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The Composer’s Ass I’m Not Kicking

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But First, The Sporadic Self-Promotion 

We’re one week away from the next Bards & Brews.  Bards & Brews is a last-Friday-of-the-month literary event, co-organized by Jacobsen’s Books and hosted by the downtown Hillsboro restaurant/wine bar/retail shop, Primrose & Tumbleweeds:

Join us for a celebration of the written word! Local authors of every flavor will gather for Bards & Brews to share their works in a series of talks and readings, while you enjoy a meal or a beverage from the world’s largest collection of Oregon wines and beers. 

“By every flavor” refers to fiction and nonfiction, literary and genre, young and old.  “Share their works in a series of talks and readings” means, at least as pertains to moiself, that I’ll do read a brief excerpt from my selected book and be available to talk afterward. [1]  Here’s the slate (author and book title) for this month’s event:

 *  Robyn Parnell (The Mighty Quinn)
*  Caitlin Claire Diehl (First Daughter)
*  Tammy Owen         (House of Goats)
*  Paula Stokes            (The Art of Lainy)
*  Paul Gerald (60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Portland)

As I’ve mentioned before, I’d rather be home trimming my nostril hairs with a weed whacker than do author appearances, but since the nose hair situation is under control and my name is on the list – how did that happen? – I’ve no excuse but to show up.

If I can do this, so can you. I hope to see your friendly faces (perhaps made even friendlier by the beverages?) next Friday.

 Bards & Brews, Friday July 25, 7 – 9p
Primrose & Tumbleweeds
248 E Main St.
in old town Hillsboro, one block north of the Hillsboro Transit Center

Bards___Brews_Art_1_

*   *   *

And Now Without Further Interruption We Return to the Ass-Kicking Portion of Our Show 

Silent lacunar infarction (SLI) is one type of silent stroke which usually shows no identifiable outward symptoms, thus the term “silent”. Individuals who suffer a SLI are often completely unaware they have suffered a stroke….  While dubbed “silent” due to the immediate lack of classic stroke symptoms, SLIs can cause damage to the surrounding brain tissue (lesions) and can affect various aspects of a person’s mood, personality, and cognitive functioning. A SLI or any type of silent stroke places an individual at greater risk for future major stroke….

While Belle and I were on our Paris trip my mother took a much less enjoyable trip of her own: another [2] fall requiring hospitalization/observation. My sister NLM passed along the results of our mother’s head CT, which indicated that Mom has had several of the above-described “mini-strokes.”

One more loss; one more thing my mother is dealing with.  One more thing her grown children – we of the so-called Sandwich Generation – have to deal with.

sandwich

In the past hundred years or so we, as in We, The American Culture Personified  – have had this thing for coining generation labels.  There was the post-WWI Lost Generation, the (so-called) Greatest Generation, the Boomer Generation, Generation X, and the Millennials (aka Gen Y). Those currently being born, whom sociologists and demographers have yet to stereotype categorize, are broadly referred to as Generation Z.

As per both my date of birth and life circumstances, I suppose I’m a member of the Boomer Sandwich generation. On whole wheat, hold the mayo, extra mustard, please.

Once again, I digress.

Silent lacunar infarction.  One part of my brain reads that as silent lunar infraction – you know, what you’d call some Ruskie secretly landing on the moon and making off with Alan Shepard’s golf balls.

MOONGOLF

And there is that other part of my brain (FSM forbid it should ever be subject to a CT) that really, really wants to make Silent But Deadly jokes.  That might be a tacky thing for me to do, what with recently finding out that I’ve a SLF-inflicted mother. But y’all? Feel free to share your favorite SBD jokes [3] with moiself.

What with MH’s father’s health concerns [4]  and those of my mother and of my peers’ aging parents, I keep imagining this barely audible but increasingly creepy, “Circle of Life” chorus that is threatening to become the musak of my generation.  And it makes me want to KICK ELTON JOHN’S ASS from here to the nearest assisted living center.

Okay. As a writer I should know better than to (entirely) blame Elton John. EJ is the composer and Tim Rice the lyricist for that song.  Nevertheless, having seen EJ in concert I can safely guestimate that his ass would be the bigger target.

Exhibit A.

Exhibit A.

 *   *   *

Can We Agree to Stop This, Now?

I refer to the ongoing obsession with playing with photographing yourself. Yeah, I know there’s another word for it.

selfies

In the past few weeks I’ve noticed a growing number of self-described selfies posted on various social media and regular media sites, but instead of the usual mug shot variation, the pictures feature the smiling visages of more than one person.  There are two, three, four or more – even a crowd shot, and it is not always discernible as to who’s long arm is holding the cell phone or camera.

So, can we do away with that most narcissistic[5] of neologisms? Selfie, schmelfie.  It’s called taking a picture, folks.

*   *   *

*  When I paint a person, his enemies always find the portrait a good likeness.
(Edvard Munch)

*  A man’s manners are a mirror in which he shows his portrait.
(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

*  Sending your selfies to NASA doesn’t make you a star.
(Anonymous)

*  A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he is being photographed, and what he does with this knowledge is as much a part of the photograph as what he’s wearing or how he looks.
Richard Avedon)

 *  I bet Medusa used to take selfies and send ‘em to people she disliked like:
“Surprise, you little b*tch!”
(Anonymous)

Do these snakes make my head look fat?

Do these snakes make my head look fat?

*   *   *

May your infractions be silent, your self-portraits slimming, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Each author is limited to 10-15 minutes, during which they may read selections from their book and/or talk about their “writing process.” I can’t speak for the other authors, but I promise to engage in none of the latter unless requested.

[2] There have been at least five the past dozen or so years. At least no broken hips or vertebrae, this time.

[3] I already know the one about the elderly lady in the doctor’s office.

