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The Song I’m Not Editing

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Life’s a beach

Dateline: Sunday morning, seven a.m., walking at Seal Beach, CA.  Was it just yesterday morning that we (MH, Belle and moiself) arose way too early to catch a flight from PDX to Long Beach? And will it be just another ten hours until we fly back to Oregon?

We came down here to attend the wedding of my niece, the second of three daughters of my older sister.  I’m exhausted from the combination of yesterday’s 3:30 a.m. wakeup call [1] and getting little sleep last night.  But, we’re staying at the beach, which energizes me, and I’m up at six.  I can’t stay in bed knowing there is an ocean two blocks away; the sunny-salty air is calling.

The boogie boarders and surfers are out, and also a good many other early risers.  Standing at the base of the pier I see booths set up on the sand just north of the pier.  The booth’s banners advertise a Beach Cleanup event, sponsored by the Surfrider Foundation.  One hundred or so yards from the booths, forty Speedo clad bipeds, looking both eager and groggy, are lined up at the back of the lifeguard headquarters, which is a rather drab, blue-gray brick building adjacent to the pier.  Ocean Beach Lifeguard Tryouts April 13 7:30 am reads a sign posted on the headquarter’s garage door.

From my viewpoint on the pier, the lifeguard candidates, at first glance, seem to be very young and very fit, and very white and male.  Upon further scrutiny I notice about eight women among them, two of whom are not blond, and a couple of non-blond male Lifeguards of Color ® . A couple of the boy-guard wannabes are carrying extra poundage; the group as a whole does not exactly resemble Baywatch [2] material.  Of course, the Baywatch boys and babes in no way resembled the kind of people you’d expect would be capable of rescuing you if you were drowning (although at least two of the show’s female lifeguards – namely, Pamela Anderson’s chest – could evidently be used as emergency flotation devices).

Baywatch

I walk out on the pier. Looking to the south I see a series of solitary beach walkers, and a group of nine people standing in a circle in the sand.  The nine are all dressed head to toe in white flowing garments, and several of them also wear some kind of white cap.  In the shadow of an unoccupied lifeguard station ~ thirty feet behind the Group of Nine, a women dressed in colors other than white is performing tai chi-ish movements.

A trawler-style boat, whose wake I can trace to an offshore oil rig, is docking at the south side of the pier.  I am close enough to hear snippets of conversations from the boat’s passengers, what appears to be a group of rig workers who have been ferried from their shift.  And I realize, in all my years of hanging out at the beach, I’ve never seen a boat use one of those under the pier docking stations.  This excites me, for some reason.  My work here is done!

Or, maybe not.

Out near the end of the pier a pelican soars overhead, performing its leisurely, circling survey of the ocean beneath.  The morning light shines off of a salmon-colored streak on its beak.  I always thought pelicans were beautiful birds, somewhat ungainly on land and thus underappreciated.  I imagine a person watching a pelican gliding over the ocean for the first time. If you hadn’t seen a pelican’s fishing technique, its sudden, awkward plummet into the sea could take you by surprise.  Uh-oh, massive flight fail – look, honey, that big deformed goose just had had a heart attack!

PELICANjpg

On the north side of the pier a life guard is piloting one of those ski-doo watercraft thingies. A passenger on the back of the craft begins placing a series of orange buoy markers about 30 feet apart, as the craft turns and runs parallel to the beach approximately a quarter mile from the shore. I’m assuming the markers are for the lifeguard tryouts.

In the hazy distant north I can see the various docking rigs and equipment associated with the Long Beach harbor – an ugly sight, but if I look forward, to the pier’s end and the open sea, or to the right, or behind me to the beach, I can pretend it’s not there.

rigs

 I think I’d have to do a lot of pretending, to return to Southern California, where I was raised.  I used to tell myself I could live in So Cal, but only at the beach, where you can pretend the rest of it [3] isn’t there or doesn’t involve you. But I know the rest of it would not be worth it, for me.

