MH and I usually observe Buy Nothing Day , which is no great (or even meager) sacrifice on our part. I need no encouragement to not join the aggressive, clawing masses that begin lining up in front of major retailers’ doors in the wee hours of the morning…although I must confess to a certain snarky enjoyment the day after, when I read the reports of assaults and even shootings among the greedy swarms of people in the Toys R Us queue who have no qualms about trampling their fellow shoppers while attempting to procure the best deal on Tickle Me Asshole or whatever is the pathetic consumer ripoff manufactured via sweatshops in China or Malaysia treasured toy of the season.
I’m probably going to spend money, in some way, today – a lunch out, if nothing more. And while I’ve always supported the Buy Nothing Day ideals, it seems rather precious and self-congratulatory to refrain from shopping on one certain day if we’re just going to go out – or go on  – and make the same purchases on another day.
* * *
It’s tomorrow; can I stop mentioning it?
Aside from Black Friday the Saturday after Thanksgiving is the most important shopping day for small businesses of all kinds, including independent bookstores (yes, there are a few intrepid survivors). Tomorrow, November 30, moiself and other local authors will be taking shifts at Vintage Books in Vancouver (WA), in celebration of Indies First day. I’ll be selling and signing (optimistically, she wrote) copies of The Mighty Quinn and recommending other favorite reads. My shift is from 12 – 1 pm. Stop by, and join MH and I afterwards as we search for a suitable lunch spot across the river.
My all-time favorite Thanksgiving-related movie moment comes from Addams Family Values. I refer to the scene wherein the Addams siblings, miserable at being sent off to summer camp, find a way to liven up the camp’s lame musical production of the first Thanksgiving by leading a revolt of the  camp’s social outcasts.
* * *
“Thanksgiving, man. Not a good day to be my pants.”
Here’s hoping it was a good holiday for you and your pants, and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
 For the first time, on line shopping is predicted to top in-store shopping during the holiday season.
Dateline: Wednesday, Tuality Hospital, taking MH to get a colonoscopy an amazing procedure we are so grateful to have in this golden age of preventative medical care. In his dressing/waiting/prep room there was a sink and, of course, a motion-activated soap and paper towel dispensers. Which got me to thinking. 
I’m all in favor of motion-activated dispensers (and wish they were all this cute):
But I long for a more impressive, ground-breaking innovation in substance allotment. I want an emotion-activated dispenser. I want a device that intuits when my hands aren’t feeling their freshest; I want a dispenser that senses when I’m too sad or embarrassed or enervated to wave my arms in front of it…and because it cares, so will I.
I have big dreams. I am not ashamed.
* * *
Only 10 Days and I’ll Stop Mentioning It
The Indies are coming! The Indies are coming! Actually, they’re already here: Independent bookstores. And the Saturday after Thanksgiving, traditionally an important day for businesses of all kinds, is especially vital to independent bookstores, including Vintage Books in Vancouver (WA). Vintage Books, along with independent bookstores nationwide, will be celebrating Indies First Day on Saturday November 30. Indies First is the brain child of author Sherman Alexie, who urged all “book nerds” (read: authors) to be booksellers for a day and help support independent book stores. 
I’ll be at Vintage Books, sharing shifts with other authors, (hopefully) selling and signing copies of The Mighty Quinn and recommending other favorite reads. My shift is from 12 – 1 pm. Vintage books specializes in hard-to-find/out-of-print and rare books, so stop by and browse for that copy of Tattooed Mountain Women and Spoon Boxes of Daghestan you’ve been dying to find for your Russophile uncle.
Another holiday shopping opportunity comes courtesy of Scarletta Press. Scarletta, the publisher of The Mighty Quinn and a slew of other entertaining and provocative, vampire-less and Fifty-shades-of-any-color-free, fiction and nonfiction books, encourages one and all to give the gift of books this holiday season – and if you order through Scarletta’s website and you’ll receive 20% off your purchases.
* * *
One day I shall blog exclusively in haiku Wait for it; you’ll see.
