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The Seat Change I’m Not Accommodating

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A Mind is a Terrible Thing To Waste

The dream I had Wednesday night was, perhaps, a plausible consequence of having teased my brain with two very different reading materials earlier in the evening.  The first was Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys, the memoir of Viv Albertine, former guitarist of the seminal punk band, The Slits. The second was a foo-foo foodie blurb about varying key ingredients for a difference in thickness of vinaigrettes.  Hours later, I dreamed I was a musician in a punk tribute band, who did mostly Ramones and Sex Pistols covers. I was the bassist, and took the stage name Cyd Viscous.

Bitchin' name but you spell it like a wanker.

Bitchin’ gob name, but you spell it like a wanker.

*   *   *

Return of the CSA [1]

The produce is here! The produce is here! Yesterday was first weekly pickup of our CSA’s season, which, depending on weather and other farmy  [2] factors, runs ~ mid-to-late April through October.

I loooooooooooooooove going out to La Finquita del Bujo (“The little farm of the owl”), in the scenic Helvetia farmland just north of where I live.

Physician-farmer Lynn (Left) and farmer Juvencio (right)

Physician-farmer Lynn (Left) and farmer Juvencio (right)

I get a feeling of indescribable…tranquility comes closest, when I visit the farm, to load my basket with fresh/seasonal/local produce (I’ve missed having access to Chinese broccoli, which is rarely found in stores), count the farm goats’ kids and try to spot the swallow’s nests in the barn rafters.

Yummers – lots of green for dinner tonight.

greens

*   *   *

Enough with the waxing bucolic. This is my blog, after all. Must be time to complain about something.

Department of Hormonal Ranting

You may have stepped in this pile of festering oral turd spew run across the story in several news venues. It seems that Texas businesswoman Cheryl Rios, CEO of a Dallas PR firm – the aptly named Go Ape Marketing –  said that although she supports “equal rights,” a woman “shouldn’t be president” because of “different hormones” and “biblical sound reasoning.”

facepalm

BBBRRRRRRRAAAAAAAA. I’m sorry, Tex-Ass CEO, but that buzzer means you’ve forfeited your chance to play in the Double Jeopardy round.

Women and men do *not* have different hormones – although the ones affecting this particular woman’s neuromodulators need some tweaking, as her asshat statements indicate. On the other hand, you have different fingers, in the case of most of the blather involving the word hormones, it is likely that she is simply ignorant, rather than willfully sexist.

Hormone, schmormone. Let’s all take The Hormone Pledge ®  and stop using the term as a catch-all, mysterious gender chemical label – because it isn’t. People who say “hormones” affect behavior are likely referring to (what they think are the) “sex” hormones, and totally forgetting the incredible assortment of the body’s most powerful behavior regulating hormones (e.g., leptin, one of the key regulators of appetite) – that, like the majority hormones, have nothing to do with gender.

A hormone is, in simple terms, a chemical messenger produced by human organs and tissues that is used for sending signals to other organs and tissues, to coordinate the body’s activities. The vast majority of hormones (and there almost one hundred) are involved in regulating digestion, metabolism, respiration, tissue function, sensory perception, sleep, stress, growth and development, ambulation….you know, * everything.* All hormones are found in both men and women, in amounts that vary only slightly between genders in the case of estrogens (mistakenly referred to as “female” hormones – men also have estrogen) and androgens (mistakenly called “male” hormones – females also have androgens).

Back to the story, hormonally balanced boys and girls.  As per the Huffington Post‘s account, Ms. Rios the Texas CEO (which in her case must stand for Christian Empty-headed Organism)  made a Facebook post in which she “…stressed that ‘there’s an old biblical sound reasoning why a woman shouldn’t be president.’ ” But, golly gee whizzing snakes in a garden, she didn’t cite any biblical verses to support her view.

As for her – or anyone – citing “biblical reasoning” to justify anything – by now y’all are aware on my opinions on that matter.  Ain’t enough hormones on the planet to explain that Go Ape Shit.

tapeshit

*   *   *

Preview of Coming Attractions

Mark your calendars, local book lovers: A week from this Saturday, on April 25, the Beaverton City Library will hold a book fair featuring local (Washington & Multnomah county) authors.

2015 Author Fair

The event, ingeniously titled Author! Author!, is free, open to the unwashed lit-loving public who, from 10a – 1p may browse and (hopefully) purchase selected titles of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and children’s literature penned by local authors, as well as rub shoulders [3] with authors and fellow bookworms.

Yours truly will be there, with copies of The Mighty Quinn, and also my short fiction collection, This Here and Now . [4]  Do stop by, if you can, to say howdy, browse the titles, and maybe bring me some celery sticks.

TMQcover4x6THAN Cover OWC

*   *   *

Department of Are We (Still) Having Fun Yet?

Recently there have been several articles, in the New York Times and other news outlets, about how flights to and from the Tel Aviv airport [5] have experienced delays and disruptions when ultra-Orthodox Jewish men refuse to be seated next to women.

Andrew Roffe, 31, a writer based in Los Angeles, said he and a friend wound up debating the ethics of the situation after Mr. Roffe described his experience on a flight….. When passengers started to board, an ultra-Orthodox man stood in the aisle, refusing to move and delaying the departure for 15 to 20 minutes until another passenger volunteered to switch seats.
“My buddy who is Orthodox was saying this is a traditional thing — he doesn’t want to be tempted when his wife wasn’t there. And I said, ‘Are you kidding?’ This was just some woman flying to work or home and minding her own business.”
(When a Plane Seat Next to a Woman Is Against Orthodox Faith, NY Times, 4-9-15)

cooties

In many of these incidences, airlines and/or passengers have tried to accommodate the Orthodox ortho-assholes’ men’s demands, a fact that is almost as infuriating to me as the idiocy of the demands themselves. Such “tolerance” is in fact abetting ignorance, discrimination and bigotry – don’t do it, folks. Would you accommodate a demand from a member of Christian Identity, or one of the other religious groups that believe in the separation of “the races,” if he refused to be seated next to an African or Latino or Asian man?

