Nice way to start the week. Really! This (part of the) post is sarcasm-free! And full of exclamation marks! Because, why not?!
On Monday Scarletta Press’s publicist forwarded the following email from the Children’s Book Council. As for the CBC’s Tweet suggestions, the mere thought of that particular networking service gets me all twitter-pated, but any of you readers are also tweeters, feel free to pass along the news.  Especially if you have Michelle Obama’s ear. 
Congratulations, The Mighty Quinn was selected for the CBC’s Hot Off The Press and is featured on our homepage! Here are some sample Tweets to help you promote your title’s feature. We’ll be spreading the word on Facebook and Twitter!
Get mighty! ‘The Mighty Quinn’ by Robyn Parnell is on @CBCBook Hot Off The Press! http://bit.ly/14JshQB #HOTP
This book is hot! ‘The Mighty Quinn’ was chosen for @CBCBook Hot Off The Pess! http://bit.ly/14JshQB
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Rewind to Saturday, which had served as a more humbling reminder of the realities of publicity events. My press’s publicist had arranged for me to do a reading at an elementary school’s Earth Day project, to tie-in with one of The Mighty Quinn’s subplots. . The school’s students and parents would be working with coordinators of an environmental stewardship group (which I’ll refer to as Greengood. Sorry.) to plant trees and otherwise “beautify” their schoolyard.
We (MH, daughter Belle and moiself) showed up at the time suggested by the school’s Greengood coordinator. It took several minutes to find the Person In Charge; the event was, uh, disorganized, to say the least…which I’d expected as per past experience. 
The event organizer and her comrades were Bright, Perky and Chirpy. And young. Very young. Nothing wrong with that, but did I mention that they were young?
Although the BPCs had placed signs up all over the school (“12: 30 p special event: Robyn Parnell, Storyteller”), they hadn’t given any thought as to where I would do the reading.
The Storyteller spot they decided on at the last minute was in front of a bunch of picnic tables outside the school gym, from which recorded music was blaring. Horrible, as in, really awful acoustics (I did get them to turn off the music).
Adults and kids were taking a break from tree planting, and some twenty boxes of pizza had arrived. Two BPCs said they’d organize the adults to do cleanup/lunch prep and call in the kids from the playground for the reading. That didn’t go exactly as planned.
The adults (and many kids) kept wandering in and out of the picnic table area, before and during my reading, and the noise level was quite high. It became obvious to me that most of the kids had their eyes and attention spans focused on the pizza to come. Fortunately, the excerpts I’d picked were short…and I made them even shorter when I realized that some of the adults (who had not listened to the BPC instructions, imagine that) had begun to pass out the pizza.
Life Lesson, #367 in a series: Prose is no competition for pepperoni.
My reading began and ended with excerpts of a chapter in the book where students are doing a community service project and one of the characters asks, “Is it time for lunch?” That segue seemed to be appreciated by the, oh, six kids who were actually paying attention at that point.
The highlight: one kid, as I was setting up, asked if I would be doing a puppet show. S/he  seemed disappointed when I explained that I would be reading a passage from my (puppet-free) book, and s/he asked if it would be okay for to leave “if it gets boring.”
Yeah, sure, kid. Don’t let the seesaw hit you in the *&# on your way to the playground.
I did not say that. I did let the kid play with the frog clicker I’d brought along (no puppets, but a prop!), and s/he stayed for the reading.
During the reading MH & Belle distributed flyers about community service ideas (the flyers were provided by Scarletta Press, quite beautifully done…with a couple of mentions of the book, of course). After the pizza break MH, Belle and I helped mulch the newly planted trees. The reading break may have been disorganized but the adults and students had done a lot of work: over 70 trees planted on the school yards and perimeter!
Highlight, the sequel: the kids who planted the trees got to name the trees, which I thought was a delightful way to have students make a connection to the tree, and thus be more likely to care for them. A Douglas Fir was named…wait for it… “Dougie,” and a red maple was named “Elena,” and so on. One tree was named “Bob,” a cause for an apology of sorts from one of the parents, when she saw me reading the tree’s name tag.
“It’s, uh, not a very distinctive name, is it?” she stammered.
“What’s wrong with Bob?” MH (son of Robert, aka “Bob”) wanted to know.
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Gracefully segueing to another school-related topic (and, as it happens, another Bob). Bob Davis, this Asshat’s for you:
Minnesota radio host Bob Davis said he would like to tell the families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims to “go to hell” for infringing on his gun rights. Yep, Bob Davis’s message for the bereaved parents is that having to submit to a background check is a greater tragedy than them burying their children.
