“The conventional way most of us go about accomplishing anything, is to work hard at it. When it comes to happiness, many of us say, ‘If this is something I really want, I need to go out and get it.’
This might be especially true in the United States, where the Declaration of Independence celebrates the ‘pursuit of happiness.’ The problem is, pursuing happiness can have the paradoxical effect of chasing happiness away. Trying to elude unhappiness can be similarly counterproductive.
(in this episode we) kick off a month-long series we’re calling Happiness 2.0. We talk with psychologist Iris Mauss, who explains why happiness can seem more elusive the harder we chase it, and what we can do instead to build a lasting sense of contentment.
Can’t remember where I heard this (a podcast, most likely), so moiself apologizes for the lack of attribution….
Research into human nature (aka the full employment strategy for psychologiss) has led to the tactic of *reframing* negative or tricky situations, which can be an effective solution to understanding and solving them. For example, take the words self-control and self-command.
Talking about “self-control” seems to have fallen out of behavioral science vogue. What is become more popular is attributing bad habits and harmful behavior patterns to a combination of genetics, environment, etc. Certainly, these are all factors for any situation, positive or negative. But if you have a problem with the concept of self-control (or even with the term itself), try reframing it to this: self-command.
But first, we at self-command central  need to define a term that is used in subsequent paragraphs: Dead Food.
Oh, do you really?
“ ‘Dead food’is the newest title given to food that has had the life packaged, preserved, or cooked out of it, to the point where it has become sadly void of virtually all nutritional value. Dead food refers to processed food or food without nutrients. It is called dead because it has been refined to a point that it is bereft of minerals, vitamins, and fibers.
These types of ‘foods’ are not foods!!! Rather they are a series of synthetically derived ingredients that are mixed together into something that tastes OK, has a long shelf life and actually does more harm than good to our health. In recent times these health depriving ‘foods’ have become quite popular and often a staple in the Standard Western Diet. As such, we have seen an incredible rise in modern diseases like diabetes, obesity, autoimmune diseases, infertility, cancer and more….
Live foods are foods that are consumed fresh, raw and/or in a condition as close as possible to their original, vibrant, living state. The basic idea behind all live foods is retaining the very best that natural foods have to offer, including live enzymes, antioxidants and other nutrients. (dead food v. alive food, deepH.com )
Yep, I’m out to ruin Girl Scout cookies for you.
“There are numerous ways to classify food—low fat, high sodium, low fiber, high sugar, clean, gluten free, vegetarian, lactose free, to name a few. But what if you were told the path to good health was to eat only ‘alive’ food and avoid ‘dead’ food?
So, what exactly is a ‘dead’ food?If it can sit on your counter for days or weeks and not go bad, then it’s a dead food. These foods are refined, highly processed, often synthetic and have little-to-no nutritional value. Think about foods like cheese-flavored crackers, meal replacement bars, fruit snacks and flavored beverages. Chemicals? Check. Artificial colors and flavors? Check. Ingredients on the label that you can’t pronounce? Check.
Unfortunately, these processed, chemical-rich foods are pervasive in the American diet. We want fast, convenient and tasty food and there’s plenty on the supermarket shelves that fit the bill.” ( Alive food v. Dead food, ACE certification )
*Most of us know about (or are at least familiar with the concept of ) the nutritional ideal of the “perfect plate,” which consists of 50 % veggies and fruit, 25 % whole grains, and 25 % a lean/high fiber protein source. 
* Most of us know, or at least have heard, that we should not drink our calories, and that sugar-laden soft drinks, milk shakes and sports drinks – even allegedly healthy smoothies – are awash in calories but don’t make you feel full, and that diet sodas and artificially sweetened beverages are no better than their full sugar counterparts and in fact are also linked to increased food cravings for high calorie foods and Type II diabetes ….
* Most of us know, or at least have heard, that (as per the AARP’s phrasing) “ Your sainted mother  was wrong — it’s bad to clean your plate. The iron rule: Exercise more; eat less….”
Damn right I’m gonna eat more than one slice at the office potluck because I * deserve* it, and besides, my co-workers are all jerks….
* * *
We don’t necessarily let our meals be dominated by simple carbs (bread, white rice, white pasta, sugar, chips) and soft drinks, and all the synthetic snack foods, cereals, and other dead foods, because we’re lazy or incompetent or greedy. 
But it’s likely we’ve stopped commanding you own lives. Who is in charge?
Advertisers for the industrial/fast/dead food industries are trying to get us to eat when we’re not hungry, and to think that we’re hungry 24/7. The entertainment industry wants us to park your badonkadonkson the sofa from dinner time to bedtime, stream our brains out and then brag about it later. Remember when the word “binge” did not have positive connotations (“We ordered in and binged all episodes of ‘Housewives of Chernobyl’ last night…”)?
Self-command. Who is calling the shots in your life, and what are the areas in your life where the commander is anyone, anything, but yourself?
* * *
Department Of Back to Happiness and Contentment: In Praise Of Simple Pleasures
There is simple yet insightful essay (recently referred to by The Washington Post Columnist Carolyn Hax) that, although written some 18 years ago, addresses some of what we now might call gratitude awarenessand mindfulness before those concepts got into the mainstream.
When I read the essay I was reminded of a phone call in January with daughter Belle. After catching up with her goings-on, Belle asked MH and I about what we were doing, and I couldn’t really think of much to say, other than something like it was just another “uneventful normal day.”
Many “normal days” in a row, are, as the essay’s author points out, the bulk of days for most people. Thus, since “most of life *is* normal days, to be in love with them is to be in love with life.”
To be in love with normal days is to be in love with life.
However much we await the arrival of fantastic things, or dread the tragedies and anticipate their passing…it all does pass, or at least change. Meanwhile…
“How many of us pass our lives in anticipation? Of the larger homes, smaller bodies and fattened bank accounts of our dreams; of the losses and disasters of our nightmares? We’re so focused on what we pray will happen or on what we hope never will happen that we’re blind to what is.
What is, for most people, is normal days.
Days when you’re aware of being neither particularly sick nor well. When your relatives, friends and partners waver between buoying you up and sitting on your nerves; when you’re too busy to notice much of anything — except that you’re too busy. Days when people ask, “So what happened today?” and you pause, think and come up with squat.
I found the essay both sweet and profound, and hope y’all check it out.
And in praise and recognition of simple pleasures, moiself will confess to the first one that sprang to my normal (well, for me) mind:
I love it that my family knows I will appreciate (and use) a jar of “farty putty.” 
* * *
Department Of The Secret To Eternal Youth
Dateline: Monday, North Coast Pinball. I am playing one of the arcade’s newest – as in, most recently acquired – games.  A ~12 year old boy, whom I’d seen earlier playing some of the games, was playing chess with his sister (? they look like fraternal twins), at the arcade’s games table, which is a few feet from the pinball machine I’m playing. He and his sister get up to leave, and he approaches me. He looks at me shyly, glances down at his shoes, then looks up and smiles the sweetest bright-eyed smile I’ve seen in years. He holds out two tokens in his right hand, and nods at me.
“For me?” I ask. He nods again, and blushes. I take the tokens and thank him. The two kids leave the arcade, and I inform WI, the arcade owner, of this encounter.
“Awww,” WI says, raising his voice two octaves. “ ‘Will you be my valentine?’ “
“It was so sweet,” moiself gushes. “Like being asked to go steady.”
* * *
Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week
“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.” (Author E.B. White )
* * *
May you expeience the emotional equivalent of being asked to go steady; May you strive to be in love with the life of normal days; May you find a way to work the word badonkadonks into your next conversation; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Plenty, actually. Just like I did, and continue to do, before this genre of news and entertainment existed.
 Okay; there’s no such thing, but I’m working on it.
 Artificial sweeteners lead to a reduction in the hormone that inhibits appetite, increase the risk of Type II diabetes and obesity (Multiple sources, including NPR 10-7-21
 Or grandparents, who lived through The Great Depression and had it hammered into them that you never know when (or if) your next meal is coming so you must eat all of whatever is offered to you.
 Or, perhaps a brutally frank self-assessment and/or some sessions with a trained counselor might indicate that, maybe, we *are* and now that we have identified these tendencies we can work on overcoming and/or managing them.
 Which is why I found one in last year’s Christmas stocking.
Strikethrough that! What a lame expression. If it gives me joy, then it ain’t (and moiself isn’t) guilty.
Look what I’ve rented for three months.
* * *
Department Of The Book I’m Not Recommending
…well, sorta, if not wholeheartedly: Women Don’t Owe You Pretty, by Florence Given. However, I’m still thinking about the book, almost two weeks after finishing it. So, for moiself, that counts as a recommendation.
WDOYP was this month’s choice for the book group moiself hosts. As described in this post, Book Club has themes for each month. Seeing as how March is Women’s’ History Month, Feminist/pro-woman titles is this month’s theme.
One BC member said she had a problem getting into WDOYP, at first (me, too). As in, it took us several chapters to get used to the Ms. Given’s prose patterns, and we (mistakenly, ultimately) felt that with regard to both content and style the book was aimed more towards young(er) women, and not cranky, been-around-the-block-and-back feminists like ourselves. The afore-mentioned BC member, who grew to like and appreciate the book, nailed it in her description of the author’s tendency toward curt prose and didactic, bullet-point ideas: “I felt like I was being shouted at.”
Upon reflection, I’m thinking that many of the contradictions I found in the book are not so much contradictions as they are the author’s attempts to deal with the conundrums inherent in being a feminist in this or any society. Given decries the culture and political, social, and economic systems wherein women are raised to put their appearance at the forefront and to dress and behave for the male gaze– systems she wants to dismantle or at least overhaul. Yet she stresses how we must not criticize women who doorganize their appearance for the male gaze, because they have been socialized to do so.
As I was pondering this sticky wicket, for some reason I turned to the book’s back cover. Checking out the authors’ photo is something I almost never do,  but this time I did, and I didn’t know whether to guffaw or smirk. Was the picture that Given (and her editor/publisher?) chose – Given clad in a no-bra midriff top, her wide-eyed gaze smoldering beneath her Charlie’s Angels hairstyle – meant to be ironic? As in, was it an intentional a juxtaposition of the author’s premise and exposition – that women do not and should not present themselves for the male gaze – with an image of the author which references the most male-gazieest pop culture female characters ever?
Or perhaps, moiself thought, she’s just young and vain? In the book, Ms. Given mentions – always in context to whatever she’s shouting writing about yet more often than I found necessary – being aware of her privilege as a “slim, pretty, white woman.” Sure, she’s committed to feminist principles…but she’s also an occupant of those here-I-am-look-at-me, InstagramTik-Tok, self-promotion, social media worlds  which so many people her age  inhabit. A quick search revealed to moiself that Given is quite active on those sites – sites which, as many therapists and [other/older] feminists point out, promote unhealthy body images and are detrimental to the mental health of girls and women.
Given makes you go, girl type noises re women and girls who “choose” to dress in what might be seen as a provocative manner, as long as those females are doing it for “themselves” or because it’s what *they* like, and thus they are expressing their authentic, feminine selves… Yet how can they reliably know that those styles and modes – that *any* styles and modes – of dress and presentation are what they truly like? How can you know what your “authentic” likes are/self is, when you’ve been propagandized (read: poisoned) all your life about what is appropriate female attire and physical presentation?
Case in point: high heels are poor podiatric shoe choices bad for you – that’s a medical fact, not a style opinion. My encounters with women who describe themselves as progressive and feminist yet still think stiletto heels are appropriate dress-up attire have always chapped my ass (and heels) – I want to grab those women by their shoulders (but caefully, because they might topple over) and sputter,
“ *Who* told you these contraptions are appropriate and/or attractive?!?”
Your only excuse for such a “choice” of footwear would be if you were a native of the planet Cripfemme, where the females have only three toes: two short ones on the side and a very long pointy one in the middle. Otherwise, do you expect moiself– and yourself – to believe that you came to this conclusion on your own, without any outside influences, and that this kind of shoe is practical and comfortable?
Something tells me the leader of Planet Cripfemme looks like this.
All in all,WDOYP was a good book for discussion and reflection (obviously, as I am still doing so). Despite her overuse (IMO) of relationship buzzword descriptors (e.g., “toxic”), the author has some insightful phrasings and framings of various issues, including the chapter wherein she delineates the “misogyny tax” women pay, and another chapter dealing with the prejudice against single women:
“ ‘Single’ doesn’t mean ‘waiting for someone.’ Choosing to be single is an autonomous choice, and a lot of men fear autonomous women and gender-nonconforming-people. It reminds them that we have other purposes on this planet than to serve them…. When people make autonomous decisions about their bodies and their lifestyles, they are met with a whole spectrum of resistance, and this is particularly true for marginalized people. Anything that deviates from the narrative society has written for and about you is shamed and unaccepted.”
Overall, I’m glad I read it. Note: WDOYP does contain trigger warnings on a couple of chapters dealing with sexual assault and harassment. 
* * *
Department Of Yet Another Adjective That Moiself Does Not Want To Hear Y’all Use As Noun
But it’s too late, as its informal usage has already entered certain dictionaries. 
I’m talking about creative, when used for a person or an occupation. We got your firefighters, we got your x-ray technicians, your IT specialists, your butchers and bakers and candlestick makers…and now we have Creatives®. It’s no longer a mere modifier (“What a creative floral arrangement” or “Those kids are full of creative energy.”) It is being used as a noun, and thus preceded by an indefinite article.
The hubris of those who would so refer to themselves, moiself can scarcely imagine. Except that I don’t need to imagine it, as twice this week I heard more than one person  do this (which is what sparked this rant post):
“As a creative, I…”
“I am a creative, and so I….”
* * *
Department Of Because We Are Sheep, That’s Why
I’m noticing a new thing at one of the grocery stores where I shop. Just inside the store’s entrance there will be a couple of young-ish men and women, standing alert and dressed more formally than most people do for picking up some produce. These folks try to make eye contact with shoppers who enter and exit the store, and when they do, they approach the shopper and ask, “One quick question?“ Whether you say yes or no, they proceed with the question:
“What is your current mobile service?”
I’m surprised and disappointed to have observed so many shoppers answer this question despite the uncomfortable, oh-please-leave-me-alone-I-just-want-to-get-some-salad-veggies looks on their faces.
Why do people do that – answer questions from strangers, when they know what’s coming and don’t want to be subjected to a sales pitch? They seemingly feel obliged to respond to that intrusive query…which, okay, is not asintrusive as, “What is your current underwear size?” but which is nonetheless personal. Your utility services and bills – that’s personal finance info, and none of anyone else’s business. What is it about human nature that so many of us respond? Oh yeah, because we are….
From what moiself has observed, the Mobile Service Shillers® work as partners: one stands near the entrance/exit doors, another about 20 feet inside the store. I’ve seen them signal to each other, with eye and/or hand gestures and head nods, indicating (I deduced) a shopper they did not engage. Thus, if the first one doesn’t “get “ you (or is talking to someone else) the other has a shot, either when you’re entering or leaving the store.
Up until recently I have observed the MSS-ers closely but never answered them, until the past two weeks when I grew tired of ignoring them and decided to engage. Since then I’ve been approached four times while pushing my cart on my way out of the store, and I’ve answered four times.