A flight from New York to Tel Aviv was delayed by half an hour last week after a group of male ultra-Orthodox Jewish passengers refused to sit next to women, the third such incident in recent months….The cabin crew tried to find seats for the men, but were met with refusal by other passengers, some of whom who took a dim view of the reasoning behind the request.
(“Groups of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men keep delaying flights by refusing to sit next to women,” The Independent, 4-16-15 my emphases)

A dim view, ahem.  Once again, I ponder the dimmest of views that the backward thinking which produces the shrouding of women, both literally and metaphorically begets. Religions and cultures which preach restrictions for women, and for men’s contact with women, almost always cloak (yuk yuk) or justify such restrictions about women as being a protection for women; specifically, to preserve women’s modesty and/or privacy, to prevent them from being considered sex objects, to shield them from the less than gracious gaze of the menfolk, yada yada yucka.

Aside from the fact that religions which forbid or severely restrict intra-gender contact outside of marriage [6] are JUST PLAIN MYSOGYNIST and severely fucked up, the restrictions (for both men and women) end up doing the opposite of what the proponents of them say they do. Restrictions and proscriptions for women deeply and relentlessly sexualize women.

Limiting women’s physical presence in/access to public society and limiting inter-gender contact combined with shrouding the female form – these practices practically scream to men, LOOK, IT’S A WOMAN !!  Males raised in societies where they have little or no contact with unrelated females learn a warped, circular, paradoxical social dynamic – ’tis a  Catch-22 situation that reinforces the dangerous nonsense they are taught. They don’t get to know girls and women as people, but as The Other. This mysterious, dangerous, Other’s mere presence will tempt them to stray from whatever path they’ve been taught they must follow…and yet, they must desire this Other, as per Allah’s/Yahweh’s plan for family and procreation. Since the men in such societies don’t get to know women as friends, mere acquaintances or co-workers, women are either relatives or potential mates – potential seductresses! – who therefore must be cloistered and….round and round and round again.

burqua

Although there is nothing arguably or intrinsically private or provocative about a human being’s elbow, human nature being what it is, if you are indoctrinated with the idea that catching even a glimpse of a woman’s uncovered  ____ (hair, feet, elbows, nostrils) is provocative, then it will become that forbidden fruit.  I saw her suggestively wrinkled arm joint and  felt a pang of lust – it must be true — praise Yahweh/Allah/Fox News and get that hussy away from me! [7]

I keep thinking about the Orthodox man on the airplane, who said he didn’t want to be “tempted” by sitting next to a woman. [8] Poor schmuck. The average American man boarding a crowded plane is not thinking about avoiding temptation when he is seated next to the average American woman. Yo, Ortho dude, here is what normal, rational people think about on airplanes: they wonder how long/late the flight will be and what will happen to their luggage, and will their rental car reservations be messed up like the last time they flew to Cleveland. They are hoping the human beings seated on either side of them are not Amway distributors looking for new recruits or the type of people who chow down three garlic sauerkraut chili dogs from the airport’s Baby Got Brat kiosk before boarding a six-hour nonstop flight.

♫ I like big brats and I cannot lie... ♫

♫ I like big brats & I cannot lie…♫

 

*   *   *

 

May all of your fellow travelers in life be healthfully-hormoned, and superstition- and sauerkraut–free, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] You knew that was Community Supported Agriculture and not Confederate States of America, didn’t you?

[2] Sorry to get all agricultural-technical on you, and in only the second paragraph.

[3] And elbows or other non-sexual body parts, which still may be threatening to Ultra-Orthodox Jews (story to follow).

[4] Which is out of print – RIP, Scrivenery Press – and may only be obtained from the author herself, ahem.

[5] And, more and more, other destinations, as the high-birthrate Orthodox population increases, and encounters the rational – i.e. non-Orthodox – world.

[6] e.g. most strains of Islam, Hasidic and other varieties of Ultra-Orthodox Judaism.

[7] Although I’m singling out conservative Jews and Muslims here, I hold the same contempt for conservative Christians’ Purity Movement and similar organizations, which over-emphasize and warp human sexuality via their obsessive teachings on “sexual purity” (shudder).

[8] Time to tempt SCM with another footnote to nowhere. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

The Skills I’m Not Listing

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A Harbinger of Spring: The Return of Blue Man Group

This year our boys are sporting primroses.

BMG

*   *   *

Happy belated birthday to comic actor, author, playwright, composer and founding Monty Python  member Eric Idle.

Idle shares a birthday with my mother-in-law (March 29); they both like to sing…and there is where the similarities begin and end.  While my MIL is a devoted Lutheran, Idle composed many of the Python songs and other naughty bits that crack wise at religion.

Idletwit

Idle, as Vivian Smith-Smythe-Smith, contestant for Upperclass Twit of the Year.

As per his own worldview, Idle has described himself, as in this piece he wrote for the Los Angeles Times, as an Alzheimer’s agnostic.

“I am an Alzheimer’s agnostic: I can’t remember whether I don’t believe in anything or not.
“However I do believe religions are the cause of most of the problems in the world today and there should be a moratorium on the use of the G-word. I think it should be replaced by something less controversial that we can all agree on. Like Chocolate.

“I can quite happily confess that I believe in Chocolate without upsetting anyone. No one ever killed anyone else over Chocolate. (All right, outside of Beverly Hills.) ‘One Nation under Chocolate’ is surely something we can all get behind. But I suppose, like all my ideas, it will be dismissed as just too silly.”

In Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life,  Idle’s Oh Lord Please Don’t Burn Us caps a skit illustrating the absurdity of religious worship.

Idle satirically illustrates the  logical consequence/conundrum for those who believe in a creator god – a deity they credit for “All Things Bright and Beautiful” but who somehow gets no responsibility for the parts of creation that are a bit dicey – with his Anglican hymn parody, All Things Dull and Ugly.

All things dull and ugly,
All creatures short and squat,
All things rude and nasty,
The Lord God made the lot…. 