Or, I’ll use tanka A Japanese verse form: five lines: the first and third composed of five syllables, the other lines of seven
* * *
Was Is This a Stupid World, or What? (Another Chapter in the continuing saga)
A few weeks ago my friend received an email from her daughter P’s 1st grade teacher, about an “incident” wherein three older (2nd grade) boys pulled up their shirts in front of P, in class,  then asked her to reciprocate. P allegedly declined to do so but showed them her superhero underpants instead.
I’m fairly certain my parents did not receive a phone call or note from my 4th grade teacher regarding the isolated incident wherein many times I and my uppity female comrades purposefully showed the boys our underwear. I was old enough to “know better,” but was organizing a feminist protest (years before I understood the f-word) to prove that the sight of JC Penny cotton underpants would not cause the boys to go blooey.
That such silliness could even be an issue was due to such pathetic facts as:
* a long long time ago in a grammar school far far away, pants and/or shorts were verboten for girls, who were required to wear dresses or skirts to school.
* thus, when girls climbed up on the jungle gym or did twirls and stunts on the gymnastic bars, their undies were sometimes in view.
* thus and thus again, there were five possible ways to solve the Appalling Undie Viewing Predicament:
(1) ban girls from certain playground equipment
(2) ban boys from certain playground equipment (3) designate separate playground equipment for boys and girls (4) there was no fourth way
(5) yes, the most sane and/or logical solution is always the last one listed:
let girls wear play-appropriate clothing for fuck’s sake.
My protests and the resulting disciplinary actions (getting “benched” – having to sit out lunch and recess play times as punishment) were not for naught.  In the latter half of my fourth grade year the school administration released a Playground Procedures/Dress Code announcement: girls would be allowed to wear shorts, over their underpants and under their skirts or dresses, IF the shorts were worn because the girls intended to play on the jungle gym, monkey bars, etc.
I always wondered how, or if ever, the IF provision was enforced:
“Heads up, Jenny – here comes the playground supervisor and you’re wearing shorts under your skirt but you’re only playing foursquare. QUICK! Get your girly parts to the uneven parallel bars and hang upside down!”
* * *
Thanksgiving approaches, which means that all across This Great Nation of Ours ® people will soon be flipping the bird with family and friends.
This year MH has been assigned eagerly volunteered to be our Turkeymeister. He’s unsure as to how he will prepare his gourmet gobbler, and has turned to the cyber cooking world for suggestions. Internet search wise, you can’t spit  without hitting a elaborately illustrated food blog, resplendent with elegantly styled phtographs of the preparation and presentation of the ultimate holiday meal. But I quickly tire of looking at the picturesque perfection – I wonder about the castoffs, the flotsam of meals prepared. Are not the scraps and scrapings of plants sacrificed for our gustatory gratification (e.g. my simple yet most beloved autumn “side dish” – roast delicata squash) worthy of documentation?
May you and yours celebrate Thanksgiving with a delicious feast, the visual presentation of which is paparazzi-worthy,  and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
 An admittedly dodgy activity, but not much else to do while waiting for them to take my man to The Procedure.
A three hawk day, of course. Red tailed hawks: yesterday I saw, three within a five minute span, perched on posts or power poles near fields bordering the countryside roads and Highway 26, near North Plains. One adult, then one juvenile (as in the picture), and then another adult.
When I see an RTH on a post or other perch, with its distinctive, striking plumage, locking its piercing hunting gaze on a field below, I am overwhelmed by a feeling of serenity. Even knowing what is to come (some snake/rodent is about to get grasped and eviscerated), I feel that all is as it should be – if only for a moment – in the world.
And now for all (excuse the hyperbole; make that, a smidgen)
of what is not as it should be:
Express Scripts/Medco Makes Me Sick
As readers of this blog are aware, I have no qualms using Strong Language, ® but in this case initials must suffice as I don’t want to type the same word over and over.
I FFFFFF hate hate hate hate FFFF Express Scripts/Medco. Are they our only option for an Rx plan? I whined to MH. I don’t want ANY more of our money, any more of our business, going to them. I have spent too much time on their “help” line (does this sound familiar?) trying to get through to a real person, cursing on line as the perky robotic voice recording dares to say, “to continue to provide you with the best service possible…” Having to listen to that hornswaggling balderdash (see the last post item), after they have provided absolutely the worstservice possible, is enough to give me a stroke…which may be their intent, and then that’s one less Shiny Happy Customer for them to deal with.
