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The Baby Stroller I’m Not Buying

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Peach at the Beach [1]

Everyone should periodically have the opportunity to be reminded of words like enchanting, which come to mind while watching a seven year old girl splashing in the waves, joyously oblivious to the bone-chilling water temp, chasing flocks of gulls and exclaiming over the profound Mystery of the Broken Sand Dollars [2]  – what happens to the other pieces?

 sanddollar

 *   *   *

Twenty Five Years.
Really.

Lest you think I have fallen from the Cliffs of Insanity, check for yourself and you will discover that it has been twenty-five years since the release of One. Of. The. Best. Movies. Ever. Made.

I am of course referring to The Princess Bride.

All together now:
Inconceivable!

*   *   *

Buy Patrick Stewart A Baby Stroller

Sir Patrick Stewart said he doesn’t fit in in his neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn, because he’s the only one without a stroller. We knew what we had to do.

Somehow, for reasons that escape me (other than the obvious coolness factor), I contributed money to this campaign.  The fact that it was organized by the mahvelous singer-songwriter-comedian-actor-Broad Comedy guru, she of the multiple slash-talents, Katie Goodman – and her equally lovely and talented husband, writer-director Soren Kisiel [3]– may have something to do with it.

Please...make it not so.

Please…make it not so.

*   *   *

And Now I Know

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, is neurologist Oliver Sacks’ absorbing and compassionate case-study-book that deals with how human brains process and understand music, and how music shapes and transforms human beings’ understanding of their world, and themselves.

I’ve been a fan of Sacks’ work for years (you really must read The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat – trust me, you’ll never look at brain deficits and altered perceptions in the same way again [4]).  A friend, [5] after discovering that she and I share a similar neurological “condition,” recommended Musicophilia to me.

When I wake up at night, I immediately hear music; i.e., a song. This is not because mischievous elves have crept into my bedroom and turned on the Various Music Playing Devices. The song I hear does not awaken MH, because the song is in my head.  The song varies; it is never classical music, never instrumental – there are always vocals. [6]  Genre-wise, it is more commonly a rock/pop/folk/soul/alternative song than country or heavy metal; it will occasionally be a show tune or Broadway musical number; it is never (so far)  rap or Emo, thank the FSM.

 

"You're welcome."

“You’re welcome.”

Sometimes there is a logical explanation for whatever song is on my brain’s nocturnal playlist – I’d heard the song earlier in the day, on the radio/my phone as I was driving/exercising/out for a walk.  And sometimes it’s just a mystery or even embarrassment to me as to why Joan Jett’s I Hate Myself For Loving You or Aretha Franklin’s Think or Bobby Sherman’s Hey Little Woman [7] is bouncing between my ears.

Thanks to reading Musicophilia, I know that this musical tic of mine is likely a brainworm – a perceptual construction analogous to visual afterimages but “created at a much higher level (than visual afterimages and other sensory system effects) in the brain.”

Either that, or I’m just fucking daggy. [8]

 

*   *   *

Me, Too

listsirony

*   *   *

May the music between your ears (or whatever forms the soundtrack of your life) warm the cockles of your heart, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] The delightful nickname of delightful friend SCM’s delightful daughter.

[2] Sounds like a Nancy Drew title

[3] The driver in Hummer Driving Man.

[4] I’m assuming you already had opinions about brain deficits and altered perceptions. Which may be a sign of my own altered perception.

[5] Who would be the afore-mentioned SCM.  Wow – TWO footnotes, way to go, S!

[6] There is no footnote #6. Move along, folks – nothing here to see.

[7] Yes, that one would be the embarrassment.

[8] Aussie/New Zealand slang for crazy.

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 Theme I’m Not Suggesting

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Several times a week I check online writers’ resources, which post calls for submissions from publishers and editors.  Many of the submission guidelines are so genre/topic and/or region specific as to be of no use or interest to me (“we seek speculative fiction reflecting the transgendered, pink-collar experience of immigrants to the Appalachian/Ohio Valley/Northeast/Midwest region”). And then, there are those venues whose particulars are downright entertaining, in that head-scratching, there’s an app for that? way.

Mermaids in the Basement: An Anthology of Mermaid Poetry
 (______________) is seeking original poems of mermaid poetry…..
Poems need not mention mermaids directly but must suggest a mermaid theme.

 

I love the request for “original” mermaid poetry.  It’s not as if there are anthologies full of classic (or even contemporary) mermaid odes to plagiarize.

"Here I sit so broken-hearted..."

