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The Call To Resistance I’m Not Writing

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Clarification: I began to write such a call, and (once again) superior scribes beat me to it.

Last week I started taking notes on the topic of a citizen’s right – responsibility, I’d argue – to peacefully and vigorously advocate for political accountability. This was after I’d started seeing links to articles re actor Matthew McConaughey, in an interview with ChannelFi, advising his fellow Americans to castrate themselves “embrace Trump.”  As in, get over it, he’s the Prez, let’s work with him/give him a chance and….

Huh? Really? Huh? Really? That couldn’t be what he said, moiself said (But, yep, he did).

Okay; he’s an actor – and one who always struck me as having too much artificial turf between his goal posts, so to speak. Nevertheless, does he understand what he’s saying? Is he –  are any of the other “get over it” voices I’ve read about – advising that we forgo our First Amendment rights to petition our government, or that we ignore the warning signs of the rise of authoritarianism and nationalism and….   scribble scribble scribble[1]

 

 

ohm

R.I.P : Resistance Is Imperative

 

 

Earlier this week I was sitting on my mat in one of my yoga classes. This particular class begins with the teacher inviting the students join her in the Om resonant chant, and this week, as I did so, I remembered having recently seen the Ohm sign – the physics symbol for electrical resistance – being applied in political terms. I decided right there and then on the mat that ohm – as in, “resistance” – would be my “mantra.”

After class, back at home, I opened my scribbles document. Before getting to work I check ed on a couple of blogs I try to follow but hadn’t looked at in a couple of weeks. When I saw the wonderful post of author/activist/blogger Greta Christina, which opened with the picture of a large ohm symbol, I felt the literal/proverbial chill run down my spine.

It was as if GC had siphoned my frontal lobe onto the screen. Frankly, her exposition was much mo betta than any rant smartly-worded essay I would have produced (although, judging from my scribbles file, I would have included more, how you say, colorful modifiers   [2] ).  And so I will happily and humbly defer to GC’s superior, Yeah, what she said! composition, by posting some excerpts here and by urging you to read her rousing essay, in all its eloquent pithiness, here. [3]

 

Are you arguing…

 …that citizens of a democratic country…should not, as the First Amendment says, peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances?
… that once a president is elected, citizens should let him do whatever he wants with no opposition, regardless of whether it’s grossly immoral and indeed illegal?
…. that we should ignore the gross irregularities in this election — the widespread and systemic voter disenfranchisement, the interference from a hostile foreign government, the absurd electoral system that allows someone to become president when they lost by three million votes — and accept the results of this election as if they were normal and legitimate?
… that people who recognize the warning signs of fascism — who are listening to the historians who study fascism when they say that yes, this is what the rise of fascism looks like — should sit back and let fascism rise, for fear of looking like poor losers?

(excerpts from Great Christina’s Resistance, and Being a “Sore Loser”)

 

*   *   *

Department Of Petty Pleasures

Dateline: Last Friday, on my way to Somewhere ®, listening to a Portland classical radio station on my car’s radio. I tuned in just in time to hear the radio station’s announcer say that the previous selection had been written by Tchaikovsky and performed by the Czech Philharmonic under the direction of conductor Semyon Bychkov.

I had to look up the correct spelling when I returned home, because the announcer most distinctly pronounced the conductor’s name as, Simone Bitch-koff.

The announcer repeated the conductor’s surname several times…was it my imagination, or was she stifling a giggle each time she found an excuse to say BITCH-koff? And yes, I am still immature young at heart-enough to have enjoy a cheap thrill for the rest of the afternoon, imagining how much fun Bychkov’s music school peers would have had with his name, had the (Jewish/Russian-born) future conductor been raised in the U.S.A.

 

 

angry-conductor

“That’s Bychkov, you drek kop!”

*   *   *

Department Of But It Was Funny At 6:28 am

I awoke earlier this week with My First Ever Broadway Musical/Legal Rights Joke ® stumbling around my cerebral cortex:

  1. Why is creator of the musical “Hamilton” trying to get himself arrested?
  2. He’s looking forward to the police reading him his rights.  [4]

 

 

bad-smell

She didn’t say it was a good Broadway Musical/Legal Rights joke….

*   *   *

Department Of We Have No Secrets Between Us

I ordered a special card for daughter Belle’s 21st birthday. It arrived last Friday afternoon; I wanted to include it with a birthday package I was sending her, up at college. In order for the package to arrive by her birthday (Monday), I’d have to mail it without MH having seen or signed the card. I took a picture of the card and messaged MH:

Moiself: Here’s the card I ordered for Belle’s birthday. Shall I sign it for you, or do you (even) want your name on it?

MH: I suppose you can sign my name. She’ll know who bought it.

 

 

sadiebdaycardjpg

*   *   *

Department Of What She Said

“You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.”
(former Colorado U.S. Congresswoman Pat Schroeder)

“Given all the changes politically in the United States (and around the world), how can we freethinkers best deal with these challenge in 2017?”

This question was posed to the scientists, professors, authors, and activists who comprise the  Freedom From Religion Foundation‘s honorary board members, by the editors of the FFRF’s Freethought Today. Such a query was sure to elicit a fanny-load of WTF-the-sky-is-falling responses…or so I grumbled to moiself when I saw the article, “Words of wisdom for 2017” in the current (Jan-Feb 2017) issue of Freethought Today.

Sometimes I really, really like to be wrong.

“Words of wisdom for 2017”  was, on the whole, encouraging and moving. Some of the contributors, like Harvard psychology researcher and author Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, did focus on/warn about the bummers, such as the dangers of outrage fatigue:

The tactics of the new presidential administration were laid clear in the campaign and have continued, fast and furious, since Election Day. They consist in so overwhelming us with outrages – sometimes as many as six impossible things before breakfast, as the White Queen said to Alice – that we can’t fully give any single one of them their due before our attention is swept away by yet another.”

Other contributors, including neuroendocrinlogist Robert Sapolsky, pointed out what has become depressingly obvious, before offering a glimmer of hope:

“Critical thinking, counter-arguments, even facts will not make a dent with the new administration. Nor will empathy, compassion and decency. All that’s keeping me from despair is the fact that the young overwhelming rejected Trump….”

And, as cognitive scientist/linguist/professor Steven Pinker added:

“…remember that far more people voted for Clinton than for Trump…and that Trump’s support was concentrated among older voters, who will die someday and be replaced by more liberal cohorts.”

Biology/genetics professor and author Sean B. Carroll reminded us that there have been other eras when “cultures slammed into reverse.” He suggests that we, like the clear-eyed thinkers of those eras who anticipated the reversals:

“…have to summon hope and courage, resist paralysis, and get on with our work – convinced that in time, the tide will turn back in favor of reason.”

I was most heartened by feminist pioneer/activist/author Robin Morgan’s stirring call to action (my emphases):

“Never forget that the reason for this worldwide anti-progressive backlash – in this country whitelash and male-lash – is in fact because we have made such progress.
The ferocity of the response to everything we stand for tells us just how terrified the patriarchal systems are of losing their power. Which they will, they will. As Susan B. Anthony told us, ‘Failure is impossible.’ “

You can browse this and other FT articles here, and also request a free sample of Freethought Today.

 

*   *   *

Department Of And If That Don’t Stir Your Blood To Action…

 

…maybe you need to see a picture of my daughter’s Bengal kitty checking out her first snow.

Happy 21st, Belle!

 

 

snowyeti

 

*   *   *

May you remember that The Borg were wrong;  [5]
May you forgive Matthew McConaughey for being a dick;

May you appreciate any joke your brain constructs at 6:28 am;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Okay, it was actually click click click or tap tap tap on the keyboard. Which just doesn’t read as cinematically as the writer and her furious scribbles, IMHO.

[2] Which is yet another reason why she did the better job.

[3] And then you should buy and read her  books on Atheism/Freethought/religion, if you haven’t already.

[4] Lyn-Manuel Miranda.  Get it? Getitgetitgetitgetitgetitgetit?

[5] Resistance is NOT futile.

The Metaphor(s) I’m Not Ignoring

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Department Of It’s The Apocalypse…
And Here I Am, Still In My Yoga Pants

“…what does not kill me makes me stronger.”
(often paraphrased “That which does not kill me/us makes me/us stronger,” from Twilight of the Idols, by German philosopher and scholar Friedrich Nietzsche

While inspiring at first glance, that line always makes me think of…the alternatives. That which does not kill me may make me stronger, OR it may…

* suck all the energy out of my nostrils and leave my withered parsnip of a body slouched on the couch, good for nothing but cat hairball storage….

