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The Platform I’m Not Building

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As referenced in a previous blog (1-20-23) …

Department Of Here We Go Again
Sub-Department OF Preview Of Coming Grievances Attractions

Sub- Department explanation: This is part two of a three-part series dealing deal with various aspects of The Writing Life As Moiself  Sees It ®)  …

Parts one and two feature essays I wrote several years ago. The essays have the following commonality:

(a) I was satirizing certain aspects of the writing/publishing life;

(b) More than one editor to whose journal(s) I submitted the essays wrote, in their kind and complimentary rejection letters, that although they personally liked the article they could not publish it and, added that they felt it incumbent to warn me that that the article might be unpublishable due to my making fun of the process  (i.e., gnawing at the hand that was supposedly feeding me – despite the essays being clear intended as satirical):

“You realize that many people in this world   [1]
do not have a sense of humor about what they do….”

 

 

*   *   *

“Writers should be read, but neither seen nor heard.”
( Daphne du Maurier, English novelist and playwright )

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, moiself  began to admit to moiself a not-so-pleasant realization about moiself:  my growing disappointment with and even contempt for the literary publishing world.  It seemed that publishers had forgotten, or deliberately discarded, du Maurier’s sage advice, and were determined to celebritize authors.  This gradually devolved into pushing for (and in some cases contractually binding) the authors to celebritize themselves, with no resulting increase in royalties to the authors for taking on what is the publishers’ job – publicity.  Publishers did this by convincing authors that they must turn themselves into brands, and construct platforms.

 

 

 

 

For many years the literary world has been riding the towering (and crashing) waves of the relatively new universe of internet/ebooks/digital publishing.  Many publishers (mostly nascent, but also established/aka “traditional” publishers) have formed or remodeled themselves as essentially hybrid publishers, thus avoiding crucial aspects of the traditional work of publishing    [1].  These publishers describe this shift as providing “more opportunities for publishing and more author involvement in the publishing team!…”

 

 

…which translates as, more work for the writer, besides actually writing.     [2]   And the new “opportunities” provided by the internet and e-publishing has also created more opportunities for piracy/theft and downloading of your work without compensation. 

A writer I know, “WK,”    [3]  has published several nonfiction books on a certain technical topic.  WK posted the following on social media as an explanation as to why he’d reluctantly decided that his latest book would be his last.  This explanation was in response to a fan/reader who’d written to WK, praising his most recent book and asking for more books on similar topics.  

WK:
I’m glad you like my books, thanks. But I’m not going to write any more. There is too much piracy of my (and many other people’s) books. Within 1 month of my last book being published, I found dozens of web sites where people could download free copies of the e-book. There’s no point in writing a book if people are just going to steal it.

If thirty-plus years ago (when I began to write [primarily] fiction for publication) moiself’s  crystal ball had foretold how the publishing business would shift to the writer-does-publishers’-duties model, I would not have pursued writing for publication.

All righty, then why am I doing this, I asked moiself? Turns out I didn’t like my answers.  Thus, I took a hiatus – not from not from writing, but from submitting work for publication.

( Self-publication…is not a respectable” option, IMO, for me.  I will deal more with that in part three of my series.   [4]  )

 

 

On to the essay at hand.

*   *   *

WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT ME

Branding the Un-brandable – a Fiction Author’s Dilemma

I tried blinking several times and even considered rubbing my eyes with sandpaper, but it was too late. I recognized the alphabet, the language…I had read the article. Alas, nothing could remove the images contained on the paper before me. It was the latest edition of one of my writer’s magazines containing the latest piece of prose extolling the virtue – nay, the necessity – of writers “developing and controlling their brand.”

“When we’re shopping at the grocery store, we tend to purchase the same variety of cereal, week after week. When it comes to household goods we waste little energy in thought as we push our cart down the aisle – it seems as if our favorite brand of laundry detergent leaps into our cart on its own. When we’re on a road trip, it doesn’t matter that it has been less than an hour since breakfast – our children beg to stop for lunch when they see the logo for a familiar fast-food restaurant on the highway’s exit signs.”

A graphics reminder popped up on my computer monitor:  a gender-free, ethnicity-inclusive, bipedal, Happy Face figure stretched and wriggled its limbs, signaling to me that it is time for an ergonomics break. I dutifully marched around my desk and circled my wrists for a few minutes, then returned to deleting from my email inbox yet another offer from yet another literary entity wishing to sell me yet another book and/or tutorial and/or seminar on how to use social media and/or professional and personal organizations and/or the skin off my children’s backs to transform myself into an author with an “established platform.”

 

Is this platform enough for y’all?

 

The mandate to create and promote a platform for one’s self was once almost exclusively confined to nonfiction authors, who were sensibly advised to, for example, establish their academic and professional OCD research and treatment credentials before attempting to interest publishers in their book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective Doorknob Fondlers. Increasingly, even fiction writers are told (read:  sold) variations of the following come-on, which I have received, in both hard copy and e-formats, from both long-established and pop-up writers’ journals and newsletters:

“If you are serious about being a successful writer in the 21st Century, you must establish, maintain, market and protect your brand;
you must build a platform as a writer and a content provider.”

Content Provider. Yikes.

But for fiction writers – excuse me, I mean of course, for those of us who are “providers of fictional content” – where the emphasis is (or should be) on the stories themselves, the platforms then become…what? The authors, ourselves?

Picture, if you will, just a few of the notoriously private authors whose works somehow managed to become beloved classics or must-reads despite their authors’ lack of “platforms.” Were those writers to be launching their careers in today’s publishing environment, their books might be seen as a tough sell due to the authors’ reticence for self-promotion. The J. D. Salingers, the Harper Lees, The Thomas Pynchons, the Emily Dickinsons, the Cormac McCarthys – I try to imagine them establishing and protecting and promoting their brands, like so many literary Kardashinans.

Aside from my personal antipathy toward what I call the celebritization of writing, the emphasis on the commercial and personal marketing of authors carries with it, I believe, a backlash potential. The publishing world’s push to adopt advertising concepts once associated with shilling laundry detergent and promoting Hollywood starlets can be off-putting to those discerning readers who care much about the stories to be told and little for the notoriety and fan worship status of the storytellers. One of the most prolific readers I know (herself a published author) put it thusly:

“I hate ‘brand building’ crap.
A writer’s brand is her writing, and she shouldn’t have to put out for every social media outlet like a $20 whore on Sunset Boulevard.

