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The Sabbatical I’m Not Taking

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sabbatical – noun [ C/U ] US /səˈbæt̬·ɪ·kəl/:
time away from work given to college or university teachers, esp. to study, write, or travel:
“Professor Logan will be on sabbatical this term.”
(Cambridge English Dictionary)

 

For the next three to four posts I will be taking a blog sabbatical.

 

 

 

 

mourners

 

 

 

 

Get a hold of y’all-selves; it’s all right. I will still be posting a blog on the upcoming Fridays….

 

 

martha

 

 

 

…but there will not be “timely” material featured. Just a smattering of significant celebratory dates, old jokes, and likely a baby sloth picture or two, as space placeholders for your edification and entertainment.

 

 

yeahright

 

 

For example, did you know that May 26 is celebrated round the world as International Eggplant Hygiene Day?  [1]

It isn’t (as far as I know). But it is Sally Ride Day,-. Also,  May 26 was also the first day (in 1897) that Bram Stoker’s Dracula went on sale in British bookstores.

Speaking of isnts, there isn’t one eggplant joke I can think of. And that’s just wrong. Although I once purchased an eggplant at a supermarket that looked like a profile shot of Richard Nixon.  [2]   But that’s no joke.

 

 

 

 

eggplant

 

 

 

 

Apparently, there is a pantheon of photographs of veggies thought to resemble human buttocks, although those images are too tasteless for this space.

 

 

 

 

buttocks

Then again….

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Wait Wait I Found One!  [3]

 

The grocery store’s teenaged produce stockboy is stacking fruit on a display stand, when an elderly lady asks him, “Do you have any eggplant?”

“Sorry ma’am,” the stockboy replies, “we are out of eggplant. We’ll be getting a shipment tomorrow morning.”

The lady looks around the store some more, returns to the stockboy a few minutes later and asks where the eggplant is. “As I said, ma’am…” The boy smiles patiently. “I’m sorry we’re out of eggplant, but we will be getting a shipment tomorrow morning.”

The lady looks around some more, then returns to the same stockboy.  “Where the hell do you keep the eggplant?,” she demands.  “I need some eggplant for dinner tonight!”

“Right,” the stockboy sighs. “Answer a couple of questions and I will get you your eggplant.” She agrees, and he starts the questions. “Spell cat for me, as in catastrophe.” She says, “Ok; “C A T”.

“Very good,” the stockboy says. “Now, spell dog, as in dogmatic.” The lady, obviously getting irritated, spells it correctly. “Now,” the stockboy says, “spell, Fuck, as in eggplant.”

The old lady sputters indignantly, “There’s no Fuck in eggplant!” To which the stockboy says, “THAT’S WHAT I’VE BEEN TRYING TO TELL YOU THE WHOLE TIME!”

 

 

*   *   *   [4]

May you listen to what the stockboys are trying to tell you;
May you never fail to think of eggplant jokes;
May you take a sabbatical, however you define it;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Please be thinking to yourself, “No, I didn’t know that, because no one knows that.”

[2] It sat around the kitchen counter for weeks until it’s protuberance which looked like Nixon’s ski jump of a nose deteriorated – I couldn’t bear to cook it.

[3] An eggplant joke, that is.

[4] Why are you looking here? Footnotes are never associated with those starry-thingies. At least, not in this blog.

The Phone Call I’m Not Returning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

putin

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

About that other phone call….

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

humerusjpg

*   *   *

 

Department Of Silver Linings

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

 

 

 

martha

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

piggy

*   *   *

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

stupidpeople

 

 

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

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

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

[3] Yes, they still exist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[12] Including…ahem…blogs!

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

The Secrets I’m Not Publishing

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Department of IF ONLY

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

The entire fucking page.

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

 

 

 

KHAN

No. No.  No. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

 

 

 

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

 

 

policetape

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

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Correspondence Re Dead Friends

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

Here is what moiself mused:

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

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

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

It is in my nature to grow old;

– It is in my nature to contract illness;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

buddha cat

 

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

 

 

siriusly

 

 

Yes, seriously.

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

Past dinner party themes included

Cusina Obscura  [3]

*  White Trash Potluck   [4]

*  The PuPu Palace   [5]

*  Better Red Than Dead  [6]

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

dung

Is this a great party or what?!

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

duck

The chicken doesn’t talk, either.

 

 

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

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

[2] Answer: covered in manure.

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

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

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

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

The Subject I’m Not Avoiding

1 Comment

 

…except that I almost sorta kinda am. It’s later in this post.

 

*   *   *

Department Of My Work Here Is Done

…is what I could be saying, if I only I had written that one certain…thing.

But, I didn’t.

I wrote other stuff, and am currently on a fiction writing hiatus, after having published sixty-one short stories, one theatrical play, three books, various essays and anthology works and poems and children’s verse  [1] (and one Country/Western-type song, which mercifully remains unrecorded  [2]  ).