“Hello! Excuse me; what is your current mobile service?”
Time #1: Moiself smiled perkily and said, “None of your business.”
Time #2: I donned my best non sequitur expression and replied, “Spatula.”
Time #3: “As an all-natural family we communicate via strings tied to paper cups.”
Time #4: This time, the MS Shiller® got specific, and asked if my mobile service was____ or ____ (the two most common carriers in this area ). “Neither,” I replied, opening my hand and mimicking the flip phone gesture Captain Kirk made when he was going to request Scotty to beam him up. “I use my Star Trek communicator.”
“A communicator!”Mobile Service Shiller® overly enthusiastically gasped. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him signal to his partner with a shake of his head, as if to say, “Nope – leave this one alone.”
* * *
Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week:
“Men often ask me, ‘Why are your female characters so paranoid?’ It’s not paranoia. It’s recognition of their situation.”
 Although, thinking of a friend who appreciates those warnings, there was also material earlier in the book and outside of those chapters which I thought could be difficult for someone who’s been raped and/or abused.
 Misapply any word long enough and it’ll get an entry.
Dateline: Friday morning; watching a movie on TV while warming-up on my elliptical machine before my streaming yoga class. When Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone takes a commercial break, I discover a new (well, to moiself ) tactic in the using-the-fear-of-living-to-sell-stuff campaigns. Along with “anti-aging” potions, there now is at least one skin product company that is promoting their products as “ageless.“ Hmmm So, if you use their serums and creams and lotions you can be ageless. Which, if I understand the meaning of the suffix -less, means you will no longer have age – you know, like people who don’t yet exist, or are dead.
Sign me up!
And what a convenient segue to…
Department Of Topical Topics
Dateline: Sunday 1:30 pm-ish; MH and I driving home after dining out. During lunch we’d discussed our previous evening’s watching of the first three episodes of season 3 of Star Trek’s Picard. We talked about what we liked and didn’t like plot-wise, and what we both found distracting and disturbing: the “new face’ in the cast,  which was actually a familiar face, or should have been. Translation: we were both saddened and disappointed by the draconian visage of actor Gates McFadden (Star Trek/TNG’sDr. Beverly Crusher), yet another actor who oh-so-obviously had drastic self-mutilation “work done.”
How moiself cringed to behold her…and I’d been looking forward to seeing her character again. I’d just listened to McFadden’s most recent podcast: I’ve listened to many episodes of it, where I’ve learned that in addition to being an actor and choreographer, McFadden is also passionate about her work as a theater director and acting teacher. I don’t know if she’s still teaching acting, but if she is, I’m wondering how she would counsel novice actors – in particular, female actors – re the thespian principle of how your body is your instrument…and your face is attached to your body and is the most expressive part of your instrument, but so many actors now seem to view their face as an ornament – passive and decorative, not active and expressive – which needs periodic refurbishing.
McFadden and most of the TNG cast are making guest and/or recurring appearances on Picard. Assuming McFadden’s fellow TNG actors hadn’t seen her in a while,  here’s another thing I wondered: one by one, as her former castmates are filming their scenes in which Dr. Crusher and their respective characters have roles, they see her grotesque altered appearance for the first time, backstage, and…how do they react?
They *are* actors, so it’s likely that, after a truly sincere, “It’s so good to work with you again!” they convincingly spew the obligatory, “You look great!”…or just change the subject. 
I feel so bad for – nope, wait, I do not. Not gonna apologize for my honest reaction. I’m just so sad to know that if I were to have met her, I’d be stifling my What happened to you – you look terrible?!? Whatever you did, let it wear off and DON’T DO IT AGAIN reaction, which would be a cruel thing to say to anyone. And after it’s done – when it’s “too late” – no one is likely giving her honest feedback.
What kind of a shallow and shitty world makes her think that she had to do that to herself? And who LIES to her (who lies to *anyone* who does these procedures?) after her face has been sliced the pulled and stitched and bloated and tells her she looks great, or at least somehow better?
It’s unfair/not nice, I know. Female actors encounter a loss of work if they age naturally, then get criticized when they attempt to mask their age surgically. But…oh, Ms. McFadden…Gates, Gates, Gates, girl…things aren’t going to change unless we decide to change them, by not capitulating to the sexism and agism which drive such decisions. And if you’re not moved to rebel by realizing the dirty cultural and political standards that drive the plastic surgery industry, what about trying a dose of this reality:
* You don’tlook “better” after cosmetic surgery – no one who undergoes these procedures does. * It calls attention to your aging, and your fear of it; you look distorted, not younger.
Après lunch I opened the LA Times app on my phone, and saw the latest Steve Lopez column. Longtime journalist Lopez started a new project several months back, which the Times announced thusly:
“…we are thrilled to announce that Lopez is launching a new column, Golden State, which will explore the challenges, and occasional thrills, of aging.
Nearly 6 million people 65 and older live in California, and that number will nearly double by 2030. That growing demographic grapples daily with care-giving shortages, age discrimination, isolation and health issues. … They are negotiating relationships with adult children and with grandchildren. In some instances, they’re raising their grandchildren. At the same time, many people 65 and older continue to be at the top of their game….”
And the focus of Lopez’s most recent column?
“We live in a society obsessed with youth, fearful of death and allergic to wrinkles. But actress Mimi Rogers, who is 67, is having none of it…. It’s refreshing to see a big-name Hollywood actor age naturally and gracefully rather than grotesquely.”
Mimi Rogers had contacted Lopez about another article he’d written. They corresponded, she agreed to be interviewed about her recent acting roles, and then…
… she was happy to speak her mind…about ageism, longstanding societal pressures on women to look young, the double standard for men, and ‘the plastic surgery nightmares we see all around us.’ ‘This is me, this is my face,” Rogers says, ‘and I’m not going to show up with fish lips.’ Rogers said she feels fortunate to have been able to consistently find work as she has aged, and she revels in her current role on Bosch: Legacy… a full-on, artful and talented lawyer who plays her age while fighting for her clients and her causes. In many ways, Rogers said, this is a good time for older actors because streaming of high-quality shows has opened some doors. But biases and double standards are still firmly in place. ‘It goes back to when Cary Grant was cavorting with 22-year-olds’ on screen,’ Rogers said. ‘I think it’s better in Europe, but a lot of women talk about this idea that past a certain age, you become invisible. It’s like your sexual currency is gone, and that currency goes away much more rapidly for women.’ We’re at something of a ‘turnstile moment,’ says University of Michigan cultural critic Susan J. Douglas, author of “Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female With the Mass Media.” Stereotypes about female aging persist, she said, but there’s been a pushback and ‘a visibility revolt’ in which actresses, including Judi Dench and Helen Mirren, ‘are still opening movies and TV shows, and political figures, including Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters, are ‘staking a claim to be visible in public life.’
Moiself’s insertion: Yeah, stake that claim….even as people like CNN Newscaster Don Lemon (age 57) keep saying (and thinking) shit things like this: 
CNN host Don Lemon shocked his co-host after saying that Nikki Haley, who recently announced her plan to run for president in 2024, and other women over the age of 50 aren’t in their “prime.”
On Thursday morning’s episode of CNN This Morning, Lemon and co-host Poppy Harlow discussed Haley’s recent comments about requiring competency tests for politicians over the age of 75. “This whole talk about age makes me uncomfortable. I think it’s the wrong road to go down. She says people, you know, politicians are suddenly not in their prime. Nikki Haley isn’t in her prime. Sorry. When a woman is considered in her prime is in her twenties and thirties,” Lemon said. (Newsweek 2-16-23)
More Lopez column excerpts (from “ ‘This is me, this is my face’: Actress Mimi Rogers on aging naturally, without cosmetic surgery,” my emphases, LA Times 3-4-23 )
‘Mimi’s position is so important to the rest of us, because celebrity culture often sets the standard for everyday women — the standards of slimness and beauty and looking young,’ Douglas said. Many women, Douglas continued, face a “punishing” dilemma — especially those in entertainment and public life. Wrinkles can threaten their livelihood, but ‘if you go under the knife and don’t look like yourself, you’re attacked for being narcissistic or wanting to hold on to the past. So it’s really hard to win.’ And then there’s the multibillion-dollar ‘anti-aging industrial complex’…diligently grooming the next cult of warriors in the fight against the inevitable. “…it’s really quite a brilliant campaign,” said Douglas. ‘They are now marketing Botox to people in their 20s, and if you get people to be phobic about aging when they’re young, you have an ever-replenishing market for your products.’ “
* * *
Department Of Silly Moiself…
…for doubting that Yet Another Bonehead remark® could come prancing out of the mouth of Senator Ted Cruz.
NGPA Stands with Transgender Aviation Community On March 1, 2023, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said, “It gives no comfort to the flying public that their pilot might be a transgender witch but doesn’t actually know how to prevent a plane from crashing…” The NGPA strongly condemns Sen. Cruz’s transphobic statement and welcomes the opportunity to educate Sen. Cruz and members of the Senate Commerce Committee on effective Crew Resource Management, how an inclusive flight deck is a safe flight deck, and how to be a supportive ally to Transgender aviators across the industry. Read the full press release here.
I had to look up the video (here it is) of Cruz’s comments; I thought the report of it might be an exaggeration, because I couldn’t quite believe that anyone would utter the words “transgender witches” with regard to anything FAA-related.
Someone needs to cast a spell on that man.
Also, as a member of the Flying Public ® (and therefore qualified to speak for ALL OF US), I know that witches have a millennia of skillful flying under their belts hats. Thus, I’ve no problem with witches of any gender orientation being involved with aviation. In case my opinion on the matter isn’t clear, behold my favorite of my car’s many bumper stickers:
* * *
Department Of Speaking Of Boneheads
I don’t read many comic strips anymore, in part due to my (mostly but not exclusively) subscribing to online newspapers. Even when MH and I subscribed to three “dead tree” newspapers and moiself would scan the comics pages, I hadn’t paid attention to Dilbert in years if not decades. I thought Dilbert was a clever idea when it started – the cubicle culture was a fresh and ripe venue for satire. Eventually it seemed to me that Dilbert kept repeating itself.  I stopped checking it out because I found it boring; also, there was a certain undertone of…smugness(?)…I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
Moiself didn’t know the strip was still running until its creator, Scott Adams, got into a brouhaha after he got ahold of some wicked Maui Wowie decided that the world needed to hear his WTF?!? opinions on race relations he broadcasted on his YouTube channel. 
Adams reportedly has a history of airing “problematic” views (including statements that can be taken as anti-COVID vaccination, claiming he lost job opportunities because he is white, and questioning the Holocaust death estimates). On February 22 he posted a rant (YouTube livestream ) wherein, after referencing a poll by the conservative-leaningRasmussen Group that found only a slim majority of Black Americans agreed with the weirdly phrased statement, “It’s okay to be white,” Adams said that Black Americans are “a hate group” and advised white people to “get the hell away” from them.
“The phrase ‘it’s okay to be White’ was popularized in 2017 as a trolling campaign meant to provoke liberals into condemning the statement and thus, the theory went, proving their own unreasonableness. White supremacists picked up on the trend, adding neo-Nazi language, websites or images to fliers with the phrase….
‘Anyone who did know the history of it or who had a suspicion about the history of it might react to that Rasmussen question with some skepticism,’ said Nicholas Valentino, a political scientist at the University of Michigan who studies racial attitudes and public emotions. ‘And that wouldn’t be a sign that they didn’t like White people.’ (“A poll asked if it’s ‘OK to be white.’ Here’s why the phrase is loaded.” The Washington Post, 2-28-23 )
Did Adams not know (or care) about that tricky phrase’s history? Did he wonder, even for a moment, about that poll’s question’s phrasing?
I have no idea. However, IMO what some other cartoonists have said is equally or more troubling than Adams’ rant.
( Excerpts from “Cartoonists say a rebuke of ‘Dilbert’ creator Scott Adams is long overdue,” my emphases, NPR news 2-28-23 ):
“…(other) cartoonists say Adams has a long history of spewing problematic views… ‘It begs the question, now that everyone is piling on him, what took so long?’ said Keith Knight, an illustrator known for his comic strips The Knight Life, (th)ink and The K Chronicles…. After receiving widespread pushback for his offensive rant, Adams described himself as getting canceled. But (some) cartoonists argue that he is simply being held accountable for his remarks. ‘By Adams saying he’s been canceled, its him not owning up to his own responsibility for the things he said and the effect they have on other people,’ said Ward Sutton, who has contributed illustrations to The New York Times, The New Yorker and Rolling Stone. ‘He’s trying to turn himself into a victim when he himself has been a perpetrator of hate.’ …Similarly, Hector Cantú, best known for his Latino-American comic Baldo, said he believes in freedom of speech, but not freedom from repercussions. ‘Don’t gloss this over by saying it’s politics or it’s cancel culture,’ he said.‘If you’re going to offend people, you risk paying the price.’
Do some deep yoga breaths, Cantú, and consider this: How do you define what the “price” is?
A blanket statement like If you’re going to offend people, you risk paying the price could be used to justify anything, as long as someone feels “offended.”
* What about “the price” Salman Rushdie has paid ? After all, he “had an effect on” – he “offended” – many, many people. * What about the attack on the French newspaper, Charlie Hebro (12 murdered ; 11 injured) by an Islamic terrorist group, after the satirical publication ran cartoons that many people found offensive? * And what about Theo van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker who, in collaboration with Somali-born activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali made a TV film which criticized conservative Muslim clergy for perpetuating views that are anti-women and anti-gay? van Gogh was shot and stabbed to death on the streets of Amsterdam for his “offensive” views and films,  and Hirsi Ali received numerous death threats and had to go into hiding.
Look: It’s no surprise to moiself that Adams’ rant makes him sound like a Major Dickhead.
That’s *General* Dickhead to you, ma’am!
There are reasons I chose to stop reading Dilbert. And newspapers are, of course free, to choose which strips they will carry and which they won’t, for whatever reasons. But, hello, I am greatlytroubled by Cantú’s comment. I believe Cantú’s attitude is a danger to intellectual liberty and freedom of expression – I suppose I should say I’m greatly *offended* by him, and then, what? I could be justified in making Cantú risk paying the price…whatever price I decide is appropriate re the depth of my umbrage?
* * *
Department Of Must See TV
So much to complain about, this past week!
Thus, I was happy find something worthy of anti-complaint. Moiself did something I’ve never done before: I wrote a letter to the producer(s) of a TV show. Here it is, in its entirety:
The 3-2-23 episode of Grey’s Anatomy (“All Star”) was a stunner, for me. First, the obligatory listing of my commentary credentials:
* I worked for nine years in women’s reproductive health care; five of those in a private OB-GYN practice and four in various Planned Planned Parenthood clinics.
* I am a human being.
The episode’s storyline which inspired me to write featured a young mother who suffered intractable non-treatment-responsive, devastating, postpartum depression after the births of each of her two children. She and her husband suffered a contraceptive failure and she was faced with a third, unplanned pregnancy. She chose to terminate her pregnancy to save her own mental health and to be able to be a fully present mother to her two young children.