Still, walking on the beach, hearing the gentle crash of the surf and feeling the salt air in my lungs, makes me feel…  I don’t know.  It just does.

corona

 I’ll never forget the sight of my father, and especially my more reserved mother, shaking their groove thangs [4] on the dance floor at my younger sister’s wedding reception, some 27 years ago.  They just couldn’t resist joining in the fun, when the DJ played a certain song, after they watched all “the young folks” having a good time.  My father requested the DJ play that song – what he and Mom came to call “The Yahoo Song” – at least five more times that evening.   Chet and Marion Parnell looked at the other dance floor denizens and mimicked the moves, raising their hands and shouting Yahoo! during the chorus of Kool & The Gang’s “Celebrate.

 We gonna celebrate and have a good time
  It’s time to come together
 It’s up to you, what’s your pleasure?

 Everyone around the world come on!
  Yahoo!
 It’s a celebration
 Yahoo! 

A year after my sister’s wedding MH and I announced our intention to marry.  One of the first things my father said to me was, “You have to have dancing at your wedding reception, and tell the DJ to play The Yahoo Song.”

At my request the song, dedicated to the memory of Chet Parnell, was played at my niece’s reception.  I may be somewhat biased, but I think it was the most enthusiastically-participated-in dance of the evening.

All over the country, parents of college-bound high school seniors are exhaling (and possibly retching) as the college notifications arrive.  Belle’s choice [5] turned out to be the college she fell in love with when she saw the campus several years ago.

UPS

 Next year Belle will join her brother, K, at, The University of Puget Sound.  K is currently a UPS junior, studying what he and others in his major refer to as “Tiny Bio” (Micro and Cellular Biology).

There are several advantages to having your child go to a college you already know how to “navigate.”  One perk in particular stands out.  When Belle gets homesick, and by that I mean catsick, [6] she’s just a 3 hour train ride away from seeing her beloved if brain-damaged intellectually challenged buddy, Crow.

CROW

Animal-related segue: or, a pet peeve apropos of nothing

I really, really, get my butt frosted by those oldies radio stations that rev my motor by playing the iconic, pounding, five-note intro to Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4…until two minutes into the song I realize that they’re playing the abbreviated version.  NOOOOOOOOOOO!  The fact that they EDIT OUT the amazing electric guitar solo – which features a wah-wah pedal by Chicago guitarist Terry Kath , about whom Jimi Hendrix said to another Chicago band member, “your guitarist is better than me,”  – is a waterboard-worthy offense.

May those who listen to the soundtrack to your life clamor for the long version, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] It was bad enough that 4:30 am was the set wake-up time, and then MH’s alleged “smart” phone did a dumb thing and decided to wake me up earlier.  MH, of course, slept through it.

[2] A cheesy ’89-’99 TV series about an improbably nubile group of lads and lasses who patrolled the beaches of LA County, keeping the beaches free of crime, drowning, and less photogenically endowed inhabitants.

[3] traffic, pollution; congestion; overpopulation of what is, essentially, a desert; Orange County Republicans….

[4] Or the AARP-approved version of such.

[5] made easier by the four year academic scholarship the school dangled in front of her.

[6] MH and I have few illusions as to which household member Belle will miss the most.

The Horses I’m Not Scaring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

Spam-Museum

 *   *   *

 Let’s all think about sex

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

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

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

Yo, Mikey what the Huck?

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

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

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

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

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

VIB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ClosetJPG

*   *   *

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

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

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

[2] The phenomena is called childhood amnesia.

[3] Or any “captive” quarters.

[4] From my January 24 post.

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

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

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

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

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

The Virus I’m Not Defeating

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I do not do well with fevers. My own, that is (I have no problem with yours). This may be your brain on drugs, but it’s mine when my temperature rises above 100.º

BRAIN

 I woke up Tuesday morning and promptly wished I hadn’t.  Fever, congestion, cough-sneezing and sore throat.  I’d felt something coming on Monday, uttered those famous last words (it’ll go away) to myself, and tried to rest most of the day, in order to fulfill my March 5 World Read Aloud Day commitment.  I was scheduled to read excerpts from The Mighty Quinn to two classrooms: Tuesday eve at 9 p Pacific Time (which translates to 10 am March 5, Pakistan time) to a classroom in Karachi via a Skype call, then on Wednesday to a classroom in Seattle.

