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The Politician I’m Not Hosting

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 The host will be happy to seat you now…
In our special chair reserved for fanatical spew-mongers

OUCH

Duff-mouth demagogue (“some refer to him as Virginian State Senator”) Stephen H. Martin, who apparently thinks oratorical douchbaggery is tax deductible, recently referred to a pregnant woman as just a host for a fetus.  Martin’s misogynist disgorgement thoughtful reflection came in response to his receiving a card from a reproductive rights group asking him to protect reproductive health options in his state.

“… once a child does exist in your womb, I’m not going to assume a right to kill it just because the child’s host (some refer to them as mothers) doesn’t want it.”

*   *   *

Stand back – I’m going to try science

double down on this, dudes

double down on this, dudes

Thanks to the data obtained by the Kepler space telescope, NASA announced the discovery of 715 new planets outside of our solar system.  This discovery almost doubles the number of known planets!  Such a finding is worthy of doing the Happy Dance, for oh-so many reasons, including the fact that these planets are going to need identification.  In other words, they are going to be named.

HAPPY

The planets’ ids will be assigned by the International Astronomical Union, aka The Organization That Does Such Things When It Comes To Objects  d’ Cosmos. Most of the planets will probably be assigned numbers, noting distance from or proximity to stars and other objects.  But I want them to have names.  The magnanimous part of me hopes that NASA and the IAU realize the PR potential of holding 715 planet-naming contests, which could be a boon for sparking the-universe-is-cool-let’s-study-it interest among schoolchildren. Another part of me wants to name them.  By myself.

oh oh oh – pick me!

oh oh oh – pick me!

Really, NASA, I want to name those planets.  I want to give them names of heavenly bodies (sorry) popular during the 1950s, for some reason.  I want to name them all Jayne, Marilyn, and Betty Lou. If you still want to assign numbers, we can work that out.  Betty Lou M31, Betty Lou M51….  [1]

*   *   *

MUM

My dear Swenadian [2] friend SS called to let me know she lost her mother last night.  With true Canadian affection and style, SS always referred to her mother as her “Mum.”  Mum was 90 years old and had been battling round three of pneumonia, which is no picnic at any age but especially vexing to someone also afflicted with ALS .  SS’s mum died in her sleep –  the kind of passing we all wish for, eh?

The mums are for SS, and memories of her Mum.

*   *   *

JOHNNYTREMAIN

Coming attractions:  March 5 is World Read Aloud Day . WRAD is the brainchild of LitWorld, a nonprofit organization promoting…wait for it…worldwide literacy. [3]

The purpose of WRAD is to “call worldwide attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories.”  I and other writers will be celebrating WRAD by making a video/audio “visit” to classrooms.  Thanks to a certain software applications (rhymes with “hype” – this is not a commercial endorsement), I’ll be reading excerpts from The Mighty Quinn to two classrooms: one in Seattle and one in Pakistan.

I have fond memories of being read to, and hope that you do as well.  Mrs. Solomon, my 3rd grade teacher, read the Winnie the Pooh books to her class every day, for fifteen minutes, following lunch recess (and ever since then, I cannot hear any version of Eeyore with substituting her voice).

I remember derisive snorts from a few classmates when our 7th grade social studies teacher announced she would open the class by reading to us. [4]  Every day, she read aloud one chapter of Johnny Tremain.  The skeptics soon changed their tune, from, “I’m sure, reading aloud to us, like we’re third graders,” to, “Don’t leave us hanging – please go on to the next chapter!”

Next Wednesday, March 5, find your favorite read-aloud-book and a willing audience.  If no such audience is to be found, you have my permission to annoy delight and entertain strangers at a bus stop or coffee house or other public venues by reading aloud – to yourself, if not to them.  Simply remove a book from your coat pocket, backpack or purse, and softly but enthusiastically, go for it.

Here is Edward Bear, coming down the stairs now, bump bump bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin…. .

POOH

And, of course, let the hijinks ensue.

 Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Five paragraphs without a footnote?  This is wrong, just wrong.

[2] Canadian, married to a Swede.

[3] Or, is it an organization promoting worldwide arson?  Touch call, given the moniker.

[4] Move along, no footnote here to see, folks. Stay behind the tape and move along.

The Trolls I’m Not Feeding

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Monday I made a visit to Forest Grove Community School, where the 5th & 6th grade students are using The Mighty Quinn for their block of study on realistic fiction.  I spent two class periods with them, first with the 6th graders and then the 5th graders.  I read a brief TMQ excerpt as an example of revealing character via dialog, did a Q & A session, and met individually with students to hear their writing samples and banter about story ideas.  The kids were delightful, and one of the best school groups I’ve ever visited.

I got a kick out of observing the students’ interactions (from the back of the class, before the teacher introduced me.  (Yep, I was lurking).  What a difference a year makes.  The 6th graders were obviously conscious of how they might “look” to their peers when asking a question or offering a comment.  Their Q & A concerns focused on their struggles with their own writing assignments.  The 5th graders were energetic, unbounded and out there – one boy shrieked with delight and threw me a high five when I was introduced as the author of the book they’d been reading aloud in class.  The 5th graders’ Q & A session was dominated by personal (to me),  what’s it like to be a writer queries.  One student even asked about my royalties, and was thrilled when I complimented him for knowing the term.  Several students stayed after class, missing part of their recess, to gather around me.  They gushed about how unbelievable it was that they had met a REAL PUBLISHED AUTHOR ® a sentiment I find embarrassing/annoying when expressed by adults, but from those students, it was sweet beyond words.  FGCS 5th and 6th graders, this Pretty Purple Toe Award is for you.

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*   *   *

BELLY LAUGH OF THE WEEK

Tuesday:  in my car, waiting for the left turn signal.  The car in front of me had one of those stick figure family decals in the rear window, which, in general, I find annoying and rarely give a second glance to.  But something about this one caught my attention.

STICK FIGURE FAMILY

*   *  *

BELLY CREEP OUT OF THE WEEK

Wednesday: Back in the damn car again, performing what used to be an almost daily chore that has evolved into a rare errand: sending a manuscript via snail mail.  The nearest mailbox where I might still make the pickup time [1] was a couple of miles away, by a Bi-Mart store. As I pulled into the Bi-Mart parking lot a woman pushing a shopping cart with an infant seat in it crossed in front of me.  Heading for the store, she walked slowly and laboriously and looked neither left nor right.  She just crossed the lane of traffic.

I was ~ ten feet away from her, in no danger of hitting her as I was going quite slowly, but I was annoyed by her negligent pedestrian-ship. FFS lady, maybe you don’t care about your own life but what about the baby?  Further annoying me was the fact that it was 27º outside, and I could see the infant’s bare legs sticking out from the bottom of the child seat.  As my car rolled closer I could see that the woman had a vacant, slack-jawed expression on her face, one that might be explained by a mental or physical disability, and the “baby” in the baby seat was actually a (very realistic-looking) baby doll.

DOLd

*   *   *

“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”
(Einstein’s letter of 3-24-54 to a correspondent who’d asked Einstein to clarify his religious views.
(“Albert Einstein: The Human Side.”)

 One of the great games in the culture wars is claiming the good and smart for your team and pushing the monsters away. Picture Christian and atheist captains in a sandlot choosing basketball teams. “Einstein, we get Einstein!” say the atheists. “No way, he used the word God!… “Oh you WISH!” ….
Albert Einstein is the three-point shooter everybody wants to draft.

(from Dale McGowan ‘s blog post, “Owning Einstein.”)

holding out for free agent status

holding out for free agent status

A link I posted on my Facebook page – to Hemant Mehta’s  blog post about Ron Reagan Jr. taping a PSA for an atheist organization – got me sucked into one of those  discussions.  A FB friend apparently took issue with the younger Reagan’s statements about reason being “the hallmark of the human species.”