[4] He’s been battling Parkinson’s for years, and that most progressive disease is indeed progressing.

[5] Although admittedly highly descriptive of the LOOK AT ME mindset that produced such a term.

The Tattoo I’m Not Explaining

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So, what do you want to be when you grow up?

Many are the times wherein the Fruit of My Loins have heard that hackneyed yet nonetheless dreaded query from friends & family. [1]

No, that's fruit of my loins.... 

No, that’s fruit of my LOINS….

And many are the reassurances K and Belle have received from me: they do not have to answer that question, nor should they be concerned if they haven’t the slightest idea how to answer that question:

Sure, some kids know at age five or nine that they want to be a firefighter/doctor/teacher/Amway distributor [2] when they grow up, but they are in the minority.  Besides, with today’s ever-changing, technology and innovation-driven economy, many of the jobs you and your friends will have are yet to be imagined.  Your dad couldn’t (and in fact didn’t) say, “I want to be one of the Pentium Processor Test Design Engineers when I grow up,” because there were no such creatures when he was growing up.

*   *   *

The previous and following segues are courtesy of my having recently read actor/director Diane Keaton’s memoir, Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty.

REALLY

Really.

Keaton writes in a loose, candid, wittily self-deprecating, conversational style that I find enjoyable, if not, how you say, eruditely challenging.  Confession: my reasons for reading her current memoir (and previous memoir, Then Again) have little to do with my never-ending quest for literary stimulation…and everything to do with my being one of the few people on the planet who gets a kick out of reading her numerous Santa Ana references. [3]  Keaton’s family lived in Santa Ana; she graduated from Santa Ana High School, as I did.  But way before [4] I did.  Ahem.

Which brings me to yet another book by yet another SAHS alumnus.  I am currently reading Weedland by Peter HechtSubtitled Inside America’s Marijuana Epicenter and How Pot Went Legit, the book, as per one blurb, [5] documents “…the Wild West culture of California’s marijuana industry.”

WEEDLAND

The same enthusiastic blurb-writer hails Weedland as “essential reading for anyone who is a fan of California’s most lucrative agricultural product.”  Which, I am not. [6]  However, I am a fan of Peter Hecht. [7]

I’ve known (and admired and adored) Pete since junior high school.  He was one of my buddies from a group of friends and acquaintances I still think of as the high school journalism gang.

The Write Stuff

Neither K nor Belle have ever brought home (or even mentioned, sans my prompting) their high school’s newspaper. They both know I’d written for my school paper. [8]  They know it was a “real” newspaper, with separate pages (and editors and reporters) devoted to news stories, editorial/opinion pieces, entertainment/feature and sports writing. They know that when The Generator, Santa Ana High School’s award-winning biweekly newspaper, was distributed in the school’s classrooms, the teachers and students stopped what they were doing and read it, cover to cover.  They know that students’ parents also read the high school newspaper, and that The Generator ran stories with enough substance to garner parental interest… and complaints.

(“I can’t believe what your reporter/ smart aleck columnist ____ wrote about! That’s no subject fit for a high school newspaper!”) [9]

1975GEN

They know all of this because of the stories I’d told them.  And they could not bear to disappoint me when it came to their own school’s pitiful excuse for fishwrap newspaper.

Son K, ever the diplomat, laid it out for me after my third or fourth Why-don’t-you-ever-bring-your-school-newspaper-home? whine petition.

Mom, our school’s newspaper sucks.  It’s embarrassing…nothing in it but rah-rah stories…no one reads it and no one cares.”

Student newspaper fail.

Student newspaper fail.

*   *   *

Think back to your high school history, chemistry, English or PE classes:  how many of those classmates went on to become historians or chemists or English teachers or professional athletes?  It still amazes me to think of how many of my peers who wrote for The Generator went on to pursue careers in journalism in one form or another:

* Scott Harris, former Los Angeles Times and San Jose Mercury reporter/columnist, Scott is currently one of “The Expat Files” contributors, living in/freelancing from Hanoi;

* Janis Carr, longtime Orange County Register sportswriter;

* Tim Ferguson, – Wall St. Journal reporter and current Forbes editor;

* Victor Cota, reporter for the Orange County Register [10]

* Phil Blauer, So-Cal area news anchor;

* Deborah Franklin, “my” editor, [11] whom I greatly admire for finding a way to combine her two loves, science and journalism.  Instead of (as the dubious voices advised) dumping one to concentrate on the other, Franklin became a science and medical reporter. Her works appear in a variety of venues, from VIA to NPR to Scientific American.

…and oodles of others I’m probably forgetting.

Three of those previously mentioned: Back row: the striped shirt and boyish-grin belong to Tim Ferguson; front row: L, Pete get-a-load-of-that-1974-hair Hecht; R Scott Harris, who was engaged in a campaign to get me to leave student government ("The BOC") and join The Generator staff, which almost excuses explains his scribbled commentary; second from R, Janis Carr.

Three of those previously mentioned: Back row: the striped shirt and boyish-grin belong to Tim Ferguson; front row: L, Pete get-a-load-of-that-1974-hair Hecht; R Scott Harris, who was engaged in a campaign to get me to leave student government (“The BOC”) and join The Generator staff, which almost excuses his scribbled commentary; second from R, Janis Carr.

 

I wonder if any (or all) of them knew for certain, way back then, what they wanted to be when they grew up?  I also wonder if any of them, like moiself, keep wondering when the reality of being “grown up” will hit in a way that feels like something other than a breaking news flash.

Anyway, apologies for the digressions: I am giving Weedland my highest (sorry) endorsement: it’s so good you don’t even have to be stoned to enjoy it. [12]

*   *   *

The Tattooed Lady

Dateline: Monday morning. I accompanied Belle to her appointment to get her first [13] tattoo.  A picture of her “body art” will grace this blog when the tat is fully healed and ready for unveiling.

