“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.

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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….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

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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.