There are no words for this. Although a few enthusiastic hand gestures come to mind.
* * *
As per enthusiastic gestures, I’d like to ask a certain group of public servants to run their priorities up their flagpole and salute ’em.
Calling all Oregon State Legislators:
the Capitol House janitorial staff has found your cojones, concealed behind the sawdust-filled barf bucket in the Capitol Rotunda’s broom closet.
The great and groovy state of Oregon faces many contentious challenges, including updating our aging infrastructure, grappling with the dilemma of underfunded and underperforming public schools, and fixing a dysfunctional Public Employees Retirement System. Thus, our intrepid legislators, forging new pathways in the spirit of the Oregon Trail, decided to devote time, energy and $$ during the recently convened 2013 Legislative Session to a bill to require all Oregon school districts to display the US flag in each classroom and have students salute it once daily during school hours.
Really. House Bill 3014 passed the Oregon House of Representatives and is now headed for the State Senate.
Caption: Photo showing the old salute, taken in May 1942 in Southington, CT, just one month before the new salute became official.
Rep. Sal Esquivel, (R – Medford) is the bill’s chief knuckle-dragger in charge of do-nothingism masking as patriotism sponsor. Esquivel believes the Pledge of Allegiance teaches students about the nation’s legacy. “We need to teach kids the symbolism of that flag,” Esquivel said. “That flag stands for America. That flag stands for your freedoms. That flag stands for everything this country’s ever done, has been or will be in the future.”
It might behoove Esquivel to teach himself the literal meaning behind that flag symbolism. Is he unaware of our country’s history of civil and constitutional rights? Does he understand that the right to free speech includes the freedom from making loyalty oaths to the king government, particularly when those oaths violate that very government’s constitution by promoting religion? Are Esquivel and the bill’s supporters going to mandate that schoolchildren be taught the history of The Pledge to That Flag, including:
* that somehow the country survived for over 100 years without a pledge
* that the “under God” reference was not added until over 60 years after the pledge was written 
* that the original pledge salute was one stiff arm outstretched toward the flag,  a posture later used by a certain German dictatorship?
“We’re dealing with schoolchildren and with role models in schools who are required to lead it. The circumstances are inherently fraught with compulsion or coercion and we feel that’s a violation of church-state separation.” (Anti-Defamation League, Nov. 14, 2003)
My own OR State Representative, whose energy and idealism I respect – and whose pragmatism I grudgingly understand – voted for the bill. Ick ick ick, I sez, even I realize that once such a piece of festering crap legislation is introduced it’s a no-win situation for any representative – particularly a newbie to the game  – to oppose it, or point out why such provisions are unnecessary, wasteful, silly and even sinister distractions from the real, pressing issues at hand. Any politician doing so would be subject to knee-jerk disloyalty accusations from the why-do-you-hate-America, drool bucket for brains crowd, and political rivals would relish the chance to use a “He voted against the flag! And the Pledge!” sound bite during the next election.
I can’t help but wonder what the legislature’s next efficient use of taxpayer monies might be. Perhaps they’ll form a committee to find and replace all the currency we frisky Freethinkers have been desecrating correcting; i.e., the dollar bills with “In God We Trust’ scratched out on the back.
* * *
I can only be pissed off at politicians for so long — this weekend is the Oregon Potters Association convention! The annual Ceramic Showcase, the nation’s largest exhibit and sale of pottery items ranging from sculpture to garden art to home accessories, is at the Oregon Convention Center, Friday through Sunday. Pottery-loving friends and I have made it a yearly tradition to mark our calendars and attend on the opening day. After years of showcases I’ve no room in the house for pottery, be it decorative or functional…ah, but what do I see outside my office window? An artless yard?  And there always seems to be room for just one more visage on the Wall of Faces.
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Wishing y’all a weekend of friendly faces. Let the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
 This is as close as I’ll get to groveling. Until next week.
 Or whatever part of the body one uses when tweeting.
 Environmental protection/community service. Silly do-gooder stuff.
 I’d given a mild warning to my publicist; still, it had been years since I’d had anything to do with a Greengood event, and I hoped for the best.
 Not to get all Gender Police, but really, I couldn’t tell. Nor could MH and Belle, when I later (and discretely) consulted with them.
 The pledge of allegiance was originally written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a socialist magazine writer.
 In 1954, amid the anti-commie hysteria, by Pres. Eisenhower and Congress, at the urging of a minister.
 Someone in the 1940s noticed that it resembled that, uh, other salute, and it was formally replaced by Congress with the now-customary, hand-on-heart.,
 Ben Unger ( D- Dist. 29) is a first-time representative, elected last November.
 Garden gnome free!