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The First Lady I’m Not Tweeting

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Get Mighty!

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. [1]  Especially if you have Michelle Obama’s ear. [2]

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

*   *   *

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. [3].  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. [4]

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.

georege

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 [5] 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.

*   *   *

Gracefully segueing to another school-related topic (and, as it happens, another Bob).  Bob Davis, this Asshat’s for you:

AHat

 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.

Photo showing the old salute, taken in May 1942 in Southington, CT

Photo showing the old salute, taken in May 1942 in Southington, CT

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[6]
*  that the “under God” reference was not added until over 60 years after the pledge was written [7]
*  that the original pledge salute was one stiff arm outstretched toward the flag, [8] 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 [9] – 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.

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Break out the Sharpies

*   *   *

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? [10]  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!


[1] This is as close as I’ll get to groveling.  Until next week.

[2] Or whatever part of the body one uses when tweeting.

[3] Environmental protection/community service.  Silly do-gooder stuff.

[4] 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.

[5] 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.

[6] The pledge of allegiance was originally written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a socialist magazine writer.

[7] In 1954, amid the anti-commie hysteria, by Pres. Eisenhower and Congress, at the urging of a minister.

[8] 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.,

[9] Ben Unger ( D- Dist. 29) is a first-time representative, elected last November.

[10] Garden gnome free!

The Baby Sloth I’m Not Wrangling

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Some pre-release book publicity for a good cause? Forgive the self-serving if ostensibly noble combination.

Oak Grove Elementary School in Milwaukie, Oregon is having an Earth Day/work-party day this Saturday, April 20th.  Tree planting, courtyard sprucing and other activities will begin at 10 am, followed at 12 noon by a pizza party, and a reading (for kids young and old) by yours truly, from The Mighty Quinn.  Check http://www.solv.org/get-involved/events/oak-grove-elementary-earth-day-beautification-project for directions and more details.

No matter what your plans, on this upcoming Earth Day weekend there are plenty of other ways to Love Your Mother (Earth, that is).

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*   *   *

“There’s pretty much sloths everywhere you look around here.”

Does that quote sound familiar?  If you think heard something like it, perhaps from the HR person during your interview tour of your company’s cubicle land, then it’s time to look for a new job.  Here’s the title of my dream job:  Baby Sloth Wrangler, at the Costa Rica Sloth Sanctuary.

School spirit: Try to contain your enthusiasm.

school-assembly

I’ve occasionally received text messages from my offspring when they were stuck at a mandatory snorefest high school assembly.  Typically, they were bored out of their gourds by the blah blah blah from their school’s administrators and/or lame “artistic” presentations from fellow students.  I, on the other hand,[1] remember my high school’s assemblies with fondness.  The assemblies were rare and welcome breaks from routine, and were also, for the most part, entertaining, with little to no speechifying by adults/administration.

From what son K has told and now daughter Belle is telling me, their high school finds numerous reasons to have assemblies, often merely to disseminate school/logistical information that could have easily been relayed via the teacher, in the classroom…information that is forgotten five minutes after the assembly has ended.

There are those kind of assemblies.  And then, there are other assemblies.

Yesterday around noon I received the following text from Belle, during her school’s assembly, at which the choir and band were to perform.

OMG…this assembly is cursed.  The color guard did a performance, and one girl got hit with her gun in the face and bled everywhere.  Then ___ (Belle’s friend from the track team) passed out in the stands and had to be carried out.

Don’t think they’ll be forgetting this one so soon.

*   *   *

The Boston Marathon bombs.  At the time I’m writing this, those responsible have not been apprehended, nor identified.  Much has already been said about the tragedy.  One thing hasn’t:  that such horrific incidents only go to show, in this Bright’s opinion, how the most basic tenet of a certain theology gets it all dead wrong.

I’m referring to Original Sin and other such mental ass cheek flapping religious doctrines that teach of an innate, even inherited, fallen humanity.