I tested my Skype connection, practiced (whispering, to save my increasingly hoarse voice) my excerpts and set my phone alarm for the evening, so I wouldn’t sleep through the call from Pakistan.  I assumed the fact that I looked like something the cat dragged in – and we have four cats, so that’s a lot of dragging – would be attributed to the computer connection.

oh, poor widdle yuppie model, pretending to be sick - dude, never have I looked this good, even at 98.6º and even when...not a dude.

oh, poor widdle yuppie model, pretending to be sick – dude, never have I looked this good, even at 98.6º and even when…not a dude.

The call from Pakistan never came.  My attempts at connection were for naught, as the teacher remained offline.  Then, the next day, when my fever rose, I had to cancel the WRAD session with Seattle, when I realized that being conscious (not to mention vertical) for 30 minutes was not an option.

Wednesday eve I told pathetically whined calmly articulated to MH how in the last couple of days, the most exercise I’d gotten was putting my socks on when I got chilled and then taking them off five minutes later when I was feverish and overheated.  With all due spousal support and sympathy, MH told me I seemed to be taking a Karate Kid approach to my convalescence.  Socks on; socks off….

wax on...wax off....

wax on…wax off….

 *   *   *

While cleaning my office last week I found a CD I’d purchased in December, buried under a stack of scratch papers.  So, this means that, for more than 8 weeks, I have been unmindful of the thereabouts of my “Mindfulness: An eight week plan for finding peace in a frantic world” guided meditation CD.  Does this mean I’m ahead of, or behind, the plan?

DOGOM

Wednesday eve my son sent me a link to a draft of his undergraduate research grant proposal, with the request that I give it a “proof.”  I’d warned him about my fever brain, and said I’d try to get to it…whenever.

Thursday morning my temp dipped to under 100º – yay!  (and then slowly rose as the day went by – boo.).  I took a copy of my son’s paper and my Red Pen of Proof ©   upstairs, figuring I could take a crack at it every fifteen minutes or so, between sleeping through whatever horrendous shows were on the Overheated Brain Pacification Device (TV).  Scratch that – my convalescent viewing was to alternate bouts of consciousness while playing my recently acquired, used-but good condition DVDs of the first season of Once and Again).

But I digress. The research paper. Working title: Investigation of the activities of MalA, a maltase from the predatory bacterium Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus.

Imagine my surprise, to find that sentences such as

GH13 enzymes are known to display a wide variety of hydrolase activities such as α-1,4-glucosidases, as well as isomerase and glucanotransferase activities. GH 13 enzymes specifically act on molecules containing α-glucoside linkages. GH13 enzymes employ the retaining mechanism, meaning that their product’s anomeric carbon will have the same configuration as their substrate’s anomeric carbon

 are somehow less intimidating to me when I have fever-brain. Instead of, WTF? my reaction is, wow, man…this is so true.

Oh, and to my amazing son, K:  Honey badger may not care if it’s your birthday tomorrow, but I do. Happy 21st to my guy!

Oh, and K – your sister has the best present for you, in the making.  Like all true works of art it won’t be done overnight, and I’m hoping she (and you) will let me post a picture of it here, when it’s finished.

*   *   *

 ҉    Let us pause for a moment to consider another one of life’s mysteries     ҉    

Nasty for any reason:  a paper cut.
But worth it:  when said cut is procured while opening a box of Lindt 85% cocoa Extra Dark chocolate.

Can you tell I minored in Philosophy? [1]

PIX:CHOC caption: just what the doctor ordered

 *   *   *

May your all fevers be fleeting, all your thermometers be oral, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] That’s a lie. Further proof of illness: only one footnote?

The History-Changing Act I’m Not Following

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Happy Birthday to my dear, sweet, kind, clever, sensitive, creative, intelligent, hard-working, beautiful, perceptive, kick-ass, Belle.  My daughter turned eighteen yesterday.  Yee haw and Yikes, indeed.

*   *   *

♫ It was twenty years ago today/Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play ♫

BEATLESs

Actually, it was fifty years ago, February 9, when the Beatles made the first of their culture-expanding appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. Anyone remember their opening number, without having to cheat (put down that smart phone, right now)? [1]

BEATLESONSULLIVAN

The Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show is one of my two strongest watching-TV-with-my-parents memories.  The other happened a couple months earlier, on a night in late November, 1963.  My older sister NLP and I sat stone-faced on the carpet in front of the TV, watching the coverage of President Kennedy’s assassination.  N and I, respectively in grades three and one, did not fully comprehend the significance of what was on the screen before us.  We only knew that our parents seemed really, really sad.