And then, there’s that thing I didn’t write. Listening to the local ham operated radio station that has recently caught my attention, I heard a Dead Teen Song ® parody with which I was hitherto unfamiliar.

 

 

teen tragedy2

 

 

 

Y’all are familiar with the genre Dead Teen Songs ®, even if you might not instantaneously recognize the label. Also known as teenage tragedy songs, death discs, splatter platters and the like, these ditties had their radio play heyday in the late 50s and early 60s. DTS are defined by shared literary clichés, including doomed/star-crossed and eternally devoted teenaged lovers kept apart by disapproving parents or peers, and tragic accidents  (usually involving motorcycles and cars) befalling those same reckless teens….  Think Teen Angel, Leader of the Pack, Tell Laura I Love Her.

Some of the best songs to come from the DTS craze were those that satirized the genre. Including, the send-up to which I refer.

I would feel artistically and culturally fulfilled, I could leave this world with my head held high, had I only composed this tender ballad, the mind-numbing heart-wrenching lyrics of which include:

My Johnny, oh how I love him
but he is caught in a teen age trap
he couldn’t turn down any drag race through town
and now all I have left is his hubcap

Chorus:
Please Johnny please, stay in my tender embrace
Please Johnny please, I don’t want you to drag race

My Johnny, oh I can see him
coming ’round the last lap
handsome and brave, if only he didn’t wave
I’d have more of him left than his hubcap

My Johnny, oh how I’ll miss him
and although he and my dreams lay in scrap
I’ll do what he’d expect and wear it around my neck
My Johnny’s, my Johnny’s hubcap

(All I Have Left Is) My Johnny’s Hubcap, performed by The Dellwoods

 

 

 

teen tragedy

*   *   *

Department Of Why It’s A Good Thing I’m Not The Surgeon General
Nor Capable In Any Way Of Influencing National Health Care Decisions

Content warning: TMI

Las

t Thursday, after my routine annual physical exam, because I am Of A Certain Age ® my doctor suggested a screening colonoscopy. I bargained her down to letting me start with something less invasive, and thus I was sent home with the equipment to gather a sample for a Fecal Immunochemical Test[3] The next day, while out for my morning walk, I strode past a chunk of a dog’s bm, which an irresponsible dog owner had neglected to scoop.  My first thought   [4]  was, What if I pick that up, take it home and send it in – would the test be able to distinguish between canine and human fecal matter?

 

 

REALLY

*   *   *

 

I met Jim Olwell during my sophomore year at UC Davis. Jim was a freshman; we lived on the same dorm floor (the legendary 3rd floor Bixby), and he became my adored and admired friend even before I saw him in the Herbivorous Man costume he concocted for a Halloween party. We kept in touch through the years; his emails and letters  [5]  were always a combination of heartfelt and hilarious, even – and especially – during the last ten years, when he was beset with multiple cancers.  His “ride to beat Multiple Myleoma” ended early last Saturday morning, April 15.

Anyone who knew and loved Jim (and if you knew him, you loved him) realized that this was coming; still, the news of his death was a boot to the gut.  Dearly loved husband to his wife and devoted father to his three young adult sons; loyal friend and brother; much-admired community charity activist; motivating math teacher to thousands of high school students…he’d lived and done so much. He was only 58.  Some people leave a big hole to fill when they’re gone.  Or big shoes to fill. Jim would have preferred the latter metaphor, especially coming from moiself, as I used to tease him about his really big feet.

Another UCD alum, Robin E., wrote a tribute to him Jim on FB that is so eloquent and touching I have forgiven her (yet again) for spelling her name wrong. I found this excerpt of RE’s tribute particularly affecting, in that years ago I had also used the George Bailey character as a comparison when describing Jim to my children:

Have you met anyone in your life that you would genuinely, authentically, say was kind of like the George Bailey character in “It’s a Wonderful Life?” Someone who made a difference in SO many people’s lives, cherished by everyone, loved deeply by his wife and children, who would do anything for him, humble, hard working, always sacrificing and doing for others, always a smile on his face, even through the worst of it? I haven’t either. Except for Jim.

People have offered sincere and kind words to me, for my loss of Jim as a friend, and also for what yet another loss represents. Even as I cherish these sentiments I realize that my loss is so little in comparison to Jim’s wife and sons and brothers….  I know it’s not a contest; nevertheless; Jim’s loss is anything but representational to his family.

I want to share more stories of him in this space, and I hope that I will have the energy to do so in the coming weeks, but right now, thinking about it makes me feel tired in ways I can’t quite express. Which is too bad, because Jim so loved to hear anyone’s and everyone’s stories. He was the best audience, ever.

