where Republicans vacation! Places like the Kansas Museum of Creation, or the Pro Life Carnival in Arkansas, and what about the Pluralist Poetry Competition in Utah (when you have so many to woo, you get good at plural prose). So many places, so little time….

I’m may rethink Belle’s and my summer plans. Why settle for a mere vacation when you can have a Republication? I suggest one more stop on the itinerary:  no Republication would be complete without a pilgrimage to the canned meat that won the war .

Spam-Museum

 *   *   *

 Let’s all think about sex

 Blog readers with first-rate short term memory skills – or brain damage; it can go either way, I reckon – may remember [4] Asshole of the Day Mike Huckabee‘s comments about how women use birth control because they cannot control their libido. [5]  ‘Twas a statement so WFT?-worthy, even in context, that even Rick Santorum said Huckabee’s comments were ill-advised.  (Yes, Rick Santorum).  Let’s revisit the sentiment and humor the Huckster,[6] if only for a moment.

BATSHITYes, I'm this much closer to bat guano territory.

Yes, I’m this much closer to bat guano territory.

Yo, Mikey what the Huck?

If what you said was even remotely close to the truth, wouldn’t you want out-of-control, libido-enslaved, lusty wenches to use birth control? Wouldn’t you even go so far as to offer them assistance in installing the contraceptive devices of their choice to prevent unwanted pregnancies, lest the world be glutted with their horn-dog spawned, promiscuously-produced progeny?

And now for something not completely different. A recent round of FB postings involving the ravings of People Who Think Other People – Gays,  And Those Lusty Single Women, Too –  Shouldn’t Be Having Sex ® got me to thinking about the amount of time Some People apparently spend thinking about Other People having sex.

IMHO, one of the biggest stumbling blocks to civil rights for LGBT folk is that being defined by your sexuality makes a good number of sex-negative folk think of you primarily in sexual terms.

I recall uncomfortable conversations with gay-squeamish (GS) family members, acquaintances or co-workers that reached those “aha” moments when the GS-ers, either forthrightly or obliquely, admitted that they cannot abide the idea (i.e., the pictures that come to their mind) of the way they think “those people” have sex.  And, apparently, that’s the first thing they think about, any time they hear or read the words gay or lesbian.

“Does it really matter what these affectionate people do,
so long as they don’t do it on the street and frighten the horses?”
(Beatrice “Mrs. Pat” Campbell, Victorian age British stage actress [7])

VIB

Of course, these GSers don’t have the same problem with me.  They don’t (to my knowledge) look at me and think, She’s a married woman; whoa, just imagine what she and her hubby are doing.  As a straight/married couple, MH and I get a pass on that. [8]

Speaking of passes, I’d like to pass on a bit of advice to GSers, and to all of us.  Stop looking at and/or thinking about other people in terms of (whatever you think might be) their sexual practices.  Stop it, right now.  Stop thinking about other people having sex.

There you go – you’re thinking about it again, aren’t you?!  Yeah, ick.

As I was saying…oh, goodness, gracious, great balls of fire – really, do you think about anything else?  Stop thinking about other people having sex!

I realize such advice is akin to Do Not, Whatever You Do, Form a Mental Picture of a Pink Elephant! [9] But really.  “Straight” sex, schmrait sex; gay sex, schmay sex.  Any sexual act – in any position or “performed” by any one, in a manner deemed “normal” or exotic – can be viewed as icky, or just plain silly or ludicrous, if you analyze the component, uh, components (you do what with WHAT?).

Like, what I’m thinking about right now, tee hee.

So, c’mon now, stop it.  The next time you’re in a discussion involving health care decisions and/or civil rights for someone whom you deem different from yourself, and you are distracted from the true heart of the matter by your mental images of those Someones bonking, take a deep breath and imagine yourself floating in a tank filled with chartreuse macaroni (cooked al dente, of course). Or, go for a walk, do some calisthenics, find another classic and even cliché way to redirect your misguided imagination. Stop what you’re doing and rearrange your closet – it’s probably a mess, right? Better yet, rearrange someone else’s closet, without their permission. Their reaction might should help you work off a lot of that excess, mind your own business mental energy.

Besides, just imagine what kind of kinky devices you might find in their closet.

ClosetJPG

*   *   *

 May our street behaviors keep the horses calm, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] Other/veteran mariners questioned the couple’s seaworthy credentials and experience; thus, the “s.

[2] The phenomena is called childhood amnesia.

[3] Or any “captive” quarters.

[4] From my January 24 post.

[5] “…or their reproductive system without the help of the government” – which is what Democrats want women to think, Huck awkwardly prefaced the comment.

[6] Sometimes a prudent strategy when faced with a bat shit crazy dude.

[7] Campbell uttered her oft-misquoted riposte in response to a younger actress’s insinuations re the homosexual flirting between two fellow actors.

[8] And if it’s otherwise, please folks, kindly keep those images to yourselves.

[9] Or, a pink elephant having sex. With a rainbow-colored rhinoceros.

The Munchies I’m Not Curing

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It’s unanimous (and it rarely is, in my family):

K, Belle, MH & I agree: the 2014 Nobel Prize in Economics should be awarded to Danielle Lei, the Girl Scout who decided to sell cookies outside a medical marijuana dispensary.

 On my honor/I will try/to help all people/ cure their medical munchies...

On my honor/I will try/to help all people/ cure their medical munchies…

 *   *   *

“Fifty was a shock, because it was the end of the center period of life. But once I got over that, sixty was great. Seventy was great. And I loved, I seriously loved aging. I found myself thinking things like: ‘I don’t want anything I don’t have.’ How great is that?” 

( from This is What Eighty Looks Like  by NY Times op ed columnist Gail Collins )

Gloria Steinem turned eighty this week.  I’ve always thought of her as timeless if not ageless, and so it was strange of me to ponder, as I did upon hearing her birthday news, that Steinem is only five years younger than my mother.  Chronologically, Steinem belongs to my parents’ era…although, in comparison to most of what would be considered her peers, Steinem’s forward, forthright thinking and activism would mark her as belonging to another planet,  rather than to their generation.

GLORIA

Among Steinem’s many talents, she’s always been quick on the verbal draw.  One of my favorite Steinemisms came from her reaction [1] to an announcement by the New York Times.  Background: women’s rights advocates had long objected to the practice of designating women by their marital status (“Mrs.” or “Miss”) while men were identified by the status-neutral “Mr.”  The Times, a bastion of conservatism when it came to acknowledging linguistic evolution, had refused to allow the use of “Ms.” in their articles.  When in 1986 the Times editorial board finally announced a change in editorial policy, Steinem quipped,

I will no longer be referred to as “Miss” Steinem of Ms. magazine.

 Steinem has always been adept at using humor to highlight the politics of injustice and the absurdities inherent in social and societal gender disparities…

If men could menstruate…clearly, menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event: Men would brag about how long and how much…. Sanitary supplies would be federally funded and free. Of course, some men would still pay for the prestige of (purchasing) such commercial brands as Paul Newman Tampons, Muhammed Ali’s Rope-a-Dope Pads, John Wayne Maxi Pads, and Joe Namath Jock Shields—”For Those Light Bachelor Days.” [2]

…and she was never far off from sharing yet another click!-moment [3], the kind of observation that makes you gasp aloud, in one of those-truth-telling/recognizing moments:

“If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” [4]

GLORIAAGE

Happy birthday, Gloria. I hope you have your cake and eat it, too.