A mere eleven weeks later our family, along with a record number of the TV-viewing public, was once again mesmerized by what was transpiring on our black and white RCA.

TV

We watched the Ed Sullivan show every Sunday, as did most television owning families in the U.S.  And we watched the show in full.  There were no recording devices; there was no taping the show and forwarding through the aftershave commercials or plate-spinning acts.

PLATESPINNING

If you wanted to see the good stuff (for kids, the rare rock ‘n roll act; for their parents, Steve and Eydie ) you had to sit through Frank Gorshin’s political impressions, opera selections, puppet shows – a hodgepodge of vaudevillian-type acts, all introduced by the eponymous host.

Ed Sullivan, with his bloodhound baggy-eyes, peculiar enunciations [2] and leaden body language, looked like a cross between the Adam’s family’s Lurch and Richard Nixon,

Anyone seem my evil twin?

Y’all seen my evil twin?

Here I am!

Here I am!

and was rumored to be the first survivor of a charisma-ectomy.

"We have a really, really big shoe for you tonight"

“We have a really, really big shoe for you tonight”

The Beatles’ first two songs [3] were mid-tempo numbers featuring somewhat “pretty” vocals, including their cover of a song from The Music Man .[4]  Then they lit into “She Loves You,” and the audience – in Sullivan’s theatre and in our living room– went berserk.

I remember our parents trading remarks of astonishment (“Look at their hair!”) while N and I….  Well, my older sister and I rocked out, without even knowing we were rocking out and that our musical tastes were about to dramatically expand.  The Beatles returned later in the show for a second set: “I Saw Her Standing There[5] and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.

If you have the slightest bit of interest in history and/or popular culture, I urge you to beg, borrow or steal somehow latch onto any tapes or DVDs of the Beatle’s appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show.  Here’s the important part: watch at least one of the entire shows, not just the Beatles’ performances.  From the other entertainment acts to the commercials, TESS will give you a unique time capsule experience, and an appreciation of how much has changed and how mind-bogglingly, effervescently and energetically different the Beatles were at that time.

Oh, and can you imagine being Fred Kaps, the magician who had to follow the Beatles’ first set?

*   *   *

I had several other items in mind for this blog, but, like Fred Kaps, I’m finding it hard to follow the Beatles with…anything but more Beatles.  So I suggest you push the furniture to the side of the room, do a few stretching exercises if you need to, turn up the volume and let the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] It was “All My Lovin’ “

[2] Ed’s recurrent boast, that he was putting on a “really big show tonight,” often sounded as if he were promising viewers a “really big shoe.”

[4] A tactic which was setting up the old folks, N and I figured.

[5] One of my favorite Beatles songs– you gotta dig McCartney’s one two three fah! opening count.

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 Best -Of Lists I’m Not Making

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My annual Ladies Lefse Party was this past Wednesday.  I’ve been hosting the LLPs on the second Wednesday in December for…a long time.  LAH, SCM and daughter P, Belle, JWW and I had a grand time, and SCM graciously left behind her homemade pumpkin whole wheat soy milk cranberry biscotti [1] to torture me the following morning.  Stalwart attendees SS, RB and JR were not able to attend this year, due to pressing other engagements, respectively, a son’s band concert, jury duty, and a husband’s laparoscopic cholecystectomy . [2]  Besides her joi de vivre and take-no-prisoners wit, JR is known for her festive, self-made millinery, which was much missed – my Bieber Meets Santa Pez creation of a few years back was a poor stand-in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While cleaning up after the party I was reminded of the late [3] great, dear friend and neighbor Glenda Jones.  Seventeen years ago, back in The Old Neighborhood (Jackson School Neighborhood of Hillsboro), Glenda had been tickled pickled beet pink when I brought lefse to one of her parties.  Being of Norski stock herself Glenda expressed something akin to shame at never having made lefse, and asked me for detailed written instructions, which I gladly provided.  A few weeks later, I received a frantic/embarrassed phone call from Glenda one Saturday night:

“I’m following your instructions exactly….and…uh…
there’s flour ALL OVER the kitchen.”

