Cufflinks: these affordable imitations make you look rich at a fraction of the cost.
I was thrilled to find out, via my email spam filter, that there is a more affordable way to fulfill my lifelong ambition to spend as little money as possible to “look rich.”
If I were a composer, that out-of-nowhere e-solicitation might be a source of artistic inspiration. Odd/random snippets of information have provided the creative kick for many a song. John Lennon famously wrote Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite after seeing a 19th century circus poster in an antique shop. The brain nudge for yet another Lennon-penned track on the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, Good Morning, came from a breakfast cereal commercial.
Most of the ideas for my stories have come from what I call the what-if? question. Following a seemingly haphazard visual, auditory or personal encounter, I find myself asking questions and/or posing scenarios and wahoo, story outline.
Cufflinks. What if? Cufflinks…cufflinks…cufflinks…. Nothin.’
* * *
So, it’s officially launched. The Mighty Quinn had its release date May 14, which means I was finally able to download my e-version of my own book. My publisher, Scarletta Press, had sent me my author’s copies and readers who’d preordered the paperback version on Amazon and Barnes & Noble told me they’d begun receiving their copies two weeks before the 14th. I was able to get TMQ’s tantalizing icon on my ereader two weeks before the release date, but could not access it until that very day. I wanted to e-whine into my Nook, but I’m the author; can’t I see how it looks on screen, pretty please?
And now, I know. Yikes, and with a capital Y. Here’s how the title page looks when the screen is rotated long side vertical.:
* * *
Last week was must-see TV week in this house, what with the series and season finales of The Office and Grey’s Anatomy. And then there was this unexpected entertainment from that bastion of reasoned debate and civic discourse, Meet the Press, Face the Nation Geraldo at Large.
Confession: I’d never seen the show (which, judging from the title, I thought was a reality show about the host’s battle of the bulge), until alert media critics called to attention the episode with a certain, guaranteed-to-amuse guest.
Ostensibly on the program to dispute NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s public health initiatives, conservative political foghorn commentator Ann Coulter managed to steer her anti-nanny state tirade to one of her favorite topics: naughty gay sex. The always blithering quotable Coulter’s best line:
“Sodomy: we all have to pay.”
That’ll be $200, in cash, up front, Ms. Coulter. Leave it on the sink counter, next to the mint mouthwash.
Poor Ann, still paying for it. No wonder she seems so agitated. Someone, please, send her a link to Craig’s List Casual Encounters.
* * *
One prays for rain, one prays for sun;
they kneel in church together.
Which of them, do you suppose
will regulate the weather? 
When someone asked Humanist Rabbi Adam Chalom to pray for a friend who had breast cancer, Adam said, “I have a better idea — give me her phone number and I’ll call her. Talking to her to lift her spirits, and make her feel less alone and more cared for, will do much more for her than talking to anything else.” 
To many people, prayer apparently provides the illusion of compassion and intention. “I’m praying for ____ (your job search, a cure for Nana’s cancer, the tornado/ flood/hurricane/bombing victims…).” No matter how sincerely you may hold that thought, all you have is the self-comforting (read: selfish) delusion of doing something, when, in fact,
You. Have. Done. Absolutely. Nothing. Except. Pray.
People in trouble, people in need, need your actions, not your carefully arranged thought patterns.
My point is not to bash the ignorant praying masses, nor make light of the latest tornado tragedy. My intention, as always, is to promote reason and look reality in the face (metaphorically speaking, of course.)
And then, there is Wolf Blitzer.
Need I say more? No. But I will.
In case you were on a media-free retreat in an Indian ashram this week (or perhaps busy crawling out of the tornado-flung –debris from which your Lord and Savior neglected to save you ), you’ve probably come across the Ultimate Newsman Fail clip, in which CNN Evangelist Snake Handler Blessings Giver correspondent Wolf Blitzer keeps pushing an Oklahoma tornado survivor to mouth the obligatory Natural Disaster Survivor’s Pious Blather ® . Blitzer prattles on about how Rebecca Vitsuan and her family have been “blessed,” and when he insists, “You gotta thank the Lord,” a visibly bemused and flustered Vitsmun gives that BlitzHole more civility than he deserves by politely replying, uh, no, that’s not gonna happen, seeing as how she’s an atheist.
It would make for a fascinating on-camera moment to see a real “news” correspondent ask some religious person (preferably your average, Sally PraiseDeLawd and not Pat Robertson or other religious pros)  the following question: Please explain your understanding of why all those faithful believers living in in the heart of the Bible Belt died (no doubt furiously praying their asses off as the wind howled around them), while that unrepentant atheist survived.