* ricochet off my lower jaw, leaving a nasty scar and ruining my burgeoning career as a WaterPik ® model while also taking out the totally innocent dude who had the misfortune of sitting  next to me on the light rail train…

* leave me with hemorrhoids and stretch marks and a petty yet profound, WTF?!?!? resentment of those who remember the excruciating pain of unmedicated childbirth as the happiest day of my life….

Not that any of the above are bad things.

*   *   *

sloth

Also not a bad thing – cute animal pictures.

*   *   *

 

Speaking Of What Does Or Doesn’t Kill You

Longtime friends and former neighbors, a Swedish-Canadian couple, temporarily relocated to Sweden last month. Over the years I have enjoyed getting their perspective on American culture and politics. In response to a recent lament from moiself re the current state of affairs, the female Swenadian had this to say:

We’re fine on this end of the ocean. Like everyone one at home we are sickened by Trump’s reign of terror so far….We’ve decided we need to have Trump-free conversation times so every dinner isn’t hijacked by the a******….

She encouraged me to hang in there by passing along this observation from the other Swenadian: He (Trump) is old, doesn’t eat healthy, and is always mad. Shouldn’t that add up to a heart attack?

Ah, sweet dreams are made of these…

…until I considered the fact that, in my experience, such people don’t have heart attacks, they cause them in others. They are carriers. Typhoid Mary, meet Cardiac Agent Orange.

*   *   *

Department of Fuck, Yeah

For a moment I sez to moiself, can you believe it’s gotten to this – I’m hoping for a heart attack on someone? Considering the alternatives….

 

 

 

martha

*   *   *

 

Ever since the Women’s March I keep having these epic/spectacle, Cecil B. DeMille cast of thousands/ dreams…and I am so dating myself by are using that reference. Perhaps it should read, George Lucas/CGI cast of green screen avatars….

Yet again, I digress. Y’all may get the point, anyway. In these dreams, I am living in a society attacked by outside forces which have mind-controlled many of the society’s citizens. There is a Resistance Movement, organized and guided by a young woman who looks like a cross between the lead actor in Rogue One  and the child actor who played Laura Ingalls in the TV series Little House on the Prairie…which may not bring to mind visions of smart/cutting/courageous leadership, but trust me, she’s effective.

Although I am an active participant in the dreams I am also vaguely aware that the scenarios are dreams, and keep trying to get myself out of them because, frankly, they are exhausting. I manage to wake myself up, get a drink of water, return to bed, go back to sleep…then, despite my best subconscious efforts, the pattern repeats.

After three nights of this I realized what my subconscious was/is telling me: I feel like we are in some kind of resistance, in our own country, against those who presume to lead us. Those who present us with frightening Orwellian concepts like alternative facts seem to be totally unaware that they are doing so, and likely have no firsthand knowledge of the concept Orwellian. They seem to be as culturally illiterate as they are morally bankrupt, even to the point that their leader, the Agent Orange/Predator-in-Chief essentially bragged about how he doesn’t read books.

Yet we marvel at Orwell’s prescience, as his Newspeak, Blackwhite, Doublespeak and other totalitarian obfuscation concepts have gone from to dystopian fantasy to Trumpian reality, in the form of what the CHOTUS [1] himself, his inner circle, and his supporters are saying, with jaw-droppingly straight faces.

Alternative facts.

 

 

grannyshock

I never thought I’d live to see the day when such cognitive buggery was flaunted!

 

 

 

The Rest of Us ®  can help out by refusing to use the far-right’s language of obfuscation. The Alt right movement sounds…relatively harmless, like a genre of rock music. [2]   Call those people and organizations what, upon examination of their beliefs and ideals, they actually are: social media savvy versions of the White Supremacist/NeoNazi/White Identity movements.

Facts do not have “alternatives.” Five is not an alternative answer to the question, What does 2+2 equal?  You may have your own feelings and opinions about what a fact means to you, but you can’t have your own facts. The alternative to a fact is, in fact, a falsehood…a fiction…a fabrication…an untruth – an ignorance at best, but most realistically and expediently as per the Trumpsters, a lie.

 

 

dumpsters

I wrote Trumpsters, not dumpsters.  On second thought….

*   *   *

Department Of And Now For…(oh, you know)

different

 

 

Blast from the past: Fifty years ago, Bobbie Gentry’s haunting ballad, Ode to Billie Joe, became a national and international hit song. Fifty years later, the song’s lyrical linchpin is still one of the popular music’s best kept secrets, one that, IMHO, continues to best even the theories regarding who was the you in Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain.

Speculation abounds, and we still don’t know what was the somethin’ the song’s narrator and Billie Joe McAllister threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge.  And that, along with the fact that OTBJ is one marvelous, Southern Gothic tragedy of a tale, is what makes OTBJ so compelling, even after all these years.

Bobbie, Carly – girlfriends, are you listening? Please, for the sake of those of us who appreciate the art of a finely drawn mystery: continue to be the class acts you have shown yourselves to be, and take your respective lyrical secrets to your respective graves.

 

otbj

*   *   *

Department Of Once Again I Find Myself Yelling Into Thin Air

Make that thin, windy air, as was the case Wednesday morning when, out for my morning constitutional, I was listening to a Radiolab podcast.  As is often the cast with Radiolab episodes, there were several orbital tales which circled a central issue/event/story – in this case, how the people of Guadeloupe [3] held a special place in their hearts and minds for the Guadeloupe raccoon, largely because the destructive omnivores cute creatures were  thought to be a separate species distinctive to the region, and then how Guadeloupians reacted when taxonomic and genetic analysis done by scientists and natural history museums revealed the Guadeloupe raccoon to be a common raccoon native to North America.  [4]

The episode, titled Stranger In Paradise, was one I enjoyed on many levels, including the fact that it made me think of my daughter Belle, and her work with her school’s Slater Museum Of Natural History. What got me yelling to the podcast myself was when the episode’s host was discussing, with one of the scientists involved in the GR’s “de” classification, the ramifications of the scientific revelation. Most Guadeloupians were not at all happy to have an animal they’d elevated to an unofficial national symbol turn out to be an imposter (re its distinctiveness). The host asked the scientist whether or not it was a good thing for a biological truth to override or correct a cultural legend – essentially, whether or not the truth about GRs should matter:

“One of the deep questions to this story is…you came to a scientific truth, and the question becomes, should that scientific truth win the day?”

“Are you fucking kidding?!?!? I screamed to myself. Withhold facts (aka the truth, the most up-to-date evidence) from people because it might upset them?

 

 

 

 

I was momentarily furious with the host for even asking such a question, until I realized its inevitability. The Guadeloupe raccoon brouhaha: yet another for human cognitive biases, who knew?

We humans like our stories – particularly those which make us feel special. Our own species [5]  tends to criticize, discount and even ignore that which contradicts our beliefs, sometimes to the point of doing the intellectual equivalent of covering our ears with our hands and chanting Nyah Nyah Nyah blah blah I CAN’T HEAR YOU when confronted with new evidence.

Upset our alternative facts with your pesky reality and you’ll deal with the cultural consequences.

 

*   *   *

Department Of
You Mean You’re The Lunatic Who’s Responsible For Destroying My Country Ship?!

 

Speaking of metaphors….

We need one or two (or a dozen or more) Republican and Democrat representatives with the cojones/ovaries to assume command from a lunatic. Right now, in our country, the in-over-his-head, thinks-he’s-Da-Boss-but-is-actually-the-delusional-maniac-who-will-lead-us-all-to-our-deaths, Commodore Decker is being played by….can you guess?

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you be as taxonomically distinctive as your heart desires;
May you listen to your head when your heart desires stupid shit;
May our current political nightmare stop happening during the daytime;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Cheetos Hitler of the United States, he who is not worthy of the POTUS acronym.

[2] Yeah, Emo music could sound a little too much like “Ricky Nelson doing the Sex Pistols,” but it’s not like it was a danger to society.

[3] A French region consisting of islands in the Lesser Antilles island chain of the Caribbean Sea.

[4] Thus, not only was the RG nothing special, it was likely an invasive species, posing a danger to the islands’ limited ecosystem.

[5] Arguably, the most invasive species on planet Terra.