I assured Glenda she must be doing it right.

Here is a copy of the party invitation, just so y’all won’t feel left out.  Even though you were.

*   *   *

Mark your calendars and set your e-minders:
Here comes the second Wednesday in December…. 

Which this year, 2013, falls on December 11.  Yes, there are only 20 days remaining
ntil 2014 rears its nagging head

and demands you account for the past 365 days. 

Notable events on past December 11s include:

*1688:  James II of England abdicated the throne by throwing the Great Seal of the Realm into the River Thames (my guess is the great seal smelled like lutefisk.).
* 1941: Germany and Italy declare war on the United States, following the U.S.A.’s declaration of war on Japan (the Ladies’ Lefse Lovers Society’s “Make Lefse, not War” slogan was for naught in those troubled times.)
* 1962: Convicted murderer Arthur Lucas is the last person to be executed in Canada (in an unusual punitive snit, prison officials denied Lucas’ last meal request for lefse).

 Royal peeves; war, execution…let’s redeem December 11.
Hold on to your fruitcakes; it’s time for the annual 

Ladies Lefse Party
Wednesday December 11, 2012, 6:30 pm 

As always, your high-minded hosts will provide lefse preparing accoutrements and serve lefse and Norwegian meatcakes for supper, in a festive, Gangnam style-free environment. 

Ladies hosting:
-Robyn Parnell & Belle 

Ladies Likely to make an appearance:
- why, you, of course 

Ladies Unlikely to make an appearance (but we can dream, can’t we?):
- Lady Marmalade 

♫ Gitchi Gitchi ya ya lefse…♫

♫ Gitchi Gitchi ya ya lefse…♫

*   *   *

In an interview with Parade magazine, producer-writer-comic-actor Mindy Kaling made a brilliant point about the assumptions we make about women. “I always get asked, ‘Where do you get your confidence?’ I think people are well meaning, but it’s pretty insulting. Because what it means to me is, ‘You, Mindy Kaling, have all the trappings of a very marginalized person. You’re not skinny, you’re not white, you’re a woman. Why on earth would you feel like you’re worth anything?’”
(The 28 Most Iconic Feminist Moments of 2013, Moment #8) [4]

 Favorite albums; best song parody; the year’s tops in food, art, journalism, political boners, drone strikes – it’s that time of the year, when pundits both significant and who-the-F-is-that –worthy trot out their Best of The Year ® lists.

 I already know my best of the Best of Lists—it’s going to be difficult to top The 28 Most Iconic Feminist Moments of 2013 .  They’re all kick-ass, and I love that the Heavy Issues Moments (Malala Yousafzai Speaks at United Nations, Wendy Davis’s Tex-ass fililbuster) are balanced by more light-hearted but nonetheless significant moments, such  as Tina Fey’s and Amy Poehler’s hosting the Golden Globe Awards.

AMY

 Be sure to check out # 17: the Awesome Rape Prevention Video Parody From India that Traveled ‘Round the World.

*   *   *

Here’s my vote for Best Shortest Best of List:  Best Holiday Rap Song, of any year:

Along with Run D.M.C., I wish that you may be chilling and coolin’ just like a snowman, and thus the hijinks will surely ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Recipe, please?

[2] If I had a dime for every time I heard that excuse….

[3] Glenda died in a motorcycle accident in August 1997.

[4] Best of 2013 footnotes: this did not make the list.

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.

The Robot Song I’m Not Singing

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Hell Hath Many Forms

 OSMONDS

But I digress.  The hell I’m referring to follows:

Hell

It may boggle your mind to know that that letter was NOT a response to the question, In what way are you the most irritating person residing in New Jersey, the entire Eastern seaboard and/or United States, and please be specific. Rather, an alert friend found this abominable if brief torture primer disguised as an answer to a question posed in Real Simple magazine.[1] The Question:  What’s the Best Tip for Getting the Day off to a Good Start! 

And! You just know you’re in for one wacky answer!  From the kind of people!  Who will answer “questions” that end in exclamation points!!

“Afterward, everyone goes out the door with a skip in their step.”