There are seven bajillion of us on this planet.  If human beings were truly and inherently evil at the core of their being, we would have blown ourselves up – we would have torn each other to pieces – a long, long time ago.

Look for the good, the kind, the rational, the helpful.  You don’t have to look far. Yes, there are some incredibly sadistic asshats[2] fighting for slop space in this world.  And there are the others. They don’t usually make the headlines, because there are so many of them.

I saw footage and photos of people in Boston, from professional first responders and civilian bystanders, running to help their fellow human beings.  People were running toward the sites of the still-smoldering explosions, even as they had no way of knowing whether there were more blasts to come.

humanist

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

(Fred Rogers)

*   *   *

One of my favorite dialog sequences from one of my favorite movies, The American President.

Janie (Presidential Aide) : The 10:15 event has been moved inside to the Indian Treaty Room.  

President Andrew Shepherd: 10:15 is American Fisheries?  

Janie: Yes, sir. They’re giving you a 200-pound halibut.  

The President: Janie, make a note. We need to schedule more events where somebody gives me a really big fish.  

Janie: Yes sir. [starts making note]  

The President: Janie, I’m kidding.  

Janie: [Stops and starts to smile] Of course, sir.

After a trip to our favorite market, the awesome New Seasons, I realized I needed to do more grocery shopping where somebody gives my daughter a really big fish. [3]

fish

*   *   *

Dateline:  long ago in a galaxy far, far away. [4] It was a beautiful, Bay Area day, clear blue skies, mid-70s with no breeze.  A co-worker had called to trade shifts at Planned Parenthood, so my morning was free. I had work to do, but even a freethinker like moiself who scoffs at the s-word knew it would be a sin to work indoors.  It was the perfect day for one of my favorite drives: taking La Honda Road (highway 84) to the coast.

Sitting in my favorite spot under a sandstone cliff facing the ocean, I had the beach (San Gregorio) to myself.  Midway through editing the final draft of a story, I looked toward the water and saw a man and his golden retriever walking in the shallow surf.  Man and dog turned inland, headed in my direction, and attempted to make conversation. [5]

“Great day, thought we had the beach to ourselves….”  Man’s banter was neither interesting nor original, but also not (intentionally nor particularly) annoying.  He was friendly…and also sliding into flirtatious.  I was polite but not encouraging.  I made a point of petting his dog and shooing his dog away from my manuscript and shaking the sand off of said manuscript with my left hand, making sure that my wedding band was on display.

He soon got around to, “Whatcha working on?,” a question I’ve since learned how  to deflect [6] .  I thought if I answered him truthfully – if he realized that, indeed, I was not on holiday but was working – he’d half-heartedly apologize for the intrusion and be on his way.  Instead, I had found myself in what is a fairly a common experience for writers:  receiving unsolicited advice from a non-writer as to how, or what, a writer should write.

He incorrectly assumed that I was a novice, unpublished writer.  Wishing not to prolong our interaction, I did not disabuse him of that assumption.  “I hear fiction, for adults, is really, like, difficult to break into,” he offered, with a wide-eyed look that was obviously intended to be helpful.  “Have you ever thought of working your way up, by, uh, like, writing stuff for children, first?”

He seemed taken aback at my hearty guffaw, and his expression quickly morphed from helpful to confused as he found an excuse to return to his dog walking duties.

“If you write comedy, you’re sitting at the children’s table.”
(Woody Allen)

children's table

A common misconception among non-writers is that writing “for children” is somehow easier, and less prestigious, than writing “for adults.”  Authors who’ve been published across the various (and somewhat arbitrary) age groupings scoff at the former notion even as they grapple with the latter – that a “children’s author” is a second class citizen in the world of literature.

This snobbery sometimes comes from a select list of fellow writers, those who take themselves and their I Am an Author of Important Lit-ra-chure credentials oh-so-seriously.  These writers are invested in this alleged hierarchy of prestige, and wish to maintain what they see as the ghetto of being on the children’s list.  And yet, the children’s list is a relatively recent phenomenon.  It was only twelve years ago that the New York Times Book Review made the controversial decision to start a children’s bestseller list, separate from that of adult fiction.  This was due in part to the rumored complaints by some self-styled Big Boy writers who got their Serious Literary Underpants ® in a knot when they found themselves increasingly sharing (read: ceding) top rankings with Harry Potter  [7].

