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The Discount I’m Not Taking

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Dateline:  Monday mid-morning, shopping at a local thrift store. After ringing up the items (the total comes to all of four dollars), the store’s clerk glances tentatively at moiself.

Clerk: “Do you…qualify…for any of our discounts?”
Moiself: “Uh, I don’t know what any of your discounts would be.”
Clerk (even more hesitantly, and without making eye contact): “Discounts…do you get discounts…anywhere else?”
Moiself: “Anywhere else?”
Clerk: “Because…it varies….”

Suddenly, I realize what she’s asking.

 

 

lightbulb

 

 

 

 

Moiself: “You mean, do I get a senior discount anywhere?”
Clerk (nodding sheepishly): “Uh huh.”
Moiself (attempting my best, As-a-matter-of-fact-I-do-not-qualify-for-senior-discounts-but-thanks-the-fuck-a-lot-for-asking smile):  “Not yet.”

 

I leave the store thinking, I know I’m didn’t sleep well last night, but these are not the under eye bags of someone who qualifies for a senior discount and geez, lady, you’re at least 15 years older than me and do you really think I look like…

And then my irkiness  [1]  morphed into amusement.  I walked to my car, smiling to myself as I considered both  my petty reaction and recalled a story my FIL  [2] told me, over twenty years ago – about his reaction the first time someone offered him a senior discount.   He said he was taken aback when a movie clerk assumed he qualified and gave him the senior discount, a discount which, as per that particular theatre’s guidelines, my FIL did qualify for (but his wife, my MIL, did not, as she was five years younger than my FIL). He then, like moiself now, was subsequently bemused by his own reaction, and pondered why it bothered him.  After all, as a good business man, and “If someone is going to offer me a discount, for any reason, I’m going to take it…”

Was it that simple, he wondered? Was he was reluctant to admit that he had joined the ranks of “that demographic?”

 

 

 

 

angry clint

Not my monkeys, not my circus, not my senior discount.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I May Get Into Trouble For This, But…

A Modest Proposal

When I am working out in my bedroom to an exercise DVD  [3]  and the program ends, my little old TV reverts to television mode. That is, it tunes in to whatever broadcast channel was last watched.  This quaint feature has given me the opportunity to see snippets of shows I’d otherwise never/rarely choose to watch.  My viewing of these shows has been sporadic, but tantalizing enough to cause me to tune in, occasionally, to test a theory about a “pattern” I’ve noticed. This pattern involves talk shows hosted by a panel of women, [4]  shows which are seemingly targeted at or presume a predominantly female audience:  

There is a spot on the panel reserved for, and which must be occupied by,
the Sassy, Black, Come-To-Jesus-Woman ® .

The SBCTJW, who is usually/currently unmarried, manages (inexplicably, to moiself) to placate conservatives by preaching about Jayyyysus every chance she gets, even as she also frequently comments about her very active sex life.  Her applications of Iron Age philosophy (read: Christian scriptures) to contemporary political and social issues of the day always seem to be welcomed, or at least tolerated, by her fellow/sister hosts.  And therein lies the problem.

Any crazy-ass or just plain non sequitur comment SBCTJW makes, when cosseted within the preamble, As y’all know, I’m a woman of faith, is neither questioned nor refuted by the other hosts. The panel will openly argue about politics and current events and the implications of celebrity gossip [5]  –  they frequently and freely disagree  about those issues, but when SBCTJW spews nonsense (read: quotes her bible), it’s all somber and respectful,  “Mmm-hmms.”

I call foul, as well as bullshit.  It frosts my butt to see that drivel go out unchallenged, and “respectful silence” (read: non-refutation) implies acquiescence.

Yeah, it’s daytime commercial TV – I realize that there are limiting audience and sponsor considerations. Still, this is 2017. Is there a producer out there, somewhere, with the cojones to reserve a spot on the panel for the Sassy Black (or Brown or Pink or Tan or….) Articulate Atheist?

I respectfully submit just a few nominees for consideration: Feminist/author Sikivu Hutchinson, Mandisa Thomas, president of Black Nonbelievers; journalist Jamila Bey, Debbie Goddard, Director of African Americans for Humanism; community organizer Diane Burkholder, political activist Jimmie Luthuli; Liz Ross (Black Skeptics Los Angeles & Coalition of Vegan Activists of Color); feminist writer/professor Roxanne Gay….

I also realize there is a subject here within a subject (one deserving of far more consideration than moiself can and will handle in this venue): the presumption of religiosity for and among African-Americans is such that African-American atheists, often referred to as a minority within a minority , face additional prejudice both within and outside of their “community” when they are upfront/open about their views. And, frankly, what freethinkers of quality – of any ethnicities or cultures – have the time (or interest) to put up with the constraints that come with such a forum as a daytime TV talk show?

 (“We’ll be right back to continue our discussion on the latest recording of a police shooting an unarmed teenager, followed by guest Gwyneth Paltrow demonstrating her crystal energy bladder sling. But first, this word from Coxphase Pharmecuticals about gynecomastia…” )

 

 

 

 

black atheistjpg

*   *   *

Department Of Me, Too…But Me Later

 

If you haven’t heard about the Me, Too movement[6]   stop reading right now and go commit an act of humanist reparation.

Moiself, too intends to share my stories, or at least one of them, even as I hold reservations about doing so.  [7]   I understand why others whose experiences have been So. Much. Worse.  might – despite their fervent hope for the cessation of this dishearteningly widespread sexist abuse and their realization that the cockroaches only scatter when you turn on the light – have no wish to go public, due to the terrible memories and feeling which might be triggered.

 

 

Trigger

Hey Roy, why do they always drag me into this?

 

 

 

 

 

 

So. Maybe…next week.

*   *   *

May you never be challenged by a Footnote Insurrection Licentiousness;
May you be brave enough to listen to, sans the urge to give advice or commentary,
the me too stories of others;
May you claim the discounts for which you qualify;

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Yes, irkiness is a word…at least here. You know exactly what it means in this context.

[2] FIL as in Father-in-law, the acronym not to be confused with Famously Indulgent Libertarian, Faintly Illuminated Licorice; Frumpy  Inebriated Lutheran; Five Ill-tempered Leopards….

[3] Or FIL as in Frequently Inky Legumes; Freshly Iced Lemonade; First Imitative Liberace – yo, FIL! Stop that, RIGHT NOW. Your footnote relevance has passed.

[4] Such as The View and The Talk.

[5] Hey, you’ve come a long way, baby!

[6] A term in use by social activists for some time which has recently (in the wake of the Hollywood and other sexual assault scandals…please don’t make me type the name Harvey Weinsten) been revitalized by celebrities and others, to encourage  women to share their own experiences with sexual harassment and misogyny in the workplace and in other realms both public and private.

[7] Or as in Festive Imperial Linguini; Feisty Italian Lesbians; Frothy indigent lepers – I MEAN IT, GO AWAY. WHO’S IN CHARGE HERE, ANYWAY?!?!?

The Stories I’m Not Cribbing

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I am not cribbing; I am making links and attributions. The Happy Feet Dance ® reasons cited in last week’s blog  have left me with little time for originality this week.  (Ah, white people problems.)

Just sayin.’   [1]

 

*    *    *

Department Of Yet Another Reason To Read The Obituaries…

“Before I turn 67–next March–I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me.”
(Jane Juska, from her personals ad in the New York Times Review of Books, which led to her writing her memoir)

Reading obituaries is something I don’t (usually) do. Yesterday, however, I was grateful for whatever reason caused me to glance at the NY Times obituaries, wherein I encountered what I am nominating for Best Last Line Ever.

 

 

 

 

 

andtheawardjpg

 

 

 

 

The obituary was for Jane Juska, a retired schoolteacher who found literary fame late(r) in life, re her book, A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late Life Adventures in Sex and Romance. The memoir chronicles what happened when Juska decided to reinvent herself in her late sixties and seek sexual pleasure, after realizing she was a self-described “cliché” (long divorced after a loveless marriage; a history of sexual abuse; weight and drug problems; all-encompassing single motherhood….).