All things scabbed and ulcerous
All pox both great and small
Putrid, foul and gangrenous
The Lord God made them all….[1]

ERICIDLE

*   *   *

Happy Trails to You

Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve bid a fond farewell to one of their greatest assets this week, when Sarah Pinnock retired from her position as Wetlands Education Specialist. MH and I have had the privilege of Sarah’s acquaintance for many years. We first met her when we were hiking around the preserve one day, many years ago. Sarah pointed out to us the nesting tree of the JBW Preserve’s resident pair of bald eagles, and showed us bobcat scat on one of the trails and other points of interest.

K graduates in May with a B.S. in Micro and Cellular Biology, and Belle will likely declare her major in Biochemistry or Biology. I attribute my offspring’s interest in the biological sciences in good part to Sarah’s enthusiastic mentoring. She led a series of nature/wildlife biology-themed camps at the preserve, several of which K and Belle attended. My kids adore and admire her, as do MH and I. There aren’t many people who can nurture or appreciate your children’s passion for dissecting owl pellets as well as Sarah.

She has the skill of making the phases of the natural world – from the life cycle of a vole to the water cycle of a wetland – interesting and accessible to adults and children alike. The naturalist who will succeed Sarah Pinnock at JBWP will have some big shoes – knee-high mud boots, actually – to fill.

Sarah Pinnock

*   *   *

Speaking of the natural world…

Spring Language Lexicon
Chapter 32: Doot-Doot vs. Deet-Deet

Doot-Doot: the thin cardboard cylinder around which a roll of toilet paper is wrapped and which, when stripped of all toilet paper, may be raised to the mouth of a human being so as to facilitate that human’s pretense of playing a trumpet or similar wind instrument. [2]

Doot-doot

Doot-doot

Deet-Deet: Any of the small, long-legged, narrow-billed shorebirds (e.g. sandpipers, oyster catchers, plovers) which dart to and fro, chasing outgoing waves and in turn being chased by incoming waves, their rapid gait making the deet-deet-deet-deet-deet sound (to discerning ears).

Deet-Deets getting ready to deet-deet-deet-deet.

Deet-Deets getting ready to deet-deet-deet-deet.

Now you know.

*   *   *

Wednesday was my first of what I hope will be a regular gig of volunteer shifts at the Bonnie Hayes Animal Shelter.  I’m happy to return to serving an animal adoption/rescue organization, after a break from 5+ years volunteering, along with Belle, at one of the C.A.T. humane organization’s outreach centers.

I’ve been searching for “suitable” [3] volunteer opportunities, and have noted a similarity in the animal shelter’s and other organizations’ volunteer application forms. At some point in the form after you’ve provided information relevant to the volunteer position, there is a section where you are asked to list interests, hobbies and other skills. Which strikes me as something you’d find on a dating profile.

profile

The trouble with volunteerism is that nonprofits offer plenty of “opportunities” to take on what are essentially jobs – “real” jobs – without being paid.  One example out of many: with my background working for both Planned Parenthood and a private OB/GYN practice, I thought about volunteering for a reproductive health clinic…until I researched volunteer positions available at the local Planned Parenthoods. Most of the descriptions made me think, Volunteer-schmolunteer –the scope and depth of responsibilities and duties – this is a job. Someone needs to get paid to do those things (like I used to).

I’ve had enough of that – of being expected to work without pay – as a writer.  Along those lines, I left blank the interests, hobbies and other skills section of the BHAS application. I did not list my writing skills; experience has taught me what will happen with that. I don’t want to haul out my good-natured-but-firm-smiling-through-gritted-teeth-turndown/explanation: that I do not work for free (nor do I think anyone should).

Yes, I understand that nonprofits need volunteers to thrive, or even survive.  But volunteerism comes at a high cost to women, who, as NPOs from art museums to educational tutoring programs to animal shelters will tell you, constitute the backbone of the volunteer force. The fact that women are often paid less than men for doing the same job (even in “traditionally female” occupations, for FFS!! [4] ), the fact that women are more hesitant/less adept than men when it comes to bargaining for salary raises – these inequalities are directly linked, I believe, to another frustrating fact:  both boys and girls grow up seeing women doing work – from managing a house/raising children to volunteering in key positions in their school/church/community – without being financially compensated for their work. [5]

volunteer

So.

I’ll gladly sanitize cat kennels and paint my children’s classroom walls, for free.[6] I will not write your organization’s press releases or grant proposals or edit your newsletter for zip.

*   *   *

My Son, the Micro Aggressor
Aka, This Is How We Lose The Support Of Good People

One of the things that makes me the most proud (or relieved) about my children is that they’ve turned out to be Good People ® . MH and I tried to instill in and model for them the value of applying compassion and reason to all areas of life, including political and social discourse. K and Belle try to think logically, to give people the benefit of the doubt, and look to the natural world for rational explanations of phenomena. Thus, it is no surprise that they support “the good fights” – LGBT rights, civil rights, women’s rights – you know, human rights.

We’ve also tried to teach them, by both example and “decree,” to never assume malice on the part of another person who makes a patently false or absurd statement (or simply a statement with which you disagree) when ignorance or simple difference of opinion would suffice for motive.

Most importantly, we advised them to question everything, even and especially the party line spouted by those whose positions you support.  Errant or exaggerated statements and inappropriate assumptions are to be found errant or exaggerated and inappropriate on their own merits, regardless of the desirable politics or good intentions behind them.

No surprise that both K and Belle have intermittently run into slobbering opposition (read:¨PC attacks and name-calling) when they have questioned some blanket/misleading statements having to do with The Oppressed vs. The Oppressors © .

shout

K had some “interesting” discussions in a Gender and Society [7] class he took at college last year, and I was both bemused and frustrated on his behalf when he recounted the incidents to me.  Stand-up guy that K is, he’s sometimes gotten involved in what he advised me you must never do, Mom, when it comes to online discussions, [8] and I’ve enjoyed being able to tease him about it (You stepped right in that pile, didn’t you?). But his missteps are understandable. For example, he is studying chemistry and biochemistry and organic chemistry, and when he runs across some blatantly whackadoodle statement about the “chemical reactions” that “prove the toxicity” of fluoridated water, he just can’t help but wade in and offer a factual correction. And the fun ensues.