 

*   *   *

May you find pleasure in novelty songs and their parodies;
May you never for one moment think of switching medical samples;
May you cherish the stories and memories of friends and family;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Ah, but who’s counting? Oh yeah….

[2] “If you Can’t Live Without me Then Why Aren’t you Dead?”

[3] Which consists of collecting a sample of just what it sounds like.

[4] Immediately followed by my second thought, Why do I think such things?

[5] Jim was a great letter writer, and, unlike so many others, did not eschew that form of communication once he discovered email.

The Headwind I’m Not Appreciating

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Department Of Future Aspirations

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

underdog

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

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Privilege Schmivelige – Appreciate The Reality Of Your Tailwinds

 

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

 

 

astonishedspock

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

 

 

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

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

Once again, I digress.

It seems that many….

 

 

confusedspock

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

 

Yeah. 

I’ll start again.

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

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

 

 

 

angry spock

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

 

 

 

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

AS I WAS SAYING….

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Here. Are you happy now, Spock?

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

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

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

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

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

The Historical Document I’m Not Appreciating

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Department Of Pipe Dreams

I had hoped – naively, as it turns out – that after my mother’s death and other losses, I would be able to bear paying attention to politics for more than two minutes…by the end of March. Yeah, that’s an attainable goal.

 

 

 

yeahright

 

 

 

I actually thought it would be a welcome distraction.

 

 

 

obamalaugh

 

 

 

 

Yeah; rub it in.

Okay; I was more than wrong.

Still, I do try to distract myself, sometimes in ways that relate to politics. For example, I’ll imagine hopping into my time travel portal,  [1] zipping back a quarter of a millennium and trying to explain to those authors of the U.S. Constitution – those (alleged) founders of this country – something we take for granted, such as the wide variety of entertainment options we have in (what is to them) the future.  Would I be able to summon the right terminology to enable those old white bewigged dudes to picture a service like Netflix, or even a device like a DVD?

Our so-called “Founding Fathers” were intelligent, educated, and in many cases forward-thinking people. That said, there are just some things even an inventive mind like Ben Franklin’s could neither anticipate nor imagine. Including, I would argue, the fact that our country has become simply too big for the form of government they crafted over two centuries ago.

I’m not even going to get into the fact that the mind-fuck of an anachronism/poop stain upon the pants of democracy that is the Electoral College hasn’t been deep-sixed yet. I’m talking about another fact: there are 326 million people in this country, and the majority of them are getting electorally screwed by virtue of a old document written when the total population of the country one hundred and thirty times smaller than it is today.  [2]

Here’s a comparison: Wyoming and California.  I have traveled around this country a bit – a lot, in the Western states. I love Wyoming’s spectacular natural wonders (although California has that too, and more, in spades). I also love Wyoming’s state motto – “Equal Rights” – but, holy fucking inequality, Superhero Formerly Known as Batman, let’s take a look at some numbers.

* Wyoming is the least populous state.

* California is the most populous state.

* Wyoming’s economy: the state’s GSP (Gross State Product) hovers around $38.4 billion.

* California’s economy is the largest in the USA, rivaling that of the largest countries in the world, with a GSP of approximately $2.514 trillion.

It would seem “fair” that Californians would be the big puppies in any kind of federal governmental equation. They are, when it comes to the lower house of Congress. Yet when it comes to senatorial representation, 587 thousand Wyomingians have a greater percentage of representation in the most powerful chamber of Congress than do 40 million Californians.

 

 

thatswrong

 

 

I realize the historical reasons for the way congressional representation was divvied out; I know that the ultimate concern of unity and stability of individual states within a nation won out over any concepts of “fairness.” The compromise plan was/is that the more numerous and shorter term (and thereby less powerful) representatives are allotted per each state’s population, while exactly two senators are allotted for each state, regardless of population (a smaller number of senators serving larger terms = more power).  But that was then (1787, to be exact) and this is now, two hundred and thirty years later, when our form of representative government is, IMHO, devolving an Orwellian system wherein all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Of course, there are too many vested interests in the current system for me to imagine that there will be anything resembling reform or reorganization in the next few decades years. But if I could trade my time travel portal for a Reality Wand ® (patent pending), I’d wave it and get folks to consider something like this: Cascadia.

 

 

LargerCascMap_4-14

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Non Sequitur Breaks

It is unlike moiself, writing in this venue (that would be, my blog), to post a focused rant thoughtful ruminations centering on one issue, which is what I appear to be doing.  Although it could be argued that, by stepping aside and observing/commenting upon this singular focus, I am writing about at least two issues: my one issue focus, and my contemplation of the rarity of my focusing upon one issue…which kinda negates the former.

I’m confused.

That’s more like it.

We now return you to our regular programming.

