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The Questions I’m Not Answering

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҉     The Opening Rant   ҉    

I recently received the following correspondence, which caused me to invoke the smiting powers of the FSM before I got to the email’s second sentence.   Forthwith and in all due haste I forwarded the misbegotten missive to SCM, a fellow writer and kindred snarky misanthrope keen-eyed observer of the human condition, with whom often I commiserate about The State of Publishing.

darkstormynightjpg

Oh, yeah, the email:

 (name redacted)

Subject: author questions

 hi, my name is (name not capitalized), I recently became an author and found your name under a list of oregon  authors and i wanted to get in contact with someone to see if they could answer some questions of mine  I  completely understand if your  too busy, but if you could take a little time and possibly answer some questions that would be great.

 How  did you get published? Im  currently using createspace to publish my books.

 How  did you market your book? Did  you have a marketing team or did you self market and what did you do if you did?

 do    you have any tips you could give me for helping my book along.  currently  im  going to faires   and trying to sell them there, but im    open to pretty much anything to help my book along. its  already on amazon, and the createspace marketplace, but I  would love some help as to how to get it moving better into peoples  hands.

compshock

 

Oh, oh, oh, (name not capitalized). Where do I begin?

For one thing, take the time to learn the difference between your and you’re and plurals and possessive plurals – as well as what and when to capitalize (name not capitalized, you are no e e cummings) and how to spell and punctuate – before you plan on soliciting time and advice from a “fellow” author.

If such frank advice (which you solicited, remember) makes you confused or surprised or hurts your feelings in any way, not to worry.  After all, you have it together enough to have learned to use the apps from Amazon and createspace that allow you to claim, “I recently became an author.”

And yes, I am too busy to help you, although I do appreciate the email as a worthy addition to my Exhibit A collection illustrating why I do not want to mentor anyone who intends to self-publish….

*   *   *

Deep, cleansing breath, y’all. I did not say any of those things to (name not capitalized). I did not reply to the email. I could not do so and respect myself without being honest, and really, I’m not that cruel (read: helpful).

If for some reason (name not capitalized) stumbles across this blog posting, I will leave this one piece of advice: one of the most important things a person should to do to “become an author” [1] is to develop a thick yet permeable skin; that is, a hide that can stand up to and appreciate honest criticism and that is porous enough to let seep through a realistic assessment of your innate talents and willingness to learn a craft.

As devoted (or at least sober)  readers of this blog know, I have ooooooooooooooooooodels of complaints about the traditional publishing model and industry.  And yet.  Past and especially recent experience reinforces the need for gatekeepers.  Thanks to the rise of self-publishing services, not only are the barbarians at the gates, they are scaling the fences and crossing the moats, using copies of their young-adult-fantasy-steampunk-speculative-Fifty-Shades of Vampire-murder-mysteries as makeshift ladders and rafts.

Without gatekeepers the entire literary marketplace becomes one big slushpile, deluged by a monsoon of unaudited, unedited work .  Today, someone like (name not capitalized) can “become an author” and “publish” via a few strokes of a keyboard and an EFT to a publishing app vendor.

yourbookhere

 

I don’t care if I rarely showed up to practice, didn’t bother to learn the fundamentals of the game and sucked at defense – I was on the soccer team, my name is on the roster, and dadgummit, I’m going to get a trophy for participating.

When anyone who wants to do so can be a “published author,” where is the merit in being published?  If any (name redacted) can “publish” as long as (name redacted) has the funds to produce a paperback or e-book, having a book published isn’t any more noteworthy than downloading your story and illustrations to a thumb drive and having Office Depot’s Document Printing Services department  run off and bind some copies.

badauthor

*   *   *

҉   The Middle Section’s Short but Heartwarming Family Anecdote    ҉   

 The Upside of the Empty Chateau

What with K and Belle gone to college, MH and I get to feed Andy (ball python) and T’Pol (corn snake).  No grocery list is complete without a reminder to stop by the pet supplies store and stock up on small and medium-sized frozen feeder mice.