What was stunning for me was when I realized how rare it was – what I was seeing. How refreshing to see a storyline involving a woman’s decision to have an abortion presented so forthrightly – as in, not involving hysteria or judgment, but wherein a patient needing medical services was able to make the best choice for herself and her family, and was able to do so legally, and with competent and compassionate medical care. Having worked in an abortion clinic, I also appreciated the depiction, once again competent and compassionate, of the abortion procedure itself.
May you be part of the aging naturally visibility revolt; May you be wary of how you react when you are “offended;” May you cherish the comical absurdity of terms like transgender witches; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 I almost didn’t recognize her…except that she was identified as Dr. Crusher.
 They’ve all been pursuing other gigs since the series went off the air and the last TNG movie was made, which was over 20 years ago.
 And how many of the male cast has had cosmetic procedures? Hard to tell, although, typically, males are “allowed” their wrinkles (and can use facial hair to a certain extent to hide sagging chins and lip and mouth lines). Patrick Stewart, who plays Jean Luc Picard, certainly looks *near* his age, but his forehead is suspiciously taut.
 Without announcing, “this strip is a rerun.” Hey, everybody needs a vacation…
 Yep, I didn’t know Dilbert was still running and also didn’t know Adams had a YouTube channel.
 van Gogh was already dead when his murderer used a knife to pin a death threat to Ali on van Gogh’s chest. Ali subsequently went into hiding under government protection.
 “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists. No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.” Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ffrf.org
Well, not in its entirety. But considering that in the past couple of weeks moiself has been hearing and reading far too many, “back in my time/the good old days” sentiments, it seems appropriate to revisit the past. The near past, in this case, from my post of 2020 (The Good Old Days I’m Not Remembering).
* * *
Department Of The Good Old Days Are More Old Than Good
Why is nostalgia like grammar?
We find the present tense and the past perfect. 
Thanks to the podcast Curiosity Daily, moiself has learned that there is a classification for the nostalgic lens with which my mother viewed the stories of her childhood. In the podcast’s August 13 episode, one of the topics was nostalgia.
Nostalgia is a sentimentality for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations…..
Nostalgia’s definition has changed greatly over time. Consistent with its Greek word roots meaning “homecoming” and “pain,” nostalgia was for centuries considered a potentially debilitating and sometimes fatal medical condition expressing extreme homesickness. The modern view is that nostalgia is an independent, and even positive, emotion that many people experience often. Occasional nostalgia has been found to have many functions, such as to improve mood, increase social connectedness, enhance positive self-regard, and provide existential meaning. ( excerpts from Wikipedia entry on nostalgia )
Specifically, the podcast focused on the fact that the folks who study such things (nostal-geologists, as I like to think of them) have classified nostalgia into two types: restorative versus reflective nostalgia.
Restorativenostalgia is when you feel like things used to be better in the past, and you long to relive or even reconstruct the way (you think) that things were. Reflective nostalgia involves recognizing your wistful feelings about how things used to be, and admitting you sometimes long for the old days even as you accept the fact that the past is past and that your perceptions of that past are probably biased.
I had an immediate, visceral reaction to hearing the names and descriptions of the two types of nostalgia; moiself felt like I’d won a jackpot of sorts, in having a spot-on term for the kind of “looking back” my mother preferred to do.
My mother was quite willing to share her stories of growing up in the small northern Minnesota town of Cass Lake. I frequently asked my parents about their childhoods, as I found their stories entertaining, fascinating, and ultimately revealing (even as I later found out about all of the concealing that was going on). My father was the more skillful storyteller, both in the entertaining way he presented his stories and, as my siblings and I discovered in our adulthood, in his deftness at deflecting or avoiding talking about certain times of his life.  But this space, today, is for my mother’s restorative nostalgia.
As a child I’d observed that adults had this thing for “the good old days.” Although my mother didn’t present her stories with that introduction, the forthright manner in which she presented How Things Were Back Then ® made me astonished by the idea that anyone would pine for the olden days.
Restorative nostalgia: even as that kind of rose-colored-glasses/longing for the past is understandable, I’ve come to believe that it is ultimately not helpful, and can even be damaging. Besides being unreal – you can’t go back and make things the way they were – restorative nostalgia is, or should be, undesirable, for any rational person. When I have met people who really and truly seem to wish for “the way things were,” I sometimes want to bitch slap them into reality…
…and ask them, Have you fully considered the totality of that “safe space” you think you long for…and would you be willing to take everything else that came with it?
Those “simpler times” for which many people wax nostalgic included the not-so-simple realities of massive (and often life-threatening) racial, gender, and sexual orientation repression and discrimination.
“Wait a minute, mom – I remember you telling me…” became my unintentional mantra, when it came to listening to my mother’s restorative nostalgia. And after I had pointed out what, in my opinion, needed pointing out, she would respond with a somewhat conciliatory, “Oh yes, well, there was that….”
One day when I was visiting my parents back during the first Gulf War, I brought up the subject of current events. My mother began telling me about how she found herself “pining for” the days of World War II, aka, “The Good War.”
Uh….Mom…those were days when the WORLD was at WAR.
“Oh yes, well, there was that….” but, she continued, everyone knew each other in the town, and they all pulled together, and there was a feeling of solidarity….
I tried to validate that for her, then gently asked her if the pulling-together part made up for that awful day when the news came about the small town’s Bright Shining Hope: the Cass Lake High School star athlete and recent graduate, beloved by all and engaged to a local girl, was killed in combat in Europe. The news devastated the town. And didn’t she remember telling me about how horrible it was when the “telegraph truck” drove down Main Street, and when people saw it coming they ran into their houses, as if they could hide from the bad news, as if their shut doors would mean that the notice of a husband/brother/son/cousin who was KIA or MIA or wounded would pass on to another family…. And didn’t she remember telling me how “sick to death” she was by the adults who used the war to excuse their incompetence and blunders that had nothing to do with wartime circumstances, but if you tried to bring it to their attention or ask them to correct their mistakes, they’d sneer at you and say,“Don’t you know there’s a war on?!” and you’d be accused of being unpatriotic if you said anything after that?
“Oh yes, well, there was that….” But things were “simpler” back then, in the old town/small town days, she declared.
Well, maybe, I said…but “simple” doesn’t always equate to better, or even good. And it seems far from simple – it seems complicated, even frightening, to me – to ponder much of what people had to navigate back then.
What would that be, she wondered? She said she liked to remember the simple days, like the time when she and a friend walked back to their respective homes late one night after a school activity – they thought nothing of walking home after dark because they were safe from danger in a small town, and she’s thought of that over the years, when she couldn’t sleep until her own school-age children were home because she worried about us being out after dark….
“But wait a minute, mom…” you had so many dangers back then that we don’t have now. Maybe you felt safe walking home at dark, but I remember the rest of that story you told me: the very next morning, when you went to your friend’s house to walk with her to school like you did on every school day, you saw the frightening QUARANTINE! sign on her front door. Your friend had been stricken – overnight, seemingly out of nowhere – with polio and was being kept alive by an iron lung, and your parents were almost frantic with fear, thinking you might also be infected. And over the years I’ve heard about children in your small town who were crippled, even blinded and deafened, by diseases for which we now have vaccines and/or cures….
“Oh yes, well, there was that….” But still, she insisted, people were friendlier back then. They pulled together, and put aside their differences to cooperate as equals – being a good citizen meant something, back then.
“But wait a minute, mom…”The “everyone pulling together” did not, in fact, include everyone. Some citizens were more equal than others. Don’t you remember telling me about “the Indian kids,” who were required by law to go to public school until age 13, after which they all dropped out, and how they all sat in the back of the class and the teachers rarely spoke to them and they never spoke in class? You said, when I asked about their tribal affiliation, that you thought there were “at least two kinds of them,”  but you didn’t know what the “kinds” were – none of the whites did, because they weren’t interested and didn’t bother to find out, even though all the whites in town knew who was Norwegian-American and who was German- or Swedish-American…and that sometimes you felt bad for the Indians because you knew they had gone from being the majority to a minority in their own land….
And you told me about a high school girl who befriended the son of the only Chinese family in town – a family that had to constantly remind everyone during “The Good War” that they were Chinese, not Japanese – but this girl’s parents forced her to stop even speaking with him because they were horrified by the idea that their daughter might want to date “an Oriental”…. and when that Chinese family opened a grocery store because they couldn’t shop at the other stores in town during regular hours  no one patronized their store, and they were unable to make a living and moved to another town….
“Oh yes, well, there was that….” Still, it was so much fun, the carefree high school days, she said, asking me if I remembered her telling me how she got to be lead saxophone player in the marching band (in such a small school in such a small town, if you played an instrument, you got to be in the band) and was valedictorian of her high school? You know, back then, the teachers knew all the students and their families; they took a personal interest in their students, and everyone was so nice….
“But wait a minute, mom…” What about the fact that your mother had to call the school principal and fight to get you into the physics class, because the physics teacher refused to “waste my time teaching science to girls”? And then, after the principal forced the teacher to accept the two top students in Cass Lake High School – two girls, you and your best friend, Dorothy K – into his class, the teacher refused to speak to you or call on you when you raised your hand, and said openly to you and Dorothy on the first day of class that although it was against his will he’d been ordered to allow you into his classroom, and he grudgingly agreed to teach Dorothy because, “It’s obvious that she will have to work for a living.”
“Oh yes, well, there was that….”
Then, without a modicum of introspection or self-awareness, my mother said, “Oh well, it turned out I never found physics to be very interesting….”
Well, of course not – why would you have?!?!?! You were actively discouraged from being interested in it! The teacher paid no attention to you – he didn’t care if you learned anything. He had to give you an A because you read the required materials, aced all of the tests, and all the other students knew you had the top grade in the class.
And what about the way your best friend, Dorothy K, was treated? Because she was “disfigured” – a botched forceps delivery damaged her facial muscles, causing the right side of her face to droop, as if she’d had a stroke – Dorothy was raised to accept the “fact” that because she lacked the most important feminine asset – a pleasing face – no man would ever want to date, much less marry her, and that she would need to make her own way in the world…in a world where the same men who would not consider her romantic partner material were also predisposed to not consider her their intellectual or professional equal….
“Oh yes, well, there was that….”
And that job you had, after your junior college graduation: you worked as a secretary at the post office, and you said it drove you nuts, how the clerk was so incompetent and you often ended up doing his duties (but of course you didn’t get paid for doing so), and you knew you could do the job better but when you asked the manager you were told that, as a woman, you weren’t eligible to even apply for such a position…and how you were saving up your money to buy a car, but as soon as you were married you had to quit your job, because a married woman couldn’t work at the post office….
“Oh yes, well, there was that….”
and that…and that…and that…and that….
The incidents – read: life – my mother told me about…how do I explain this? She never told those stories as examples of hardship or discrimination. She presented them matter-of-factly, and often seemed to be befuddled by how gob-smacked I was to hear them. To her, that was just the way things were; I heard the between-the-lines details – hardship and fear, racism and discrimination – that didn’t even, technically, require me to read between the lines as they were, to me, glaringly overt…even as those details were, to her, not the point of her stories.
* * *
Department Of Dorothy Is Not In Kansas Anymore
I met my mother’s friend, the afore-mentioned, legendary (to moiself), Dorothy K, only once. I was in college, home for a visit, and my mother excitedly told me that her friend Dorothy was returning to the States after her latest overseas trip, and had arranged to take a flight to LAX. My parents picked up Dorothy at the airport and brought her to their house, where she stayed overnight until she caught a flight back to her home. 
I was somewhat enthralled with the ideaof Dorothy: over the years, I’d heard about how she was a chemist, made good money, and spent her free time travelling around the world. When I finally met her I remember thinking how attractive I found her to be – she had “good bones,” and I couldn’t help but wonder how her life would have been, sans that incompetent doctor forceps mishap.
Part of my enthrallment came via comparing her life to my mom’s. Moiself(ungraciously, I know) saw my mother as a staid homemaker, someone who worked all day but never got paid, and who had never been anywhere except for Cass Lake and Santa Ana. And here is her friend, with a career in science, who travels the globe….
I later thought of the ironies of Dorothy’s life, including the fact that the characteristic which made her “damaged goods” in the eyes of her culture is also what allowed her to go to college and work in fields that were closed to women in that time. Her disfigurement essentially neutered her in the eyes of males; thus, she presented no threat of “distraction” (i.e., of them being sexually attracted to her). Although I’ve little doubt that she faced discrimination (she shared a few stories with me, about always being the only woman in her department), it was as if she were a third gender: since men didn’t see her as a woman she was less of a threat to male colleagues, in terms of them having to consider that they were being equaled, or even bested, by a woman.
My mother (privately, years after Dorothy’s visit) admitted to me that she sometimes wondered what it would like to be Dorothy, whom she saw as independent and carefree. And I wondered, is that how Dorothy saw herself? Considering the culture she was raised in, instead of fully embracing her life – her career and the intellect she was allowed to develop – did she ever compare herself to, say, my mother? Did she in any way envy my mother for having a husband and children – for having the life Dorothy was told would not be possible for her, even as it was the only/ultimate/proper life to which a girl was supposed to aspire? Or, did she look at my mother’s life and find it…tedious, and limited?
Such questions haunt me, whenever I think of Dorothy. I wish I could ask her, but she died several years before my mother did. I can only hope that whatever nostalgia Dorothy dabbled in, that it was reflective, and brought her satisfaction.
 In this post, I mentioned a few of them. My father died not knowing his adult children had found just how poor (and dysfunctional) his family was, and that he’d never graduated (nor even attended) high school because his father forced all his children to drop out of school at age 13. And when I found this out, some missing pieces fell into place; I realized that all the stories Dad had told about his youth, to his children, were carefully told to hide those details. For example, we’d made assumptions that the job he talked about having “after school” was part-time, when in fact he was working fulltime, when his peers were in school, and we never put the pieces together to realize that the school stories he’d shared were all pre-high school….
 The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe were “two kinds” of indigenous tribes which had settled in the Cass Lake area, centuries before Europeans arrived.
 One grocer let the Chinese family shop at his store early, before regular hours, so that the other (white) families wouldn’t see them.
 …to wherever that was for her. I cannot remember; it was in some larger city. She’d left Cass Lake to go to college, and only returned to that small town to visit her parents, who remained there until their deaths.
 “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists. No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.” Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ffrf.org .
Department Of Whatever Stupid Thing You’ve Done, You’ll Feel Better About Yourself After Reading This
Dateline: Wednesday, ~ 8 am; trying to squeeze in some advance dinner prep – mixing up a plant-based Caesar salad dressing – before my 9 am streaming yoga class.
Usually, I turn the blender off, LIKE YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO, when I tap down/add more ingredients, etc. But I was just going to scrape a bit of the dressing down the sides of the blender, and it was such a smallspatula…
Before I knew it the blender blades grabbed the spatula, whirled it around and ejected it, along with most of the blender contents. My hair and face were blotched with salad dressing, as were parts of the kitchen, including the ceiling, nearby cabinets and counters, appliances, the kitchen floor…. Lemon juice, caper brine, Dijon mustard and other acidic ingredients in the dressing stung my eyes (and the next day I noticed blotches of acid burns on my face – hopefully, the marks will fade/heal in a few days). 
After I rinsed my eyes and face and beheld the kitchen, moiself’s heart sank. Where to start? I called upstairs to MH: “Uh, I need your help down here…” He descended the stairs; I led him to the kitchen carnage and said, “Now, you can’t laugh, because I could have blinded myself.”