The Resentment I’m Not Hoarding

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Dateline, Sunday 1/15: another sun-drenched SoCal day, the luminosity belying a certain surrounding darkness. Although there has been much circumspection and little to no (direct) talk of politics, it has become evident that some of my family are Agent Orange [1]  supporters.  How did I get born into this clan?

And yet I’m glad I did, as I have had enough delightful, witty, bawdy, touching conversations with those of my nieces and nephews and their spouses and partners who make me realize that the darkness has, with a few exceptions, hopefully skipped a generation. I find myself comforted by a cliché thought: The Younger Generation ® shall save the world.

My mother’s graveside funeral on Saturday (1/14) was…tolerable, given the religious nature of the ceremony. There were several blackbirds cavorting around a palm tree just in front of and to the left of the canopy under which the attendees sat; the birds’ aerial acrobatics provided a welcome distraction from the service’s Christian theology and clichés, [2] which I find inane and pathetic. How I wished for a service like many I had attended, consisting of simple and heartfelt sharing of remembrances by friends and family. At least, there was one break in the minister’s come-to-Jesus blather recitations: my younger sister gave a wonderful “life overview” of our mother, which was quite touching, and which had many of us reflecting on the value of hearing from/keeping in touch with someone  [3] who remembers you as a young adult.

 

Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.
Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.
( Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune columnist and author of the commonly-misattributed-to Kurt-Vonnegut “Wear SunScreen”-commencement-speech )

 

 

marionatolivest

Marion Alberta Hole, [4]  Santa Ana, CA, ca. mid-early 1950s

 

 

The after party, however, was an unqualified delight – a wonderful, noisy, mess of fun with family, neighbors and friends.  I was once again reminded of why my friend SCM loves funerals, and even prefers them over weddings: with both events you get to visit with acquaintances, friends and relatives you may have lost touch with or aren’t in close geographic or emotional proximity to…and while those holding grudges might not attend (or be banned from attending) a wedding, most folk seem to put things in perspective and set aside their differences to attend a funeral.

*   *   *

The funeral was both preceded and followed by days of my siblings and I, with invaluable help on several of those days from nieces and nephews and spouses  [5]  going through my parents’ house, sorting and arranging and keeping and discarding, [6] preparing the house for an estate sale which will be followed by putting the house up for sale.

For these tasks, we rented a VLD (Very Large Dumpster), and completely filled it…and this was after 30-plus other yard waste-sized trash bags of stuff were delivered to the Goodwill and other charitable donation centers (much of which will end up in their dumpsters, I’d bet). And STILL we left behind behind a house full of things for the estate sale.

Each of the four Parnell siblings took items of sentimental or practical value, and encouraged our spouses and offspring to do the same. There were items deemed schlep-worthy, like a photo of my older sister NLPM and moiself ( on the left) wearing the kimonos our father brought back for us from San Francisco, during one of his rare business trips.

 

 

 

nancyandiinkimonos

 

 

 

And then for each keeper there were approximately 1,003 items of complete and utter mystery, interesting and/or valuable to no one save for extraterrestrial anthropologists.

Many of the items, from the valuable (to us) to the inexplicable (to anyone with an IQ higher than their shoe size), had post-it notes pinned to them, with what were meant to be explanatory labels, written in my mother’s distinctive, military-precision script. We unfortunately misplaced the note belonging to my uncle Bill’s World War II paratrooper’s dress jacket, a true treasure which was already well-known to the family. I was happy to be able to bring it home with me, as my father deeply regretted not keeping his own paratrooper jacket.

 

 

 

billomalleyparatrooperjacket

 

 

 

And then there were the notes that ranged from the stupefying to the hilariously mortifying.

There was one note-pinned item I wanted to send to Whoopi Goldberg. Not that we’re BFFs or anything, it’s just that I remember reading a magazine article years ago about the award-winning actor/comedian/author/talk show host’s extensive collection of what she calls “Negrobilia” – i.e., objects made by white people which stereotypically depict and degrade black people.

 

negrobilia

 

 

The item to which I refer is the Aunt Jemima appliance cover my mother’s eldest sister, my aunt Erva, had made. I remember how appalled I was when (mid-1970’s) Erva showed me her handiwork and asked if I’d like her to make one for moiself. It was a two-gasp moment, the second gasp occurring when I realized she was serious. Since she was not deterred (she didn’t even blink) by my brief but passionate explanation as to why such an object was offensive, I segued into the excuse that as a poor college student, I didn’t actually own any appliances. My aunt assured me that the industrious Jemima could do double duty as a “toilet paper roll hider.”

My mother, to my chagrin and embarrassment, halfheartedly accepted her sister’s “gift” but, at my insistence, did not display it. I had completely forgotten about its existence until my niece found it, in a back bedroom closet filled with a random assortment of Christmas decorations and WWII memorabilia.

Jemima was discovered on Thursday, and had taken her place in our Dumpster? or Donate? or People-will-buy-anything-so-save-for-the-estate-sale-as-an-object-of-curiosity? pile in the back bedroom. On Friday MH and our son K had flown down for house-decluttering and funeral attending. While helping the Parnell sisters with the former task, K spotted Jemima and could not believe his good fortune. He snatched it up, exclaiming, “Really – nobody wants this?” He felt it would be the perfect home decor addition for his multi-ethnic household.

 

jemima

The Post-it note reads: “Appliance cover. Not politically correct (But a fact of history!) which of course makes me wonder what “fact” she was referring to – that Black women at one time dressed in full Gone With The Wind mammy regalia and willingly perched atop appliances, or that white people made those hideous “craft” objects?

 

 

Once again, I digress.

*   *   *

“You kids are going to have quite a job going through…all of this.”
(Prediction/warning given to my older sister by one of my mother’s caretakers, when my mother’s demise seemed imminent)

Really, it is impossible for moiself to adequately describe how sad/appalling/embarrassing it was to discover pile after pile of dust and spider egg sack covered shit precious mementos in yet another drawer and closet, under each and every bed and every piece of furniture and behind the under the furniture, all covered with layers of dust which merited carbon dating.

We knew our mother had turned into a hoarder in her later years (and discovered that our father was one as well, but mildly so, in comparison to his beloved wife). Still, the enormity of the task was daunting.  All the clothing,  baseball caps, fifty year old frayed and yellowed linens, clothing and accessories never worn, books, decorations, dishes, costume jewelry, coins, picture frames, souvenirs, dishes and kitchenware, photo albums, pre-purchased Christmas and birthday gifts for children and grandchildren (labeled but never sent), [7] cassette tapes, videotapes, 8 track tapes, travel-sized soaps & lotions and an entire room’s worth – as in, you could stack the items from floor to ceiling [8] – of Christmas “decor” (most of it of the kitschy/really cheap Lillian Vernon catalog variety…and the knickknacks, a word which from this time forward is likely to give me a panic attack – and ALL OF IT duplicates of crap they already had “out” on display or in use.

It was interesting to see how, one by one, the siblings, spouses, and grandchildren all began to manifest the fight-or flight reactions when reality of the mission ahead of them sunk in. And we all tried to provide each other with breaks and levity, as well as practicality and concern for each other’s health and safety.  [9]

And we kept joking about – then seriously posing to anyone nearby or muttering to ourselves –  variations on the question that had no rational answer: How is it that people who lived through The Great Depression ® and who subsequently cited the hardships endured and the resulting appreciation for simplicity and frugality which TGD privations imbued in them – how is it that such people ended up amassing all that stuff which could fill a landfill the size of Gambia?

It was at once distressing, frightening, mystifying, annoying, hilarious, and six other emotions I can’t quite describe.

 

 

buckley

Have you tried stupendiflying superflu-otic?

*   *   *

 

Just as frightening as having to deal with the house cleanup was having to keep reminding myself how much good stuff I received from my parents, including what was, for the most part, a loving and secure childhood.  I had to do this because I realized I was starting to resent them for leaving their children this horrendous mess to deal with.

Attention, all you hoarders: (okay, I’m probably pissing in the wind here because hoarders rarely see themselves as hoarders [10])  please, stop, right now, and do whatever it takes to reverse course. Do NOT do this to your children.

Attention, all you children of hoarders: have your parents diagnosed/treated, while you can. Failing that, hide their credit cards in the middle of stack 15 of 32 stacks of Trailer Life magazines.