T'Pol relaxes at the day spa.

T’Pol relaxes at the day spa.

*   *   *

҉   The Brief Contemplation of a Contemporary Phenomenon    ҉   

 Both Sides Now [2]

sunnycloud

To be described as having your head in the clouds is, by and large, not a flattering assessment of one’s character. The phrase’s various idiomatic meanings include being out of touch, unrealistic, naive, impractical and inattentive. Thus, it strikes me as odd – and, okay, just a teense ominous – that we [3] have adopted The Cloud as an umbrella term to refer to Internet software and services, and that we increasingly entrust our documents and applications to this ethereal location.

Just thinkin.’

stormcloud

*   *   *

҉   The pun-not-intended Pet Peeve    ҉   

I use Nordic trekking poles during my morning walks, for a variety of reasons, and have discovered that, along with increasing the workout and simply giving your arms something to do, they have the unanticipated benefit of protection.  On more than one occasion I have used the poles to fend off an aggressively postured dog.

Yep, a 120 lb canine, ears laid close to head, eyes narrowed and challengingly fixed on mine, lips open and drawn back to expose teeth bared in a snarl, hackles raised and tail fluffed and extended straight out from body, approaches – and is off leash, of course – as its owner calls out to me, “It’s okay, he’s real friendly – DON’T MAKE ANY SUDDEN MOVES!”

You, of course, are not now and never will be this dog owner. [4]

*   *   *

      ҉   The Department of Apropos of Nothing    ҉   

Due to a precipitating incident I cannot now specifically recall, longtime friend JRC once gave me a year’s subscription to National Review .  This was during our sophomore or junior year in college, when JRC was attending UCLA and I, UC Davis.  During one of our periodic phone calls, wherein we chewed the fat about everything in general and nothing in particular and The Big Issues of Life, JRC, an intelligent, witty, creative guy [5]who held inexplicable/WTF [6] conservative political opinions, said he thought I needed to expand my news sources.  At the time I worked in UC Davis’ Periodicals room and regularly read a variety of news journals – certainly more than JRC, I taunted him – including the Wall Street Journal.  But that wasn’t enough for JRC, who said he thought I’d appreciate William F. Buckley’s wit and way with language. I retaliated repaid JRC’s generosity by gifting him with a subscription to Mother Jones Magazine.

As far as I know, JRC received a year’s worth of Mother Jones issues.  I read each National Review that came to me, and although it would have cost me nothing to continue to receive them, I cancelled the subscription after six or seven months.  I tried, I really tried….

It wasn’t the magazine’s conservative slant that bothered me – for crying out loud in a Ronald Reagan film festival, I was born and raised in Orange County – it was the overt, obnoxious, patronizing, dripping with disdain, East Coast chauvinism.  The magazine’s writers oozed a snide, barely disguised contempt when addressing anything having to do with the West Coast.  I felt complicit even reading it.

 

"I won't insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe that scientists have discovered culture west of Boston."

“I won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe that scientists have discovered culture west of Boston.”

I am still in touch with JRC, who holds the dubious distinction being the person, other than my siblings, with whom I’ve had the longest peer-type association.  From grade two through high school we shared at least one class.  Imagine all the embarrassing things we might be able to recall about one another, were we not now so decrepit we can only remember the good stuff…right? [7]

*   *   *

      ҉   The Amusing Send-off    ҉  

Friend JWW presented me with a gift when she came to Sunday dinner. Mere words cannot descript my utter bewilderment joy when I beheld the…object; this, pictures will have to do.

JWW said that this gift was to help me with that pesky Empty Nest thing.  I thanked her for the addition to my Rubber Chicken crew. She said it wasn’t just another rubber chicken, and told me to squeeze it.  So, I did, and the chicken laid an egg…sort of.

Yes, I took a video of a rubber chicken’s hinterland. Before you judge me too harshly, remember that you just voluntarily watched a video of a rubber chicken’s hinterland.