FB Friend: Who says that believing in God makes one unreasonable? That is a rather objectionable statement. Most of history’s great thinkers believed in God. I believe in God and I believe im (sic) a reasonable person. You don’t believe? No prob. Its (sic) not my job to force my faith down your throat. We can get along without faith being an issue…

RP:  “Most of history’s great thinkers believed in God.” Now, that is a statement of faith, not fact.   ;-)

FBF: Einstein believed, Newton believed, Galileo believed, Devinci (sic)  did as well. its not a matter of just having faith…

MH also followed the link in my post. He read the Reagan post in its entirety, and thus was confused by FBF’s reaction.  “Why did he (FBF commenter) assume the article said religious people are unreasonable, when it didn’t?” he mused.

My Son K would probably say that I violated the don’t feed the trolls rule by even acknowledging the comment.  You know, stick to posting pictures of your dinner and links to fart jokes.

TROLL

But, no.  That’s too easy.  And besides, the commenter is no troll.  Rather, he is a friend from high school days, and a very nice guy.  So, I posted the Einstein quote that opened this section, and said I’d deal with this more extensively in this blog post.  Here we are.  More extensively, ho! [2]

Although they (of course) are not here now to speak for themselves, I’ve little doubt that many if not most of what we might call the “great thinkers” of the past were religious…at least, in their public personas. People had to make some sort of public religious profession; there were no other options. [3]  What choice did people have, to believe or express opinions to the contrary?

Giordano Bruno was just one of many great thinkers who were tortured and murdered for expressing opinions and/or doing research that the religious/political authorities (often one in the same, in that most unholy of alliances) found threatening or blasphemous.  You need not have a writer’s imagination to posit what would have happened to Galileo if he’d expressed doubts as to the existence of the Jehovah deity, when for merely making scientific (not religious) statements – backed with, hey, evidence! – he was called to Rome and tried for heresy.  Galileo, well aware of the fate of Bruno and others before him, was given a “tour” of the church’s dungeons, and shown the instruments of torture that would be used on him if he did not recant his support for Copernicus’ theory .  Even after he recanted the truth [4] Galileo was confined to his home under house arrest, where he died seven years later, not having been allowed to leave or to receive visitors.

Albert Einstein tried to fit his complex ideas into terms that might interest the lay (as in, non-science literate) population.  The mis-location of Einstein to the Religious Believers’ Great Thinkers Team mostly stems from two of his public figurative comments:

(1) his public statement, reported by United Press in April 25, 1929: “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the orderly harmony in being, not in God who deals with the facts and actions of men,” and
(2) his famously misinterpreted metaphor regarding nature conforming to mathematical law: “God does not play dice with the Universe.”

But in his private/personal and other correspondences, Einstein lamented the misuse of his public statements to infer religious belief on his part.  He made his opinion about such matters quite clear, as in the opening quote and many others, three of which I’ll cite here.

“The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.” [5]

“The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naïve.” [6]

“It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I feel also not able to imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. My views are near those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order which we can grasp humbly and only imperfectly. I believe that we have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding and treat values and moral obligations as a purely human problem—the most important of all human problems.” [7]

Ultimately, the numbers on anybody’s “teams” are irrelevant. The criteria for evaluating the truth of statements – even those phrased as “beliefs” – is not all that complicated.  Which leads me to a brief [8] incursion into what seems to be a minefield for many people:  the difference between facts and beliefs.

MINE

I hold many, many beliefs about many, many subjects.  I believe that Meryl Streep is a great actor and that Tom Cruise is not, that Oregon Pinot Noirs are superior to California Merlots, that is more enjoyable to watch a high school varsity volleyball game than any professional golf tournament, that corn snakes make better pets than mice, that cedar-planked salmon is a tastier entrée than fried razor clams, that MH looks better with a full beard than with just a moustache, and that Elvis, Lady Gaga and the Virgin Mary do not make cameo appearances in the spots on someone’s flour tortilla.

Beliefs can be preferential, like those I listed.  A preferential belief expresses your opinions about interesting but ultimately inconsequential matters.  But beliefs can also express factual or cognitive claims, which call for evaluations of the truth of the propositions or assumptions behind the claims.  For example, if you assert that you “believe in God,” you are also making the assumption that the god you refer to exists.

If you express a cognitive belief but make no effort to justify it, you’re merely telling me your feelings or expressing your opinion.  It may be true that you believe you are the greatest fastball pitcher since Sandy Koufax.  However entertaining that claim may be to your slow-pitch softball league teammates, your belief by itself has no factual value.

koufax

There is nothing admirable about a belief just because you hold it, and cognitive beliefs are not immune to criticism. Cloaking beliefs in the robe of “god” or “religion” doesn’t excuse those ideas from examination.  “Believing” (aka “having faith in”) something doesn’t make an irrational claim suddenly rational, nor does it protect your belief from the test of evidence and reason – from the kind of the evaluation a thoughtful, intelligent person would normally apply to any statement of any kind, be it political, cultural, emotional….

If you want your beliefs to be taken seriously by others, you need to communicate them as something other than personal statements about what you “have faith in.”  Beliefs become objective when backed up by explanations and evidence that can be analyzed.  If you don’t want your beliefs to be subjected to this kind of scrutiny, then you should keep them to yourself.

I for one wouldn’t go around claiming too many of the “great thinkers” of centuries past for my team.  Great minds who seemed ahead of their time in their niches of music, art, literature, philosophy and/or science may also have thought that the earth was flat, that enslaved peoples were “naturally” inferior to their enslavers, that diseases were caused by evil spirits and ill humors, etc.  Even great thinkers are commonly bound by the ignorance and superstitions – and subject to the cultural and political pressures – of their times.

Down from the soapbox and up to the feel good FB posts.  Truly, those are what I should be posting at this most festive time of year – a sampling of flatus classifications:

Backseater: an odiferous fart that occurs in automobiles, it is usually not very loud and can be concealed by traffic noise.

Cherry bomb: A loud, high-pitched, squeaker fart.

The Rambling Phaduka: One of the most loud and lengthy of farts,  it goes on for at least 15 seconds, often leaving the farter unable to speak, as if he’s had the wind knocked out of him.

The Skillsaw:  sounds like an electric skill saw ripping through a piece of plywood.  It has been known to cause people to back away in terror and confusion.

TGIAF: the thank goodness I’m alone fart. You look around after producing it and say, thank goodness I’m alone.  Then you get out of there, fast.

And may the farting animals compilation video hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 


[1] I didn’t, and ended up driving to the main Post Office.

[2] As in Westward, ho!” and other idioms expressing the desire to go or return to a certain destination, and not as in a reference to skanky pavement-pounders Our Great Nation’s proud sex workers.

[3] Even the option to choose this flavor of Christianity or that flavor of Islam could get you murdered, plundered or banished, depending on which group was in charge.

[4] And some  say he recanted his recanting, under his breath….(Atheism for Dummies, ch. 6, “enlightening Strikes”)

[5] (From Einstein’s letter to philosopher Eric Gutkind, dated Jan. 3, 1954, cited in The Guardian, “Childish superstition: Einstein’s letter makes view of religion relatively clear,” by James Randerson, May 13, 2008).

[6] From Einstein’s to Beatrice Frohlich, December 17, 1952 ( The Expanded Quotable Einstein )

[7] Albert Einstein Creator and Rebel, New York: New American Library, 1972, p. 95.

[8] No really…considering the subject.

The Nothing I’m Not Buying

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You know that just before that first Thanksgiving dinner there was one wise, old Native American woman saying, “Don’t feed them. If you feed them, they’ll never leave.”
-Dylan Brody

Crazy

[2]

 The Day After, aka the BLACK FRIDAY blog

MH and I usually observe Buy Nothing Day , which is no great (or even meager) sacrifice on our part.  I need no encouragement to not join the aggressive, clawing masses that begin lining up in front of major retailers’ doors in the wee hours of the morning…although I must confess to a certain snarky enjoyment the day after, when I read the reports of assaults and even shootings among the greedy swarms of people in the Toys R Us queue who have no qualms about trampling their fellow shoppers while attempting to procure the best deal on Tickle Me Asshole or whatever is the pathetic consumer ripoff manufactured via sweatshops in China or Malaysia   treasured toy of the season.

