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The Style Points I’m Not Getting

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Dateline: last Thursday, ~ 7:30pm, Trivia night at MacGregor’s Whiskey Bar, Manzanita. It is round two of three, and my neighbor/friend/trivia partner JK and I are in a fierce battle for first place.

The category is Greek mythology, and the question is, “Who was the wife of Hades, god of the Underworld?” When I call out, “Melania!” a competitor on another team suggests I should get at least two points “for style.”   [1]

*   *   *

Department of SEE – IT’S NOT JUST ME!

From the Chicago Tribune review of, Godzilla, King of the Monsters (my emphases):

“Key non-human players in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” include Godzilla, whose head remains touchingly small for his body…

 

Godzilla, from the original movie.

 

Godzilla Shin,  from the 2016 film.

 

The latest. Why is his head shrinking?

 

*   *   *

Department of Complisults

Last week I hear the word used on a podcast, and it sent me down Memory Lane, so to speak: Complisult.

You know what it is, even if your first thought was that it’s just my spellchecker on vacation. You’ve likely had a complisult flung your way a time or two, by a frenemy [2]  or (more likely) a well-meaning, we-just-want-you-to-be-happy parent or other relative. They start out giving you a compliment, or at least saying something positive…which quickly morphs into critique, or even insult.

 

“So good to see you, my little sweetie! Let’s ask Mommy where your older, prettier, smarter sister is.”

 

Both of my parents, despite their otherwise loving natures, were adept at giving me complisults[3]  Two examples immediately spring to mind, even though these happened decades ago.   [4] 

Example the First

Dateline: unsure (the following conversation happened twice, once in person during a visit with my folks at their home, and once during a phone call.  Dialogue almost identical in both instances).

In answer to my parents’ How-is-it-going/anything new being published? query, I said I was happy to have a story of mine accepted for publication in a journal I’d long admired.

Complisulting parents: “That’s nice! Is it something we can actually find…how can we get a copy?”

Moiself (laughing):You should appreciate this – unlike my last six or seven stories, this journal has a national distribution, so you can go to a local bookstore that carries literary journals and ask….”

Complisulting parents: “Hey, did you that Connie Washington had a story in the Reader’s Digest? It’s so great that she’s writing for Reader’s Digest!”

“Connie Washington,” is the daughter of my parents’ neighbors.  I’ve known Connie since junior high school – she is also a writer, in a different field (journalism/nonfiction; mostly science reporting) from mine.

Like 99% of the pieces which appear in Reader’s Digest, Connie’s was an edited reprint, of an article she’d had previously published in a science journal. This is how RD has worked since its 1920s inception: its founder thought it would be a good idea to collect articles on different subjects from a variety of monthly journals, edit and/or condense them, and combine them into one magazine. The RD staff consists of editors; no writer technically “writes for” Reader’s Digest, as in, pens original material for them. No matter how many times I’d remind my parents of this fact, they never seemed to get it.

Moiself : “It’s great that her article is in there – I hear they pay well!  But, you do know Connie’s not actually writing for Reader’s Digest. As I’ve mentioned before, she’s currently a staff writer for Science Weekly and…”

Complisulting parents: “Well, now people will actually read what she’s written. Have you ever thought of writing for Reader’s Digest?”       

Moiself: “Okay; one more time:  no one writes ‘for’ Reader’s Digest. Also, RD doesn’t accept original short fiction….”

Substitute Saturday Evening Post, or other old timey magazines – or even Time and Newsweek – for Reader’s Digest in Have you ever thought of writing for Reader’s Digest?”

With every publication of a story of mine, my parents would offer congratulations, then find ways to remind me that the venues publishing my works weren’t a part of their world (translation: not important).

Complisulting parents: “You really should consider sending stories to Reader’s Digest. And what’s that big magazine we saw at the market the other day – with the glossy cover pictures – Omni or something? That looked interesting.”

My parents were the last people from whom I’d even consider seeking where-I-should-be-sending-my-work advice: their knowledge of the publishing world was bupkis, and their familiarity with literary fiction even less. Naturally, therefore, they were generous (surprise!) with unsolicited ideas as to where I should send my work, suggesting venues which were always inappropriate (and sometimes, unintentionally, amusing non sequiturs)…forcing me to reply with a never-ending series of reality checks:

“Uh…that magazine went out of business five years ago.”

“That journal no longer publishes fiction.”

“That magazine publishes genre fiction; you know I don’t write ____ (sci-fi; Harlequin Romances; vampire murder mysteries….)

“That journal only publishes staff writers or agented writers – no unsolicited material.”

“Holy crap for not paying attention  [5] – since when, as in, never, has US News and World Report  ever published fiction?!”