The idea of such incompetency and penny-pinching bureaucracy having the power to get between a doctor and her patient….. You’re an overpaid passel of pill dispensers; do your job. Diagnosis and treatment are between doctor and patient. The doctor writes the prescription, based on her examination of the patient and the minutia of said patient’s history, to which you, Express Scripts/Medco, are not privy. Fill the fucking prescription – same one you have been filling for Over. Two Years. and now decide to dispute?)
“No soup for you…just because”
* * *
And then, there was this.
Because my day wasn’t stressful enough, what with dealing with the medical bureaucracy shit, one of my cats (I have my suspicions as to the perp’s identity) decided to carry on with the theme by leaving me an odiferous fecal deposit, with accompanying skidmark, on my office carpet, by my desk. Apparently, she felt it had been too long since I had awarded anyone the prestigious Golden Turd Trophy. Nova, this turd’s for you.
* * *
Mark your Calendars and Head for the Indies
Vintage Books in Vancouver (WA) will be celebrating Indies First, on Saturday November 30. Indies First is the brain child of author Sherman Alexie, who urged all “book nerds” (authors) to be booksellers for a day and help support independent book stores. You can see the full text of Alexie’s delightful letter here. I’ll be at Vintage, sharing shifts with other authors, (hopefully) selling and signing copies of The Mighty Quinn and recommending other favorite reads. My shift is from 12 – 1 pm. Be there or be…you know.
* * *
From the masthead of Oregon Coast magazine, in a section that lists bio notes for the current issue’s authors and photographers:
“____ is a travel and adventure writer based out of Portland. When she is not writing she is fishing, looking for whales, life-coaching, helping businesses succeed online, making sculptures, teaching yoga, and being a professional Viking.”
Okay. How do you get such a résumé? And am I to believe that she gets paid to be a Viking…of some sort?
I could do that. Kinda sorta: Robyn Parnell is a travel and adventure-deprived writer based out of Hillsboro. When she is not writing she is looking for fish  (but not whales), pestering life-coaching (her daughter), and she, too, helps businesses succeed online. 
Or, maybe not. There was another one that caught my attention:
“_____ explores Oregon from her home in North Bend. An Oregonian since 1982, she writes for a living, and spends the rest of her time biking, canoeing, making things, and playing Irish music.”
Reading these things, I’m both inspired and befuddled. And maybe just a teense bit jealous. I want a jazzier résumé.
Robyn Parnell explores Oregon from her home in Manzanita (well, in her dreams). An Oregonian since 1991, she writes for a mere pittance, and spends the rest of her time (thinking she should do more) biking, kayaking, making dinner, and playing Dropkick Murphys holiday videos.
* * *
Something to Celebrate
The World Wildlife Fund in cahoots with Vietnamese government’s Forest Protection Department has discovered evidence that should warm the cockles of your heart. An animal scientists thought might be extinct, one of the rarest and most threatened mammals on Earth,  is still alive. A camera trap placed in a remote area of the Central Annamite mountains of Vietnam captured the images of a Saola, or “Asian unicorn.” The WWF’s pictures are grainy/paparazzi quality; here is one from many years ago, when a Saola had time for a stylist consultation before the photo shoot.
* * *
Speaking of cockle warming: Let us now praise the Idiosyncratic Origin of Inane but Interesting Idioms
In another life I might have happily been a linguist, specializing in the etymology of whimsical words and expressions.
Warm the cockles of your heart. Why is the image of a bivalve mollusk used to invoke feelings of inspiration or nostalgia?
Someone said to skedaddlewhen they are quickly fleeing something. If you want to quickly distance yourself from an aimless scribble, do you skedoodle?
Why does ragamuffinrefer to a disheveled person, and not a Hindu musical quick bread?
And then, there is cattywampus. Yes, there is. But, why? Sometimes it’s more fun to speculate than to know for certain. I could google their origins, but that would take all the mystery out of life.
May the warmth of your heart-cockles never fall below room temperature,  and may cattywampus-worthy hijinks ensue.
