The Fly I’m Not Casting


I have as much authority as the Pope.  I just don’t have as many people who believe it.
(George Carlin)

The talking heads think we all just can’t get enough of that papal resignation stuff. Me, I’m trying not to sound or think like one of the old folks (What happened to February? Where does the time go?!). Meanwhile, Washington Post opinion writer E.J. Dionne Jr. tried one more tactic to get us to care about the papal succession, and threw in his two ducat’s worth, by positing that the best choice for pope may be a nun.

Dionne admits to certain pesky impediments, such as the fact that in the RC-world, “Women, after all, are not yet able to become priests, and it is unlikely that traditionalists in the church will suddenly upend the all-male, celibate priesthood.”  Nevertheless, he opines that handing leadership to a woman (read: a nun) “would vastly strengthen Catholicism, help the church solve some of its immediate problems and inspire many who have left the church to look at it with new eyes.”

Amazingly, Dionne’s bio lists him as an opinion writer, and not a humorist.

I understand and recognize jesting, and satire and irony.  Dionne’s article is free of all three.  The dude is actually serious.

Appointing another pope, no matter what the shape, color or national origin of its genitalia, will not help anyone with 21st century eyes to look at Catholicism with new eyes.  As for helping his religion solve some of its “immediate problems,” those of us who’ve left any – and every—  religion know that it doesn’t matter how you dress it up or down.

Although I have to admit, Sister Mary Clarence  would rock that papal mozetta .  Well, almost anyone would be an improvement, style-wise.  Even Sister Bertrille for that matter,

 Religions – from the liberally acceptable and/or relatively benign Wicca, Neo-paganisms, women-and-gay-ordaining protestant denominations, to fundie Mormon wife collectors, Pentecostal snake handlers, foam at the mouth homophobe evangelists, pontificating papal pederasts, and all the “moderates” in between – are simply incorrect. Their (mis)understandings of the world are based on mythologies and unsubstantiated claims that, while defensible for illiterate, scientifically ignorant Bronze Age denizens to have held,  have no basis in reality.[1]

Absurdity playing dress-up is still absurdity.  Donning the robes of religion does not make the illogical tenets of theology logical. Changing the gender, age, ethnicity or national origin of a religion’s figurehead is a meaningless PR gesture, as the figure will still be nunsense  nonsense in drag.

 “I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition [Christianity] one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded upon fables and mythologies.”
(Thomas Jefferson)

*   *   *

I don’t know what triggered the following, college-days memory.  But, unlike the remnants of the vegetarian chili I had for lunch, I’m grateful for its resurfacing.

GS, a friend who lived down the hall from me in my dorm, had to write a VIP [2] for his physiology class.  The class was mostly filled with pre-vet school students ,[3] who were very competitive with one another.  The assignment: delineate the actions of all muscles, both separately and in tandem, involved in executing a certain task of your choosing (e.g., opening a jar of pickles or blinking an eye).

The professor warned his students that the assignment was far more difficult than they realized; thus, he was going to give them two shots at it, so to speak.  Those students who were able to turn in (what they thought were) their completed research papers at the end of the week would receive the benefit of the professor reading, but not grading, their papers over the weekend.  The Prof would note suggestions for improvement and/or expansion and return the papers to the students on Monday, thus giving them a chance to revise their work before the final version was due on Tuesday.

GS, who had done a bit of trout fishing in high school, decided to describe the process of casting a fly.  He was humbled and frustrated as he researched and wrote his paper and tried to describe the various muscular actions involved in what, to him, had seemed a simple, almost instinctive action.  This paper consumed his life, all week, and his dorm friends heard all about it…but he was able to turn in his paper on Friday.  On Monday he received his paper back, with his professor’s comments.  The Prof noted that although GS’s detailed analysis of the kinetic choreography of the shoulder, upper arm, forearm and hand was impressive, as an avid fly fisherman himself the professor knew that GS had neglected to consider and enumerate the lower body motions (hip rotation, pelvic propulsion, foot placement, etc.), involved in casting a fly. [4]

GS realized he was way in over his head, and had a dark night of the soul Monday evening.  I saw that he was still pacing the halls, his paper in his hands, when I left Tuesday at 5:30 am to go for my morning run. I didn’t run into him again until Friday evening in the dining commons.  I, of course, asked what had happened with his revisions.  He said he’d turned in his final paper as originally written, with no changes except for an addendum to his opening thesis: “This paper analyzes the coordinated muscular action of a person casting a fly, the person being a T-4 paraplegic, confined to a wheelchair, with no voluntary muscle movement below the nipple line.”