 

 

hoard

We’ll want to read through these someday, I just know it.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Painful Reminders

Dateline: Tuesday, PDX airport, just having returned from SoCal. I waited at the baggage claim area while MH tried to summon an Uber ride. I chose a spot close to the baggage carousel, and saw that ten feet to my right was the frail, elderly woman in a wheelchair whom I’d seen boarding our flight during the initial those-who-need-special-assistance pre-boarding call. She was accompanied by a woman I judged to be her attendant, and she was distressed to the point of shedding frantic tears. er shaking  Her shaking hands rummaged through her handbag, frenetically searching, as if she’d misplaced something. She began to sob and moan.

No no no – it was right here.”

The attendant remained calm – almost heartlessly and diffidently so…or so it seemed to me, even as I reminded myself that I did not know these people and should not judge the situation.  In the elderly woman’s distress I recognized the fear and confusion my own mother displayed when, sporadically at first and then increasingly during her last days…and months…and years, she was beset by bouts of dementia, fear and forgetfulness, and their companions, panic and paranoia. But your mother is no longer afraid, or upset, I coached myself. She was able to remain and die at home, which is what she wanted.

I sidled over and spoke to the elderly woman’s attendant: I apologized for any intrusion and gently asked if I could be of some assistance – could I fetch a drink of water, or…something? The attendant smiled and politely refused my offer. In a broken English accent I took to be Russian, she said that the elderly woman was merely confused (“She think she lose something”). I smiled at both women and inched back toward my waiting spot as the baggage carousel began to roll out our luggage

The elderly woman, who had calmed down for a moment, resumed her sobbing and rummaged through her handbag.

“No, no, no, why? I had it right there, and now it’s gone. I wish I was dead…”

Her quavering cry of despair hit like a sucker punch to my innards. I remembered my mom expressing that sentiment in her moments of desperation and fear – my mother, who was right there and is now right gone, and all her “stuff” gone as well.

 

 

*   *   *

May you learn not to binge so as not to have to purge;
May you realize that even if you love your stuff it doesn’t love you back;
May you have patience with those who fear what they may have lost;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by. 

Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Yet another appellation for He Who Shall Not Be named in this space. You know – Putin Junior.

[2] “Marion had been in our prayers for years…” Well, if that don’t show the inefficacy of appealing to a nonexistent sky god, what else will?

[3] In this case, my sister read memories shared by one of my mother’s nieces, who was only ten or so years younger than my mother.

[4] No question about her wanting to keep her birthname. Hole may have been a fine, upperclass Norwegian surname, but in America…not so much.

[5] Read: we’d still be there, trapped under layers of old ultility bills and sixty year old packages of rotting tinsel had they not shown up to help.

[6] And discarding and discarding and scratching our heads and asking, “WTF did they keep that for?” an discarding some more and sneezing and sneezing and sneezing

[7] Some labels were specific (“_____ {grandchild’s name) birthday” or cringingly age and gender nonspecific and stereotypit (“for 12 yerd old boy)

[8] Although the items were distributed throughout the house and in the rafters and cabinets of the two car garage.

[9] My younger sister’s college age son, gazing at the boxes in the garage he was asked to get down, wisely decided that a trip to Home Depot to purchase protective eye goggles and dust masks was called for.

[10] Especially if they watch one of those Hoarders of La Habra reality shows, which allow them to delude reassure themselves that, “Well, I’m not as bad as that so I’m not really a hoarder.”

The Solutions I’m Not Providing

Comments Off on The Solutions I’m Not Providing

 

 

Department Of Do You Think They’ll Print This Letter?

Monday afternoon I sent the following letter to the editor of mindful magazine.

Gentle Editors,

In the December 2016 issue of mindful, the article The Mindful Gift Guide contains the advice, “As consumers we have the power to choose gifts that don’t just speak to those we care about, but that have an impact in the world.”  This is certainly true. Thus, as a writer, I cringed to read the article’s suggestion to “Do a Book Swap:”

“If your family are avid readers, skip the gift-shopping and instead do a book swap…. Each of you walks away with a stack of goodies for little-to-no cost….”

Please be mindful of the reality facing authors, whose income has declined 30% over the past seven years, due to the fact that there are so many ways “for the customer to gain access to a book, without a penny going to the writer.” (The Author’s Guild Bulletin, Fall 2015). The little-to-no-cost you mentioned comes at an increasingly great cost to writers, who receive no payment from used copies or book swaps.

It is logical to assume that avid readers might – or should – respect and care about the labor which produces the books readers admire.  The suggestion should read, “If your family are avid readers, buy them books.”

 

 

mindfulmag

“If your family are avid magazine readers and you’d like their favorite magazines to fail, please give away your copies and discourage people from subscribing to or buying copies of the magazines.”

 

*   *   *

Part 2, Possible Solutions

I don’t have any. DAMN!

Remember, a mere week ago, my rant articulate and passionate explication of the need for dialogue between trump voters and everyone else, and my promise that I’d offer solutions this week? Here’s the rub: I don’t know how to dialogue with someone who can’t understand – or worse yes, doesn’t want to understand – reality.

Differing opinions, fine. You can have your own opinions (as to what facts “feel like” to you); you can’t have your own facts.  As friend CC recently despaired, if someone for whatever reasons will not or cannot be convinced of the reality of global warming by the decades of evidence that climate scientists have amassed, what good is it going to do for them to hear the same evidence coming from me?

What common ground can be trod by a natural world denizen such as moiself who thinks that people should be in charge of their own bodies, and people who believe that female bodily integrity is subject to (overwhelmingly male led) legislation and superstitious/supernatural (read: religious) prohibitions?

More diplomatic minds than mine will have to work on these and other issues.  The only advice I can offer is hardly original, but also the only thing that has ever worked:

Keep aware, and get involved.

Have your legislators’ office numbers on your speed dial.  [1] Avoid compassion fatigue – there will be no shortage of worthy and even urgent causes; pick one or two close to your heart and support them with time and money, the best you can. Be wary of spreading out, and thus diluting, your resources. As one nonprofit manager told me, better to donate five hours of your time and/or $200 dollars per month to one organization than 15 minutes/$20 dollars per month to ten.

Here’s a worthy cause for those concerned with the far right’s anti-science agenda:

  • So cool!
  • Relevant to all the subjects that I teach [Physics, Chemistry, and Biology]
  • A great resource for students
  • Really improves student learning
  • (Shows them) the scale of time
  • Generates a good amount of discussion
  • [Helps our teachers] know and understand how to better teach evolution to students
  • Amazing resource
  • An awesome addition to my classroom

Surprise! – those are not comments from Satisfied Customers ® who’ve recently began following my blog (but thank you for jumping to that conclusion). Rather, they are some of the raves expressed by science teachers  regarding a superb teaching resource from The Brights. The Evolution Poster Project‘s poster, “Earth and Life: changes over time,” helps students visualize and learn about the scale of evolution by uniquely depicting the course of biological and geological evolution from 13.7 billion years ago until today.

 

 

 

brightsposter

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of At Least I Have One Thing About Which To Feel Smug

“It’s terrible. I don’t think it sells a single book.  I don’t think social media sells anything.”
(author Ayelet Waldman, in the Writer, on using Twitter as a marketing tool)

A few weeks ago the Twitter universe  [2]  got its collective knickers in a knot  [3] over yet another literary defection from their ranks. Author Chelsea Cain, interviewed on the OPB program Think Out Loud, talked about her decision to deactivate her Twitter account.  [4]

Despite the urging of select publishers and PR people to pursue more social media “exposure,” I long ago made the decision to not expose moiself to the opinions (whether praise or slag) of strangers. Thus, I skipped the first step in what seems to have become almost a literary ritual:

  • join ______ (insert social media site name)
  • amass site followers
  • pen an article/sit for an interview about “Why I am Leaving ____ (social media site).”

 

 

twitter

 

When you’re a writer, the thinking is that you simply must have a social media presence. But is that even true? In the six-plus years I’ve been writing for pay as my exclusive revenue stream, I can’t think of a single time social media got me a job.
I’m also not terribly interested in interacting with my readers, or even knowing they exist. Sorry, guys. The one or two of you that are cool to meet don’t outweigh the legions of semi-literate lunatics still emailing me at least once a month over an article I wrote about hating Pearl Jam four years ago.
(“Why I Left Social Media,” www.manmade.com )

 

By simply not joining Twitter, I never had to worry about how to deal with the distraction, the hate mail, and – special bonus for authors with lady parts! misogyny and death threats.  But, dang, I am thereby disqualified for any future Why I Quit Twitter gigs. Another lucrative career opportunity down the drain.