I’m probably going to spend money, in some way, today – a lunch out, if nothing more.  And while I’ve always supported the Buy Nothing Day ideals, it seems rather precious and self-congratulatory to refrain from shopping on one certain day if we’re just going to go out – or go on [1] – and make the same purchases on another day.

BLACK FRIDAY PIX

*   *   *

It’s tomorrow; can I stop mentioning it?

Aside from Black Friday the Saturday after Thanksgiving is the most important shopping day for small businesses of all kinds, including independent bookstores (yes, there are a few intrepid survivors).  Tomorrow, November 30, moiself and other local authors will be taking shifts at Vintage Books in Vancouver (WA), in celebration of Indies First day.  I’ll be selling and signing (optimistically, she wrote) copies of The Mighty Quinn and recommending other favorite reads.  My shift is from 12 – 1 pm. Stop by, and join MH and I afterwards as we search for a suitable lunch spot across the river.

*   *   *

TDAYjpg

Although Thanksgiving is often listed as the favorite holiday for we USA-ers, Christmas gets most of the attention when it comes to holiday movies, and I think the ratio of Christmas-to-Thanksgiving themed movies is something like ten to one.  Still, there are some memorable films and/or cinematic moments that revolve around Thanksgiving.  Planes, Trains and Automobiles is often cited as “the best Thanksgiving movie ever.”  While I think there is no competition for the title of Most Existentially Depressing Thanksgiving Movie Ever © (The Ice Storm), there are other films that could vie for the Best title, including Hannah and Her Sisters and Pieces of April.[3]  I love Jodie Foster’s underrated Home for the Holidays, particularly the scene where the miscreant Bad Brother played by Robert Downey, Jr. somehow manages to flick an entire turkey in his sanctimonious sister’s lap.

My all-time favorite Thanksgiving-related movie moment comes from Addams Family Values.  I refer to the scene wherein the Addams siblings, miserable at being sent off to summer camp, find a way to liven up the camp’s lame musical production of the first Thanksgiving by leading a revolt of the [4] camp’s social outcasts.

*   *   *

“Thanksgiving, man. Not a good day to be my pants.”
(Kevin James)

Here’s hoping it was a good holiday for you and your pants, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] For the first time, on line shopping is predicted to top in-store shopping during the holiday season.

[2] Thematicpictures.com

[3] An indie delight, with the pre-Tom Cruise Katie Holmes showing her acting chops before life with the Scientology Poster Boy audited the nuances out of her acting.

[4] No footnote needed here.  Everyone knows “the” is a definite article.

The Dispensers I’m Not Activating

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Dateline: Wednesday, Tuality Hospital, taking MH to get a colonoscopy an amazing procedure we are so grateful to have in this golden age of preventative medical care. In his dressing/waiting/prep room there was a sink and, of course, a motion-activated soap and paper towel dispensers. Which got me to thinking. [1]

I’m all in favor of motion-activated dispensers (and wish they were all this cute):

SOAP

But I long for a more impressive, ground-breaking innovation in substance allotment.  I want an emotion-activated dispenser.  I want a device that intuits when my hands aren’t feeling their freshest; I want a dispenser that senses when I’m too sad or embarrassed or enervated to wave my arms in front of it…and because it cares, so will I.

I have big dreams.  I am not ashamed.

*   *   *

Only 10 Days and I’ll Stop Mentioning It

The Indies are coming!  The Indies are coming!  Actually, they’re already here: Independent bookstores.  And the Saturday after Thanksgiving, traditionally an important day for businesses of all kinds, is especially vital to independent bookstores, including Vintage Books in Vancouver (WA).  Vintage Books, along with independent bookstores nationwide, will be celebrating Indies First Day on Saturday November 30.  Indies First is the brain child of author Sherman Alexie, who urged all “book nerds” (read: authors) to be booksellers for a day and help support independent book stores. [2]

I’ll be at Vintage Books, sharing shifts with other authors, (hopefully) selling and signing copies of The Mighty Quinn and recommending other favorite reads.  My shift is from 12 – 1 pm. Vintage books specializes in hard-to-find/out-of-print and rare books, so stop by and browse for that copy of Tattooed Mountain Women and Spoon Boxes of Daghestan[3] you’ve been dying to find for your Russophile uncle.

Another holiday shopping opportunity comes courtesy of Scarletta Press.  Scarletta, the publisher of The Mighty Quinn and a slew of other entertaining and provocative, vampire-less and Fifty-shades-of-any-color-free, fiction and nonfiction books, encourages one and all to give the gift of books this holiday season – and if you order through Scarletta’s website and you’ll receive 20% off your purchases.

HolidaySlider8

*   *   *

Coming Attractions 

One day I shall blog
exclusively in haiku
Wait for it; you’ll see. 

Or, I’ll use tanka
A Japanese verse form: five
lines: the first and third
composed of five syllables,
the other lines of seven

*   *   *

Was Is This a Stupid World, or What?
(Another Chapter in the continuing saga)

A few weeks ago my friend received an email from her daughter P’s 1st grade teacher, about an “incident” wherein three older (2nd grade) boys pulled up their shirts in front of P, in class, [4] then asked her to reciprocate.  P allegedly declined to do so but showed them her superhero underpants instead.

I’m fairly certain my parents did not receive a phone call or note from my 4th grade teacher regarding the isolated incident wherein many times I and my uppity female comrades purposefully showed the boys our underwear.  I was old enough to “know better,” but was organizing a feminist protest (years before I understood the f-word) to prove that the sight of JC Penny cotton underpants would not cause the boys to go blooey.

Monkey bars

That such silliness could even be an issue was due to such pathetic facts as:

*  a long long time ago in a grammar school far far away, pants and/or shorts were verboten for girls, who were required to wear dresses or skirts to school.
*  thus, when girls climbed up on the jungle gym or did twirls and stunts on the gymnastic bars, their undies were sometimes in view.
*  thus and thus again, there were five possible ways to solve the Appalling Undie Viewing Predicament:

(1) ban girls from certain playground equipment
(2) ban boys from certain playground equipment
(3) designate separate playground equipment for boys and girls
(4) there was no fourth way
(5) yes, the most sane and/or logical solution is always the last one listed:

let girls wear play-appropriate clothing for fuck’s sake.

My protests and the resulting disciplinary actions (getting “benched” – having to sit out lunch and recess play times as punishment) were not for naught. [5]  In the latter half of my fourth grade year the school administration released a Playground Procedures/Dress Code announcement: girls would be allowed to wear shorts, over their underpants and under their skirts or dresses, IF the shorts were worn because the girls intended to play on the jungle gym, monkey bars, etc.

I always wondered how, or if ever, the IF provision was enforced:

“Heads up, Jenny – here comes the playground supervisor and you’re wearing shorts under your skirt but you’re only playing foursquare.  QUICK! Get your girly parts to the uneven parallel bars and hang upside down!” 

*   *   *

Thanksgiving approaches, which means that all across This Great Nation of Ours ® people will soon be flipping the bird with family and friends.

Tday

This year MH has been assigned eagerly volunteered to be our Turkeymeister.  He’s unsure as to how he will prepare his gourmet gobbler, and has turned to the cyber cooking world for suggestions. Internet search wise, you can’t spit [6] without hitting a elaborately illustrated food blog, resplendent with elegantly styled phtographs of the preparation and presentation of the ultimate holiday meal.  But I quickly tire of looking at the picturesque perfection – I wonder about the castoffs, the flotsam of meals prepared.  Are not the scraps and scrapings of plants sacrificed for our gustatory gratification (e.g. my simple yet most beloved autumn “side dish” – roast delicata squash) worthy of documentation?

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May you and yours celebrate Thanksgiving with a delicious feast, the visual presentation of which is paparazzi-worthy, [7] and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] An admittedly dodgy activity, but not much else to do while waiting for them to take my man to The Procedure.