Delusional thinking, by definition, cannot be reasoned with…and yet silence implies acquiescence. You simply can’t reason with some people, and yet you must try [9]  – I hold these seemingly contradictory opinions, a fact K and I have discussed, many, many times. You must learn to choose your battles; you must also learn when the best choice is to say, Cool story, bro, and walk away.

As one wise woman put it,

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time, and it annoys the pig.

For the hundredth time, Wilbur, there's no falsetto in the chorus.

For the hundredth time, Wilbur, there’s no falsetto in the chorus.

Department of Teaching Pigs to Sing

Yesterday K entertained me by relaying the following pig-singing-lesson discussion he waded into, when he commented to a post on FB. [10]

The post began with this excerpt:

“Many white women have said to me, ‘We wanted black women and non-white women to join the movement,’ totally unaware of their perception that they somehow ‘own’ the movement, that they are the ‘hosts’ inviting us as ‘guests.’ “
 – bell hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin To Center

K: OR maybe they said that because they felt like nonwhite women were not represented by the movement and there were few (nonwhite women that were) a part of it.
Why do people always assume malice behind people’s actions and words? It’s foolish to read into things that damn much.

PDQ [11]: ^^^^ Can somebody please deal with this I can’t

REALLY

Yes, PDQ, go lie down with a cold compress on your forehead until you can deal with it.  OR, FFS, why bother to respond if all you’ve got is the vapors to offer? OR, FFFFFFS, put on your adult undergarments and deal with it.

Excusez-moi. Back to the transcript. Frail, unable-to-deal-with-it PDQ called upon someone else to respond (I’ll call her SAP), which SAP did.

SAP: 1. Nobody asked you. 2. ______(SAP provided a link to a HufffPo article on the “white savior complex”).

Then there was a lengthy comment by another person, “NAH,” on a tangential topic. K stayed on track, ignoring NAH and responding to SAP.

K: SAP, 1. If you post something publicly about a political topic, you are inviting responses. 2. You seem to think I’m saying that I don’t think this savoir complex exists. That’s not what I’m saying. What I said was that people seem to, tend to, read malice or otherwise hostile intent into quotes, like the one posted.

 NAH: Yeah. Oppressed people tend to be sensitive to the reasonably invisible micro aggressions that reinforce their mistreatment and widespread marginalization. No Shit.

(end of transcript)

facepalm

Reasonably Invisible Micro Aggressions. Yikes.

As an an uppity woman from the get-go, I’d love to terrify Pat Robertson by leaving my husband to practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and go lesbo, [12] but it’s late and I’ve yet to brush my teeth.  BTW, I cut my feminist teeth on the works of Gloria Steinem, bell hooks, Robin Morgan, Audre Lorde, Kate Millett, Betty Friedan, Alice Walker et al, and I embrace the descriptive legitimacy of the concept of both white and male “privilege.” Reasonably Invisible Micro Aggressions? Never heard of ’em. I feel so…un-PC hip.

That term had my non-thong underwear knotted with laughter. My first thought was, What in the name of Susan B. Anthony are micro aggressions? And if they’re invisible, how can you tell if they’re micro or macro? And WTF is “reasonably” doing in that phrase?

My message to K:

Congratulations – I just found out I am the proud feminist mother of a microagressor.
Even better, one who may be responsible for “invisible” micro aggressions. Sounds like the equivalent of political homeopathy.

Is that your invisible micro aggression or are you just happy to see me?

Is that your invisible micro aggression or are you just happy to see me?

*   *   *

Liberty is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.
(George Orwell) [13]

 

May all of your aggressions be visibly comprehensive, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

  Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1]All Things Dull and Ugly,” by Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Trevor Pka, John Du Prez.               

[2] You know you want to try it: doot-doot-doot-doot.

[3] “Suitable” – there’s the rub. Just try finding something that doesn’t involve meetings and/or committees, which I believe are the scourge of humanity, comparable to alopecia and shingles.

[4] Check out this and other uplifting articles which document how male nurses out earn female nurses.

[5] And also without attaining the respect/cachet that comes from having “a real job” (i.e., a one that pays a salary.

[6] Thank the FSM those days are over.

[7] A straight (but not narrow!) white male in a class with such a name…you can just imagine the traps set for him, by zealously sincere (the worst kind) and humorless “activists.”

[8] Read: do not feed the trolls.

[9] Because sometimes…eventually… good sense will take root.

[10] As usual, I will use acronyms instead of names, to protect the hypersensitive, not-so-innocent.

[11] As in Political Drama Queen. An appropriate acronym for someone who would respond as she did.

[12] In an infamous fundraising letter Roberts described the “feminist agenda” as “a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”

[13] I know SCM is thinking, “More footnotes!”

The Headline I’m Not Walking In

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

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

What follows is not something made up by The Onion.

*   *   *

Department of No Comment

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

*   *   *

On Second Thought : Comment

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

Dang…there goes my career in Florida politics.

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

AHat

*   *   *

The Rhythm Method

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

Einstein

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

*   *   *

Department of Education

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

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

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

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

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

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

cyberbully

*   *   *

Blast From the Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

The Problem With Inspirational Quotes

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

Uh…okay.

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

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

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

Hmmmm. Which one shall I do today?

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

Pity.

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

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

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

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

Original drawing by E. Wagnell

Original drawing by E. Wagnell

Original sculpture by S. Wagnell

Original sculpture by S. Wagnell

*   *   *

Department of Over Compensating

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

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

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

Now, that's more like it.

Now, that’s more like it.

*   *   *

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

and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

The Green Armband I’m Not Wearing

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I am no longer wearing it. I wore it for three days, starting last Friday, when Leonard Nimoy died. Green is the color of Vulcan blood. You knew that.

symbol

Leonard Nimoy was, of course, best known for his portrayal of the iconic Star Trek character, Mr. Spock. [1] Nimoy was also a talented writer and screenwriter, director and photographer and singer. [2]

Oh yeah, and he also appeared in the “The Challenge,” which is arguably the Best. Automobile Commercial. Ever.