*  *  *

On the subject of judging someone, harshly or otherwise, let us all remember the timeworn admonition, an aphorism that uses Shiny Happy treacle to mask a morsel of inadvertently wiseass advice:

Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.

Go ahead, put on the shoes, and then pass judgment.  If the man gets pissed off, well, you’re a mile away and you’ve got his shoes.

angrybarefoot

*   *   *

 

May your footwear of choice give you comfort over the miles to come, and may the judgment-free hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] That is, assuming the magical snap of a finger “There, you’re an author!” is intended to last for more than one book fair weekend.

[2] Three cheers and a big yellow taxi ride for those who get the Joni Mitchell reference.

[3] “we’ as in They, and perhaps you, but not me.

[4] And if you were I’d slap you upside the head with my trekking poles.

[5] And awesome blues guitarist.

[6] IMHO, considering JRC’s family’s impoverished circumstances and resultant need for the much-decried-by-conservatives, social welfare services.

[7] BTW, JRC, I never told your mother that you lied to her about how you broke your leg after you fell while swinging from a tree (which she’d forbidden you to do), although I think you ‘fessed up to her yourself after she didn’t fall for your story about tripping over a bbq grill cover .

The Age I’m Not Guessing

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Toto, I Have a Feeling We’re Not Twenty-Six Anymore

Although I vary the routes for my morning walks, more often than not I include a few laps around the tree-lined paths of a local park.  I see other “regulars” there – mostly dog walkers – with whom I’ve developed the nodding, I recognize you, acquaintance.

One of the Regular Park Walkers ® is a woman with big (as in thick), almost waist-length, curly, fading-red hair. Big Red’s hands are always busy: one pushes a stroller occupied by a vivid-red haired baby boy, and the other clutches the leash of what looks to be a Bernese Mountain dog.

Wednesday morning I saw Big Red at the park.  She’d stopped on a path ~ 50 feet ahead of me to adjust the baby’s blanket; I slowed my pace as I approached.  We exchanged good morning’ s, and I made a comment about her son’s adorable smile.

Grand-son,” she corrected me.  Her tone, furrowed brow and gawking eyes – it was as if she’d reacted to a non sequitur I’d made about her triplet chicken sweaters.

chicken sweaters

I generally refrain from guessing people’s ages, for several reasons.  One reason involves me doing my bit to raise consciousness re the pernicious effects of ageism. As part of this noble cause, I generally try to deflect or “reroute” that rare [1] comment-meant-to-be-a-compliment “Oh, but you don’t look ____ (whatever age you in fact are)” when it’s been flung my way after someone has guessed young about my age and I’ve corrected them.  Another reason is simply because I’ve never been good at it.

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, unless a person had drastic facial, verbal or postural indicators of either youthfulness or decrepitude, I thought everybody was more or less twenty-six.  When I myself was twenty-six, I was more or less correct about the ages of most of my peers, neighbors and co-workers.  It took many, many years, but someone [2] finally gave me the equivalent of a verbal face palm – How can you be so dense? He’s obviously twice/half as old as that! – and called me on my deficient age-estimating ability.

So. Yeah. Live and Learn. Nobody is twenty-six, anymore.  We’re all hovering around forty-four, aren’t we?

"We love being twenty-six!"

“We love being twenty-six!”

"So do we!"

“So do we!”

*   *   *

Department of They Meant Well

For the past few years hundreds of people [3] hoping for better economic and social opportunities make a dangerous crossing of Mediterranean, from spots along the North African coast, trying to enter Europe by boat.  Some of these boats capsize, and some of the migrants drown.