[2] You can read Alexie’s wonderful letter here .

[3] An illustrated book on the vanishing art of the tattoos found on women in the Islamic Russian Republic.

[4] Where was the teacher during all of this, you may ask? As did P’s parents, and the non-answer to that and many other questions they had about the school is why it is now P’s former school.

[5] Hot damn, that was fun to type.

[6] And I have tried.

[7] Placing life-size cutouts of George Clooney and Beyoncé at your dining table may also guarantee attention.

The Heart Cockles I’m Not Warming

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What’s Better Than A Three Dog Night?

A three hawk day, of course.  Red tailed hawks:  yesterday I saw, three within a five minute span, perched on posts or power poles near fields bordering the countryside roads and Highway 26, near North Plains.  One adult, then one juvenile (as in the picture), and then another adult.

When I see an RTH on a post or other perch, with its distinctive, striking plumage, locking its piercing hunting gaze on a field below, I am overwhelmed by a feeling of serenity.  Even knowing what is to come (some snake/rodent is about to get grasped and eviscerated), I feel that all is as it should be – if only for a moment – in the world.

Hawk_Red-Tailed_adult14

And now for all (excuse the hyperbole; make that, a smidgen)
of what is not as it should be:

Express Scripts/Medco Makes Me Sick

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As readers of this blog are aware, I have no qualms using Strong Language, ® but in this case initials must suffice as I don’t want to type the same word over and over.

I FFFFFF hate hate hate hate FFFF Express Scripts/Medco.  Are they our only option for an Rx plan? I whined to MH.  I don’t want ANY more of our money, any more of our business, going to them.  I have spent too much time on their “help” line (does this sound familiar?) trying to get through to a real person, cursing on line as the perky robotic voice recording dares to say, “to continue to provide you with the best service possible…” Having to listen to that hornswaggling balderdash (see the last post item), after they have provided absolutely the worst service possible, is enough to give me a stroke…which may be their intent, and then that’s one less Shiny Happy Customer for them to deal with.

The idea of such incompetency and penny-pinching bureaucracy having the power to get between a doctor and her patient…..  You’re an overpaid passel of pill dispensers; do your job. Diagnosis and treatment are between doctor and patient.  The doctor writes the prescription, based on her examination of the patient and the minutia of said patient’s history, to which you, Express Scripts/Medco, are not privy.  Fill the fucking prescription – same one you have been filling for Over. Two Years. and now decide to dispute?)

"No soup for you...just because"

“No soup for you…just because”

 *   *   *

And then, there was this.

Because my day wasn’t stressful enough, what with dealing with the medical bureaucracy shit, one of my cats (I have my suspicions as to the perp’s identity) decided to carry on with the theme by leaving me an odiferous fecal deposit, with accompanying skidmark, on my office carpet, by my desk.  Apparently, she felt it had been too long since I had awarded anyone the prestigious Golden Turd Trophy. Nova, this turd’s for you.

turd trophy

*   *   *

Mark your Calendars and Head for the Indies

Vintage Books in Vancouver (WA) will be celebrating Indies First, on Saturday November 30.  Indies First is the brain child of author Sherman Alexie, who urged all “book nerds” (authors) to be booksellers for a day and help support independent book stores.  You can see the full text of Alexie’s delightful letter here.  I’ll be at Vintage, sharing shifts with other authors, (hopefully) selling and signing copies of The Mighty Quinn and recommending other favorite reads.  My shift is from 12 – 1 pm.  Be there or be…you know.

SQUARE

*   *   *

Huh?

From the masthead of Oregon Coast magazine, in a section that lists bio notes for the current issue’s authors and photographers:

“____ is a travel and adventure writer based out of Portland.  When she is not writing she is fishing, looking for whales, life-coaching, helping businesses succeed online, making sculptures, teaching yoga, and being a professional Viking.”

Okay.  How do you get such a résumé? And am I to believe that she gets paid to be a Viking…of some sort?

viAking

I could do that.  Kinda sorta:  Robyn Parnell is a travel and adventure-deprived writer based out of Hillsboro.  When she is not writing she is looking for fish [1] (but not whales), pestering life-coaching (her daughter), and she, too, helps businesses succeed online. [2]

Or, maybe not.  There was another one that caught my attention:

“_____ explores Oregon from her home in North Bend.  An Oregonian since 1982, she writes for a living, and spends the rest of her time biking, canoeing, making things, and playing Irish music.”

Reading these things, I’m both inspired and befuddled.  And maybe just a teense bit jealous.  I want a jazzier résumé.

Robyn Parnell explores Oregon from her home in Manzanita (well, in her dreams).  An Oregonian since 1991, she writes for a mere pittance, and spends the rest of her time (thinking she should do more) biking, kayaking, making dinner, and playing Dropkick Murphys holiday videos.

*   *   *

Something to Celebrate 

The World Wildlife Fund in cahoots with Vietnamese government’s Forest Protection Department has discovered evidence that should warm the cockles of your heart.  An animal scientists thought might be extinct, one of the rarest and most threatened mammals on Earth, [3] is still alive.  A camera trap placed in a remote area of the Central Annamite mountains of Vietnam captured the images of a Saola, or “Asian unicorn.”  The WWF’s pictures are grainy/paparazzi quality; here is one from many years ago, when a Saola had time for a stylist consultation before the photo shoot.

SAOLA 

*   *   *

Speaking of cockle warming:
Let us now praise the Idiosyncratic Origin of Inane but Interesting Idioms

In another life I might have happily been a linguist, specializing in the etymology of whimsical words and expressions.[4] 

Warm the cockles of your heart.  Why is the image of a bivalve mollusk used to invoke feelings of inspiration or nostalgia?

Someone said to skedaddle when they are quickly fleeing something.  If you want to quickly distance yourself from an aimless scribble, do you skedoodle?

Why does ragamuffin refer to a disheveled person, and not a Hindu musical quick bread?

And then, there is cattywampus.  Yes, there is.  But, why?  Sometimes it’s more fun to speculate than to know for certain.  I could google their origins, but that would take all the mystery out of life.

May the warmth of your heart-cockles never fall below room temperature, [5]
and may cattywampus-worthy hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] At the market.

[2] If you count her e-shopping purchases. Which she does.

[3] Aside from Freethinking Republicans, or people who correctly use the contraction/possessive forms of it’s/its.

[4] A career with salary prospects that would, no doubt, compare to those of literary fiction authors.

[5] It’s just not right, a blog post with less than five footnotes.

The Monthly Novel I’m Not Writing

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November 1?  Gotta get this out of the way. National Novel Writing Month.

SOAPBOX

Reality check re this write-a-novel-in-month jive.  This is from the Authors Guild Bulletin Spring 2013, Along Publishers Row article: “Temperance Hasty-Gonzales (not the author’s real name) wrote a 50k novel in 30 days.  Five years and 15 drafts later, the novel, he The Quick and the Dead (a real novel, but not written by TH-G), was published in February.

She wrote a novel in 30 days!  Except that she didn’t. The very second sentence of the blurb reveals that she didn’t write a novel in 30 days, hello.  She had some kind of first draft that was awful/incomplete enough, by her own description, that it took her FIVE YEARS and FIFTEEN DRAFTS to get into publishable form.

National Novel Writing Month. I smite the concept as well as the acronym: NaNoWriMo.  It sounds as incomplete and shoddy, as baby-talk dribbly, as a novel “written” in a month is likely to be.  But wait, there’s more.  The author featured in the blurb goes on to say that she considered herself a perfectionist, and that NaNoWriMo forced her to ignore her incapacitating inner critic and keep going: “It forces us to lower our standards.”

Just what the literary world needs: lower standards.

Have an idea for a story?  Don’t fall for trendy/”motivational” stunts.  Take  time, make time, invest time.  Chances are you can get your final draft in two-three years rather than five.  And, yes, the world is full of crappy novels that took much, much longer than 30 days to write (Atlas Shrugged, anyone?)  Still. It doesn’t need any more. At any speed.