In late 1979 or early 1980, my parents drove up from So Cal to visit me and check out my first post-college apartment in the Bay Area. A week before the trip they asked me if I wanted them to bring along their old black and white TV set, which, they said, was mine if I wanted it (they’d recently purchased a new color TV, and they knew I had no TV set of any color.). I said thanks, but no. I didn’t watch much television at the time, except for the occasional special event (e.g. The Olympic Games). [3]  I called them back in a couple of days and asked them to bring the set along – I ‘d just found out that Star Trek reruns were going to be broadcast on some local channel.

Upon hearing the news of Nimoy’s death, my siblings and I exchanged a series of emails, in which we reminisced and recommended our respective favorite Star Trek “Spock-centric” episodes, which got me to thinking about the impact a piece of art and an artist [4] can have on one’s life.

I have never attended a Star Trek (nor any fan) convention nor have I ever had the slightest interest in doing so (other than having a fleeting curiosity about attending a ST convention with a cultural anthropologist’s mindset to observe the behavior of obsessive social misfits devoted fans). Still, the Star Trek series and its television and movie sequels and prequels and spinoffs have been an important part of my “entertainment life” for over forty years. That’s worth at least three days of official if casual, armband-wearing mourning. And a lifetime of memories.

My friend MM, when he heard the news, posted the most succinctly appropriate sendoff or tribute I’ve seen:

One to beam up.

Nimoy

*   *   *

Department of My Brain Hurts

Sometimes once something gets in print or gets in a textbook or gets on people’s public radar, it just sticks around, even if there’s reason to suspect that the idea’s just wrong.
(Laurie Santos, professor of psychology at Yale University,

Director of the Comparative Cognition Laboratory)

brain

The latest episode of Freakonomics, the radio show that explores “the hidden side of everything,” is inspired by the book This Idea Must Die: Scientific Theories That Are Blocking Progress. Freakonomics’ 3-5-2015 podcast, “This Idea Must Die” is both a treat and torture for idea junkies, and features interviews with a variety of Notable People ® from a variety of professions, all of whom were asked to propose answers to the same question:  “What (scientific) idea is ready for retirement?”

My head felt ready to explode as I began to consider the various propositions, which included

* A professor of cognitive science at University College London would like to kill off the idea that people are either right-brained or left-brained (“an idea that makes no physiological sense”);

* A professor at Harvard Business School wants to retire the idea that that markets are good…and the idea that markets are bad;

* A professor of quantum mechanical engineering at M.I.T. professor of quantum mechanical engineering at M.I.T. would like to retire the idea of “the universe;”

* An oncologist, professor of medicine and director of the MDS Center at Columbia University wants to retire “mouse models” from use in drug development for cancer therapy…

And how about the following for an apoplectic, [5] contemplation-o-rama:

“I think an idea that is bad, that’s really detrimental to society, is the idea that life is sacred.”
(Steve Levitt, Freakonomics co-author, economist at the University of Chicago.)

You owe your brain a listen.

*   *   *

It’s Flicker Time

hammer

No no no no no no no. That’s Flicker Time, not Hammer Time.

But while I’m on the subject, I’m standing here, in my office, staring at this parcel that was delivered  to our house by mistake. I just don’t know what to do. I know I should return it, but it’s addressed to MC Hammer, soooooo, I can’t touch this.

Thank you, Ladies and Germs, you’re too kind.

Back to Flicker Time.

flicker

One of the harbingers of the spring-that-shall-soon-be-here is the sound produced by a Northern Flicker, when s/he [6] is declaring territory with the help of technology.

Northern Flickers (along with most woodpecker species) “drum” on objects to declare territory, warn off rivals and attract and communicate with their mates. Before humans came along to muck up alter the environment, Flickers had to be satisfied with mere tree trunks to drum. They want to make the loudest noise possible from the highest spot possible, which is why, for suburban-dwelling Flickers, paradise is a neighborhood filled with houses that have metallic vents, chimney guards and flashings on their roofs.

I love to hear the sounds of Flicker housetop-drumming when I’m out for my morning walk. The part of me that enjoys petty irritations inflicted upon other people loves to imagine the reactions of the occupants whose houses are selected for Flicker drumming. I speak from experience: the first time you hear that noise, reverberating down your chimney and bouncing off the walls, it can be quite disconcerting until you figure out what the heck it is, where the heck it is coming from and who the heck is doing it.

"Everybody look at meeee! I've got my own drumming spaceship!"

“Everybody look at meeee! I’ve got my own drumming spaceship!”

*   *   *

Happy (early) 22nd Birthday to my son, K.

Hard to believe that my adorable “leaf boy” is twenty-two.

October 1995, near the Mackenzie River.

October 1995, near the Mackenzie River.

*   *   *

My Daughter the DJ

Keep it locked on the sound, 90.1 KUPS.

Excuse me for yet another a parental pride freak-out, but that’s my daughter on the air, announcing her college radio station’s motto.  All together now:

AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.

Cat’s Got Your Tongue is what Belle is calling her show on KUPS, at the prime slot of Wednesday mornings, 6 am.. Her focus is “Indie folk,” which means that lucky listeners such as moiself get to hear songs about how “the robots are going to help us find our crystal” (after the pirates have stolen it). [7]

KUPS is a college radio station and sounds like one – interesting if sporadic programming, there are gaps in their schedule, and their website needs updating (Belle’s shift is not listed, ahem). Oh, and apparently no one at the radio station can agree about why their mascot is…what it is.

KUPS

*   *   *

When I’ve completed a new project and am researching publishers, one of the first things I do is check out the manuscript submission guidelines that are found on the publishing houses’ websites.  I am not a writer of genre fiction; thus, I rule out publishers that specialize in genres (unless they also publish literary fiction).  Sometimes, even when it is obvious from first glance that a publisher is genre-specific, I linger at the site, just to get an idea of how many ridiculous sub-categories there are and imagine the minds of people who read that shit genres are out there.