A skip in their step. Yeah, right.  Woman, your husband and kids and are leaping and running like bats out of hell, tumbling over one another in their haste to flee the nightmare that can only come from inhabiting the same house as a vulgarly vivacious, psychotically cheerful person who assaults them with tickles and “ditties” [2] when all they really want at 7 am is a soft-spoken, “Good morning.” And maybe a caffeinated beverage.

And no ditties about ROBOTS, for f***’s sake.

MANSCARE

That kind of torture should be reported To Amnesty International.

******

Writers Guidelines [3] I love to loathe:

Unbounded Effluvia [4] is seeking submissions of fiction and poetry. We value diversity. If you’re a white, straight, able male—your stories are welcome. But if you’re not, we would love to see your stories as well. We’d love to see stories from diverse backgrounds, and strongly encourage submissions of stories featuring characters of all colors, belief systems, sexual orientation, etc. And of course, the same goes for the author. 

Well, wrap my Irish-Norwegian-Welsh-French-Cherokee-American, straight (but not narrow), middle-aged, female, able-bodies, Freethinking Humanist ass in a rainbow flag and set it on fire.

I deplore the celebritization of authors (even to the point of wishing away the requirement for the author’s photo on the book jacket or in the journal credits) for many reasons, including that the author’s name is as much of an identifier as I care to know.  I don’t need to know what authors looks like; I don’t need to know their gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and political or supernatural beliefs.  I don’t want to judge their writing by any of those factors.  I want the writing to reveal itself.

I can understand a publisher’s or editor’s request for variety as to what comes from the keyboard.  What’s behind the keyboard should not matter, and thinking that it does is the bastard child of the write what you know bullshit, possibly the worst, self-censorial, small-minded advice ever given to writers, for a quajillion reasons, including that it gets translated, in many minds, as, write (only what) what you are. [5]

As a writer, my interest in and/or ability to create diverse characters and narratives should be immaterial to the moiself that is behind the keyboard.

Many years ago I had a story that, I thought, would be perfect for a certain (now defunct) literary journal that was devoted to portraying the zeitgeist of a certain generation [6].  According to their guidelines, the journal wanted the poems and prose submitted to them to not only to be about that generation, but to be to be authored by those whose birthdates would “qualify” them as belonging to that generation.  Moiself  was about 15 years past their qualification in that regard.  I usually boycott publications with such blinkered, partisan guidelines, but for some reason I felt like puttin’ my sneaky hat on. I just wanted to show them.

Unfortunately, this is not my sneaky hat.

Unfortunately, this is not my sneaky hat.

In the acceptance letter the editor write that my story was perfect for the upcoming issue and “masterfully captured” the atmosphere they were seeking.  Imagine that.  Imagine a writer of fiction using her imagination [7] to create characters that reflect anything other than thinly veiled versions of her (age/ethnicity/gender/generation/bra size….).

That journal did not use author photos (nor requested birth certificates or driver’s licenses or other forms of id proving the authors fit into their age criteria); thus, I assumed that they’d assumed I had obeyed their niggling guidelines, and that I was…one of them.  I never told the editors about my subterfuge.  I simply savored my admittedly petty [8] but nonetheless triumphant gotcha! moment, all by myself.

Until now.

*   *   *

Wishing you a weekend filled with petty yet satisfying delights. Here’s one more of mine.

 

May the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Apparently the magazine has a regular feature, “This Month’s Question,” and readers’ annoying braindumps thoughtful responses to the question are posted the following month.

[2] Ditties?  Really?

[3] a set of guidelines put together by a publisher, magazine or other organization that specify their requirements for material from writers.

[4] Not the journal’s real name.  Too bad, ’cause it’s a helluva name for a journal if I do say so myself.  And I just did.

[5] Either way, imagine if, for all these years, Stephen King actually has a paucity of imagination or skill and is simply writing “what he knows” or what he is.  Yikes.

[6] That would be the Ex-ers.

[7] Shouldn’t there be another footnote?  Somewhere?

[8] Why are acts of petty spite so enjoyable?  There must be  a German term for it, akin to schadenfreude.

The Ring I’m Not Wearing

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When in doubt, blame the weather

This article in The Oregonian blamed last weekend’s amazing weather for the fact that Portland’s annual Wordstock literary festival was “as quiet as a library.” Several attending authors were mumbling similar sentiments: who wouldn’t rather be outside in such a gorgeous weekend, likely the last such weekend of the year?