 

“Yes, honey, Winnie-the-Pooh is a nice story, but if the author was a real writer he’d have chapters of it in Reader’s Digest.”

 

Example The Second

I was a single adult for a long time (I was 31 when I married MH).  Despite having a couple of mostly great beaus along the way   [6]  I thought being a singleton would be my permanent state, which was fine by moiself.  When my parents observed that my goals in life seemingly did not include finding a partner in life, my father took every opportunity to mention to me that his marriage and children were his greatest joy and achievement.

Although they never directly criticized my remaining single, during our weekly phone calls it became evident that such a status – one I viewed as fitting and natural for moiself – was somehow seen by my parents as a loss (or even aberration).

Complisulting parents: “And what did you do this weekend?”

Moiself: “Saturday I went to the San Antonio Wilderness Preserve, and saw….”

Complisulting parents: “Another hike? That sounds fun. We saw Margaret Denton’s parents in church. Did you hear that Margaret and Tom Crocker are engaged?”

Moiself: “I didn’t; no surprise, though. Congratulations to them.”

Complisulting parents: “Have you thought of doing something different with your hair?  There were so many boys who admired you in high school….  [7]

My parents (of course), saw themselves as nothing but loving and supportive, and well-meaning…and they mostly were – moiself was fortunate in that regard, I know. Still, the doubts/insecurities inherent in complisults managed to lodge in a corner of my brain, and came back to haunt me in later years.

Is it something in the parental DNA, a gene for undermining one’s offspring? I imagine Vincent van Gogh   [8]  showing his parents his Sunflowers paintings:

Oh, Vinnie, how nice – so colorful…have you ever thought of trying this and sending it in – you could get into professional art school!

*   *   *

Department Of Firsts

Dateline: Tuesday 6-14-19, 2:41 pm. I got my first Mandarin (or Cantonese?   [9] ) voicemail on my cellphone.

Can you tell this has been an exciting week for me, or what?

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [10]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

Café Paradiso Seasons, By Denis Cotter

Recipe:  Rigatoni with arugula, broad beans, cherry tomatoes, olives and fresh cheese

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher    [11]

*   *   *

 

May strangers offer to give you style points (but leave no Mandarin messages on your phone);
May your head stay in proportion to your body, should you become a monster movie star;
May your complisults be few, but memorable;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] The correct answer was Persephone, which none of the teams got. JK and I took second place, losing by only one point….so those style points would have come in handy.

[2] “Frenemy” is a portmanteau of “friend” and “enemy” – an oxymoron noun meaning a person with whom you remain somewhat friendly, despite said person acting  competitively with you and/or cutting you down, betraying and/or insulting you at  any opportunity.

[3] I can’t speak for my other siblings, but I’m sure they have received at least a few.

[4] Seeing as how both of my parents are deceased, there are no recent examples. But if either were still alive and somewhat cognizant….

[5] Okay, I left that comment out.

[6] And one neurotic headcase… I thought I had escaped that fate which seemed common to so many of my peers, but it seems that there’s always at least one toad you have to kiss….

[7] Those mystery admirers remained unnamed, but I’ve little doubt that, in my parents’ mind, they included the ones who would telephone me in the early evening and have hour long conversations about how they had a crush on one of my friends.

[8] One of the most influential artist the world has seen, who sold only one painting in his life – and since it was his brother who bought it (this was so that van Gogh could honestly say, as per the requirements an art show he was trying to get his works displayed in, that he was a “professional” artist) that doesn’t count.

[9]   Where is my sister-in-law – a native Cantonese speaker – when I need her to translate?

[10] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) once recipe from one book.

[11]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin (a character in The Office, who would eat anything) would like this.  

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

The X(Y) Factor I’m Not Ignoring

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An Immodest Proposal   [1]

In the history of the fight for women’s reproductive rights there have been several proposals, by activists, publications and public figures, for both famous and unknown (as in, non-celebrity) women to state that they have had an abortion. Ms. Magazine made history when, during its inaugural issue in 1972,

… it published the names of 53 women admitting to having had abortions when the procedure was still illegal in most of the United States. Notable signatories included Billie Jean King, Judy Collins, Anaïs Nin, Gloria Steinem, Susan Sontag, and Nora Ephron.   The petition noted that roughly one in four American women had had an abortion, in spite of it being illegal in most of the country at the time….. the Ms. petition was inspired by the Manifesto of the 343 that had been published the previous year in which 343 French women publicly declared that they had had an abortion….
(Ms. Magazine, Wikipedia)

Ms. magazine is releasing its fall issue next week with a cover story titled “We Had Abortions,” accompanied by the names of thousands of women nationwide who signed a petition making that declaration.
(“Ms. Magazine names women who had abortions,” NBC news 10-5-2006 )