After escorting a friend to a PT appointment I boarded the hospital elevator, as did a Handsome Young Doctor ® . One man, one woman, in one hospital elevator….? For a moment, even as I noticed the really, really serious expression on HYD’s face – a look that made me realize he probably would not get the joke/reference – I considered flashing him a perky smile and saying, “So, aren’t we supposed to be having sex?”
* * *
Still more reasons to go on living…and quit writing?
The first time I ever heard the word “content” used in its current context, I understood that all my artist friends and I — henceforth, “content providers” — were essentially extinct. This contemptuous coinage is predicated on the assumption that it’s the delivery system that matters, relegating what used to be called “art” — writing, music, film, photography, illustration — to the status of filler, stuff to stick between banner ads.”
“I’ve been trying to understand the mentality that leads people who wouldn’t ask a stranger to give them a keychain or a Twizzler to ask me to write them a thousand words for nothing.”
(Tim Kreider, “Slaves of the Internet, Unite!” NY Times op-ed)
Like Kreider and many other writers, I’ve had “opportunities” presented to me, from media and other publishing outlets, wherein I could write articles, guest blog posts, even a regular op-ed/feature column. Opportunities to work, without pay. Sometimes these offers were presented via fellow writers, who should know better…and perhaps do… and perhaps inwardly cringed when they offered their bosses’ party line, which was, essentially, that being published in ____ (The Oregonian, The NY Times Review of Books, The Furrowed Eyebrow Literary Review) is an honor, and that such “exposure” is equivalent to compensation.
Such offers almost always begin with the Those Offering the Guest-Permanent Writing Gig telling you, the writer, how much they admire your work. Although not enough, evidently, to pay one red cent for it.
Like Kreider, I can’t help but marvel at the fact that people who would never ask their barber to give them a haircut for free or expect their market to provide them with a bag of groceries at no cost (“I’ll tell everyone these organic brown eggs are from New Seasons – it’ll be great exposure for your store!”) will, with a straight face and a clear conscience, ask authors and artists to write an essay/illustrate a brochure for them, for nothing.
(In his essay Krieder briefly and drolly compares his situation to that of his sister, a pulmonologist: “as far as I know nobody ever asks her to perform a quick lobectomy — doesn’t have to be anything fancy, maybe just in her spare time, whatever she can do would be great — because it’ll help get her name out there.”)
And then there is Patricia J. Williams’ so-good-it’s depressing article, “Writing as Women’s Work” (The Nation). Williams uses the case of zoologist and Scientific American bloggerDr. Danielle Lee, a busy scientist who politely declined an offer to do a guest blog gig for no remuneration,  to illuminate the situation of those of us who labor in disciplines that have been deprofessionalized and undervalued in the digital economy. Although I shouldn’t be surprised by the phenomenon, until reading William’s article I didn’t know that writing is also falling victim to outsourcing (“…companies like Journatic, which supplies supposedly ‘local’ news coverage, have outsourced stories to nonlocal freelancers across the U.S., as well as in the Philippines, where writers are given ‘American-sounding bylines’ and asked to commit to 250 pieces/week minimum at 35 to 40 cents a piece.”).
In the year since I’ve started this blog I’ve no doubt bellyached mentioned several times the fact that every week (and some weeks, every day), I consider the business end of writing fiction  and ask myself why I do what I do. And I come across these two wonderfully written – and likely poorly paid for – articles, and I feel…I don’t know how to describe how I feel. Like the lyrics of that immortal C & W song: I don’t know whether to kill myself or go bowling.
The business end of writing
Public Service Announcement #1 And now, we pause for a moment to piss off the faithful
before returning to our regular programming.
Public Service Announcement #2, aka Law and Order, WPD 
A small but fervent request: let’s all do our part to halt the creeping catastrophization of our language. You can be upset about something, you can have your feelings genuinely and even painfully hurt, without being “destroyed” or “devastated.”
1 : to bring to ruin or desolation by violent action
2: to reduce to chaos, disorder, or helplessness
(The flood devastated the town; The disease has devastated the area’s oak tree population; The hurricane left the island completely devastated.)