*   *   *

Less than one percent of the total published books released in a year get reviewed via a traditional book reviewing outlet; i.e., a reviewer hired and paid by a newspaper, journal, magazine, book review tabloid. [1]  When my publisher forwarded the reviews for The Mighty Quinn, MH asked whether they were “good.” Knowing the stats, I reminded him that TMQ was ahead of the game [2] by even getting a review in the first place.  It was gravy to me that the reviews were good – a quibble here and there, but mostly positive, and some downright glowing.  Even so I had to force myself to read them, force myself to drum up interest, which I did by thinking of my publisher (Good for them; they’ll like this one.).

It was peculiar to me, comparable to having an out-of-body experience, looking at myself looking at the reviews.  I knew what I’d written, how “good” I thought it was, and how good others whom I respect thought it was (enough to publish it, at least).  When it comes to considering my own reviews or publicity, composure and perspective, plus a dose of humility, are my mantras (keeping in mind the sage advice of Golda MeirDon’t be humble; you’re not that great.).  If a negative review won’t rock my boat then why should I let a rave review rock my world?

My ambivalence toward reviews stems from many facts, including what I know of writers and human nature. [3] Also, there’s the pesky fact that I moiself have never cared for book reviews and rarely read them. [4] I rely on choosing reading materials through my own particular triage of browsing, both in stores and online, and friend-talk.  Other than being alerted to the reviews by my publisher, I don’t check my own press.  I am also not one of those authors © who obsessively tracks her book’s sales rankings on the major online book sellers.  There’s not a strong enough antacid on the market to help me do that.  What I need to know about that stat will come with my royalty statements. [5] Gulp.

automatic_wine_drinking

And then.

I was updating a website posting and checked The Mighty Quinn’s links to the major online booksellers: Powell’s, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. The Amazon page featured a new industry review, or at least one I hadn’t seen, and had put it as their lead review (one of the reasons [6]  I’m going to steer readers toward Powell’s.)  Although the reviewer had some bits of tepid praise, the same supporting characters described by other reviewers as “memorable” and “delightful” she dissed as  “too cute” and “unnecessarily highlighted” (whatever that means).  The same dialog and action she found “cumbersome” and “drab” are cited by other reviewers as “engaging” and “fast-moving.”

I see no reason to alter my long held if not entirely original philosophy re reviews, which I privately (well, up until now) I referred to as the Rectal Theory of Criticism:

Opinions are like assholes – everybody’s got one.

bad smell

As for the worth and relevance of online consumer reviews, my suspicions re their validity and potential for abuse [7] have oft been confirmed, most recently by this creepy story. A vengeful merchant, peeved at a less-than-stellar review posted on yelp  from a would-be client, googled client’s name, discovered client was a novelist, and took it from there: “When your book comes out on Amazon, I will personally make sure our entire staff reviews it in kind.”  Bad Merchant went on to threaten the novelist by getting people to post a “deluge” of “scathing reviews” for the novelist’s upcoming book.

Oy vey.

*   *   *

The Wisdom That Cometh With Age

Dateline, Monday afternoon.  I’d was in downtown Hillsboro to mail a manuscript, enjoying the opportunity/excuse [8] to do an afternoon walk on a crunchy autumn day, kicking through the leaves carpeting the sidewalks.  I rounded the street across from the Washington County Courthouse and fell in step behind two gotta-be-lawyers-to-dress-like-that-on-such-a-fine- day men walking side-by-side.  Or, I could describe them as “two men walking abreast,” but that conjurs up too many memories of fifth grade droodles.

DROODLE

My pace was faster than theirs but there was no room to pass them, so I slowed down and checked them out from the only view I had.  Both were of similar height and, from the rear view at least, attired almost identically, in tailored, expensive-looking, dark brown suits and white dress shirts and dark brown shoes.  I noticed that the one on (my) left wore bad shoes.  His shoe’s heels were very noticeably and unevenly worn down, toward the inside of the foot.  So incongruous with the rest of his lawyer suit.  Lawyer dude on the right had nice shiny shoes with no VHW (visible heel wear).

What an odd thing to notice.  Still, it bothered me.  I really, really wanted to say something to him, even as I was chiding myself for wanting to say something.  As a public service announcement, of course. Hey buddy – your over-pronation is, like, to totally ruining your Serious Lawyer Look.

At the end of the block they both moved to the curb, pausing by a brown (yes!) car that I assumed belonged to one of them.  I passed them. And said nothing

LAWYERS

*   *   *

Stand back, I’m Going to Try Science

Calling all budding evolutionary biologists:  I can’t remember the prompt, but I recently woke up with an interesting first morning thought [9] :  How is it that omnivorous species came to “know” they were omnivorous?  How did our hunter-gatherer ancestors get to the hunter part? Or bears, for that matter.   Foraging through the meadow, by the stream, chewing on leafy greens and berries///who-what had the lightbulb moment:  “Hey, I bet that leaping salmon/hopping rabbit is more caloric and nutrient-dense than these camas roots, plus, no cud-chewing aftertaste!  Win-win!”

I posted that question on my FB page, and got many many hallow snarky speculations a few thoughtful responses and suppositions (okay, I got one).  I’m still wondering.

*   *   *

“If you talked into your hair dryer and said you were communicating with something out there in the nether space, they’d put you away.
But take away the hair dryer, and you’re praying.”  -Sam Harris

DRYER

Dear Lord, please bring me a pony and a plastic rocket. [10]

November.  Already.  Like a pair of K-mart undies, the holiday season is creeping up on us.  Let us note that which is to come.  Back by popular demand, my favorite ode to the joys that are to come, courtesy of The Dropkick Murphys.

May the ho-ho-ho hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Statistic from Publisher’s Weekly.

[2] Sadly, that’s what the publicity-review thing is: a game. With really scary rules.

[3] It’s way mo fun-ner to flaunt your devastating wit by writing snarky pans than heartfelt paeans.

[4] Unless it’s a particularly scathing review forwarded by friend/fellow author (and New York Review of Books reader) SCM, about an author we mutually loathe.

[5] And when people wish to inquire about such matters they often ask, “How is your book doing,” a seemingly innocuous, probably meant-to-be-supportive query, until I ask what they mean by that, and then they usually  ask about sales figures, at which point I have to refrain myself from perkily chirping, “I’ve no idea – how many copies did YOU buy?”

[6] Aside from the fact that Powell’s is the grooviest bookstore in the world. And yes, I’ve visited them all.

[8] A few years back I’d have the opportunity to do that walk every other day, but most editors and publishers take (and prefer) email queries and manuscript submissions.

[9] Other than the usual laundry list of feed the cats and get them to eat slowly so they don’t barf it all back up….

[10] Three cheers sci fi nerd noogie for those who got the Firefly reference.

The Service Dog I’m Not Buying

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What is a days-long festival that does not have its own soundtrack album but which smells better than 400,000 mud-wallowing hippies overdosing on acid?  Five gold stars and a Pretty Purple Toe for you…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

…if you’re thinking, hmm, it’s not Woodstock….

It’s time for Portland’s annual literary festival, Wordstock . One of the largest such festivals in the nation, Wordstock events include author readings (from writers way more famous and articulate than moiself), exhibits, contests and workshops, and a book fair.  I will be doing two shifts at the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators booth, with The Mighty Quinn copies for display and sale and either a weary or I-am-so-not-worthy look on my face, depending on which indifferent guests and/or famous literati [1] stroll past.  If you’re so inclined to celebrate booky-stuff this weekend (or just want to get out of the rain) stop by SCBWI’s booth 1103 in Exhibit Hall D of the Oregon Convention Center in beautiful downtown (the Northeast side) Portland. I’ll be there Saturday 3:45 – 6p and Sunday 1:45 – 4p.