But, apparently, sharing list-space with Fifty Shades of Meh or the latest “adult” schlock literary sensation is reputable…enough.

When I was invited by local schools to do readings of my first children’s book, My Closet Threw a Party, the teachers usually introduced me (to their students, and/or to other school staff) as a writer, or sometimes as a “children’s writer.”  When it was the latter, I gently corrected the distinction…and then had to explain why I wasn’t objecting to it, but simply felt that it was inaccurate.

Although I write for all ages, the vast majority of my published works have been for an adult audience.  I’m just a writer.  I didn’t feel then, nor do I feel now, that being referred to as a “Children’s Author” is in any way depreciatory.  Quite the opposite.  If anything, I feel I am not deserving of the moniker.  I can’t think of a better kind of writer to be.  Think about it:  who – truly, deeply and loyally – loves a book more than a child?

*   *   *

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
(Groucho Marx)

Get your favorite book, for children of all ages (I’m partial to Green Eggs and Ham), turn on the light inside your dog, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] On the other hand…you have different fingers.

[2] Including the talking heads who insinuate the identities of the perpetrators when they have no reliable evidence.

[3] Our freezer is full of halibut filets, halibut scraps for fish cakes, halibut stock for halibut chowder….

[4] The Bay Area “peninsula,” 20+ years ago.  Is that long ago/far far away enough?

[5] The man talked.  The dog slobbered.

[6] People often have strange reactions when encountering a writer, writing. Sometimes I just say I’m an editor.

[7] By 2001 the top three places on the hardcover fiction list were held by JK Rowling titles, and a fourth Harry Potter book was on its way.

The Tulips I’m Not Tip-Toeing Through

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Do they still give out the Darwin Awards?

A 55-year-old man was taken to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center Monday after accidentally sparking a fire inside his downtown Portland apartment.  Lt. Rich Chatman, a Portland Fire and Rescue spokesman, said Rafael Borgos was smoking while using an oxygen machine, igniting the element and sparking the fire.

smoking

JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone was rejected by a dozen publishers before its acceptance by Bloomsbury. Lord of the Flies was turned down by over 20 publishers, one of whom found William Golding’s manuscript “an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was dismissed by one publisher with the curt counsel, “You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby character.”

Besides talent, imagination, hard work and perseverance, you need thick skin to be a writer.  The good news:  if you are one of those Sensitive Creative Types ® born without a hide as substantial as a rhinoceros’s, there is help for you.

Not content to rest on their laurels as one of the most prestigious online literary journals, [1] Stoneslide Corrective also provides an immeasurable service to authors via their Rejection Generator project:

“The Rejection Generator rejects writers before an editor looks at a submission. Inspired by psychological research showing that after people experience pain they are less afraid of it in the future, The Rejection Generator helps writers take the pain out of rejection.”

 It’s really quite simple.  Give your email address to the Rejection Generator, and in a few minutes and you’ll receive a rebuff that is as random, dispiriting and annoying as a literary journal’s typical impersonal rejection, and you didn’t have to bother with formatting (or even submitting) a manuscript.

I was thrilled when I received an invitation from Stoneslide’s editor to provide “Guest Editor” rejection letters.  Don’t waste another minute of your valuable time trying to actually get some work done – get yourself to the Rejection Generator, and the next snide dismissal of your creative aspirations could be from moiself.

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More notes from the glamorous literary life.

Earlier this week I was researching A Certain Literary Agent, checking the agent’s listing on writersmarket.com and other writers’ resources.  I vet all agent and publisher listings against their citation on Preditors and Editors, an independent, clearing house-ish site wherein writers report their experiences with agents and publishing services.  “We’re hearing good things about this agent” is P & E’s remark about A Certain Literary Agent.  Perhaps this is due to ACLA’s list of Recent Salesto Publishers, which, among other intriguing tomes, includes the book How to Light a Fart.