 *   *   *

Oh, you gotta love this.  In the spirit of truthiness and other stunt words, may I present, courtesy of Republican senator and “Tea Party identifier” Ted Cruz (or his publicists), a new phrase, that, IMHO, is worthy of  the coveted Picard Face Palm.

From the introduction to Ted Cruz to the Future – Comic Coloring Activity Book, from Really Big Coloring Books (no, I am not making this up)  (my emphases):

In a continuation of the company’s popular series Tell the Truth – Tell it Often – Tell the Children…Really Big Coloring Books®, Inc. turns complex challenges or issues into a relevant format with an emphasis for youth. The Cruz to the Future book is a non-partisan, fact-driven view of how Texas Sen. Cruz became a U.S. senator and details…his ideas for what he believes will help America grow…..

Fact-driven view.”

facepalm

The book about Cruz does not claim to present “facts,” nor even to be “factual,” but it will present a “fact-driven view” of Cruz’s agenda. [5] Kinda like the idea of using a fact (“Our solar system has a sun”) upon which to justify any lunacy view you can then refer to as fact-driven (“The sun revolves around the earth because that’s what my Iron age twaddle holy scripture tells me, and oh yeah, I can see the sun go around the earth, ’cause I’ve seen it set and rise, every day. Fact!“).

But seriously, Ladies and Germs. The intent of the coloring book is, of course, to instill extremist conservative viewpoints in young children.  And as always, the Internet strikes back, in the form of brutally funny reviews posted on the book’s Amazon page (including one by yours truly…can you spot it?).

"Look kiddies, it's the Tree of Life – er, I mean for conservative-approved political freedoms, not that crazy evolution stuff."

“Look kiddies, it’s the Tree of Life – er, I mean The Tree of Conservative  Political Freedoms, not that crazy evolution stuff.”

*   *   *

Are We Having Fun Yet?

There are a smattering of for-profit corporations that, citing special instructions from their imaginary friend religious objections, want to refuse to provide some (or all) of the 20 contraceptive methods approved by the FDA in the health plans these corporations offer to their employees. Because there is nothing else to do during the first week of spring, the SCOTUS [6] began hearing arguments from these company’s lawyers, including the hired guns of Hobby Lobby , one of the leading arts & crafts retailers in the USA.

PROTEST

Hobby Lobby’s CEO, founder and SRDOTUS [7] David Green openly espouses Southern Baptist, conservative “Christian” values, and proclaims that his corporation is committed to “Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with biblical principles….We believe that it is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured.”

Really.

REALLY

Yes, Really.

Check out the company’s “mission statement” on their website.  Hobby Lobby asserts that its god, this same deity who remains deaf to cries for help from its believers who endure horrific assaults in rape camps around the world, [8] somehow keeps itself busy doling out its “grace and provision” to an American craft vendor.

Once again, I digress.

Hobby Lobby wants to get out of providing full health care coverage for its employees;specifically, HL want to not cover forms of contraception it  mistakenly [9] believes are abortifacients, and argues that the ACA’s contraception “mandate” forces them to violate their religious beliefs.

UTWERUS

Let’s check in with someone more articulate than moiself; i.e., someone who is less likely to out-and-out use the term bullshit, but whose know-how on the issues at stake (e.g. tax laws, insurance coverage and what the ACA actually says) enables him to refute such bullshit nonetheless (my emphases):

 There is no contraception mandate.  Hobby Lobby is not legally required to compensate its employees with health insurance at all. The regulations imposed by the ACA are on insurance plans, not on the corporations per se.  What is erroneously described as a “mandate” simply means that if corporations choose to take advantage of the tax benefits for compensating employees in health insurance rather than wages, the insurance has to meet minimum coverage standards.  As is often the case with specious religious freedom arguments, the corporation wants it both ways, to get the tax benefits without providing the full benefits to employees.
(Scott Lemieux, professor of political science at The College of Saint Rose)

It might be interesting for y’all, no matter where you stand on the ACA/contraceptive coverage brouhaha, to consider the fact that majority of Hobby Lobby‘s inventory comes from China.  Thus, I ask my faithful flock to meditate upon the irony if not the blatant hypocrisy of today’s homily:  Hobby Lobby sells goods they import from China, a country that not only provides abortion on demand but has also coerced and forced women to have unwanted abortions[10],  China’s policies and the forced abortion incidents are well known by international human rights organizations and religious communities, and yet, such knowledge has not induced Hobby Lobby to refrain from profiting off of the cheap, slave-wage-factory-produced crap inventory they import from China.

CHINESE

One last thought on this issue, courtesy of a business owner’s musing (on a Facebook posting):

“I am Jewish; can I withhold the amount of money from my employees salary’s that they use to buy
pork products and Christmas decorations?”

JEWISH

 

*   *   *

May all of your personal and political inventory be politically correct (or at least justifiable), and may the hypocrisy-free hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] Quoted in Newsweek, June 30, 1986

[2] From Steinem’s “If Men Could Menstruate,” Ms. (Oct. 1978). You really need to read this, if you haven’t.

[3] A term for the moment of truth, in which the need for feminist consciousness raising – on both a world-wide and personal level – becomes irreversibly clear.  Jane O’Reilly depicted many “click!” moments in “The Housewife’s Moment of Truth,” (Ms. magazine preview issue, 1971); e.g., as a hostess and female guest finish washing the day’s dishes, a male houseguest enters the kitchen, asks, “How about something to eat?”, then waits to be served. “Click!” The hostess replies that they both work all week, and if he wants to eat, he can make himself something and then wash up.

[4] Steinem, in an interview with The Humanist, attributed that remark to an older, Irish, female taxi driver she and feminist activist Flo Kennedy encountered in the early ’70s.

[5] Hint: Tea Party friendly, pro-gun, anti-choice, anti-equal rights….

[6] Supreme Court of the United States

[7] Spewing Religious Doofus of the United States

[8] This assertion is (surprise!) not part of Hobby Lobby’s mission statement.

[9][9] As per the science behind how such methods actually work.

[10] Chinese officials claim forced abortions are not official policy, yet documentation of such incidents, enforced by local government officials as part of China’s One Child policy, have been verified.

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 Politician I’m Not Hosting

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 The host will be happy to seat you now…
In our special chair reserved for fanatical spew-mongers

OUCH

Duff-mouth demagogue (“some refer to him as Virginian State Senator”) Stephen H. Martin, who apparently thinks oratorical douchbaggery is tax deductible, recently referred to a pregnant woman as just a host for a fetus.  Martin’s misogynist disgorgement thoughtful reflection came in response to his receiving a card from a reproductive rights group asking him to protect reproductive health options in his state.

“… once a child does exist in your womb, I’m not going to assume a right to kill it just because the child’s host (some refer to them as mothers) doesn’t want it.”

*   *   *

Stand back – I’m going to try science

double down on this, dudes

double down on this, dudes

Thanks to the data obtained by the Kepler space telescope, NASA announced the discovery of 715 new planets outside of our solar system.  This discovery almost doubles the number of known planets!  Such a finding is worthy of doing the Happy Dance, for oh-so many reasons, including the fact that these planets are going to need identification.  In other words, they are going to be named.