Still, I treasure the rare opportunity to feel smug. Also, according to computer science professor Cal Newport, you don’t have to be a writer to benefit from stopping the massive time and intellect suck  eschewing the energy drain of social media (my emphases).

Perhaps more important, however, than my specific objections to the idea that social media is a harmless lift to your career, is my general unease with the mind-set this belief fosters. A dedication to cultivating your social media brand is a fundamentally passive approach to professional advancement. It diverts your time and attention away from producing work that matters and toward convincing the world that you matter. The latter activity is seductive, especially for many members of my generation who were raised on this message, but it can be disastrously counterproductive.
…. you’re deluding yourself if you think that Twitter messages, posts and likes are a productive use of your time. If you’re serious about making an impact in the world, power down your smartphone, close your browser tabs, roll up your sleeves and get to work.
(Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend On It, Cal Newport, writing in the NY Times)

 

*   *   *

To those trump supporters who posted links to the I Am. article on Facebook, and a personal appeal to the article’s author:

iampng

I am not racist. I am not homophobic. I am not sexist. I am not a misogynist. I am for free market. I am for stronger foreign policy. I am for small business. I am for my family….I think it is important to clarify something: just because I am Republican does not mean I am heartless.

 

Blogger Cassie Hewlett wrote the I Am article to “highlight what it felt like to be a Republican college student” after the election:

On November 9th, I went to class and in every single one there was a somber attitude. Pre-lecture discussions were filled with phrases like “I am scared for our future”, “I am scared to be gay”, “How did this happen?”

Ms. Hewlett, I don’t know you, but assume you are around my daughter’s age, and thus am disposed toward viewing you kindly. I will assume you are well-intentioned. And I can’t help but wonder, do you really understand why, post-election, a somber attitude permeated your classrooms?

I am aware that many Republicans did not intend to vote in malicious, fear-mongering, sexist, racist, homophobic ways. I hope you in turn are aware that your party’s candidate campaigned on malicious, fear-mongering, sexist, racist and homophobic platforms and rhetoric, and that this fact is very personal to the majority of us who cast their votes for the other candidates.

You write, I am not racist. I am not homophobic. I am not sexist. Your candidate has:

*  chosen as his Vice President one of the most anti-LGBT rights politicians around.  Pence has been listed as one of the top “villains” on gay and civil rights watch lists for years – this is not mere current election political trash-talking.

* casually admitted to and joked/bragged about committing sexual assault, consistently dismissed and ranked women – including his own daughter – according to their physical attributes, and said he would appoint SCOTUS justices who would overturn my right to make medical decisions about my body.

* told anti-gay conservatives he’d appoint SCOTUS justices who would overturn gay marriage  [5]

* called Mexicans rapists and said that an American judge could not do his job because of his Mexican heritage.

* declared he wants to register all Muslims in the US.

Your candidate has, for crying out loud, been endorsed by the KKK and other white supremacist, Neo-Nazi and secessionist groups.

You are not racist; You are not homophobic; You are not sexist. But Your Candidate has said and done all of these things, and more. Your Candidate‘s blatant and consistent appeal to racist, homophobic and sexist sentiments are not the reasons you voted for him, but his racist, homophobic and sexist appeals did not stop you from voting for him. Thus, the “somber attitude” you detected.

 

 

imnotracist

 

 

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
(variously attributed)

I am for free market. I am for stronger foreign policy. I am for small business. I am for my family.

Sure, Mussolini may have been a fascist dictator who outlawed contraception, raised penalties for abortion, regulated women’s clothing and banned homosexual acts,  used chemical weapons in Africa,  muzzled the free press and imprisoned his political opponents and executed prisoners without trial….but he made the trains run on time.

You personally may not consider yourself racist or bigoted, but you who are willing to overlook – who have the privilege to overlook – a candidate’s bigotries because he supports policies which you’ve decided are of greater/personal good for yourself scares the living feces out of moiself.

Please, Ms. Hewlett (and other self-described non-bigoted trump supporters), remember that talk is cheap. Your words disavowing personal prejudice are cold comfort considering the rise in hate crimes  [6] since the election.  I’m glad you protest that you are not one of the haters; I challenge you to prove your protestation by holding your candidate accountable for the consequences of his rhetoric.

One more thing, Ms. Hewlett: fire your graphic designer.  [7]  Re the GOP elephant-USA flag symbol used to illustrate your article, the stars are [8]  sideways/upside down/backwards (read: just plain wrong). Star points in the USA flag face up, not down.

 

flagstars

Like this.

*   *   *

Department Of It Didn’t Quite Come Out The Way I’d Intended,
But You Know What I Meant To Say

MH was considering whether or not he wanted to make soup for our Thanksgiving potluck dinner we hosted.  He asked for moiself’s advice, as I have been on a soup making kick recently. I went through my notes, trying to find a soup that everyone coming to the dinner would like and, more importantly, that everyone could eat – food preferences and sensitivities among the attendees include severe tree nut, peanut and seed allergies, gluten and dairy sensitivities and “plant-based flexitarian” [9] preferences.

I found just such a soup, a recent culinary experiment of mine that turned out well, if I do say so myself (and I just did).  “Here’s one!” I crowed to MH, pointing to my notes in excitement. “There’s nothing in this soup that anyone could eat!”

 

 

bad-soup

*   *   *

May you dialogue when you can;
May you be mindful of choices which may benefit you yet be costly to others;
May you have (at least) one thing about which to feel smug;
May your soup be suitable for all;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

And a belated but sincere Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Phone calls are more effective than emails or signing on-line petitions.

[2] I know, I know, it’s the “Twitterverse,” but I just can’t bear to use that term.

[3] For a couple of days or so – which is the equivalent of years to many users of the website, who have the attention spans one might expect of people who limit their reflections to 140 characters.

[4] Simply put, for her, the negatives came to outweigh the positives.

[5]I am for my family,” you wrote. What about other people’s families? Overturning gay marriage would dismantle thousands of families, including, to make it personal, that of my daughter’s favorite teacher.

[6] Documented by the FBI, and civil rights groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center.

[7] Or yourself, if that’s the case.

[8] Like the reasoning of trump supporters, IMHO.

[9] Eats certain seafood items, but no meat or dairy products.

The Coffee I’m Not Fetching

4 Comments

 

Department Of Oh That Explains It

I opened turned to page 2 of The Oregonian and saw the reassuring headline for the Editor’s Notebook column:

We’ve redesigned with our readers in mind.

I guess I’m not one of the readers Those Who Redesigned had in mind, because I couldn’t get beyond the column’s next sentence, [1] which contained this gem of an explanation:

We’ve redesigned The Oregonian to be easier to read.

All these years, I’ve wondered about the decline of print media. Newspapers have seemingly lost their appeal; circulation and subscriber bases have dropped precipitously. Could it be related to competition from internet and other electronic media/online sources, including revenue loss from online advertising sources which made newspaper classified ads dated and/or irrelevant?

Noooooo. It’s just because newspapers have become SO  DIFFICULT  TO  READ.

 

newspaper

“Article continued on A13?” This. Is. So. Hard. For. Me.

*   *   *

Department of Eat, Prey, Write, Gloat With Cynicism

Did I ever tell y’all about the time in 2006 when I was subject to special screening by TSA agents because I was the only woman in the PDX airport  [2] who was not toting a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love in her carry-on bag?

That’s right – I didn’t tell you. Because that never happened. But it felt like it did.

 

 

tsa

Now, turn your head and cough, Ma’am, because if we don’t find a copy of that book you will not be allowed to board your flight.

 

The more EPL was recommended to me [3] the more I resisted jumping on the EPL bandwagon. Besides, after reading interviews with Gilbert, I got the feeling the no-detail-of-my-life-i$-too-private-be-$hared author wasn’t done with exploiting her personal life seeing as how it sold so much better than her fiction sharing her searching-the-world-for-wisdom-so-you-don’t-have-to exploits. I thought I’d bide my time and wait for the box set.

A sequel soon followed, which picked up with the author’s falling in love with/marriage to the Brazilian businessman she met at the end of EPL. The sequel was inaptly titled, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage. “Inaptly,” I daresay write, because the peace the author supposedly made with marriage turned out not to be with her own.

In June, Gilbert announced she’d ended her 12 year old marriage (emphases mine):

“Our split is very amicable. Our reasons are very personal. At this time of transition, I hope you will respect our privacy. In my heart, I know that you will do so, because I trust that you understand how this is a story that I am living—not a story that I am telling.”