Later, after we’d cleaned up as best we could, MH tentatively asked, “Can we laugh now?”
This is my contribution to the never-ending, You think *you* did something stupid? Listen to this!, make-everyone-feel-better campaign. This was a public service on my part.
I happened to have a haircut appointment that afternoon, and my haircutter got a kick out of my explaining why she might find bits of dried yellowish gunk in my hair. I’d managed to clean most of it out, then stopped when I remembered, “Ah yes, I’m getting a haircut in a few hours and a professional is going to wash my hair….”
* * *
Department Of Yeah, We All Know How, Sooner Or Later, Drunks Who “Lose Their Way”
Decide To Defraud The Government And Buy A Lamborghini
“An Orange County man who fraudulently obtained $5 million in pandemic relief loans and then spent the money on lavish vacations, luxury sports cars and his own personal expenses was sentenced Friday to 4½ years in prison…. Mustafa Qadiri…obtained the funds by submitting loan applications to the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which Congress created in March 2020 to provide emergency aid to small businesses struggling to survive amid COVID-19 related shutdowns and other business interruptions…. Qadiri…filed the applications…on behalf of four separate Newport Beach companies, none of which were actually in operation at the time…lied about the companies’ employee numbers, falsified bank balances and created fake tax returns…. Several friends who wrote character references for Qadiri…described him as a caring and generous man….successful in business early in life, then suffering from alcohol abuse in recent years — which caused him to lose his way.”
“I must have lost my way,” said the pope, when he woke up from his latest bender and found this new popemobile in his driveway.
* * *
Department Of I’m Still Thinking About This
Dateline: early eve, February 5. Texting with a friend who was watching the show, moiself realized the Grammies were on and I’d forgotten about it. I quickly turned on the TV, but ended up switching back-and-forth between the telecast and a recording of the latest SNL, because the Grammy Awards show was, for the most part, IMO, rather tedious.
I know it’s not an award show these days unless someone gives a speech about how progressive and inclusive they or their idols are. So, there was that. But another, unexpected drag was having that panel of non-industry folk (read: music fans) giving their take on why *their* favorite song should win the Record of the Year award. Really? If I wanted to hear the opinion of average Joes re what song they like I’d get together with a bunch of my neighbors and we’d just talk about it.
When I’m watching a show celebrating the arts, I’m watching for the art being celebrated. If the show is (ostensibly) about celebrating popular music, I’m watching for the music performances, not the speeches. Perform, y’all, not preach! I want to see the performers sing and play their songs, more than I care about whether or not they get an award.
And then: the MF (Madonna’s face) brouhaha.
“Look, I don’t know exactly what has happened to Madonna’s face, but like the rest of you I can neutrally observe that most 64-year-olds do not emerge from the back-end of middle age with a brow line as smooth and hard as polished river rock. Earlier this week she appeared at the Grammys looking rather [insert your own kind or unkind adjectives; I’m not going to do it for you], and people noticed in a very big way, and by the next morning news outlets like the Daily Mail had lured in a whole scalpel of plastic surgeons to dissect what they believed had gone into the situation, and into Madonna.
Soon the artist herself responded via Instagram. ‘Many people chose to only talk about Close-up photos of me Taken with a long lens camera By a press photographer that Would distort anyone’s face!!’ she wrote…”
“…and no, I do not understand her capitalization rules but I am reprinting them because with Madonna you never know when something is a mistake and when something is a curated message. ‘Once again I am caught in the glare of ageism and misogyny That permeates the world we live in.’ She is right, of course, about the misogyny in particular. The takeaway from President Biden’s State of the Union speech was, his best performance in years, not what is going on with his eyelids? but the takeaway with Madonna — an icon who has been steering culture since Ronald Reagan was in office — was, did Madonna’s face eat Madonna’s face?” (excerpts from “The unacceptable Look on Madonna’s face: We seem so horrified when women age, no matter how they try to do it.”
Monica Hesse, The Washington Post, 2-9-23 )
I was watching that part of the Grammies show, where Madonna (who apparently hasn’t toured/has stayed out of the public eye for a couple of years) introduced a couple of performers. A part of me still wants proof that it is/was Madonna who did so. Is DNA photo analysis a thing yet? Had she not been introduced as Madonna, moiself would not have recognized one of the most recognizable figures in pop music. And I assumed the long-distance filming of her – not a still photographer’s shot, but the camera filming her, while she was speaking – was because the camera operators were equally appalled and thought that a closeup would be…well…even more cruel.
Of course, the pundits had to weigh in via the various news outlets. Judging from what I read, some of the op-ed writers needed cognitive enhancement even more than Madonna thought she needed Botox. I’m thinking of author Jennifer Weiner’sNY Times guest essay. Her essay title alone is worthy of a cosmetically enhanced face palm: “Madonna’s New Face Is a Brilliant Provocation”
Oh, deary dear deary deary. Ms. Weiner, y’all be trying to sell us a big festering turd on that one. That “new provocation” is the same old capitulation to the wolves of sexism and ageism wrapped in the sheep’s clothing of cosmetic “enhancement.”
(excerpt from Weiner’s essay) “…Beyond the question of what she’d had done, however, lay the more interesting question of why she had done it. Did Madonna get sucked so deep into the vortex of beauty culture that she came out the other side?….
Perhaps so, but I’d like to think that our era’s greatest chameleon, a woman who has always been intentional about her reinvention, was doing something slyer, more subversive, by serving us both a new — if not necessarily improved — face and a side of critique about the work of beauty, the inevitability of aging, and the impossible bind in which older female celebrities find themselves….
‘I have never apologized for any of the creative choices I have made nor the way that I look or dress and I’m not going to start,’ [Madonna] wrote on her Instagram on Tuesday. ‘I am happy to do the trailblazing so that all the women behind me can have an easier time in the years to come.’
Thank you, oh great one, on behalf of all the women behind you, for taking this trailblazing burden upon yourself!
Moiself will let a couple of letters-to-the-NYT-editors writers have a go:
Ms. Weiner quotes Madonna as saying, “I am happy to do the trailblazing so that all the women behind me can have an easier time in the years to come.” I am curious, how does this represent trailblazing? Cosmetic surgery for approval or attention, even self-approval, seems less like trailblazing and more like objectification. To see more women aging naturally in the media spotlight would be the definition of a trailblazing and daring example to set. (ST, Los Angeles)
Jennifer Weiner writes, “I’d like to think that our era’s greatest chameleon, a woman who has always been intentional about her reinvention, was doing something slyer, more subversive, by serving us both a new — if not necessarily improved — face and a side of critique about the work of beauty, the inevitability of aging, and the impossible bind in which older female celebrities find themselves.” Please. As a 65-year-old woman, I can tell you: Having extreme surgery is certainly not a new way to “ ‘critique’…the work of beauty, the inevitability of aging, and the impossible bind” in which all older women find themselves…. It strikes me as extremely sad that so many beautiful women in their 40s, 50s and 60s think that erasing their years cosmetically — cutting themselves open, pulling or pushing their skin and rearranging their faces — is a reasonable approach toward getting older…. (IK, Brooklyn)
Here’s the thing, Weiner, and all y’all other defending-Madonna pundits: I (duh and of course) am with you on the sexism and aging thing, and about criticizing the culture that “makes” women think that they have to cosmetically mutilate enhance themselves to hide the physical manifestations of continuing to live (i.e., aging). But your opinions are only half correct. Yes, the culture blah blah blah, but cosmetic procedures are also an individual choice, especially for someone with as much money and influence as Madonna.
Does Madonna, or any other performer, sincerely want to be radical and provocative and trailblazing? Then show – *be* – an honest portrait of individual aging. Madonna’s extensive work reinforces, rather than critiques, the unfairness and stereotypes of women and aging, and does *nothing* to change or challenge the ”impossible bind” re women and their appearance, nor does it recognize the power of the individual to dare to age publicly, gracefully, and even proudly.
I highly doubt that an Isis-backed, terrorist-funded, plastic surgeon’s team kidnapped Madonna at gunpoint. No one forced her to do the procedures she chose. Societal pressures, schmessures – of course that exists. But to somehow paint Madonna (or any woman who succumbs to the real and pervasive social coercion to erase wrinkles/dye hair/hide any evidence of aging) as a victim is infantilizing. Would we do the same for men, in a slightly different but ultimately related topic – as in, would we excuse misogynistic behavior by noting that society was primarily responsible? Would we accept the rationalization of the bricklayer who, when called out for cat-calling women who pass by his construction site, says in his defense, “Yeah, I know it’s not right, but this is the society I live in, and I was raised to see women this way.”
Sure, females in the public eye, from news anchors to performers to politicians, have been enculturated to see themselves and other women in a certain way…and in Madonna’s case she absolutely participated in setting up her ever-youthful, hyper-sexualized image that can only and ultimately boomerang and provide a then vs. now, comparison downfall. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Consider poet/singer/songwriter/photographer/author, Patti Smith, who at age 76 continues to produce her art. Not only is there no evidence that a surgeon’s scalpel or Botox syringe has ever penetrated her skin, Smith doesn’t even dye her graying hair.  But then, Smith never based her music and art on her appearance or sexual allure (as Madonna definitely did/does, whether or not you think that by her doing so she exploits or critiques the phenomenon). Smith’s music and poetry – her body of work – have always focused on what’s beneath the surface, unlike so many female performers where their body of work is entangled with their the presentation of their physical bodies.
…and speaking of so many performers, when I beheld many of the other/younger female performers I saw on the Grammy show …. Oh, dear, I felt so old.
I felt like I wanted to be their Wise and Beloved Auntie® whom they invited backstage; I wanted to tap them on their shoulders, point to Madonna and say,
This could be you someday. Have you noticed how your male musicians/actors/emcees/performer peers are not showing as much skin as you are, and have you thought about why?
You’ve been lied to if you think that displaying your sexuality means you are taking control of it and are not in fact being defined and exploited by your appearance. By creating this body of work that has more to do in some ways with your body than your work, although you may want to keep working on the work, your actual body will crease and change and fade…and then what?
When you make your face and your body such a vital focus in your presentation of your art, *that* will be what your audience will focus on. They’ll be writing and talking and posting about *you* one day – and not about your work, but about how your face looks like a rhino’s ass.
 “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists. No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.” Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ffrf.org
 And remember that the only sure fire way not to age is to die.
Department Of Here We Go Again Sub-Department OF Preview Of Coming Grievances Attractions
( Sub- Department explanation: the next three blogs will deal with various aspects of The Writing Life As Moiself Sees It ®) …
This is part three of a three-part series. Parts one (The Awards I’m Not Winning, 1-27-23) and two (The Platform I’m Not Building, 2-3-23 ) are available to sentient beings by following the links.
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Occasionally moiself is asked, by those who self-identify as either writers or “aspiring writers,” for my advice via my AS-A credentials (“As a published writer, could you give me some tips on….”). The advice being sought typically has to do with how to get published. However, on some occasions it has also been – and I am so not making this up – on *what* to write:
“I really, really want to write fiction, but I don’t have any ideas for a story. How do you come up with your ideas?”
I was gob-smacked the first time I heard that question, but managed not to blurt out my first thought: “Holy self-awareness, dude, then fiction writing isn’t for you.” Instead, I leaned closer to him (this was at a book/literature fair) and said, sotto voce,
“Just between you and me, there’s this guy wearing a dark gray trench coat who hangs out in Pioneer Square on Thursday evenings between 10-11 pm, and for $50 he’ll give you a list of story ideas he found that fell off a truck….”
Last year I received an inquiry from the adult son  of a friend of a friend who wanted to pick my brain about the writing and publishing worlds. This prompted me to organize, in a marginally coherent form, the notes I’d been taking notes for years on the subject. Thus, the following essay (which may be of little interest to those outside the writing “world,” and if that’s you, not to worry – the usual amalgam of political rants, feminist/humanist daydreams, punz and fart jokes will return next week).
Although what follows is quite lengthy – and by lengthy I mean, thoughtful and detailed– it is the gist of what I might say if someone held a gun to my head (and moiself really hopes that nobody will do that) and ordered me to answer the question,
In five words or less, what would you advise to aspiring fiction writers who want to write for publication?”
My answer, under those circumstances:
Ha! Don’t do it.
And if those four words are enough to discourage you from writing for publication, then you shouldn’t.
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“Sometimes your job as an artist is to be invited somewhere and ensure they never invite you back.” 
RAT-A-WOF (Robyn’s Advice To Aspiring Writers Of Fiction – yes, I know I need a better acronym).
Once upon a time, Writer’s Digest asked a handful of writers the following question: “What advice would you offer a person who aspires to a writing career?” My favorite responses included:
“Sorry – if I had any advice to give I’d take it myself.” (John Steinbeck)
“The…writer needs talent and application…. If you want to write just to make money, you are not a writer.” (James Thurber)
“Beware of advice – even this.” (Carl Sandburg)
Despite my relative-to-almost-complete lack of literary notoriety, I’m occasionally asked what advice I would give to aspiring writers. I have two bits of counsel. The first: never ask other writers for advice. The second (should you dare to proceed after the first) is a two-parter: aspiring writers should stop aspiring and start writing, and just as importantly (if not more so), they should read. If more guidance is requested, well, then, you asked for it…
My Advice To Newbie or Aspiring Fiction Writers ®
Don’t do it.
If you ignore #1 and proceed, develop a hide so thick whale sharks envy you. 
Aspiring writers should stop aspiring and start writing.
Anyone who can be deterred from writing fiction should be.
Never ask other writers for advice.
There is no #6. What were you expecting, after #5?
Aren’t those bits o’ counsel a tad harsh?
More like honest and direct.
Writing fiction, like old age, ain’t for sissies. You must tell the truth and run, in both the writing itself and in the dicey area of offering — or accepting — advice. And yes, my Prime Directive of Fiction is, “Those who can be discouraged from writing fiction should be.” Or they should at least be strongly encouraged to analyze their motivation for writing, as opposed to their motivation for “being a writer.”
Do you feel as though you have to, need to, write — as if you’ve received The Call to do so, and that you in some way have no choice in the matter? If so, I’d recommend seeing a mental health professional to help you figure out the neediness part.
“I love living the life of a famous writer. The trouble is, every once in a while you have to write something.” (Ken Kesey)
The most important questions for an aspiring fiction writer to ask are, Do I like to write?Do I want to write? Do I have ideas, and do I want to do — am I ableto do — the actual process of writing?
I used that quote from Kesey not just to engender a chuckle of wry appreciation; it illustrates an Important Point (the capitals and italics also help). Many more people want to Be a Writer — supposing it (the writing “lifestyle” or profession) to be glamorous, well-paying and prestigious — than actually want to write, which can be lonely, frustrating, tedious, and which, especially for the free-lancer (working in any genre), requires an enormous amount of self-discipline and motivation.
Competition and “Success”
– For every Big Name Writer® whose byline is familiar even to non-readers and whose works are ubiquitously displayed in the high-profile stands at bookstores and in racks at the supermarket checkout stand, there are thousands (a conservative estimate) of unknown writers, slaving away at the office or classroom or café during the day and at their desks or computers at nights and on weekends.