His paper received the highest grade in the class.

*   *   *

Ways to feel really stupid inadequate incompetent.
#542 in a series 

In all the excitement during the past couple of years, what with finding a publisher for finalizing the contract for The Mighty Quinn and taking notes for two more juvenile novels, another adult novel and short fiction collection, I neglected to check my own notes to see that I had not, in fact, done the final edits on the novel I had started to submit to agents and publishers.

I discovered this just recently.  Thus, even as I’ve been enjoying the final editing process, I have to take time out ten times a day to do a Holy Jean Luc Picard on my forehead.   I so did not make it so.  Jeesh.

The more I thought about the current events of the past week, the more I wished I could be serenaded by goats.

Be careful what you wish for.  Who knew goats could sound like old men complaining about stale toast, and scream like slasher movie victims?

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

[1] I can’t believe I’ve gone this far without a footnote.

[2] Very Important Paper.

[3] UC Davis has a world-renowned veterinary schools. When I was a mere UCD undergrad, the vet students did an excellent job spaying my cat, and didn’t seem to mind that she bit at least two interns during her post op appointment.

[4] No footnote here.  There’s nothing to see, folks.  Keep moving on.

The Fritatta (for my father) I’m Not Cooking

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Monday, February 11.  I headed upstairs (where the backup TV/DVD player resides), a glass of champagne in my hand.

“You’re going to watch something – what?” K asked me.

“Band of Brothers.”

“Oh,” she replied.  “Of course.”

Monday was the four year anniversary of my father’s death.  He’d called the night before, and we talked for a long time, longer than usual (we talked on the phone at least once a week).  He was in a reflective mood.  [1] One of the many things we talked about was the HBO series, Band of Brothers.  The year after the series came out on DVD I purchased the set for my parents – a Christmas gift, I think.  Besides being one of the greatest mini-series in the history of the genre, B-B was the impetus for many detailed conversations between my father and me, about his experiences as a paratrooper in WWII [2]  and also those of another paratrooper, his brother-in-law, my Uncle Bill. [3]

My family hears the elegiac, haunting main theme wafting down the stairway, and they know where I am.  And what I’m thinking about.

I don’t know how to describe the greatness that is Band of Brothers.  So I won’t.  Just watch it, if you haven’t already.  Were I ever to meet Steven Spielberg and/or Tom Hanks, I would thank them, profusely, for producing that series.  Not a word about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or The Money Pit would cross my lips.

*   *   *

Tuesday morning I had leftover frittata for breakfast. Earlier in the week I’m made a kale,[4] potato, onion, Spanish (smoked) paprika, parmesan cheese frittata for dinner.  I don’t know if my father ever had a frittata, for any meal.  I do know he would have liked it.

A great scene in a greatly underrated movie, Morning Glory:[5]  Grouchy, veteran, respected but currently unemployed television journalist Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford, in a credible Mike Wallace mode) has been essentially blackmailed into becoming the co-host of DayBreak, a ratings-poor, national morning show of the “infotainment” style Pomeroy despises.  Pomeroy tries to sabotage the show by getting drunk, refusing to banter with co-host Colleen Peck (a cheerfully acid Diane Keaton), and by making use of a clause in his contract that allows him to refuse assignments, like cooking segments, that he considers beneath him. Pomeroy eventually forms a mutual if grudging admiration with Becky Fuller, (Rachael McAdams), DayBreak’s new, “Energizer Bunny” producer.  When DayBreak begins to rise in popularity and ratings, Becky receives a job interview from a rival show.  Colleen tells Mike that his refusal to adapt has driven Becky away. He goes to the TV set kitchen where food segments are done, and Becky watches in shock as Pomeroy shows the viewers how to make a frittata.

*   *   *

Always nice to have something to look forward to, and I – we – have May 13 – 19, which is Children’s Book Week.

CBW is the yearly celebration of “books for young people and the joy of reading.”  Every year during CBW author and illustrator appearances, storytelling, parties, and other book-related events are held at schools, libraries, bookstores, museums across the country.