“How is my dear sister planning on breaking the news to her grandparents?” K wondered to me, during our most recent phone call. [14] No, those were not his exact words. (“Dear sister” is not in his vocabulary – just in my dreams).

Belle’s tattoo is in such a vicinity – below her neck and between her scapulae – that, depending on what she is wearing, its existence will not be noticed by most people.  I told Belle that when it comes to dealing with TRASH (Tattoo Revilers and Serious Haters), she might consider using the tried & true, it could be worse method of notification:

“I’m a valedictorian, graduating with National Honor Society, Presidential Education &Chancellor’s diploma awards; I’ve been accepted to the college of my choice, with a prestigious$ Tru$tee ScholarShip!  And oh, guess what?  I got a tattoo.”

 UGLY TAT

 “Don’t worry, it wasn’t this one.”

  *   *   *

“I want a tattoo over my heart that reads TRY HARDER YOU LAZY PARAMEDIC SHITBAG OR I WILL HAUNT YOUR BEDROOM FOREVER.”
Warren Ellis, British comic/graphic novelist

 

May your body art make everyone try harder, and may the hijinks ensue. [15]

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] But never from MH, nor moiself.

[2] There’s an app to counter that (Amway aspirations).  Or, there should be.

[3] Keaton worked at several of my childhood haunts, including the now defunct Newberry’s five-and-dime store!  In the now defunct Honer Plaza!

[4] Okay; twelve years equals way, eh?

[5] Author Dale Maharidge.

[6] Not, as in (yawn) not even remotely interested in the subject.  Or so I thought….

[7] And I’m glad that knowing Pete made me get Weedland (which is quite the absorbing read), a book I probably wouldn’t have given a second look had I not known the author.

[8] Primarily Parnal Knowledge, my regular op-ed column, plus miscellaneous reporting.

[9] The Generator’s faculty advisor (English teacher Ted Clucas, during my TG days), was never happier than when he’d received a parental complaint.  “It proves they’re paying attention – you made somebody think about something!”

[10] I lost touch with Victor; last I heard he was no longer in journalism.

[11] Franklin, The Generator’s Editor-in Chief my senior year, displayed support and discretion above and beyond the call of journalistic duty by allowing me free (mostly) range in writing my op-ed column, Parnal Knowledge.

[12] Which is more than I can say for a Grateful Dead concert.  Or album.  Or 30 second song excerpt.  Or….

[13] And hopefully last, as per the sentiments of her father, grandparents, brother….

[14] MH’s parents will be flying out from Florida next week, for a week-plus visit, to attend Belle’s graduation.

[15] And really, fifteen footnotes in one post?  Is this a record, for me?

 

The Advice Column I’m Not Writing

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 The potters are here!  The potters are here!

The Oregon Potters Association is holding its annual Ceramic Showcase this weekend.  Today and Saturday and Sunday, the nation’s largest show of handmade ceramic art is on display (and for sale), as over 170 Oregon and Washington artists take over the main exhibition hall of the Oregon Convention Center. Free admission!

Horsley teapot

Teapot by Patrick Horsley

If your head is spinning like a potter’s wheel after a few hours of viewing the coolest teapots on the planet, take a break and check out the neighboring exhibition halls, where more than 200 Oregon artists will display their one-of-a-kind artwork, handmade from metal, beads, glass, wood & hand-woven fabrics.  The Creative Metal Arts Guild, Oregon Glass Guild, Guild of Oregon Woodworkers, Portland Bead Society and the Portland Handweavers Guild have joined forces to present this show, which they refer to as…wait for it… A Gathering of the Guilds.

 but a sampling from my Wall of Faces, many purchased at OPA conventions

but a sampling from my Wall of Faces, many of which were purchased at OPA conventions

This is year 32 for the OPA showcase. I’ve attended this event for at least twenty years, usually accompanied by friends who are also pottery and art admirers and collectors (and even artists themselves). [1]  After years of attending, I’ve no excuse (read: room in the house) for further pottery purchases, be they utilitarian or ornamental.  Or so I thought, until a fortuitous tragic event in December, when a longtime member of the Wall of Faces (only partially pictured above) committed suicide, as it were. [2] And now, there is room for one more.

Chickenface

And there was much rejoicing. 

 *   *   *

Complesults and Insulments.

You’ve probably been on the receiving (or spewing) end at least once, even if you aren’t familiar with these terms, which I (think) am just-right-now making up.  A complesult or an insulment is a sly statement that allows an ostensibly positive remark to cover a dis. Think of disparagement masquerading as praise. Or, an insult disguised as a compliment – sound familiar now?

HISS

 “I can see why you like Carol Burnet’s TV show; she proves that a funny girl can be successful even if she’s not pretty.”

I received that lovely bouquet from a grade school rival.  The other 6th graders standing in the tetherball line didn’t seem to get it, but I sure did.  Hsssssssssss.

And now, I’d like to hear yours.  Uh—not about moiself, thank you.  But, if you’re up to sharing, what are some of the most memorable complesults and zingiest insulments you’ve received?  Or delivered – ‘fess up and don’t worry; I’ll assume the targets were worthy. Judgment shall be withheld.

*   *   *

More From The Department of Withholding Judgment

Earlier this week I received an email from Scarletta Press, the publisher of The Mighty Quinn, notifying their authors that Scarletta’s director of publicity has resigned.  Further communication will reveal who will fill the vacancy.  I’m hoping for someone interested in doing…well…consistent and vigorous promotion.

*   *   *

 A Day Late and a Dollar Short [3]

Ever had a great idea, only to find out someone else – in fact, several someone elses – beat you to it?

Me neither.  Until I toyed with the idea of starting an advice column.

