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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.

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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 Nothing I’m Not Buying

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

Crazy

[2]

 The Day After, aka the BLACK FRIDAY blog

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

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

BLACK FRIDAY PIX

*   *   *

It’s tomorrow; can I stop mentioning it?

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

*   *   *

TDAYjpg

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


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

[2] Thematicpictures.com

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

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

The Dispensers I’m Not Activating

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

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

SOAP

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

I have big dreams.  I am not ashamed.

*   *   *

Only 10 Days and I’ll Stop Mentioning It

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

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

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

HolidaySlider8

*   *   *

Coming Attractions 

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

Monkey bars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

Tday

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


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

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

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

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

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

[6] And I have tried.

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

The 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

*   *   *

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.

*   *   *

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 Catastrophe I’m Not Having

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The Fallout From Ten Years of Watching Grey’s Anatomy:

After escorting a friend to a PT appointment I boarded the hospital elevator, as did a Handsome Young Doctor ® .  One man, one woman, in one hospital elevator….?  For a moment, even as I noticed the really, really serious expression on HYD’s face – a look that made me realize he probably would not get the joke/reference – I considered flashing him a perky smile and saying, “So, aren’t we supposed to be having sex?”

*   *   *

Still more reasons to go on living…and quit writing? 

The first time I ever heard the word “content” used in its current context, I understood that all my artist friends and I — henceforth, “content providers” — were essentially extinct.  This contemptuous coinage is predicated on the assumption that it’s the delivery system that matters, relegating what used to be called “art” — writing, music, film, photography, illustration — to the status of filler, stuff to stick between banner ads.” 

“I’ve been trying to understand the mentality that leads people who wouldn’t ask a stranger to give them a keychain or a Twizzler to ask me to write them a thousand words for nothing.”
(Tim Kreider, “Slaves of the Internet, Unite!” NY Times op-ed)

 Like Kreider and many other writers, I’ve had “opportunities” presented to me, from media and other publishing outlets, wherein I could write articles, guest blog posts, even a regular op-ed/feature column.  Opportunities to work, without pay.  Sometimes these offers were presented via fellow writers, who should know better…and perhaps do… and perhaps inwardly cringed when they offered their bosses’ party line, which was, essentially, that being published in ____ (The Oregonian, The NY Times Review of Books, The Furrowed Eyebrow Literary Review) is an honor, and that such “exposure” is equivalent to compensation.

Such offers almost always begin with the Those Offering the Guest-Permanent Writing Gig telling you, the writer, how much they admire your work.  Although not enough, evidently, to pay one red cent for it.

FACEP

Like Kreider, I can’t help but marvel at the fact that people who would never ask their barber to give them a haircut for free or expect their market to provide them with a bag of groceries at no cost (“I’ll tell everyone these organic brown eggs are from New Seasons – it’ll be great exposure for your store!”) will, with a straight face and a clear conscience, ask authors and artists to write an essay/illustrate a brochure for them, for nothing.

(In his essay Krieder briefly and drolly compares his situation to that of his sister, a pulmonologist:  “as far as I know nobody ever asks her to perform a quick lobectomy — doesn’t have to be anything fancy, maybe just in her spare time, whatever she can do would be great — because it’ll help get her name out there.”)

And then there is Patricia J. Williams’ so-good-it’s depressing article, “Writing as Women’s Work” (The Nation).  Williams uses the case of zoologist and Scientific American blogger Dr. Danielle Lee, a busy scientist who politely declined an offer to do a guest blog gig for no remuneration, [1] to illuminate the situation of those of us who labor in disciplines that have been deprofessionalized and undervalued in the digital economy.  Although I shouldn’t be surprised by the phenomenon, until reading William’s article I didn’t know that writing is also falling victim to outsourcing (“…companies like Journatic, which supplies supposedly ‘local’ news coverage, have outsourced stories to nonlocal freelancers across the U.S., as well as in the Philippines, where writers are given ‘American-sounding bylines’ and asked to commit to 250 pieces/week minimum at 35 to 40 cents a piece.”).

In the year since I’ve started this blog I’ve no doubt  bellyached mentioned several times the fact that every week (and some weeks, every day), I consider the business end of writing fiction [2] and ask myself why I do what I do. And I come across these two wonderfully written – and likely poorly paid for [3]–  articles, and I feel…I don’t know how to describe how I feel.  Like the lyrics of that immortal C & W song: I don’t know whether to kill myself or go bowling.

The business end of writing

The business end of writing

********************

Public Service Announcement #1
And now, we pause for a moment to piss off the faithful
before returning to our regular programming.

Theology in a nutshell [4]

THEOLOGY

Public Service Announcement #2, aka
Law and Order, WPD [5]

 

A small but fervent request:  let’s all do our part to halt the creeping catastrophization of our language.  You can be upset about something, you can have your feelings genuinely and even painfully hurt, without being “destroyed” or “devastated.”

Definition of DEVASTATE

1 :  to bring to ruin or desolation by violent action
2:  to reduce to chaos, disorder, or helplessness

(The flood devastated the town; The disease has devastated the area’s oak tree population; The hurricane left the island completely devastated.)

You didn’t get the promotion, you flunked the [6] admissions test, you were snubbed by the in-crowd at the school or office cafeteria, maybe you even received an alarming medical diagnosis.  But were/are you devastated, or destroyed:

1.  Ruined completely; spoiled.
2.  Torn down or broken up; demolished.
3.  Done away with; ended.
4.  Killed.
5.  Subdued or defeated completely; crushed.
6.  Rendered useless or ineffective.

If I make an upsetting or dismissive remark to you, I may be acting rude, but you have not been bullied.  Your child’s exclusion from the neighborhood kid’s birthday party is hurtful, and the memory of being left out may affect him/her for some time, [7] and you, as a parent, were disappointed on behalf of your child, and maybe more than a little pissed off.  But really, was your child – were you – demolished or destroyed?

WOW

Stop the hyperbole, and reserve such catastrophic classifications for situations (The Rwandan Genocide, The Space Shuttle disasters, the LA Dodgers trading Pedro Martinez for Delino Shields)  that can truly and accurately be described in no other way.

*   *   *

I hope these PSAs have not annihilated your sense of your place in the cosmos, and that your hijinks will still ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] And was subsequently smeared by the blog editor (“Are you an urban scientist or an urban whore?”)

[2] And increasingly, nonfiction, as these cited articles illustrate.

[3] Kreider contributes to some of the most prestigious online publications in the English-speaking world, for which he is paid “the same amount as, if not less than, I was paid by my local alternative weekly when I sold my first piece of writing for print in 1989.”

[4] A fitting container.

[5] Word Police Division.

[6] No reason for this footnote. Move along folks, nothing here to see.

[7] Including, eventually/hopefully, in a positive way, as a catalyst to develop empathy for the socially excluded.

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