WORDSTOCK

*   *   *

Poor Belle.  When I asked her four months ago if she’d be interested in attending the FFRF’s  convention with MH and I, she gave an enthusiastic, Sure, that would be fun.  She had no idea how much homework she’d have, and her weekend mostly consisted of her sitting on the bed in the hotel room amid stacks of AP calculus and AP American Lit papers.  I did manage to get her to take a break on Saturday afternoon to cruise State Street, Madison’s (former) [2] answer to Eugene, at least when it comes to stores that carry Sixties paraphernalia and  tie-dye shirts.

Feelin' the groovy vibes of Madison's State Capitol building

Feelin’ the groovy vibes of Madison’s State Capitol building

Belle also seemed to enjoy the convention’s Saturday night banquet, as well as our after-banquet adventure.  While MH stayed to enjoy the après-dinner entertainment I accompanied my daughter to the hotel bar, where we partook of ginger ale (Belle) and Pinot Gris (moiself) and an outrageously tasty plate of fries, and she told me about her plans to start a Feminism/Gender Equality club at school.

Imagine if a boy showed up in his high school civics class wearing a Cool Story, Homie, now shine my shoes t-shirt. He’d be hauled in to the vice principal’s office for a lecture on offensive stereotypes, probably have to attend some diversity workshops, and, oh yeah, take the shirt off.  But Belle has seen too many “sandwich” t-shirts at her school go unchallenged, and it’s pissing her off

.SANDWICH

That is just one of the many reasons she’d like to start such a club – mostly, it’s about a way for like-minded kids to gather and brainstorm holding some contemporary events for a little old-fashioned consciousness-raising

I reminded her of the challenges she’ll likely hear, including:

* First Amendment issues re the t-shirt;
* First Amendment issues re cretins’ inalienable rights to practice public asswipery.

Belle reminded me of the fact that students do not have the same rights as adults, and schools regulate all kinds of issues that would fall under the First Amendment umbrella (e.g.,  banning that which is deemed gang attire or accoutrements).  And she already has a teacher sponsor lined up for the club, and several students interested in joining.[3]

A successful student club needs a raison d’être, and also some joi de vivre. You can’t just hold assemblies to try to raise consciousness (think of the many eye-rolling-inducing school assemblies you’ve complained about, I said).  You can’t just roam the halls looking for offensively-attired students to smite.  You can, however, roam the halls, [4] find an offensively-attired manchild, and while you’re helping said clueless dude to realize that men of quality are not threatened by women of equality, ask him,  “Oh, and would you like to hold this cute, egalitarian-affirming baby sloth?

slothinbox

Seriously, ladies and germs, I am so impressed by her willingness to confront the issues of inequality she sees, even as my heart aches and my butt frosts to think about

1.  The crap she’ll likely receive for engaging sexism and the F-word [5] in school;
2.  There is no reason #2;
3.  There are about fifteen other reasons, mostly variations of reason #4;
4.  The fact that we are STILL dealing with this bullshit.

FEM

Meanwhile, back in a hotel bar in Madison, WI, we return to our Spunky Heroine ® and her Adoring Mother ® .  Having deliberated the ongoing problems of misogyny and inequality, the two gutsy gals respectively order another round of ginger ale and Pinot Gris and chat up a gregarious lady and her “service dog” [6] who occupy a comfy sofa in the back corner of the bar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

*   *   *

May you be well-tended by the service animal/companion of your dreams, who will alert you when the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Rumor has it Fight Club author/literary bad boy Chuck Palahniuk will give a free copy of his latest book to anyone who correctly pronounces his last name.

[2] It’s becoming – gasp – gentrified, or some of the aging locals complain.

[3] Including dudes, yeah!

[4] Hey, what happened to this footnote?

[5] It’s easier, for most of her peers and too many of her teachers, to think that feminism is just another civil rights issue that was settled, a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

[6] A very well-behaved Chihuahua, but, service dog?  Puhleese.

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

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Some authors should not go there

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

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

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

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

Once again, I digress.  Back to bad sex.

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

BADSEXjpg

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AHat

*   *   *

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

TURKEY

 Anyway….

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

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

REUSALE

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

*   *   *

SOAPBOX

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

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

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

This shall make sense; bear with me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation

"I believe, Elsie, I believe!"

“I believe, Elsie, I believe!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ZSAQUEEN

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Keys I’m Not Losing

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Lettuce and Taters and Beets, oh my!

Okay, no potatoes this week, but there be lettuce and beets, and an extra share of beet greens (hands down and earlobes up, my favorite greens), plus “dinosaur” kale, [1] broccoli, green beans, spaghetti squash, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, garlic, hot kung pao peppers and sweet red and yellow sweet peppers and basil….

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All in our weekly CSA share.  La Finquita del Buho was bountiful this week. Fresh hot peppers will lead the way for tonight’s dinner…whatever it shall be.  All I know is that it will be tahini-free.  I usually love the stuff, but I happen to be holding a grudge.

*   *   *

That’s the last time I help an old man find tahini

I have one of those faces, or attitudes, or combination of attributes – oh, fine, surrender to the woo-woo:  I apparently project an aura that leads some people to think I know Where Things Are.  In general, no problem.  Today, ’twas the impetus for the panic experienced by Mature Individuals [2] that can only come from fearing you’ve lost something vital (today it’s the car keys, tomorrow it’s my offsprings’ names… how many kids do I have, anyway?).

Perhaps it was the fact that I was staring at packages of dried chilies with a look of smug disappointment (what kind of Hispanic Foods section doesn’t carry dried ancho chili peppers?!). There were other people wandering the aisles of the grocery store, store employees, included, but FOG (Friendly Older Gentleman) thought I was the one to help him find something “exotic.

FOG approached me, and asked if I happened to know where he could find…he paused and looked down at his shopping list…tahini? I led him to where I thought that item should be shelved [3], Et voilà !   We chatted amiably about his dinner plans, FOG showing me the shopping list his wife had written for him and both of us chuckling at his admission that he had no idea what tahini was and had wondered, Did she mean I’m supposed to find a condiment from Tahiti?  He gently squeezed my forearm, patted me on the shoulder and thanked me several times for my assistance.  I wished him a happy and tasty dinner, and took my bag to the checkout counter.

As I was unloading my bag at the counter I answered the clerk’s customary query, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” honestly:  Well,everything but Mexican oregano and dried ancho chili peppers.  With a look of confusion that morphed into concern, the clerk scanned my items and returned them to my bag and asked, “Did you try looking in the Mexican Foods section?” I smiled and nodded, keeping my Whaddya think, considering that four of the eight items in my bag came from the Mexican Foods section? to myself.

And then, no car keys.  Could not find them.  Maybe they fell into my grocery bag?  Nope.  I returned to the checkout counter and alerted the clerk. I retraced my steps throughout the store (asking every store employee along the way if they’ve found any car keys), exited the store to the parking lot and retraced my route into the store.   checked everywhere, checked every item on my person, giving myself a pat down worthy of a horny/ethically challenged TSA agent.  Nada.

I girded my loins and told myself to calm down, things could be worse…

KEYS

 …and made the Phone Call of Panic and Shame to MH, who said he’d leave work as soon as he could, get the extra set of keys to the Zoom Zoom[4] and come to the store.  I returned to the checkout counter and asked the clerk where I could leave my contact info in case anyone found my car keys.  A smiling young woman who stood by the clerk looked at me and said that she had found some car keys and, she pointed toward the Customer Service desk.  I thanked her profusely and I asked her where she had found them.  She indicated what shall forevermore be (by moiself) referred to as That Damned Tahini Aisle.

*   *   *

Happy Writing Stuff

While I’m not happy about waking up several times the past few nights with the buzzing-in-my-head-that-needs-to-be-written-down-or-I-won’t-get-back-to-sleep, I am happy that in the mornings I have been able to decipher (well, uh, mostly) my in-the-dark scribblings.