 Please give me some good advice in your next letter. I promise not to follow it.
 (Edna St. Vincent Millay, American poet)

I had the column’s title, format (via another blog, at first) and rationalization raison d’être for the project.  My niche was to be advice in various areas – from personal and professional quandaries to matters of protocol – from and for Brights, Humanists, Atheists, Agnostics, Freethinkers. The religion-free consistently encounter a plethora of WTF? situations, as we navigate a society that bestows privileges and even positive attributes upon religious believers.

I even had some topics in mind, for how I would organize the issues, including:

* Fun with Fundamentalists

* Are those your holy scriptures in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? (dealing with proselytizers)

*  Say What? (how to respectfully but firmly deal with family/friends/neighbors/co-workers who pressure you to participate in their overtly religious rites and ceremonies)….

Oh, what fun.  Oh, what the (mythical realm of eternal torment) was I thinking?  It’s already being done.

facepalm

The Humanist magazine, to which I’ve recently subscribed, is doing it (in their colun, “The Ethical Dilemma”) , as is the Freedom From Religion Foundation,via a relatively recent addition [4] to Freethought Today, their monthly newsletter…which I would have known had I more carefully read the journals’ recent issues instead of passing them on to my son and other interested parties, oy vey.

Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.
(Erica Jong, American author)

And so it goes.  Stay tuned for more info on this project.  Or, less. Until then, my advice to you is to let the hijinks ensue.

 Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] Why aren’t there any footnotes, you may be asking?

[2] Apropos of nothing, it dove (or so it seemed) from its perch on the wall and plummeted to the tile floor.

[3] Yeah, that also has already been done.  Or, said.

[4] Something along the lines of “Ask a Freethinker.”

The Saudis I’m Not (yet) Terrorizing

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It’s been a while since I’ve undocked my laptop from the mother ship and taken it to a coffee shop.  I don’t need the caffeine but I will need the wifi in order to post this.  Our landline/modem are down (as well as my cell phone’s voicemail, a glitch that has no technical relation to the former problems, but it all happened at once, all of a sudden and apropos of nothing, so WTF?).

When informed about my various technical/communications snafus, perspicacious friend SCM asked, “What have you done to piss off the NSA?”

*   *   *

The Grammar cop is always on her beat.

Tuesday’s New York Times featured a cover story about labor and safety demands made by Nepalese Sherpas in light of the Mt. Everest avalanche tragedy.  The Grammar Cop is issuing a warrant for the arrest of the mountaineering company owner who was quoted in the story.  The charge: illegal (yet admittedly impressive) usage of two torpid terms [1] in a row, thus creating an emphasis redundancy:

“The bottom line is, at the end of the day, if the Sherpas aren’t happy….”

 Remember, every time you make a typo, the errorists win.

Remember, every time you make a typo, the errorists win.

*   *   *

Hoping the Terrorists Win This One

 Saudi Arabia has issued a combination of royal decrees and legislation which, according to Human Rights Watch, will serve to criminalize virtually all dissent thought or expression, and which define terrorism as, “Calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based.”

Oh-so-disturbing, but oh-so-hardly surprising. Saudi Arabia has a dismal, to put it mildly, human rights record. [2]  Its inexorable oppression of women has been likened to gender apartheid, and – imagine this! – the Islamic monarchy remains one of the very few countries in the world not to accept the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Yo, King Abdulla and your misogynist, racist, Islamite religionist, Stone Age stooges: this Royal Turd Trophy is for you.

turd trophy

*   *   *

Dateline: San Francisco, mid-1980′s.  A friend and former college apartment mate, who’d moved to the East Coast to pursue his master’s degree, was back to The Coast for a visit, and arranged for us to meet up at the dive bar of his choice.

Much to the amusement (and sometimes, annoyance) of our other roommates, Yanny [3] and I liked nothing better than to chew the intellectual fat.  That night in SF we were in fine form, chomping far and wide, so to speak.  I can’t remember which one of us brought it up, but the night (and drinks) ended with us gnawing on this proposition: if you could be endowed with tremendous or fantastic abilities/features/talents in one area, what would you choose?  And which trait do you think would have the most impact upon your personal and professional life?

You can have genius intelligence – you could understand at a glance Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity and see where Max Plank should have tweaked his quantum theory.  Or, you have perfect pitch, can sight read music, possess a singing voice that causes Vladmir Putin to embrace kittens and weep with joy when he hears you belt out Time to Say Goodbye.  Or, your athletic ability is such that the decathlon isn’t enough of a challenge for you, and the International  Olympic Committee decides to add a fweptathalon (that would be the term for forty-one events, right?) to showcase your abilities.  Or….

I mentioned the obligatory caveat, that many historical figures deemed genius were not all that content with or successful in their personal lives. Then Yanny and I, almost simultaneously, brought up the idea that one extreme attribute, the one that involved the least amount of aptitude and/or effort, was also the one trait most likely to affect your life in a positive manner:  that of being good-looking.

The world is our oyster...whatever that means. 

The world is our oyster…whatever that means.

In various psychology and sociology classes we’d read about the “perks of pretty,” or what was sometimes called the “Beauty Effect.” [4]  Controlled studies show that, absent any behavioral or verbal cues, beautiful people are regarded to be more talented, kind, friendly, competent, honest and intelligent than their less attractive counterparts, and that “people go out of their way to help attractive people — of the same sex and opposite sex —because they want to be liked and accepted by good-looking people.”

Yanny and I, while hardly trolls, had long been aware of our place among the pulchritude-inally challenged.  We swapped the-entire-lecture-hall-snorted-with-duh-osity stories about the times our professors had brought up a Beauty Effect story. Say it ain’t so, prof – beautiful people have an advantage/get special treatment in this world? Stop the presses!  Alert the National Guard!