I know nothing about the writers I read. I don’t care. The only time I look someone up is when I think the writing is dreadful.”

I write neither memoir nor autobiography, and my fiction rarely employs the first-person narrative. Even so, I am advised to establish an All About Me platform. This concept applied to my literary life is literally (sorry) so odious to me, I just may construct an actual platform (Olympic competition height), if only to have one from which to jump off.

 

Budding author on his platform, on his way to the content pool.

 

Also, given what passes for noteworthiness these days, how will patient publishers and empathetic editors manage to brand the un-brandable me? The literary publicists’ failsafe archetypes don’t apply in my case. I’m a proficient writer with a substantial list of publishing credits; I can spin an interesting tale, yet there’s no mesmerizing hook upon which to hang my “As a” credentials (“As a writer of speculative haiku, Ms. Parnell, l’enfant terrible of the Pacific Northwest’s burgeoning Occupy: Poetry Slam scene….”).

Alas, I have no sexy back-story. I am not:

  • the rising young star of the future, who studied under full scholarship with A Famous Author ® at the Flannery O’Hemingway Iowa Workshop and who has been touted by Publishers Weekly as one of the “Five Under 25” (make that 35…45…uh…) to watch….
  • the erstwhile ___ (junkie; orphan; differently-abled parolee; gender-neutral sex addict), a survivor of ____(cancer; Catholic boarding school; Tea Party summer camp; the first documented Facebook mass un-friending) who escaped the mean streets of ___ (The Bronx; South Boston; Rodeo Drive; Lodi) after doing ___ (meth in El Paso; time in San Quentin; dinner theatre in Fort Lauderdale; the entire cast – stunt doubles included – of Oceans Eleven)….
  • the charismatic and exotic outsider, whose stranger-in-a-strange-land observations open a window into the perspectives on contemporary American culture that only an expatriate ___ (Afghani Atheist; Bicultural Bolivian-Botswanan Baha’i; Celebrity Chef Apprentice) can impart….
  • the ___ (reluctant; introspective; flamboyant; gluten intolerant) yet articulate spokesperson of her ___ (generation; subculture; dress size; assisted living villa)….

 

 

The who-I-am hook is likely a lost cause, publicity-wise (and words cannot fully express how fine I am with that). As for what I write, aka the content I provide, again, there are no simple classifications. Despite the self-proclaimed broad-mindedness of artists in general and the literati in particular, there are these boxes – exquisitely wrapped, variously sized, but boxes nonetheless – and people want to fit you into them.

I have written and/or published:

  • a short fiction collection and over seventy short stories, but I do not write short fiction exclusively;
  • a one-act play (for which I have received royalties), but I’m not a playwright;
  • poems for both the adult and children’s markets, but that doesn’t make me a poet;
  • a song (both music and lyrics), but that doesn’t make me a songwriter;
  • essays and opinion and non-fiction articles, but I am not a journalist;
  • a picture book and a juvenile novel, but I do not identify as a “children’s writer;”
  • a novel, but I do not call myself a novelist….

My stories’ characters have variously committed murder and other crimes, ventured in and out of love, encountered illusory beings, and lived in the present, the past and/or the future…but I am not a mystery/crime/romance/contemporary/historical/fantasy/sci-fi author. There’s no tidy genre label – nor the ready-made audience that seems to come with such – under which to file my work. I am simply a writer of literary fiction, who quietly, persistently and patiently (I will let that last adverb sink on its own merits) concentrates on writing good stories.

And that’s my mistake, it would seem. I should set aside the notes for my next three books, and instead note how to make myself more noteworthy.

 

 

Along with or in advance of a publication contract, publishers often send writers an AQ (Author’s Questionnaire) which asks about the writer’s background (“Is there additional information you can provide about yourself, to make you more personally appealing to our readers? Any anecdotes, for example, you might share at a reading?”). When presented with an AQ I typically weasel my way through questions I deem overly personal or irrelevant to the work at hand. No more. Perhaps it is time I contact my latest book’s publisher and submit my AQ addendum:

The distinctive silhouette was at once masculine and boyish. Dapper, graying temples, firm, chiseled jaw, roguish eyes and wickedly seductive grin – his beguiling features were illuminated by the waxing moonlight.
I felt a slight tremor of anticipation as his strong hands reached for mine; I found his grip surprisingly tender and reassuringly assertive as he helped me up onto the platform. *My* platform.

“Ladies and gentlemen, let me begin tonight’s reading by categorically denying the rumors of my affair with George Clooney.”

The End

About the author
Robyn Parnell lives and writes in platform-free Hillsboro, Oregon.

*   *   *

 

*   *   *

 

Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week   [5]

 

Taslima Nashrin, a Bangladeshi-Swedish author, doctor, secular humanist acphysician, feminist, secular humanist activist. She has been blacklisted and banished from the Bengal regions in Bangladesh (and the Indian state of West Bengal) and received fatwas for her writings on the oppression of women and her critiques of religion.

 

*   *   *

May we be content with not producing content;
May platforms be reserved for divers and drag queens;
May we understand that brands are for cereals, not people;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] As in, they want or even require the author to do the lion’s share of the publicity for their book – without a publisher’s PR budget and connections.  And good luck finding the time to learn several new professions (including literary PR, press agent, booking and scheduling agent) while also finding time to actually write….

[2] Imagine going to your doctor for your annual physical, only to find that while her fee for service has not changed you are now responsible for doing your own urinalysis – which the physician’s billing office describes as “…giving you the opportunity to partner with your doctor and be more involved in your health care!

[3] Author of several books, including fiction and non-fiction, self-help, and tech manuals.

[4] I do think that, in the case of non-fiction works, self-publishing may be – and has been –  a viable alternative, for some authors.