Privacy?  Oh yeah – that thing defined as the right to keep one’s personal matters and relationships secret. It’s that thing practiced by other people, not Gilbert, who despite her protestations has been telling the story she has been living for the past 12 years.

Sure, I snorted when I read her press release, She wants privacy, I can (continue to) give her privacy. I can also, from experience,  [4]  give her or any privacy-requester a smidgen of advice: if you want your request for privacy to be taken seriously you can start by not giving interviews/press statements/making a living from writing about your private life.

With a publicist’s masterful timing (never reveal everything at once if there’s a chance people will pay for a sequel!), three months after her divorce announcement Gilbert made another spotlight-grabbing broadcast: she’d ended her marriage because she’d fallen in love with a (terminally ill) female friend.

Do I smell another self-serving revelation soon-to-become another LET-ME-TELL-YOU-ABOUT-MY-AMAZING-LIFE-JOURNEY memoir?  [5]  It needs a catchy title:

Eat, Pray, Love, Regurgitate Triumphs And Heartaches, Write, Marry, Regurgitate Some More, Write, Divorce, Ask For Privacy – Holy Misguided Solitude, There’s No Money Or Attention In Discretion! – Write, Discover Gender Fluid Sexuality – Now I’ve Really Got Something To Write About….

 

 

eat_pray_love

Didn’t see the movie, either.

*   *   *

Department Of Wednesday Digressions

The Worst Types Of Workplace Sexists—And How To Fight Them

I cannot recall where I came across the article referenced above, but I am grateful for the memories it brought back.

 

really

 

I’ll try to explain.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I worked in the women’s reproductive health care field. Stints with Planned Parenthood clinics bookended six years at a dual practitioner (an M.D. and a N.P. [Nurse Practitioner]) [6] OB-GYN practice near Stanford hospital.

Before y’all get the wrong idea, there were no sexists working at that practice. Both of my bosses were wonderful people, as were (most of) the office staff. But as for some of our dealings with other “professionals”…. Let the story hijinks ensue.

Although Dr. B’s office was open Monday-Friday, with rare exceptions neither he nor the NP saw patients on Wednesdays. The day was plenty busy: the practice hosted a new parent support group which met in the waiting room every Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, “backstage” there was catching up on charting and non-emergency callbacks, exam room cleaning/stocking/organizing and preparation for the upcoming week’s patients…and on many Wednesday mornings and/or afternoons, Dr. B would consult, on the phone or in person, with attorneys.

Dr. B had a lucrative “side job” serving as a consultant/reviewer and expert witness  [7] for medical malpractice cases. He loved the work, and not just because of the money. He had a keen, forensically detailed intellect; he found reviewing and analyzing the case files fascinating, and had a knack for explaining complex medical issues to laypersons. The only thing he didn’t like about such consulting was having to deal with lawyers.

Q: What’s the difference between a vacuum cleaner and a lawyer on a motorcycle?
A: The vacuum cleaner has the dirt bag on the inside.

 

 

shark

 

The attorneys I met during those six years were poster children for every lawyer gag you’ve ever heard. They were, with one exception I can recall, all male, and without exception the boy lawyers were sexist, arrogant, self-aggrandizing, windbag asshats. I tried to have as little to do with them as possible, and was mostly successful in that endeavor. Our office manager’s duties included lawyer-wrangling; patient care/education/advocacy was my gig. But there were certain Wednesdays when there was no avoiding the bastard barristers. Like a pair of cheap underpants, they crept up on you.

Dr. B would meet with lawyers in his private office. More often than not, he’d leave his office door open during these meetings. [8]   It’s not that the doc was indiscreet; I figured he just couldn’t stand to be alone with a conniving weasel lawyer (and, much to my surprise, Dr. B confirmed this when I told him my theory about the open door).  [9]

I picked up on Dr. B’s lawyer loathing. On those (mercifully few) occasions when there was no avoiding them, I took petty pleasure in tormenting the malpractice attorneys [10]  in the most passive-aggressive ways possible.

Anecdote the First
Sitting at the front desk with a pile of patient charts and pap smear lab reports, I reluctantly answered the phone (the office manager was taking a potty break). The caller cut short my standard work greeting, “Dr. B’s office, this is Rob…”

Car Phone Lawyer: “Yes, I’m calling from my car phone….”

It was the attorney who was scheduled to meet with Dr. B that morning for a malpractice case consult. The attorney informed me that he was calling from his car phone, and that the purpose of his call was to let us know that he was going to be late for his appointment. He was quite determined that I know he was calling from his car phone – he stated this twice in his opening remarks, mentioned it two more times in what should have been a brief, sorry-I’ve-been-detained-I’ll-get-there-as-soon-as-I-can apology, and ended the call with this fascinating bit of information.

As I mentioned, I’m calling from my car phone….

This was way back in pre cell phone days when, apparently, for Certain Kind$ of People ® there wa$ a certain amount of pre$tige a$$ociated with anyone who had a car phone. Moiself didn’t give a flying fuck if he was calling from a Maxwell Smart shoe phone. Had I asked from where or with what he was calling, and what did it have to do with…anything?

 

 

shoephone

 

 

“So, you’re going to be late…” I wrote a note for Dr. B, who was standing right behind me, his eyes almost audibly rolling toward the ceiling as he drew his index finger across his throat – his sign for I do not want to talk to this asshole until he gets here. Stifling my laughter, I waited for the Car Phone Lawyer to add something relevant, such as his ETA, or perhaps even a brief apology/explanation for his tardiness.

 “Yes,” CPL repeated. “As you know, I’m calling from my car phone…”

“Oh,” I pitched my voice to approximate the oral equivalent of a Sweet Young Thing’s ® smile. “That must be why it sounds like you’re talking into a tin can tied to a string.”

Anecdote #2
Dr. B was in his office, consulting with a malpractice attorney. I walked down the hallway, on my way to inventory amniocentesis kits in the supply closet and prep the ultrasound exam room for the procedure scheduled for the following morning. The office’s ever-brewing coffee pot was on the counter in the lab area, directly opposite Dr. B’s office and clearly visible to anyone sitting in the chair beside Dr. B’s desk…like, say, that attorney.

As I passed by Dr. B’s open door the attorney called out to me. He snapped his fingers – yes, he snapped his fingers – as he did so. “Hey,” (snap snap),”how about a cup of coffee?”

“Oh, no thank you,” I cheerfully replied, without breaking my stride.  [11]

We didn’t know about mic drops back then, so I’ll ask the Notorious RBG to give a belated Bam! on my behalf.

 

 

rbg

*   *   *

Department of Life’s Simple Pleasures

Dateline: 7:50 am-ish, [12] near the tail end of my morning walk, I exit a neighborhood park via a pathway that leads through a cul-de-sac. I am at a nexus in the neighborhood space-time continuum: parents are walking their children to the elementary school one block south, preteens are schlumping toward the junior high two blocks northwest, and high school students are either heading for their bus stop or getting into cars with their parents.

I walk down the middle of the street and approach a house on the left just as a boy and his (presumed) mother exit the house and head for a car parked at the curb. The boy is tall, refreshingly skinny, with skateboard-sized feet which indicate much gangliness in his future. His childlike face belies his height – he looks all of 12 or 13 to me, yet he’s dangling car keys from his right hand. He heads to the passenger’s door, hesitates for a moment, then circles around to the driver’s door, his expression equal parts fear and anticipation.

I smile as I stride past the car, and chuckle to myself: Ah, driver’s permit. First week.

 

 

student-driver

*   *   *

May you have patience with student drivers;
May you appreciate how truly easy it is to read a newspaper;
May you savor life’s mic drop moments;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Read: I was overcome by a snort/laugh attack.

[2] Consistently rated one of American’s best airports. Not that we want you to come here all that much….

[3] including by More Than One Well-Read And Intelligent Friend Who Said The Author’s Writing Style Reminded Them Of Me ©

[4] Admittedly, not the kind that get$ paid a$ well a$ writing about Gilbert’s private life.

[5] To be followed by seminars and workshops advising mere mortal women on how they can do the same.

[6] who were also husband and wife (although not all of their patients knew this).

[7] The vast majority of malpractice cases settled out of court.

[8] something that would never happen these days, what with HIPAA and other privacy concerns and regulations.

[9] Was the good doctor joking or not? I may never know.

[10] Which had the bonus of thoroughly entertaining my bosses, both the doc and the NP.