HAPPY

The planets’ ids will be assigned by the International Astronomical Union, aka The Organization That Does Such Things When It Comes To Objects  d’ Cosmos. Most of the planets will probably be assigned numbers, noting distance from or proximity to stars and other objects.  But I want them to have names.  The magnanimous part of me hopes that NASA and the IAU realize the PR potential of holding 715 planet-naming contests, which could be a boon for sparking the-universe-is-cool-let’s-study-it interest among schoolchildren. Another part of me wants to name them.  By myself.

oh oh oh – pick me!

oh oh oh – pick me!

Really, NASA, I want to name those planets.  I want to give them names of heavenly bodies (sorry) popular during the 1950s, for some reason.  I want to name them all Jayne, Marilyn, and Betty Lou. If you still want to assign numbers, we can work that out.  Betty Lou M31, Betty Lou M51….  [1]

*   *   *

MUM

My dear Swenadian [2] friend SS called to let me know she lost her mother last night.  With true Canadian affection and style, SS always referred to her mother as her “Mum.”  Mum was 90 years old and had been battling round three of pneumonia, which is no picnic at any age but especially vexing to someone also afflicted with ALS .  SS’s mum died in her sleep –  the kind of passing we all wish for, eh?

The mums are for SS, and memories of her Mum.

*   *   *

JOHNNYTREMAIN

Coming attractions:  March 5 is World Read Aloud Day . WRAD is the brainchild of LitWorld, a nonprofit organization promoting…wait for it…worldwide literacy. [3]

The purpose of WRAD is to “call worldwide attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories.”  I and other writers will be celebrating WRAD by making a video/audio “visit” to classrooms.  Thanks to a certain software applications (rhymes with “hype” – this is not a commercial endorsement), I’ll be reading excerpts from The Mighty Quinn to two classrooms: one in Seattle and one in Pakistan.

I have fond memories of being read to, and hope that you do as well.  Mrs. Solomon, my 3rd grade teacher, read the Winnie the Pooh books to her class every day, for fifteen minutes, following lunch recess (and ever since then, I cannot hear any version of Eeyore with substituting her voice).

I remember derisive snorts from a few classmates when our 7th grade social studies teacher announced she would open the class by reading to us. [4]  Every day, she read aloud one chapter of Johnny Tremain.  The skeptics soon changed their tune, from, “I’m sure, reading aloud to us, like we’re third graders,” to, “Don’t leave us hanging – please go on to the next chapter!”

Next Wednesday, March 5, find your favorite read-aloud-book and a willing audience.  If no such audience is to be found, you have my permission to annoy delight and entertain strangers at a bus stop or coffee house or other public venues by reading aloud – to yourself, if not to them.  Simply remove a book from your coat pocket, backpack or purse, and softly but enthusiastically, go for it.

Here is Edward Bear, coming down the stairs now, bump bump bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin…. .

POOH

And, of course, let the hijinks ensue.

 Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Five paragraphs without a footnote?  This is wrong, just wrong.

[2] Canadian, married to a Swede.

[3] Or, is it an organization promoting worldwide arson?  Touch call, given the moniker.

[4] Move along, no footnote here to see, folks. Stay behind the tape and move along.

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

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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 Trolls I’m Not Feeding

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Monday I made a visit to Forest Grove Community School, where the 5th & 6th grade students are using The Mighty Quinn for their block of study on realistic fiction.  I spent two class periods with them, first with the 6th graders and then the 5th graders.  I read a brief TMQ excerpt as an example of revealing character via dialog, did a Q & A session, and met individually with students to hear their writing samples and banter about story ideas.  The kids were delightful, and one of the best school groups I’ve ever visited.

I got a kick out of observing the students’ interactions (from the back of the class, before the teacher introduced me.  (Yep, I was lurking).  What a difference a year makes.  The 6th graders were obviously conscious of how they might “look” to their peers when asking a question or offering a comment.  Their Q & A concerns focused on their struggles with their own writing assignments.  The 5th graders were energetic, unbounded and out there – one boy shrieked with delight and threw me a high five when I was introduced as the author of the book they’d been reading aloud in class.  The 5th graders’ Q & A session was dominated by personal (to me),  what’s it like to be a writer queries.  One student even asked about my royalties, and was thrilled when I complimented him for knowing the term.  Several students stayed after class, missing part of their recess, to gather around me.  They gushed about how unbelievable it was that they had met a REAL PUBLISHED AUTHOR ® a sentiment I find embarrassing/annoying when expressed by adults, but from those students, it was sweet beyond words.  FGCS 5th and 6th graders, this Pretty Purple Toe Award is for you.

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BELLY LAUGH OF THE WEEK

Tuesday:  in my car, waiting for the left turn signal.  The car in front of me had one of those stick figure family decals in the rear window, which, in general, I find annoying and rarely give a second glance to.  But something about this one caught my attention.

STICK FIGURE FAMILY

*   *  *

BELLY CREEP OUT OF THE WEEK

Wednesday: Back in the damn car again, performing what used to be an almost daily chore that has evolved into a rare errand: sending a manuscript via snail mail.  The nearest mailbox where I might still make the pickup time [1] was a couple of miles away, by a Bi-Mart store. As I pulled into the Bi-Mart parking lot a woman pushing a shopping cart with an infant seat in it crossed in front of me.  Heading for the store, she walked slowly and laboriously and looked neither left nor right.  She just crossed the lane of traffic.

I was ~ ten feet away from her, in no danger of hitting her as I was going quite slowly, but I was annoyed by her negligent pedestrian-ship. FFS lady, maybe you don’t care about your own life but what about the baby?  Further annoying me was the fact that it was 27º outside, and I could see the infant’s bare legs sticking out from the bottom of the child seat.  As my car rolled closer I could see that the woman had a vacant, slack-jawed expression on her face, one that might be explained by a mental or physical disability, and the “baby” in the baby seat was actually a (very realistic-looking) baby doll.

DOLd

*   *   *

“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”
(Einstein’s letter of 3-24-54 to a correspondent who’d asked Einstein to clarify his religious views.
(“Albert Einstein: The Human Side.”)

 One of the great games in the culture wars is claiming the good and smart for your team and pushing the monsters away. Picture Christian and atheist captains in a sandlot choosing basketball teams. “Einstein, we get Einstein!” say the atheists. “No way, he used the word God!… “Oh you WISH!” ….
Albert Einstein is the three-point shooter everybody wants to draft.

(from Dale McGowan ‘s blog post, “Owning Einstein.”)

holding out for free agent status

holding out for free agent status

A link I posted on my Facebook page – to Hemant Mehta’s  blog post about Ron Reagan Jr. taping a PSA for an atheist organization – got me sucked into one of those  discussions.  A FB friend apparently took issue with the younger Reagan’s statements about reason being “the hallmark of the human species.”