“Here I sit so broken-hearted…”

And, not knowing what would constitute a mermaid “theme,” I can’t even hint at one, much less suggest it. Although I dare to venture that such a specialized genre calls for haiku.

Neptune’s stench ascends; 
More mermaids in the basement?
Call the plumber, dear.

*   *   *

There are friends, and there are friends.  What kind are you?

My perennially upbeat, kind-hearted, mild-mannered friend TK expressed her concerns about her upcoming oral surgery.  Due to what transpired after her colonoscopy several years ago, TK is worried about what she might say or do while under the influence of modern happy blabbermouth brain filter reducing pills medicine.

HAPPY PILLS

 TK had asked her son to be her designated post-colo transportation, and he drove her home from the hospital.  As Son pulled the car into their driveway, TK asked him a question, the answer to which she should have already known.

“Is Grandma still at our house?”

“Yes Mom, Grandma is still at our house,” Son replied. (TK’s mother had been staying with them for several weeks).

“Oh!” TK sputtered. “Then you get in there and tell her to go the fuck home!”

TK’s son was – surprise! – greatly amused by his mother’s outburst, which he would have missed had he not been her driver.  He asked her why she’d chosen him for the honor, and not her friend, Wendy?  TK told Son she’d been warned about certain after-effects experienced by those who’ve undergone a colonoscopy.  Although Wendy was indeed her friend, when it came to comfort levels, TK wasn’t sure if Wendy was the kind of friend…well, she didn’t know if Wendy was a “farting friend.”

You may be a BFF, but are you a BFFF?

You may be a BFF, but are you a BFFF?

*  *  *

So much for which to Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Truly, MH and I have been Touched By His Noodly Appendage ® , when I consider the fact that our daughter Belle is neither the kind of person who

(a) like one of her classmates, shares (during class time) the news that she got a letter from her incarcerated boyfriend, [1] , nor
(b)  like several other girls in the class, responds to such news with icky-sincere squeals of, “Aw, isn’t that sweeeeet?!”

FSM

Belle assures me she has (so far) managed to refrain from barfing in her book bag when the hormonally-challenged, love-struck loser besotted youngster tells tales of her jailbird Romeo.  Such self-control is amazing for mere mortals, but perhaps not surprising when coming from – proud parent announcement alert – one of the LHS Class of 2014 Valedictorians. [2]

*   *   *

A show I’m looking forward to seeing:
“Jesus Loves you (But Hates Me)”

Jesus

*   *   *

Stop the Presses ! Alert the media!

Stop the Presses ! Alert the media!

It’s time for a new acronym for an official, or at least widely recognized, office of the federal government.  We have SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) and POTUS (President of the United States).  Surely there is room in This Great Country of Ours ® for DOTUS (Do-Nothings/Dickheads [3] of the United States).

 This thought came to me the other day while listening to an interview with yet another do-nothing Republican congressman.  True to the acronym, this elected official was doing nothing…save for the usual GOP chunk-blowing.  Really, and truly, I wish I knew what the current crop of Republicans are for. [4]  From my perspective, they do nothing, they say nothing, they are for nothing —  except for being rabid bat-bit, foaming at the mouth crazy, anti-Affordable Care Act (excuse me, “Obamacare”).

Although I am not currently a member of any political party, [5]I am a devoted and consistent voter.  I have many complaints about the Democrats, but it’s the Republicans who have me flummoxed with their crazy ass legislative and rhetorical inertia.

"I'm not coming up until Obana care is gone...Bwaaah!"

“I’m not coming up until Obama care is gone…Bwaaah!

There are a myriad of problems, challenges and downright ***f***s facing this nation.  Reflecting on only a few of these will get my head spinning:

- our ham-fisted immigration system;
– the higher and higher cost of higher education crippling, and the resultant saddling of graduates with crippling student loan debt;
– the widening economic gap between rich & poor;
– global warming and the need for non-toxic, renewable energy sources;
– our aging transportation system/crumbling infrastructure;
–  the need to assess our role as the world’s police, including our continuing military presence overseas;
– the rise of religious fundamentalism abroad and at home, and the security and educational ramifications of dealing with
those who embrace pre-scientific, pre-Enlightenment worldviews;
-our growing scientific and technological illiteracy, and how our science education compares to that of other developed nations

And Republicans are really pissed about…something they already helped pass into law.

 *   *   *

The Ones That Got Away

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of our family’s most treasured [6]seasonal traditions involves voluntary elf infestation.  As part of our Solstice/Christmas décor, a motley crew of Santa’s elves are placed in various nooks and crannies in the downstairs rooms of our house.  One crouches atop the kitchen clock, another peers out from behind the leaves of the potted ivy by the sink, one hangs from the chandelier, others hide between the shelves of books and DVDs or atop curtains or precariously hang on picture frames or objects d’art…. The idea being that, whether standing at the kitchen sink, walking through the hallway, sitting in front of the TV or on the loo, you are being watched.