[11] By doing so, I had won Dr. B’s eternal respect. I swear, after that Wednesday morning, the good doctor looked for ways to finagle attorneys into asking me that question. And it happened more than once. The attorneys would never ask directly/politely for anything, as in, “May I kindly trouble you for a cup of coffee?”

[12] As in morning-ish, not as in Amish..ish.

The Culture I’m Not Appropriating

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Write what you know is, hands down/butts up, the Worst Writing Advice Ever. ®  Although I despise the aggravating axiom’s existence, I took some solace in thinking that its influence has been waning….

Golly gosh gee willikers, how I love learning new things: it seems that, like intestinal gas after a vegan-chili-eating contest, that misbegotten maxim keeps resurfacing. It has morphed, and rises anew in the form of the term, cultural appropriation. [1]

 

 

angry-spock

I grow weary of you appropriating Vulcan culture, Lt. Kirk.

 

 

 

American journalist/novelist Lionel Shriver, who was invited to be the keynote speaker at the recent  Brisbane Writers Festival, knotted the knickers of the festival organizers when, as reported in this NY Times article, she [2] disparaged the movement against cultural appropriation.

Write what you know; do not appropriate the culture/experience of another. This becomes translated as, Write what you are. And what you are becomes defined by someone outside of you – someone who decries cultural, ethnic, class and gender stereotypes even as they want to circumscribe your right to tell stories/craft characters based on their interpretation of your cultural what you know.

Seven years ago I wrote a letter to the editor of Poets & Writers magazine, in response to a Very Long Screed letter from a woman who passionately pronounced that writers must write about only those characters and backgrounds from whence they came; that is, you must write about what you know, and what you know is what you are. Screed Woman [3] commented at length about what a “true artist” may create, and at one point actually declared the following:

I will not permit folks like _____ [4] to write of my folk, or Mexican folk, or Asian folk, or Native American folk, of folk of color as though they have a right to.”

 

 

really

 

 

Yes, really.

Screed Writer, without having been asked by other writers, “By the way, what do you think I should write about?” and without having been elected to the Board of Literary Permissions, [5] not only felt entitled to speak for all of her “folk,” but also for the folk of which she is not-folk – an incredibly diverse and numerous collection of humanity, whose varying and wide-ranging opinions on the issue at hand she discounted, IMHO, by presuming to speak for all folk-of-color.

As I wrote in my reply letter, [6]

Was I out of the country when _____( Screed Writer) was appointed to the coveted, “True Artist Discerner” position?
….I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but behold: for centuries, a legion of writers, from Shakespeare to Le Guin, have composed tales and created characters without your (or anyone else’s) permission. A pox upon the cheeky bastards!
….All those wasted years, merely loathing Jonathan Livingston Seagull for the story itself when I could have really censured it for being inauthentic: “How dare its author write outside his species!?”

 

 

seagull

We were NOT consulted about that book and we’re still pissed off.

 

 

Write what you know. Just think of the awful, intrusive, disrespectful novels penned by those who have ignored that advice.

John Steinbeck, born into middle-class comfort in California and educated at Stanford – what could he know of the struggles and dreams of the destitute Oklahoma migrant farmers he depicted in The Grapes of Wrath? And that Cathy Ames character, the initially charming but ultimately evil and pitiful wife/mother in East of Eden – how could a 1950s, upright male citizen like Steinbeck take the liberty to deduce the machinations of a turn of the century whorehouse madam?  [7]

How dare Rita Mae Brown, a never-married, child-free lesbian with no siblings, presume to know the combination of brass and loneliness of the widowed elderly sisters and mothers whom she featured in her novel Bingo?  Not only that, Brown has penned a series of detective novels featuring a cat as a sleuth-like protagonist! The nerve of her, a bipedal homo sapiens, to appropriate the thoughts and actions of a quadrapedal felis catus.

Stephen King had his first great hit with the novel Carrie. He audaciously crafted his shy high school misfit character despite the fact that he, an adult man with no demonstrable psychokinetic abilities who came from a middle-of-the road Protestant background, could not possibly know what it would be like to be a much-bullied adolescent female with telekinetic powers who lived with a batshit-crazy fundamentalist mother.

Alice Walker – well, she can write about her own folk, as long as they are The Color Purple.  But as an African American from a rural, Southern, impoverished, Baptist background there’s no way she could know the mind-set and motivations of an idealistic civil rights worker from a Northern, white, Jewish, privileged circumstances…and yet she dared to create just such a character in Meridian.

And what could Brian Doyle, a non-Urdu-speaking, white American writer and editor, truly know about the inner musings of a Muslim Pakistani barber, as he had the gall to do in Bin Laden’s Bald Spot ?

And don’t even get me started on that uppity Jean Auel, who created the Clan of the Cave Bear books. Auel presumed to tell tales about people who lived and died thousands of years ago – she appropriated cultures that don’t even exist anymore! And what could she, a contemporary middle-aged white woman, possibly know about Cro-magnons and Neanderthals of any age, gender or ethnicity?

Have I belabored this point enough?  Because, I could go on, ya know.

 

 

snore

No, please, provide even more examples, we still don’t get it….

 

 

Now then. I do not mean to dismiss legitimate concerns with the historical exploitation of the experiences of women and minorities via the platform of fiction. As one Brisbane Writers Festival attendee put it, “The reality is that those from marginalized groups, even today, do not get the luxury of defining their own place in a norm that is profoundly white, straight and, often, patriarchal.”

I moiself have, in this space and others, ranted commented on the pervasive sexism in the publishing and literary reviewing worlds, wherein, for example, “books about women written by men receive critical acclaim, while books written by women on similar themes and in a similar style are tawdry domestic dramas.” [8]  And a slew of minds more incisive than mine have long noted the disparate praise heaped upon (usually white) men vis-à-vis women and minorities writing on the same subject.

I do mean to dismiss three whole ‘nother kettles of wormy literary fish:

  1. the idea that there are any “scared” subjects – including but not limited to culture, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, politics, socio-economic class, dis/ability – about which writers cannot or should not write;
  2. the idea that writers may justifiably feel entitled to try to limit the variety of voices other writers employ to comment on any subject;
  3. two wormy fish kettles of literary nonsense are enough to be dismissed, for now.

Look: you may like a story’s plot and/or characters, or loathe the same – it’s up to each reader. What is not up to any reader, nor the self-blinder-donning, self-appointed Guardians Of Cultural Appropriation, [9]  is to attempt to limit, intimidate or censor the imagination and empathy that writers use to create their stories and characters.

 

 

soapbox

 

 

“I often quote myself. It lends spice to my conversation.”
(Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw)

 

Since I am no one to ignore the example of GB Shaw, I shall end this communique with the end of my afore-mentioned response to the afore-mentioned Screed Writer:

_____ (Screed Writer) writes, with all sincerity and good intentions, I assume, that she would not write a character with certain gender/religious/ethnic attributes because she does “not wish to offend with less than authenticity.” Some might think her intentions polite and perhaps even considerate, but what I look for in a compelling story is not that its author has good manners. Go ahead, dare to “offend” me with “in-authenticity,” Better yet, let me – the reader – decide whether or not I am offended, and whether or not I find your characters authentic. Trust me; I’ve been doing this for years. I’ll be okay.

To the Write What You Know gang: can we end this dreary dialog? Go back to your corners; reflect; meditate; supplicate; read the self-help books and take the mood or perspective-altering medications that will enable you to ignore the evil voices in your head that tell you it is your obligation to shepherd, chaperone, and censor. WWYK-ers and others who deny themselves the “right” to write authentic if “different” characters are welcome to deny themselves – and themselves alone – that right. If, whether out of fear, misguided notions of respect, or any other reason, you do not consider yourself capable of creating authentic characters, then by all means, stifle yourself. Do not write beyond your self-imposed limits, perceptions and capacities, If it makes you uncomfortable, you don’t have to write about it if you don’t want to (is this a wonderful world, or what?!), but please consider the following. Throughout the ages, many great writers, painters, and composers have suggested that it is the stepping outside of one’s comfort zone, one’s permitted zone, which is the mark of a “true” artist.