[5] “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 Awards I’m Not Winning

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As referenced in last week’s blog (1-20-23) …

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 one of a three-part series.  Parts one and two feature essays I wrote several years ago. The essays have the following commonality:

(a) I was satirizing a certain aspect of the writing/publishing life;

(b) More than one editor to whose journal(s) I submitted these essays wrote, in their kind and complimentary rejection letters, that although they personally liked the article they could not publish it and, added that they felt it incumbent to warn me that that the article might be unpublishable due to my making fun of the process – i.e.; gnawing at the hand that was supposedly feeding me – despite the essays being clearly intended as satirical (“You realize that many people in this world   [1]   do not have a sense of humor about what they do….)

 

 

The first amusing (to moiself  ) if flattering rejection letter confirmed what I had suspected.   “I really, *really* like your essay,” the editor wrote, “… but do you know this is essentially unpublishable?”

Do I know that literary journals and magazines are not known for having a sense of humor about themselves?  Dude, trust me, I’ve figured that out.

And yet the essay did find a home.  In an edited version, one which the magazine’s editors retitled, for some reason, as Author, Author,    [2]  and later in its original form in another journal.  [3]    

The subject for the essay had been bouncing round my devious mind for some time.  I’d been taking mental notes for years about the proliferation of writing awards, but the impetus for putting it down was reading an announcement, by someone, moiself  didn’t know well, on social media, about how a poem they’d written had won the prize for Desiccated Ego Quarterly Review’s Contest For Best Emo-Themed Lyric Soliloquy By An Emerging Writer Under Age Thirty.   [4]

 

 

Instead of feeling happy for them or sending congratulations, I found moiself  cringing on their behalf, as I found it rather…amateurish.

Sure, do a humble brag when you win a Pulitzer, but Desiccated Ego Quarterly Review’s Contest For Best Emo-Themed Lyric Soliloquy By An Emerging Writer Under Age Thirty sounds like something your mother dreamed up. Except, of course, it wasn’t the writer’s mother – it was an editor…and a publisher, and another and another – such contests and awards were madly multiplying.  And they continue to do so.  Even more than they years ago when I was still actively submitting work, more and more literary journals list this change in requirements on their writers guidelines:

“Submissions currently excepted only through our contests.”

There is a fee, of course, for submitting, which the journal justifies clarifies with a circular explanation along these lines: the journal’s prize/contest entry fees help fund the journal as well as the prizes the journal awards for said contests.

Which means that contest “winners”– in perhaps a momentarily/financially insignificant way, but in an ultimately significantly unethical (IMO) way – have been a party to purchasing their own prize.

 

 

And so, on with the show.  [5]

*   *   *

YOU  CAN  BE  (OR  ALREADY  ARE)
AN  AWARD-WINNING  WRITER!

Calling all non-award-winning writers (you know who you are): It’s time to add a trophy title to your nom de plume.  It imparts that certain je ne sais quoi, literary cachet; besides, with all the opportunities out there, what’s your excuse for *not* having one?

Admit it, you’ve had an experience similar to the following.  Scanning the bio notes of an article in a writer’s magazine, you discovered that the article’s author had received a literary award, the title of which you had to practice saying several times before you could utter it in one breath:

“The Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellweather Prize For Fiction
in Support of a Literature For Social Change.”

Pulitzer, schmulitzer; *there’s* an award you don’t see every day.  Although if present trends continue, you probably will.

No disrespect intended towards the esteemed (and multiple award-winning) Ms. Kingsolver, whose once-eponymous award now goes by the more succinct, “The Bellweather Prize.”  As awkwardly extensive as I found the earlier title, it was nice to come across any award named after a living woman instead of a member of the Dead Literary Guys Club.  Still, I’ve never been able to get that erstwhile, très specific award title out of my mind.  It reminds me of, well, of other très specific or obscure literary award titles I’ve seen in the classifieds ads, the Grants and Awards announcements, and the Member News sections of writer’s publications.

Computer literate literati are just a Google away from discovering the astounding number of writing awards, contests, grants and fellowships available to actual or aspiring authors.  Award titles and descriptions can be quite entertaining, and so once upon a keyboard I decided to keep a file of literary awards’ names, categories and sponsors.  In a few months that decision was followed by another one: to delete the file, whose page count had surpassed that of the first draft of my first novel.  I feared for the storage space on my hard disk; I feared for my attitude even more.

I hold a hopeful snobbery about writing, and am ambivalent about the proliferation of literary prizes.  I want writers to eschew the self-celebration and celebriti-zation that infests popular culture.  Moreover, the proliferation of Something, even Something with good intentions, can ultimately demean its significance or value.  There’s the Oscars, Cannes, Sundance…and then there’s the Toledo People’s Choice Film Festival.

 

 

At the risking of sounding like the George C. Scott of author-dom, I’m leery of prizes for art in general and literature in specific.  I reject the notion that, intentionally or otherwise, writers should compete with one another, or that there are universally accepted or objective criteria for judging the “best” of works that are written – and read – by gloriously subjective beings.  Then again, I can understand the motivations for award-giving in any field of endeavor, including writing (“Our work must be important — see how many awards we have?!”).  And who wouldn’t enjoy having Pulitzer Prize-winning author attached to their byline?

An award, any award, can bestow a certain distinction.  Thousands of novels and poetry collections are published yearly, most fading quickly into obscurity.  But maybe, just maybe, you’ll give the impression you’re Someone To Watch ®  if your back-listed-so-fast-it-left-skidmarks chapbook receives “The Award for Southwestern Pangendered Speculative Flash Prose-Poems.”

Relax, take a cleansing breath, and stop composing your bio notes for the entry form.  There’s no such award.  Yet.

To get an idea of the number and variety of literary prizes, flip through the classified ads section of any writer’s magazine, or check out their on-line versions.  One prominent writer’s website has over *nine hundred* Awards & Contests listings, a number added to weekly if not daily.  Whatever your personal traits or writing genre, there’s a prize or contest – and, of course, an entry fee – waiting for you.

 

 

Anything in particular for which you’d like recognition?  If it’s for religion or spirituality, among the hundreds of awards are the Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book Awards, the American Academy of Religion’s Best First Book in the History of Religions, and the Utmost Christian Poetry Contest.  If you’re inspired by regional affiliation, try the Saskatchewan Book Of The Year Award or The Boardman Tasker Award For Mountain Literature.