Save for the deceased’s literary notoriety, the obit was nothing out of the ordinary, and ended with the customary list of survivors (“…in addition to her son, she is survived by two granddaughters…”). And then, the pièce de résistance:

Her son said in an interview that he had never read A Round-Heeled Woman.
“I tell people,” he said, “ ‘If your mother wrote it, I’d probably read it.’

 

*   *   *

Department Of More Than Just Pissing In The Wind  [2]

When you take on a group or person who has money and power they aren’t just going to roll over. They will fight back. Sometimes viciously. They will use multiple intimidation tactics, including hiring lawyers to make subtle and not so subtle threats to control the narrative.
They will use carrots and sticks to achieve their goals. The sticks scare the crap out of most regular people….. Hiring lawyers and PR fixers to intimidate people is the method used by the rich and powerful. Harassers who don’t have money use other methods to intimidate before and after the fact. It is helpful to be prepared for these actions.
(From Why Didn’t I Read About This Before? How Sexual Harassers Quash Stories
10-26-17, Spocko’s Brain blog )

 

If you are interested in what I call Cognitive Behavior Therapy In The Form Of Rational Activism ® –  i.e., not just identifying and ranting about what’s wrong, but researching how things work and applying effective solutions – then Spocko’s Brain is your man.  [3]

 

 

 

 

 

Spocko’s October 26 post was in part instigated by Clients Turn on ‘Champion for Women’ Lisa Bloom After Her Scorched Earth Crusade for Harvey Weinstein, — an article which, Spocko wrote, makes him “ill.” Nevertheless, he suggests reading it “…because it explains other reasons we didn’t hear many of these harassment stories.”

Read Spocko’s blog. Please. It is written by a man [4] who cares enough to look at the hard facts, including sharing his own experiences and stories in being a Nice Guy On The Right Side Who Still Needs To Learn How To Understand That It’s All Of Us, Not Just Them, as per his coda to this particular blog post:

Men don’t want to be lumped in with harassers.  Some might start bringing up false accusation stories or stories of female harassers they hear. They will say, “Not all men!”  “Sometimes women lie! It’s true! Look at this data!”  They will want to be heard. How do you respond? Let me mansplain my response.
One time, decades ago, I found one mistake a female co-worker had made while keying in 10’s of thousands of numbers. I was excited to find it and point it out because I had been the source of multiple mistakes.  When I brought the printout up to her she acknowledged the error and said,  “My one to your one hundred, Spocko. My one to your one hundred.”
She acknowledged the fact, pointed out the ratio and reminded me again who was the main source of the problem. Me. I was the one who needed to do better, not her.

 

 

 

whatamans

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of It’s All Related, Y’All

A study published in the Harvard Business Review (The 5 Biases Pushing Women Out of STEM, March 24, 2015) indicates that “bias, not pipeline issues  [5] or personal choices, pushes women out of science.” The article highlights the sexism that exists in STEM fields, including what the authors called the Prove It Again Pattern: female scientists surveyed reported having to prove themselves over and over again, with “their successes discounted and their expertise questioned.”

The Hollywood political/workplace sexual assault and harassment scandals brings this predicament to mind: There are other ways of being assaulted, other than the “obvious.”

That statement is in no way intended to mitigate the brutality and malice of physical violence, harassment and intimidation. Rather, I’d like for us all, moiself included, to keep in mind that the subtle assaults upon girls’ and women’s intellects and expectations are more pervasive, and arguably more insidious.

You may remember/have read or heard about a letter, written two years ago, by a young man who both noticed and “got it.” Jared Mauldin, an engineering student at Eastern Washington University, observed that men and women in STEM classes were definitely not “equal.” He wrote a letter to EWU’s student newspaper, addressed to “the women in my engineering classes,” which could have been the beginning of a bitter, sexist troll’s rant, but instead turned out to be a gracious and superbly perceptive dose of reality, from an ally to – well, not to overstate it, but to all humanity, men and women equally, IMHO.

To the women in my engineering classes:
While it is my intention in every other interaction I share with you to treat you as my peer, let me deviate from that to say that you and I are in fact unequal.
Sure, we are in the same school program, and you are quite possibly getting the same GPA as I, but does that make us equal?
I did not, for example, grow up in a world that discouraged me from focusing on hard science.
Nor did I live in a society that told me not to get dirty, or said I was bossy for exhibiting leadership skills.
In grade school I never had to fear being rejected by my peers because of my interests.
I was not bombarded by images and slogans telling me that my true worth was in how I look, and that I should abstain from certain activities because I might be thought too masculine.
I was not overlooked by teachers who assumed that the reason I did not understand a tough math or science concept was, after all, because of my gender.
I have had no difficulty whatsoever with a boys club mentality, and I will not face added scrutiny or remarks of my being the “diversity hire.”
When I experience success the assumption of others will be that I earned it.
So, you and I cannot be equal. You have already conquered far more to be in this field than I will ever face.
Sincerely,
Jared Mauldin
Senior in Mechanical Engineering
The Easterner, Letters to the Editor, 10-5-15)

Besides being a student himself, Mauldin taught STEM classes to grade school and junior high age students, and noticed the obstacles female students encountered in such classes. Even so, he was surprised by all the attention he received for writing the letter. In an interview with The Huffington Post (“Male Engineering Student Pens Letter Explaining Female Classmates Why Aren’t Equals,”), Maudlin noted, “Nothing I said was new, it has all been said a thousand times before. The difference is that I am a man. Maybe by standing up and breaking the silence from the male side, I can help some more men begin to see the issues, and begin to listen to the women who have been speaking about this all along.” 

 

*    *    *

different

 

 

 

 

Blog Department Of Yet Another Reason I’m Glad I’m Not Hard Of Hearing

Dateline: Monday afternoon. I overheard the following bit of dialogue, while I was exiting through the door of a building as a man and a woman were entering the same building.  Man to woman:

“…It was enough to make me wonder why he had to pee again.”

 

beanhuh

*   *   *

May you appreciate/be the kind of man who stands up and breaks the silence;
May you have the fortune to hear/see that which makes you wonder why anyone had to pee again;
May your mother never write a book that you would refuse to read;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] No, I wasn’t the first one to write that, either. But, sometimes, it feels like I could have been….

[2] I hope y’all appreciated the segue.

[3] Or rather, your blog.

[4] Who has been so successful in, for example, getting advertisers to pull spots from radio talk show hosts spouting violent rhetoric that he must remain anonymous, as per threats he receives.

[5] i.e., the theory/myth that women choose to forgo careers in STEM to attain better work-family balance.

The Seasonal Spice I’m Not Appreciating

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Departments of Heroes and Villains

First, the good guys:

Goodbye to one of Oregon’s – and the nation’s – finest.  Donald G. Malarkey, a WWII paratrooper and NCO with the 101st Airborne Division’s legendary Easy Company, died on September 30, at age 96.

Malarkey’s story, and those of his fellow Easy Company paratroopers, is told in the finest historical miniseries of all time (IMHO, but don’t even attempt to argue with me), based on the book of the same name, Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers.

Several times in this space  [1] have I mentioned my fondness for the series, and how much the series meant to my father (also a WWII paratrooper).  Like everyone I’ve spoken with who’s watched the HBO series, I became absorbed in some way with each of the very different soldiers’ very different stories. That said, Malarkey (portrayed by the terrific actor, Scott Grimes  [2] ) stood out in many ways. It was engrossing and heart-tugging to watch him transform from the wise-cracking, amiable, optimistically brash private in paratrooper training to the haunted lieutenant, a veteran of some of the most bloody and decisive battles of the ETO. In the series’ interviews with the surviving members of Easy Company, the real (i.e. non actor) Malarkey evinced the survivor’s pain and humility (Why am I here and my buddies are not?), decades after the incidents portrayed in the series, that came from seeing his good friends blown to bits and/or severely maimed.