I, for one, am grateful for authors past and present who’ve written out “of the box.” Do not, ever, presume to limit another writer’s capabilities, or be so audacious as to assume you are the granter of people’s right to tell the stories they choose to tell. Gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, class, health status, religion, occupation, political affiliation – all of these authentic, influential and essential qualities ultimately pale in comparison to that most defining human (apologies to science fiction authors) quality: imagination.  Write, if you must, only what you think you know, but stop proscribing the imagination of anyone but yourself. My stories will be filled with agnostic, youthful, weak-hearted Southwestern men and with elderly, vigorous, devoutly Pentecostal Asian women; with boldly blasphemous crones, timorous dyslexic adolescents, and someday maybe even a gracious if paranoid Venusian. I’ll continue to write characters who line up with the truth of the story, not those that toe a line drawn in the literary sand by some self-deputized Authenticity Posse.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Taking A Break

 

There; that’s better.

 

 

medpose

 

 

Now, if only I could slap somebody upside the head with a leather-bound copy of the list of challenged, censored and banned book titles as collected by the National Coalition Against Censorship.

 

 

bookbonk

*   *   *

May you refrain from brutally smiting those who would constrain the creativity of others;
May you, upon further reflection, treat such constraints with the scorn they deserve;
May you authentically appropriate the power of imagination;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] the term in this context refers to “minority” writers and artists protesting the use or depiction of their  culture by other/non-minority writers or artists – even to the point of objecting to “dominant culture” artists creating or including in their work characters belonging to minority cultures.

[2] Yes, Lionel Shriver is a she. She appropriated a male first name at age 15.

[3] Self-identified as “black in America.”

[4] An ethnically/culturally Jewish writer, who had previously written about how she claimed the right to write non-Jewish characters and to not write about the Holocaust.

[5] Even if she claimed to be, it would be election fraud, as there is no such board.

[6] Which was published in P & W. the letter was edited for space and not run in its glorious (read: snarky) entirety.

[7] Excuse me, did I write ? I mean of course, Sex Worker Supervisor.

[8] as per writer s.e. smith in her article, Sorry White Male Novelists, But Sexism in Publishing Is Still A Thing

[9] Unfortunately, not the long-awaited sequel to Guardians Of The Galaxy (LINK)

The Butt I’m Not Holding Onto

Comments Off on The Butt I’m Not Holding Onto

 

 

Department Of Message Received

 

Hold on to your butts, indeed. Apparently, the DOTUS [1] is running for POTUS.

Trump is a racist demagogue, a narcissistic pathological liar, a treason-baiting mocker of other’s sacrifices, a tin-plated orangutan-haired would-be autocrat with delusions of personhood….

Yep. Gotcha.

Message received.  Over and over and over.

Y’all are cheering to the pep squad in this matter. I really don’t think critical votes in the upcoming presidential election will be swayed, one way or another, by someone reading the latest

YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT TRUMP SAID!!!

HAS TRUMP GONE TOO FAR !?!?!?!?!?!

link on your Facebook page.

If you think that The Donald is a Dick is breaking news, you might want to brace yourself for the following alert:

 Cigarette smoking linked to lung disease !!!!!

Can we go back to cat videos and sloth pix, please?

More of me is good for you!

More of me is good for you!

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Should Have Stopped Watching Right After Her Acceptance Speech.

Dateline: last week, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s acceptance speech. In the space of 20 minutes I went from cautious/cynical optimism to being won over by the power of the moment. I couldn’t believe, after all the excellent speakers she had to follow (Michelle Obama, Corey Booker, the POTUS, Joe Biden, her own daughter….), that HRC, know for policy fine points rather than rhetorical charisma, would rise to the occasion.  But she did. She made her case, confidently, powerfully, compassionately.  And then…

I should have known better. After watching the rousing 7th game of the World Series in which the team you’re rooting for wins in the bottom of the ninth when the team’s catcher, not known for his speed, hits a triple and then steals home…you do your version of the Happy Dance ® and then turn off the TV. You don’t need [2] to hear overpaid and under-educated color commentators explaining that you just saw an amazing play…or trying to convince you that it wasn’t as exciting as you thought.

I forgot. I left the TV on. MH was still watching… I puttered around the kitchen, and couldn’t help but hear the background noise of the talking heads of the media. Even those on NPR who Should Have Known Better ®  had to weigh in:

* But still, what does the most unknown known person have to tell the American people?

* How can voters get to know “the real” Hillary, as her friends do, etc., how can the real, personal candidate be portrayed….

And I find moiself screaming to moiself,

WHAT THE FUCK DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING?!?!?

I guess this – me resorting to the all-caps mode – is evidence that The Terrorists Have Won ® . But when – oh, like NEVER – is this asked of any other (read: male) candidate?  Why do we need to know the “real, personal” Hillary? She’s running for POTUS, not for your junior high school BFF.

 

 

you like me

 

 

 

 

So much for history. Yeah, we’ve finally [3]  nominated a female person for head of state, but it is pathetically obvious that our country is still, sadly but resolutely, shackled to antiquated/sexist expectations of the past. Hillary Clinton has got to be “known,” and “likeable,” and “personal,” whereas our male candidates…well, we just want to know that, maybe, they aren’t (currently active) serial killers.

One friend [4] responded thusly to my tirade, with wise concepts I shall try to put into practice:

I know. I share that rant big time. But now a big deep breath and I will do my best to be thankful for progress. No matter how absurd the inequalities are that remain. Ohmmmm.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yeah What She Said

 

 “When I look at the idea that life sucks and I have to deal with it as best I can, and compare it with the idea that an immensely powerful being is fucking with me on purpose and won’t tell me why, I find the first idea far more comforting.”
-Greta Christina, The Way of the Heathen

*   *   *

Department Of Dealing With Things The Best You Can

If you don’t know about the Foundation Beyond Belief,  you should. FBB is a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation created to focus, encourage and demonstrate humanist generosity and compassion through charitable donation programs, sponsoring volunteer programs and disaster recovery programs.

By making one time or regular donations, I am able to set up a donor profile indicating how I would like my contribution spread among beneficiary organizations in each of the following “cause” areas:

*Education
*Poverty and Health
*Human Rights
*The Natural World
* Challenge the Gap (charities based in other worldviews)

 

 

 

foundationpng

 

 

Each quarter the FBB’s Humanist Giving staff selects five charitable organizations to serve as Quarterly Beneficiaries, one for each of the cause areas. Donors such as moiself can then review the organizations and decide how we’d like to distribute our donation (e.g. 20% to each, or 100% to one…) however we choose, depending on our interest in the specific causes and organizations. [5]

FBB’s featured beneficiaries are “…carefully selected for impact and efficiency,” and are all secular organizations (with the exception of Challenge the Gap, which features non-proselytizing organizations based in other worldviews). At the end of each quarter, all donations designated for FBB’s featured charities are forwarded to those charities (no percentage is retained for administrative costs), and a new slate of beneficiaries is selected.

 

*   *   *

invasion force

 

Our neighbors should be on the lookout for a drive-by fruiting, since we need to get rid of distribute what MH refers to as “the invasion force.”

Translation: The pear tree Belle bought with her own allowance and birthday money, all those many years ago, is in full, bloomin’ swing. Like our raspberries and blueberries, and like most fruits around here, the harvest is coming much earlier this year .

 

 

Can you say global warming, boys and girls? I knew you could.

Can you say global warming, boys and girls? I knew you could.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Yet Another Important Detail

I must make an addendum to Robyn and MH Have Left the Building [6] , our notebook of what-to-do-when-we-die instructions for our family. I recently realized that I’d neglected to document an important aspect of my memorial service:  I want the first all whoopee cushion funeral. Every seat in the memorial hall/auditorium/junior high girls’ locker room or whatever venue is to be outfitted with a whoopee cushion, hopefully of varying sizes and, uh, tonal quality. Attendees will be given instructions as to how to end the service with a rousing cheer for the dearly departed.

 

 

 

why settle for this...

why settle for this…

 

 

 

...when you can have this instead?

…when you can have this instead?

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you enjoy the fruits of summer;
May the talking heads leave you in peace;
May you deal with things the best you can;
May you plan your own whoopee-worthy memorial service;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Demagogue of The United States.

[2] Well, maybe you do, but I don’t.

[3] After over 40 other countries beat us to it. So much for our “Leader of the Free World” braggadocio.

[4] ¡Muchisimas gracias, mi amiga, CC!

[5] I’m currently doing an even distribution, although my interests tend toward the Human Rights and Natural World categories and, in the past, have tended to “skew upwards” as per my donation percentages, to those causes.

[6] since plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery, I proudly note that I stole that title from the lovely and talented Karl Wiegers).

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