FB Friend: Who says that believing in God makes one unreasonable? That is a rather objectionable statement. Most of history’s great thinkers believed in God. I believe in God and I believe im (sic) a reasonable person. You don’t believe? No prob. Its (sic) not my job to force my faith down your throat. We can get along without faith being an issue…

RP:  “Most of history’s great thinkers believed in God.” Now, that is a statement of faith, not fact.   ;-)

FBF: Einstein believed, Newton believed, Galileo believed, Devinci (sic)  did as well. its not a matter of just having faith…

MH also followed the link in my post. He read the Reagan post in its entirety, and thus was confused by FBF’s reaction.  “Why did he (FBF commenter) assume the article said religious people are unreasonable, when it didn’t?” he mused.

My Son K would probably say that I violated the don’t feed the trolls rule by even acknowledging the comment.  You know, stick to posting pictures of your dinner and links to fart jokes.

TROLL

But, no.  That’s too easy.  And besides, the commenter is no troll.  Rather, he is a friend from high school days, and a very nice guy.  So, I posted the Einstein quote that opened this section, and said I’d deal with this more extensively in this blog post.  Here we are.  More extensively, ho! [2]

Although they (of course) are not here now to speak for themselves, I’ve little doubt that many if not most of what we might call the “great thinkers” of the past were religious…at least, in their public personas. People had to make some sort of public religious profession; there were no other options. [3]  What choice did people have, to believe or express opinions to the contrary?

Giordano Bruno was just one of many great thinkers who were tortured and murdered for expressing opinions and/or doing research that the religious/political authorities (often one in the same, in that most unholy of alliances) found threatening or blasphemous.  You need not have a writer’s imagination to posit what would have happened to Galileo if he’d expressed doubts as to the existence of the Jehovah deity, when for merely making scientific (not religious) statements – backed with, hey, evidence! – he was called to Rome and tried for heresy.  Galileo, well aware of the fate of Bruno and others before him, was given a “tour” of the church’s dungeons, and shown the instruments of torture that would be used on him if he did not recant his support for Copernicus’ theory .  Even after he recanted the truth [4] Galileo was confined to his home under house arrest, where he died seven years later, not having been allowed to leave or to receive visitors.

Albert Einstein tried to fit his complex ideas into terms that might interest the lay (as in, non-science literate) population.  The mis-location of Einstein to the Religious Believers’ Great Thinkers Team mostly stems from two of his public figurative comments:

(1) his public statement, reported by United Press in April 25, 1929: “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the orderly harmony in being, not in God who deals with the facts and actions of men,” and
(2) his famously misinterpreted metaphor regarding nature conforming to mathematical law: “God does not play dice with the Universe.”

But in his private/personal and other correspondences, Einstein lamented the misuse of his public statements to infer religious belief on his part.  He made his opinion about such matters quite clear, as in the opening quote and many others, three of which I’ll cite here.

“The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.” [5]

“The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naïve.” [6]

“It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I feel also not able to imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. My views are near those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order which we can grasp humbly and only imperfectly. I believe that we have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding and treat values and moral obligations as a purely human problem—the most important of all human problems.” [7]

Ultimately, the numbers on anybody’s “teams” are irrelevant. The criteria for evaluating the truth of statements – even those phrased as “beliefs” – is not all that complicated.  Which leads me to a brief [8] incursion into what seems to be a minefield for many people:  the difference between facts and beliefs.

MINE

I hold many, many beliefs about many, many subjects.  I believe that Meryl Streep is a great actor and that Tom Cruise is not, that Oregon Pinot Noirs are superior to California Merlots, that is more enjoyable to watch a high school varsity volleyball game than any professional golf tournament, that corn snakes make better pets than mice, that cedar-planked salmon is a tastier entrée than fried razor clams, that MH looks better with a full beard than with just a moustache, and that Elvis, Lady Gaga and the Virgin Mary do not make cameo appearances in the spots on someone’s flour tortilla.

Beliefs can be preferential, like those I listed.  A preferential belief expresses your opinions about interesting but ultimately inconsequential matters.  But beliefs can also express factual or cognitive claims, which call for evaluations of the truth of the propositions or assumptions behind the claims.  For example, if you assert that you “believe in God,” you are also making the assumption that the god you refer to exists.

If you express a cognitive belief but make no effort to justify it, you’re merely telling me your feelings or expressing your opinion.  It may be true that you believe you are the greatest fastball pitcher since Sandy Koufax.  However entertaining that claim may be to your slow-pitch softball league teammates, your belief by itself has no factual value.

koufax

There is nothing admirable about a belief just because you hold it, and cognitive beliefs are not immune to criticism. Cloaking beliefs in the robe of “god” or “religion” doesn’t excuse those ideas from examination.  “Believing” (aka “having faith in”) something doesn’t make an irrational claim suddenly rational, nor does it protect your belief from the test of evidence and reason – from the kind of the evaluation a thoughtful, intelligent person would normally apply to any statement of any kind, be it political, cultural, emotional….

If you want your beliefs to be taken seriously by others, you need to communicate them as something other than personal statements about what you “have faith in.”  Beliefs become objective when backed up by explanations and evidence that can be analyzed.  If you don’t want your beliefs to be subjected to this kind of scrutiny, then you should keep them to yourself.

I for one wouldn’t go around claiming too many of the “great thinkers” of centuries past for my team.  Great minds who seemed ahead of their time in their niches of music, art, literature, philosophy and/or science may also have thought that the earth was flat, that enslaved peoples were “naturally” inferior to their enslavers, that diseases were caused by evil spirits and ill humors, etc.  Even great thinkers are commonly bound by the ignorance and superstitions – and subject to the cultural and political pressures – of their times.

Down from the soapbox and up to the feel good FB posts.  Truly, those are what I should be posting at this most festive time of year – a sampling of flatus classifications:

Backseater: an odiferous fart that occurs in automobiles, it is usually not very loud and can be concealed by traffic noise.

Cherry bomb: A loud, high-pitched, squeaker fart.

The Rambling Phaduka: One of the most loud and lengthy of farts,  it goes on for at least 15 seconds, often leaving the farter unable to speak, as if he’s had the wind knocked out of him.

The Skillsaw:  sounds like an electric skill saw ripping through a piece of plywood.  It has been known to cause people to back away in terror and confusion.

TGIAF: the thank goodness I’m alone fart. You look around after producing it and say, thank goodness I’m alone.  Then you get out of there, fast.

And may the farting animals compilation video hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 


[1] I didn’t, and ended up driving to the main Post Office.

[2] As in Westward, ho!” and other idioms expressing the desire to go or return to a certain destination, and not as in a reference to skanky pavement-pounders Our Great Nation’s proud sex workers.

[3] Even the option to choose this flavor of Christianity or that flavor of Islam could get you murdered, plundered or banished, depending on which group was in charge.

[4] And some  say he recanted his recanting, under his breath….(Atheism for Dummies, ch. 6, “enlightening Strikes”)

[5] (From Einstein’s letter to philosopher Eric Gutkind, dated Jan. 3, 1954, cited in The Guardian, “Childish superstition: Einstein’s letter makes view of religion relatively clear,” by James Randerson, May 13, 2008).

[6] From Einstein’s to Beatrice Frohlich, December 17, 1952 ( The Expanded Quotable Einstein )

[7] Albert Einstein Creator and Rebel, New York: New American Library, 1972, p. 95.

[8] No really…considering the subject.