We plant dozens of these elves in various shapes and sizes each Solstice season, and try to come up with novel hiding places for them.  Come early January when the seasonal décor is taken down put away until next year, there is always one sprite that escapes detection.  This lucky elf is rewarded by having a free downstairs pass until the following season.

This year, for the first time, two freedom-loving elves managed to remain hidden until after the others had been returned to the attic.  Both were cases of hiding in plain sight; much to my surprise, neither one was that which had been oh-so-cleverly hidden by MH. [7]

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

*   *   *

May no DOTUS darken your day, may the elves watch over you and yours, and may all of your friends be farting friends.

And, of course, may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] This is far from the first time said student has mentioned her incarcerated lover.

[2] She found this out yesterday, from her school guidance counselor.  Much happy feet dancing ensued.

[3] Lady dickheads are included in this acronym, lest Michelle Bachman have yet another reason to feel left out.

[4] Other than lower taxes for baziillionaires and full funding for NSA security devices placed in every vagina lest women even consider managing their own reproductive systems.

[5] I have been registered with nearly every political party at some point in my electoral life, to either vote for (or against) someone in a primary, or so see, as I did in college, who sends the most whackadoodle flyers to their registrants:  the John Birchers, the Libertarians, the Peace and Freedomers….

[6] And unnerving, according to some visitors.

[7] In the eye socket of MH’s 50th birthday present to moiself.

The Voices I’m Not Hearing

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Yet Another Reason To Go On Living

Someday I shall tell you my penis tattooing joke.  Not today, but someday.

Nine out of ten camels agree, it's the best joke they've ever heard

Nine out of ten camels agree, it’s the best joke they’ve ever heard

*   *   *

Even more reasons to go on living: those fragments of conversation, heard in passing

MH, Belle, K and I, on our way out of a Fred Meyer store, pass a woman on her way in.  Cart Woman, a gritty, out-of-my-way look in her eyes, speedily pushes a shopping cart in which her bug-eyed toddler squirms in the cart’s child seat.  She hiss/whispers to the child:

“You are not going to pee your pants – we’re almost there.”

*   *   *

MH, son K and I made a trip to Tacoma earlier this week, while Belle stayed home and held down the proverbial fort. [1]  It was time to return K to the University of Puget Sound, for his junior year as a “tiny bio” [2] major.

My friend CC’s comment, after she’d heard we’d be helping K move into his first off-campus dwelling, a rental house he’ll be sharing with four or five other students: 

Good Luck with that!
Just don’t go into the bathroom, now or ever, for the well being of your health.

Wise words, but bathroom, schmathroom — the real danger was the enclosed back porch/laundry room, which is also where K’s housemates have decided to keep the recycling containers.  Apparently, the concept of rinse-and-recycle has not sunk in, much to the delight of the local Musca domestica and their various drosophilia cousins.  Also, there is the neglected litter box for the cat-the-boyfriend[3]-of-one-of-the-housemates-brought-in-violation-of-the-lease.

MESS

I must remind myself: what festers in Tacoma stays in Tacoma.

K’s room is one of the bigger bedrooms in the house, yee haw. It was also totally unfurnished and had no closet or shelves of any kind, which necessitated trips to local stores to procure some clothing and other storage devices.  Wednesday morning I drove us from our hotel to K’s house to pick him up for one of the shopping forays.  I stayed in the car while MH fetched K, and as my menfolk were leaving K’s house an older woman from the house across the street scurried out to her front yard and called to K:  “Are you going out?  Would you bring me back a Pepsi?”

K relayed the women’s request to me when he got in the car, and his eyes widened when I said it might be fun to actually bring her back a Pepsi. No, Mom, please…don’t.

K was concerned that he would become, in that neighbor’s eyes, an easy mark.   His housemates, who’ve been in the house since the summer, warned him about Pepsi Woman and her peculiar behaviors.  I asked them for more info when we returned from shopping:  Is PW mentally ill, a classic eccentric, or maybe just has a really big Pepsi jones?

From what K’s housemates have gleaned, Pepsi Woman suffers from a TBI, with the resulting cognitive and behavioral deficits common to such injuries. Her grown daughter checks up on her regularly, but PW gets anxious when her husband isn’t around (he works normal/daytime hours) and tends to “wander” during the day.  She wandered into their house one day – just opened the door and marched inside not long after the housemates had brought back boxes of takeout pizza and uttered the completely ordinary and yet situationally disturbing words, “Are you having pizza?”