You might impress potential publishers (or failing that, the crowned heads of Europe) with a majestic title: The Royal Society Of Literature Award Under The W.H. Heinemann Bequest.  If you’d like woo corporate America, seek the General Mill’s The Cheerios® New Author Contest.  Are you between the ages of eleven and 111?  Go for The Geoffrey Bilson Award For Historical Fiction For Young People, or the The Solas Awards Elder Travel: The best story from a traveler 65 years of age or older.  And there’s no lack of prizes vis-à-vis gender, ethnic, and sexual identity, including the Women’s Empowerment Awards Writing Competition, The Association Of Italian-Canadian Writers Literary Contest, and the Emerging Lesbian Writers Fund Award.

Perhaps you’d rather be esteemed for subject matter.  If you cover the timeless concerns of war and peace, the Michael Shaara Award For Excellence In Civil War Fiction, or Japan’s Goi Peace Foundation International Essay Contest may be for you.  And let us wave our olive branches in tribute to one of the more interestingly named awards in this or any category, in hopes that, with perhaps a little nudging, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation will reinstate their now-retired Swackhamer Peace Essay Contest (it took a serious peacenik to wield a Swackhamer).

Don’t worry if your themes are comparatively prosaic; writing awards are not limited to life’s essentials.  From sailors (the U.S. Maritime Literature Awards) to horses (the Thoroughbred Times Fiction Contest) to zombies (Dark Moon Anthology Short Story Writing Contests for Horror Writers), if there’s a topic, there’s a prize.

Awards even pay tribute to literary length.  Writers in it for the long haul have the Reva Shiner Full-Length Play Award, while those pressed for time may try the Short Prose Competition for Developing Writers.  Not to be out-shorted is Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Award; covering the remaining short bases is the Fineline Competition For Prose Poems, Short Shorts, And Anything In Between.  And for literature with a discernable shelf life, behold the Perishable Theatre’s Women’s Playwriting Festival prize.

 

 

My excuse for not having even one measly award title escorting my nom de plume is likely related to the fact that I don’t enter contests (perhaps one day I’ll discover that I’ve won “The Chinook Prize for the Pacific Northwest’s Un-entered Fiction Contests“).   My nonparticipation notwithstanding, the number of literary awards continues to expand, and they’ve got to be conferred upon somebody.  Chances are greater than ever that almost all writers will have their fifteen minutes to don some sort of authorial laurel wreath.  Yes, dear writer, *you* could be an award-winning author.  There’s probably something wrong with you if you’re not.

My favorite prize name strains credibility, yet is listed as a writing award.  And so, fellow writer, considering the abundance of awards, in your quest for recognition and cool author’s bio notes, please save this one for me: the Wergle Flomp Poetry Contest.  If my entry prevails I will receive a monetary prize and publication of my poem, plus that accolade for which no value can be calculated:

The right to henceforth refer to myself, in author’s credits and future contest entry forms, as a Wergle Flomp award-winning writer.

The End

about the author
A long, long time ago a sixth grader named Robyn Parnell won some kind of Isn’t America Groovy?! essay contest.  Since 1975, when she acquired a trophy resembling a garden trowel (High School Journalism Day, Orange County, CA), Parnell has remained an award-free writer.  She hopes to one day be the deserving recipient of The Robyn Parnell Prize in Support of Imaginative and Distinguished Prose in Support of Robyn Parnell.

 

 

*   *   *

Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week   [6]

“Although I’m an atheist, I don’t fear death more than, say, sharing a room in a detox center with a sobbing Rush Limbaugh.”
( Berkeley Breathed, Pulitzer-Prize-winning (ahem!) American cartoonist, creator of Bloom County and Outland,
as quoted in The Quotable Atheist, by Jack Huberman )

 

 

*   *   *

May you judiciously choose which humble brags to share;
May you never win an award which bears your name;
May your concepts of afterlives not include boorish talk radio hosts;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Which moiself  took to be the editorial/publishing side of the “world.”

[2]  Bear Deluxe magazine, #23, spring-summer 2006.

[3] In the now-indefinitely-on-hiatus, dislocate magazine: a Minnesota journal of writing and art, 6-11-20.

[4] Not the award’s exact title, but you get the idea.

[5] All award names listed were actual, active awards, at the time the essay was written; some may have been discontinued or had their names changed.

[6] “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 

The Advice Columnist I’m Not Blaming

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Department Of Blame It On Carolyn

Carolyn Hax, that is, my all-time favorite advice columnist.  [1]   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   [2]   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.    [3]    Lucky y’all – grab a tranquilizer of choice, here it is.   [4]

***********************************

SHP

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:   [5]  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.

 

 

But, as Washington Post columnist Carolyn Hax so astutely noted to one such husband who’d written to her (to carp about the money his wife kept from her “projects”):

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

 

 

finances

-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

Misc. household

– 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)

pet care

– 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

– allowances

            – 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

– clothing

            – 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;

– school

            – 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.   [6] 

******************************************

Reading it over…yikes.

Can you magine what you’d have to pay someone (else) to do all this?     [7]

 

******************************************************************

 

 

*   *   *

Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week   [8]

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    [9]  )

*   *   *

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.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] And a damn good writer, as well.

[2] Actually, a little over ten years ago.

[3] In which Carolyn Hax makes another cameo appearance.

[4] The original document did not have the graphics present in this blog post.

[5] How can you not? There’s one on every corner.

[6] 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 )

[7] 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….

[8] “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  

[9] Author, activist, and feminist, excommunicated by the Mormon church for supporting the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution.

The Fight I’m Not Ending

Comments Off on The Fight I’m Not Ending

Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

It’s that time of the year again. As has become a tradition much maligned anticipated in our neighborhood, moiself   is hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.   [1]

Can you identify this week’s guest Partridge?

 

*   *   *

And about that fight….  Why am I not ending it? Because the controversies over the issues and principles involved seem to be (still, WTF)  lingering in some tight-spirited and fearful minds.

I ran across the sentiments moiself   so objects to last week when moiself  heard a snippet of a radio interview with some book reviewer.  But I was most butt-frostingly reminded of The Fight ®  when I recently heard Fresh Air host Terry Gross’s 1993 interview (rebroadcasted 12-14-22) with Octavia Butler, the late great, ground-breaking Black female science fiction author.