The Heart Cockles I’m Not Warming

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What’s Better Than A Three Dog Night?

A three hawk day, of course.  Red tailed hawks:  yesterday I saw, three within a five minute span, perched on posts or power poles near fields bordering the countryside roads and Highway 26, near North Plains.  One adult, then one juvenile (as in the picture), and then another adult.

When I see an RTH on a post or other perch, with its distinctive, striking plumage, locking its piercing hunting gaze on a field below, I am overwhelmed by a feeling of serenity.  Even knowing what is to come (some snake/rodent is about to get grasped and eviscerated), I feel that all is as it should be – if only for a moment – in the world.

Hawk_Red-Tailed_adult14

And now for all (excuse the hyperbole; make that, a smidgen)
of what is not as it should be:

Express Scripts/Medco Makes Me Sick

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As readers of this blog are aware, I have no qualms using Strong Language, ® but in this case initials must suffice as I don’t want to type the same word over and over.

I FFFFFF hate hate hate hate FFFF Express Scripts/Medco.  Are they our only option for an Rx plan? I whined to MH.  I don’t want ANY more of our money, any more of our business, going to them.  I have spent too much time on their “help” line (does this sound familiar?) trying to get through to a real person, cursing on line as the perky robotic voice recording dares to say, “to continue to provide you with the best service possible…” Having to listen to that hornswaggling balderdash (see the last post item), after they have provided absolutely the worst service possible, is enough to give me a stroke…which may be their intent, and then that’s one less Shiny Happy Customer for them to deal with.

The idea of such incompetency and penny-pinching bureaucracy having the power to get between a doctor and her patient…..  You’re an overpaid passel of pill dispensers; do your job. Diagnosis and treatment are between doctor and patient.  The doctor writes the prescription, based on her examination of the patient and the minutia of said patient’s history, to which you, Express Scripts/Medco, are not privy.  Fill the fucking prescription – same one you have been filling for Over. Two Years. and now decide to dispute?)

"No soup for you...just because"

“No soup for you…just because”

 *   *   *

And then, there was this.

Because my day wasn’t stressful enough, what with dealing with the medical bureaucracy shit, one of my cats (I have my suspicions as to the perp’s identity) decided to carry on with the theme by leaving me an odiferous fecal deposit, with accompanying skidmark, on my office carpet, by my desk.  Apparently, she felt it had been too long since I had awarded anyone the prestigious Golden Turd Trophy. Nova, this turd’s for you.

turd trophy

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Mark your Calendars and Head for the Indies

Vintage Books in Vancouver (WA) will be celebrating Indies First, on Saturday November 30.  Indies First is the brain child of author Sherman Alexie, who urged all “book nerds” (authors) to be booksellers for a day and help support independent book stores.  You can see the full text of Alexie’s delightful letter here.  I’ll be at Vintage, sharing shifts with other authors, (hopefully) selling and signing copies of The Mighty Quinn and recommending other favorite reads.  My shift is from 12 – 1 pm.  Be there or be…you know.

SQUARE

*   *   *

Huh?

From the masthead of Oregon Coast magazine, in a section that lists bio notes for the current issue’s authors and photographers:

“____ is a travel and adventure writer based out of Portland.  When she is not writing she is fishing, looking for whales, life-coaching, helping businesses succeed online, making sculptures, teaching yoga, and being a professional Viking.”

Okay.  How do you get such a résumé? And am I to believe that she gets paid to be a Viking…of some sort?

viAking

I could do that.  Kinda sorta:  Robyn Parnell is a travel and adventure-deprived writer based out of Hillsboro.  When she is not writing she is looking for fish [1] (but not whales), pestering life-coaching (her daughter), and she, too, helps businesses succeed online. [2]

Or, maybe not.  There was another one that caught my attention:

“_____ explores Oregon from her home in North Bend.  An Oregonian since 1982, she writes for a living, and spends the rest of her time biking, canoeing, making things, and playing Irish music.”

Reading these things, I’m both inspired and befuddled.  And maybe just a teense bit jealous.  I want a jazzier résumé.

Robyn Parnell explores Oregon from her home in Manzanita (well, in her dreams).  An Oregonian since 1991, she writes for a mere pittance, and spends the rest of her time (thinking she should do more) biking, kayaking, making dinner, and playing Dropkick Murphys holiday videos.

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Something to Celebrate 

The World Wildlife Fund in cahoots with Vietnamese government’s Forest Protection Department has discovered evidence that should warm the cockles of your heart.  An animal scientists thought might be extinct, one of the rarest and most threatened mammals on Earth, [3] is still alive.  A camera trap placed in a remote area of the Central Annamite mountains of Vietnam captured the images of a Saola, or “Asian unicorn.”  The WWF’s pictures are grainy/paparazzi quality; here is one from many years ago, when a Saola had time for a stylist consultation before the photo shoot.

SAOLA 

*   *   *

Speaking of cockle warming:
Let us now praise the Idiosyncratic Origin of Inane but Interesting Idioms

In another life I might have happily been a linguist, specializing in the etymology of whimsical words and expressions.[4] 

Warm the cockles of your heart.  Why is the image of a bivalve mollusk used to invoke feelings of inspiration or nostalgia?

Someone said to skedaddle when they are quickly fleeing something.  If you want to quickly distance yourself from an aimless scribble, do you skedoodle?

Why does ragamuffin refer to a disheveled person, and not a Hindu musical quick bread?

And then, there is cattywampus.  Yes, there is.  But, why?  Sometimes it’s more fun to speculate than to know for certain.  I could google their origins, but that would take all the mystery out of life.

May the warmth of your heart-cockles never fall below room temperature, [5]
and may cattywampus-worthy hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] At the market.

[2] If you count her e-shopping purchases. Which she does.

[3] Aside from Freethinking Republicans, or people who correctly use the contraction/possessive forms of it’s/its.

[4] A career with salary prospects that would, no doubt, compare to those of literary fiction authors.

[5] It’s just not right, a blog post with less than five footnotes.

The Expression Lines I’m Not Forming

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The Good Life ®

La Finquita del Bujo,  our CSA, put on their annual Harvest Festival last Sunday.  And such a day for it – clear skies with that certain, crisp autumn sun.  The farm was open to all subscribers, friends, neighbors, for a potluck feast and four hour festival.  The farm’s outdoor, hand-built brick pizza oven was fired up: Lyn and Juvencio, the farm’s owners, provided homemade dough, sauce and cheese and attendees brought toppings to share, and everyone provided encouragement to those whose dough-rolling skills were less than professional. [1] A friend of the family was making fresh pupusas on an outdoor griddle next to the oven, and the farm dogs and cats wandered from lawn chair to lawn chair, having a grand old time feasting on everyone’s food offerings.

Entertainment included performances by Hillsboro’s Baile Folklorico Mexico en la Piel , a local bluegrass group, and The Helvetia Alphorn musicians.  I’d never seen alphorns up close, or “live” (Ricola commercials don’t count).  They looked just like this.  Exactly. Well, minus the alpine background.  And the lederhosen.  And the featherduster hats.