Mark your calendars, if you are a local.  Tuesday, Tuesday, May 14, starting at 7 pm, moiself and two other authors will be doing a reading and book signing at Powell’s City of Books, at their Cedar Hills Crossing (Beaverton) location.  This event has just been scheduled; I don’t yet know all the logistical details it will involve (walking up and down the book stack aisles, wearing a sandwich board advertising The Mighty Quinn?), but you can be certain I’ll post further harassments reminders as the date approaches.

Powell’s is the largest independent new and used bookstore in our solar system, and if you don’t know this, well….  Even if you’re from waaaaay out of town (any New Hampshire readers out there?), you need to make a pilgrimage to Powell’s if you are any kind of a book lover.  If not for my event, then soon.  So, you can’t fly to Portland in May?  Not to worry, there is a Children’s BW event somewhere near you.

Whatever your favorite childhood book is, was, or will be, may the remembrance of it be worthy of the Pretty Purple Toe award.

*   *   *

No political commentary, nor rehashes of the latest misogynist pinhead proclamations in this week’s post.  I am too focused on fathers and frittatas and positive memories to celebrate, say, the resignation of the leader of one of the most wealthy, opulent, hypocritical, corrupt cults on the planet one mere pope. Now, if we could get all priests, imams, preachers, lamas, gurus, popes — and the ovine followers who give them “authority” – to resign….  Yeah, you can wake me for that breaking news.

*   *   *

In honor of Valentine’s Day, a reminder of that most romantic of date movies, When Harry Met Sally Snakes On a Plane Snakes In a Dish.

Because I can only imagine that when Samuel L. Jackson gets serious about love – about anything – hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

[1] The temptation, of course, is to think he had some kind of premonition.  No evidence or proof of that, on my part. Just gratitude.

[2] In his case, training for the invasion of Japan that never came, due to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

[3] Bill somehow survived actions from North Africa to Italy to D-Day to the Battle of the Bulge.  Not surprisingly, he was hospitalized after the war for what was then called “Shell Shock”, now understood as PTSD.

[4] Observant readers will note that it is bok choy, and not kale, in the picture.  What can I say – all the kale went in the frittata.

[5] I love Roger Ebert’s review of what makes the comedy so enjoyable: “It grows from human nature and is about how people do their jobs and live their lives.”

The Awards I’m Not Winning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

Talk about damning with praise, faint or otherwise.

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

[1] Previously identified on this blog as…SCM

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

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

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

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

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

[7]  Stop me, before I i-word again.

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

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

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

The Cheesecake I’m Not Serving

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The new line drawing is here!  The new line drawing is here! [1]

Scarletta Press‘s managing editor/idea guru Nora Evans came up with a wonderful idea to cap off the cover design of my book.  Instead of using the standard, black & white thumbnail photos of the author and artists she’ll have The Mighty Quinn’s illustrators, Aaron and Katie DeYoe, do line drawings of the author and artists, in the style of the book’s text illustrations.

I’ve always wanted to attain artist’s rendering status.  The Picasso-esque [2] sketch college roommate LMW drew of me ~ 30 years ago doesn’t count.

The picture will be something ala this style, without the spaghetti-flinging.

*   *   *

Insert your own, favorite (and graceful) segue here.  ‘Cause I’m all out of ’em.

One of the most intricate, fascinating, and overlooked (IMHO) aspects of The Gun Thing ®  is the research into what happens during actual gunfights; i.e., real, live human beings shooting at one another, as opposed to dueling computer game avatars, one-shot-takedown cinematic secret agents, or politicians shooting off their mouths.

No matter what you think you think about the various proposals to have armed guards in every nook and cranny and orifice in America, it would be worthwhile to acquaint yourself with “Your Brain Under Fire,” (Time Magazine, January 28 issue). This article gives an overview of the science behind how your brain reacts when you are shot at, or when you shoot at someone.  It’s a fascinating read – a mere three pages of text, should only take ten minutes of your time.  Or twice that if you are a NASCAR fan or were home-schooled at the Michele Bachmann Academy of Historical Reading Comprehension [3] or are a regular viewer of Toddlers & Tiaras.

*   *   *

Sitting on our counter is a delicious slice of Marionberry [4] goodness.  Not as in His royal badness, former DC mayor, Marion Barry

What’s on the counter is the remainder of a piece of Marionberry pie I hid in the freezer a couple of weeks ago (I wanted a taste of it before my son K used his I’m-returning-to-college-tomorrow excuse to finish it off).   Mere words cannot describe the berryliciousness of this treat, but since I’m not a fan of interpretive dance, language will have to suffice.  Yummers.