 

 

Butler, indiscussing how and why she began writing, said she was both trying to get under-represented perspectives a voice (i.e. a voice like hers, as a black female in sci fi), but also she wanted to experience the voice of others:

“…I’ve  also explored, and in a strange sense I suppose I also found out, what it might like to be a white male or whatever, you know.
One of the things writing does is allow you to be other people
without actually being locked up for it.”

TG:
“We’re talking empathy here, right?”

OB:
“Uh hum – yes.”

 

 

That should have ended the pitiful controversy right there and then.  But it’s been a long time since 1993, and “cultural appropriation,” a concept bandied about in academia in the 1980s, wasn’t so publicly applied to works of literature until after Butler’s death.

In case y’all haven’t figured out the connection between this particular blog’s title and content, the fight I refer to would be that against literary censorship – censorship of the worst kind, the kind that makes an author repress herself before she even writes, when she has an idea for a story/plot/character but fears her work will be for naught as she doesn’t have the right “personal” credentials/identity that the self-appointed Saviors of Literary Ownership Police  (appropriately acronym-ed) will deem necessary…and thus they will rake her over the cultural appropriation coals.

Moiself  has written about this several times in this space (a few of them cited at the end of this post, before the footnotes), and most extensively in my post, The Culture I’m Not Appropriating, 9-16-16.  Since it’s my birthday week   [2]  and since the wise words of Ms. Butler inspired me, I shall rerun that post, which was one of my first single-subject rants examination of a thorny issue:

 

 

( from The Culture I’m Not Appropriating, 9-16-16. )

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

Golly gosh gee willikers, how I love learning new things: it seems that, like intestinal gas after a vegan-chili-eating contest, that misbegotten maxim keeps resurfacing. It has morphed, and rises anew in the form of the term, cultural appropriation.      [3]

 

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

 

American journalist/novelist Lionel Shriver, who was invited to be the keynote speaker at the recent  Brisbane Writers Festival, knotted the knickers of the festival organizers when, as reported in this NY Times article, she  [4]  disparaged the movement against cultural appropriation:

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

Seven years ago I wrote a letter to the editor of Poets & Writers magazine, in response to a Very Long Screed ® letter from a woman who passionately pronounced that writers must write about only those characters and backgrounds from whence they came; that is, you must write about what you know, and what you know is what you are. Screed Woman  [5]    commented at length about what a “true artist” may create, and at one point actually declared the following:

I will not permit folks like _____ [6]  to write of my folk, or Mexican folk, or Asian folk, or Native American folk, of folk of color as though they have a right to.” 

 

 

Yes, really.

Screed Writer, without having been asked by other writers, “By the way, what do you think I should write about?” and without having been elected to the Board of Literary Permissions,  [7]   not only felt entitled to speak for all of her “folk,” but also for the folk of which she is not-folk – an incredibly diverse and numerous collection of humanity, whose varying and wide-ranging opinions on the issue at hand she discounted, IMHO, by presuming to speak for all folk-of-color.

As I wrote in my reply letter,  [8]

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

 

 

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

John Steinbeck, born into middle-class comfort in California and educated at Stanford – what could he know of the struggles and dreams of the destitute Oklahoma migrant farmers he depicted in The Grapes of Wrath? And that Cathy Ames character, the initially charming but ultimately evil and pitiful wife/mother in East of Eden – how could a 1950s, upright male citizen like Steinbeck take the liberty to deduce the machinations of a turn of the century whorehouse madam?   [9]

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

I moiself  have, in this space and others, ranted commented on the pervasive sexism in the publishing and literary reviewing worlds, wherein, for example, “books about women written by men receive critical acclaim, while books written by women on similar themes and in a similar style are tawdry domestic dramas.”   [10]   And a slew of minds more incisive than mine have long noted the disparate praise heaped upon (usually white) men vis-à-vis women and minorities writing on the same subject.

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

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

Look: you may like a story’s plot and/or characters, or loathe the same – it’s up to each reader. What is not up to any reader, nor the self-blinder-donning, self-appointed Guardians Of Cultural Appropriation,   [11]   is to attempt to limit, intimidate or censor the imagination and empathy that writers use to create their stories and characters.

 

 

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

 Since I am not one to ignore the example of GB Shaw, I shall end this communique with the end of my afore-mentioned response to the afore-mentioned Screed Writer:

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Taking A Break

 

There; that’s better.

 

 

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

 

 

*   *   *

Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week     [12]

“Political parties and ideologies with winning ideas don’t need to ban books. Christian nationalism, however, features inferior ideas
that can’t compete in the modern world without cheating.”
( Marty Essen, author, in his op-ed “Christian Nationalism and book banning,”
Independent Record, 9-16-22 )

*   *   *

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

*   *   *

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

Teasers from previous posts on this topic, in case you haven’t had enough already and/or are suffering from insomnia:

Department Of Oh Please Not This Again
It is just as well that I’m a writer, not an editor. Were I editing a newspaper or magazine, I might soon be out of a job. For this is an essay in defense of cultural appropriation.
In Canada last month, three editors lost their jobs after making such a defense.

(Kenan Malik, opening lines from, In Defense of Cultural Appropriation  )

Excerpt from post The Woman I’m Not Born As, June 23 2017

*   *

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

Although I snorted with derision when I read the afore-mentioned journals’ guidelines, I did have select pieces that I thought would be a good thematic fit for them. I also noted that neither journal requested contributor photos nor dates of birth, and thus had no way of confirming an author’s generational affiliation….
I chose to dishonor the journals’ guidelines by sending them my Gen-X-themed-fiction/poetry-written-by-a-non-Gen-Xer. The editors of the journal which published my story effused in the acceptance letter about how I had captured the particular zeitgeist they sought – about how the tone of my story was “exactly what we are looking for.”….
(excerpt from the acceptance acknowledgement letter I did not send to them):
Gee, thanks – oh, and by the way, that’s the point of being a *fiction* writer.  Somehow, miraculously, I was able to *get* the tone without *being* the tone. It’s called craft; skill; experience; imagination; empathy. It’s called creative writing for a reason, you ageist, imaginatively constipated twerps.
( Excerpt from post The Acceptance Letter I’m Not Sending, June 30 2017 )

*   *

Department Of More Fun With Writer
Sub-Department Of Yet Another Southern Border Crisis?