REALLY

I don’t recall either Yanny or moiself confessing, screw integrity, we’d take the beauty superpower. I also don’t recall ifI felt we’d lied about that.

*   *   *

This, of course, brings me to Julia Sweeney.

facepalm

Segue smackdown!

Sweeney is a comedian/screenwriter/actor/author/essayist/playwright – yes, she’s one of those multiple slash identity people.  Most folks know her as the creator and star of the “It’s Pat”  series of Saturday Night Live sketches.

I greatly admired Letting Go of God, Sweeney’s moving and amusing memoir (and subsequent theatrical monologue show & movie), in which she recounted her journey to letting go of Catholicism and taking hold of a “precarious, messy, cruel, and glorious,” natural worldview.  I’d heard her speak at two Freedom From Religion Foundation annual conventions, most recently during last year’s gathering, at the FFRF home base in Madison, WI.  Sweeney’s speech included an uproarious excerpt from what was to become her latest book, and I made a note to self:  get that one.

If It’s Not One Thing It’s Your Mother is that book.  It contains many interwoven stories, most of which revolve around how Sweeney adopted her daughter Mulan[5] from China, and how she met the man she would later marry via an email solicitation from her future husband’s gay brother.

One of my favorite chapters concerned Mulan’s school experiences.  A friend of Sweeney’s sent his three kids to the same upscale Santa Monica preschool Sweeney’s daughter briefly attended.  [6]  This friend provided Sweeney with a spot-on explanation of the abundance of Young, Beautiful and Thin Mothers ® at the school (in response to Sweeney’s astonishment at the spectacle– “It’s like a beauty pageant around here!”):

 A lot of women come to Hollywood because they are very beautiful…they come here because this is where you can really exploit your luck at being born gorgeous. Maybe they want to be actresses. Maybe the part of being an actress they like most is the part where people admire your beauty. Sometimes they make it in show business. Most, however, do not.

 Then, you have a lot of very successful men in Hollywood. Many of them were overlooked in high school. They have a deep psychological need to be with a knockout. This need is a gasoline that powers their desire to dominate. The women decide that their best bet is to marry these men and seal the deal by having a couple of kids. They’re like anyone assessing their prospects in the face of their declining value because they’re getting older. Can you blame them? It’s a smart move…And many of them do not work outside the home, and they have the time, and the desire, to hang out at the school, parading their beauty for all of us to enjoy.
(from Chapter Twenty-Two, “An Education,” If It’s Not one Thing It’s Your Mother)

I recommend the book for an entertaining read.  If you read it in public – say, during your commute or lunch hour – you will also provide entertainment for those around you.  You’ll laugh; you’ll cry; you’ll retch. The chapter on her daughter discovering the mechanics of sex courtesy of a frog project at school made for laughing-so-hard-I-cried reading.  As for the retching, that came from reading about Sweeney’s encounter at a playground, a few days after Sweeney and Mulan returned from a Hawaiian vacation. A Korean mother approached Sweeney and chided her for the robust tan Mulan had acquired:

“You know, we don’t let our kids get that dark…I mean she looks like she’s black,” the Korean mother said.  Making a disgusted face, she added, “A Korean mother would not let that happen.”

*    *   *

Simple Pleasures of Spring: the Return of (our) Blue Man Group

Blue Man group

Simple Pleasures of Spring, the Sequel

Walking home from lunch at a local Lebanese-Persian café, I got caught in a hailstorm.  I had my trusty rain hat on, but discovered that my favorite “water resistant” pants have apparently adopted the Borg mantra: Resistance is futile.

*   *   *

May all of your man groups be blue, may your resistance be effective, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1]  Torpid terms are vapid words and phrases used in place of vital ones (e.g. using “the bottom line” instead of conclusion, keynote, upshot, main point), as per the Thesaurus of alternatives to Worn-Out Words and Phrases

[2] I feel kinda dirty even using the words “Saudi Arabia’ and “human rights” in the same sentence.

[3] The etiology of his nickname comes from a long involved story about my implying that there was a Norwegian somewhere in his family’s allegedly exclusive Jewish woodpile…a story I cannot remember in its entirety, for which you should be grateful.

[4]Beautiful people get more of everything positive in life – from pay raises to social status and career and academic opportunities , and probably less crappy stuff, like mosquito bites and bedbug infestations and spam email….

[5] Yes, Mulan is her real/given Chinese name; she was not named after the Disney princess, as Sweeney will be explaining for life.

[6] Sweeney soon realized the school’s fancy, creepily opulent atmosphere was not for her, and enrolled Mulan in public schools.

The Woo I’m Not Speaking

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A blurb in the Sunday Oregonian‘s (3-30-14) arts section The Buzz claimed that James Patterson is the most “successful” author since January 2001 (my emphases):

“…which should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been to the beach or walked down the aisle of a plane.  Patterson, a former advertising executive…has successfully branded himself and started several new product lines with co-authors.” 

Patterson has branded himself.  Yikes.  And, ouch. 

BRAND

And he’s started “several new product lines.”  Literary integrity, schmegrity; Pulitzer, schmulitzer – it is every author’s dream, to have their own line of toiletries, kitchen cleaning supplies and/or energy drinks….

Well, no, it isn’t.  Or, at least, it didn’t used to be.  I have pissed and moaned about it decried this transformation before in these virtual pages, and will likely do so again, seeing as how, increasingly, fiction authors are advised or even expected to build “platforms” and establish recognizable “brands” – concepts once associated with shilling laundry detergent.