– Several years ago The Writer magazine noted that, of the 275+ million people living in the USA, approximately 60 make a “good living” writing fiction; i.e., they are able to support themselves solely by writing and are not dependent upon another income (from a spouse or family member or two or three “other” jobs of their own). Sixty out of 275 million. DO THE MATH.
– Full-time fiction writers make an average of <$7,000/year from writing fiction (TheWriter, 1993…adjusting for inflation will not make this statistic any more palatable). 
– The National Writer’s Union’s survey found that most freelance fiction writers make under four thousand dollars a year from their writing, and only sixteen percent made over thirty thousand a year. 
Fun with Statistics (read: How good are you at dealing with rejection?)
I hope you like dessert, as in, the writer’s daily slice of humble pie:
Someone out there always say no.
The vast majority of queries you send out, whether to editors, agents or publishers, will receive a standard rejection. That’s the way the business is. You won’t be told why they rejected your manuscript (which can be frustrating), but there’s a good reason for that: what doesn’t work for one agent or editor might work for another.
If this happens over and over and you really want to know what’s “wrong” (or just not working well) in your manuscript, get it critiqued by a professional, neutral party.  But keep in mind that even if your work is brilliant, it might not be the right match for particular agents/editors/publishers. It’s analogous to finding someone to marry: it has to be the right person at the right time, and there are many other fish in the sea (especially for agents, editors and publishers).
Here is an example of one of the more gracious rejections letters, from the literary journal Zyzzyva, which also contains an important truth for writers to keep in mind (my emphases):
“Thank you for offering your work for consideration. I regret to say that we do not have a place for your work at this time. Please forgive us for passing on your work and for doing so without further comments or suggestions. I would like to say something to make up for this ungraciousness, but the truth is we have so little space, we must return almost all of the work that is submitted, including a great deal that interests us and even some pieces we admire.“
The grim stats: Duotrope (a service for writers) keeps track of submission and rejection stats, and has this standard disclaimer for these stats: “Rejections are often underreported, which skews the statistics in favor of acceptances. Most publishers have a lower acceptance rate than indicated here.” For Zyzzyva, the reported rejection rate is 98.73%.
* Typical statement from a literary journal (this one from anderbo, which, although a non-paying market, is flooded with submissions), re their stats: “We are able to use less than ½ of one percent of submissions.”
* Milkweed Press, a respected literary publisher, receives over 3k submissions per year and publishes ~15 books per year (a 0.5 acceptance rate). Albert Whitman Publishers (children’s literature) receives 5,000 manuscripts per year and publishes 30 titles.
* The New Yorker, arguably the most renowned/respected/influential market for fiction, receives 4000 submissions per month (and tends to draw from its stable of “established” – read: “name” – writers). It publishes one story per issue, has 47 issues per year, giving it an acceptance rate of < 0.01%.
* From an agent’s website: “We receive 1,000-1,200 queries a year, which in turn lead to 2 or 3 new clients.” (acceptance rate 0.03 %, rejection rate 99.97%)
Unfortunately, I could go on with the grim statistics citations. Everyone loves an overnight success story, which is why those stories of the author with the hit first novel – a truly rare phenomenon, which is what makes it newsworthy – is what you hear about (and not about the 19,000 other authors who have had rejection after rejection). And many authors/books now considered classics had quite the rocky road to being published (and some of the most critically praised authors and artists never had their work bought or published while they were alive). Just a few examples:
* Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was rejected by 40 publishers until it found a home.
* Emily Dickinson died unpublished.
* C.S. Lewis sent more than 800 manuscripts out before he made a sale; Ray Bradbury, also around 800.
* Gone With The Wind was rejected by more than 20 publishers.
*Jerzy Kozinski’s The Painted Bird was rejected by the same publisher several times, and one of those times after that same publisher (a different editor) had accepted it.
* F. Scott Fitzgerald was told by an agent, “You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby character.”
* Karl Marlante’s debut novel, the widely praised Matterhorn, languished in literary purgatory for 30 (yes, thirty) years before the author could find an agent/publisher.
Even if you are published, what are your chances of having your book reviewed? From Authors Guild Bulletin and Publisher’s Weekly (2007): “Three thousand books are published daily (1,095,000 per year) in the U.S. Six thousand were reviewed, less than one percent of the total published.”
* From an article in The Writer: “It isn’t enough to have an incredible story, a well-written manuscript, and a dream. Did you know that out of the hundreds of thousands of books published each year in this country (by traditional brick-and-mortar publishers), about 95% of them sell fewer than 500 copies?”
“Anyone who can be discouraged from writing fiction should be.” ( R. G. Parnell )
How I love quoting myself. And I’m not the only writer who does so:
“I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.” ( Variously attributed to Oscar Wilde and/or George Bernard Shaw)
But seriously, as you may have deduced by now, “Anyone who can be discouraged from writing fiction should be” is my writing advice motto. Because if that’s all it takes – *my* discouragement – to discourage you, then you haven’t got what it takes. And even if you do “have what it takes,” (however that is defined), the art and craft of writing is one thing…and the nasty, competitive, scam-filled and financially unrewarding (for 99% of writers) business of getting your writing published – that’s quite another thing.
The legitimate  publishing opportunities for beginning (and even veteran) fiction writers have drastically shrunk over the last fifty years. No longer are most mainstream magazines publishing fiction – whether short stories or novel excerpts – and the few remaining ones which do will not even look at your work unless you have a “name” or are represented by a literary agent.  So, the markets for your work are mainly literary journals, most of which are associated with university English departments and thus staffed by (cringe) MFA writing students. Translation: your work is going to be “judged’ by those people who are stupid/vain/gullible/pretentious/naive ignorantly idealistic enough to be paying tuition (or worse yet, accruing loan debt) for an MFA. All this, and no pay for your work. 
Yep: you will be paid nothing, but it will cost you something. The majority of literary journals and other venues for fiction writing “pay” in the form of free copies (or, worse yet, that dreaded word, “exposure”).  (Because you of course can turn around and pay your SCBWI and Author’s Guild  dues and Poets & Writer’s and The Writer subscriptions, as well as postage and toner cartridge and paper supplies, by trading those free copies….)
What with the “digital revolution,” markets for writers now include online journals. Some of these online journals are associated with universities and MFA programs and some not…and all mostly have the same “pay” policy ( “We regret than we cannot pay our contributors…but we offer exposure….” ).
Many journals, and even publishers, have started charging submission fees for potential contributors, (even those journals which are non-paying markets). Or, they only publish via their contests. There are thousands of literary contests (it seems like every journal, and a growing number of literary presses, has one nowadays, in addition to – or sometimes replacing – their regular submissions venues).  This has the effect of diluting the distinction of winning a writing contest or award – it’s about as meaningful as a kids’ soccer team award (“Every kid gets a trophy for participating!”).
There are so many literary contests, it seems that sooner or later every writer will be able to claim to be “an award-winning writer.” (for more fun-poking at this trend see my blog, The Awards I’m Not Winning 1-27-23) Some of these contests have nominal financial prizes for the winners (which are funded by the contest/award entry fees), but, other than The Big Ones (The Pulitzer, et al), don’t be fooled into thinking that your “winning” the Michael Shaara Award For Excellence In Civil War Fiction gives you publishing cachet, or ultimately means anything to anyone inside (or outside) the publishing world.
Writing classes and workshops and conferences and MFA degree programs
I do not recommend any of the above and have boycotted them on principal. Thus, I cannot offer any advice from experience if you’re interested in attending, say, a Sci Fi writers conference.
The thing about writing fiction: except for fiction’s “one percent” (the Stephen Kings, et al) it is difficult-to-impossible to make a living doing what you do. Even if you are a regularly published author, so you have to cobble together other gigs:  speaking/reading/workshops…. Imagine a profession where you can’t make a living doing what you do, so you have to scheme to get paid talkingabout doing what you do…which isn’t doingwhat you do.
“The only way to make money from writing is to fleece (other) writers. Exposure! Networking! Sigh.” (Anonymous writer, on a SCBWI forum )
My lack of interest in and even objection on principle to writing classes and workshops is that they cannot help but be formulaic; also, I think that they either consciously or inadvertently promote art by consensus. It’s possible, of course, to learn or to be taught basic elements of composition, grammar, spelling and punctuation, from a teacher or from your peers – you can even get some pointers on point of view, and you can certainly learn through the example of writers who inspire and impress you.  But I think the proliferation of writing classes, programs, and “How to Write a Damned Really Good Novel” seminars has more to do with the infiltration of the Cult of Celebrity into the writing profession than from any demonstration of these programs’ supposed “effectiveness.”
There is a desire on the part of many beginning and intermediate writers to rub elbows and Ipads with famous, beloved, or (often self-professed) Important and Successful ® Authors. It’s possible that many authors who teach writing workshops, classes and speak at seminars sincerely love teaching and value being someone’s mentor or muse. However, a driving force behind the workshops/classes/seminars business is one of the literary world’s dirty little economic secrets: teaching and lecturing to wannabe fiction writers provides a more reliable source of income than does writing fiction.
“It is a sad fact about our culture that a poet can earn much more money
writing or talking about his art than he can by practicing it.” ( W.H. Auden )
BTW: Conferences and workshops where you can meet editors and agents and get two minutes to pitch them your manuscript and/or ideas – you will pay for this (such conferences and workshops charge hefty fees to attendees), as the editors and agents are usually paid to be there. It reminds me of a Tupperware party, or those other home businesses in which the hosts are making money off of their friends, relatives and neighbors.
My advice re writing classes and workshops and conferences and MFA degree programs: save your money and buy more books instead! Which is related to:
“Bad news: everything of (human) significance has already been written. Good news: most of it is out of print & long forgotten.” (Joyce Carol Oates)
“If you want to get rich from writing, write the sort of thing
that’s read by people who move their lips when they’re reading to themselves.” ( Don Marquis, American humorist, journalist, author 1878 – 1937 )
My advice re fiction subject matter: write something just out of your reach. Try to write the stories someone might tell you you’re not ___ enough (young; old; experienced; successful; American; European….) to write. However, given the current political climate of fiction publishing, be prepared for someone from the self-appointed Literary And Imagination Appropriation Police ® to tell you that you don’t have the “right” to write that kind of story or character (insert world weary sigh).
Most likely, you already have ideas about what you want to write about, whether your interests and story ideas might be classified as literary or genre. So, go for that. And (1) read *everything* – across categories and genres – but (2) craft your own voice. And remember: the first is relatively easy, and no one knows how to tell you to do the second (no matter how much they are willing to charge you for their “sure-fire” Find Your Own Voice Writing Technique Seminar).
Miscellaneous principles, opinions, and unsolicited advice
“Of all the higher arts, it (writing) is the most self-taught…in the end, you have to find your own way.” (John Updike, from an interview published in The Writer, June 2001).
I couldn’t agree more or say it better…which is why I find myself using another writer’s words (ahem) to illustrate one of my most strongly held convictions: that fiction writers should walk their own paths and develop their own voices. This conviction is one reason I never advise fiction writers (actual or aspiring) to take writing classes and/or workshops, whether one-time seminars, intensive weekend retreats, or MFA or other degree programs in “creative writing” or whatever. (And if I ever am found to be making bucks from teaching a writing seminar or somehow profiting from the promotion of such programs, you’ve my permission to pelt me with a ream of plutonium-laminated rejection notices).
Some writers join or form writers support groups, wherein group members meet on a regular basis to network, offer support in the never-ending struggle to attain publication, and/or critique one another’s work. While I can appreciate the appeal such groups hold for some folks, I’ve never had any interest in them. My time to write is limited and therefore valuable to me; also, I have a life inside, outside, and intertwined with writing. I’ve been doing this for a while; I’ve a tough hide and can handle rejection (and acceptance) without group therapy or validation. I am fortunate to enjoy doing what I do (well, the actual writing part – it should be obvious by now what I think about the Bizof Publishing). I like to write; however, talking about writing— even with other writers — isn’t writing. Besides, I can barely stand my own first drafts – why would I want to read someone else’s? 😉
“The rise and influence of MFA programsis not nearly as pernicious as the whole notion of ‘workshopping’ literature. In what other art form would a creative artist claim as his own a work that has the thumbprints of a dozen or more people on it? The best that can be said of MFA programs is that they give participants a sense of community, time and space to write, and exposure to the business of literature. The best that can be said of workshops is that they train writers to respond and compromise rather than to catch fire. These developments may account for the blandness of much contemporary literature. They also say something about the character of our culture and the ability of workshops to really impart anything except the tyranny of taste. Finally, it might be that good reading is actually the portal to good writing. How much better time would be served by carefully reading Joyce and Proust.” (Michael Keating, from his letter to the editor, Poets & Writers, July/August 2003; emphases mine)
So, after all that, you still want to write fiction for publication?
Here’s what you need to do:
READ! Anything and everything, non-fiction as well as short fiction, novels and poetry.
WRITE! Yep, there’s no way around it. Write whenever you can, whatever you can. Keep a folder or journal of observations, ideas, opinions….
GET AN EDUCATION! (But major in something — anything — other than “writing.”)
GET A JOB! Find or create something you enjoy doing (or can at least tolerate) that pays the bills AND leaves you with enough physical and emotional time and energy to write. You will not be able to support yourself or your family solely by writing fiction — get used to this idea.
GET A LIFE! What do you expect to write about? And I must firmly explain what I mean here, lest it be thought for one nanosecond that I would encourage anyone to pen anything resembling a memoir. It’s not that there is a ready-made audience for the incredible story of YOU, thinly disguised in every tale you tell. Rather, this advice is meant to encourage you to collect experiences and observations, from and about which you and the characters you create may extrapolate, imagine, expound upon, confirm, deny and challenge. A writer is (or should be), above all else, naturally curious. Live, look, listen, imagine, question…and then write.
READ! And encourage others to do so (do you want a market for your work, or what?)
Oh, and one more fun thing
When word gets out – to family, friends, co-workers, neighbors – that you are a writer, be prepared for the following “I-Just-Have-A-Small-Favor-To-Ask-Of-You” scenario (from a letter to Carolyn Hax’s marvelous advice column, “Tell Me About It”):
I am a writer by profession — meaning I get paid to do what I do. I am constantly asked to edit someone’s community newsletter, write something about someone’s kid who plays lacrosse to send to college coaches, or write someone’s family Christmas letter. (I hate those things, but anyway.)
When I quote my hourly rate, I get the hurt look and, “Oh, I thought you’d just do it for me as a friend,” or — in the case of a newsletter — “Oh, I just thought it would be fun for you; it is a good cause and probably would not take much time.”
You wouldn’t think of asking your son’s soccer coach, who is a podiatrist, to fix your bunions for free (“I thought it might be fun for you – it’s probably be easier than your other surgeries, and you’re so good at it”), or try to wrangle a free housecleaning from your neighbor who works for Merry Maids. But there’s something about knowing that you work in an “artistic” field which brings out the mooch in everyone.
It doesn’t even matter to these freeloaders favor-askers, when you protest that you are a writer of fiction, not grant proposals/term papers/college essays/office brochures. In their eyes, you are a writer, which means that you can just whip out anything, right? Your writing and editing skills will be coveted by others, enough that they will ask you to do work *for* them, yet not enough to be compensated *by* them.