It freaked them out, to say the least.

It will provide the housemates with some funny stories, I assured K, although the women’s situation is ultimately and profoundly sad.  Please, be kind to her, I requested.  And I wish I’d gotten her that Pepsi.

*   *   *

less than a week until school starts

less than a week until school starts

A long time ago, long before children, I did not understand why a writer friend hated summer, to the point of cursing with great creativity the school district in which her children attended school, when budget cuts meant they had the shortest school year in the state.  Could not understand, because I didn’t have a school-aged child. 

Recently, I told her this and apologized if I seemed insensitive ten years ago. Because I get it. Summer, if you are involved and/or can’t afford help, means a stay at home parent’s life is completely derailed. Everything is on hold. If you are like me, you can’t get anything done because multiple interruptions make you crazy (there’s neuroscience to back me up–well, not on the crazy part…. 

I am the writer friend mentioned in the above excerpt, which is from the blog of the marvelous, wise and witty Attorney at Large.  ‘Twas funny, to read about that situation in a friend’s blog.  And I do not recall her reaction as being insensitive at all.  Only unfamiliar…with a situation which she, as a fellow writer and, now, fellow CHAW ,[4] now is.

(And since she is also, in so many ways,  a better writer than I, she can grimace over the construction of that last sentence.)

Once again, I digress.

The hating-summer thing is only in terms of work.  As in, being able to work on new stories, rather than just keeping up with the business end of things. [5]Scratch the “just,” there is nothing just/merely/simply about keeping up with the business end of writing.  The business end is the end I-most-don’t-want-my-face-near,

ASS

but it is essential, and takes up an incredible amount of time.

There have been a few summers when I have managed the dilemma well (read: lowered expectations re new work to absolute zero). I’m hoping this has been one of them.  I truly enjoyed spending time with K & Belle during their time off, as long as I was able to muffle the should be/could be haranguing voice inside my head, which for some disturbing reason sounds an awful lot like Barry White on helium.

I’ve heard people say that
 Too much of anything is not good for you, baby
 Oh no
 But I don’t know about that
 There’s many stories that we’ve loved
 You’ve shared stories and written stories
 It doesn’t seem to me like it’s enough
 There’s just not enough of it
why aren’t you writing more new stories
 Oh oh, babe….

Fun fact:  I read somewhere that when schizophrenics have auditory hallucinations, regardless of the gender of the person experiencing the hallucinations, the imaginary voices overwhelmingly tend to be male.[6]

Good to know.  Anyway, pretend there is a graceful segue.

Belle starts her senior year of high school next week.  Yee haws, and yikes abound. And I will start pawing through my notes on the next The Mighty Quinn book.  It’s not a sequel, but I found that although as eager as I was to get on to my list of a quabillion other projects, I wasn’t quite done with the characters, and my files contain enough notes on scenario and plot and dialog that I think I could have at least two more books in a…

Insert the appropriate s-word, I dare you. I can’t say it, or write it.  A series?  It was never my intention to write one, and I don’t think I’m going to.  But on to middle school/junior high – with all the weirdness that comes with the territory, including, may the Flying Spaghetti Monster be praised, puberty!  How can I deny myself letting Quinn and Neally et al wreak havoc in that bountiful setting?

Take it away, Barry.  Let the summer end and the hormonal (literarily speaking) hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] read: scooped all three literal litter boxes. Excellent job, Belle!

[2] Micro and Cellular Biology.

[3] Who is, apparently, becoming housemate #5

[4] Scrambled acronym for At Home Child Wrangler

[5]Bizness includes keeping up with the ever-changing publisher and manuscript/story submission requests and guidelines, querying agents and publishers, sending out manuscripts and tracking them when they return home to roost….

[6] Due to generally shorter vocal cords, smaller larynx, higher pitch, wider range of sounds and more melodious tone, the female voice is more “complex” than the male’s and thus, it is speculated by scientists (or hallucinated) a female-sounding voice is more difficult for the brain to conjure and replicate than a male’s voice is.

The Ides I’m Not Bewaring

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March 15.  The Ides of March.  Beware them.

The main reason my elderly mother should have internet access.

Forget all the practical reasons: the mental stimulation provided by keeping up with technology, promotion of intellectual vigor and independence, facilitation of communication, including keep up on the family news and receiving the pictures of grandkid that, these days, we tend to take (and send) digitally…. None of these factors have convinced her.  Perhaps if she knew, if she really understood, that she’s missing out on the viral video memes, including my favorite:  singing goats.  There’s even a French version.