My first reaction was, This is the agent for me!  Upon further reflection, an entire book on how to light a fart?  That was, at most, five minute tutorial at my grade school. [2]

*   *   *

 Speaking of students and their proclivity for and interest in emissions ignition, finally, a surefire way to get your kids interested in both science and history:

Passing Gas: a modern scientific history.

 *   *   *

I’m trying for a graceful segue to…something else.  Anything else.  Trust me.  It isn’t easy, once you’ve been bitten by the banana blaster bug. [3] Still, I shall endeavor to address more refined subjects.

Some of our most beloved literary works feature a disconcerting yet truthful depiction of the moral malaise of post-Industrial megalopolises. Brutally accurate renderings of the modern urbanite’s disdain for the ethical strictures of the bourgeois can be found in the novels of

Have you ever seen a cat fart on a waterbed?  It’s really funny.

No!  Stop!

Can you tell that my forthcoming book’s target audience is ages 9 – 12? [4]  Should my publisher and editors come across this blog post, they will no doubt heave sighs of relief to recall that The Mighty Quinn contains no references to characters piloting the posterior crop duster. [5]  Belching the Pledge of Allegiance, now, that’s another matter.

Yes, as per subject matter right now I’m in desperate need of an IQ elevation.  Where’s the Masterpiece Theatre theme song when I need it?

Much better.  Although I’m still in a mood.  Perhaps I’ve gone too long without seeing a new screaming goat remix video. [6]

Moving right along to This Stupid Day in Recent History:

April 12 is the birth date of Tiny Tim, American “singer” best known for his taste-free falsetto/vibrato renditions of vaudeville classics, and his many appearances on the 60’s sketch comedy program Laugh-In. T-Tim would have been 79 today had he not died in 1996 from stringy hair syndrome heart disease.[7]

Other notable/cultural April 12 milestones include:

1988:  Sonny Bono was elected mayor of Palm Springs California.
1966: Jan Berry of the surf-rock duo Jan & Dean received severe head injuries when he crashed his Corvette into a parked truck near Dead Man’s Curve in Beverly Hills. [8]
1954 – Bill Haley & the Comets recorded “Rock Around Clock.”
1934:  Highest velocity wind broke all records at Mt. Washington, NH, 231 mph.

That last citation was NOT a thinly veiled return to fart references.  But if you insist.

Breaking (sorry) headline of the week

From a NY Times story about prospective New York City mayoral candidates discussing the possibility that former Rep. Anthony Weiner (you remember the I got a rocket in the pocket of my mighty tighty whitey dude? [9]) might join the race:

In Mayoral Race, Would-Be Rivals Weigh a Weiner Bid

Someone got paid for writing that headline.  Is this a great country, or what?

Let the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Their astute literary taste was evinced by their publication of my novel excerpt, “The Aunt“)

[2] Talented and Gifted student that I was, I mastered the basics in three minutes.

[3] Banana blaster: a long, quick, loud fart with a curved pitch like the shape of a banana.

[4] What is known in the (US) lit biz as “middle grade” fiction.

[5] Can’t you just write, “cutting the cheese,’  you euphemistic show-off?

[6] Why aren’t there more footnotes in this post?

[7] His cover of Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” is guaranteed to send Nancy Reagan to a meth rehab facility.

[8] The song Dead Man’s Curve, which included sounds of a car skidding and crashing, was a hit for the duo in 1964.

[9] In May 2011, the married 46 year old Rep. Weiner tweeted photos of his underwear-clad, I’m-so-happy-to-see-you naughty bits to a 21-year-old female college student who’d been following his social media posts. In the ensuing scandal, dubbed “Weinergate” by a grateful press, other such pictures to other women soon surfaced, and Weiner resigned his congressional seat in June 2011.