Last week I heard a BBC News radio story about one “side effect” of the sad situation.  The story concerned a wealthy couple who, while on a Mediterranean yacht cruise, became aware of the boat migrants’ situation and decided to get involved.  Their involvement has taken the form of spending over two million euros to purchase a yacht, outfit it with two dinghies and state of the art surveillance drones, and hire a crew which will patrol the seas near Malta (a common migrant destination), looking for boats in distress: 

When the ship comes across a migrant boat in international waters, the crew will contact the nearest authorities….. While they wait for instructions, they will use the dinghies to approach the boats, pass over food, water and lifejackets and offer medical assistance….. in case the boat is taking water or the number of the people [on board] is higher than should be, [the crew] will communicate that to the authorities and we will do what needs to be done. “If we need to take people on board we can, until Malta or Italy come to take them, and disembark them on land.”

This is one of those stories that make me feel good for a moment, until the wait a minute…. sets in.  Yep, I’ll be the curmudgeon who points out that short term acts of “heroism” often do nothing to alleviate long term misery and may even, unintentionally, contribute to the latter.

The Wealthy Yacht Philanthropists get the immediate satisfaction of assisting hungry and thirsty boat people – along with the irrational appreciation of alleged divine approval that only a misguided zealot would treasure feel-good-glow that comes from having a priest tell them they are on a “mission from God” [4] and present them with just what every boat rescue team needs,  “…a small bottle of holy water from Lourdes and a golden crucifix.”

"This should come in handy to anchor a child-sized lifejacket."

“This should come in handy to anchor a child-sized lifejacket.”

Meanwhile, the WYP inadvertently produce the possible (read: highly likely) side effect of encouraging more desperate people to make the hazardous journey (No worries, we hear someone with a big boat will rescue us and even drop us off where we want to go!).

How much better, IMHO, would WYP’s money, effort and influence be spent, were it to be invested in solutions to the economic, social and cultural problems that impel people to flee their homelands in their first place.  Pulling a few people out of the water and waiting for the next boatload to fall in – it’s like putting a finger cot on a wrist amputation.

*   *   *

Speaking of the dangers of the Mediterranean, here’s something you will never hear me say when I talk about my recipe for Mokh: [5]

“So now I do as Moroccan cooks do, and I think my brain salad dishes are better for it.”  [6]

Now Not Appearing in My Kitchen.

Now Not Appearing in My Kitchen.

*   *   *

Now Appearing in My Kitchen:

Cucumber avocado soup; quinoa, chevre, black bean, scallion and cilantro stuffed sweet red peppers.

YUM

Tasty distractions for getting used to having only two of us at the dinner table.

*   *   *

Empty Nest Chateau Report

My prudent admonition to my fledglings about dorm life – don’t expect or (even want) your dorm roommate to be a best friend; consider it gravy if you like your roommate or at least find him/her tolerable – is on the record.

Belle’s never been one for gravy.

K’s freshman dorm situation was benignly ideal: he and his roommate were considerate occupiers of the same space and socialized occasionally, but it went no further than that. They parted amicably at the end of the year; the roommate transferred to another college.

Belle adores her roommate, JFS.  Just loves her.  And (so far), so do we.  I know, it’s only been two weeks, but they are so cute together.

CUTEs

Really, almost this cute.

We met JFS’s family (parents and younger sister) on Friday of Orientation week.  I liked them immediately.  The UPS Orientation week organizers suggest that parents take their freshman offspring out to dinner on Saturday, and then, essentially, get lost go home and let the students dive into Orientation week activities.  Since Belle & JFS seemed to be getting on so well we asked Belle to pass along our suggestion that both families do the Saturday dinner together.

I felt comfortable enough around Belle’s roommate’s family to confess, during our mahhhhhhhvelous dinner at the Europa Bistro in the Proctor district of Tacoma, that I hoped Belle’s & JFS’s mutual admiration society wasn’t just part of the honeymoon stage and that soon they’d be fighting like siblings.  I shared that hope when JFS’s mother said that her daughter had been talking nonstop about how much she liked Belle.  I in turn told her that Belle had praised JFS to MH and I.

Belle and JFS stayed for a little over an hour at the bistro, then left to go back to some dorm social activity.  JFS’s parents, sister, MH and I stayed for almost another two hours, getting to know one another and sharing stories.