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Happy belated Pi day, y’all

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The Mighty Quinn got a review in Kirkus Reviews, [1] The review is live now for Kirkus subscribers, and will be available for anyone to see two weeks before the book’s scheduled publication date (so ~ May 1). Here are the quotes Scarletta Press  is pulling from it:

“For her first middle-grade novel, set in Hillsboro, Ore, Parnell creates interesting child and adult characters and confronts them with serious issues, including child abuse, care for the environment, ethics and even skin color.” — Kirkus Reviews 

“…it will certainly provide food for thought.” — Kirkus Reviews 

“…one of the few books for the audience that discusses the possibility of not practicing a religion. (Fiction. 9-12)” — Kirkus Reviews

Further on in the review there is a mention of the action being “often humorously interrupted by the realities of family and school life,” but, golly gee, nothing about belching the Pledge of Allegiance or cultivating the friendship of dead mice or the applesauce-diarrhea art project (it’s not all serious stuff, folks)….

‘Tis a good thing – the review itself, and even getting a review, especially considering the chances any book has of getting reviewed by a legitimate book reviewing outlet.  The stats, from Publishers Weekly via the Authors Guild Bulletin, vary only slightly year to year:

“Three thousand books are published daily (1,095,000 per year) in the U.S.  Six thousand are reviewed, less than one percent of the total published.”

For someone who close-to-never reads book reviews,[2] my own or anyone else’s, this whole getting-a-review thing [3] is going to be an interesting experience for me.  Interesting as in the actual meaning of interesting, rather than as how some people employ it as a passive negation of all things exciting or note-worthy.  When my mother an older relative of mine remarks, as per the exotic [4](to her) dish I’ve cooked, “Isn’t that interesting?” she really means, “I don’t like the way that smells.”

My first book, This Here and Now, a collection of short fiction, was statistically consistent in that it was one of the 99+ percent that didn’t get reviews [5]My Closet Threw a Party managed to get a couple,[6] although my editor didn’t bother to alert me to them.

About that pesky legitimate adjective, as per reviews.  What with self-publishing and e-publishing, the reviewing game [7] has changed.   There are services now that, for a price, will give your work a flattering review.  The most recent Authors Guild Bulletin alerted me to an article in the New York Times, “The Best Reviews Money Can Buy“, which focused on one such service:

 “Todd Rutherford offers a service that provides glowing “reviews” of self-published books.  He charges $99 for one review, $499 for 20…. All of them will say your book is terrific.  His reviews will say your novel is “shattering.” Or your book is a “classic memoir.  Will change your life.  Lyrical and gripping. Studding and compelling. Or words to that effect.”

 Have the reviews in publishers weekly and the few newspapers and magazines that still review books become irrelevant?

The Times article said: “Consumer reviews are powerful because, unlike old-style advertising and marketing, they offer the illusion[8] of truth.  The Federal Trade Commission has stated that all online endorsements need to make clear when there is a financial relationship, but enforcement has been minimal.  So forget about the old-fashioned, serious reviews. They are barely clinging to life.  From now on, selling a book will be just like selling perfume or breakfast cereal.”

A coda, of sorts:  The guy in the article, the composer of for-hire rave reviews?  He says that he is now suspicious of all online reviews — whether of books or of anything else.  As my mother might say, isn’t that interesting?

bad smell

*   *   *

Smarter People Than Us Said This

* If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: “Thou shalt not ration justice.” ~ Sophocles, Greek playwright

* It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have. ~ James A. Baldwin, American Novelist, poet, social critic

* Corn can’t expect justice from a court composed of chickens. ~ anonymous African woman

*   *   *

Justice, schmustice.  And by the way, what spirits were consumed by our spirited forefathers [9] that led to them to think ’twas a good idea to allow Supreme Court Justices to serve until they die or retire?

Nine of the most powerful people in the country are not elected by the people.  Rather, they ascend to their position of power via political appointment.  Supreme Court Judge is the only position in the federal government appointed for life.  Once they’re there, there are no competency tests, no opportunity of voter recall.

Which brings me to SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia, aka the Rush Limbaugh of the Supreme Court.  When it comes to being the poster boy for arrogant, white male privilege blindness Scalia has a litany of the-rules-don’t-apply-to-me incidents and statements, including his refusal to recues himself from a case involving his good friend and duck hunting buddy, Vice President Dick Cheney.  More recently, Scalia criticized and quoted parts of the “Obamacare” law that weren’t actually in the law, admitted he hadn’t even read the law he’d criticized and was about to rule on, and laughed at the notion that he should actually attempt to read the Affordable Care Act before ruling on its legality.