Oh yea? You try it

Oh yea? You try it

I am going through my The Mighty Quinn Book #2 file. Picture an actual file folder, filled to bulging with notes on dialog, setting, plot points, character descriptions….  I’m not sure if a computer file can be said to bulge, but that’s what I’ve got, and it is both exciting and intimidating to start the virtual paw-through.  I’ve enough ideas and material for two more books, and now have to start the outline process and determine what ideas go where.

I already have the title for the second Quinn-and-Neally-and-company book, a rare pleasure for me to know what it will be (and good omen, the non-superstitious moiself hopes), as coming up with a title for a story is one of my least favorite aspects of  writing.

And I have to choose the characters’ names as soon as I think of the character.  I use baby naming books and other resources, to identify characters with names that hold special meaning, even if only to myself.  Hmmm, how can I denote this character’s total prick-osity without actually calling him a dick?

*  *  *

Speaking of dicks (and thanking moiself for that segue)….

WOW

Dateline:  last Sunday (9-8-13), MH and I in bed,[5] listening to NPR’s Weekend Edition.  My attention was caught and hackles were raised during Rachael Martin’s interview with author Norman Rush re his new novel:

On the surface, Norman Rush’s new novel is about a middle-aged man, Ned, who reunites with a group of college friends after one member of the group dies unexpectedly. But what transpires over the next few days ahead of the memorial service is less about Ned’s relationship with these men and the heady, self-absorbed days of yore, and more about how Ned sees himself. 

In his third, much anticipated novel, Rush takes the reader inside the most intimate parts of relationships — between Ned and his wife, between Ned and his deceased friend, and between Ned and his own expectations. 

Imagine that!, the cynical author part of moiself snickered to moiself while MH breathed deeply [6] beside me.  A novel written by a middle-aged author that purports to take a reader “…inside the most intimate parts of relationships;” a novel that is, the author says (further into the interview), “about friendship.”  Ah, that relationship-y thing again.  And the novel is “much anticipated” and taken seriously, and is also described merely as what it is:  a novel. There is no limiting modifier.

Now, change the gender (for both author and characters) in Martin’s commentary:

On the surface, Nora Rush’s new novel is about a middle-aged woman, Nell, who reunites with a group of college friends after one member of the group dies unexpectedly. But what transpires over the next few days ahead of the memorial service is less about Nell’s relationship with these women and the heady, self-absorbed days of yore, and more about how Nell sees herself. 

In her third, much anticipated novel, Rush takes the reader inside the most intimate parts of relationships — between Nell and her husband, between Nell and her deceased friend, and between Nell and her own expectations.

It’s strange, having a flashback on a Sunday morning in bed, when I’ve never taken an acid trip (in or out of bed).  But that’s what happened as I listened to the interview – I was back to a conversation with friend and fellow fiction author SCM  about an unfortunate, ongoing, literary dirty laundry issue which, thanks to uppity female authors with more clout than moiself, has received some airing in the past few years:

-Novels dealing with (what literary critics perceive to be) ” relationships” are often critically acclaimed when the author is male, and when the author is female such books are dismissed as “domestic/family dramas”…if they are reviewed at all.

Not germane to the rant,  but a cute picture, oiu?

Not germane to the rant, but a cute picture, oiu?

Warning: domestic drama ranting [7] ensues, via excerpts from an email, sent approx.  two years ago re this topic, to SCM):

“I think it’s a very old and deep-seated double standard that holds that when a man writes about family and feelings, it’s literature with a capital L, but when a woman considers the same topics, it’s romance, or a beach book – in short, it’s something unworthy of serious critic’s attention.”  [8]

On my way back from an errand this afternoon I caught the tail end of a rerun of NPR’s Fresh Air 2010 interview with author Jonathan Franzen, recorded not long after the release of his latest novel Freedom.  I felt an almost overwhelming urge to pull the car over to the side of the road, get out and find somebody’s yippie dog and give it a good kick.

The ways Franzen’s novels have been presented and marketed by publishers, and reviewed by the critics, have had me (and many other writers, almost all – surprise! – women) reflecting on the sexism and even misogyny that still pervades the wacky world o’ contemporary literature (well, the world in general).  What sent me into Pomeranian-punting mode were several of Franzen’s ruminations, including [9] :

“I wanted in this book to write about my parents’ marriage and their parental experiences as I observed them … but I…wanted to set it in times contemporaneous with my own. So in that way, too, I turned my parents into people my age; into people I might be or I might know. And that was the real engine. It was something that came from inside.”

“…much of the work on a novel for me consists in the kind of work you might do in a paid professional’s office of trying to walk back from your stuck, conflicted, miserable place to a point of a little bit more distance, from which you can begin to fashion some meaningful narrative of how you got to the stuck place.”

What frosted my butt was not Franzen himself – don’t know him, personally – but the fact that when he, a male author, chooses to fictionalize the subject matter of family, feelings and relationships, the resulting work is touted as a “masterpiece of American fiction” (Time Magazine) and “an indelible portrait of our times” (The New York Times).

The Fresh Air site acknowledged the controversy:  “So many terrific contemporary female novelists cover the same terrain, yet their work receives a fraction of the highbrow fanfare that greets Franzen. It’s like how men still get praised for doing housework and taking care of their own kids: Any male involvement in the domestic realm still merits applause.”

In the interview Franzen spoke extensively about how his own feelings, experiences, family relationships and background influenced his writing.  I was reminded of an excerpt I read many months ago, from article in New York magazine, in which a novelist noted that if a woman writes about herself or acknowledges using material from her own life in her writing, she’s a narcissist, and has no wider interest in or focus outside of [10] the domestic sphere.  If a male novelist does the same, he’s describing universal truths or chronicling the human condition.

Of course, such inequities almost always sound better when put into the mouths of fictional characters.  I love this observation, from the novel, Commencement:

“When a woman writes a book that has anything to do with feelings or relationships, it’s either called chick lit or women’s fiction, right?” one of the characters asks.  “But look at Updike or Irving.  Imagine if they’d been women.  Just imagine.  Someone would have slapped a pink cover onto ‘Rabbit at Rest,’ and poof, there goes the Pulitzer.” 

Here is something the non-fictional character moiself wrote over a year ago, right around the time of the release of Freedom (it’s from one of the documents in my Things I Hate About The Publishing World file.  Oy vey, it’s less expensive than therapy):

Freedom is being hailed as “a domestic drama about marriage and family.”  Effusive, serious praise…for a domestic drama.  Since it is a Jonathan and not a Joanna Franzen who wrote it, the book isn’t being consigned to the “women’s fiction” bin of commentary.  When a female novelist writes about herself, or her protagonists’ ethnicity, age, social and economic circumstances are thinly disguised versions of herself or her peers, she’s a neurotic narcissist.  When a female novelist tackles subjects related to family, feelings or relationships, her work risks being labeled “Chick Lit” (or the faintly more reputable, “women’s fiction”).

A (usually white) male author (e.g. Franzen, Updike, Irving, Cheever, Roth….) does the same thing, writes about the same “territory.”  Do the literary critics – whose  ranks are still overwhelmingly white and male – review his book in the category of…what?  “Dick lit?”  Noooooooo.   He’s illustrating and critiquing the human condition!  He’s doing some serious Li’t-ra-chure!

*   *   *

By the way, if you want to borrow the Dick Lit descriptor, feel free to do so.  Attribution would be nice (or, failing that, cash).  And may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Lacinto

[2] Make that, people age fifty and above.  I’m still waiting for the mature part to kick in.

[3], in my experience, that particular grocery store does not always follow my food-grouping logic (nor logic of any kind when it comes to shelving their stock)

[4] Mazda’s promotional nickname for the Mazda 3. MH & I refer to it as “the fun car” (a nickname we bestowed to distinguish it from our Honda Odyssey minivan, the Utilitarian Parent Vehicle).

[5] Shame on (or, good for) you, but sorry, not that kind of dick reference segue.

[6] Notice I did not type, “snored.”

[7] Still awaiting its critical acclamation. Yes, I’ve mentioned this topic before, and will doubtless do so again.

[8] author unremembered – at least, by me.