From my vantage point at the Oregon chapter of the SCBWI table, I wouldn’t have suspected the downturn in attendance had I not heard others commenting about it.  It was my first Wordstock; I was pleased that this year it had been scheduled on a weekend when I was not out of town/laden with previous engagements.  Sure, “traffic” seemed a little slow, but my tablemates and I performed our volunteer duties – touting the benefits of SCBWI membership to inquiring writers and illustrators – while, of course, looking for opportunities to show our own works.  I sold a whopping one copy of The Mighty Quinn (which I considered to be gravy, as the primary mission of those volunteering at the SCBWI table was to promote SCBWI)…and at least I didn’t end up with a negative inventory. [1] Also, I enjoyed meeting and chatting with other SCBWI members, including illustrator Carolyn Conahan (whose works include the delightfully illustrated and titled Bubble Homes and Fish Farts). Carolyn and I shared a Saturday afternoon shift and, it turned out, a mutual loathing of the terms platform and industry.

FISHFARTS

*   *   *

I never wore an engagement ring, for a variety of reasons, including this one.  I just didn’t get the point of it – excuse the senior moment.  Yeah, right.  Make that, I damn well got the point of it, and what I got about it made me ill.

Would you wear an engagement ring? I asked MH, a long long time ago in a dating world far, far away, when we were discussing Our Future ®.  If a woman and a man are both engaged to be married, what’s the point – other than that point which is analogous to dog pissing around a certain spot to mark its territory [2] – for the woman and not the man to wear such a signifier?

engagementring

MH, knowing me well, [3] didn’t bother with The Ring when he proposed marriage. We later chose simple gold wedding bands with a double weave design (and had the date of our wedding engraved on the inside of the band, for those pesky moments when you need a memory prompt.)

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As of this writing, neither MH nor I are wearing our wedding rings. A couple of weeks ago MH said he wanted to tell me, in case I’d noticed and had wondered [4] his ring was “missing,” that he’d been experiencing painful arthritis-like symptoms in his finger joints and had removed the ring in order to massage the joint. He feared he would be unable to remove the ring later if his joints continued to swell.

The next day I took off my wedding ring.  Since then, I’ve discovered (after looking and asking) that quite a few married couples do not wear wedding rings, usually for medical or similar reasons. [5] My motivation for ring-doffing was similar to my not-wanting-an-engagement-ring reason.  There was no spite or snit fit involved; just pure and practical (to me) relationship logic: I’m not going to wear my ring if MH isn’t wearing his.

I notice my ring’s absence several times a day, when instinctively performing what has become my après-hand washing ritual for the past twenty-five years (twisting the ring and blowing on my ring finger to dry underneath the ring).  I’m aware that it’s not there, but I don’t exactly miss wearing it. I was never a ring-bling person, and other than the two months in high school when I wore the class ring my parents insisted I purchase, [6] I’d never worn a ring prior to getting married (not counting the groovy Man From U.N.C.L.E. spy ring I got in a box of Cracker Jacks).

man_from_uncle

If you want us to wear wedding rings, I said to MH, perhaps we could have new ones designed, with some kind of custom feature (a latch of sorts, that would not pinch the skin) to make removal easy and allow for future, uh, joint expansion.  Belle seems rather pleased with the solution she proposed for our ring dilemma: finally, a legitimate excuse reason to urge her parents to get “tatted.”

RING TATS

*   *   *

Happy Trails to you, Aunt Bug.

Vesta Lucile Parnell Parker died on Sunday, the day after her 85th birthday.  My Aunt Lucile never went by her first name.  She was nicknamed “Bug” in childhood, and was always “Aunt Bug” (pronounced in her Tennessean lilt as Aint Bug) to her nieces and nephews.  Lucile was the youngest of the my father’s five siblings, and although you’re not supposed to play favorites when it comes to family, it was obvious to me that Bug was Chet’s favorite.  She married at 18, had five children, and remained in her home state of Tennessee.  Her brother (later my father) Chet, made his life in California after his gig in the army during WWII.