Oh, an elaboration/translation of the last term (“co-authors”), for those of you fortunate enough not to be able to recognize the literary shenanigans between the lines.  The reason there seem to be new “James Patterson” books out every four months is that James Patterson isn’t writing them.  He’s not the only “successful” author to go this way (yet another a dirty little secret in the best selling fiction world).  Patterson the newbie author did write his earlier works.  Now that he has established his genre and style and main/recurring character, and he comes up with an outline or premise for a new book (a 60 – 80 page “treatment,”) and those co-authors so casually mentioned?  They do the actual writing.

Co-authoring (a phenomenon akin to ghost writing ) will get you a work-for-hire-fee, while Patterson gets the credits and royalties. Occasionally co-authors get a cover credit [1](usually listed as “with” or “and “not “by”, as in Patterson’s latest credits, which feature his name prominently above the book’s title.

Not long after came across an article in a writer’s trade magazine about Patterson’s co-author arrangements, Patterson pledged to make a made a $1 million donation to independent bookstores around the country.  Nice move. So, now I have to grit my teeth and acknowledge that at least some of those trash royalties might be put to good use.

*   *   *

The connection explained.

PALTROWMARTINSeparated at birth?

Separated at birth?

A new phrase seems to have entered our ever-expanding lexicon.  By now some of the attention has died down, but last week you couldn’t swing a dead honey badger without hearing or reading about conscious uncoupling.

Don't swing me.

Don’t swing me.

Even diligent celebrity ignorers couldn’t hide from the torrent of talk show & social media quips re actor Gwyneth Paltrow’s and musician Chris Martin’s bemusing announcement, posted on Paltrow’s GOOP website under the heading, Conscious Uncoupling.

“It is with hearts full of sadness that we have decided to separate…. We have always conducted our relationship privately, and we hope that as we consciously uncouple and co-parent, we will be able to continue in the same manner.  Love, Gwyneth & Chris.”

A brief sidetrack:  more than one alert journalist has noticed that the vast majority of the scorn being heaped upon the producers of the prodigiously precious proclamation is falling upon Paltrow’s petite, porcelain shoulders:

 “…together for 12 years…by all evidence, equal partners in whatever was Project Paltrow-Martin…. Martin’s name and visage are attached to the “conscious uncoupling” letter.  And yet it’s Paltrow who’s received all the scorn for the admittedly deeply pretentious announcement, as she has throughout the pair’s marriage…. Why does every attempt to read into Paltrow and Martin’s marriage end with the takeaway that Paltrow is a villain and Martin a passive bystander?
(“Gwyneth Paltrow’s getting treated much worse than Chris Martin,” by Daniel D’Addario)

Once again, I digress.

Conscious uncoupling. The first time I heard the phrase it sounded, to my warped little mind, like the title for a course in the Zen School of Railroad Engineering. 

Now that we have mastered Mindful Milepost Marking, we graduate to Conscious Caboose Coupling.

Now that we have mastered Mindful Milepost Marking, we graduate to Conscious Caboose Coupling.

My theory re why the Paltrow-Martin announcement received such scornful attention is three-fold:

(1) conscious uncoupling is the epitome of “woo-speak;” it is an amalgam of New Agey lingo meets politico-nonspeak, that obscures what it purports to reveal  (“The cars we sell are not used, they’re pre-owned”).

(2) P-M’s use of such a WTF?! expression draws attention to the form of announcement itself, rather than the information contained therein, and the announcement goes on to insincerely (if unconsciously) ask for privacy.

(3) number three has indeed folded.  Two folds are plenty.

Anyway and thus, the punk & Gwyn & Chris connection:  The punk’s painfully, exhaustively detailed bodily, hair and sartorial mutilations and modifications, in essence, scream, “Look at me!  I’m special!  Everyone, pay attention to ME!  Then, of course, when attention is granted, surly punk snarls, “What are you looking at?”

Gwyn & Chris, darlings: if you really wanted to do this with the least amount of fuss, y’all could have said nothing, or, released a brief but straightforward statement: we’re separating and/or getting divorced, and ask for space and consideration for our family during this difficult time.

*   *   *

Speaking of woo

Dateline: Monday, March 30, ~ 4:50 am. I am awakened by a loud, WOO-WOO!  I bolt upright in the bed, my heart pounding, and nudge MH.  “Uh…are you okay?”

MH chuckles softly (apparently, his outburst also woke his own self up). “It’s okay.  It was a dream. I was trying to scare something away.”

Moiself:  “Well, you scared me.”

MH pauses for a sec before answering.  “Then I guess it worked.”

clowndream

*   *   *

Speaking of scary clowns….

Fred Phelps, vitriol-spewing head of the hate-mongering, gay-baiting, soldier-funeral-picketing Westboro Baptist Church, died March 19.  Let us pause for a moment of silence, or a chorus of Ding Dong the Witch is Dead. I’m pro-choice; I’ll leave it up to you.

VOLDEMORT

Ever since Phelp’s death I’ve noticed a higher than usual number of liberal-Christians-feel-good-about-themselves, rainbow-strewn, If you’re using the Bible to hurt other people you’re using it wrong” postings on Facebook.  The trouble with such a sentiment is that the people employing it are “using it wrong.”  The thing is, if you are using your bible, or any ancient “holy scripture,” as a life instruction manual, you will find plenty of commandments for believers to specifically hurt people.

The cruelties of the Old Testament [2] are sometimes acknowledged (and well known, at least by us happy heretics) but rarely cited by Christians.  When believers are confronted with scriptural depictions of their god’s barbarities, including but oh-so-not limited to…

☼  burning alive people who complain

☼   commanding the wholesale slaughter of a nation (kill all males and non-virgin females, but keep the virgin women for yourselves [3] )

☼   killing the new neighbors who have a different religion

☼   ordering the death sentence for a man who gathered firewood on the wrong day

☼   and also for children who curse their parents or are stubborn

☼   sending a bear to maul and kill youths who teased a follicularly-challenged prophet (they called him “baldy”) 

…their knee-jerk strategy is to claim that all those acts of mass and individual murder, rape and torture “don’t count,” because JC supposedly rejected the OT’s violent legacy. [4]

Cool story, bro.