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Scalia’s most recent face-palming pronouncement came during the SCOTUS hearing on the renewal of the Voting Rights Act, one of the most successful pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. history.  Scalia said “This is not the kind of question you can leave to Congress,” [10] and labeled the continued existence of the Voting Rights Act a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.

Emergency call for all budding inventors:  please, ASAP, devise an intellectual equivalent of Depends for the mouth of Justice Scalia.

The only way Supreme Court Justices can be removed from office is via impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction in a Senate trial, but only for the types of offenses that would trigger impeachment for any government official under Articles I and II of the Constitution.  Such offenses have been interpreted by the courts to equate to “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Really, shouldn’t embarrassing themselves be somewhere in the criteria?

scalia hat

I don’t know which is more indicative of Scalia’s declining mental fitness, his (most recent) racial entitlement blather, or the fact that he thought a miniature pillow sham was fitting head ware for the Presidential Inauguration.

*   *   *

crocus

The sighting of the first purple crocus breaking through the topsoil – ah, the harbinger of spring!  For one brief shining moment there is the reminder of the season to come…and then there is the reminder of the season to come.  In my nose.

I used to love Spring, until my beloved Oregon [11] decided that the tax for residency for this ex-pat Californian would be levied in the form of fucking fauna sperm pollen allergies.  I feel like a kind of seasonal Scrooge when I find myself reacting to the first series of sunny days with a Bah humbug! attitude toward the imminent nasal mucosal assault.

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*   *   *

Take me now, Flying Spaghetti Monster
Aka Department of Does it Get Any Better Than This?

Last Saturday MH and I were treated to have a behind-the-scenes tour of the Oregon Zoo‘s updated Humboldt penguin habitat and facilities.  Through our Conversation Circle membership and K’s and Belle’s involvement with Zoo Teens we’ve had many opportunities to go where no zoo guest has gone before, but this one was my favorite.  I finally got to meet Mochica!  Mochica is a penguin who imprinted on and was hand raised by humans – he seems to think he is human.  I’d heard so much about him over the years, particularly from K, who’d done an internship with the penguin keeper.   Mochica was just as described:  observant, friendly, curious, intelligent, and with just enough eau d’herring to give one’s nasal passages a good workout.  I got to scratch his favorite ahhh spot (the back of his neck…so soft), and Mochica gave me the high honor/vote of penguin confidence by grooming me, which in his case consisted of gently nibbling my forearm.

groomed by mochica

As you might imagine, much penguin hijinks ensued.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] One of the oldest book review magazines, Kirkus, reviews ~ 5000 titles per year.

[2] The two times a year times I read book reviews, I am reminded of why I don’t do it more often.

[3] Translation: reading reviews TMQ may get, and, frankly, convincing myself to care about them. Yep, I’m cranky that way.

[4] To her, cooking with spices other than Morton table salt and black pepper = exotic.

[5] Other than by its editor (which doesn’t count as objective, does it?) and consumer reviews on book sites.

[6] School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly.

[7] Given the statistics, I have always considered it a game.

[8] My emphasis, ad my comment:  all reviews offer the illusion of truth. It’s all they can offer; it’s all an illusion.

[9] Adams enjoyed a tankard of hard cider before breakfast; Madison drained a pint of whiskey each day; Jefferson made his own wine; they all enjoyed (and often brewed their own) beer and whiskey.

[10] Uh, actually, it’s exactly the kind of legislation appropriate to Congress.

[11] Grass seed-growing capital of the world, hip hip achoo hooray!

The Awards I’m Not Winning

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“I always thought lawyers and academics had the markets cornered on meaningless accolades, but writers make them look like pikers.
I think there’s an inverse relationship between money earned and laurels cited. I wonder if it could be proved mathematically.”
(SCM, attorney, blogger, writer, Regency Errata warden, astute observer of The Human Condition)

The previous and following exchanges are brought to you via SCM’s[1] e-wondering about the authenticity of a ____ award, claimed by X in X’s writer’s bio (“Do you really think that _____ counts?”).

My reply:  Oh my sweet Flying Spaghetti Monster, it’s an award winning writer!  And another, and another….