A far better tribute to your country than standing and saluting a damn piece of cloth “the flag” would be to educate yourself about The Big War, which continues to affect politics and policies, for good and ill, to this day. Band of Brothers offers a slim time portal…a window through which to look back at what so many of our fellow citizens – our friends and family – endured (and sacrificed) during those times.

 

 

 

Malarkey

 

*   *   *

 

different

 

 

Department Of Good Riddance To Bad Rubbish… And One Regressive Sexist Pig

The good riddance news: Hugh Hefner is (finally!) dead.

The bad news: people keep eulogizing him as if he were some kind of progressive pioneer and/or First Amendment activist.

 

 

REALLY

 

 

Yeah, really.

Hugh Hefner was a First Amendment activist the in the same way that my cousins who used the N-word were free speech advocates.

As an op-ed piece in The Independent put it,

To claim that Hefner was a sexual liberationist or free speech idol is like suggesting that Roman Polanski has contributed to child protection.
( “Hugh Hefner was the ultimate enemy of women – no feminist anywhere will shed a tear at his death” Julie Bindel, The Independent )

Friend RE noted with disgust on Facebook that people are “…holding Hugh Hefner up as some sort of humanitarian, or even making jokes that indirectly show admiration for this absolute scum of a person.”

Just the idea of using those three H words – Hugh and Hefner and humanitarian – in the same sentence is ludicrous.  If you were to publish a book about Hugh Hefner’s “humanitarianism” it would be one of the smallest books every printed, vying for that claim with Saudi Arabian Sports Legends, The Wit and Wisdom of Dick Cheney, and Authentic French Vegan Cookery.

Some feminists felt they had to make an uneasy alliance with HH, due to his financial support for abortion rights when times were tough in the pro choice movement. [3] But HH, a profiteer of mid-twentieth century/post-WWII prudery, [4] didn’t give a lecherous rat’s ass about women’s right to self-determination and bodily integrity. Rather, his support for abortion rights fit into his philosophy of as much sex as possible with as many women as possible…and some of them are going to get pregnant, and if you can convince them to have an abortion you don’t have to marry them and/or pay child support.

I even ran across a blurb lauding HH for supporting “feminist causes.” That would be news to the Predator-in-Chief, himself, who in an infamous 1970’s memo (leaked by secretaries at Playboy) lambasted a reporter, who thought she’d been assigned to do an objective story on the Women’s Movement for Playboy magazine, for not doing a hatchet job on feminists:

“These chicks [feminists] are our natural enemy,” wrote Hefner. “It is time we do battle with them… What I want is a devastating piece that takes the militant feminists apart.”

Finally, some harsh reflections and truth-telling have been getting through (Speaking Ill of Hugh Hefner, and How Hugh Hefner’s Incredibly Complicated Legacy Got Cast as Female Sexual Liberation, and this piece in Salon,  among others)…which, apparently, is upsetting to some HH fans.

One Trump fan and singer who says she’s known Hefner since she was a teenager is beseeching commentators, “Please don’t trash a man with class.” [5]

 

 

yeahright

 

 

A tRump fan who thinks HH was a man with class? What a shocker.

I don’t know what flipped my stomach more over the years – the pajama-clad pimp himself, or the fact that many people thought it “hip” or “classy” to be associated with a third rate smut peddler sporting a fourth rate dye job. Some celebs thought it was a sign of coolness to be invited to the Playboy mansion. Bill Cosby was a frequent Playboy mansion guest…yet another shocker. Perhaps it was there that Cosby learned his Quaaludes strategy for “allegedly” drugging and then raping women. Hefner was a fan of the powerful sedative, which he often pressured his girlfriends and “bunnies” to take – he referred to Quaaludes as thigh openers.

Excuse me, tRrump fan, you were saying something about a man with class?

 

*   *   *

Department Of Enough Is Enough

‘Tis the season, again. And again and again and again.

Come October, it used to be you couldn’t walk within 30 feet of a Starbucks without getting a whiff of a pumpkin spice latte or pumpkin spice chai or pumpkin spice frappuccino.  But now, in 2017: pumpkin spice – it’s not just for coffee shops anymore.

Have you noticed?  It’s everywhere. There are, of course, pumpkin spice scented candles and baked goods.  But, hey, Pumpkin Spice Industry ® , y’all be gettin’ outta hand.  I came across a pumpkin spice bathroom deodorizer. Finally, humanity has the means with which to fool guests to our homes into thinking that it was a festive autumn squash dessert which took a dump in our toilets!

 

rejoicing

And there was much rejoicing.

 

 

And the other goods…yikes. These are just some of the pumpkin spice products I’ve seen/heard of in the past week:

* pumpkin spice chutney
* pumpkin spice pasta
* pumpkin spice shampoo and conditioner
* pumpkin spice body lotion
* pumpkin spice antiperspirant
* pumpkin spice toothpaste
* pumpkin spice doggy chew toy
* pumpkin spice cough drops
* pumpkin spice vinegar

 

You can even purchase a pumpkin spray on spice, to apply to presumable anything that has somehow escaped being pumpkin-ized. (the spray’s how-to-use instructions include this evocative suggestion: Awaken your breakfast.)

 

 

 

bfast

“Yo, breakfast – wake up or I’ll use the spray…”

 

 

 

 

 

The last straw  [6] was yesterday, when I picked up our mail and saw one of those catalogs targeted towards Women of a Certain Age ®…addressed to moiself.  Y’all Lady Folks know what I’m talking about? You’ve never purchased anything from such a catalog, never even knew they existed, and then one day you start getting them in the mail.  [7] They have titles like, As We Change, Soft Surroundings, The Golden Times, and The Best is Yet To Come (which, I think, would be a slogan better suited to selling ED drugs to Men Of A Certain Age ® ).  

 

 

 

as we change

 

 

Oy vey.  I suppose it’s a better title than

As We Shrivel Up and Blow Away:
Feel Like a Nap, Look For Your Eyeglasses, Live Just To Spite Your Heirs

Yet again, I digress.

So, I get this catalog, and discover it contains a little foil sampler packet sample….of a pumpkin spice….ahem….”personal lubricant.”

I kid you not.

 

 

 

kirkscream

That’s…just…WRONG.

 

 

 

 

Okay, that was a (fragrance-free) lie. But the way things are trending, I betcha next year I won’t have to make up anything like that. Anyway, the point:  people, pleeeeeeease, stop. Pumpkin spice your pumpkin pie, and leave the rest alone.

 

 

 

pumpkin

Do I *look* like I want extra foam on my pumpkin spice latte?

 

 

 

*   *   *

May the spice in your life be anything but pumpkin;
May you feel free to trash a classless man;
May you appreciate the true heroes in life;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Like here, and here, and here….

[2] Currently piloting a starship in the TV sci-fi drama/comedy, The Orville.

[3] And many others thought he sought to excuse his exploitation of women by “buying” feminist sympathy, or at least toleration, by throwing money at pro choice organizations.

[4] Who profited greatly from said prudery, for if nudity and sexuality were truly considered healthy and natural, where would be the fun – and why pay for the opportunity – in sneaking behind the bushes and looking at nudie magazines?

[5] As quoted in How Hugh Hefner’s Incredibly Complicated Legacy Got Cast as Female Sexual Liberation, Slate.com

[6] Strangely enough, the straw was not pumpkin-spiced.

[7] I know the gummint is worried about an impending Social Security crisis, but is the SSA selling their data base to marketers?

The Acceptance Letter I’m Not Sending

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Content warning: writer’s rant. This would be so much better with a few poop jokes dropped (sorry) [1]  here and there.