 

facepalm

*   *   *

 

The concepts of nations and national boundaries were formed in primitive times with respect to what we now know about science – specifically and significantly in this case, ecology and geography. It terms of choosing sides or determining who belongs with whom, Bioregionalism –  the concept of organizing populations outside of or beyond political boundaries to form provinces or governing systems based on bioregions –  [3] makes far more “organizational” sense to me, as well as to the growing number of supporters of the movement.

The geographically distinct habitats, distributional patterns of flora and fauna, plate tectonics and topographic features of ecozones do not stop at the line drawn where 17th century politicians and surveyors decided that Minnesota ends here and Manitoba begins there.

I am an Oregonian. I reside in a state which was long ago defined by the (mostly artificial) boundaries of what was decided would be Oregon. Florida is also a state; but being a USA state is where  [4]  the common interests begin, and mostly end, between the two regional entities. Geographically, us Oregonians aint’ got much of a connection with Florida.

Oregon’s regional economic, climatologic and ecologic realities and interests are more closely aligned to the region known as the Pacific Northwest, including Washington State, parts of Northern California, and the Canadian province of British Columbia.

Enter, Cascadia. The Cascadian independence movement is a growing social and cultural – and ideally/ultimately political –  fantasy movement which seeks, in the words of the folks at Cascadia Now, to recognize and establish a bioregion…

…that defines the Pacific Northwest of the United States and Canada, incorporating British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, parts of Idaho, southern Alaska and northern California, and in many ways is geographically, culturally, economically and environmentally distinct from surrounding regions. It is a place in the world with unique flora and fauna, topography, geology and is comprised of a interconnected ecosystems and watersheds….

A much more common definition of Cascadia instead seeks simply to help further local autonomy, empower individuals and communities to better represent their own needs, as well as push or environmental and economic responsibility, and increased dynamic, transparent and open governance.

Ladies and gentlemen, I leave you to contemplate “The Doug,”  [5] the proposed flag of the bioregion, Cascadia.

 

 

 

 

 

dougflag

*   *   *

 

 

 

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too….

(John Lennon, “Imagine“)

*   *   *

May you recognize when some animals are becoming more equal than others;
May your imagination work for the good of all animals;
May we all live to see the invention of The Reality Wand;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Does your imagination have a time travel portal? It really should.

[2] The US population around the time of the Declaration of Independence was 2.5 million.

[3] Bioregions are naturally distinct areas, defined via sharing common or overlapping physical and environmental features, such as watershed boundaries, soil and terrain characteristics, latitude and climate.

[4] And this is where there should be another footnote. But, there isn’t.

[5] As in the Douglas Fir tree, which adorns the unofficial but proposed flag for the Cascadia bioregion.

The Longer Post I’m Not Writing

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Department Of Words That Make Me Cringe

Edibles.

It used to be a fine term, with respectable Latin origins – an enjoyable three-syllable word to utter with a simple, non-entendre meaning: something that is appropriate or safe to eat.

Now, thanks to marijuana legalization, you can’t assume that a person using the word is referring to foods that are edible, or “edibles.”  And that annoys me.

 

 

iknowwhatyoumwan

 

 

 

Never was a toker, not even in my younger days. However, unlike Bill Clinton I did inhale (it was either that or suffocate at many a Led Zeppelin concert). I wasn’t fond of the effects cannabis [1] visited upon those whom I observed imbibing it; I don’t use the stuff now, and its legalization in my state doesn’t alter my opinion of or interest in it.

 

 

 

edibles

Edibles…or edibles?

 

 

I gladly voted for legalization/decriminalization of cannabis in Oregon, and I hope other states will do the same. Still, sans a compelling medical reason to partake, for moiself adding edibles to edibles ‘twould be a pitiful way to turn a formerly delectable edible into a skunk-smelling maryjanedible.

 

On the other hand,  [2]  if the minister performing my mother’s funeral service is the same dude who performed my father’s funeral service, or takes a similar approach, [3]  then I may need some sort of reality-altering substance to help me bite my tongue and/or not eviscerate his.

 

 

 

rude

*   *   *

Department of The Moving Sidewalk Of Life  [4]

 

My mother’s graveside funeral service is tomorrow. Just sayin.’

*   *   *

 

I wasn’t yet blogging when my father died. If so, this would have been the second post wherein I would try to convince readers that brevity is the soul of wit. Or failing that: sorry, no can much do this week.

 

*   *   *

 

 

May you enjoy that which is truly edible;
May you inhale when necessary;
May you never have to bite your tongue at your parent’s funeral;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] whether smoked or consumed, whether the usage was sporadic or habitual.

[2] …you have other fingers.

[3]  Hey, I’ve got a captive audience! Good time to lecture the Jews and atheists and others present “who do not know Jesus” about how there can be “little joy” and “no singing” at their memorial services. Yep, Holy Fuck and WTF, this happened.

[4] Alternative to symbolic philosophical representation aka The Circle of Life.

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