“…nearly 50 years ago, the actress Catherine Deneuve… joined…more than 300 women in signing Simone de Beauvoir’s Manifesto of the 343, a petition for France to legalize abortion…. In doing so, they not only began being referred to as one of “the 343 salopes,” the French word for “slut,” but also risked facing criminal prosecution; abortion was illegal at the time that they came forward to share that they were among the women in France—at that point, one million each year—who’d had the procedure.”
(From the article, “The Celebrities Who Have come Forward About their Abortions, and Why,” re actor and talk show host Busy Philipps’ recent Tweet urging women who’ve had abortions to share their stories: “many people think they don’t know someone who has, but #youknowme.”    (wwd magazine,  5-17-19)

The call for women to “out” themselves re abortion is strategically analogous to the tactic used by gay rights advocates in the 1970s-80s who began insisting that gays must come out of the closet  [2]   in order to claim their civil rights. The idea – which proved to be correct – was that anti-gay stereotypes would not only continue to exist but would flourish as long as a majority of heterosexuals could say, “Gee, I personally don’t know any gay people, so maybe what they (the religious right and other homophobic fear-mongers) say about the homosexual agenda is true.”   It is much more difficult to malign and/or discriminate against your colleague, your friend, your neighbor, your cousin’s son, your own daughter, than against those amorphous gay people – who are apparently out there, somewhere – whom you (think you) don’t know. 

In wake of the antediluvian legislative shit-show of the past few weeks (e.g. Alabama and other backwater states passing abortion laws to start the judicial crawl toward SCOTUS ), many reproductive rights advocates are once again calling for women who have had abortions to say so publicly (or, at least, to their own family and friends).

Moiself disagrees with this call. I don’t think it’s a bad thing;
rather, I think it doesn’t go far enough….

I am so very tired of beating my head against the wall re this issue.

The call for women to go public about their abortions ignores, once again and completely, what is arguably the most vital factor in the abortion equation.

Why is it so easy for our legislative bodies – and the grown-ass men and women who want to criminalize abortion – to ignore the XY Factor: the fact that girls and women don’t get pregnant by themselves? Aside from pregnancies terminated for medical reasons… [3]

Every Unwanted/Unplanned Pregnancy – Every Single One – Is Caused By
A Male’s Ejaculation Into A Female’s Vagina.

 

 

Thus, I propose the ICAPT! Movement.
(y’all can pronounce it Aye, Captain! for that certain, Star Trek or nautical vibe).

ICAPT! = I Caused A Pregnancy Termination!:

Every man whose wife/girlfriend/partner(s) have ever had an abortion due to an unwanted pregnancy should out themselves as having caused that abortion.

Gentlemen, your country needs you to enlist in ICAPT!

CALLING ALL MENFOLK

 

Men we gotta man up now!
She got pregnant, we know how!
Sound off, one two
Sound off, three four
One, two three, four
Won’t deny it – NO MORE!

 

But wait – there’s more! If you’re feeling particularly realistic courageous, every man who has had unprotected PIV   [4]   intercourse with a woman, wherein his intent was not to get her pregnant, should out himself – if only to himself – as having had the potential to cause an abortion.

Trust me, guys, y’all will find strength in numbers…and, moiself hopes, in the simple yet profound act of Doing The Right Thing ® and no longer letting women shoulder this burden alone.  You may know it as that quaint practice called, Telling The Truth.

Speaking of which, part two of my proposal is addressed to women who are considering going public in the latest We Had Abortions/YouKnowMe calls for action. This is going to be controversial, but moiself thinks it’s long overdue, especially since the likelihood of menfolk doing the right thing with respect to this issue is…like…zero.

Sorry, dudes, but y’all don’t have a good track record here. Maybe this’ll help you along:

CALLING ALL WOMENFOLK WOMEN WHO HAVE HAD ABORTIONS
AND ARE CONSIDERING SO DECLARING:

Name yourself if you must, but do not say, You Know Me unless you also say, OhYeahAndYouKnowHimToo. In other words,
name the man who fathered your pregnancy.   [5]

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [6]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:
Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook (9th edition © 1950), by…well…by Betty, of course.

I keep this cookbook in my collection for sentimental and cultural reasons.

Sentimental: the book is signed “To mother from Gwen.” The book was a gift to my maternal grandmother, Edna Gertrude Moran Hole, from her second daughter (and my middle name namesake), my aunt Gwen.

Cultural:  As George Takei might say….

 

From the book’s intro blurbs…

(“…let’s go into the gay Polka Dot Kitchen where appliances are tested….”

…to its illustrations

My culinary vibe is so inspiring, my stove vomits with anticipation when it sees me waltz into the kitchen!

