Some authors should not go there

Sex.  As in, writing a sex scene. I find myself either yawning or cringing – sometimes both [1] – when I read them.  Rarely have I found a fictional account of a sexual encounter to be anything other than mildly ludicrous at best, and wonder, is this claptrap supposed to be erotic?

No entendre, double or otherwise, intended with the use of the word claptrap.  Although it would make a good title for a murder mystery novel.

Claptrap :  While on vacation in New York City, Kenyan homicide detective Yawanna Ubangi gets drawn into the investigation of an apparent female serial killer, a Femme Fatale whose M.O. involves weakening her lovers through intentional gonorrhea infections….

Hot damn, I may be on to something. I shall have to restrain myself, until I’m at least done with the first draft of the next Quinn book.

Once again, I digress.  Back to bad sex.

Case in point, the book I am currently reading.  I like the plot and most of the characters; I want to like the book in toto, but the author is making it difficult for me to do so.  There is something off-putting about the prose style I can’t quite put my finger on, and then, there are the intermittent sex scenes between the protagonist and her husband that make me never to want to put a finger on anything, ever again.  Not only are the sexual encounters awkwardly written IMHO, they are so…perfunctory, mechanical, and terse .[2]   I find myself wondering, in the most basic, high school Literature Evaluation sense, why are these scenes in the book in the first place?  What plot point or character reference do they serve to illustrate or advance?  Did the author feel obligated to include a minimum amount of whoopee, or was it an editor’s misguided marketing strategy (“There’s no sex in this book, FFS!”) ?

BADSEXjpg

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Yet another reason not to follow a link on Facebook and end up wasting far too much time blowing steam about some hypercritical misanthrope

The link to a Huffington Post opinion piece was posted by friend RN, with the question, “You know, this is how A__ (RN’s partner) and I roll, too.  Are we extremists?”

After reading the article I had to wonder if RN had read it all the way through, for although I know that RN & A___ have generous spirits and kind hearts and have opened their home to rescue dogs, I can’t imagine they are anything like the extremely judgmental lady dick who wrote An Open Letter to the Person Who Left This Sweet Dog at the Kill Shelter.

The article is a hostile, self-congratulatory screed by a self-described “blogger, Dog Lover,” who takes to task – and threatens the safety of – the person who surrender an elderly dog with multiple health issues to a “kill” shelter.

“Warning – it’s not easy to read,” RN wrote re the article, referring to the details of the poor dog’s plight, I assumed.  Assumption #2: I anticipated my reaction would be similar to RN’s, until I followed the link and read the article…and felt compelled to reply:

Uh, it’s not easy to read because the author is a vile, judgmental, sanctimonious narcissist, who in truth knows little to nothing about the situations that may have led to a family surrendering their dog. 

My daughter and I volunteered for a no-kill animal organization [3]  and we met some of those people. “Pet surrenders” increased dramatically with the downturn of the economy, and for every jerk who turned in a pet that they just didn’t want anymore there were two grieving families, heartbroken over the fact that they had lost their jobs and their homes and/or leases (yes, our organization researched these surrenders and checked references), had no friends or family to take their beloved pet and had to choose between buy their own diabetes medication or their son’s anti-seizure drugs…. 

What little information is on an animal surrender intake sheet does not tell the whole story, and people are often reluctant and embarrassed to reveal their private miseries. That self-congratulating dog rescuer may have a heart for animals but I wish s/he’d extend the same compassion toward his fellow bipeds.

I could have gone on, could have mentioned the heartbreak of seeing the elderly pets “surrendered” by their elderly, loving owners who had fought for years to be able to stay in their own homes but due to illness/disability/dementia were entering nursing homes and had exhausted every resource to find a home for their beloved animal companions – stories way too complicated to fit on an intake form…. And no-kill shelters almost always have a waiting list.  A very long waiting list.  To assume that any person who “surrenders” an animal does so voluntarily and cavalierly frosts my butt.

And so, Blogger-dog-lover, this asshat’s for you:

AHat

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It was time to send another care package to K, up at UPS.  I gathered a motley assortment of silly items ® and went to a certain store to get some cheap junk food inexpensive nutritious snacks to fill out the box. I also got him one of those paper fold out turkey centerpieces (one dollar, such a deal!), and wrote my suggested instructions on it: K should wait until his housemates are out, assemble the hideous thing tasteful decoration and place it atop the dining table. Once its presence has been noticed he should deny all knowledge of how it got there, and suggest that they have been the victims of yet another drive-by centerpiecing.