….American Dirt, in case you haven’t heard, is a novel about a Mexican woman and her son, the only survivors of their family’s murder by a drug cartel, who flee for their lives and head for the USA-Mexico border.  AD was chosen as an Oprah’s Book Club selection (which almost guarantees a bajillion copies sold, plus movie options) and received glowing reviews, including from Latina authors and actors such as Sandra Cisneros and Julia Alvarez and Salma Hayek.…until someone pointed out that the novel about Mexican immigrants was written by a non-Mexican, and the cultural identity police dog-piled on.
The book’s author identifies as white and Latina and has a Puerto Rican grandmother, but that’s not Latina enough for some.  Seemingly overnight the book went being reviewed as a captivating story that could “change hearts and transform policies” (Alvarez) to being “racist” and “filled with stereotypes.”  Just as quickly, the author went from to literary prodigy to pariah…her publisher even cancelled book tour appearances because of “specific threats to the booksellers and the author.”
(Excerpt from post The Cheese I’m Not Cutting, February 21 2020 )

*   *
Department Of Idiocy Makes My Brain Hurt
Sub-Department Of Let’s Just Cancel those Pesky Qualities of Imagination And Empathy, Part 102.7 In A Contemptibly Long Series
Adjunct to the Sub-Sub Division Of Why My Own Profession
Has Left A Bad Taste In My Mouth For Years

….I’ve little doubt that author  (Celeste) Ng’s hesitation about her “authoritative voice” was due to her anticipating charges of cultural appropriation (and the very real possibility of being boycotted by publishers, who would fear such a backlash): as in, how dare Ng think that she, an Asian (read: non-Black) writer, could create a full-blooded, multi-faceted, Black character?
So:
* Although the Asian-American author imagined a Black woman as this lead character, she couldn’t bring herself to actually write her as such;
* Nevertheless, this Asian/non-Black writer was so successful in creating a compelling story about “identity and how the roles and the context of our identity contributes to how we live and relate to others in the world” that a Black actor could identify with this lead character as Black;
* And it was acceptable for the series’ casting director and other lead actor and producers to suggest casting the character as Black, and the Black actor allowed herself to take the role (“an amazing idea”), which was created by an Asian, non-Black writer….
( Excerpt from post, The Karma I’m Not Accruing, September 11 2020 )

*   *

(Finally!) Footnotes

[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

[2] And thus I can write about whatever I want to…oh, wait, that’s every week….

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

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

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

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

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

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

[9] Excuse me, did I write ‘madam”? I mean of course, Sex Worker Supervisor.

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

[11] Unfortunately, not the long-awaited sequel to Guardians Of The Galaxy .

[12] “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 Rings I’m Not Wearing

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Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

It’s that time of the year again. As has become a tradition much maligned anticipated in our neighborhood, moiself  is hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.   [1]

Can you identify this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of If You’re Already Sick Of The Holiday Cheer…

Then this might be for you:  The entire L.A. City Council racist audio leak, transcribed and annotated by The Los Angeles Times.

 https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-11-21/la-city-council-racist-audio-leak-transcription-annotation

 

 

Well, *listen* and weep….

 

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)   [2] 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.

 

“Incoming!”

 

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’ ”  [3]  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.   [4]    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.  [5]

 

 

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?”    [6]

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.”  [7]    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,   [8]   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.    [9]

 

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:

(1) occupational hazards; i.e. one or both of them had jobs in metalworking or sports or manufacturing jobs where avulsion (eeeewwww….ick)  was a risk, or

(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.    [10]

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.

 

My current one is a dark purple.

*   *   *

Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week     [11]

“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,    [12] )

*   *   *

May you reconsider your usage of POC and 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.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

[2] who, as of this writing, have not been identified.

[3] Which is how one man mansplained engagements rings to me, when I wondered aloud about their meaning.

[4] Don’t ask me to do the math, which I have to do in order to remember.  Okay; it’s 34.

[5] 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.

[6] Yes, Sandra Banana, that was you.

[7] 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.

[8] After all, he was already dating and now engaged to this crazy older woman….

[9] The ring, not the finger.

[10] In discussing the various ring alternatives with our offspring, our generously tattooed daughter was – surprise! – highly in favor of the ink option.

[11] “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

[12] 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.”

The Pulitzer Prize I’m Not Sharing

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Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

It’s that time of the year again. As has become a tradition much maligned anticipated in our neighborhood, moiself  will be hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.   [1]

Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Perhaps The Writer Of The Story Should Rethink
The Use Of The Modifier, “Successfully”

Dateline: Wednesday morning.  Moiself  reads these two opening paragraphs of a story published the previous evening in The Oregonian:

“The very morning he left a residential drug treatment program he successfully completed, a Douglas County man went straight to his former drug dealer and bought a pill.
Hours later, (the man’s) grandparents found the 25-year-old in a barn on their ranch in rural Drain, dead from acute fentanyl intoxication….”
(“Oregon man dies from fentanyl hours after leaving treatment.”
The Oregonian 11-29-22)

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yes! Yes! See This Movie, Yes! Yes!
But With Caution

Caution as in, perhaps a trigger warning?

 

 

I was literally shaking as I left the theater.

She Said.   Everyone should see this movie…however, moiself  has a feeling that only those who understand the experiences will have the inclination to do so.

Yep, moiself  was rattled, even though I knew (most of) the facts of the story the movie tells – of how NY Times investigative reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey (and journalist Ronan Farrow, working separately and simultaneously on the same story for The New Yorker) broke the Harvey Weinstein story and later wrote a book about both HW’s many abuses and their experiences investigating them (She Said:  Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement).

Kantor and Twohey shared the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for public service with Ronan Farrow, for their reporting on the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault and abuse scandals.

 

 

Harvey Weinstein, that serial rapist and sexual abuser of women and girls (at least three of his victims were teenagers at the time of their assaults; one was sixteen), has four daughters, whose ages range from twenty-seven to eleven.  Can you even imagine being one of them?

