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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

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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.

The Headwind I’m Not Appreciating

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Department Of Future Aspirations

Yoga teacher giving instructions on how to perform Supported Bridge Pose:

* Place a yoga block by your side and lie supine on your mat, arms at your side.

*Bend your knees; rest your feet flat on the floor, hips width apart, toes and heels in a line, heels as close to your sit bones as possible.

* Exhale, press your feet into the floor. Inhale and gently lift your hips off your mat, just enough to slide the block underneath you.

* Position the block low against the back of the pelvis, so that your sacrum is supported on the block and your fleshy buttocks are just off the edge of the block….

In my next life I want to be a yoga teacher, if only to have a legitimate, professional reason to use phrases like,  fleshy buttocks.

*   *   *

Department Of Simple Pleasures That Have Me Humming Like An Idiot
For The Rest Of The Day

Last Friday, a few hours after last week’s blog was posted live, I was driving to yoga class, listening to The Local Radio Station With The Eclectic Playlist I’ve Mentioned Before ® (in the 2-24 post). I had to take time for a driveway moment  [1] when I got to my destination (or perhaps in that case, a parking lot moment?).

Whatever the name of the pause, I had to take it. Because, apropos of nothing, the station had begun playing the theme song to the cartoon series, Underdog.

Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve even thought of that show, or heard the theme song? [2]

 

 

 

underdog

♫… speed of lightning, roar of thunder/  fighting all who rob or plunder….♫

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Privilege Schmivelige – Appreciate The Reality Of Your Tailwinds

 

No, this is not an elaborate set up for a fart joke.

 

 

astonishedspock

I find your assurance quite unnecessary, given the fact that all known sentient species appreciate  fart jokes.

 

 

Ahem. I instead refer to the Freakonomics podcast I recently listened to (the March 15 episode). The episode has the provocative if whiny title , Why Is My life So Hard? . This podcast has, IMHO, performed a public service by giving us another metaphor with which to understand the much-debated concept of privilege.

It seems that some white men feel put upon when it comes to any discussion of the white male privilege thing. Or perhaps I should say, some “men who believe that they are white,” as author Ta-Nehisi Coates puts it, in his wonderful book, Between the World and Me.  Coates reminds us that DNA and genetic analysis show there is no such biological reality as ‘race;” rather, the invention of race (and thus, racism) come from the human need to construct a social hierarchy.

Once again, I digress.

It seems that many….

 

 

confusedspock

For example, the Tellarites consider flatulence humor a necessary overture to the establishment of successful diplomatic relations, as I discovered when the Tellarite ambassador mistook my greeting as an invitation to pull upon my outstretched digits in expectation that he would subsequently hear the sound of emissions of a gaseous nature passing through an unobserved part of my anatomy….

 

Yeah. 

I’ll start again.

It seems to moiself that there are white men who feel put upon by any mention of white male privilege. It also seems that most of the men I know personally – compassionate, empathetic and intelligent dudes that they are – do not feel that way.  [3]  For those who do, perhaps it might help to try to understand the reality of social privilege through the metaphor of headwinds and tailwinds.

The stated purpose of the particular podcast to which I refer was to try to understand why it’s so easy for many people to “…feel put upon, to feel resentful, to feel that life has made things harder for them than it has for other people.” The podcast features two psychologists, who study how people make judgments and decisions in their everyday and professional lives, discussing their recently published paper, The headwinds/tailwinds asymmetry: An availability bias in assessments of barriers and blessings.

 

 

 

angry spock

You needlessly complicate matters! Had you heeded my original admonition, you could be entertaining your patient yet bored readers with the “Lethal Atmosphere” video by now.

 

 

 

Thank you for your suggestion, Commander. I’ll keep that in mind.

AS I WAS SAYING….

Both competitive and recreational runners and cyclists know that when you have a headwind, it’s not very pleasant. You’re aware of it the whole time; it impedes your progress and you can’t wait until the course/road changes so that you can get the wind at your back. When you reach that 180 turn and have the wind “on your side,” you are relieved and exhilarated…but only for a little bit.

You remain conscious of a headwind the entire time you’re fighting against it, but you quickly stop appreciating the boost a tailwind gives you – you take it for granted, even to the point of forgetting that it exists.