 

creme

The bistro was crowded with UPS families and service was a bit leisurely, [7] but we were having such a pleasant evening we really didn’t notice or mind.  We finished dinner, hadn’t ordered yet dessert, and out of the blue our waiter set two gorgeous ramekins of crème brûlée on our table.  He gave us the compliments of the chef and apologized for making “such nice people wait so long.”

JFS’s parents and sister exchanged mirthful looks and laughter.  JFS’s father explained to MH and I that crème brûlée is JFS’s favorite dessert, and oooh, just wait until she finds out what she missed by cutting out on the old folks!  Why wait? said moiself  At my urging, JFS’s father took a picture of the crème brûlées and texted the photo to her with a brief message about what she was missing.  He guffawed at his daughter’s one word reply, and hesitated only a moment before he showed the text to MH and me:

 

FUCK

 

This is a good match, I said to myself. Everything is going to be okay.

 

roommates

*   *   *

May your matches be picture perfect, your crème brûlées complimentary, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Well, rare for me.

[2] I cannot recall the name of the person who enlightened me, but whoever you are, I’m sure you look fabulous…for your age.

[3] An estimated 1600 people in 2013.

[4] A god who apparently can’t be bothered to help the migrants walk on water, or do whatever he might do to alleviate their situation.

[5] And this is because I am never going to make Mokh.

[6] Spiced Brain Salad with Preserved lemons. From Paula Wolfert’s The Food of Morocco.

[7] Or, as I like to say, European.

The Nest I’m Not Emptying

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It started early this summer. Subtle hints dropped, direct and dire predictions [1] flung (“Those were the best times of your life, when your kids were at home; oh, you’ll look back on those days and wish….”), and everything in between….

I’d tried not to give it an inordinate amount of brain wattage, but people kept bringing it up.

Yep, son K is back to college for his senior year, and daughter Belle begins her first.  On the drive back home to Hillsboro, after we’d taken Belle to her UPS freshman orientation, I said to MH, “It’s not like we just dropped her off for summer camp, is it?”

 Anyone know what this is?

Anyone know what this is?

The She Meant Well  [2] award re this situation goes to my maternal unit, as per our Tuesday phone conversation.  We talked about MH and I taking Belle up to college for freshman orientation last week, and how K would be returning to Tacoma this week.  My mother asked me if I was going to miss my offspring.  I said something like oh yeah, big time, already, even though K is still at home (he caught the train to Tacoma on Wednesday).

 “I find it interesting [3] that you think you’ll miss them” she said.

 “Uh…really? Why?” moiself responded. “I like them.”

 “Well, you always seem to have so much else going on in your mind…”

Oh.  Yeah, right. It’s not like I’ll even notice that, for the first time in over 21 years, my two groovy and much-loved children are not around.

What does she think I am, a honey badger?

Honey badger

 honey badger don’t care.

*   *   *

MH has a sabbatical coming up, and we will be doing some traveling. Good timing, I think (hope). What with Belle & K both in college, the Dueling Banjoes of our elderly parents’ health crises [4], and my professional mid-life crisis, I find myself…unable to even pin down what I’m feeling. Floating, for lack of a better word.

Wise compassionate counsel from wise, compassionate friend SCM:

One of my Oregon Attorney Assistance Program newsletters talked about transitions—good or bad, they will always leave you feeling uneasy, and to give yourself time to get used to them, and to be forgiving of yourself if you feel badly (even for good changes).  You’re transitioning with writing (or making some decisions about where to go next) and transitioning with parenting children to parenting adults. Those are both big life changes.

*   *   *

BFAST PLATES

These are the breakfast plates I purchased for K and Belle, a long long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  One section for scrambled eggs and/or my special recipe whole wheat vanilla soymilk tofu (!)  [5] pancakes, the other for fruit (bananas, seasonal berries, kiwi… they both loved kiwi).