 

…to its “nutrition” ahem and meal-planning tips

(hint: butter and margarine get their own Food Group)…

…to its inspirational prose

The poem below…expresses beautifully just what we would like to say…. [7]

An ancient rite, as old as life is old:
A woman baking bread above a flame…
wholesome as the summer sun
That has lit and warmed the fields that men might eat….

…to the recipes their presentation suggestions, such as this, from the section advocating serving appetizers before a meal

“The entire atmosphere brightens when food appears. It may be the simplest fruit juice cocktail – for a tired husband just home from work….”

…this book is a cultural artifact more (much, much more) than a cookbook.

The stated aim of my Epicurean Excursion ® is to make at least one recipe as-is (sans alternations/substitutions) from each of my cookbooks, each week.  As I declared when embarking on this excursion, I was not intending to write reviews, but would merely list the book’s name and author, the recipe(s) I made and the rating(s) I assigned to them.  But, here was the dilemma moiself faced after thumbing through every page of Betty’s book – I saw nothing I wanted to cook, much less eat.

In the book’s “Supper Dishes” chapter there is a recipe for Kaedjere, which Betty describes as an “American Indian version of a fish-and-rice dish from far-away India.” One of the recipe ingredients is a 7 oz can of tuna. Because, you know, cans of tuna and Indians, both near and far-away….  How many examples do you need?

 

 

I briefly toyed with the idea of making, Rum Tum Tiddy (“Often served in the Boston Athletic Club…this is a nice easy Sunday supper dish for busy mothers”), if only because then I could say I made a Rum Tum Tiddy.  Upon further reflection, it sounds to moiself like a term parents might use to get their reluctant toddler through toilet training: (“Ok, buddy, if you make a rum tum tiddy in the potty, Mommy will give you an M & M!”).

I went through the book a second time: yep, still nothing that looked remotely appealing to plant-eating pescetarians such as moiself who do not think butter deserves its own food group.   [8]   Vegetables?  According to Betty, you boil ’em (then slather in butter) – her main concern is which meats they go with. Seafood – bake or fry with mo’ butter. Oh, look, it’s a lovely (read: not) Salmon au gratin, sprinkled with grated cheese and then topped with WHEATIES (yes, in all caps).

Still. It’s a cookbook, in my collection. So, for my excursion, I’m going to make…

YIKES!  I’ve made it all the way through a third time, and I still can’t pick one recipe which I could make as-is (without substituting for the things I don’t or won’t eat).

Here’s one recipe I’m really not making. Translation: I’ll threaten MH with it, if he gets too cheeky (he took great delight in teasing me about my Betty CrockerEpicurean dilemma).  It is called, Wedgies.

Really; that’s its name (page 50, appetizers section). The recipe, in its entirety:

“Spread 4 slices of large bologna or minced ham with softened cream cheese seasoned with onions or chives and mustard, place slices together (like a layer cake). Spread cheese over top and sides, decorate with sliced olives. Chill. Cut into wedges. Now go kill yourself.

Okay; so there may have been an editorial comment inserted (ahem) at the end.

Recipes:  None. I didn’t make a damn one. Nevertheless, my rating:

 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher   [9]

         *   *   *

Department Of What A Difference An o Makes

Posthumously, or post-hummusly?

I’d take the former, because, really, is there life (worth living) after hummus? And guess what the Betty Crocker cookbook does *not* have a recipe for?   [10]

*   *   *

May you stop urging women to tell their truths unless you are willing to tell yours;
May you never serve your (nor anyone else’s) husband a fruit juice cocktail;
May you find your own excuse to enjoy Betty Crocker’s Wedgies;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] With apologies to Jonathan Swift.

[2] And sometimes, controversially, outed their closeted gay peers who were reluctant to do so themselves.

[3] Pregnancies that, in many if not most cases, were planned and wanted by the mother and father involved, and the reasons for termination include but are not limited to saving the life of the mother and fetal anomolies that are not compatible with life.

[4] penis-in-vagina.

[5] IF it is safe for you to do so. I do NOT wish to burden the already burdened – rape/incest/abuse survivors (some of which do not know the name of their abuser). I also I realize my proposal gets into the tricky area of telling another person’s secrets, along the lines of people who outed closet days without the gay person’s consent (a tactic which is still contentious).

[6] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[7] Betty Crocker’s “signature” is beneath this intro to the poem.

[8] Looks like 1950s Betty has not heard of olive oil – the lone butter alternative is bacon or other animal fat.

[9] Recipe Ratings:

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin (as character from The Office, who would eat anything) would like this.
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

[10] And if Betty C. did have a hummus recipe, she’d somehow find a way to add butter to it.