ALPHORN

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Have I Got an Expression (Line) For This

I found this blast from the past while searching my files for…I forget.  For something else:

1-7-09, doing post-exercise cooldown.  I ejected the workout DVD and caught the tail end of a local noon news program.  As I moved into downward facing dog pose, the news gave way to a paid programming/extended infomercials, hosted by an aging TV actress (Victoria Principal?) who was shilling her line of anti- wrinkle/anti-aging skin care products (“Reclaim”)Reclaim, the grotesquely preserved still-beautiful performer declared, will “reverse the signs of aging,” smooth  away “visible forehead wrinkles” ( yeah, we’re not too worried about the invisible ones) and even get rid of those pesky “expression lines.”

Hitch up your loincloth, Mahatma Gandhi, and Melinda and Bill Gates, quit your whining about malaria—there’s a new humanitarian in town, and she’s out to rid the world of expression lines.  You know, the lines that come from using the muscles in your face to do something other than to don a mannequin’s smooth-checked, slit-eyed, I-wish-I-could-crack-a-smile-but-I’m-too-busy-reversing-the-signs-of-aging mask.

Expression lines – the ones evince your years of loving your children and laughing at their elephant jokes; the ones that accentuate your reaction to your spouses’ latest pun or your sports team’s heartbreaking loss in the playoffs; the ones that form when you can’t believe your brother-in-law told that story in front of your grandmother, or when you hear yet another Republican elected official make yet another ignorant remark about human biology.  The ones that let the world know you are alive.

I’ll sell you a no-cost, sure-fire way to stop the signs of aging: die young.

What pesky expression lines?

What pesky expression lines?

*   *   *

Why I am Postponing Reading the Latest Issue of P & W

The November/December Poets & Writers magazine arrived earlier in the week.  This issue’s cover shot is of an extremely self-satisfied looking [2] author Elizabeth Gilbert.  I somehow managed not to read Gilbert’s bestselling memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, despite having been chased in airports during the past seven years any time I had a flight booked, by security personnel who screamed, “If you board the plane without a copy of this book in your hands, the terrorists have won!”

So.  We return to our magazine, and to Gilbert’s beaming visage, below which is the title of the article (The Eat, Pray, Love Phenomenon), and then a question: What Happens After an Author Sells More Than 8 Million Copies?

Money

Assuming the question is not rhetorical, WHO FUCKING CARES?

*   *   *

More Reasons to Go On Living:
Two Thumbs up for one Finger Up

You gotta love the intersection of art and political dissent.  This week I loved Czech artist David Cerney’s salute to Czech President President Milos Zeman, in the form of a giant purple [3] hand, middle finger prominently extended, floating on a barge in the River Vltava, facing Zeman’s presidential headquarters in the Prague Castle.

Cerney is – surprise! – not a fan of President Zeman.  Zeman is a self-proclaimed ex-Communist who accepts the likelihood of the Communist party regaining political power, thus enraging Cerney and other Czechs who hated and openly defied the Communist rule of Czechloslovakia (1948-1989).

My Pretty Purple Toe Award ® has got nothing on Cerney (“I just enjoy pissing people off”) and his Purple Finger of political Defiance.

PURPLEFINGER

*   *   *

Wishing y’all a finger-friendly, thumbs-up weekend, and may your own particular brand of purple hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] We make pizza often at home, and I proudly claim that my amoeba-shaped pies are deliberate, as well as artistic. And MH set out to make a calzone, not a pizza.  That was his intention; the fold-over was not to fix the holes.  Yep.

[2] Instead of “Say Cheese!” or “Smile!” the photographer’s prompt was, “Royalties and residuals!”

[3] Purple!

The Service Dog I’m Not Buying

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What is a days-long festival that does not have its own soundtrack album but which smells better than 400,000 mud-wallowing hippies overdosing on acid?  Five gold stars and a Pretty Purple Toe for you…

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…if you’re thinking, hmm, it’s not Woodstock….

It’s time for Portland’s annual literary festival, Wordstock . One of the largest such festivals in the nation, Wordstock events include author readings (from writers way more famous and articulate than moiself), exhibits, contests and workshops, and a book fair.  I will be doing two shifts at the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators booth, with The Mighty Quinn copies for display and sale and either a weary or I-am-so-not-worthy look on my face, depending on which indifferent guests and/or famous literati [1] stroll past.  If you’re so inclined to celebrate booky-stuff this weekend (or just want to get out of the rain) stop by SCBWI’s booth 1103 in Exhibit Hall D of the Oregon Convention Center in beautiful downtown (the Northeast side) Portland. I’ll be there Saturday 3:45 – 6p and Sunday 1:45 – 4p.

WORDSTOCK

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Poor Belle.  When I asked her four months ago if she’d be interested in attending the FFRF’s  convention with MH and I, she gave an enthusiastic, Sure, that would be fun.  She had no idea how much homework she’d have, and her weekend mostly consisted of her sitting on the bed in the hotel room amid stacks of AP calculus and AP American Lit papers.  I did manage to get her to take a break on Saturday afternoon to cruise State Street, Madison’s (former) [2] answer to Eugene, at least when it comes to stores that carry Sixties paraphernalia and  tie-dye shirts.

Feelin' the groovy vibes of Madison's State Capitol building

Feelin’ the groovy vibes of Madison’s State Capitol building

Belle also seemed to enjoy the convention’s Saturday night banquet, as well as our after-banquet adventure.  While MH stayed to enjoy the après-dinner entertainment I accompanied my daughter to the hotel bar, where we partook of ginger ale (Belle) and Pinot Gris (moiself) and an outrageously tasty plate of fries, and she told me about her plans to start a Feminism/Gender Equality club at school.

Imagine if a boy showed up in his high school civics class wearing a Cool Story, Homie, now shine my shoes t-shirt. He’d be hauled in to the vice principal’s office for a lecture on offensive stereotypes, probably have to attend some diversity workshops, and, oh yeah, take the shirt off.  But Belle has seen too many “sandwich” t-shirts at her school go unchallenged, and it’s pissing her off

.SANDWICH

That is just one of the many reasons she’d like to start such a club – mostly, it’s about a way for like-minded kids to gather and brainstorm holding some contemporary events for a little old-fashioned consciousness-raising

I reminded her of the challenges she’ll likely hear, including:

* First Amendment issues re the t-shirt;
* First Amendment issues re cretins’ inalienable rights to practice public asswipery.

Belle reminded me of the fact that students do not have the same rights as adults, and schools regulate all kinds of issues that would fall under the First Amendment umbrella (e.g.,  banning that which is deemed gang attire or accoutrements).  And she already has a teacher sponsor lined up for the club, and several students interested in joining.[3]

A successful student club needs a raison d’être, and also some joi de vivre. You can’t just hold assemblies to try to raise consciousness (think of the many eye-rolling-inducing school assemblies you’ve complained about, I said).  You can’t just roam the halls looking for offensively-attired students to smite.  You can, however, roam the halls, [4] find an offensively-attired manchild, and while you’re helping said clueless dude to realize that men of quality are not threatened by women of equality, ask him,  “Oh, and would you like to hold this cute, egalitarian-affirming baby sloth?

slothinbox

Seriously, ladies and germs, I am so impressed by her willingness to confront the issues of inequality she sees, even as my heart aches and my butt frosts to think about

1.  The crap she’ll likely receive for engaging sexism and the F-word [5] in school;
2.  There is no reason #2;
3.  There are about fifteen other reasons, mostly variations of reason #4;
4.  The fact that we are STILL dealing with this bullshit.