These days you can’t spit without hitting an award-wining writer (and I have tried).  Of course, X’s “award” it doesn’t count. IMHO, none of them do.  It’s this circle jerk game, allegedly to confer honor (read: publicity) upon both the award or contest winner, and the journal or organization that bestows the laurel. Writing awards, prizes, contests — it’s become like the kiddies’ soccer team, where everyone gets a trophy, eventually, just for showing up and paying the participation fee. Hollow decoration, for those who know what be going down.

awards

And yet, editors more often than not ask you to list “any prizes or awards” in your submissions cover letter. In order not to feel like a schmuck and maintain a modicum of integrity (given my rather jaundiced opinion on the literary awards biz), I have to list my brush with honor thusly:

In 2012 I was able to fine tune my I-don’t-care-about-winning-it’s-an-honor-just-to-be-nominated speech when my story “Here is What,” published in Bellevue Literary Review, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

I wrote a snarky essay about the subject, titled “You Can Be (Or Already Are) An Award-Winning Writer!” An article that makes fun of the contests and/or/awards that literally every literary journal has/holds? Yeah, sure.  There’ll be massive bidding wars over the rights to print that.  I tried to get the essay published, despite my advisory mantra to myself (“this will be impossible to publish — everyone has an awards contest !!!”). I toned down the snark, and appealed to an editor’s sense of Of -course-We-can-laugh-at-ourselves [2] in my cover letter:

Few writers would mind having the description Pulitzer Prize-winning author attached to their name, but what about “Winner of the Punta Gorda Prize for Swamp Prose” [3] as one’s claim to literary fame?  The proliferation of literary awards is the subject of “You Can Be (or Already Are) an Award-Winning Writer!”, my essay that takes a good-humored look t this all-too-normal aspect of the writing life.

I sent a copy of the article to SCM, who graciously and enthusiaastically offered to post my essay on her blog.  If that wasn’t honor enough, she also bestowed upon it the Atttorney At Large Award for Aimless Accolade Assassinations, or AALAAAA.

Damn the torpedoes and f*** the Pulitzer [4] , I’ve got an AALAAAA.

AALAAAA!  AALAAAA!  It sounds like the battle cry of literary triumph!

Unfortunately, it also sounds like a terrorist’s last-ditch attempt at self-assurance as he reaches for the grenade strapped to his chest….

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Show me someone who is always smiling, always cheerful, always optimistic, and I will show you someone who hasn’t the faintest idea about what the heck is going on.
(Mike Royko, 1932 – 1997)

*   *   *

MH returned on Sunday from a three day business trip to Texass Texas.[5]  It has  become our family tradition that when we travel to purchase a deck of cards with some kind of “local” connection.  MH returned with an Original-Historical Drawings of Texas deck: each card has a unique drawing of an aspect of Texas history and culture, from the Rattlesnake Roundup to Congresswoman Barbara Jordan to The Yellow Rose of Texas.  I got a kick out of the description for the five of heart’s San Antonio Riverwalk: “…known as ‘The Venice of Texas’…”

Talk about damning with praise, faint or otherwise.

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Whaddya mean, there’s nothing going on?  Upcoming celebrations include Darwin Day, a global celebration of science and reason held on or around Feb. 12, the birthday anniversary of evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin.

There are few things more synergistic than celebrating Darwin’s birthday with discourse about the Flying Spaghetti Monster.[6]  In the immortal words of the inimitably interesting, intelligent and impudent [7]  Rachael Maddow, “I like my evolution reporting with a side of carbs.”

*   *   *

Women in combat. No, I’m not referring to the battles women face in trying to get standard, life-saving treatment at Catholic hospitals.  It’s the military thing, courtesy of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s lifting the military ban on women in combat.

I still can’t wrap my mind around the phrasing: “lifting the ban on women in combat.” Women have been participating – and dying – in wars, in combat, ever since the sorry concept was constructed by some pissed off Neanderthal. Only now, they can get credit? Lifting the obliviousness about the reality is more like it

The old saw about protecting the women and children flies and spits and shakes its impertinent ass in the face of the fact that, during wartime, civilian deaths always outnumber military casualties.  And who are the civilians?  The much-vaunted “women and children,” whose protection from the evil, encroaching ___ (insert enemy of choice) is cited as justification for combat.

Objective consideration of a person’s ability to do a job, any job, should be gender-blind.  Most of us civilians – and even a few former and active soldiers, it seems – forget that the majority of those in the armed services never set foot on what used to be called the front or battle lines [8] ; the majority comprise the support staff, on which the “warriors” depend. Every soldier has to be prepared to fight, but most contribute to the fight through transport, medic, food, equipment procurement, distribution and maintenance positions. Or, as Napoleon Bonaparte, famous miliitary leader and infamous sufferer of Short Man’s Syndrome put it, “An army marches on its stomach.”