This post is related to the fact that Native American author/poet  [2]  Sherman Alexie has a new book out and is making the rounds of radio/TV/print news media publicity.  I recently heard a portion of a radio interview with him, and it sparked a memory of the occasion when Mr. Alexie’s name was last (to my knowledge) front and center, having to do with a brouhaha in the literary world.

Listening to writers talk about writing (or reading about writers being interviewed about writing) is perhaps my least favorite arts news format.  I have learned to skip most Fresh Air podcasts when a fiction author is featured, as I find their discourse (yes, even when they are being interviewed by the mahhhhhvelous Terry Gross) cringe-worthily pretentious. The author’s work itself, independent of their yakking about it, is often quite a different matter. For example, whether or not I’ve heard him speak (about himself), I have quite enjoyed most of what I’ve read by Mr. Alexie (and have heard good things about him from several independent bookstore owners).

Back to the pesky brouhaha: There may be a few of you non-literary (read: sane, or at least moderately well-adjusted) folks who cannot recall reading about a publishing “scandal” two years ago, described by the New York Times as, A White Poet borrows a Chinese Name and Sets Off Fireworks.  Lucky you.

A brief summation of the fireworks: Every year the Academy of American Poets chooses a different guest editor to select 75 poems to be published in their “Best American Poetry” anthology. Sherman Alexie was the 2015 BAP editor.  Both Alexie and the anthology received some rather intense criticism (read: political/cultural Ad hominen attacks)  having to do with the hot button, Are we having fun now? literary and artistic topics of artistic freedom, diversity, cultural appropriation, inclusion, entitlement….  All this and more sniping discussion came about because the anthology included a poem which was written by a “white” poet writing under a Chinese pseudonym.

Like all of the poems chosen to be in the anthology, Yi-Fen Chou’s “The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve,” had been previously published.  [3]  After the poem was selected for the anthology, the poet Michael Derrick Hudson revealed (to BAP editor Alexie) that Yi-Fen Chou was his pen name. Alexie did not change his decision to publish the poem in the anthology. He included a note in the anthology’s introduction about Hudson’s pseudonym, and also wrote an essay about the experience and his decision.

Excerpts from the 9-10-15 New York Times article (A White Poet borrows a Chinese Name and Sets Off Fireworks; my emphasis)

In an essay on the Best American Anthology blog on Monday, Mr. Alexie, a Native American, defended his decision, saying he had paid closer attention to the poem because of the author’s name — a kind of “racial nepotism,” he said — but ultimately chose it because he liked it.
When Mr. Hudson revealed his use of a pseudonym, Mr. Alexie wrote, he debated how to deal with this instance of “colonial theft,” but decided that dropping the poem “would have cast doubt on every poem I have chosen” and “implied that I chose poems based only on identity.”
“Never thought I’d see poets using yellowface to get published in 2015 but here we are,” Saeed Jones, a poet and the literary editor of Buzzfeed, said on Twitter. Jezebel ran a post under the headline “If You’re a White Man Who Can’t Get Published Under Your Own Name, Take the Hint.”  [4]
Ken Chen, a poet and executive director of the Asian American Writers Workshop, said Mr. Hudson was guilty of “cynical mischief” in the service of a “reactionary fantasy.”
 “He believes that he’s being cheated, and things will only improve if writers of color are virtualized away,” Mr. Chen said in an interview. “If only they didn’t really exist, and were just white guys with pseudonyms.”

*   *   *

 

I was at once frustrated and not at all surprised by the controversy. I was also pleasantly surprised by Mr. Alexie’s honest admission of a not-so-well-kept suspicion/secret in the Animal Farm world of literary submissions and selections: that all animals’ identities are equal, but some animals’ identities are more equal than others.  [5]

As to the this will get me some press over-the-top outrage expressed by some of Mr. Hudson’s fellow poets, their reeks-of-envy hysteria speaks for itself.  I do have a question for Ken Chen, whose festering turd of vitriol  [6]  is included in the last paragraph of the NY Times article (excerpted above).

He believes that he’s being cheated, and things will only improve if writers of color are virtualized away,”…“If only they didn’t really exist, and were just white guys with pseudonyms.”

What kind of bullshit declaration is that?  Mr. Chen, you know nothing re what Mr. Hudson “believes.” Where is your evidence that this person you disparage – whom you’ve apparently never met nor even spoken to – has a “reactionary fantasy” (whatever that is) and thinks “things” will improve  [7] “if writers of color are virtualized away”?

Dude…some unsolicited advice?

 

 

 

 

keep calm

 

 

 

*   *   *

My sister-in-law, “Billy,” is Chinese, a native of Canton. She has assumed her husband’s (my brother’s) Irish surname when they married, and not long before they met she began using a (typically male-associated) first name which she chose because it was easier (than her given Cantonese first name) for Americans to pronounce.  I wonder, what masquerade might she be accused of, were she to become a writer? What accusations of gender/ethnic/cultural nepotism might be flung her way, should she submit work under her adopted name and some other chip-on-their-self-righteously-authentic-shoulder writers discovered she was born Choi Cheok-Jin and not Billy O’Malley[8]

I snickered when I first read about the BAP anthology controversy – snickered to think that someone’s naive knickers could be knotted over the fact that yet another writer had successfully used a strategy that writers throughout history have employed. For a variety of reasons – from subverting sexism,  [9]  a longing for privacy and/or anonymity, the desire to escape typecasting (type-writing?) [10] or just wanting to test and tweak editors’ and publishers’ assumptions about the author’s background – many writers have submitted and do submit their work using a pen name or two.

The author we’ve come to know and love as J.K. Rowling agreed to publish her Harry Potter series using gender ambiguous initials rather than her given name ( Joanne Rowling, no middle initial), because her publisher thought Harry Potter’s target audience (young males) might be put off by a book written by a woman.    Did Rowling (and her publisher) commit “gender nepotism”  [11]  by doing so?

 

 

 

hermione

Accio Neptosium!

 

 

 

 

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I had a story and several poems published in two different literary journals, each of which aspired, as per their “mission statements,” to give voice to the concerns of (the so-labeled) Generation X.  Not only were Gen X-ers these respective journals’ target audience, the journals – both separately and vehemently in their writers’ guidelines – stated that writers submitting work must themselves be of the Gen-X age range.

Which I am not.  And yet, my story and poems were chosen for publication.

I wonder about journals and publishers which stipulate contributor demographics; specifically, how do they enforce their objectives to publish only writers of a certain background or identity (e.g., age/culture/gender/sexual orientation/ethnicity)? Do they make assumptions based on surnames and/or appearances (and thus, for the latter, require photo IDs)? Do they ask for DNA samples?

 

 

 

submission

“Decoding unknown alien transmission… it reads, ‘please submit your manuscript along with your saliva sample….’ “

 

 

 

Since I was not in the target demographic specified for contributors by those particular journals, I suppose you could argue I “cheated” by submitting my work.  I typically scorn publications which have demographic specifications in their writers guidelines, and do not submit my work to such venues (yeah, that’ll show em!).  But, on those two occasions…well, I guess I was feeling frisky.  I decided to submit my work because I thought it a good fit, and also to remind moiself  about the danger of self-censorship in the face of the write-what-you-know/what-you-are balderbash…and to make my point, even if somewhat anonymously, about the power of literature to both include and transcend identity politics….and also, in my own small, pesky way, to mock the “our only criteria is literary excellence” claim often touted by  touted by literary journals and anthologies and writing contest sponsors.

“Our only criteria is excellence (as long as you fit into our special box). Thank you for your excellent work which we’d like to publish…and what do you mean, you’re outside the box?”

I’d long thought about writing and submitting an essay on this topic, but what publishing outlet wants to admit they’ve been stung? The Literary World ®  is not exactly known for humility and modest egos.