“…you’re grateful for about a minute. And very quickly, you no longer notice the wind at your back that’s helping push you along. And what’s true when it comes to running or cycling is true of life generally.
We have to pay attention to the barriers in front of us because we have to get over them, or get through them in some way. We have to overcome them. We don’t have to pay attention to those things that are boosting us along. We can just be boosted along. And that fundamental asymmetry in attention is the headwinds/tailwind asymmetry.”
 (Tom Gilovich, Cornell University Professor of Psychology,
known for his research in heuristics and cognitive biases)

In our society, white males – even those born into poverty, as was my father – have had a tailwind for hundreds if not thousands of years. As marginalized groups begin to make gains in access and power, WMs may begin to believe that their advantages – which they probably don’t even think of as advantages, but merely as their “lot” in life or their circumstances – are diminishing. That belief is not entirely incorrect; their advantage is diminishing…just a smidge.  But it’s still there; it’s still an edge they have, over someone not born into their social potential and advantages.  [4]

“…What we’ve shown in the lab is directly applicable to some of the discussions going on in the country right now. There’s this term that “there’s a war on white males these days,” white Christian men, and channeled through the headwinds/tailwinds asymmetry, you could see why that group would think that. That is to say, the influence they’ve had has decreased, and of course that’s the focus of their attention. That decrease. At the same time, if you look at it from the outside, what you see is an enormous advantage that had existed for hundreds of years being reduced just a little bit. And from an outside perspective, it doesn’t look like at all like a war, it looks like just a little bit of rebalancing and we even need to rebalance some more.
(Tom Gilovich, from the Freakonomics interview, my emphases)

 

 

Here. Are you happy now, Spock?

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you appreciate the wind when it is at your back;
May you appreciate the headwinds with which others have to contend;
May you always root for the underdog;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] You are likely familiar with the concept if not the term: a driveway moment is when you just can’t leave your car after returning home, but turn off the engine and stay for a few minutes with the radio on, because you’re captivated by a story – say, something on NPR, or perhaps a Serial podcast – you’ve been listening to.

[2] And the masses respond, their voices raised in unison, Do you know how long it’s been since we’ve cared?

[3] Or at least they do not admit to feeling that way.

[4] Even my father, 4th of 6 children born to a pair of marginally educated, impoverished tenant farmers, had an advantage and potential:  over his sisters and other females, by being male, and over the other tenant farmer families, who were the descendants of African slaves. My father’s father was illiterate, to the point that his wife, who had all of a 5th grade education, had to read his farm contracts to him and then he would sign them with the proverbial X. Yet was made foreman over the other (black) tenant farmers, most of whom could read and write, because, as my father once told me, “You would have had a riot back then if you put a black man in charge of a white man.”

The History I’m Not Reading

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Content warning: Yes, content follows. Y’all been warned.

Plus (or bonus, depending on your POV), juvenile fart reference.

 

*   *   *

Department Of First Things First

Happy (almost) Birthday to the Queen of Hats!  [1]   This chapeau is for you.

 

 

 

hat

*   *   *

 

“For the great Gaels of Ireland
Are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry,
And all their songs are sad.”  [2]

MH and I are traveling ’round Ireland in the late spring.

 

 

happy sheep dance

 

 

Thank you! We’re excited, too.

I try to read up on the history of places I’m going to visit, and also sample the destination’s contemporary art (in the form of fiction and films). As per the former endeavor, I am currently and once again reminded of why I loathe reading history: because war and religion, two of the most despicable human enterprises, IMHO, almost always figure so prominently. And in Irish history, the combination of the two is a feckin’ load of ballsch to curl your clackers.  [3]

I cannot recall the source of the nailed-it! quote I ran across, several years ago (I believe it was from an Irish novelist, not a historian), which went something along the lines of this:  Ireland’s cultural and political woes can be attributed to the fact that the Irish are “a twice colonized people – first by the Catholics and then by the British.”

There are many ways to interpret history, and two “sides” I keep encountering, each which urges the reader to keep in mind either (1) “History is written by the winners,” or (2) “History is written by the literate, whether or not they were the ultimate winners.”

 

 

spockskeptic

And your point would be?