Aunt Bug was a musician, favoring country/gospel/bluegrass tunes (and even composed a few).  She played guitar and mandolin and a host of other instruments, and I love the fact that her obituary mentions the name of the bluegrass group she and other local musicians formed and played in for years, The Lizard Lick Old Timey String Band.

A college friend and I stayed with Lucile in Tennessee during the return loop of our post-graduation, cross-country road trip. One evening, after fixing us a tasty if a-bit-too-monochromatic-for-me [7] supper, Bug played guitar while she told a story, about how she’d recently had a lovely time with “a local feller who lives up the road a piece,” who’d heard she did some pickin’ and had stopped by to play guitar with her.  “Carl is the sweetest man, and he sure can carry a tune…”  Upon further elicitation of details, it became evident that she was referring to Carl Perkins !!!!  Down-to-earth Lucile couldn’t figure out why my friend and I were so drop-jaw impressed;, why, Carl was just another country boy, and really, a sight more respectable than that one-time buddy of his, Elvis, “…who was into the drugs and the women but some folks ’round here talk about that Elvis Presley like he was the second coming of Jesus just because he loved his momma….”

Geography (and budgets) being what they were, Lucile’s visits with our family and ours with hers were few but memorable. When visiting Santa Ana she always gave in to the demands of her nieces to get out our dad’s Martin guitar and entertain us with her rendition of the just-naughty-enough-for-primetime song, “That Old Rooster.”

Chet Parnell’s children knew Aunt Bug as friendly and amusing, quick with a smile and a hug and a joke, although we later discovered she struggled with bouts of staggering depression from the accumulation of tragedies that befell her family. [8]

My favorite memory of Aunt Bug comes from one of her visits to California, one night when we were all gathered in the living room and she startled us with a spontaneous demonstration of what she described as an endangered vocal skill. The woman could yodel!  Prior to that I had no idea that our cat could rise up on her back legs and hop about in abject terror.

Aunt Bug’s version (both lyrics and melody) was better, but this is an approximation of what she always called the “That Old Rooster” song:

Lucile was the last of the elder Parnell siblings to pass.  My father’s generation is no more; my mother’s three sisters are gone, and she, a frail 85 years old, is the last of hers.  I’ve no grandparents and now no aunts or uncles left.  It’s a poignant observation, not a lament. I’m not sure if my siblings and I are ready to assume the Oldest Generation mantle, but such is life.  It isn’t as if you are asked if you are ready, or have to qualify in any way for the title (other than by not dying young).

I do, however, possess the secret to eternal youth: cultivate an appreciation for immature humor and juvenile pranks life-affirming exuberance, and keep a ready supply of  _____ ____ on hand.  (hint:  rhymes with  oopie pushins)

And, of course, always let the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] In two past book fair/author events, I had people walk away with (as in, steal) copies of my first book – which were clearly marked for sale, not for free, when I was distracted.

[2] I’m a hardcore romantic, what can I say?

[3] And yet still wanting to marry me, imagine that.

[4]  I hadn’t noticed, and therfore hadn’t wondered.

[5] Typically weight gain, or joint swelling during pregnancy or as a side effect of medications, etc.

[6] They didn’t want me to miss having that classic high school insignia…which I lost while bodysurfing at Newport Beach.

[7] In true southern style, everything –I mean EVERYTHING, including beautiful, fresh from the garden, ruby red beefsteak tomatoes – ended up yellow (i.e., breaded and fried).

[8] Three of Lucile’s  five children – all of her boys – died young and tragically: two in separate, freak accidents when they were preteens, and her oldest boy, Kirt, committed suicide in his early 20′s. Lucile’s husband, our “Uncle Junior,” took up flying not long after Kirt’s death.  “When he’s up in the air he can just be above all of his worldly cares,” was how Aunt Bug explained the comfort her beloved husband Junior found in piloting his Cessna.  Junior died ~ 20 years ago, when he crashed his plane into a culvert after being unable to pull out of a stall maneuver.

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

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Some authors should not go there

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

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

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

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

Once again, I digress.  Back to bad sex.

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

BADSEXjpg

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AHat

*   *   *

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

TURKEY

 Anyway….

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

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

REUSALE

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

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SOAPBOX

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

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

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

This shall make sense; bear with me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation

"I believe, Elsie, I believe!"

“I believe, Elsie, I believe!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ZSAQUEEN

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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