For the past x weeks we’ve been the beneficiaries of friend LAH’s project to cook her way through Rustic Fruit Desserts: Crumbles, Buckles, Cobblers, Pandowdies, and More, the cookbook from Portland’s legendary chef, restaurateur and James Beard Award winner, Cory Schreiber.  We’ve had fruit cobbler in the refrigerator, chocolate cake on the table, and more.  We’ve had cheesecake on the counter…but none in the boudoir.

Cheesecake in the boudoir

Believe it or not, Ripley, this particular segue will eventually make sense.

Televangelist Pat Robertson, arguably the first person to survive a partial brain abortion, has fought a lifelong battle with chronic AIM (ass-in-mouth) syndrome.  The unintentionally comical Robertson  can always be counted on to produce a bizarre brain boner during a slow news week.

Robertson’s face-palm worthy howlers have included attributing same sex attraction to evil spirits , earthquakes to voodootropical cyclones to legalized abortion , endorsing wife-beating and nuking the State Department .  The latest manifestation of his AIM comes in the form of his blaming “awful looking women” for marital monotony.

Which, of course, made me think of cheesecake in the boudoir.

*   *   *

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

As an adolescent growing up with politically conservative parents, I looked at friends’ copies of the LA Times for actual news reportage, and read the Orange County Register [5], the only newspaper in our household, for entertainment. Besides The Register’s editorial page, few of its regular features were more entertaining than The Worry Clinic, a syndicated advice column written by George Crane .

The Worry Clinic was a six days a week venture for Dr. Crane:  two days to worry about love and marriage, and one day each devoted to worrying about business, child-rearing, personality development, and what Crane called “mental hygiene.” (As Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Green noted, apparently Dr. Crane saved the seventh day so that he could worry himself, after worrying for everyone else the other six days.).

I don’t remember if The Register printed all of The Worry Clinic columns; I do remember they ran the ones that dealt with relationships and child-reading.  Dr. Crane, who somehow managed to receive several degrees from Northwestern University, liked to say that he learned most of what he needed to know working as a farm hand during summer vacations from high school and college. It showed.

Each of The Worry Clinic‘s columns was illustrated with a line drawing of a woman and/or a man, whose clothing and hairstyles were 1940-50s suburban caricatures.  No matter that it was the 1970s, few men sported hats, let alone fedoras, and women/housewives (the terms were synonymous in Dr. Crane’s world) seldom wore Betty Boop dresses and pearl necklaces when doing the dishes.

My parents clipped select TWC columns and scotch-taped them on that most passive-aggressive of family communication devices: the refrigerator door.  I penciled snarky comments next to the columns’ particularly flaming, WTF? passages, and enhanced the illustrations with moustaches and googly eyes.  I was never called on that vandalism editorializing by my parents, who therefore, I reasoned, never re-read the columns they’d taken the time to clip and post.  The postings themselves were evidence that my parents read TWC, and for different reasons than I, who used them as a horrifying/amusing, negative barometer of sorts. Indeed, Crane’s “advice” provided many of the formative, click moments that reinforced my growing feminist understanding of the world.

 There was certain egalitarianism to Crane’s counsel.  No matter if the advice seeker was man or woman, young or old – TWC advice, in a nutshell, [6] consisted of three tenets:

1.  If wives are not slavishly praising their husbands they are nagging their husbands.
There is no  in-between.
2. All marital/family discord is due to wives not serving their husbands
enough “cheesecake in the boudoir.”
3. See (2)

Your husband ridiculed your father’ s re-telling of his How I Single-handedly Won the Battle of Iwo Jima story during Christmas dinner, and now your parents aren’t speaking to you? You obviously aren’t serving your husband enough Cheesecake in the boudoir. 

Your children are doing C- work at school and smart-mouthing you at home?  The wife should be serving her mate more Cheesecake in the boudoir. 

Although you correct them at every opportunity, your in-laws refer to your disabled daughter as “that cutesy-wootsy Mongoloid?”  Hubby needs Cheesecake in the boudoir.

Ashamed by your failure to be a loving husband after you criticized your wife for developed a bleeding ulcer when your son returned from the Vietnam War a heroin-addicted, double amputee?   Your wife needs to serve you more Cheesecake in the boudoir.  