Such lingering occurred early this week, when I ran across a relatively new publishing house that specialized in the Romance genre. I was struck by the extensive sub-categories of Romance, some (okay; most) of which I had no idea existed:  Adventure Romance; Dark Fantasy; Futuristic; Gothic; Interracial; LGBT; Medical; Military; Paranormal; Regency; Rock ‘n Roll; Science Fiction; Time-Travel;Urban Fantasy…

Oh, and the publishers noted they were particularly interested in Amish Romance.

REALLY

Amish Romance?

I’d heard of the Christian – aka Inspirational – Romance genre, the guidelines of which are fairly strict: protagonists must behave according to “Christian tenets” and shun alcohol, tobacco, profanity and drugs; sexual desire and content is only hinted at or avoided entirely and must be heterosexual in nature; no nookie before marriage, and romantic encounters must lead to marriage or the promise of it somewhere in a golden horizon that is planned by their god; relationships with non-believers are either forbidden or presented in a negative light unless the plot involves the heathen love interest being “led to Christ.” A typical blurb for a mainstream Christian romance novel:

Bethany La Chasteté and  Rick Granarbor are not ready for the feelings that may blow apart their plans for their lives. Can they learn to trust that God has his own?

Once again, I digress.

An Amish romance novel? Who would read it – certainly not an actual Amish person. So then, who is the target audience? The comparatively frisky Mennonites?

Are those bees in the girls' bonnets or are they just happy to see us?

Are those bees in the girls’ bonnets or are they just happy to see us?

I’m trying to picture what, exactly, might constitute conflict and tension in an Amish Romance novel. An exchange of longing gazes over buttonhooks; the gentle stroking of a beard while sneaking surreptitious glances at an apron string fluttering in the sultry summer breeze; the coveting of the neighbor farm boy’s well-endowed buggy….

Joseph, Samuel and Jacob – is it hot in here or is it just me? Excuse me while I lie down and loosen my bonnet.

Although Rebecca's fiery temper has driven away every suitor, Reuben was ready to p lough the fallow fields of her heart.

Although Rebecca’s temper had driven away every suitor, Reuben was ready to plow the fallow fields of her heart.

 

*   *   *

May you live long and prosper, may you be the target audience of the genre of your choice, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] Nimoy was also instrumental in developing the character’s history, distinctive body language and personality, according to Star Trek writers, producers and fellow actors.

[2] No…he was not a talented singer, as evidenced here.

[3] During my college and Young Adult Working Years © I missed many television shows now considered iconic (Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, ad nauseum) and had to learn about them in other ways, to fill the gaps in my popular culture knowledge, which is important for doing crossword puzzles.

[4] Yes, I’m counting a television show as art.

[5] Well, perhaps, if you’re religious, just that idea might send you into fits. I fully agree with retiring the idea that life – that anything – is “sacred,” but not for the (economic) reasons Levitt cites.

[6] Both sexes will drum and call to declare and protect their territory.

[7] Dillon’s Hey Beau.

The Orthodox Eyes I’m Not Polluting

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

new kayak

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

Does my bigotry make my butt look fat?

Does my bigotry make my butt look fat?

*   *   *

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

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

Je suis Charlie.

Except that, of course, I’m not.

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

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

The following is not one of my legendary digressions.

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

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

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

Brave?

REALLY

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

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

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

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

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

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

burning book

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

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

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

(Wikpedia definition for “Satire”)

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

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

Hitler

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

highhorse

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

Golda Meir

*   *   *

 

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

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

[2] Primarily located in the USA or Canada.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Toxins I’m Not Cleansing

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Department of Just Sayin’
Aka, Is It Over Yet?

I hate New Year’s Eve.  Always have. Correction: there have been breaks in the “always.”  Including the years my family celebrated with neighbor/friends, sharing a dinner-and-games night.  But mostly, it has always been a strange, awkward(t) kind of evening – an I should be having fun dammit/why am I not light-hearted and care-free kind of night. Instead, it’s a reminder of how quickly the last year flew by, what was intended and what fell through the cracks, one more reminder of dreams gone by/deferred, one more year closer to admitting dreams that were never to be realized….

Cry me a river. Pass the popcorn; it’s 12:24 am, is the last yahoo done banging the damn pot lids/setting off the mortars and can I go to sleep now and wake up and pretend it’s March already?

"Is it midnight yet? Have we had fun?"

“Is it midnight yet? Have we had fun?”

*   *   *

Happy New Year, Indeed

MH’s attention was drawn to a certain object on the dish air drying rack. I waited for the inevitable comment.

“What’s this?” he asked, with a Twinkle in His Eye ® . He picked up the object, turned it back and forth in his hand, and attempted to unscrew its top.

“It does not take batteries,” I smirked, “and no, it’s not what you’re thinking.”

a pestle without its mortar is like a fish without a bicycle.

a pestle without its mortar is like a fish without a bicycle.

*   *   *

Start the New Year clean with this “detoxifying” dietary supplement, transdermal patch, kidney-flushing herbal tea, colon cleanser….

The come-on email that somehow escaped my spam filter, caused me pause for a moment to consider the quackery that is not just particular to the holiday season.

“Detoxing – the idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs squeaky clean and raring to go – is a scam.
It’s a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you things.”

“Let’s be clear,” says Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University, “there are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t.”
The respectable one, he says, is the medical treatment of people with life-threatening drug addictions. “The other is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.”

I generally hold and/or bite my tongue when otherwise seemingly intelligent (or obviously dense but well-meaning and nice) folks uses the Important-And-Sciency-Sounding-Poison-Language ©  with me.  The young man who, after finishing giving me a blissful foot massage advised me to drink a lot of water in the next few hours to help my body “flush out of toxins” stimulated by the massage?  I just smiled dreamily.  I was under the spell of the massage’s endorphin rush; I didn’t have the energy to mouth a simple, if sincerely incredulous, Dude, really? What are you saying, and who told you that?

Toxins? What, exactly, are these toxins?

WORD.

I often wonder if the purveyors of toxin-speak even know the definition of the word they use so heedlessly yet authoritatively?

A toxin (from Ancient Greek: τοξικόν toxikon) is a poisonous substance produced within living cells or organisms.