Also, I’d been down that road before. One editor told me the following when I submitted to his journal a humor piece mocking the publication world on a related topic (the ubiquity of literary contests and award-bestowing):  Virtually *every* journal or literary venue has a contest/award of some kind. Your chances of finding an editor who would agree to make fun of their own complicity in what you essentially describe as a scam…Look, you’ve written a fine, witty article that is going to be an orphan. You are not going to find a home for this piece.  [12]

I respect journals’ calls for/specializationin /preference for specific subject matter (thus, e.g. I do not submit my non-murder mystery stories to murder mystery journals).  I have nothing but scorn for journals, editors and publishers who champion a system in which, implicitly or explicitly, a We seek stories about poverty-stricken, disaffected white teenage boy gang members, and we will only consider stories by writers who are themselves poverty-stricken, disaffected Midwestern white teenage boy gang members because only about poverty-stricken, disaffected Midwestern white teenage boy gang members can authentically understand and/or are entitled to write about poverty-stricken, disaffected Midwestern  white teenage boy gang members policy is practiced.  [13]

 

 

 

 

buttocks

It’s high time for a pictorial sanity break. Tomatoes resembling buttocks do wonders for the soul.

*   *   *

 

Although I snorted with derision when I read the afore-mentioned Gen-X journals’ guidelines, I did have select pieces that I thought would be a good thematic fit for them. I also noted that neither journal requested contributor photos nor dates of birth, and thus had no way of confirming an author’s generational affiliation.  Heh Heh heh.

I chose to dishonor the journals’ guidelines by sending them my Gen-X-themed-fiction/poetry-written-by-a-non-Gen-Xer. The editors of the journal which published my story effused in the acceptance letter about how I had captured the particular zeitgeist they sought – about how the tone of my story was “exactly what we are looking for.”

Gee, thanks – oh, and by the way, that’s the point of being a *fiction* writer.  Somehow, miraculously, I was able to get the tone without being the tone. It’s called craft; skill; experience; imagination; empathy. It’s called creative writing for a reason, you ageist, imaginatively constipated twerps.
(excerpt from the acceptance acknowledgement letter I did not send)

*   *   *

Department Of This Post Would Be So Much More Entertaining
If It Had Some Poop Jokes In It.

 

 

 

cpt obvious

Well DUH, Captain Obvious.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Seemingly Inappropriate Segue to A Dead Mother Reference

Had she not died (last Christmas Eve), today would have been my mother’s 89th birthday.
Just thinkin.’

ChristmasEve1983

Chet and Marion Parnell, Christmas Eve 1983

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you take more pictorial sanity breaks than appear in this post;
May you occasionally indulge in cynical mischief when it is called for;
May you find entertaining poop jokes (or whatever floats your boat) somewhere, if not in this space;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Not really.

[2] And the fact that, in this Identity Politik world, Alexie is commonly introduced and/or described in these venues not as an American poet/author but as a Native American poet/author is also related to the subject of this post.

[3] In venues ranging from large-circulation periodicals to obscure literary journals, small press anthologies or a collection of an individual poet’s work ( and in the case of this particular poem, in the literary journal Prairie Schooner).

[4] Despite Jones’ and Jezebel’s hissy fits to the contrary, there is no “hint” for the poet Hudson to take, as poems under Mr. Hudson’s own name have been published in numerous journals.

[5] This covers a variety of identities and interpretations, having to do with an author’s “name” value just as much (or more) than their cultural identity (i.e. a shitty poem by a well-known poet is more likely to get consideration and even publication than a fantastic poem by a newbie or no-name poet).

[6] No personal attacks in this space – it’s against my principles.

[7] What does that bizarre phrase even mean, in this or any other context – things will improve ?

[8] For privacy reasons, these names are similar to, but not actually, either  her real birth name nor her adopted name.

[9] Emily Bronte (aka “Ellis Belle” for Wuthering Heights and Mary Ann Evans (aka “George Elliot” for Middlemarch) and Karen Blixen (aka “Isak Dinensen” for Out of Africa) and the prolific French author Aurore Dupin (aka “George Sand”) and Alice Bradley Shelton (aka sci fi’s “James Tiptree Jr.” for The Girl Who Was Plugged In) are just a few of the numerous women who’ve used male pen names to submit their works without prejudice. Until relatively recently, most publishers would not even look at manuscripts submitted under a female pen name (and prejudice still exists, as per the J.K. Rowling and James Triptree Jr. decisions re their respective genres).

[10] As in writers known for a certain genre who want their non-genre work to be judged for itself, and not on their prior works…see following footnote for one notable example.

[11] Rowling has also published a crime novel series under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

[12] He was right…except that I did find a home for it. My essay, You Can Be (or already are) an Award-Winning Writer! was published (retitled as Author! Author!) in Bear Deluxe magazine.

[13] Imagine the likely antacid addiction of the publisher who, had he adhered to such standards, would have forever been known as the douchebag who refused to consider the manuscript for The Outsiders  (and Rumble Fish  and Tex and That was Then..This is Now, and the other young adult novels of S.E. Hinton ) because of who the author was not.

 

The Suspicious Behavior I’m Not Reporting

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Department Of How To Answer A Stupid How-To

jetlag

 

Answer: I don’t need to read further; the solution is obvious. Never fly out of your time zone.  Duh.

If this blog post makes even less sense than usual, I have the downside of going on holiday to blame. Yep, I’ve been whacked upside the head by the jet lag zombie.

 

 

 

zombie sleep

 

 

 

 

The previous week’s posts, in which I alluded to my being on a blog sabbatical, were due to MH and I being in Ireland.  I’m still not sufficiently recovered to write about the trip, which was great craic  [1]in so many ways and only El Sucko in a few ways (as any overseas traveler knows, being there is lovely; the logistics of getting to and from there is horrid).

And then, a day and a half after our return, we got up at 4:30 am to take our son K in for jaw surgery, to fix a jaw malformation/misalignment which year$$ of orthodontia was unable to correct. [2]

Thus, the blog subject potpourri continues.

*   *   *

 

MH and I used public transport to begin our Ireland vacation.  We “took the train,” which in Portland Metro Area Speak ® translates as we rode the light rail (aka Trimet or The Max) to the airport. As we took our seats (‘way back on May 25), I listened to an automated alert which played as the train began to move – an alert which, for some reason, struck me in an unusual manner (read: I paid attention to it). Just for a wee moment I considered taking action, after looking around the train, when The Automated Voice Of Authority reminded passengers that we are requested to “stay alert and report any suspicious objects or behaviors.”

Hello, Trimet? I’d like to report suspicious behavior: there’s this one person on the train who is NOT looking down at his cellphone.

 

 

cellphone

*   *   *

Department Of Travel Odds And Ends

A few Wee Observations from the tour part of our trip (MH and I arrived a couple of days early in Dublin, had a few adventures on our own, then joined a Rick Steves tour of the island).

☼  Our tour guide was a proud native of Belfast. As such, her accent was more Northern Ireland/Scottish than the brogues we Americans struggled to translate  got to hear and enjoy in the towns of the Irish Republic. I was able to figure out some of what she and her Northern Ireland compatriots were doing with certain articulations. For example, in words containing ow and ou  letter combinations, the vowel sounds morphed into something resembling a long I (i.e., town became tine; the British currency, the pound, was a pined).

Some of our guide’s vowel-tweaking ventures proved to be especially entertaining. My favorites included one afternoon when, while traveling by bus to our next adventure, she began telling us about films she recommended we see – movies which included scenery we’d just visited and/or illustrated some part of The Irish Experience ® . She was giving a brief plot summary of one such film during a time when I was feeling the effects of the previous night’s revelry and was starting to doze off.  I was gobsmacked into alertness when I heard her say that a certain film’s main character ended up committing suicide by firearm – however, what with the guide’s accent, I heard her say, He ended up shitting himself to death.

Lynn was a good sport when I pointed out what it was I’d thought she said…and the raucous laughter of my fellow tour members indicated it wasn’t only moiself who’d had that impression.  [3]  Then, just a day or so later, when she was describing the certainty of another grand adventure we were going to have, she used the phrase, “Sure As Shootin.’ “  Guess what the rest of us heard?