[9] (I checked the program’s website transcript to make sure I was recalling them correctly)

[10] No, there is no footnote in the middle of my email. How silly would that be?

The Cats I’m Not Shaming

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The Berries of Fall

Our raspberries have gone wild.  I picked a bucket before the rightful owners of our raspberry bushes (the bumblebees) shooed me away.  The second blooming of the season is even more appreciated than the first, I think because it takes me by surprise.

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*   *   *

Ways To Make Myself Feel Both Old and Young at the Same Time

I went to a Fun. concert, with MH and Belle and three of Belle’s friends.  It had been some time since I’d been to an outdoor/festival seating style concert.  McMenamin’s Edgefield’s amphitheatre is a nice venue, even when you’re sitting at the way way way way back of the lawn (nasty traffic getting there – Portland at rush hour, grrrrr).

We staked out our site, set our tarp and lawn chairs down, got dinner from the concessions area (the usual McMenamin’s grub, plus some variations) and managed to enjoy the last few songs of the opening act. Before the headliner came on Belle & friends decided to go up to the standing-in-front-of-the-stage area, where they stayed for the remainder of the show.

MH and I stood up for the last few songs of the Fun. set, as did most of the people around us.  Two men standing behind us made a comment about how it seemed that we’d been deserted by the teens who’d helped us stake out our spot. I began to banter with Standing Dudes.  We commiserated on how it isn’t cool for teens to be seen with their parents at a concert, and shared our mutual hatred for auto tune [1] , which is featured in too many Fun. songs, IMHO.  One Standing Dude offered to go sneak up on Belle and friends and say something disparaging about auto tune.  , offered to describe my daughter & her friends so that he could do so, but warned him that she would probably turn around and say, “Did my mother send you?”

*   *   *

So, you’re enjoying the night and music and food and drink at an outdoor concern, and Nature places her inevitable call.  Three words for your consideration:

Gender. Neutral. Bathroom.

WHICHEVER

Except, it was an outhouse.  Outhouse, bathroom, let’s not quibble, but what the heck — why the need for any kind of sign?  Can outhouses even have a gender?

Thousands of concertgoers = dozens of outhouses, lined up in a row, in the designated area.  It was all neat and orderly.  People waited in line in front of outhouses which appeared to be identical, save for the hand-scrawled, Gender Neutral Bathroom signs taped to four of the outhouses’ doors .

Taking advantage of the kind of camaraderie possible only between persons with full bladders, I asked the gent standing next to me if he knew what was special about a “gender neutral bathroom” and pointed toward the nearest one, a mere four Honey Buckets away from the facilities gent & I were waiting for.  He said he had no idea, but I could tell I’d piqued his curiosity.  We both watched as a gender specific (female) person exited the nearest GN outhouse.  The woman, displaying impeccable outhouse manners, held the door open for its next occupant (another gender specific person – this one male), which allowed the gent and I a peek inside the GN outhouse.  A central (pit) toilet, a side urinal and a wall-mounted hand sanitizer dispenser – it was the same as all the others.

There were no gender specified outhouses; everyone stood in line and took the next available facility.  I was mystigasted.[2]  I thought all outhouses were for all genders.  Silly moi. I guess all outhouses are equal, but some outhouses are more equal than others.

*   *   *

A Good Thing to Find 

Walking to the Max station, on my way to meet MH & Belle at the Zoo, I passed a family (mom, dad & three young girls) frolicking on the Washington County Fairgrounds playground structures.  One of the girls little girl jumped off of the jungle gym and picked up a quarter she’d spotted on the ground.  She waved her clenched fist triumphantly and squealed to her mother, “Money!  I found a money!”

*   *   *

Back to School = Back to Work

K is back at college and Belle is back to high school – for her senior year.  As usual, I salute the arrival of September, and look forward, this September, to begin serious work on The Book That Will Not Be Called a Sequel to The Mighty Quinn. But…whose desk is this?  This is not my desk.  How did this happen? I am, in general, a tidy, organized person.  This is not my desk. This is my desk.

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*   *   *

Callous and yet heartfelt commentary section

Good riddance to a depraved, monstrous coward, was my gut reaction when I heard about the suicide of That Cleveland Man.  That man, who kidnapped three women and imprisoned them in his home, apparently couldn’t abide for thirty days what he forced them to endure for over ten years. [3]

There shall be little commentary from moiself, at this time, re a certain no-win international situation.  The army/government, the rebels…six of one, half a dozen of everybody else.  Syria, Schmyria: there are no good dogs in that fight.

*   *   *

Frittering the summer away

I’ve discovered, via my visits to other blogs that either regularly or occasionally feature posts about culinary matters, that I’m not a true blogger until I have posted a picture a blogged-about meal along with the recipe.

pretend this is artfully arranged on the plate

pretend this is artfully arranged on the plate

Earlier in the week I made a pesto with basil and Italian parsley, no pine nuts, dab of ricotta, heavy on the lemon juice & light on the olive oil, a combination which might have prompted a visit from the PPP (Pesto Purity Police), but all was peaceful.  Forgot to take a picture of that concoction.

Thursday is pickup day at the CSA (farm). I’ve been experimenting with veggie fritter/pancakes all summer.  Here’s what I did with some of this week’s bounty.  You could vary the spics; I was going for a mildly Indian flavor.

Spaghetti squash and zucchini fritters (3-4 servings)

• Cooked spaghetti squash plus shredded & squeezed-dry zucchini (in whatever amounts you prefer, to equal ~ 2c)
•2 garlic cloves, minced
•1 egg
•1/2 cup tomatoes, cherry or any of your tastiest varieties, finely diced & drained
•1/4 cup crumbled paneer cheese [4] (or extra firm tofu, drained and pressed)
•spices: salt & black pepper to taste; ½ t each ground cumin and curry powder
• chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
-some chickpea flour, enough to help fritters bind (can use regular or gluten-free flour mix)

Mix all but oil together.  Heat large cast iron skillet, add some neutral (e.g. canola) oil, form your fritters in whatever shape floats your boat and do the sautéing  (not deep frying) thing for 6-7 m per side (longer than your usual fritters, because there is no gluten to help them stick together)

Serve plain, or with a yogurt sauce:  Greek yogurt whipped with lemon juice, a bit of ground cayenne, finely chopped scallion (green onion) tops

*   *   *

Where’s my merit badge?

This week I, without the promised help from the afore-mentioned High School Senior Daughter (who did show up 10 m into the appointment and helped me soothe some anxious kitty nerves), [5] I survived was successful in corralling and crating our three indoor cats, and transporting them to their annual veterinary exam/vaccination appointment.

At least they were somewhat behaved during their exams.  There was much hissing from af certain white cat (Nova), but no behavior that would merit me outing them on a Public Cat Shaming Site [6]

o-I-flipped-out-i-jumped-on-my-sister-hissed-and-growled-then-i-hid-under-the-sink-and-pooped-on-the-floor-that-showed-him-he-had-to-use-a-net-to-hold-me-

*   *   *

Damn, Now I have to Watch one of those Reality TV Shows

Yet Another Reason to go on Living: Bill Nye The Science Guy is hoofing it to the next (17th) season of Dancing with the Stars.

BILL      dancing BILLjpg

Put on your boogie shoes, and may the  hjinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] “(when I hear auto tune) It makes me want to kick a robot!”

[2] Mystified/flabbergasted

[3] Actually, he endured nothing like the treatment he gave them, as he had regular meals in prison and was not beaten, raped and impregnated by his guards.

[4] An Indian yogurt cheese. Can be purchased in some organic/specialty stores, or made at home – a fun and relatively easy process.  Try making paneer at least once before you die. But not right before you die.

[5] For some reason they really, really don’t like having their temperatures taken, despite the pretend exclamations of excitement – (“Oh, goody, it’s temp time!”) we emitted when the vet prepped the rectal thermometer).

[6] You must visit this site. Invaluable entertainment, for both cat lovers/owners and the feline-indifferent.

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