 

 

As I said wrote, I left the theater shaking, not with surprise but by the reminders that, with his goons and enablers and attorneys and accountants and other sycophants, HW almost got away with it.  Hell, he DID get away with it.  For. Decades.  And he wasn’t alone…and in how many workplaces, from Mom and Pop stores to multinational corporations, did and do predators continue to get away with it?

The movie touched on much more than the HW story itself.  It brought to mind the universal experiences of women abused by powerful men, some of which came out during the subsequent Me Too movement, some of which are ongoing, and most of which are lost to history, blackmail and extortion, victim-blaming and shame, and fear.

 

 

In one scene Kantor, a mother of two young daughters, is talking with Twohey, who’d just recently had her first baby (also a daughter), and who has dealt with some postpartum depression.  The story the two reporters are investigating is stressful; particularly wearing on them is the psychological damage they have seen inflicted upon HW’s victims, whose lives have been turned upside down (and careers ruined, in many cases) and who are too fearful to come out on the public record against such a powerful man…  [2] …and who live under a dark cloud of futility and despair.  I wish I could recall the exact dialog, but the essential vibe of the brief but powerful scene is this:  the two reporters briefly wonder aloud about how whether the frustration, fear, and depression experienced by many women might be the result of the pervasive drag-down common to the female experience: of having to deal with the burden of being female in a world where men still overwhelmingly hold and abuse power and act on the assumption that they can do whatever they want to any woman who is lower than them on life’s totem pole.   [3]

One of many powerful scenes in the movie involves several minutes of static video – footage of a NYC hotel hallway – while the reporters listen to audiotape of a “conversation” between HW and one of his victims (she was wired by the NYPD after reporting her assault). I need another word for conversation; I found it brutal to listen to, as HW harangued and pleaded and whined and threatened and interrupted the woman as he tried to get her to accompany him to his hotel room for a “meeting” (that’s where he does *all* his business meetings, he insisted,  [4]  and she is being so mean and unreasonable for refusing him, he pouts, and trying to embarrass him and “nothing” would happen, he promised “on the life of my children”   [5]  ).  And the woman was resisting and trying to get him to listen to her tell him how uncomfortable he was making her feel, and to answer her questions about why he had assaulted her (grabbed her breast) the previous day (“That’s just what I do,” he dismissed her complaint) and he went on and on, not taking her “no” for an answer, and repeatedly interrupting and talking over her….

I’d never had a sexually psychotic, sadistically bullying film producer try to intimidate and/or lure me.  Still, it all seemed so…familiar.

 

 

Two scenes later, Twohey and Kantor, both women in their early 30s, are seated at a table in a local pub with their editor, a woman in her late 60s.  They are there to discuss the HW investigation.  Two men enter the bar, spot the reporters, and began flirting with them.  One of the men approaches their table and invites the reporters to join him and his buddy (he doesn’t even make eye contact with the older woman; it’s as if – surprise! – she’s invisible to him).  Kantor is sitting with her back to the man; Twohey politely but firmly declines the man’s invitation.  The man persists. Twohey declines again, says that they are having a conversation and don’t want to be disturbed, and the man persists and interrupts and she declines several times (each time louder than her previous decline), the last time rising to her feet and yelling at him that she’d told him “…we are in a conversation and you need to FUCK OFF!”   Both men retreat, making smarmy remarks about how they know what those women “need.” Twohey apologizes to Kantor for yelling; Kantor assures her —reminds her – “Don’t say you’re sorry” (for standing up to bullies).

How fucked up is it – that women are conditioned to say they’re sorry, even when rightly and righteously reacting to someone else who is in the wrong?  The bar conversation scene, following the chilling audiotapes scene, was an obvious juxtaposition of a specific instance of harassment with What Women Endure On An Everyday Basis ®, in both professional and social situations.

 

 

But I can’t get out of my mind something that occurred to me after the movie was over.  I don’t think it was the director’s conscious attempt to put that observation into my mind.  Still, it is powerful, and it is this:

She Said  tells the story of the investigation into sexual assault and harassment, in HW’s Miramax Films in specific, and the movie industry in general.  Ironically (or not), a common trope in romantic comedies – one of the most successful movie genres – is that of the ardent male suitor who pursues his female love interest despite her having little to no interest in (or initially even repulsed by) him.  He won’t take no for an answer…and the movie rewards him for that, and presents his perseverance in a positive light.  He’s a man who knows what he wants!  And he goes for it!  His love interest is worn down by his persistence and finally says yes to him, whether for the moment or for life.

I repeat: in cinematic romcoms (and often also in “serious” movie love stories) the protagonist is rewarded for his dogged pursuit of someone who is not initially interested in him.  Even when the object of his desire says no, it’s his job to change her mind.  This kind of character is lauded in romcoms for behavior that in any other situation is essentially stalking.  And what happens in the movies? He “gets” his prize.  He is rewarded for his stalking persistence; he is rewarded, and praised and even presented as a romantic role model, for not taking no for an answer.

Of course, this convention only applies when the romantic protagonist is male.  If the pursuer is a female who is persistent and won’t take no for an answer, then she is presented as a neurotic/sociopath who’s going to boil your bunny.

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

Actually…not.  Moiself  got so twitterpated with the She Said subject matter that I’ve no energy left for other topics.  Except for maybe a brief interlude considering the therapeutic value of looking at pictures of unbearably cute baby animals wearing Santa hats.

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Cinematic Edition

Friends ask me how I sneak candy bars into the movie theater.
Well, I have a few twix up my sleeve.

Speaking of movie treats, how does actor Reese eat her ice cream?
Witherspoon.

What do you call movie a gunslinger with glasses?
Squint Eastwood.

 

I know what you’re thinking, punk. Don’t encourage her.

 

A French director wants to open a floating cinema in Paris with drive-in boats.
I just think that’s in Seine.

Some people forced me to watch a horror movie about clowns by punching me all the way to the cinema.
Yep, they beat me to IT.

 

 

*   *   *

May all of our animal friends look unbearably cute in Santa hats;
May you always and confidently guess this week’s Partridge;
May you always know when to take no for an answer;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

[2] The majority of HW’s victims were not well-known Hollywood stars (although there were several of those), but Miramax aides and clerical staff, way down on the totem pole and with no public interest in their stories.