Okay. I understand why many people appeal to their deities and call for prayers during times of loss and tragedy. It is something I did (with varying degrees of confidence in the efficacy of the act) when I called myself a believer; it is a cultural reflex, a part of the human struggle to attribute cause and effect – or assign blame – for events we don’t understand or burdens we feel powerless to ameliorate.
But please, leave the god talk out of natural disasters.
I was elated to see the Oklahoma elderly woman’s on-camera joy at discovering her dog beneath the rubble of her home, the dog she’d assumed was dead…even as I cringed to know what was coming – the thanking of a god for not only saving her, but her dog:
“I thought god just answered one prayer; ‘let me be OK,’ but he answered both of them.”
I would never want to quash the woman’s delight at having her beloved canine companion back. If I knew her personally, and had an ounce of respect for her intellect and sentience, after her recovery I’d hope she’d have the opportunity to consider the conflicting, disturbing implications of truly believing what she said on camera.
1) If this supernatural being you prayed to exists, you believe he  has the ability and the willpower to intervene in the natural world, which is why you prayed for him to rescue you, and your dog.
2) If you believe this god used his divine powers to rescue your dog you must also consider that he did so while allowing human beings, including children cowering in terror in their schools, to suffer horrific, crushing injuries, and die.
3) This same god is now the object of prayers of gratitude from survivors, and petitionary prayers to extend his comfort to the brokenhearted families whose dead children were somehow less worthy of divine protection and intervention than one old woman’s dog.
I am being advised, on Facebook, radio, television, email petitions, by people who don’t even know me (as well as by people who do and should know better), to pray and pray some more – this week, for the tornado survivors. Next week will surely bring another prayer-worthy petition.
And I realize it isn’t considered kosher to bring up this Uh, wait a minute, are you really thinking this through? issue in times of trouble – or at any time, in a culture as superficial as ours. Pandering religious sound bites of gratitude and “comfort” are the norm, and it’s a popular move for politicians, media mouthpieces and other public figures to Thank God for ____ or announce, as one newscaster did this week, while viewing footage of a tornado-razed school, “We pray they [the faculty and children of a Plaza Towers Elementary] were somewhere else.”  But true religious believers cannot be taken seriously when they (claim to) apply reason to the rest of their lives, and then perform mental gymnastics worthy of an Olympic medal when it comes to their theology or worldview.
If your deity is all-knowing, it knew the tornado was coming yet “said” nothing. If your deity is all-powerful, it watched the tornado and did nothing. If your deity is all-loving and compassionate, it did not warn its beloved followers and it did not prevent their violent deaths by stopping the tornado as it was being formed or by redirecting it to an empty prairie.
The deity whom you believe formed the universe with a thought and animated humanity with its breath and commanded a 40 day flood to rain upon the earth, this deity was unable to affect a minor change in barometric pressure to morph the tornado into a harmless rainstorm. And no running away from it with the “the gods work in mysterious ways” crap. If a god is unable to act, then it isn’t much of a god. If you believe that this (or any) god exists then you must consider that this god twiddled its divine thumbs while a school building collapsed upon the heads of terrified and screaming children.
Social media has, of course, proven to be yet another venue for perpetuating the prayer nonsense…and also combating it, or at least pointing out its ultimate inefficacy. An example of this is comic/actor/director and atheist Ricky Gervais,’s marvelous reaction to trending Twitter hashtags #PrayForOklahoma and #PrayersForOklahoma.
When MTV News tweeted, “Beyonce, Rihanna & Katy Perry send prayers to #Oklahoma #PrayForOklahoma,” Gervais’s commented: “I feel like an idiot now. I only sent money.”
Gervais went on to promote #ActuallyDoSomethingForOklahoma, and suggested his 4.6 million followers give $10 to the American Red Cross’ disaster relief efforts
Oh, and back to the dog. As caught on camera, the stunned puppy peeking out from the rubble was saved by human hands. Humans lifted up the debris. Humans pulled the dog to safety, held the trembling, whimpering animal, and comforted it. No matter what their supposed motivation or attribution, it is our fellow human beings who pull us from the wreckage, help us heal, and rebuild.
* * *
In order not to end on too serious a note, have you ever wondered what would happen if you did a search for cutest reptile in the world?
Have a great Memorial Day Weekend, and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
 Variously attributed to “Anonymous”
 Or caused to be flung upon you. If you believe your deity is in control of such things.
 I’m using the male pronoun because the elderly women did. Although I believe all supernatural beliefs, mythologies and superstitions to be gender inclusive.
 They weren’t. Seven children died.)