Don’t worry about me, I’m doing fine.  Just staring at empty plates. [6]

*   *   *

Something else on the plate.

C’mon out tomorrow to the Downtown Hillsboro Saturday Farmer’s Market.  Hillsboro’s seasonal open-air market is celebrating its 32nd year of operation, and features over 100 vendors and their fresh local produce food and garden products, flowers, baked goods, arts and crafts, live music, and more.

As for the more: wipe the fresh blackberry (mmm, yummers) stains off your fingers and stop by Jacobsen’s books for their summer author signing series, which is held during market hours.  This Saturday yours truly will be at Jacobsen’s, with The Mighty Quinn. I’ll be there from 9a – 1p, except for when I’m slipping out to one of the produce booths to sample some of the gorgeous fresh fruit, or drooling over the Pie Guy‘s wares.

The market is held on Main Street between 1st and 3rd.  Jacobsen’s Books is at 211 E. Main, on the north side of the street.

Be there, or …

SQUARE

*   *   *

 When I learn something new – and it happens every day – I feel a little more at home in this universe, a little more comfortable in the nest.
Bill Moyers

May you feel a little more comfortable in your nest – or fledge quickly and crap all over the nest next door, whatever floats your boat – and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

[1] Mostly from my mother, with the implication that it’s all downhill after this.

[2] “Thank god kids never mean well.” – Lily Tomlin.

[3] The dictionary definition of interesting – “engaging or exciting and holding the attention or curiosity” – is not how my mother typically employs that word.  When she uses it, it is more along the lines of the apocryphal Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”

[4] my SoCal mom has a myriad of physical and mental health problems; MH’s Floridian father is battling the progressive physical and cognitive deterioration of Parkinson’s Disease .

[5] One of those stealth-health things…and they loved them.

[6] It’s time for a lighter footnote. Pretend you’ve just read an outrageously funny fart joke.

The Composer’s Ass I’m Not Kicking

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But First, The Sporadic Self-Promotion 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bards___Brews_Art_1_

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

sandwich

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

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

Once again, I digress.

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

MOONGOLF

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

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

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

Exhibit A.

Exhibit A.

 *   *   *

Can We Agree to Stop This, Now?

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

selfies

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

Do these snakes make my head look fat?

Do these snakes make my head look fat?

*   *   *

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

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

The Good Ole Folks I’m Not Romanticizing

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 Remember to call your billiards shots 

White cat in the side pocket.

pool nova

*   *   *

The Offfspring of Duh Meets the Progeny of You Can’t Make Up This Stuff

Dateline: May 21, a New York Times article, Bryan College is Torn; Can Darwin and Eden Co-exist?, about an Christian college which is being sued by two long-time faculty members as part of a controversy over the college’s stance on the origin of humans.

Creationist1

In a nutshell – an appropriate container, as you’ll see – the lawsuit revolves around the college’s “statement of belief,” which professors have to sign in order to be employed at Bryan College.  The original statement of belief, quite retro re the school’s views on creation and evolution,[1] is apparently not backward and Neanderthal strong enough for the college’s administration and governing board.  Fearing “a marked erosion of Christian values and beliefs across the country,” college officials recently added new language to the SOB [2] –  language they refer to as a “clarification” – that would have faculty members professing that Adam and Eve “are historical persons created by God in a special formative act, and not from previously existing life-forms.”

Some Bryan College students as well as professors are objecting to the SOB’s addition, claiming that it “…amounts to an assault on personal religious views” and that “it makes (Bryan College) a more narrow place.”

 Gee, ya think?

Gee, ya think?

Bryan College president Stephen D. Livesay defends the SOB’s clarification:

“…this is something that’s important to us. It’s in our DNA. It’s who we are.”

 Oh. My. Mr. Livesay. Whatever possessed you to use that term?

There’s no such thing as DNA. Because if there was, you’d be able to trace human ancestry back to previously existing life forms….ooooh….never mind.

 *   *   *

Speaking of (or implying) dinos, Wednesday’s Google Doodle tagged Mary Anning, a British palaeontologist.