I can count on the fingers of one hand – if that hand had lost three fingers in a tragic panini press accident – the number of times someone has asked for my professional writing skills and what I would charge for the project they had in mind. In every other case, I very quickly discovered the Favor Asker’s assumption was that I would do the work for free…for them…for the honor of being asked, and…for “the exposure….”
If you still want to write fiction (or already are writing, and are ready to start investigating publishing opportunities), here are some resources to help you navigate the logistics of submitting your work to publishing venues.
Self-publishing disclaimer: I have not gone that route and thus will not offer advice to anyone who wishes to self-publish, except to note that I have negative opinions as to that option – which seems to be one of last resort. If your work wasn’t good enough for regular publishers (something several self-published authors I’ve met at book fairs and/or literary events told me was their opinion – about their own work! – which is why, they said, they “had to” self-publish…and gee, could I give them some tips about how I got published by a “real” publisher?), self-publishing won’t make it any better.
Self-publishing seems to be a workable option for some writers in the non-fiction genres. Still, every self-published fiction book I’ve read (this an anecdotal opinion, not scientific data) has literally screamed amateurish, from the cover art and font and graphics to the content and copy editing, and I’ve noticed that their authors have scrambled for “real”/traditional publishers whenever they can.
( The rest of this article contained three pages of the resources previously mentioned. Moiselfshall spare you the effort of skipping through them. You’re welcome. )
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May you treat yourself to something amazing – if you‘ve managed to make it this far, you deserve it; May moiself be done with critiquing the writing/publishing profession…for now; May you ignore that inane groundhog prediction and hope for an early spring; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
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 The advice I give in this article is not what I would say to a child interested in writing.
 Variously attributed…to someone. Who knows, maybe I said it.
 And these stats may be even lower, what with the rise of eBooks, and the resulting internet piracy cutting into author’s royalties.
 From the Nov-Dec 2005 SCBWI journal. These stats are still valid when adjusted for inflation and population changes, as per current Authors Guild and other sources. I am too lazy to update the citations.
 As in, not anyone who knows you personally; not your uncle, no matter how much of a great English composition teacher he is. You will need to pay for this service.
 Having your story “published” on your or your friend’s blog or website does not mean that your work has been published.
 Although, like The New Yorker, they will lie about this in their writers’ submissions guidelines. That is, they will claim that they are “open to unagented submissions,” but, as one former TNY editor staffer revealed, they have *never* published anything from the slush pile ).
 Beckett, the avant Garde/tragic-comic/black humor Irish novelist, poet, playwright, director, essayist, most famous for his play,”Waiting for Godot.” Becket also provided one of my favorite anti-privilege quotations, regarding his peers studying modern literature at Dublin University (“Dublin university contains the cream of Ireland: Rich and thick.”)
 And you have to report the cover price of the “free” copy as income. So, you received three copies of The Gnarled Kneecap Quarterly ($10.95 per copy) upon their publication of your short story. Come time to do your writing business income taxes, you have to report $47.85 worth of income for which you received no cash payment.
 The SCBWI – Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and The Authors Guild, are the two preeminent associations for writers. Members receive their quarterly periodicals, and access to their online data bases of tutorials, publishers, markets, etc.
 I wrote an essay making fun of that phenomenon, which one editor told me was unpublishable because, as he pointed out to me, “…practically all literary journals have contests and lack a sense of humor about it.” But it was published, in a (now defunct) Portland-based journal.
 other than to you, your grandmother, and perhaps Michael Shaara’s son, who started that award in remembrance of his father, a writer of – wait for it – Civil War fiction. Yes, there’s a genre for everything.
 This, of course, is common to any artistic field. Very few artists, from painters to potters to sculptors to musicians, can support themselves by sales of their art alone, and most teach classes, have “day jobs,” or arrange other gigs from which they cobble together a living wage, or may be supported by their spouses, or have a patron, which was especially common during the Renaissance. And you may have heard of the stereotypical actor/screenwriter who waits tables at nights and goes on auditions (or hassles agents or publishers) during the day….
 And you can (and should) do this by reading their writing.
Dateline: Saturday; mid-afternoon; on my way to drop off donations to Goodwill. Driving south on a throughway street which bisects residential areas to its east and west, I pass a blue sign on the left side of the road  . This sign directs you to find:
The sign is bent in the middle, which causes moiself, at first glance, to miss the I in the top word.
All those headed to the church of the Holy ARSE, turn right.
I like big butts and I cannot lie….
* * *
Department Of, Oh, Ya Think?
Dateline: 6:45am last Saturday. A dear friend is in the hospital, recovering from life-altering  surgery. I found a respected medical clinic’s website and looked up information on radical cystectomy, the surgery he has undergone. From the site:
“The procedure to remove the entire bladder is called a radical cystectomy. In men, this typically includes removal of the prostate and seminal vesicles….
“After removing your bladder, your surgeon also needs to create a new way to store urine and have it leave your body. This is called urinary diversion.”
Under risks associated with urinary diversion there is the following bullet point. Which I had to read several times to assure moiself, yep, that’s what it says. Apparently, one of the risks following removal of your bladder is:
* Loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence)
Yeah; kinda difficult to control an organ you no longer have in your body.
Department Of Gawddammit It’s Like They Know I’m Coming In…
And so they put this right where I’ll see it. Because a sculpture like this, displaying both the talent and whimsy which moiself so admires in art…and which the artist oh-so-appropriately-not-to-mention-appealingly named, “Speckled Twerp”…they know who’s going to take it home.
At first I tried to divert moiself by falling for this charming piece, called…wait for it…Yellow Chicken.
But the twerp in me would not be denied.
“Are we all clear on the new installation? Have the twerp piece where she’ll see it, and maybe distract her first with the chicken….”
* * *
Department Of Things You Talk About With Good Friends After A Good Lunch
The Miriam Webster online dictionary has a special link for those and other “funny-sounding words,” but that’s not enough, sez moiself (and friends agree). There needs to be a special day set aside, or declared, to encourage the usage of these words.
* * *
Department Of Why Has It Taken Me So Long To Realize This?
I don’t use marjoram. As of last Wednesday, there is no longer a jar of marjoram in my Wall O’ Spices ®. You know how it is, when you redo your kitchen’s spice holding system and buy those pre-printed spice jar labels which of course include one for marjoram and you think, “Ah yes, a classic spice,” and so you give it jar space but then forget that you never use it because…you never use it.
Nor is there a marjoram jar or tin on the cabinet shelves filled with refills for spices I commonly use, and less-commonly-but-still-occasionally-used ones, from amchur and asafetida to celery powder to gochugaru.
When I last encountered a recipe calling for marjoram  I used up the pitiful amount I had left. And when looking for more, I found none in the bulk sections of several markets, and I wasn’t about to pay $8.99 for a small jar which would go stale before I would use even 10% of it.
Thus, for perhaps the first time in my adult life, I am marjoram-free.
Gopnik is a professor of psychology and researcher into cognitive and language development. She spoke with C+V podcast host Alan Alda about her (and other people’s) research which shows how children are generally curious about their world; thus, children are interested in science and have innate abilities for experimentation and theory formation…then tend to lose interest in the subject itself as they age. Gopnik, along with many other scientists, argue that this is, in great part, because of the way science is taught:
“Suppose we taught baseball the way we teach science. So for the first five years you’d be reading about baseball games, and maybe you’d be reading about some of the rules. And then in high school you’d get to reproduce famous baseball plays…and you would never get to play the game until you were in graduate school…. That’s kind of the way we teach science – you don’t really play the game, you don’t really *do* science, until you’re in graduate school.”
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Department Of Here We Go Again Sub-Department OF Preview Of Coming Grievances Attractions
( Sub- Department explanation: my next three blogs will deal with various aspects of The Writing Life As Moiself Sees It ® ).
Dateline: Earlier this month, researching and updating guidelines for literary journals and publishers.  What I find in my research confirms one of many reasons moiself rarely submits my work anymore. For example, I come across this, from the guidelines of a self-proclaimed “international” journal:
“Submissions are open to all, but we particularly welcome work from….
First Nations and POC writers, the LGBTQI+ community, and writers with a disability.”
Should I decide to send my work to this journal I, like any writer submitting work to any journal, would not be doing so in person. I’d submit material as per their guidelines: either online via their submissions portal (the default nowadays) or via mail (much less common, but still used). Either way, the journal’s editors can neither see nor hear nor speak with me.
My first name may or may not indicate my gender; my surname might convey an impression (which could be a false impression either way) as to whether I am or am not a First Nations and POC writer. How will the editors know if I am a LGBTQI+ community, or a writer with a disability, unless I declare this in my cover letter? And if I do so, will the journal’s editors then “particularly welcome” my story due to my personal particulars that they have particularly decided to find particularly welcoming?
Moiself can’t help but suspect that the content of my work will be read and judged differently under such circumstances. Which moiself finds both ethically odious and disturbing. Speaking  both as a writer and *especially* as a reader, I don’t give a flying buttress’s butthole…
…about writers’ “identities” or “qualities.” I’m interested in the quality of the *stories* they write, not in who or what they *are.*
May you remember to make someone a sandwich; May you support the reform of how we teach science in schools; May you not be hornswaggled into giving a tarradiddle’s colleywobbles
about doing things widdershins; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 You’ve seen those signs, with names of churches or other businesses located in an otherwise residential area.
 In itself a rare thing, and I have found that the recipe either won’t miss it or that oregano will do just fine – or even better – instead.
 (I’ve addressed complained about this issue previously, in this space.
 There should be at least five footnotes in this post.
 “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists. No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.” Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, http://www.ffrf.org
Carolyn Hax, that is, my all-time favorite advice columnist.  I read her column every morning; a query in her January 7 column took me back to an issue of great interest to moiself …although, it was one of her reader’s responses to the column, rather than the column itself, which is responsible for this tangent.
The CH letter writer sought advice for this dilemma: her fiancé wants a big family, as in, six kids (he’d “settle” for four). But she wants two…maybe…at most. Is it possible to compromise on kids?
After giving her advice to the LW, CH posted a few responses from her readers to the LW. Here was the one that caught my attention:
Re: Kids: …have big talks about how said family will work. Does he expect to be a true 50/50 partner, as in baths/feeding/rule-making/following up with teachers/bringing to doctor appointments/helping with homework? Or does he just think a big family will be “fun,” not thinking of logistics? We know from studies that women still, unfortunately, take on the bulk of emotional and household labor for families. I know plenty of men personally who want more kids but do far less than 50 percent. Of course they want more! They get the fun parts!
Ah, yes. Partnership; family logistics; division of labor.
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away moiself began taking notes on the Stay-Home Parent debate. Because, apparently (sorry) there was one, and someone was making comments and/or assumption about child-rearing and household-running which I found…debatable.
Moiself does not remember in detail the instigating incidents; I *do* very well remember commiserating about the incidents with a woman who was also a SHP/trying to work from home. I took copious notes about our conversations and then tried to organize them into an essay/advice document for the next time some poor fool hopeful naïf solicited my opinion on the matter. I searched my computer files and found the document.  Lucky y’all – grab a tranquilizer of choice, here it is. 
So, you want to be, or it has been decided that you will be, the SHP– “stay-home parent?” Good luck with that.
There is a tendency to refer to this as a “privilege”….
…. when, in fact, it is a sacrifice.
In the following rant reasonable and thoughtful essay, I will use female as the default for the stay-home parent’s gender, as (sadly) it is still, overwhelmingly, the mother who assumes the pre- and post-weaning tasks of child and household care.
However, I must note that the stay-home dads I have either known personally or whose concerns I’ve read about (books, magazine articles, letters to editors…) list the *very same-exact-identical-equivalent* concerns and complaints. Gender has little to do with it; the sacrifices made and frustrations encountered by the SHP are part of the SHP “job description” – that which a parent of any gender will encounter when taking on the non-paying responsibilities of stay-home parent.
BTW, the issue of non-payment is a crucial one. Wake up and smell the Starbucks:  the person who earns the “real” money wields the ultimate power (whether functional, or veto) in the household.
Speaking of $$, the WAFHP(works-away-from-home-parent) may claim that because his entire paycheck goes into the family budget, everything of “his” is being shared. Thus, he may say he envies his SHP the “privilege” of staying home…
(1) even if he never volunteered for the job;
(2) even if both parents desired at least one stay-home parent and there was no other viable financial option for the family;
(3) even if he’s been heard to whine, “Gee, I’d love to stay home and take it easy.“
Except that if he does (3) he’s lying, to her and/or himself. He doesn’t envy her; not sincerely. Most men never *seriously* consider ditching their wage-earner credibility to assume the endless responsibilities and low social and economic status of homemaker.
This kind of a husband may begrudge any additional monies his wife may make from a home business or “projects” produced from the home, which she may keep “for herself” (the Olden Days ® term was egg money; e.g., the monies farm women earned from selling eggs, butter, etc., which they kept out of the general budget and hid away for household emergencies). He may think that since he contributes all of “his” money, his wife must give all of hers.
Can you see that thing that’s right in your face? That’s called the surface. Look past it, and you’ll see that you are* not* sharing so much more than money. So much more includes
-job experience -job continuity -workforce connections and networking -up-to-date technological skills -income toward Social Security -credits toward a pension -and whatever else he’s accruing that I’m leaving out, equally or otherwise.
That and more is “his” “money.” The wife, in return for taking on an essential yet unpaid “career,”
-loses her place in her workplace hierarchy -watches her skills erode or fall out of date or both -lowers her Social Security income -cuts her ties to benefits -and, if and when she is able to return to the paying workforce, faces competition from candidates who didn’t take several years off, as well as the documented “mommy” prejudice and penalty (there has been no equivalent, documented “daddy penalty”)
Yes, perhaps she gets more opportunities to “bond” with the kids. But what if you leave her, or die?
And I didn’t get into self-worth, or that her “projects” could be construed as a second job. In practical terms alone, her pocketing a few bucks is a small hedge against total dependence on you, and no substitute for the workplace credibility you’ve stockpiled while she’s been home.
In addition to the above sacrifices that CH noted, there is the matter of the SHP job itself, and its Dirty Not-So-Little Secrets ®:
* Caring for children and running a household, tasks which are unremitting and indispensable to family and society, are considered to be low-skilled labor.
* Managing a household, however essential to familial and societal stability, is repetitive work, and involves a number of self-defeating tasks. As in, almost everything you do will need to be done again, and sometimes almost immediately. Imagine a ditch digger who returned to work every morning to find that the ditch he had dug the previous day had been filled in.
* SHP is a “career” with a limited lifespan, and no possibility for advancement.
Perhaps the dirtiest (open) secret of all: Children – yep, even your little darling sweetum oookie scnookums fruit-of-your-loins – are not fascinating and enjoyable at all times. They have moments of sweetness, and watching/helping them meet their developmental milestones can bring its own special joy. But telling the following truth in no way diminishes the love you have for your children:
Children are not adults.
No; really. Meditate upon these four words, the understanding of which is key to the emotional stability of (and the resulting cabin fever often experienced by) SHPs.
Children are not adults.