You didn’t get the promotion, you flunked the  admissions test, you were snubbed by the in-crowd at the school or office cafeteria, maybe you even received an alarming medical diagnosis. But were/are you devastated, or destroyed:
1. Ruined completely; spoiled.
2. Torn down or broken up; demolished.
3. Done away with; ended.
5. Subdued or defeated completely; crushed.
6. Rendered useless or ineffective.
If I make an upsetting or dismissive remark to you, I may be acting rude, but you have not been bullied. Your child’s exclusion from the neighborhood kid’s birthday party is hurtful, and the memory of being left out may affect him/her for some time,  and you, as a parent, were disappointed on behalf of your child, and maybe more than a little pissed off. But really, was your child – were you – demolished or destroyed?
I hope these PSAs have not annihilated your sense of your place in the cosmos, and that your hijinks will still ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
 And was subsequently smeared by the blog editor (“Are you an urban scientist or an urban whore?”)
 And increasingly, nonfiction, as these cited articles illustrate.
 Kreider contributes to some of the most prestigious online publications in the English-speaking world, for which he is paid “the same amount as, if not less than, I was paid by my local alternative weekly when I sold my first piece of writing for print in 1989.”
Reality check re this write-a-novel-in-month jive. This is from the Authors Guild Bulletin Spring 2013, Along Publishers Row article: “Temperance Hasty-Gonzales (not the author’s real name) wrote a 50k novel in 30 days. Five years and 15 drafts later, the novel, he The Quick and the Dead (a real novel, but not written by TH-G), was published in February.
She wrote a novel in 30 days! Except that she didn’t. The very second sentence of the blurb reveals that she didn’t write a novel in 30 days, hello. She had some kind of first draft that was awful/incomplete enough, by her own description, that it took her FIVE YEARS and FIFTEEN DRAFTS to get into publishable form.
National Novel Writing Month. I smite the concept as well as the acronym: NaNoWriMo. It sounds as incomplete and shoddy, as baby-talk dribbly, as a novel “written” in a month is likely to be. But wait, there’s more. The author featured in the blurb goes on to say that she considered herself a perfectionist, and that NaNoWriMo forced her to ignore her incapacitating inner critic and keep going: “It forces us to lower our standards.”
Just what the literary world needs: lower standards.
Have an idea for a story? Don’t fall for trendy/”motivational” stunts. Take time, make time, invest time. Chances are you can get your final draft in two-three years rather than five. And, yes, the world is full of crappy novels that took much, much longer than 30 days to write (Atlas Shrugged, anyone?) Still. It doesn’t need any more. At any speed.
* * *
Less than one percent of the total published books released in a year get reviewed via a traditional book reviewing outlet; i.e., a reviewer hired and paid by a newspaper, journal, magazine, book review tabloid.  When my publisher forwarded the reviews for The Mighty Quinn, MH asked whether they were “good.” Knowing the stats, I reminded him that TMQ was ahead of the game  by even getting a review in the first place. It was gravy to me that the reviews were good – a quibble here and there, but mostly positive, and some downright glowing. Even so I had to force myself to read them, force myself to drum up interest, which I did by thinking of my publisher (Good for them; they’ll like this one.).
It was peculiar to me, comparable to having an out-of-body experience, looking at myself looking at the reviews. I knew what I’d written, how “good” I thought it was, and how good others whom I respect thought it was (enough to publish it, at least). When it comes to considering my own reviews or publicity, composure and perspective, plus a dose of humility, are my mantras (keeping in mind the sage advice of Golda Meir: Don’t be humble; you’re not that great.). If a negative review won’t rock my boat then why should I let a rave review rock my world?
I was updating a website posting and checked The Mighty Quinn’s links to the major online booksellers: Powell’s, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. The Amazon page featured a new industry review, or at least one I hadn’t seen, and had put it as their lead review (one of the reasons  I’m going to steer readers toward Powell’s.) Although the reviewer had some bits of tepid praise, the same supporting characters described by other reviewers as “memorable” and “delightful” she dissed as “too cute” and “unnecessarily highlighted” (whatever that means). The same dialog and action she found “cumbersome” and “drab” are cited by other reviewers as “engaging” and “fast-moving.”