TURKEY

 Anyway….

I placed my items on the checkout counter conveyor belt along with my own bag, and for some reason flashed back to the first time I’d brought my reusable bag to the store (the name of which rhymes with Collar Free):  The clerk seemed to be in a hurry, and started shoving my items into a plastic bag seemingly before they’d touched the conveyor belt.  “Oh, wait please.” I waved my cloth bag while stating the obvious. “I brought my own bag.” The clerk’s eyes grew wide with concern as she transferred my items from the store’s bag to mine.  “I’m sorry,” she said, in the measured, you may want to sit down for this tone usually reserved for telling someone their favorite auntie has died, “But I can’t give you a discount for using your own bag. Store policy; it’s still a dollar, for everything.”

Uh, yeah, that’s fine. That’s not why I bring my own shopping bag, to get five cents off my total.  I didn’t even think of the bag rebate until you called it to my attention…but, now that you mention it, the injustice is sinking in and I am outraged, I am appalled, utterly appalled. GODDAMMIT I WANT MY NICKLE REFUND!  I AM NOT LEAVING THIS STORE UNTIL I GET MY NICKLE BACK OR YOU GIVE ME ONE OF YOUR PLASTIC BAGS.

REUSALE

It has rained several times this week, after last week’s glorious burst of late summer sun and high temperatures. The first rainstorm of the season – I love the way it smells.  For some people, the return of the rain is enervating, but I find it energizing.  The harbinger of autumn, my favorite season. Bring it on.

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SOAPBOX

One of my favorite comics from one of my favorite comic strips, Bizarro, shows two couples, beverage tumblers in hand, meeting at an outdoor party.  The husband of one of the couples extends his toward the other couple and says, “Hello, we’re the Hendersons. You must be the non-Hendersons.”

I can't afford whatever the fee would be to borrow a Bizarro comic, so use your imagination here.

I can’t afford whatever the fee would be to borrow a Bizarro comic, so use your imagination.

This shall make sense; bear with me.

The first rain of the season reminded me of other firsts.  Three of We (MH, Belle and I) are attending the FFRF’s [4] annual convention later this month.  This will be Belle’s first, Mark’s third and my fourth FFRF convention.  I’ve been fondly recalling one of the more thought-provoking moments at my first convention, which occurred during the convention’s customary non-prayer breakfast [5] .  The charming elderly gentleman seated next to me at breakfast outed himself as a “non-atheist.”  He said that although his wife was a “long-time atheist” he was a theist, and that he found it educational, intriguing and humbling to be in the minority, as he was likely one of the few non-atheists in the room.  Isn’t it funny, I replied, that you’re sitting next to another minority member…only in that I do not call myself an atheist.

I think words are incredibly important; they are what we humans, a non-telepathic species, use to communicate ideas.  And I can get picky about labels. Although some might find it amusing if not presumptuous for a freethinker to even attempt to persuade other freethinkers to think differently, I don’t like the atheist label and wish those who claim the word would claim…something else, instead.

There are several reasons for my dislike of the term.  For one, I find it to be a misnomer.  Also, I think Freethinkers, Humanists, Brights, Skeptics and others who accept and even embrace the A-label are making a semantic as well as a strategic/public relations mistake.

One of the best pieces of parenting advice MH and I received was that when it came to discipline we would need to “choose our battles” wisely.  We found that to be true; there are things not worth the fuss, and others that are so worth fighting for.  I think the battle to claim or rehabilitate the word atheist is futile; it has too many negative connotations and associations.  Of course, those associations were and are concocted and perpetuated by the religious and are largely and historically inaccurate, but since when has acknowledging that fact corrected a firmly entrenched misperception?  [6]

Personally, I’ve no “fear” of being called an atheist.  To the contrary, being thusly labeled has provided many an Entertaining Educational Moment, when I’ve reminded the person who used the word that we’re all atheists vis-à-vis our stance on other gods/religions, and that it is only relatively recently that “atheism” has come to mean a lack of belief in any gods (historically, an atheist was someone who didn’t believe in the god you believed in, and so Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Pagans, Moslems and Hindus have all been referred to, by those outside their respective religions, as atheists).