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Not every male soldier makes the cut (or desires to) for combat positions, and the wash-out rate for the so-called elite combat units is high (the all-volunteer paratroopers units, in which my father served during WWII, had a wash-out rate of over 80%).  Review the standards for the job. Keep the physical and mental standards truly appropriate to the job, and have only those who meet the standards, men and women, young and old, gay and straight, qualify for those positions.

One bubagoo the silly voices raise:  okay then, all of you miss smarty-panties, if all military positions are open to women, what about women registering for the draft?

Well, what about it? The U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 8) authorizes Congress “To raise and support Armies…” and goes on to permit the regulation and training of such armies [9].  Nowhere is the gender (or age or ethnicity) of these Armies mentioned.  Of course, we can assume that the framers assumed an all-male (and Caucasion) army; nevertheless, but all it says is Congress has the power to raise Armies.

If it served Congress to do so, I have no doubt that women would be drafted in a heartbeat.  Or so was my argument in the late 1970s-early 1980s, when some of us were still trying to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed.  Register for the draft?  Pass the frigging ERA and I’ll register for your friggin’ draft.

About the appropriate standards.  Police academies used to have minimum height standards which effectively screened out most female – and Asian and Hispanic male – applicants. Thirty-plus years ago I remember reading an article in the Orange County register about a Vietnamese-American man who desperately wanted to be a cop.  This was at the time when police and fire agencies in California were desperate to increase the number Asian and Hispanic officers.  The man was intelligent and independent [10] and eager to serve, kept himself in awesome physical shape — he did everything he could to qualify, and he would have, except that he was ~ an inch shorter than the minimum height requirement.  And, okay, so maybe this part of the story tempers the previous remark about his intelligence, but he decided to re-apply to the academy, and before taking the next physical exam he had his wife repeatedly bonk him on the head with a wooden plank, to try and raise a bump that would get him to the minimum height level.

I don’t know what happened to the bonkers-for-cops dude, but it wasn’t long before anti-height discrimination lawsuits provided the nudge for the police to evaluate their policies, and most agencies subsequently, eventually, eliminated the minimum height requirements.  Unlike the cinematic shoot-‘em-up image, the majority of police work involves negotiation skills, keeping cool under pressure, the ability to quickly evaluate and de-escalate dangerous situations…and, yes, kick ass if and when necessary. As police departments around the nation have discovered, if you can pass the police academy training, assessment and examinations (including lifting and dragging a 160 lb dummy, weapons and marksmanship training, tolerate getting pepper-sprayed and tasered), the fact that you’re lacking an inch doesn’t matter.

Which, of course, women have been telling men for years.

cops

Should someone ever insult me in a most egregious manner, there is one thing that could make it better:  if I could get George Takei to call that person a douchebag.  No one does douchebag like George, as you may recall when he famously took down the Arkansas school board member who called for gay teens to kill themselves.

Ain’t nobody out to get me that I know of.  But there are no shortage of botox-brained blowholes worthy of being Takei-shamed, including Alabama high school football coach and psychology (I kid you not) teacher, Bob Grisham.

(From salon.com article :) An Alabama high school football coach has been suspended for 10 days without pay for making anti-gay comments and for referring to the first lady as “fat butt Michelle Obama” during a class last week.  It was in the middle of a class discussion that Bob Grisham told his students: “I don’t believe in queers. I don’t like queers. I don’t hate them as a person, but what they do is wrong and an abomination against God,” the Times Daily reports.

I’m trying to imagine a classroom discussion in which a teacher thought it relevant to comment on the First Lady’s posterior, disparage “queers,” and blame justify his hateful, paranoid ignorant opinions to his Imaginary Friend.  But that would require more drinking than I’m willing to do right now.  Instead, let the hijinks ensue and take it away, George.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Previously identified on this blog as…SCM

[2] A quality which few Serious Literary Lions (editors, publishers, or writers) are known for.

[3]  The actual title of an actual, if erstwhile, literary award.

[4]  At least until people agree on how to pronounce it.

[5]  Well, he was in Austin, which, I am told, is more like the People’s Republic of Texas.

[6] In yet another Oregon Claim to Fabulousness ® , the Church of the FSM was started by Oregon State University physics graduate student Bobby Henderson

[7]  Stop me, before I i-word again.

[8] with today’s increasing use of kill-from-afar technologies, and wars of terrorism and insurgencies, “front line”-style warfare may soon be an exhibit in the Smithsonian.

[9] Interestingly, it also states that “no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;” which seems to make our maintaining of our standing armed forces unconstitutional.

[10]  He defied  his relative’s wishes by wanting to become a cop, a profession seen as dishonorable by many Asian immigrants, who came from countries where the police forces were corrupt.

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