☼  Our guide alerted us to her N. Ireland heritage, which she blamed for her prolific usage of the modifier, wee.  Nothing in Ireland was little, [4] but you will stop for a wee bit to take a wee break in a wee town for a wee cup of tea…and then may find yourself looking for a wee room (we – sorry – tour members thought that was what she’d also referred to as the loo).

☼  A few days after we (not wee) had left Dublin and were on our way to the charming town of Dingle, MH mentioned to moiself that we’d passed through a (wee) portion of County Limerick, without having heard nor recited even one of the region’s eponymous poems. Guess whose wheels started turning when presented with that observation?

The next night, at a group dinner, MH and I lauded our intrepid bus driver (Stephen) and our guide with a Limerick for Lynn:

 

We toasted dear Stephen and Lynn
with six rounds of tonic and gin.
As we finished round three
Lynn giggled with glee,
“To stop now ‘twould be a wee sin!”

 

 

 

menu

 

 

 

 

☼  The food. We had some amazing meals in Ireland (and yep, potatoes every which way), especially those featuring seafood.  One night at a pub, in the mood for something green other than mushy peas, I saw nachos listed on the menu.

 

 

 

peas

Mushy peas, or guacamole? Enquiring tastebuds want to know.

 

 

 

 

I was intrigued, and also cautious.  How bad could it be; I mean, what can you do to nachos? I said to moiself.  Guess what? I found out.

It seems the Irish get their avocados from Spain and their guacamole recipe…from your Midwestern aunt who thinks the height of haute cuisine is to put a dollop of mayonnaise on a chunk of withered orange Jell-O and call it a salad.

☼  Apparently, when I enter a pub, a hitherto invisible neon sign lights up on my forehead – a sign visible only to old Irish men, drunk or sober, married or single, amply-toothed or dentally-challenged –  which reads, TALK TO THIS WOMAN SHE REALLY WANTS TO HEAR ALL OF YOUR STORIES.

 

 

Portrait of old irishman in pub, Killarglin, Ireland.

“Oh and then have I told you about my dear wife Mary, departed from me these past five years, what a beauty she was, and shall we be lifting a pint to her, and do you dance?”

*   *   *

Department Of Gratuitous Ethnic Humor

 

So, an Irishman walks out of a bar….

Nah, just kidding.

 

 

pub

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Travel Warnings

MH’s reaction to reviewing our Irish tour schedule, which included a three day/two night stay in the picturesque town of Dingle:

Whatever you do in that town, don’t eat the berries.

*   *   *

 

Before I travel to an exotic land  [5]  I like to read up on the history of the place, and also partake of a sampling of its regional fiction. When it came to the latter, I quickly tired of the inevitable and seemingly unceasing themes of contemporary Irish fiction: the relentless poverty; the sexual/gender/intellectual repression and retardation of the mind and spirit in that religion-burdened society….

Still, I’m glad I dipped my toes into the (depressing yet filled with spurts of black humor) waters, as I encountered arguably [6] the greatest image-provoking sentence in literature, re Dan Egan and his best friend who, suspected by British Black and Tan constables as being IRA sympathizers, were arrested, interrogated, beaten, and bound together:

“And when Dan Egan had to do number two they were still tied together and that made them buddies forever.”
(Edna O’Brien, A Pagan Place)

 

*   *   *

Department Of Do You See What I See  [7]

 

Apropos of nothing related to Ireland, do you see the alien in the coat hook?

 

 

 

coathookJPG

“Fear not; I come in peace. Place your earthling cover garments onto my arms, and I shall watch over them.”

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Nothing To Do With Travel

Content warning: fake cowboys and authentic smoking actors

I was recently delighted to encounter, via That Odd Radio Station I’ve Been Listening To ®, yet another theme song to a TV show I hitherto had no idea ever existed (Lawman). Yet another reason to go on living – life is replete with unimagined treasures.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Petty Pleasures

Division Of Making Lemonade from Lemons

Dateline: Tuesday, 6/13, 5 am-ish, at a Portland Hospital, awaiting K’s jaw surgery.  Exhausted and jet-lagged and questioning the wisdom of my having driven under such circumstances, I dropped off MH and K at the hospital’s main entrance while I searched for a parking space. After making several loops of the lot, I espied a car pulling out of a prize spot (so close to the entrance!) and steered toward it. I departed and locked my vehicle and prepared to scurry away to join MH and son K in the pre-op waiting area…then noticed a white and red sign on the wall behind the parking spot.

It was quite satisfying, after the initial frustration of noticing the Reserved For Chaplain sign, to hear moiself  sputter, oh godfucking dammit.

 

 

 

clergy

 

*   *   *

May you feel as if Life has given you a reserved parking spot;
May you always talk with old Irish men in pubs;
May you always try the berries in Dingle;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Excuse the Irish slang…there may be a lot of it forthcoming. Look up this particular term – in English it is pronounced crack, but don’t be thinking you know what that means when your Irish buddy asks you where in the USA can she find some great craic.

[2] The surgery was scheduled before we left. It was…let me just say that I am amazed at how quickly gruesome procedures can be performed nowadays. K is well and is recovering at our home, on the Mushy Foods Only Diet, ® which is thought to be SO COOL when you are a kid – ice cream, pudding, Jell-o and milkshakes, for every meal! – but which is actually quite tedious when you are an adult.

[3] Several tour members exchanged suspicious glances and traded comments along the lines of, “Well, I’ve heard you could die from embarrassment, but that one’s a first.”

[4] Which they pronounce as LIT-ul.

[5] E.g. Slovenia, Croatia, Ireland, Utah….

[6] Were I to argue with myself. And win.

[7] And if so, when was the last time you saw your ophthalmologist?

The Phone Call I’m Not Returning

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But first: The phone calls I am making…and you?

Regular readers (and by regular I mean your habitual viewing of this blog, and not your digestive frequencies) know I’ve been avoiding posting many political blurbs for the past several months, a situation that is likely to continue.

However, I will gird my online loins re the latest outrage by the (soon-to-be ex-) #45: the firing of the FBI Director. You know where this is leading. The Cheetos Hitler fires people who look too closely at his dealings.

Folks, the next step is to call [1] your representatives and demand the appointment of an independent special prosecutor if you’re concerned about a thorough and accurate investigation (then keep those numbers on speed dial; you’re gonna need ’em). Easiest way to get your rep’s phone numbers: Text your zip code to 520-200-2223.

It took all of 30 seconds for me to either leave a message, on my Rep’s answering machine or with the Very Nice Staff Person ®, that went something like this:

Good morning; my name is _____ ; I’m a constituent of ______(rep’s name), and I’m calling to demand the appointment of an independent special prosecutor to do a thorough and accurate investigation of the firing of the FBI Director and the #45 administration’s ties to Russia. Thank you for your time. Is there any other information you need from me?”   [2]

Next step: Text the word RESIST to 504-09. When prompted, demand a congressional joint select committee to investigate Trump/Russia NOW. If we don’t demand this now, it may not happen. This action takes less than one minute. Our complacency/inaction may have a lifetime of repercussions.

 

 

 

putin

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

About that other phone call….

 

Hello; I’m calling for Robyn Parnell. My name is….

The name was garbled on the answering machine message. The message went on to identify Mr. Garbled Name as a reporter for a local community newspaper.  [3]  Mr. Garbled Name  wanted to interview me because, he said, I am a published writer who lives in the community, and “I know there are a lot of people in the community who are interested in your books.”  Mr. Garbled said he wanted to do a feature story on me, and could I call him back before five?

I received the message in the early afternoon. Later that day when I told MH about the message, I indulged in a moment of self-righteous huffiness about the call-before-five request, which reminded me of one of those As Seen On TV ads (Wait – there’s more! You get the entire set of Ginzu steak knives AND the weed whacker, but only if you contact our operators before 9 pm!!)