But that Educational Moment, no matter how entertaining, ultimately misses the point.  For if we are all Something in relation to Something Else, then Something has no specific meaning.  I find the Something that is atheism to be imprecise, and so I correct someone who applies that term to me, just as I would correct a mispronunciation of my name or misstatement of my height. [7]

The religious generally try to understand or dismiss atheism as just another (“false”) religion. That’s silly, of course, but that’s how they, in their minds, can handle it. One reason they get away with this is that self-labeled atheists involuntarily abet such faulty reasoning by allowing themselves to be defined in religious terms by religious people.  But atheism isn’t a religion, a philosophy, or even a world view. It’s not even an ism.

In fact, “atheism” is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a “non-astrologer” or a “non-alchemist.” We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.

Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation

"I believe, Elsie, I believe!"

“I believe, Elsie, I believe!”

I am not religious, and thus find it improper and even rude to be defined in terms of what I do not do, believe, or practice.  I am not a negation of something; like anyone else, I want to be defined positively, on my own terms, not in terms of my relation to someone or something else.  When it comes to politics, I’m an Independent, not an anti-Democrat, un-Republican, de-Green Party or dis-Libertarian.  I’m not an a-astrologist, a-New-Ager or a-theist; I am a Freethinker, a Humanist, a Skeptic, a Bright.

Let’s say I’m visiting my Floridian, Republican, Lutheran, tennis-loving, Gucci satchel-toting mother-in-law, Gladys. [8]  And let’s say Gladys gives the following description of me to her neighbor, Jethro:  “Her name is not Gladys, she’s not from Florida, she’s an a-Republican and an a-Lutheran, she’s not a tennis player or an Italian purse carrier, and she’s not my daughter.”

While technically correct, that description provides no pertinent information about me.  Jethro knows nothing of what I am, only a little bit of what, in relation to Gladys, I am not.

Another reason I don’t like the term atheist is that it elevates theism to the #1 position of the many things in whose existence or veracity I don’t believe.  It gives the false assumption that there is something out there (a supernatural world and/or deities) to deny. Yes, I do not believe in the existence of deities, but I also don’t believe in demons or ghosts or fairy godmothers or homeopathy or astrology or the trickle-down theory, either.

Most religious folk think they know what an atheist is, does and/or believes, but, in my humble opinion and experience, even the most academically challenged Fundamentalists can be intrigued by the unfamiliar.  Call yourself an atheist (or allow them to do so) and in their eyes, you’re pegged – beginning/end of discussion.   Call yourself a Freethinker, a Bright, a Skeptic, and you’ve set their ears (and sometimes…gasp…even their minds) atwitching.  (“Freethinker?  What exactly do you mean by that?”).

As a Bright, I hold a naturalistic worldview, free of supernatural and mystical elements.  As a Freethinker, I hold that opinions or beliefs of reality should be based on science, logic and reason, independent of religion, authority, “tradition” or dogmas. As a Skeptic, I take a provisional approach to all fantastic declarations, and support the application of science and reason to test the validity of any and all claims. As a Humanist, I hold a progressive philosophy of life that bases my values and actions on a naturalistic worldview and affirms my ability and responsibility to lead an ethical life that aspires to the greater good of humanity.  And yes, if you are a religious believer you may call me an atheist (but be prepared for me to point out that you’re the one who’s the theist, not me, a- or otherwise).

Bright, Freethinker, Skeptic, Humanist, Happy Heathen, Apostate, Atheist, Heretic – I will embrace or tolerate any of those terms.  Although my title of choice would be “T’Saywhat, Galactic Sovereign of the Terran System.”

ZSAQUEEN

Queen T’Saywhat’s philosophy is to protect and enhance the earth, to enjoy life in the here and cultivate moral excellence, maturity and common human decency.  She would exercise her Galactic monarchical responsibility by requiring all humans to meditate upon the truths illustrated herein:

Get that Captain a charcoal seat cushion, and let the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Which I am able to do thanks to years of yoga practice.

[2] Not that I’m complaining about a poorly written scene not dragging on and on and on….

[3] over five years with C.A.T. Cat Adoption Team

[4] The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s objective is to promote the constitutional principle of separation of state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to non-theism.

[5] Which begins with a “moment of bedlam” instead of a moment of silence.  Such fun before 9 am is illegal in most Islamsit countries. You really gotta be there.

[6] Greater and more articulate minds than mine have argued for dropping the A-label – most notably author and neurobiologist Sam Harris at the Atheist Alliance Conference, for which he was burned at the rhetorical stake, so to speak.  Hmm, are there Atheist Fundies?

[7] I am taller than you think.  I am taller than I think…in my dreams.

[8] Neither her real name nor her taste in handbags.