The Thumbs I’m Not Lowering

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Roger Ebert loved movies.
Except for those he hated.

So begins the Chicago SunTime’s feature on the death of film critic and author Roger Ebert.  Ebert was one of the few critics (in any field) whose work I respected, even when I disagreed with his opinions.  I’ve always suspected Ebert secretly loved those movies he supposedly hated, because they afforded him the opportunity to pen the most entertaining of his critiques.  Check out these two collections of some of his most scathing reviews, his books I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie, and the exquisitely titled, Your Movie Sucks.

Having read a news article just days ago about Ebert’s announcement of his cancer’s recurrence, I feared the worst was coming, soon.  Yesterday I intended to forward the article to friend and fellow movie lover CC [1].  I logged on to the computer, and there was the sad news.

Rereading that last paragraph, I’m thinking that while I may have “feared the worst,” Ebert didn’t.  As followers of his blog know, Ebert wrote with clear-eyed eloquence about his battle with cancer and the contemplation of his inevitable demise, from the perspective of a literate, intelligent, contemplative and grateful atheist/agnostic/deist/non-believer/free-thinker…. [2]

Ebert was fond of a quotation by Brendan Behan, which he cites in the following excerpt from arguably his most profound blog entry – you must, must, must read it –  Go Gentle Into That Good Night. [3]

I respect kindness in human beings first of all, and kindness to animals. I don’t respect the law; I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer. 

“For 57 words, that does a pretty good job of summing it up. ‘Kindness’ covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”
(Roger Ebert, 1942 – 2013)

I am happy he lived long enough to share that.  Two thumbs up to a life well-lived.  The balcony is closed.

The key to maintaining a motivated, youthful perspective is immaturity.
Chapter 324 in a never-ending series.

 I rarely listen to music when I’m working on new material.  Doing the bizness stuff – what I consider to be unpleasant, logistical/housekeeping chores of writing – requires both distraction and fortification.  While researching agents to query about my novel, I had the following inspirational song [4] on repeat play. Which may explain my success in querying agents.

*   *   *

 The new updesk is here!  The new updesk is here!

Actually it’s been here for a couple of weeks, but the screw holes for the crossbar of the desk’s left leg were improperly threaded, and so a new left leg had to be sent from the company’s headquarters in Tennessee.

Two years ago, right around the time MH was having surgery on his back, I became concerned with the sedentary nature of my profession.[5]  No matter that I am a lifelong, devoted, daily exerciser – the latest research says that we desk people are sitting ourselves to death.  I installed an ergonomic program on my computer that makes little icons to pop up a regular intervals to nag remind me to get up and move/stretch. That helped…a little.

I began experimenting with a makeshift [6] standing desk, and discovered I liked standing and working. I also discovered that the relief to my back came at the expense of my knees, a discovery predicted by more of that pesky ergonomics research, which says that there are musculoskeletal problems associated with any prolonged posture.[7]  Also, there are times when I just want to sit and work.  Wouldn’t it be great to be able to quickly and conveniently switch between the two modes without having to unplug/schlep everything?

The techno Good Fairies [8] granted the wishes of moiself and others who seek to reinvent our work environment, as I discovered when I searched for adjustable height desks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We received the new desk leg yesterday, and handy husband MH assembled the contraption.  After three weeks of having my office torn apart/rearranged and my papers and materials divide up between the office and kitchen table, I am so behind with everything, and The Mighty Quinn is coming out in four weeks and I haven’t had time to get back to the office and take the desk for a test drive.  Ah, but tomorrow with a push of a button I will be able to raise or lower the desk to two present heights, or any height from 26.5″ to 42.5.”  The future is here (and, as usual, catches me wearing my sweatpants)!

*   *   *

 Future, schmuture:  back to the Middle Ages.  Which means, of course, a breaking news update on an Islamist society.

Get your motors running, gals, and let's go kick some Saudi ass!

Get your motors running, gals, and let’s go kick some Saudi ass!