BIBLEBEARS

However, Christianity’s own theology refutes this excuse.  The cornerstone of Christian belief, “the trinity,” avers that Jesus was/is god.  This means JC was/is also the OT god, that crotchety, short-tempered, “You kids get the hell off my lawn!” Yahweh – the same deity who ordered all those killings, the same credited author of the numerous, violent, repellent commands listed in the Torah (“the Law”).

In the New Testament scriptures, Jesus is quoted as strongly approving of the law and the prophets, and makes no exceptions for the absurdities and cruelties contained therein.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. [5]

The NT also has Jesus claiming that he has come to destroy families by making family members hate each other. JC claims he has come “not to send peace, but a sword;” and that those who don’t believe in him will be cast into a fire to be burned; and that we should fear a god who is willing and “able to destroy both soul and body in hell” and who has the power to kill us and then torture us forever in hell. Oh yeah, and JC had no quarrels with the idea of drowning everyone on earth in the flood, and says it’ll be just like that when he returns, and that people who disagree with his followers will suffer a fate worse than Sodom and Gomorrah. [6]

And since scripture itself claims Jesus is always in perfect agreement with the Father, [7] believers cannot claim that war, murder and cruelties were only divinely willed in OT times, as, once again, their pesky scriptures claim that their “god does not change.” [8]

Look.  I’m glad that (most) contemporary believers don’t take their “holy books” seriously – as in, applying what their scriptures literally say – which enables them to pick & choose from among the “nice stuff” (e.g., The Sermon on the Mount & the Beatitudes).

But Fred Phelps also was a believer who picked and chose. He chose from among the “icky stuff,” true, but the ickies were scriptural directives nonetheless.  And Phelps had plenty of biblical ammunition for determining what and whom his god hates.

*  *  *

 You can choose your friends and you can pick your nose,
but you can’t choose to pick your friend’s nose. [10]

Do you like my earring? I picked it myself.

Do you like my earring? I picked it myself.

*   *   *

Someday I’ll write my own version of the Beatitudes.  In homage to my childhood summers spent at the beach, I’ll title them The Beati-Dudes: timeless wisdom channeled via The Chosen Ones of Southern California. [11]

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, ’cause…dude?  No way, man, it sucks to be poor!”

Surf’s up.  It must be time for the hijinks to ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

 

[1] Or not, as with sci fi author Ron Goulart, co-author of “William Shatner’s” Tekwar series.

[2] A (rather condescending) Christian term for the books of the Hebrew Bible.

[3] read Numbers 31 for the heart-warming story of the Midianites.

[4] The typical theological justification is that Christians are to read the OT stories “through the lens” of the NT.

[5] Matt 5:17 – 19

[6] Matt. 10:34-36; John 15:6; Matt. 10:28; Luke 12:5; Matt. 24; Mark 6.

[7] John 10:30.

[8] Malachi 3:6; James 1:17.

[9] footnote  #9 is taking a break.

[10] Robyngwen 2:99.  I’m just sayin.’

[11] I mean of course, surfers.

The Mile-in-your-shoes I’m Not Walking

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Friday Follies: The Footnotes Edition

But first, random notes.

I never used to encounter people named Quinn, but since the publication of The Mighty Quinn I’ve come across several children with that incredibly awesome name.

Just sayin.’

*   *   *

Happy birthday to my younger sister.

BIRTHDAY

It was many years ago, Ruie, but I’m still sorry for the incident wherein my cat “presented” your hamster to us at the dinner table.

*   *   *

Because all the Best Book Names are Already Taken

I know nothing about the author, but how did he get into my mind and steal the title for my (as of yet unwritten) memoir?

This is the best book I’ve ever written, and it still sucks

*   *   *

 Because all the Classy Names For Publishers Are Already Taken

Children’s Brains Are Yummy (CBAY) Books is a legitimate, niche/genre (fantasy & sci fi for middle grand & YA readers) publisher located in Austin Texas. Their website defends their name choice as having nothing to do with cannibalism; rather, it is a tribute to the “delightful, extraordinary” minds of children:

“We think kids have yummy brains the same way
the stars of Sex and the City wore yummy shoes.”

 

Because nothing says yummy and sexually alluring like hammertoe cleavage.

Because nothing says yummy and sexually alluring like hammertoe cleavage.

CBAY’s comparison-as-defense is lost on mere mortals such as moiself, who think Sex and the City [1] style  torture devices shoes are yummy in the same way foot binding [2] is yummy.

"♫I'm sexy and I know it♫... but I can't stand up.

“♫ I’m sexy and I know it ♫…
but I can’t stand up.

*   *   *

I smell a theme rising.  Pass the odoreaters?

 If the shoe fits, quote it.

* You know you’re old when someone compliments you on your alligator shoes, and you’re barefoot.  (Phyllis Diller)

* These are my new shoes. They’re good shoes. They won’t make you rich like me, they won’t make you rebound like me, they definitely won’t make you handsome like me. They’ll only make you have shoes like me. That’s it.  (Charles Barkley)

* We women continue to swallow this line that it’s unladylike or even proof of being a lesbian if you wear flat shoes like Doc Martens. I’m prepared to put up with that accusation, because at least my feet aren’t killing me and I don’t look like a bandy ostrich. (Jo Brand)

Not Jo Brand's feet.

Not Jo Brand’s feet.

* Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?  (George Gobel)

* Women’s fashion is a subtle form of bondage. It’s men’s way of binding them. We put them in these tight, high-heeled shoes, we make them wear these tight clothes and we say they look sexy. But they’re actually tied up.  (David Duchovny [3])

* They went into my closets looking for skeletons, but thank God, all they found were shoes, beautiful shoes.  (Imelda Marcos)

The prestigious Jean Luc-Picard Face Palm of Distinction award goes to movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn, for his words of wisdom:

* I never put on a pair of shoes until I’ve worn them at least five years.

facepalm

Wishing you a week of comfortable shoes for your twinkle toes, and may the Happy Feet hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] How is in that a reference to Sex in the City is on my blog? This is wrong, so very wrong. I can’t tag it.

[2]  A centuries-long (and now outlawed) Chinese “beauty practice” involved beating and breaking girls’ feet and binding them to produce a gnarled, misshapen podiatric mess mass – and crippled walk and dependency – that upper-class (as in wealthy and powerful, not classy( Chinese men found erotic. Pictures of the practice are graphic and far from yummy.

[3] Apparently,  Fox Mulder’s porn-addicted portrayer is quite familiar with less subtle forms of bondage.

The Christians I’m Not Mingling

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Yet another reason Roger Ebert died too soon

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

SHARK

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

*   *   *

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

OHNO

Department of Really?

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

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

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

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

They changed the home page menu drop shadow?  Nyoooooooo!

They changed the home page menu drop shadow? Abomination!

*   *   *

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

Khhhhhhaaaaaan!

Khhhhhhaaaaaan!

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

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

Ahem.

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


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

[2] Boring Old Lady Beige.

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

[4] Hey! Those things work!

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

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

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

The Well I’m Not Meaning

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Happy 2014!

I hope the holidays brought you the new science oven of your dreams.

MICROWAVE

*   *   *

Miscellaneous observation on the human condition/New Year’s Resolution mash-up

I resolve never to mean well, nor to have a heart that induces others to bless it.

You know what I mean, even if you think you don’t.

During the after après-holiday dinner cleanup, you graciously but firmly refuse your notoriously ham-fisted aunt’s offer to dry the stemware.  Smiling and cracking wise, Auntie pushes you aside and grabs a dishtowel and within seconds there is the jaw-clenching jingle of shattering glass.  Your mother takes your elbow and steers you into the hallway, delivering her comment in a there-there voice, which is meant to assuage your distress at the fact that your aunt smashed your husband’s family heirloom, Waterford crystal champagne goblets, given to you as a wedding gift from your in-laws.

Oh, Aunt Erva – she means well.

Observation has led me to this point:  One must strive to never, ever, mean well.  Inevitably, whenever an anecdote is followed by “s/he meant well,” it was preceded by followed by the description of a boner of a comment and/or action by “s/he.”

I’ve noted a similar correlation with “bless his heart.”  Uncle Harry, bless his heart. This seemingly benign consecration/invocation [1]  is sometimes used when Uncle Harry has somehow fallen into misfortune (The doc told Harry the tumor metastasized to his lungs, bless his heart).  More commonly, it accessories a certain kind of description — one that never includes tales of competence and/or intelligence.  Rather, you are about to hear confirmation that Uncle Harry can’t find the play button on his remote control, so to speak.

images75JF20WH

Woe unto you if the two are ever put together – you may as well check yourself into the Loser Asylum.  If I’m ever on the receiving end of, Bless her heart, Robyn means well…., I will hesitate to gaze skyward lest I espy vultures circling.

*   *   *

Two Thumbs (both opposable) Up

Although I really, really wanted to edit it down to less than two hours, I nevertheless recommend seeing American Hustle.  Who would have thought an entertaining movie could come from the story of a forty year-old corruption sting? I assume the story of the ABSCAM  operation was made more cinema-worthy by the fabrication of a love triangle between an FBI agent and two informants – and also by copious boob shots of the female leads (insert director’s disco area clothing excuse). And ya gotta love a movie that has a side joke about how incredible microwaves (“the science oven”) seemed in the 1970s.  Plus, an all-around stellar cast. And mancurlers.

MANCURLERS

I’d raise my opposable big toes [2] if I had them for Saving Mr. Banks.  My movie-going friend LAH and I agreed that this is a movie we both are going to be processing for some time, for both personal and professional reasons. The story of author PL Travers‘ resistance to Walt Disney’s pursuit of the film rights to Mary Poppins is vastly entertaining in its own right, and also has several thought-provoking sub plots, including wrestling with how a person can succeed or fail at loving – and “saving” – their family.  If you had or have a loving and problematic relationship with your loving but deeply flawed father, this might be the movie for you…or, it might break your heart.

MP

For writers, the movie deals with the dilemma of selling (and selling out) your characters and stories, even as you grapple with the realization that your motivation for creating them in the first place might be far more complicated than you realize.

Special Bonus: SMB stars Emma Thompson, whom I want to be when I grow up.

Whaddya mean, I’m already grown up [3] and I’m not Emma Thompson [4]?

Emma Thompson

Emma Thompson

Not Emma Thompson

Not Emma Thompson

Happy effin’ New Year to you, too.  And may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Really, what is it?

[2] Which I do not possess despite sharing 96% of of my DNA with chimpanzees, thank you for your concern.

[3] Trust me, that assertion would not stand up in a court of law.

[4] Not only that, I’m two and a half years older than her, and yet she somehow became herself before I did. Damn!

The Resolutions I’m Not Breaking

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

festivus

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

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

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

 viewer-approved sidekick Olaf

viewer-approved sidekick Olaf

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

If they can see it, they can be it.”

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

XMAS

and New Year’s –

NYE

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

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

THELMA

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

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

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

*   *   *

But I digress.

On to a new segment I call

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

New Year’s and Resolutions Ruminations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 2014 I resolve to:

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


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

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

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

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

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

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

The 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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

*   *   *

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.

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