And I’m using the British spelling intentionally and respectfully, not just to be colourful , so take a hike, spellchecker.

*   *   *

Animal Enrichment

juncooregon

We have a pair of Juncos nesting in the bird house we so inconveniently located (well, for the birds) above the jungle-gym/climbing tree of our outdoor cat, a Bengal named B.B.  We put the birdhouse up for more decorative than functional reasons, as an object d’yard art, thinking that no sane bird would choose to homestead in such close proximity to a feline. But, alas, a pair of Juncos seems to be feeding chicks housed within.  Fledging time should prove to be interesting.

birdhouse

*   *   *

Department of Random

Last week, watching the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, I got to thinking [3] about the ironies (or should I say insincerities?) behind one of the Country-Western genre’s staple themes, when guest Dolly Parton performed a song called Home.

There are a plethora of CW songs that pay tender tribute to and ostensibly yearn for the good ole folks and good ole, simpler times back home (“we wuz dirt poor but we wuz luuuved”) — songs written and performed by multimillionaires who did everything in their power to escape that life, that locale, and those people.  If life back then ‘n there was so good, why did you want out? Why were you so ambitious, in some cases even desperate, to leave it all behind and go for something more?

POOR

Just wondering.  Excuse me, wonderin’.

*   *   *

I Request a Moment of Respectful Silence

Moment_of_silence

Please join me in honoring the passing of a national treasure, TOWIAWNCHH. [4]  Yes, The Only Women in America Who’s Never Colored Her Hair has thrown in the towel.

 hair

*   *   *

Department of Mixed Experiences

 "We are never, ever coming back."

“We are never, ever coming back.”

Last week MH traveled to Pasadena to attended Nerdfest 2014 his Caltech Class of 1984 reunion.  He hemmed and hawed over attending, as he holds no special fondness for his alma mater and was not interested in the reunion activities.  He decided at the last minute to go because he wanted to see a group of friends who’d planned on attending.  One of these friends from Caltech days, who has continued to be a real life buddy  [5],  had this to say on his FB page about the reunion:

“As usual much bigger participation by younger and older classes. Energetic young woman working for the (Caltech) Alum Assoc introduced herself and explained her job was partly to improve relations with 1980’s classes. I asked what her theory was and she said their best guess was alums from that era had “mixed experiences” and many “did not enjoy returning to campus”.

I think all Caltech classes should hold their reunions on grounds of the previously-mentioned Bryan College.  Caltech alums could schlep in some previously existing life forms, planting them strategically around the campus grounds….

jesus burying dinosaur bones

 *   *   *

My Wicked Fantasies ©
Chapter One in a (hopefully, very short) series

I will consume a cabbage, beans, Brussels sprouts, garlic and broccoli smoothie three hours before my next scheduled airplane flight.  When going through the security checkpoint, I will refuse to enter the TSA scanner machine and ask for the security pat down instead.

 *   *   *

May all of your security pat-downs reveal no previously existing life forms, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] It includes statements such as, “The origin of man was by fiat of God.”

[2] Praise Jaysuuuus for the opportunity to use that acronym.

[3] Fortunately, this train of thought lasted for, at most, five minutes.

[4] Her slave name is Robyn Parnell.

[5] And who is a favorite dude of mine as well.  Even if he is a dwarf scientist. Which I’d more fully explain, but then this footnote would need a footnote, and that’s just not right.

The Advice Column I’m Not Writing

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 The potters are here!  The potters are here!

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

Horsley teapot

Teapot by Patrick Horsley

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

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

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

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

Chickenface

And there was much rejoicing. 

 *   *   *

Complesults and Insulments.

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

HISS

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

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

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

*   *   *

More From The Department of Withholding Judgment

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

*   *   *

 A Day Late and a Dollar Short [3]

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

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

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

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

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

* Fun with Fundamentalists

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

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

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

facepalm

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

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

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

 Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

The 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.

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