In yet another stunning stumble leap toward entering the 19th century, Saudi Arabia has lifted its ban on women riding bicycles. As you know, Saudi women may not drive cars, run for public office or vote, or appear in public unless smothered covered head to toe in a black funeral shroud stylish abaya-niquab-hijab combo.  However, as of this week the Mutaween, the kingdom’s notoriously conservative religious police, are allowing female Saudis to ride motorbikes and bicycles in certain areas…providing that a male relative or guardian accompanies the biking babes.

 The Mutaweenies also stipulates that women may not use the bikes for transportation but “only for entertainment,” [9] and that they must not ride near men “to avoid harassment.”

Saudi Leaders March for Equality

Saudi Leaders March for Equality

They’re baaaaack.

Faster than cinema patrons fleeing a Poltergeist sequel showing! More powerful than a politician’s ego! Able to leap inconsistent alibis in a single press conference! It’s SuperCluelessman!

I refer of course to the spectacle that is the political resurrection of Mark Sanford, the self-awareness-impaired former governor of South Carolina.  This week Sanford emerged from the slime seemingly out of nowhere to win his state’s Republican House primary, held for the special election that will fill the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Tim Scott.  The special election, slated for May 7, will pit Sanford against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, Stephen Colbert’s sister.

Brief background info:  In 2009 Sanford resigned as chairman of the Republican Governors Association after he admitted to an affair with an Argentinean woman. [10] Sanford was later censured by both the House Judiciary Committee and the South Carolina House of Representatives, as per Sanford’s misuse of state travel funds to conduct his affair.  But the real fun had come earlier in the year, when Sanford, the executive administrator of his state, became the subject of nationwide news coverage because for seven days his location was unknown to anyone – not his constituents, not his wife, not the State Law Enforcement Division which provided security for him.

Providing material for late night TV for weeks, Sanford had told his staff that during his absence he would be hiking the Appalachian Trail.  When a reporter caught him arriving at Atlanta’s airport on a flight from Argentina, Sanford quickly organized a news conference, during which he admitted that when he was supposedly hiking the Appalachian Trail he was actually pursuing some Argentinean tail. [11]

Oh, but that was then and this is now.  Sanford is now back on the campaign trail, and between self-righteous proclamations of change and milking the politics of forgiveness (he’s made mistakes, you know, and none of us is perfect, praise Jeeeeeesus), he also wants you to know that no one seems to know anything about his opponent aside from the fact that she is Stephen Colbert’s sister. On April third he made a point of highlighting this fact on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show:

“She’s not held office. Right now, the one thing that people know about her is that she is Stephen Colbert’s sister. Well, at the end of the day, Stephen Colbert is a very popular, well-regarded comedian, but at the end of the day he’s not on the ticket.”

Oh really?  At the end of the day?  Why not, at the beginning of the evening?  Or, in the middle of the afternoon? Or at the cusp-if-not-quite-not-the-edge-of-the-dusk….

Forget all the other crap Mark Sanford has done and said.  The most compelling reason for not voting in this lying, cheating, censured sack of shit into office is that he used that vapid idiom TWICE, IN THE SAME SENTENCE. Which I didn’t even think was possible.

May the hiking hijinks ensue.

*   *   *

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Our nicknames for each other, when planning our movie dates, are Gene and Roger.

[2] These and other labels were given, by others, to Ebert, who refused all labels for this himself.

[3] which also served as the last chapter of his memoir, Life Itself.

[4] Included as a cardboard record in a 1963 issue of Mad magazine.

[5] Translation: my back began to hurt.

[6] Translation, the sequel: monitor & keyboard propped up on lots of books and other non-desk items.

[7] Translation, the last:  “ouch”

[8] Chill out, you paranoid dudes, it’s a compliment.

[9] Riding around in a circle to amuse yourself and your “male guardian” is kosher (ahem), but Allah forbid a women might actually use a bike to get somewhere.

[10] To whom he is now engaged.  Whaddya think, should I send them a toaster oven, or candlesticks?

[11] Not his exact words.  You can credit me on this one.