I see no reason to alter my long held if not entirely original philosophy re reviews, which I privately (well, up until now) I referred to as the Rectal Theory of Criticism:
Opinions are like assholes – everybody’s got one.
As for the worth and relevance of online consumer reviews, my suspicions re their validity and potential for abuse  have oft been confirmed, most recently by this creepy story. A vengeful merchant, peeved at a less-than-stellar review posted on yelp from a would-be client, googled client’s name, discovered client was a novelist, and took it from there: “When your book comes out on Amazon, I will personally make sure our entire staff reviews it in kind.” Bad Merchant went on to threaten the novelist by getting people to post a “deluge” of “scathing reviews” for the novelist’s upcoming book.
* * *
The Wisdom That Cometh With Age
Dateline, Monday afternoon. I’d was in downtown Hillsboro to mail a manuscript, enjoying the opportunity/excuse  to do an afternoon walk on a crunchy autumn day, kicking through the leaves carpeting the sidewalks. I rounded the street across from the Washington County Courthouse and fell in step behind two gotta-be-lawyers-to-dress-like-that-on-such-a-fine- day men walking side-by-side. Or, I could describe them as “two men walking abreast,” but that conjurs up too many memories of fifth grade droodles.
My pace was faster than theirs but there was no room to pass them, so I slowed down and checked them out from the only view I had. Both were of similar height and, from the rear view at least, attired almost identically, in tailored, expensive-looking, dark brown suits and white dress shirts and dark brown shoes. I noticed that the one on (my) left wore bad shoes. His shoe’s heels were very noticeably and unevenly worn down, toward the inside of the foot. So incongruous with the rest of his lawyer suit. Lawyer dude on the right had nice shiny shoes with no VHW (visible heel wear).
What an odd thing to notice. Still, it bothered me. I really, really wanted to say something to him, even as I was chiding myself for wanting to say something. As a public service announcement, of course. Hey buddy – your over-pronation is, like, to totally ruining your Serious Lawyer Look.
At the end of the block they both moved to the curb, pausing by a brown (yes!) car that I assumed belonged to one of them. I passed them. And said nothing
Calling all budding evolutionary biologists: I can’t remember the prompt, but I recently woke up with an interesting first morning thought  : How is it that omnivorous species came to “know” they were omnivorous? How did our hunter-gatherer ancestors get to the hunter part? Or bears, for that matter. Foraging through the meadow, by the stream, chewing on leafy greens and berries///who-what had the lightbulb moment: “Hey, I bet that leaping salmon/hopping rabbit is more caloric and nutrient-dense than these camas roots, plus, no cud-chewing aftertaste! Win-win!”
I posted that question on my FB page, and got many many hallow snarky speculations a few thoughtful responses and suppositions (okay, I got one). I’m still wondering.
* * *
“If you talked into your hair dryer and said you were communicating with something out there in the nether space, they’d put you away. But take away the hair dryer, and you’re praying.” –Sam Harris
Dear Lord, please bring me a pony and a plastic rocket. 
November. Already. Like a pair of K-mart undies, the holiday season is creeping up on us. Let us note that which is to come. Back by popular demand, my favorite ode to the joys that are to come, courtesy of The Dropkick Murphys.
 Sadly, that’s what the publicity-review thing is: a game. With really scary rules.
 It’s way mo fun-ner to flaunt your devastating wit by writing snarky pans than heartfelt paeans.
 Unless it’s a particularly scathing review forwarded by friend/fellow author (and New York Review of Books reader) SCM, about an author we mutually loathe.
 And when people wish to inquire about such matters they often ask, “How is your book doing,” a seemingly innocuous, probably meant-to-be-supportive query, until I ask what they mean by that, and then they usually ask about sales figures, at which point I have to refrain myself from perkily chirping, “I’ve no idea – how many copies did YOU buy?”
 Aside from the fact that Powell’s is the grooviest bookstore in the world. And yes, I’ve visited them all.
Active, reliable, sarcastic, affectionate, bipedal, cynical optimist, writer, freethinker, parent, spouse and friend, I am generous with my handy supply of ADA-approved spearmint gum and sometimes refrain from humming in public.