Boudoir-free Cheesecake

This crust-free version has way less calories and fat grams, and thus less guilt (pre- or post-feminist), than your typical cheesecake.

– ½ c sugar
– 2 T all purpose unbleached flour
– ½ T pure vanilla
-16 oz Neufchatel or nonfat cream cheese, softened
-2 whole eggs
-3 ounces sweet baking chocolate, melted. (optional). [7]

1. preheat oven to 325.  Put a kettle of water on to boil.
2. Combine sugar, flour, vanilla & cream cheese in a mixing bowl.  Use an electric beater on medium speed to mix the ingredients until they are well-blended.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
3. lightly oil or spray four 5 oz custard cups with neutral [8] cooking spray/oil.  Place cups in an 8″ or 9″ square baking pan.
4. poon cheesecake batter into the cups. Drizzle spoonfuls of the melted chocolate over the surface of the batter and use a toothpick or thin-bladed knife to make as many swirly chocolate designs as your foo-foo heart desires.
5. transfer pan to oven; add hot water to the pan, enough to come halfway up the sides of the cups.  Bake for 45 minutes.
6. Use oven mitts to oh-so-carefully remove the custard cups from what is now their very hot water bath.  The individual cheesecakes will be puffy, and will “fall” a bit as they cool.  When cool enough to handle, cover the cups and refrigerate them overnight, or at least for two hours.

Serve as is, or top with one or more of the following: slices of fresh berries, a dollop of lowfat sour cream or greek yogurt  whipped with vanilla or a dash of lemon juice, shavings of best quality dark chocolate, crushed peppermints or crumbled chocolate creme de menthe thins, (or for a real treat, Ghiradelli’s Peppermint Bark )

*   *   *

Department of StartingTo Sound Like The Old Folks

All together now:  How can it be February, already?

‘Tis a relatively brief but important month, filled with several way-cool happenings, including my daughter’s birthday (number 17, yikes). February 1 has hosted its share of significant cultural events. I shall mention only the most important two:

* the 1954 birth of writer-producer-musician-actor Bill Mumy, beloved by aficionados of bad sci-fi TV as Lost In Space‘s Will Robinson.

* the 1964  attempt by Indiana Governor Mathew Walsh to ban “Louie Louie” for obscenity. Really.  The FBI started an investigation into the matter and concluded, THIRTY ONE MONTHS LATER, that they were “unable to interpret any of the wording in the record.”  Of course, adults tittering over the need for such an investigation was like blowing a dog whistle to horny American teenagers,[9] who spent hours listening to the Kingman’s famously garbled hit single, trying to figure out what the Feds thought they heard and what the rest of us thought we’d missed.  Many a youthful fantasy was shattered when kids finally bought the sheet music for the song and discovered there was not a whole lotta shakin’ going on.

In hindsight, the Your Tax Dollars At Work department should have scheduled J. Edgar Hoover for a 5 minute tutoring session with a middle school grammar teacher, who could have explained to the closeted, cross-dressing, racist, evidence-planting, Commie-baiter defender of American Values the difference between obscenity and unintelligibility.

I would have paid good money to watch those hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

[1] Well, not quite yet.

[2] Cubist face; three eyes; one boob.

[3]  Iowa (January 2011) Bachmann declared: “We also know the very founders that wrote those documents (the US Constitution) worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States… Men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country.”  Not only did the writers of our constitution not “extinguish” slavery, they implicitly upheld the institution by regulating it.  And John Quincy Adams? He was extinguished in 1848, fifteen years before the Emancipation Proclamation.

[4] Yet another reason to love Oregon, home to the crossbreed Marionberry, released in 1956. A good year for blackberry hybrids. And Chevys. And women.

[5] Even my parents recognized that the libertarian-leaning OC Register was biased in its coverage of public schools. If I came home with a story about how an African-American student sassed a Chicano student for sneezing on his ‘fro pick during lunch recess, The Register would run a story the next day about how there was yet another race riot at Santa Ana High School.

[6] An appropriate container

[7] Are you allergic to chocolate? No? Then it’s not optional.  Who am I kidding?

[8] “Neutral” refers to the taste the oil imparts, and carries no political inference.  Neutral oils are nearly flavorless; olive oils have distinct flavors and are never neutral, even if the olives are from Sweden or Switzerland.

[9] Pardon the redundancy.