 

 

 

Whatever. In either case, and especially with regards to reading Irish and European history, it’s the nomenclature, for lack of a better term, that gets to me. Consider the many, many, many – and did I mention a whole lotta? – pages devoted to the various invasions of “The barbarians.” Some of these pages are contained in a book I recently finished, the presumptuously titled, How The Irish Saved Civilization. HTISC, by it’s very title, presents a (dubious, in some critics’ eyes) supposition as fact. The book essentially argues for the elevation of the importance of the Irish Catholic clergy in preserving Western culture after the collapse of the Roman Empire, when western Europe was “…being overrun by barbarians” (aka the Huns, and the Visigoths and other Germanic tribes).

So. We have the entrenched residents, whose beliefs and actions I would not hesitate to call barbaric, whose priests waged wars and inquisitions to subjugate, torture and kill “heretics” (defined however they chose, from those who simply disagreed with official policy, to philosophers, Jews, “Witches,” Protestant reformers, and other fellow Catholics, the various factions who slaughtered each other over nuances in theology)…  But it’s these guys coming over the hill, they are the barbarians, because….uh…because they are illiterate and thus can’t cite their magic holy books to justify their atrocities.

Pot, meet kettle.

 

 

 

potkettle

 

 

 

My impression and subsequent summation of centuries of Irish history, after reading 600+ pages (and more to come!) in various books, is almost Tweetable  [4] in its brevity:

The ____ (civil articles; treaty; king; bishop) promised religious toleration; the _______ (king; landlord; bishop) saw no advantage in a peace now that victory was secure; the Gaelic infantry was slaughtered.

Lather; rinse; repeat.

 

 

 

irishproverb

*   *   *

Department Of And Then There’s This

Slogging through the pages of history, I am occasionally rewarded with a gem hidden in the festering bog. Such as this sentence, from a passage about kinship ties between Gael lords and the Catholic clergy:

“One sixteenth-century bishop of Clogher was eulogized on his death as ‘a very gem of purity and a turtle dove of chastity,’ this despite his leaving behind at least fifteen children.”
(Ireland: Land, People, History, by Richard Killeen)

 

 

 

turtledove

Not tonight, dear, I’m the turtle dove of chastity.

*   *   *

To those dear readers who enjoy such things, pretend there is a clever and apropos segue right here, perhaps one related to the Irish history of being both immigrants and emigrants. For the rest of y’all:

 

Department Of For Your Consideration

The answer to xenophobia cannot be xenophilia.
( James Traub, The Hard Truth About Refugees )

Apparently I’m not the only one who cringes with you-are-so-naive discomfort when I hear Ill-Informed But Well-Meaning People ®  spout the trés liberal, All refugees are innocent victims and we should welcome everyone! stance.

International affairs journalist James Traub, in his recent New York Times op-ed piece (cited above), offers up a smorgasbord for thought on the issue. He uses the Swedish idiom asikstkorridor (“opinion corridor” – i.e., things considered taboo not only to say, but to think) as a metaphor to reflect upon his visit to Sweden during the refugee crisis in 2015. His observations that  “…refugees from conservative Muslim countries, especially poorly educated young men, may not integrate into Swedish society as well as, say, relatively secular and prosperous Iranians or Bosnians,” and “polls find that Muslim immigrants are vastly more conservative than native Europeans on matters of sex, family and the role of religion in public life” are outside the liberal asikstkorridor.

Traub asserts that the truth about refugees and assimilation is complicated. As for the 2015 wave of largely Middle Eastern refugees to Sweden and other northern European countries, the jury is out as per how well refugees from countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria will integrate. How much will they – will they at all – accept and support the extremely secular, extremely progressive cultures of their respective asylum countries?

He argues that liberals’ knee-jerk claims that all immigration has positive effects and that refugees will fit easily into European society are as unsupported as Trump’s knee-jerk claims that refugees are terrorists. Furthermore, the naive embrace of the premise that “…vast numbers of new people on our doorstep is an unmixed blessing, and that those who believe otherwise are Neanderthals” is the perfect door-opener for xenophobes who can point out facts that indicate otherwise. Thus, anti-immigrant/right-wing politicians can “parade their prejudice as truth-telling courage,” which helps spur the rise of leaders like the USA’s Trump, Geert Wilders (aka “the trump of the Netherlands”), and the French National Front president Marine Le Pen.

 

 

 

Swedish-Democrats

Ya, we’re all one big happy family.

