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The Nose Hairs I’m Not Trimming

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Lovely Spam, Wonderful Spam

There is a certain beauty to these disparate messages in this week’s spam file – a mélange of subjects I find peculiarly compelling:

 * A scary number and an awesome cat
* Weird food KILLED my blood pressure
* John Kerry With Egyptians Over Gaza
* My hips went from a 40 down to a 35 in seven days
* Mail from CIA (Congratulation) !!!
* [SPAM] is NOT SPAM!
* Free Viagra for under $5!

And this, from a company that helps inventors turn their innovative ideas into branded product…this, to me, is the most poignant spam of all:

 * Tangled, messy garden hoses are a thing of the past

Please, say it ain’t so.

How will I ever convey to my offspring the contentment that can only arise from laboring to transform a tangled, messy garden hose into a straight and tidy irrigation tube, if the former no longer exists?

I swear, those entrepreneurs just want to suck the mystery out of life.

Mom, tell me again about the good old days, when everyone worked together to untangle the hose.

Mom, tell me again about the good old days, when everyone worked together to untangle the hose.

 *   *   *

Silent But Deadly =  Recuperative

Readers with such totally meaningless lives they must fill the void in their souls by reading my blog excellent memories may recall last week’s blog, wherein I mentioned the mini-strokes that have afflicted my mother.  Those Wacky Scientists ® may have come up with a non-surgical, non-pharmacological, totally natural treatment for her.

I am, of course, referring to fart-smelling.

As reported in The Week:

“A new study …suggests that exposure to hydrogen sulfide could prevent mitochondria damage….. Hydrogen sulfide gas…well known as a pungent, foul-smelling gas in rotten eggs and flatulence, it is naturally produced in the body and could in fact be a healthcare hero with significant implications for future therapies for a variety of diseases,”  a professor at the University of Exeter, said…. the study suggests that “a whiff here and there has the power to reduce risks of cancer, strokes, heart attacks, arthritis, and dementia by preserving mitochondria.”

I can’t help but wonder: is there is a corollary effect for gas emissions of the northern orifice; i.e., does listening to belching have mitigating effects for auditory or other sensory disorders?  In other words, any excuse to play this:

 *   *   *

Why I Never Ran a Lemonade Stand  [1]

Lawston 2

*   *   *

Apparently, my calling, where my true talent lies, is writing Amazon reviews. Such as the one I penned for my “manatee tea infuser.”

I love the way my manatee looks; I love the very concept, and I love the way she perches on the rim of my teacup, with her loose tea-laden nether regions soaking in the hot water, infusing the teacup with…well, with very little actual tea.

The holes in her silicon trunk are just not holey enough to allow for proper circulation. The only thing that comes close to the disappointed look on my face when I sip what I am hoping will be a freshly brewed cuppa, and taste instead a week mug of almost-nothing (hey, did I mistakenly order the homeopathic tea?), is the forlorn expression on the manatea herself. I think she knows what’s going on. She is a tea infuser that does not infuse; she is forlorn, bereft of purpose, just another pretty (if bewhiskered) face.

The review itself received several glowing reviews, and is currently listed as the most helpful review for the product.  I may now return to Antares with a clear conscience. My work here is done.

 manatea

“(Moiself) has written one of the most informative and creative reviews of any product that I have ever had the privilege to read. Thank you for a review that not only provided the information that I needed and also managed to be very entertaining.”

 *   *   *

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

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

As I mentioned last week, I’d rather be home trimming my nostril hairs with a weed whacker than do author appearances, but since the nose hair situation is under control and my name is on the list, I’ve no excuse but to show up.  I’ll read a couple of passages from my featured book and be available to talk afterward. [1]  Here’s the slate (author and book title) for tonight:

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

I hope to see your friendly faces (perhaps made even friendlier by the beverages?) tonight.  If nothing else, you may pick up some hiking tips from Paul Gerald (aka that Portland hiking guy).

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

 *   *   *

Department of I Am So Not Making This Up

And the Golden Wingnut Award goes to….wanna-be nurse Sara Hellwege.

GOLDEN WINGNUT

 

I will really, really try not to refer to her as Sarah Hell-Wedgie.  So, please, erase the following image from your mind.

hellwedgie

 

Dateline: Tampa, Florida, where not-yet-graduated-or-licensed nurse Sara Hellwege  (not Hell-Wedgie) has apparently fallen out of the bounteously-limbed Tree of Illogic and Absurdity and hit every branch on the way down.  Despite the obvious signs that Hellwege is suffering from TBI ( theological bullshit instruction), she was able to apply for a job in Tampa medical clinic, and is now blathering “religious liberty violation” because she did not get the job after she said she would not be able to do the job.