So, you’re saying, without blood test results or other evidence to back up your claim, that there is poison in my body?  What, someone slipped rattlesnake venom in my tea?

When I ask for evidence of specific toxins that are lurking, unflushed, in my body, [1] I receive analogies.  The toxin-believing crowd can’t exactly describe what the toxins are, nor what the detox process is, so they resort to analogies.  False analogies.  “Just like we wash our hair and brush our teeth…”  My favorites are the ones having to do with a machine:  “Just like we must periodically flush our car’s coolant system…”

That is incorrect; you forfeit the bonus round.

As much as it may seem to have a mind of its own, [2] your Honda Civic is not a living organism.  Machines have no way to clean themselves. The crucial systems of the human body evolved to do so.  The kidneys, liver, bowels –  the organs most frequently cited by the Toxin Touters – all are self-cleansing.  When they fail, due to disease or injury or abuse, medical intervention is necessary.

This is your liver.

This is your liver.

This is your liver on David Crosby.

This is your liver on David Crosby 

Like all fast fixes – from miracle diets to wrinkle creams – the idea that we can wash away our lifestyle transgressions with a pill, a drink, a gargle or even an “internal cleanse” [3] is an attractive idea to some, and much easier than making changes to nutrition, exercise and other lifestyle habits. [4] And most of us seem to hold some vague ideas that we are doing something wrong, or that our modern, technologically dependent life contaminates us with…well, with bad things. [5]  And we need to get rid of these bad things.

Harriet Hall, aka “the SkepDoc,” is a retired physician and former Air Force flight surgeon who researches and writes about medicine, so-called “alternative and complementary medicine,” and quackery and critical thinking.  According to Hall, the detox industry’s rhetoric is “… reminiscent of religious fasting and purification rites (Jewish mikvah, shamans using smoke, American Indians sweat lodges). It’s mysticism, not science.”

Our bodies come equipped with livers, kidneys, stomachs, intestines, enzymes and metabolic processes that deal with toxins efficiently with no outside help. When kidneys fail, we use dialysis.  In certain cases of poisoning with large amounts of heavy metals, we may use chelation therapy.  In addiction treatment, “detox” is achieved by simply abstaining from drugs or alcohol for a few days.  …..  there is no medical evidence to support any other methods or benefits of “detoxification.” [6]

 

detox

*   *   *

Department of Ch-ch-ch changes

As of January 1, 2015, Scarletta Press, publisher of my middle grade novel, The Mighty Quinn, is no longer Scarletta Press. The Publisher Formerly Known as Scarletta is now Mighty Media Press. And they have this to say about that:

Mighty Media Press delivers captivating books and
media that ignite a child’s curiosity, imagination,
social awareness, and sense of adventure.
Mighty Kids. Mighty Minds. Mighty Future.
Be Mighty!

Although I like the name change, I be mighty skeptical (if just a bit less mighty hopeful) as to how this will impact their promotion efforts for one of their Scarletta titles…even though, one might reasonably think, The Mighty Quinn, ahem, hello, can you say, “tie-in?”  I knew you could.

"The what formerly known as what?"

“The what formerly known as what?”

*   *   *

Department of Because It Works

Dateline: New Year’s Day.  MH and I, out for a walk.  MH asks if I’m taking him to Sports Look, a local restaurant/sport bar, for dinner.  “For dinner?” I am confused.  I know he’s referring to being able to watch The Rose Bowl game (it’s only being broadcast on ESPN, and we are the holdouts who don’t have cable), which is mildly important to us this year, lukewarm college sports fans that we are, because an Oregon team is playing a Florida team. But the game starts at 2pm, I reminded him, not dinner time.  Also, it’s New Year’s Day, and, remember, I always make Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day.

I picked up that tradition – serving black-eyed peas and rice, green and some cornbread concoction “for luck and prosperity in the New Year” –  from my Tennessee-raised father.  I maintain the tradition partially because I like my version of Hoppin’ John, and partially in memory of my dad.

Besides, I explained to MH, I want us to benefit from the folk wisdom of poor people who ate beans and rice every year, believing it would bring them good luck and prosperity, who then again the following year were too poor to serve anything fancier than beans and rice on New Year’s Day.

Remember how well it worked last year?

Remember how well it worked last year?

*   *   *

Department of Making My Daughter Groan

Driving home from lunch, Belle pointed out a rainbow grazing the horizon.  “Now, if there were two of them,” I wondered aloud, “would the first one be the rainbow and the other a rainbro?”

rainbros

*   *   *

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.
(Bill Vaughn)

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)

*   *   *

May the happiness you seek be bile-free, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] And I have done this, with those who have used the toxin jargon.

[2] Especially when piloted by teen drivers.

[3] It’s only two days into the new year and I just don’t want to type enema.

[4] Why give up my bi-weekly craft beer six pack & cheesecake fest when I can do a bi-yearly liver cleanse?

[5] I actually think this is likely true, but want evidence before I put any purported “cleanser” up my hoo-haw, an organ which evolved to expel, not intake.

[6] Detox Quackery (Harriet Hall, the SkepDoc, Skeptic, v. 14 #1 2008)

The DMV I’m Not Suing

4 Comments

My apologies to those of you wretched, lonely hearts devoted readers who have told me you look forward to sitting down with your coffee on Friday morning and reading my blog.[1]  Technical difficulties delayed its usual early morning posting.  Let’s just say I oppose the death penalty, except for those who create and distribute computer viruses.

 *   *   *

Dateline: Wednesday. Birthday coming up in less than a week.  Driver’s license renewal.  Fastest time ever at the DMV – in and out.  Worst. Picture. Ever.

Not this bad.

Not this bad.

“I need an override,” the woman at the camera station called out to her supervisor.

“What, my face broke the camera, ” I mumbled half-heartedly. The supervisor smiled, clickety-clacked on the computer keyboard and replied, “Only cracked it.”  After she left I asked Camera Woman, “No, really – what did you need to override?”