*   *   *

Any cretins out there who are still opposed to women in combat,  [5] please listen to this Fresh Air interview with helicopter pilot Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar, recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart medals, and author of the new memoir, Shoot Like a Girl. An (edited) excerpt:

Terry Gross (Fresh Air interviewer): What are the arguments that have been used against you and other women being in combat?

Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar: “…They range from concerns that are very legitimate to concerns that are absolutely ridiculous. I think that the number one thing is…whether or not women are physically strong enough to be in combat…. First of all, we’ve already disproven that that’s an issue because there are women serving successfully in combat.
…yes, you have to be strong…but it’s not always the person who has the most brute strength wins. It’s…who is the best with their weapons, who is the best tactical thinker, who’s the best team player, who is the best leader, those types of things – who holds their composure when the bullets fly, because I’ve seen 200-pound men curl up in the fetal position and call for their moms…

I’ve seen firsthand that the warrior spirit is not directly proportional to how many pull-ups you can do. So the physical standards question is important, but the way that you answer that is…you keep the standards very high and you maintain one standard. There shouldn’t be two standards for women and men. There should be a standard for this job, for – to do this job, you should have to do these things. And those requirements should be job specific and not arbitrarily high in order to specifically keep women out.

 

 

 

siryessir

“Sir yes Sir that sexism makes your ass look big Sir.”

*   *   *

Department Of Sorry But That’s The Way My Mind Works

I am ¾ of the way through an eight week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program. The program requires participants to commit to weekly Thursday night meetings, daily “homework” assignments, and one longer session – a six hour Silent Retreat – which was held last Saturday.  My monkey brain, of course, kept referring to it as the Silent But Deadly Retreat.  I had to use all of my still-nascent mindfulness skills to stop myself from wondering aloud about who would be the first to break (ahem) the silence?

 

 

iknowwhatyoumwan

*   *   *

 

 

May you always know what I mean;
May your silence be mindful and not deadly;
May your history not be a boring read for others;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Aka SCM, in this blog.

[2] From The Ballad of the White Horse, by G. K. Chesterton, English Critic, Essayist, Novelist and Poet, 1874-1936.

[3] For the Irish slang impaired, feckin’ = fucking; ballsch = rubbish; clackers = testicles.

[4] If I were a Twitter kind of person, which I am not.

[5] Make that, still opposed to women getting proper credit for serving in combat, because that is what your opposition amounts to, seeing as women have served in combat  in every war since those “barbarians” came over the hill.

The Speech I’m Not Accepting

Comments Off on The Speech I’m Not Accepting

Department Of Sneak Previews

truth

*   *   *

And The Oscar Goes To….

Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

 

I love movies, and love going to the theatres to see them. By the end of the year I’ve usually seen a good many of the films which will garner Golden Globe and Academy Award Nominations.  [1] Every year I strive to see every movie nominated for best picture (and also as many movies as I can that have writing and acting awards). Every year, I fail to achieve this goal.

This year I succeeded! Well, as per my scorecard. I saw eight of the nine films nominated for Best Picture.  (The one directed by Mel Gibson…no need for me to frost my butt in the theatre for that.)

 

 

theaward

 

 

IMHO, awards for any kind of performing arts are, in essence, silly and subjective PR fests. Many talented and influential actors, films, etc. which we now consider classics were either overlooked at their time of release, critically panned and/or never won awards.  [2]  Although I happily concede to the ultimate insignificance of it all, moiself has opinions.  When I’m watching the Oscar telecast I usually have definite preferences about who should win what award. Then ask me two years (or sometimes as little as two months) later which movie won Best Picture or which writer won for best adapted screenplay or who for Best Supporting Actor, and it’s…huh?

As last Sunday’s Academy Awards show began I looked over the list of nominations, and loved the fact that, for the first time in many years, I thought that all the nominated films were mahvelous. I’d high hopes for my underdog favorite, Hell or High Water, but was prepared to toast any of the other nominees (with the exception of the one directed by that religious fanatic/racist/misogynist/anti-Semitic/drunken hack Hacksaw Ridge).