REALLY

No shit. [2]

Sara Hellwege is a member of a conservative religious “medical” organization that believes, contrary to all medical and scientific evidence, that birth control causes  “the death of a human embryo.”  When asked by the clinic’s human resources director about her affiliation with the group, “Hellwege admitted she would refuse to prescribe the birth control pill to anyone who wanted it. She was summarily told that prescribing the birth control pill was part of the job and was not hired.”

All together now: Sara Hellwege does not want to prescribe birth control, but she applied for a job at a family health center where prescribing birth control is a job requirement.

Uh huh.

 "I'll prescribe that crazy bitch a dose of turn your brain and cough."

“I’ll prescribe that crazy bitch a dose of turn your brain and cough.”

*   *   *

Best. Vandalism. Ever.

Portland is just so, you know, Portlandia.  Eleven miles west, we Hillsborons [3] struggle to have any kind of identity, other than our unofficial city motto, [4] “Yeah, we’re not Portland, but at least we’re not Riverside.”

Oh, but that was then, and this is now:

 “In my 25 years in police services, I have never investigated or seen a criminal mischief involving pastries.”
- Lt. Mike Rouches, Hillsboro police spokesman.

It seems a Hillsboro neighborhood has been plagued – or blessed, depending upon your POV – with a unique form of vandalism.  In a kindergartener’s dream titled article, “Donut Caper Hits Hillsboro Neighborhood,”  The Oregonian reports that in the past six weeks, vandals have plagued Northeast Farmcrest Street and neighboring areas, “scattering doughnuts around” and other food, too, including red potato salad, “…But doughnuts have been the most common food found.”

And just in case you’re wondering,  I HAVE AN ALIBI FOR THE PAST SIX WEEKS.

Here the breaking news reporting gets more species-specific:

 “Maple bars smeared across cars. Two chocolate doughnuts with sprinkles sat atop the windshield wipers of one vehicle.”

DONUT

With sprinklesI love that this important forensic detail is mentioned.

As you can imagine, Hillsboro’s finest detective squad exists only in our dreams has been assigned to the details.  Read the article in its entirety, and you’ll shudder to think of the hypoglycemic sickoes behind these and other incidents:

On July 18, a Hillsboro sergeant found a box of Little Debbie Coral Reef Cakes strewn in the middle of Farmcrest Street. The dessert was the yellow cake with chocolate creme version, which is topped with brightly colored starfish and fish-shaped sprinkles.

 The next day, July 19, a woman told police that…she found doughnuts thrown around her yard…. Mysteriously, a “Twilight” book was also left in her driveway.

Now we’re talking.

Hello, CSI Hillsboro, do I have to spell it out for you?  Crimes of pastry side-by-side with one of the worst crimes against literature – this is no coincidence.

As one befuddled resident put it, “Can the world get any more cruller?”

*   *   *

R.I.P. James Garner

Murphy's

If you haven’t already, treat yourself to a viewing of one of the actor’s best (IMHO) if underappreciated roles, in Murphy’s Romance. I love this movie for so many reasons, including the realistic, well-written the role of a kid, where kid gets to be a kid and not a sitcom-ish sassy-talking, wiseass Hollywood version of A Kid ® . The chemistry between Garner’s and Sally Field’s characters is mahvelous; also, the movie has one of the best ending couplets [5] in cinema history (spoiler alert):

SF: “So, how do you like your eggs?”

JG: “I’m sixty.”

*  *  *

 May your Romcom dialogue be convincing,  your wedgies be heavenly, your neighborhood vandalism be hypoglycemic-neutral, and may the hijinks ensue.

 Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] Cartoon by Mary Lawton. Her work is featured in many venues, including the aptly named Funny Times.

[2] Except for the batshit crazy kind.

[3] For some reasons, residents of Hillsboro have resisted my attempt to label us thusly.

[4] Hillsboro has no official city motto.  And since I’m about as unofficial as they get, I feel totally justified in coming up with an unauthorized slogan.

[5] I’m probably using this poetic reference incorrectly.  So, sue me.

The Composer’s Ass I’m Not Kicking

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But First, The Sporadic Self-Promotion 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bards___Brews_Art_1_

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

sandwich

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

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

Once again, I digress.

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

MOONGOLF

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

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

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

Exhibit A.

Exhibit A.

 *   *   *

Can We Agree to Stop This, Now?

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

selfies

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

Do these snakes make my head look fat?

Do these snakes make my head look fat?

*   *   *

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

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

The Advice Column I’m Not Writing

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 The potters are here!  The potters are here!

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

Horsley teapot

Teapot by Patrick Horsley

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

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

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

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

Chickenface

And there was much rejoicing. 

 *   *   *

Complesults and Insulments.

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

HISS

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

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

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

*   *   *

More From The Department of Withholding Judgment

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

*   *   *

 A Day Late and a Dollar Short [3]

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

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

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

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

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

* Fun with Fundamentalists

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

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

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

facepalm

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

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

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

 Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

The 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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

*   *   *

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?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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…

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…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.

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*   *   *

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.

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