Their brains are developing; their interests and intellects and reference points are shallow, and (of course) childish and self-involved. Thus, they are not reliably appealing, or intellectually and emotionally stimulating and fulfilling, companionship for adults. The WAFHP parent will have at least some semblance of adult relationships and conversation at his workplace. The SHP will not, and will need to seek it elsewhere…yet another item on her to-do list.
This is the core of the dirty, not-so-secret secret: unless you are a Fascinating Womanhood ® devotee or possessed of an IQ smaller than your bra size, taking care of children is tiresome. It doesn’t matter that you love them – supervising and entertaining a young child for hours is mind-numbing as well as exhausting.
Now, most fathers find young children boring (another dirty secret, but one that some men will openly admit to). Husbands will often get more involved in (what just barely qualifies as) childcare when the kids become more “fun” to be around; i.e., taking the kids to their scout meetings and soccer practices. But few fathers voluntarily do the day-to-day, routine maintenance care, or offer to be the stay-home parent (even if their wife’s job is the one which brings in more money, and thus the logical financial solution for the couple, if they desire at at-home parent in the family, would be to have the husband stay home). Monotonous work with little or no monetary reward or social status – men avoid it, if possible. How many men do you know who are nannies or day care workers?
Also, there’s the complaining issue (read: telling the truth). Much of parenthood, especially being the primary care parent, is repetitive (which is why this bears repeating) and tedious, as is managing a household. Sure, you say, but lots of things are tedious. Mowing lawns for a living can be tedious. But if a lawnmower landscape maintenance technician admits that he finds his job unfulfilling, he’s simply telling the truth. Women who speak the truth about the boredom, frustration, and ultimate lack of job security in being the primary child/household care parent are often labeled as whiners who are unappreciative of their “privilege,” or, if they have the misfortune to come from a religious background, they can be diagnosed as dangers to The Divinely Mandated Family Structure®, or neurotics incapable of appreciating their “true” or “biologically based” calling and/or natures.
Okay. The task at hand: job description for a SHP. I am leaving out so, so much – and many tasks could be filed under several or separate categories, and I just had to stop at one, remembering, oh yeah, and there’s this, and then this…
Keep in mind that “manage” listed as a task is an all-purpose, all-encompassing term. It may refer to doing a particular task yourself, as well as involving, organizing and/or supervising family members in the task.
Transportation Let’s start with this one and get it out of the way: the term “Stay-home” mom (or parent) is a joke. You will be ferrying everyone, and everything. The last minute, emergency/unexpected trips will seem to consume as much time (and more emotional energy) as the planned errands.
Family events management
– manage family calendar, including scheduling/keeping track of – social and school events; – holidays, regular and school; – conferences and appointments; following up with teachers; – regular and one-time events, including visits from friends/family;
Food It is impossible to overestimate the amount of time this responsibility involves. It is daily, and unlike many other tasks, cannot be deferred. Unless it involves a really, really, stinky item (never underestimate the reek potential of any cloth you used to wipe up spilled milk or cat barf, no matter how thoroughly you rinsed it out), you can put off laundry until tomorrow, or the day and sometimes even the week after. But everyone needs to eat three times a day – or more, for infants.
– meal planning: – consulting family calendar for dinner planning purposes, noting special days, events, exceptions; – grocery list preparation and maintenance; – staple items – infrequent or one-items for particular meals, or that can only be purchased at certain times/seasons or at particular venues – items for school lunch preparation
– grocery shopping: -maintain knowledge of what stores carry what ingredients, best pricing for bulk, organic, staples, and any special items; -maintain awareness of family staples specials, so as to be able to stock up when good prices appear
– meal preparation: – includes acquisition, maintenance, and upkeep of cooking utensils, cookware and appliances; – additional/unplanned/last minute trips to the store, when family members have used up crucial items and have neglected to add those items to the grocery list (this will be a constant thorn in your side); – when you discover someone has consumed ingredients critical to the meal you are about to prepare; – when you discover ingredients crucial to the meal you are about to prepare are spoiled or have otherwise gone bad; – when guests are invited/just appear at the last minute
– clean/maintain school lunch bags and supplies/manage school lunch schedule
-pay bills; – mortgages & utilities; – maintain (or memorize) schedule of what gets paid when; – make special payment arrangements for vacations and misc. off/away times; – keep track of and pay infrequent/interval bills, such as property tax and insurance premiums; – check online accounts daily to check balances (and guard against ID theft possibility); – transfer funds between accounts as/when necessary; – balance checking/savings statements; – balance credit statements, pay when due, and note payment schedule on calendars; – manage on-hand cash supply, from which: – regular or seasonal or one time cleaning services are paid; – allowances are paid; carpool drivers are reimbursed for mileage/gas; – children’s activities (e.g. snack or movies with friends, bus or other public transportation costs) are paid/reimbursed
– arrange/manage cleaning services (from housecleaning to window-washing, regular or sporadic); – arrange/manage family cleaning when regular cleaning service is on vacation, or cancels, or you must cancel due to upcoming vacation, schedule change or illness; – perform said cleaning when family does not help/is not available; – arrange/manage special items cleaning (e.g. furniture, drapes); – gather and do regular laundry items on an as-needed basis (3-4 days/week); – gather and do special laundry; -bedding and linens on a regular/weekly basis; -clothing/household articles that need periodic cleaning (e.g. cleaning towels, sleeping bags, blankets/comforters and other awkward sized bedding); – arrange/manage other household care services (e.g. lawn care); – arrange/manage perform periodic household cleaning: – shampoo/steam clean carpets; – clean wood and tile floors; – furniture dust/vacuum – doors and windows
– maintain supply of essential non-food items:
– toilet paper, paper towels, and other tissues; – household personal (soap, shampoo, lotions, deodorants, toothpaste, toothbrushes, dental floss); – first aid supplies – cleaning supplies – emergency kit: (water, cash, other ER supplies)
– maintain supply of food and litter; – manage feeding and other care chores; – scoop litter as needed during day; – change water ” ” “; – manage cleaning of food and water bowls; – schedule and take to regular vet appointments; – schedule and take to emergency vet appts.; – arrange for care during out of town/vacation days
Misc. child care
– regular transportation (providing and arranging for transportation); – to and from regular school; – for special school events; – medical, dental and orthodontic appointments; – lessons and other post school activities; – kids’ friends “play dates,” etc.;
– on call transportation: pick up children from school and/or friend’s houses due to
– sickness/injury; – braces repaired or other orthodontic or medical mishap; – lost/forgotten homework and/or lunches; – wardrobe malfunctions; – school emergency closures (e.g. sewage spills); – last minute cancellations from other member(s) of carpool or previously arranged transportation
– provide on weekly basis, keep track of amounts; – reminders to budget for charity; – provide opportunities for charitable donation, which almost always includes transportation to said opportunities
– keep track of sizes (clothing, shoe and underwear, jackets and other outerwear); – shop for all items when needed; – specialty items (needed for sports, school camps, outings/events)
– schedule regular Medical and health-related appointments, including
– doctor; – dentist; – orthodontist; – ophthalmologist; – dermatologists and other specialists when needed – schedule/transport to unanticipated/emergency Medical appointments; – provide care when child home from school with illness or injury; – misc. other appointments (e.g. haircuts); – manage and maintain supply of medications, prescriptions (e.g. fluoride and allergy meds) and OTC vitamins; – confirm the above gets taken as needed;
– maintain school schedule, including conferences, holidays, vacations; – acquire/replace and maintain school supplies
– social life. This is way too complicated, but includes
– managing social calendars; – managing birthday preparation for child, as well as birthday party of friends preparation (reminding/shopping for gifts); – keep track of special needs of friends (e.g. food/pet allergies) when planning meals, play dates, etc.
General house management – being the manager of all of this, which means that even as the children and spouse are able and willing to “help,” the extra job of being the one who keeps track of what needs to be done when, to teach and supervise (when necessary) said tasks. 
Reading it over…yikes.
Can you magine what you’d have to pay someone (else) to do all this? 
One of my favorite fantasies is that next Sunday not one single woman, in any country of the world, will go to church. If women simply stop giving our time and energy to the institutions that oppress, they could cease to be. ( Sonia Johnson )
* * *
May you ensure that, when it comes to home and family, you also get “the fun parts”; May you reconsider your participation in institutions that oppress; May you be cognizant of the “mental labor” you leave for others; …and may the hijinks ensue.
 This is what psychologist Joshua Ziesel refers to as the “mental labor” of running a household. His essay, dealing with the iniquities of household labor where both spouses are employed, is a must read: “I wanted to be a better husband. So I planned my kid’s birthday party. As a psychologist, I knew men did less “mental labor,” but I didn’t see my own shortcomings.” The Washington Post, 6-18-21 )
 Actually, you don’t need to use your imagination. Economists and other labor scientists have studied this for years, and estimates range from $96k in 2012 dollars to 178K on 2019 as median salaries to have a person or persons be on 24 hr call – as are homemakers – to perform the services of a tutor, negotiator, nurse, chauffer, party planner, chef, nanny, housecleaner….
 “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists. No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.” Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, www.ffrf.org
 Author, activist, and feminist, excommunicated by the Mormon church for supporting the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution.
Y’all may remember the scandal, which broke in October and which moiself wrote about in my November 4 post. Bare bones summary of a very complicated story: someone(s)  secretly recorded a behind-closed doors meeting of three Los Angeles City Council members and a local labor leader, wherein Council President Nury Martinez and other attendees slammed some of her fellow council members, gleefully made racist remarks, and spoke openly about how the city’s political districts should be carved up to advantage certain constituencies.
The council was thrown into turmoil, Martinez resigned, and some long-overdue rumination re revising and reckoning our “tribalism” in politics has been aired, including in a thoughtful op-ed by LAT columnist Sandy Banks.
Banks opens her essay with the story of a hurtful incident which happened to her many years ago. Riding a crowded bus and exhausted from a long day at a new job, Banks was touched when a young Latina woman gesture to Banks to take the seat next to her. The Latina woman had just herself been beckoned by an elderly Asian woman to take the seat beside her, but that same elderly woman reacted with visible disgust when the Latina in turn invited the Black woman to join them…and the Asian woman stood up and moved to another part of the bus.
…It has been several years since that episode, but the hurt, anger and shame it roused in me resurfaced last month when I listened to three of our city’s elected Latino leaders gleefully mocking and insulting Black people. Their tirade made international news, because of the crude and racist language they used to describe Black, gay, Armenian, Jewish and Oaxacan people in a private meeting, secretly recorded, about increasing the political power of Latinos at the expense of other struggling groups.
Then, adding insult to injury in the days that followed, the politicians larded their pseudo apologies with references to serving “communities of color” — when the only color they really seem to care about is light brown. Their own.
And that got me thinking about whether the label has outlived its utility….
Maybe now is the time to scrap the “people of color” label and its “communities of color” twin — along with the pretense that all nonwhite groups can be seamlessly yoked together in the fight for equality by the color of our skin.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the bonds between racial and ethnic groups in multicultural Los Angeles are weak. We may share economic stressors and even neighborhoods, but we have different priorities, challenges and needs — and apparently little regard for solidarity, given that the leaders of our city’s largest ethnic group were trying to hoard power by chopping other groups off at the knees. The “people of color” frame began to take shape decades ago…. But research by UCLA political science professor Efrén Pérez has found that “the unity behind ‘people of color’ crumbles” when individual racial groups feel their unique challenges are being ignored. “There is nothing natural about camaraderie among people of color,” Pérez wrote in a 2020 opinion piece for the Washington Post. “For every commonality, a point of difference intrudes on unity.” Dropping the label wouldn’t mean giving up on the idea that there’s power in our collective energy. But it would allow us to scrap the fantasy that Black, Latino, Asian American and Indigenous people are the sum of our similarities, and should be willing to sublimate our own priorities to advance others’ needs. And while “people of color” is part of the zeitgeist today, debate over the concept has long been robust in academic and political arenas…. “We have talked about this a lot over the years,” said USC law professor Jody Armour, who specializes in the intersection of race and justice. “I’ve always been skeptical of the ‘people of color’ category.’…. The POC category has replicated this country’s reductive colorism, which strands dark-skinned people at the bottom of its ‘people of color’ hierarchy. It’s become a way ‘of camouflaging anti-Blackness,” Armour says. ( excerpts from “Lessons of the audio leak: Solidarity is dead. Let’s ditch the label ‘people of color,’ “
By Sandy Banks, Los Angeles Times, 11-21-22 )
* * *
* * *
Department Of Bored Of The Rings
Moiself recently read an advice column wherein a man sought counsel on what, to him, seemed a vexing dilemma, and what to me was a “problem” worthy of wanting to give him and like-minded others face-palming so cosmic as to launch them into orbit.
The man wanted to propose marriage to his sweetie. His dilemma, as he saw it, was that his partner makes so much more money than he does that any ring he would buy or pick out would not be as fancy or somehow as “deserving” as that which she could get for herself. He did acknowledge in his letter that “she’s just not a fancy jewelry type person,” and that they had already been discussing marriage, and she’d indicated she wouldn’t necessarily want an engagement ring at all.
Oh my… That took me back. But first, this public service announcement.
Men, women – we’ve all have been lied to. Diamonds are not a rare treasure, despite the fact that the jewelry industry in general and diamond pushers in specific want you to think so, and have worked damn hard to equate the color, carat, cut, clarity the of rock to the quality of your loooooooooove. And no one works that scam angle quite like the Debeers company.
“The perfect diamond is a promise of the perfect relationship, because love is supposedly rare and so is this stone. We want the story that tells us our relationship is special. And we don’t want to accept that rarity isn’t all that meaningful.” (“Diamonds Aren’t Special and Neither is Your Love,” The Atlantic, 1-29-21)
Ahhh, the rings. Wedding rings; sure, whatever. But the whole engagement ring thing, where one person in the couple wears one but the other does not, reeks of sexism and the history of marriage as property transfer of a woman, from her birth family (read: father) to her husband. I suppose a ring is a more genteel way than pissing a circle around the woman to declare territorial rights, but it is still a pronouncement of ownership, and not any less creepy to me just because our culture has been injured to it.
Answer me this, moiself asks rhetorically (because no one has been able to give a cogent reason when I’ve asked seriously): Why is it the woman who wears an outward signal of “I’m ‘taken’ ” and the man does not, when the couple are both engaged to be married?
Why are engagement rings still even a thing? It’s just…stupid.
Menfolk, the marketing that is aimed toward you with regard to this “tradition” is truly mind-numbing. It is meant to get men to internalize the idea that the engagement rings they pick out are signifiers of their commitment and worth. Also, let’s face it, the not-so-subliminal attachment message is that the bigger/more expensive the ring he can afford, the bigger the man’s…uh, manliness.
Are you man enough to give her this?
Interesting anecdote: despite the stereotype of women being interested in such things, my “congratulations” to couples who announce their engagement is never followed with “Ooooh, lemme see the ring.” Because I don’t give a flying fuck about such foolishness and wish we’d all move beyond that. I do give a flying fuck about this very-interesting-fact-of-my-experience: the only time an engagement ring has been proudly and insistently displayed to me in those announcement circumstances has been via the engaged dudes. For example: on at least three different occasions – a work or holiday party, or other social gathering – when a couple’s engagement was announced, as I started to say something congratulatory to the couple, the man grabbed his fiancé’s left hand, shoved it in front of my face, and all but demanded that I praise the ring he’d given her.