MH and I hosted one of our Movie Awards Dinners ® . These MAD events consist of us providing “movie food” (hot dogs in all permutations, [3] popcorn, Junior Mints, plus chips and guacamole [4] and champagne) served up on TV trays. The feast is lovingly consumed by MAD attendees as we watch the broadcast and mark our very own Oscar ballots as each award is announced: MAD attendees each have a ballot containing the list of nominees for the 24 broadcast award categories. We mark each category twice – in red ink to indicate, for example, which actor we personally want to win the Best Actor award, and in blue ink the actor we think is most likely to actually win the award.

At the end of the ceremony we tally up our scores in two categories: how many of our red ink/personal faves actually won Oscars, and how many of our blue ink/predictions took home a trophy. We have our own brief awards ceremony for our two categories: Me and Them. Winners receive a $25 gift certificate to a local theatre chain. [5] And the losers…well, we know it was an honor just to be nominated.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Acceptance Speeches I Loathe
Aka You Are A Working Actor And Not A Special Snowflake

 

 

speech

 

 

As per the afore-mentioned balloting game, I was pleased when Viola Davis’ name was announced for winning the Best Supporting Actress award. Besides the petty thrill of having chosen the winner (she was my personal fave in a strong field, and I also guessed correctly that she would be the Academy’s choice), she is an actor whose other work I have admired.

My admiration quickly faded as I listened to her acceptance speech.  Several days later, when I kept running across articles touting how “inspirational” her words were, I wondered if anyone besides me had actually heard what she’d said?

Let’s face it: most acting award acceptance speeches are faux-humble paeans to Self. Those in which the actor’s invisible friends are mentioned are the most cloyingly and self-righteously annoying of all – how nice of you to hold us captive while you praise your Lawd for taking time out from his busy schedule of ignoring the cries of schoolgirl Boko Harem rape camp victims to personally direct your career and give your parents the oh-so-extraordinary honor of raising you.  [6]

This declaration in particular, early on in Ms. Davis’ speech (transcript here), I had a hard time getting past:

I became an artist—and thank God I did! —because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.

 

 

facepalm

Would someone initiate time warp so that we may go back and save this person from uttering her civilization-warping crap?

 

 

The magnanimous part of me is hoping that Ms. Davis was caught up in the moment and really had no idea what she was saying. The more sarcastic pragmatic part of me thinks her speech sounded just like what it was: rehearsed. Which means she had to have thought about that pretentious, self-congratulatory, elitist declaration before she spoke it.

Tsk tsk tsk upon cynical moiself. I suppose I should actually be relieved – thankful, even – on behalf of the rest of us little people.  From teachers to social workers to engineers to radiologists to landscape crews to mail clerks to hospice care nurses to nursing home attendants to baristas to food cart vendors to journalists to Peace Corps workers to fire department EMTs to parents and day care workers – good news for us all! After putting in long hours every day caring for others and ourselves, which often includes sharing our hopes and dreams and victories and defeats with friends and family and co-workers, we no longer have to bother with thinking about or even remarking upon anything related to existential, meaning-of-life issues. We can and should shift that burden to actors and other artists and stop wasting our time contemplating that which we can never truly understand, because “they” occupy the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.

Calling all (self-considered or otherwise labeled) artists: [7]  what y’all do is important in its own way – at the very least, you ofttimes afford the rest of us a bit o’ momentary entertainment. But holy fucking inflated-sense-of-self-importance-disguised-as-cinematic-celebration – maintain some perspective. Clutch your trophy, say Thank you, humbly and briefly reflect upon the whimsies of luck and your red carpet privileges, and then sit your designer-swaddled buns down.

 

 

pretensioius

*   *   *

Department Of Nobody Is Listening To Me, But If They Were…
How To Make The Oscar Awards Show Telecast Better…

Or at least shorter. Which would be better, I think we can all agree.

I have many opinions on the subject. Attention, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Scientists, y’all can start by considering this one: The Oscar Awards telecast should not have any musical performances, whether by the original artist/songwriter or guest singers, of the songs which are nominated for Best Song. These individual song performances plus their intros add 25 – 30 minutes to the show.

The Oscar telecast usually features brief (as in 15 second, tops) clips of the nominated acting performances, but doesn’t have anyone  – either the nominated actors themselves or stand-ins – acting out the pivotal, five minute scenery-chewing soliloquies which merited each nomination. Why can’t you do the same with the nominated songs? A measure or two is all we need.