“When there’s a discrepancy with your past picture, the computer calls for a compare.”  It seems the DVS’s picture processing software is sophisticated enough to opine, “There’s no way this can be the same person…and even if it is, holy facial recognition software, do people have no pride?  She could have at least brushed her hair; oh yeah, lady, but it’s raining outside yada yada yada, nice try with that excuse….”

Really.  A bad picture.

Almost this bad.

Almost this bad.

*   *   *

That was no way to start a Wednesday, or any day, but especially the second Wednesday in December, which was my annual Ladies’ Lefse Party.  But, the day was soon redeemed

Returning home from the DMV, still pissed about the picture incident [2] I decide to play a word game to calm myself down before getting down to work.  It’s the little things that matter, you know?  Like the oh-so-special feeling I get when playing Jumble Jong and I get an AWESOME! message plus bonus points for using the available tiles to spell the word, smuttily.

Also, there was the lefse party.

Lady Marmalade, just some of the Lucky Ladies invited to the Ladies Lefse Party.

Lady Marmalade, just some of the Lucky Ladies invited to the Ladies Lefse Party.

*   *   *

Department of Pretend There Was An Artful Segue

Friend fellow writer and self-described reluctant homeschooler [3] SCM has had trouble “finding her tribe” as she put it… as so sharply evidenced by a local homeschooling list serve posting she sent me (to which she has since unsubscribed), which she titled, From the “I can’t make up this shit” files…

(my emphases)

Messages: Classic Literature I don’t let my kids read.
Posted by: (redacted)[4]
I had a frank discussion with my kids literature teacher after one of my own picked up Grapes of Wrath, which I’ve never read, and read it during our reading time, not outloud. Apparently there are some rather gratuitous love scenes in there or at least one. Never having read it, I’m kicking myself for having trusted the many “classic literature” lists that I’ve printed and clung to while shopping for books to build our home library with.

 I emailed their teacher my list and she went through it and marked the ones that were safe, the ones that weren’t, and the ones she either couldn’t remember or hadn’t personally read. What an eye opener! For starters, here are the ones we removed from our shelves because of such love scenes.

 1984
Candide
Grapes of Wrath 

I’m sure there will be others, but this is just a startling starting point. I don’t mind an occasional bad word or even a string of bad words.

It’s the erotic love scenes that disgust me when I think of my teenage son picking up and reading from material I HAVE PROVIDED! It’s sad to think about the books they’ll be missing out on because of unnecessary inappropriate scenes.

If you know of other not-so-classy “classics”; I would steer away from that are usually found on classics lists, please let me know.

advisorypng

Holy fucking inappropriate love scenes.

I mean, objecting to “love scenes”? In “classic” literature, that you yourself admit you’ve NEVER READ?

And, “Grapes of Wrath,”  really?

REALLY

For the love of butt-fucking pornography, I’m trying to remember what might be determined “inappropriate” about The Grapes of Wrath, a book which  was one of many triggers responsible for the awakening of my political consciousness….. Ah, maybe that’s it. That and, you know, all the scenes featuring poor people striving for a better life amidst political forces determined to keep them in their place.

“It’s sad to think about the books they’ll be missing out on because of unnecessary inappropriate scenes.”

No, ladyass, it’s sad to think about the books your kids will be missing out on because their mother has a frigid, rigid, prude-drooling fear bucket where her brain should be.

I’m trying to imagine her and others of her ilk, going through her books [5] and marking which ones are “safe.”

NOVELS AREN”T SUPPOSED TO BE “SAFE” – THAT’S THE FUCKING POINT.

And that message of hers sparked replies – a back and forth from fellow home- obscurants schoolers who seemed to be almost bragging about the fact that they have lists of “Classic Literature I Don’t Let my Kids Read.”

I just feel like kicking something.

ignorance

*   *   *

Department of, awwwww…..

A week ago this afternoon, at the invitation of a staff member, I did a reading of The Mighty Quinn followed by a Q & A session [6] at the Hillsboro Boys and Girls Club.  The group of kids attending would be in the 4th – 8th grade age range…or so I was told.  The kids seemed younger; the coordinator explained that, just before she made the announcement to gather in a meeting room for the reading, someone else announced that a movie was going to be shown in another room, and most of the older kids went to the movie.

Well, yeah.

After the reading (and a Q & A session seriously in need of some mediating [7] ) the event coordinator took a picture of me and the kids, and then dismissed the kids to their other activities.  One girl, who had been one of the most enthusiastic Q & A participants, approached me with a shy gleam in her eye.

“Here,” she said, holding out a coin.  “This is for you.”

I must have had a confused look on my face.  “It’s a nickel,” she explained.

Actually, it was a quarter.

Of course I had to take it.  For two reasons

  1. You cannot refuse such an act of generosity from a child.
  2. Have you seen my last royalty statement? I think she may have.
  3. I said, for two reasons.

*   *   *

The Return of the Santa Hats

As a part of our household’s seasonal décor, anything that can be classified as art, that has a face, must wear a miniature Santa Hat. Don’t ask for an explanation because I don’t understand it myself (and I’m the one who insists on the practice). This has made for a whole lotta Santa hat-making as the years go by and we keep collecting specimens for our Wall of Faces:

This image represents less than 10% of the faces. Be afraid; be very afraid.

This image represents less than 10% of the faces. Be afraid; be very afraid.

 *   *   *

May your days be merry and bright, may you read the classic books and fight the good fights, may your Santa hats fit you just right, and may the holiday hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Yep, I’m talkin’ you, BOM.

[2] And then more pissed for being so petty as to care about a driver’s license picture.

[3] With a near genius child, no money for non-public school options, living where the public school choice is in the lowest 15% of everything (and sends out how-to-keep-your-grade-schooler gang-free info)

[4] Or should I say, retarded. Which I would, if I thought I could get away with the (now) non-PC epithet.

[5] Or, worse, yet, taking some other patsy prig’s  word for it, as she doesn’t seem to be familiar with the books she criticizes.

[6] “Meet a REAL author, who lives in Hillsboro…and you can ask her why the heck she hasn’t moved to Portland!”

[7] At least these kids didn’t ask me how much money I made, but they did ask why I wasn’t giving them free copies of the book.

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