FEM

Meanwhile, back in a hotel bar in Madison, WI, we return to our Spunky Heroine ® and her Adoring Mother ® .  Having deliberated the ongoing problems of misogyny and inequality, the two gutsy gals respectively order another round of ginger ale and Pinot Gris and chat up a gregarious lady and her “service dog” [6] who occupy a comfy sofa in the back corner of the bar.

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May you be well-tended by the service animal/companion of your dreams, who will alert you when the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Rumor has it Fight Club author/literary bad boy Chuck Palahniuk will give a free copy of his latest book to anyone who correctly pronounces his last name.

[2] It’s becoming – gasp – gentrified, or some of the aging locals complain.

[3] Including dudes, yeah!

[4] Hey, what happened to this footnote?

[5] It’s easier, for most of her peers and too many of her teachers, to think that feminism is just another civil rights issue that was settled, a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

[6] A very well-behaved Chihuahua, but, service dog?  Puhleese.

The I’m Erotic Cattle Abduction Scene I’m Not Writing

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Some authors should not go there

Sex.  As in, writing a sex scene. I find myself either yawning or cringing – sometimes both [1] – when I read them.  Rarely have I found a fictional account of a sexual encounter to be anything other than mildly ludicrous at best, and wonder, is this claptrap supposed to be erotic?

No entendre, double or otherwise, intended with the use of the word claptrap.  Although it would make a good title for a murder mystery novel.

Claptrap :  While on vacation in New York City, Kenyan homicide detective Yawanna Ubangi gets drawn into the investigation of an apparent female serial killer, a Femme Fatale whose M.O. involves weakening her lovers through intentional gonorrhea infections….

Hot damn, I may be on to something. I shall have to restrain myself, until I’m at least done with the first draft of the next Quinn book.

Once again, I digress.  Back to bad sex.

Case in point, the book I am currently reading.  I like the plot and most of the characters; I want to like the book in toto, but the author is making it difficult for me to do so.  There is something off-putting about the prose style I can’t quite put my finger on, and then, there are the intermittent sex scenes between the protagonist and her husband that make me never to want to put a finger on anything, ever again.  Not only are the sexual encounters awkwardly written IMHO, they are so…perfunctory, mechanical, and terse .[2]   I find myself wondering, in the most basic, high school Literature Evaluation sense, why are these scenes in the book in the first place?  What plot point or character reference do they serve to illustrate or advance?  Did the author feel obligated to include a minimum amount of whoopee, or was it an editor’s misguided marketing strategy (“There’s no sex in this book, FFS!”) ?

BADSEXjpg

*   *   *

Yet another reason not to follow a link on Facebook and end up wasting far too much time blowing steam about some hypercritical misanthrope

The link to a Huffington Post opinion piece was posted by friend RN, with the question, “You know, this is how A__ (RN’s partner) and I roll, too.  Are we extremists?”

After reading the article I had to wonder if RN had read it all the way through, for although I know that RN & A___ have generous spirits and kind hearts and have opened their home to rescue dogs, I can’t imagine they are anything like the extremely judgmental lady dick who wrote An Open Letter to the Person Who Left This Sweet Dog at the Kill Shelter.

The article is a hostile, self-congratulatory screed by a self-described “blogger, Dog Lover,” who takes to task – and threatens the safety of – the person who surrender an elderly dog with multiple health issues to a “kill” shelter.

“Warning – it’s not easy to read,” RN wrote re the article, referring to the details of the poor dog’s plight, I assumed.  Assumption #2: I anticipated my reaction would be similar to RN’s, until I followed the link and read the article…and felt compelled to reply:

Uh, it’s not easy to read because the author is a vile, judgmental, sanctimonious narcissist, who in truth knows little to nothing about the situations that may have led to a family surrendering their dog. 

My daughter and I volunteered for a no-kill animal organization [3]  and we met some of those people. “Pet surrenders” increased dramatically with the downturn of the economy, and for every jerk who turned in a pet that they just didn’t want anymore there were two grieving families, heartbroken over the fact that they had lost their jobs and their homes and/or leases (yes, our organization researched these surrenders and checked references), had no friends or family to take their beloved pet and had to choose between buy their own diabetes medication or their son’s anti-seizure drugs…. 

What little information is on an animal surrender intake sheet does not tell the whole story, and people are often reluctant and embarrassed to reveal their private miseries. That self-congratulating dog rescuer may have a heart for animals but I wish s/he’d extend the same compassion toward his fellow bipeds.

I could have gone on, could have mentioned the heartbreak of seeing the elderly pets “surrendered” by their elderly, loving owners who had fought for years to be able to stay in their own homes but due to illness/disability/dementia were entering nursing homes and had exhausted every resource to find a home for their beloved animal companions – stories way too complicated to fit on an intake form…. And no-kill shelters almost always have a waiting list.  A very long waiting list.  To assume that any person who “surrenders” an animal does so voluntarily and cavalierly frosts my butt.

And so, Blogger-dog-lover, this asshat’s for you:

AHat

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It was time to send another care package to K, up at UPS.  I gathered a motley assortment of silly items ® and went to a certain store to get some cheap junk food inexpensive nutritious snacks to fill out the box. I also got him one of those paper fold out turkey centerpieces (one dollar, such a deal!), and wrote my suggested instructions on it: K should wait until his housemates are out, assemble the hideous thing tasteful decoration and place it atop the dining table. Once its presence has been noticed he should deny all knowledge of how it got there, and suggest that they have been the victims of yet another drive-by centerpiecing.

TURKEY

 Anyway….

I placed my items on the checkout counter conveyor belt along with my own bag, and for some reason flashed back to the first time I’d brought my reusable bag to the store (the name of which rhymes with Collar Free):  The clerk seemed to be in a hurry, and started shoving my items into a plastic bag seemingly before they’d touched the conveyor belt.  “Oh, wait please.” I waved my cloth bag while stating the obvious. “I brought my own bag.” The clerk’s eyes grew wide with concern as she transferred my items from the store’s bag to mine.  “I’m sorry,” she said, in the measured, you may want to sit down for this tone usually reserved for telling someone their favorite auntie has died, “But I can’t give you a discount for using your own bag. Store policy; it’s still a dollar, for everything.”

Uh, yeah, that’s fine. That’s not why I bring my own shopping bag, to get five cents off my total.  I didn’t even think of the bag rebate until you called it to my attention…but, now that you mention it, the injustice is sinking in and I am outraged, I am appalled, utterly appalled. GODDAMMIT I WANT MY NICKLE REFUND!  I AM NOT LEAVING THIS STORE UNTIL I GET MY NICKLE BACK OR YOU GIVE ME ONE OF YOUR PLASTIC BAGS.

REUSALE

It has rained several times this week, after last week’s glorious burst of late summer sun and high temperatures. The first rainstorm of the season – I love the way it smells.  For some people, the return of the rain is enervating, but I find it energizing.  The harbinger of autumn, my favorite season. Bring it on.