I suppose that’s a more socially acceptable way to brag than for him to drop trou at the party and display his 14 karat manliness, but….
MH and I have been married for 30 something years now.  It should come as no surprise that I did not wear an engagement ring, nor was I given one by MH, because he knew my opinions on the matter. When we were Getting Serious ® and discussing our future together, MH said, just to check, that he assumed I would not want an engagement ring? I told him that I’d never worn rings of any kind, with the exception of my The Man From U.N.C.L.E. ® spy ring and my high school class ring, only one of which I treasured and both of which I lost after just a few weeks of wearing. 
Also, I’d never worn much jewelry of any kind– rings, bracelets, necklaces – except for earrings. I had my ears pierced when I was a junior in college, at the behest of one of my roommates who declared one holiday season that I was a difficult person to shop for and “Could you just please get your gawddamn ears pierced so I can always know what to get you for Christmas?”
MH and I laughed when I told him this story, and I joked, “Yeah, so, engagement earrings….”
Not long after that (what I assumed was a) throwaway remark, MH presented me with a pair of diamond “engagement earrings.”  I almost convinced him to get one of his ears pierced so we both could each wear one. But he was still young enough and concerned enough with what his parents would think,  and respectfully declined my request. Somehow, we both managed to survive our engagement without me wearing the traditional visible marker of such. We chose matching wedding rings: simple gold bands engraved with a weave pattern.
Fast forward thirty years. One evening at dinner MH said something along the lines of, “BTW, in case you’re wondering why I’m not wearing my wedding ring….” which caused me to look at his left hand and see that yep, his fourth finger was ringless. No, I hadn’t noticed. He told me that in the past few weeks at work his fingers had started to ache and swell. He’d visited his workplace’s occupational nurse, who couldn’t tell if the puffiness was the beginnings of arthritis or simply the results of too much clickety-clack time on keyboard, but advised that MH remove the ring now in case the swelling got so bad he had to have it cut off. 
Yeah, don’t let it get to this point.
“Oh, that makes sense,” I replied. Then I immediately took off my wedding band and put it in a safe place. I assured MH that I did not do so out of spite or anything negative; rather, for parallel conformity. We are either both wearing wedding rings, or we aren’t.
In the weeks to come MH investigated ring alternatives, while I actually/kinda/sorta felt like I didn’t need it. Sure, I’d worn one for almost 30 years at that point, but a part of me had never gotten used to wearing a ring, and I was always twisting it and found it cumbersome for handwashing. I recalled to him, from my previous life of working in the medical profession, how over the years I’d met and talked with several patients and couples who did not wear wedding rings, typically for one of two reasons:
(2) a dermatologic allergy to the metals used in the ring bands.
Some of the couples fashioned their own bands out of various other materials; one couple chose not to wear rings; at least two couples I met had their wedding rings tattooed around their ring fingers. 
MH did some online searching and found silicone bands he liked. They are flexible, come in a variety of sizes, widths, colors and patterns– even camo, for the romantic military fanatic outdoorsman. Bonus: they usually cost less than $30, so you don’t feel bad (and by you of course I mean moiself ) if you lose them. It’s fun, to occasionally change the color and pattern. After all, the only thing that separates us from our fellow primates is our ability to accessorize. Anyway, that is what we have both worn ever since.
“Instead of wondering why I don’t need god to be good, ask yourself why others do. Consider that true morality lies in doing what’s right without expectation of divine retribution or recompense for our actions.” ( Freethought Today, 11-22 excerpt from “Letter to a Mormon mother,” by Oliver Brown, 5th place winner of FFRF’s 2022 high school essay contest,  )
* * *
May you reconsider your usage of POCand other group-signifying terms; May you discover the cheap thrills of wearing colorful silicon rings; May you get your gawddamm ears pierced as an easy gift receiving solution; …and may the hijinks ensue.
 who, as of this writing, have not been identified.
 Which is how one man mansplained engagements rings to me, when I wondered aloud about their meaning.
 Don’t ask me to do the math, which I have to do in order to remember. Okay; it’s 34.
 My parents insisted I get my high school class ring, because I might regret *not* having one later…why they thought I would regret such a thing, I have no idea. I lost the ring in a bodysurfing wipeout at Newport Beach.
 When the horrible news about diamond mining and the “blood” diamonds began emerging years later, I stopped wearing them, first “warning” MH of my intent. I did not fault him, and neither did he: he’d bought them in good faith and had no idea about how dirty the diamond industry was.
 After all, he was already dating and now engaged to this crazy older woman….
 In discussing the various ring alternatives with our offspring, our generously tattooed daughter was – surprise! – highly in favor of the ink option.
 “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists.
No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.” Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ffrf.org
 The William Schulx High School Essay Contest for college-bound seniors had this prompt for 2022 contest entrants: “Please write a letter to a religious friend, relative, classmate, teacher, etc., who buys the myth that one can’t be moral without believing in a god.”
Department Of It’s The Little Things Which Make Life Worth Living In These Trying Political Times
Dateline: Tuesday afternoon. Apropos of…whatever, my offspring, son K and daughter Belle, have this exchange on our family messenger group, Yep!!!! Cats!!!!  (sans pix; these are my illustrations):
K: I did not realize how truly gigantic Fetterman is.
He’s like 6’9.” Since words and reason don’t work we now have Fetterman to give the insane senators a swirly.
Belle: (thumbs up) First on the list: Mitch McConnell.
Belle: Although I think just turning him upside-down would kill him, probably couldn’t even get to the swirly part.
Moiself walked around the rest of the afternoon with a big smile on my face, thanks to the imagery provided by my offspring.
Relax, Mitchie-boy. Just think of it as your well-deserved spa treatment.
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Department Of Another Good Thing ® About Social Media
There’s no shortage of criticisms of the various social media outlets, and most critiques are legit, I’d wager.  Even as I am encouraging those who complain about supporting a certain megalomaniac to drop their Twitter accounts and stop buying Teslas, moiself remains on one social media site: Facebook. Here’s one of the reasons why.
Dateline: earlier this week. A FB friend posts pictures of his grandchild‘s visit to what looks to be an amusement park, and picture shows the child playing that classic arcade game, Whac-a-mole. Seeing this picture prompts a lovely flashback for moiself– a memory I’ve not thought of in decades.
Dateline of memory: A long time in a galaxy far far away (Southern California). I am visiting my parents at their home in Santa Ana. It’s summertime, and the County Fair is on. My parents tell me they haven’t been to a state or county fair in ages, and suggest we go. And so we do. As we walk past the various cheesy games and merchandise and food booths, nothing catches our interest, until we come to an arcade. I espy a Whac-A-Molegame, and instantly am obsessed with getting my mother to play it.
My mother is hesitant, despite my enthusiastic recommendation. She knows nothing about it, she says (Even better!!!,moiself thinks to moiself ) I assure her that it’s a straightforward game, no complicated strategy or levels or scenarios: she simply must hold the mallet and whack the heads of the moles as they pop up from the console.
“Why?” she asks me.
“There’s no time to get existential right now,” I reply. I put my two quarters in the slot, press the game’s start button and put the mallet in my mother’s hand. “You don’t want me to waste fifty cents, right, Mom? Look – there’s one! Pretend it’s digging up your rosebushes!”
Unlike the champ in the above video, my mother is exquisitely awful at Whac-A-Mole. Her timing is atrocious; even so, she soon gets into it in her own way, emitting a high-pitched, “Oh!” whenever a mole head appears, followed by her delayed whack at its head. My father and I, standing to the side of the game console, are doubled over with laughter as we watch my mild-mannered mother, with an increasing maniacal look in her eyes, pursues those pesky moles:
I haven’t gone to a county fairs in years and it’s been even longer since I’ve even seen a Whac-a-mole game. So, then: would that memory have been prompted by anything else, save for a post on social media? It’s not like I would have seen a picture of my friend’s grandchild playing this game – like most of my FB friends, we don’t have a letter-writing kind of relationship.
* * *
Department Of Well That’s Not Up To Their Usual Standards
It was a tad interesting, due to the skills of FA host, Terry Gross, arguably  the best interviewer out there. But IMO it was not up to the usual FA standards. This was because Lynn was (again, IMO)…. There’s no easy way to say it. The guest can make or break the interview. And it wasn’t that Lynn was a “bad” guest, or an audaciously humorless and insufferably boorish one like a notable few TG has dealt with.  On the contrary. Lynn was pleasant enough, but it seemed to me that she was also…well… rather…simple, or basic. Not plucking every string on her guitar, so to speak.
In the history of country music, LL’s talent was even bigger than her hair.
LL seemed not at all interested in self-reflection and/or discussing or exploring how she writes her songs. Okay; fine; her prerogative. But then, why agree to be come on a show where the whole point is to talk about your work as a female singer who broke ground in her genre for writing her own songs?
The point of a FA interview with a musician/singer/songwriter is to reflect upon one’s work, technique, inspiration, and so on. Which Lynn summed up in sentences like, “Oh, I don’t really know,” or “I don’t like to talk about that.” Lynn’s songs are personal – she’s said in previous interviews that her husband was, in one way or another, “in every song” she wrote, yet she wouldn’t go further when FA host TG would ask her about *how* or why her husband is in a particular song.
And TG let her get away with it.
LL’s song Fist City is borderline hilarious in some ways and disturbing in others. And TG did not probe into that, as I have heard her done, through the years – the decades now – that I’ve been listening to FA interviews. Gross is insightful and persistent as an interviewer, and respectfully so. She typically does not give up after one attempted conversational diversion by a guest. And her guest was country music legend Loretta Lynn, who has written all these classic country songs about women trying to take her man (including, wait for it: “You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man”), and… hello? What are those lyrics about?
If it had been any other songwriter, I think TG would have asked more persistently about the song’s implications. She did try, but Lynn wasn’t having any of it. “Oh I don’t want to talk about that,” LL would purr, in her soft Kentucky lilt.
I wanted TG to get LL to at least to consider why people might want LL to talk about that problem – about how she was really singing about, writing about, the wrong problem. When LL sang about how some women were ‘after,’ (her words) her man, the underlying problem wasn’t those women.
Loretta Lynn, the woman who wrote so empathetically about birth control liberating women from the life of a brood mare (“The Pill”), and the trials of a divorced woman having people think that just because she’s divorced she’s loose/available (“Rated X”) didn’t seem capable of, or willing to, consider the fact that it was her husband who was the problem. He married her, but chased after other women. But Lynn…wouldn’t go there. And TG, in deference to Lynn’s age, status and/or “sweetness,” didn’t seem willing to push it the way I think she would have with another musician…or politician, or writer or artist or sports figure or….. Is that ultimately respectful, or patronizing?
* * *
Department Of The Big Day Next Week
The more I know about the origins and mythologies (read: lies) about Thanksgiving, the less I want to call it that.
I’ve always had a certain ambivalence regarding Tday. Even as a child, I suspected we weren’t being told the truth about that much vaunted Happy Time Between Indians and Pilgrims ®. Historians are starting to speak up, and…how can I put this? Folks, if the Readers Digest, hardly The Socialist Review, is willing to address this issue, that means it’s way past time the rest of us did.
“Thanksgiving is both uniquely American and full of treasured traditions. But this rosy picture of modern celebrations leaves out most of the real history of Thanksgiving…. Yes, you can still settle down with family to give thanks. But it’s important to know what you’re celebrating and unlearn some long-held myths.”
…. What’s the harm in believing the happy version so many of us grew up with? It’s just a story, right? This whitewashing downplays the long and bloody series of conflicts between white settlers and Native Americans that would occur over the next two centuries…..
‘Narratives of a harmonious Thanksgiving celebration were created to justify westward expansion and Manifest Destiny,’…. The term Manifest Destiny, coined more than two centuries after the first Thanksgiving, was the belief that settlers were destined by God to expand across America and prosper…. Myth: The “first Thanksgiving” started the tradition that founded the holiday. Truth: The harvest celebration of 1621 was not called Thanksgiving and was not repeated every year. The next official ‘day of thanksgiving’ was after settlers massacred more than 400 Pequot men, women and children. Governor Bradford’s journal decreed, ‘For the next 100 years, every Thanksgiving Day ordained by a governor is in honor of the bloody victory, thanking God that the battle had been won.’ We should add that to our list of favorite Thanksgiving quotes as a stark reminder of the real history of Thanksgiving.” (“The Real History of Thanksgiving,” Readers Digest, 11-15-22)
I like the idea of a holiday involving gratitude, and one in which friends and family get together for a celebratory meal. As for what is in the meal, as the years have gone by, my own dietary preferences have changed – although even as a child I never was all that fond of the big bland boring turkey and wondered what all the fuss was about. Moiselflikes the idea of variety feast, rather than a fixed menu. 
Moiself also likes that which is practiced by our neighbors to the north. Canadian Thanksgiving, which I and my family have experienced thanks to the generosity of a dear Canadian friend and (former) neighbor, is more of a general harvest celebration, without a traditional fixed menu.
Hmmm, so, how’s about Harvest Fest? Gratitude Day? Grativest Day? Harvitude Day?
Yeah, like that’s gonna fly.
Perhaps I’m being persnickety here. After all, I’m the one who points out the secular origins of Christmas, which I don’t insist on renaming it, for the same reasons that, for example, I call the middle day of the week Wednesday even though I do not worship the Germanic god for whom the day is named. Still, knowing the origins of Thanksgiving and the subsequent mythologies which promoted it, I can’t help but wish for a name change.
But that’s about as likely to happen as Elon Musk is likely to gift the running of Twitter to the Southern Poverty Law Center, sell his holdings in Tesla and donate the profits to Greenpeace, then take a vow of abstemious living and join a Buddhist monastery.
Ah, but it’s good to dream.
* * *
Punz For The Day Tday Edition
How did Ziggy Stardust express his gratitude to the Thanksgiving host for serving her tasty sweet potato casserole? “Wham, yam, thank you ma’am.”
My family advised me to stop telling Thanksgiving jokes, but I said I couldn’t quit cold turkey.
How does rapper Sir Mixalot, who loathes pumpkin pie, express his Thanksgiving dessert preference? “I like big bundts and I cannot lie.”
I’ll give her points for not eating us, but really, these jokes are fowl.
* * *
May you have a good feast with friends and family, whatever you call it; May visions of Mitch-getting-a-swirley warm the cockles of your heart; May you find a whac-a-mole game and go to town; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 So named, by MH…I can’t remember the specifics, but it had to do with one of us commenting about all of us posting cat pictures yet again. It has evolved into a family message board…with – yep! – lots of cat-sighting pictures.
 Wager, rather than aver, because I’m not on most social media and thus can’t speak from direct experience.
 As in, you could argue with me about this, but you’d lose.
 My most memorable Tday was when the friend of a host brought a huge chinook salmon he’d caught the previous day in Alaska, and the hosts, my aunt and uncle, roasted it simply, with herbs and lemon juice. I WAS AMAZED.
 Also, I haven’t eaten meat for years, so there goes that feast centerpiece.
Active, reliable, sarcastic, affectionate, bipedal, cynical optimist, writer, freethinker, parent, spouse and friend, I am generous with my handy supply of ADA-approved spearmint gum and sometimes refrain from humming in public.