We can and will hear the movie’s songs by watching the movies, just as we can see the acting by seeing the movies…just as we can see the movies, by seeing the movies.

 

 

sally

“If you’d only really like her suggestion…what a better show this could be!”

 

 

*   *   *

“When a woman writes a book that has anything to do with feelings or relationships, it’s either called chick lit or women’s fiction, right? But look at Updike or Irving.  Imagine if they’d been women.  Just imagine.  Someone would have slapped a pink cover onto ‘Rabbit at Rest,’ and poof, there goes the Pulitzer.”
(From the J. Courtney Sullivan novel, Commencement)

 

*   *   *

Department Of Gloria Steinem Stole My Neologism!

 

But since I like her so much, she can have her variant, with my blessing.

Background info: For years (a search of my documents shows at least since 2010) I’d been sharing my idea/gripe with friend and fellow writer SCM and others, about how we need counterpart terms for the almost-always-used-dismissive literary and cinematic classifying labels, chick lit and chick flick.  I decided it was only logical that dick lit and dick flick were up to the task. But I’ve never heard anyone else, outside of my circle of disaffected cynics acquaintances, use the term….

That is until yesterday, when the eminently quotable Gloria Steinem, in a NY Times op-ed, wrote about the quandary of a fellow passenger on her recent New York to Seattle flight. When passengers were offered free movie viewing to placate them during a long tarmac delay, a young man, frustrated by the available movie choices, sputtered, “I don’t watch chick flicks.”

Chick flick; chick lit. We all know what is meant by the terms. [8] Steinem briefly used the man’s dilemma to illuminated the double standard (read: sexism) that has been long-noted by and for women in fiction reviewing and classifying…

I wasn’t challenging his preference, but I did question the logic of his term. After all, much of what we read as great literature in school may well have been called “chick lit,” especially if it had been written by women.
Think about it: If “Anna Karenina” had been by Leah Tolstoy, or “The Scarlet Letter” by Nancy Hawthorne or “A Doll’s House” by Henrietta Ibsen — if “The Invisible Man” had been “The Invisible Woman” — would they have been hailed as classics?

… before advocating, rather tongue-in-cheekily, that the young man deserved a label to direct him toward films he might prefer (my emphases):

I realized the problem began with the fact that adjectives are mostly required of the less powerful. Thus, there are “novelists” and “female novelists,” “African-American doctors” but not “European- American doctors,” “gay soldiers” but not “heterosexual soldiers,”….
As has been true forever, the person with the power takes the noun — and the norm — while the less powerful requires an adjective. Thus, my fellow passenger was left with only half a guide.
Bias is, as always, unfair to everyone. Inspired by the blood-and-guts, monosyllabic war movie that had taken us off the tarmac and into the air, I realized the answer by the time of arrival. The opposite of a “chick flick” is a “prick flick.” 

I nearly jumped out of my chair when I read that. For some reason, I felt as much like crowing, “You’re welcome,” as Right on!”

 

 

 

gloria

Back at ya, sister!

*   *   *

 

 

 

May you have the chance to share a collective consciousness moment with Gloria Steinem;
May you enjoy the simply if petty pleasures of watching silly awards shows;
May you know when it’s time to gush and when it’s time to sit your ass down;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Except for the years when the BOOM BOOM CRASH CRASH PUNCH PUNCH FIGHT FIGHT pictures dominate.

[2] Peter O’Toole, nominated for Best Actor eight times – zip. I tried to pass this wisdom along to younger members of my extended family who were incensed about certain Grammy awards: (“What does Beyonce have to do to win record of the year?!?!?”)

[3] Read: some vegan/veggie dawgs for us wimps.

[4] Not standard movie theatre fare but that’s what we like…and I make a hot damn fine guacamole if I do say so moiself (and I just did). Secret: white pepper and finely diced white onion.

[5] Go big or go home, I always say.

[6] (“My parents―I’m so thankful that God chose you to bring me into this world.” Really?  I mean, sure, thank your parents for their support, but get over yourself, Ms. Viola.)

[7] And as a  fiction writer I would be and have been included by some in this category.

[8] In movies, a chick flick is a movie which has, as Steinem succinctly puts it, “more dialogue than car chases, more relationships than special effects,” and its plot depends more on how people live than how they are killed.

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