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SOAPBOX

One of my favorite comics from one of my favorite comic strips, Bizarro, shows two couples, beverage tumblers in hand, meeting at an outdoor party.  The husband of one of the couples extends his toward the other couple and says, “Hello, we’re the Hendersons. You must be the non-Hendersons.”

I can't afford whatever the fee would be to borrow a Bizarro comic, so use your imagination here.

I can’t afford whatever the fee would be to borrow a Bizarro comic, so use your imagination.

This shall make sense; bear with me.

The first rain of the season reminded me of other firsts.  Three of We (MH, Belle and I) are attending the FFRF’s [4] annual convention later this month.  This will be Belle’s first, Mark’s third and my fourth FFRF convention.  I’ve been fondly recalling one of the more thought-provoking moments at my first convention, which occurred during the convention’s customary non-prayer breakfast [5] .  The charming elderly gentleman seated next to me at breakfast outed himself as a “non-atheist.”  He said that although his wife was a “long-time atheist” he was a theist, and that he found it educational, intriguing and humbling to be in the minority, as he was likely one of the few non-atheists in the room.  Isn’t it funny, I replied, that you’re sitting next to another minority member…only in that I do not call myself an atheist.

I think words are incredibly important; they are what we humans, a non-telepathic species, use to communicate ideas.  And I can get picky about labels. Although some might find it amusing if not presumptuous for a freethinker to even attempt to persuade other freethinkers to think differently, I don’t like the atheist label and wish those who claim the word would claim…something else, instead.

There are several reasons for my dislike of the term.  For one, I find it to be a misnomer.  Also, I think Freethinkers, Humanists, Brights, Skeptics and others who accept and even embrace the A-label are making a semantic as well as a strategic/public relations mistake.

One of the best pieces of parenting advice MH and I received was that when it came to discipline we would need to “choose our battles” wisely.  We found that to be true; there are things not worth the fuss, and others that are so worth fighting for.  I think the battle to claim or rehabilitate the word atheist is futile; it has too many negative connotations and associations.  Of course, those associations were and are concocted and perpetuated by the religious and are largely and historically inaccurate, but since when has acknowledging that fact corrected a firmly entrenched misperception?  [6]

Personally, I’ve no “fear” of being called an atheist.  To the contrary, being thusly labeled has provided many an Entertaining Educational Moment, when I’ve reminded the person who used the word that we’re all atheists vis-à-vis our stance on other gods/religions, and that it is only relatively recently that “atheism” has come to mean a lack of belief in any gods (historically, an atheist was someone who didn’t believe in the god you believed in, and so Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Pagans, Moslems and Hindus have all been referred to, by those outside their respective religions, as atheists).

But that Educational Moment, no matter how entertaining, ultimately misses the point.  For if we are all Something in relation to Something Else, then Something has no specific meaning.  I find the Something that is atheism to be imprecise, and so I correct someone who applies that term to me, just as I would correct a mispronunciation of my name or misstatement of my height. [7]

The religious generally try to understand or dismiss atheism as just another (“false”) religion. That’s silly, of course, but that’s how they, in their minds, can handle it. One reason they get away with this is that self-labeled atheists involuntarily abet such faulty reasoning by allowing themselves to be defined in religious terms by religious people.  But atheism isn’t a religion, a philosophy, or even a world view. It’s not even an ism.

In fact, “atheism” is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a “non-astrologer” or a “non-alchemist.” We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.

Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation

"I believe, Elsie, I believe!"

“I believe, Elsie, I believe!”

I am not religious, and thus find it improper and even rude to be defined in terms of what I do not do, believe, or practice.  I am not a negation of something; like anyone else, I want to be defined positively, on my own terms, not in terms of my relation to someone or something else.  When it comes to politics, I’m an Independent, not an anti-Democrat, un-Republican, de-Green Party or dis-Libertarian.  I’m not an a-astrologist, a-New-Ager or a-theist; I am a Freethinker, a Humanist, a Skeptic, a Bright.

Let’s say I’m visiting my Floridian, Republican, Lutheran, tennis-loving, Gucci satchel-toting mother-in-law, Gladys. [8]  And let’s say Gladys gives the following description of me to her neighbor, Jethro:  “Her name is not Gladys, she’s not from Florida, she’s an a-Republican and an a-Lutheran, she’s not a tennis player or an Italian purse carrier, and she’s not my daughter.”

While technically correct, that description provides no pertinent information about me.  Jethro knows nothing of what I am, only a little bit of what, in relation to Gladys, I am not.

Another reason I don’t like the term atheist is that it elevates theism to the #1 position of the many things in whose existence or veracity I don’t believe.  It gives the false assumption that there is something out there (a supernatural world and/or deities) to deny. Yes, I do not believe in the existence of deities, but I also don’t believe in demons or ghosts or fairy godmothers or homeopathy or astrology or the trickle-down theory, either.

Most religious folk think they know what an atheist is, does and/or believes, but, in my humble opinion and experience, even the most academically challenged Fundamentalists can be intrigued by the unfamiliar.  Call yourself an atheist (or allow them to do so) and in their eyes, you’re pegged – beginning/end of discussion.   Call yourself a Freethinker, a Bright, a Skeptic, and you’ve set their ears (and sometimes…gasp…even their minds) atwitching.  (“Freethinker?  What exactly do you mean by that?”).

As a Bright, I hold a naturalistic worldview, free of supernatural and mystical elements.  As a Freethinker, I hold that opinions or beliefs of reality should be based on science, logic and reason, independent of religion, authority, “tradition” or dogmas. As a Skeptic, I take a provisional approach to all fantastic declarations, and support the application of science and reason to test the validity of any and all claims. As a Humanist, I hold a progressive philosophy of life that bases my values and actions on a naturalistic worldview and affirms my ability and responsibility to lead an ethical life that aspires to the greater good of humanity.  And yes, if you are a religious believer you may call me an atheist (but be prepared for me to point out that you’re the one who’s the theist, not me, a- or otherwise).

Bright, Freethinker, Skeptic, Humanist, Happy Heathen, Apostate, Atheist, Heretic – I will embrace or tolerate any of those terms.  Although my title of choice would be “T’Saywhat, Galactic Sovereign of the Terran System.”

ZSAQUEEN

Queen T’Saywhat’s philosophy is to protect and enhance the earth, to enjoy life in the here and cultivate moral excellence, maturity and common human decency.  She would exercise her Galactic monarchical responsibility by requiring all humans to meditate upon the truths illustrated herein:

Get that Captain a charcoal seat cushion, and let the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Which I am able to do thanks to years of yoga practice.

[2] Not that I’m complaining about a poorly written scene not dragging on and on and on….

[3] over five years with C.A.T. Cat Adoption Team

[4] The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s objective is to promote the constitutional principle of separation of state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to non-theism.

[5] Which begins with a “moment of bedlam” instead of a moment of silence.  Such fun before 9 am is illegal in most Islamsit countries. You really gotta be there.

[6] Greater and more articulate minds than mine have argued for dropping the A-label – most notably author and neurobiologist Sam Harris at the Atheist Alliance Conference, for which he was burned at the rhetorical stake, so to speak.  Hmm, are there Atheist Fundies?

[7] I am taller than you think.  I am taller than I think…in my dreams.

[8] Neither her real name nor her taste in handbags.

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