MH came to Mr. Garbled’s defense by pointing out the obvious: the reporter was on deadline.  True, I conceded, but other people also have schedules/deadlines…oh wait a sec, what am I thinking? Writers are supposed to grovel in swamp water/skip their grandmother’s funeral jump at any opportunity for publicity.

Thirty years doing this, and I still suck at self-promotion. It’s like I didn’t get the memo.

For a moment I considered looking up the newspaper’s website, trying to figure out who the reporter might be. Just for a moment, I considered sending him an email. The email I did not send might have read something like the following:

(there would be an opening line or two, thanking him for his interest and respectfully declining his request).

I know about these feature stories on local ______ artists; writer).  I’ve read them; I’ve been the subject of them. I’ve gritted my teeth while being interviewed (by perfectly nice reporters) for them, feeling like a fraud because I know what I’m supposed to say [4] to make the story a pleasant and safe read suitable for a community audience. And I don’t want to play that dull/safe game that anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know what you and your editors (think you) need: a Shiny Happy People, 500 – 700 word, feel-good story, wherein at some point the writer encourages other would-be writers, especially children, to follow their dream. [5]  That’s the story you want me to tell so that it can be the story you write. And in the nicest of ways and using just the right amount of flattery, you dangle the promise of publicity.  [6]

Thank you for your interest, but I must let you know that you will not make this particular deadline if the feature is dependent on me being the focus.  I have no doubt that you will find another local writer who will be thrilled to be the subject of your feature story – that’s a no brainer. But, trust me, you don’t want my story.

My story is not for a feel-good feature in a community newspaper. It’s not necessarily a mo-better story (nor a mo-bitter story), but it is quite different from what you seek. It is the story of a writer, who wanted to write fiction and did, despite having no rose-colored delusions about the realities of getting published. It is the story about a writer who knew the statistics, did the work anyway, and got published in “real” established/legitimate markets by “real” publishers.  [7]

It is the story about a published writer who came to despise the business end of writing – a writer who had not anticipated the extent of self-promotion and fame-seeking which would, increasingly be demanded by those same “real” publishers but who herself had zero interest in that kind of life. It is a story about a published author who, at her own and other authors’ book release parties/book readings/book signings/book fairs and other literary events, had seen other authors who were comfortable with being in the spotlight – to the point of actively seeking and obviously reveling in it. And she didn’t like what she saw and what she felt when she observed those other authors.  [8]

 

It is a story at once simple and complicated; it’s about a writer who wanted to write, and who didn’t give two shakes of a spasmodic kangaroo rat’s ass about “being a writer” other than by actually writing – a writer who abhorred the dangled carrot of the limelight, who preferred anonymity amongst strangers, even in this Look at Me/Everyone Can Be A Celebrity/Selfie-obsessed society.

In other words, this is the story of a literary misfit (read; lunatic).

 

To do it justice, this story (or the many ones like it which could be written) could not even begin to be outlined in a community newspaper feature article. [9]  Ideally, this story would be the journalistic equivalent of a mini-series, with a narrative tone reminiscent of an investigative documentary. The tale would be a tapestry: threads of the reasons why one particular fiction writer lost the love for and motivation to do the work skillfully interwoven with those strands spun from the dreary state of publishing fiction today,  [10] the latter of which includes the theoretical expanding of “markets and opportunities” (e.g. online book sales, e- publishing, e-mags) leading to the virtual expanding of theft/e-piracy/copyright violations/rights grabs by publishers  [11]  …in a nutshell, more “opportunities” for writers to work without getting paid.  [12]

Given the right narrative structure, it is a tale I might be interested in reading…someday. But it won’t be this week, and it won’t be about me.

 

 

 

 

 

With all that has been going on in my life, this – the phone message re the interview – is the first time in several months where I have been “confronted’ with the reality of my sabbatical. I’ve no reason to assume the reporter was anything other than a Nice Guy ® who was just doing his job. Still, I was (almost) surprised by my complete lack of interest in doing the interview, as well as in the effort it took for moiself to summon up even a twinge of regret for not calling him back.

Okay. Getting into Way Too Serious Territory ©. There must be a way to segue into a literary fart joke.

 

 

 

humerusjpg

*   *   *

 

Department Of Silver Linings

The previously-mentioned Phone Call I Did Not Return © did end up providing me with my best belly laugh of the week.

 

 

 

martha

 

 

 

When I first played back the message and couldn’t understand the person’s name, I didn’t listen to the entire message – I hit the replay button and turned up the volume, hoping to get the name. Volume, schmolume – I still couldn’t make out his name, but heard loud and clear his assertion that he knew there are a lot of people in the community who are interested in your books, which caused me to guffaw, “Not according to my royalty statements.”

 

 

 

piggy

*   *   *

 

 

Department Of Things That Frost My Butt
Installment 621 in a series

(Pre-rant background information: I volunteer for a feline-specific animal adoption organization, at one of their offsite locations. The majority of the cats and kittens are housed at the mother ship, aka the main shelter in south Washington County city. Kittys are also housed at several offsite adoption centers – generally, pet supplies stores which have special cat kennel section which they lease to the shelter.)

To the Guy (and it’s always a guy) who walks his dog (it can be any breed, from the 5 lb yippies to the 80 lb Dobermans) up and down the aisles of the PetOpia store:  Dude, you hold your dog up to the glass wall of an animal’s kennel/habitat and encourage your canine to bark/growl/otherwise harass the animal (usually a cat, but I’ve seen it happen to rabbits, gerbils and other rodents, reptiles, birds, other/smaller dogs) housed on the other side of the glass.  Anyway, you know who you are…

On second thought, you probably don’t. Your actions indicate that there is nary an introspective bone in your body, only a thick mass of bone-like tissue where your brain should be housed.

Every time it happens, a part of me is surprised as well as disgusted. Apparently, because you have an animal with you and you are in a pet supplies store, I hold the (obviously mistaken) assumption that you are fond of animals. And yet you engage in this behavior as if it were playful, and persist in encouraging your dog to bark at the other animal despite  [13] seeing obvious signs of distress in that animal.

And I, a volunteer for an organization which depends upon the goodwill of the pet supplies store in order to have that adoption space at the store, have been explicitly instructed that I am forbidden from confronting you. I can only “redirect” your behavior and attempt to educate you; I can’t kick your sorry sadistic ass to the curb.

If only for a taser gun with a heat-seeking, genital-specific probe….

 

 

 

stupidpeople

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you never be One Of Those People other people want to kick to the curb;
May your story be one that can fit into a 500 word feature (…or…not);
May you continue La Résistance and contact your elected officials;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Second choice: fax (last choice: email). According to Congressional representatives’ staff, fax & phone calls are the most effective ways to get attention.

[2] They have your phone number once you call; they may want your zip code & address.

[3] Yes, they still exist.

[4] And I know, even if I don’t say what I’m supposed to say, you will spin my quotes in such a way as to make me say what I’m supposed to say.

[5] Except that dream where you show up naked for the SAT test.

[6] Aka an audience; a platform; exposure….

[7] Read; no self-publishing, vanity or subsidy or hybrid publishing.

[8]  As per my professional writer personality, ® I have the limelight-averse temperament of a Harper Lee or J.D. Salinger without having written their bestsellers. Not exactly a publisher’s dream.  😉

[9] Yep, accusations of elitism are likely to be flung at this assertion.

[10] The Author’s Guild  is America’s oldest and largest professional and advocacy organization for writers; if interested search for their and others’ lawsuits, such as AG v. Google, independent publishers v. Amazon,  even universities sued for engaging in unauthorized digitization of copyrighted works… and I do love that you can google lawsuits against Google.

[11] The AG article The Wages of Writing summarized the results of the most comprehensive author survey since 2009: authors’ income is down significantly across all categories (full-time and part-time authors, and that full-time authors with 15+ years experience saw the most declines); authors spend more time on marketing and (thus) less on writing ….. Click here for more detailed and depressing survey results.

[12] Including…ahem…blogs!

[13] Or because of…bullies apparently do not limit their torments to their own species.

The Secrets I’m Not Publishing

Comments Off on The Secrets I’m Not Publishing

 

Department of IF ONLY

Dateline: Tuesday, April 25, 8:31 am. I turn to the last page of the New York Times Arts section, only to have my eyeballs unexpectedly and viciously assaulted [1] by an enormous, surgically-stiffened nightmare of a visage – it is an advertisement for a “book.” The “face” to which I referred currently belongs to a particular offshoot from a particular celebrity-mongering hominid tribe. The ad takes up the entire page

The entire fucking page.

A really big headline –  FINALLY, THE WHOLE STORY – menacingly looms above a really big picture of the product being flogged: the ironically and erroneously entitled, The Secrets Of My Life. Caitlyn Jenner.

 

 

 

KHAN

No. No.  No. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

 

 

 

If only such would truly be kept confidential – which is in fact what a secret is.  That title; that book; those people…. So wrong, on so many levels. Including that of basic word usage and definitions. How can there be any “secrets” about any member of that conniving clan of celebrity seekers whose only talent is self-promotion – a tribe who seemed determined to convince The Rest Of Us ®  that a colonoscope’s view into their every moment is warranted?

 

 

policetape

Back off, folks. Move along; there’s nothing here to see.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Correspondence Re Dead Friends

Bay Area friends LH and DH, who are very much alive, were up for a visit last weekend. LH, a fellow UCD alum, had expressed her condolences re the death of my friend since college, Jim, the One Of The Nicest People You’ll Ever Meet ® (mentioned in last week’s blog).  LH has also experienced the recent passing of several loved ones, and we email wondered (e-wondered?) back and forth about the situations. Are we getting to that stage in our lives, or are these deaths just a wobble in the Circle Of Life’s orbit?

Here is what moiself mused:

 One of the things I’ve long admired about some of the Buddhist perspectives on life is that there is an admission, right up front, that life is tough! No one gets out alive (well, then there is that silly reincarnation crap….).

I wish I could remember the phrasing; I know it’s not the 4 Noble Truths or the 8 Fold Path (Buddhism is big on numbering things), but a few years back I came across a list of Buddhist observations that were as profound as they were simple. I kept the list in my office, and now I can’t find it (a cat probably barfed on it, and it got thrown out).

It forthright, yet somehow not depressing, and goes something like this:

It is in my nature to grow old;

– It is in my nature to contract illness;

– It is in my nature to have the cat barf on things that are important to me.

And so on. As you may have guessed, that third observation isn’t really attributed to the Buddha (but if he’d had a cat I know he would have been enlightened on the matter).

So, I guess it is in our nature to, as the years go by, be adding to our list of loss. That doesn’t mean I have to like it…

I guess it keeps me humble, how even the things I *know* are inevitable (like my mother’s and Jim’s deaths) and think I have prepared for still sneak up and kick me in the spleen. And I want to kick back SO HARD but there’s nothing to aim at. At least the MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) course I recently completed is helping.

WAIT  WAIT – I FOUND IT! It is called The Five Remembrances (see, I told you about the numbers thing). The idea behind the Five Remembrances is this: when we deny the reality of life, we appreciate it less. There are several versions/phrasings; the following is attributed to Thich Nhat Hanh.

* I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

* I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health.

* I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.

* All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.

* My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

 

 

buddha cat

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I’ve Always Thought My Dinner With Andre Was Overrated,
But Dinner With A Dung Beetle Is Spectacular

The lowly dung beetles – where would we be without them?   [2]  Dung beetles are some of the most unappreciated creatures on this planet, so I was thrilled to run across a short-but-sweet video clip about them, via the NY Times. Dinner With a Dung Beetle is a presentation about – a tribute to, really – these vital creatures.

Naturally, the dung beetle video got me to thinking about potluck dinner parties.

 

 

siriusly

 

 

Yes, seriously.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (read: when our now young adult offspring were still living at home), we used to host potluck dinner parties for ~ 20 – 30 people on a regular basis. The parties always had a theme, and guests were encouraged to bring food to share that they could justifiably claim was appropriate to the theme.

Past dinner party themes included

Cusina Obscura  [3]

*  White Trash Potluck   [4]

*  The PuPu Palace   [5]

*  Better Red Than Dead  [6]

One of our most memorable parties was held in the autumn of 2005, when MH, son K, daughter Belle and moiself transformed our humble abode into The Dung Beetle Café. The guests were encouraged to bring round or “roll-able” culinary creations, in honor of dung beetles but also to celebrate the Autumnal Equinox. Or, at least that’s how we convinced our guests to attend.

The real story behind what sparked the party theme was an evening several weeks prior to the party, when my ungrateful wretches darling offspring complained yet again about the exotic (to their middle school palates) meal I had once again served for dinner…which lead to them being treated to the following harangue serene clarification from moiself.

Do you know how lucky you are? You should be thankful we’re not…uh…a family of wolves. What if your father and I were wolves? Each night, after a long day of hunting, we’d return to the den, greet our pups – that’s YOU – with howls of, “We’re home – gather ’round, time to eat!” And then we’d serve you dinner by regurgitating the elk we’d eaten and partially digested.

Or what if we were…dung beetles, yeah! What if we were a family of dung beetles?  “Hey Mom, what are you making for dinner tonight?”  The answer would be the same, Every. Single. Time. “Good news, kids, it’s DUNG for dinner!”

 

While my kids counted their blessings I left the dinner table, scurried to my office and wrote myself a note about what would be the theme for our next dinner party. The rest is potluck party history.

 

 

 

dung

Is this a great party or what?!

 

 

 

About a year or so ago MH heard someone tell a dung beetle joke – the first dung beetle joke MH had ever heard. Romantic fool that he is, he couldn’t wait to tell me about it. I was smiling the rest of the day, in awe of the joke’s masterful sublimity. I’m smiling right now, just to have this chance to share it with lucky y’all.

A dung beetle walks into a bar and asks the bartender, “Is this stool taken?”

 

 

 

duck

The chicken doesn’t talk, either.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you have many great remembrances of many friends;
May you appreciate culinary diversity in all forms;
May you tell me every dung beetle joke you hear, the moment after you hear them;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1]  I feel as if my retinas have been scarred. And it’s not like I was standing in line at the supermarket and caught a glimpse of a tabloid headline, and could then look away. I turned the page of a (formerly) respectable newspaper, and was ambushed.

[2] Answer: covered in manure.

[3] Foods of the “minor” cuisines, as defined by people’s familiarity with the cuisine and/or its availability in restaurants.  In other words, none of the usual suspects — French, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Thai, Japanese, Indian, Mexican, German, Moroccan….  How about Gourmet Guyanan?  Savory Samoan?  Nouvelle Netherlands or Norwegian Noshes? Tasty Tibetan? Yummy Yemeni…?  

[4] White Trash Food was defined for the party as embarrassing comfort food. From the party invitation:  That is, food you (at one time) ate and even liked, but would hesitate to share with others. Are you ashamed to admit you loved your school cafeteria’s “Salmon Surprise?” Do you secretly crave your Aunt Erva’s liver/lima bean/cream cheese casserole, or have fond flashbacks re surviving college on Kraft Mac and/or Stouffer’s chicken pot pies?  This is your chance to share these goodies with others, in an atmosphere of mutual confession, acceptance, and acid reflux.

[5] Pupus, as in appetizers and “finger foods.” From the Hawaiian-derived term  pū-pū, which indicates a relish, appetizer, or hors d’oeuvre.

[6] Guests were asked to bring a Red Food dish to share.  There are the classics — Cajun red beans & rice; beet juice risotto; Red Hot Chili Pepper layer cake…. An imaginative interpretation of the theme was strongly encouraged, as we feared dining on nothing but cabernet and ketchup.

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