[3] And to such men, all women, simply by being female, are lower than them on that totem pole.

[4] And, as HW  told so many of his young, naive victims, who were film industry novices, “That’s how it’s done in Hollywood.”  Being new to the business, most of them thought he knew what he was talking about and that *they* were ignorant stupid and/or were the ones sexualizing the meeting invitation by even being suspicious of its location.

[5] That was HW’s favorite tactic, to promise (that he wouldn’t do anything sexual, or that he was telling the truth), “on the life of my wife and children” – which one HW associate said was the no-fail tell that HW was about to lie.

The Holiday I’m Not Renaming

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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!!!!     [1]     (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.

 

*   *   *

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.   [2]   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-Mole game, 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:

“Oh!”
(whack)

“Oh!”
(whack)

“Oh!” (whack) “Oh!” (whack)

“Oh oh oh oh oh oh!”
(whack whack whack whack whack whack)

It is one of my favorite memories of her.

 

This is another one.

 

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

Moiself  is referring to the recent rerun of an interview with (the late) Loretta Lynn on Fresh Air .

It was a tad interesting, due to the skills of FA host, Terry Gross, arguably   [3]  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.  [4]   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.    [5]  Moiself  likes the idea of variety feast, rather than a fixed menu.  [6] 

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 DayGrativest 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!

*   *   *

[1] 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.

[2] Wager, rather than aver, because I’m not on most social media and thus can’t speak from direct experience.

[3] As in, you could argue with me about this, but you’d lose.

[4] As in her FA interviews with Bill O’Reilly and Gene Simmons.

[5] 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.

[6] Also, I haven’t eaten meat for years, so there goes that feast centerpiece.

The ‘Bitch’ Book I’m Not Requiring You To Read…

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…even though you damn well better, if you ever want to make any pronouncement about sex/gender and behavior in the animal kingdom.

Department Of I Am Woman Hear Me Roar    [1]

 

 

The book club moiself  is hosting – so unprecedentedly named, “Book Club” – is reading a book that, despite being entertaining in and of itself, has some of the more enthusiastic and engaging reviews I’ve run across in years.

But there is one adjective (most of) the reviews have left out.  Time and time again they mention how educational and entertaining the book is – you’ll laugh, you’ll gasp, you’ll shake your head and say WTF?!?!? – but they left out the anger part.  As in, for all readers with an IQ above their shoe size, this book should also, IMO, make you angry.  Angry in that the information contained in it is considered new and/or controversial to some people; angry that, even in the sciences, in fields of (supposedly) open inquiry, so many minds were closed for so many years and so many prejudices and social mores were passed along as biological realities.

 From what I’ve written, and from the review excerpts (my emphases) which follow, can you guess the subject of the book?   [2]

 

“I know you can, girls and boys.”

 

“Fun, informative and revolutionary all at once…should be required reading in school. After reading this book one will never look at an orca, an albatross, or a human the same way again. And the world will be better for it.”
( Agustin Fuentes, professor of anthropology at Princeton University)

“….blows two centuries of sexist myths right out of biology. Prepare to learn a lot -and laugh out loud. A beautifully written, very funny and deeply important book.”
( Alice Roberts, author of Evolution )

“astonishing, wildly entertaining, and massively important.” 
 (Mary Roach, American popular science author )

“An important corrective to the ‘accidental sexism’ baked into so many biological studies… [and] a clarion call that the remaining terra incognita of female biology merits far more comprehensive mapping.”
(  Financial Times )

“[An] effervescent exposé… [A] playful, enlightening tour of the vanguard of evolutionary biology.”
( Scientific American )

“… shows what a difference women make to scientific inquiry, asking questions and proposing studies their male colleagues didn’t think of — or didn’t bother with.”
( Bethanne Patrick, LA Times )

“By analyzing numerous animals, this sparkling attack on scientific sexism draws on many scientists — of multiple genders — to correct stereotypes of the active male versus passive female.”
( Nature )

 

“Who you callin’ passive?”

 

“In compelling and often hilarious prose, using the scientific authority she has earned as a trained biologist…(the author) confronts the long history of androcentric assumptions baked into evolutionary biology and begins to set the record straight.”
( Jessie Rack, Science )

“…demolishes much of what you probably learned about the sexes in biology class. This may be disconcerting, even confronting for those who feel comfortable in the warm embrace of Darwinian order. But it’s also exciting, and fascinating, and very well might change the way you see the world.”
 ( Science News )

“…dives into sex and gender across the animal kingdom, dispelling all the misogynist notions of females being the weaker sex…This book elevates not just the science itself but the scientists that have been marginalized for too long.”
 ( Lucy Roehrig, Booklist )

“In this delightful, revelatory survey of cross-species sexism, (the author) treats readers to an information-dense reframing of the many misunderstandings around sex and sexuality that burden ‘girls’ of all kinds. Come for the promise of some really neat nature facts. Stay for Cooke picking apart the misogynistic underpinnings of Charles Darwin’s fundamentally flawed theory of evolution.
( AV Club )

“A dazzling, funny and elegantly angry demolition of our preconceptions about female behaviour and sex in the animal kingdom… I read it, my jaw sagging in astonishment, jotting down favourite parts to send to friends and reading out snippets gleefully.”
( The Observer )

 

The male sage grouse’s mating dance has got to be one of those snippets.

 

“The author has a charmingly irreverent style that, among other things, pokes holes in the sexist scientific research of old that used cherry-picked data to conclude females weren’t worth studying.
( Publishers Weekly )

“A top-notch book of natural science that busts myths as it entertains.”
 ( Kirkus )

“Brilliant… readers will never see the world the same way again… inspires awe in the breathtaking diversity of nature and the evolutionary roots of our behaviour.”
 ( Times Literary Supplement )

 “A glorious rebuttal of everything we have believed about gender since Charles Darwin got it all wrong.”
( Daily Mirror )

*   *   *

The book is Bitch: On The Female of the Species, by Lucy Cooke.   [3]

 

 

Since 99% of us have had a least some exposure to Darwin’s works on evolution (On The Origin of the Species; The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex), we owe it to ourselves to read the scientific updates/corrections that have been over 160 years in the making.

In other words, if you *think* you know at least something about natural selection and animal behavior, you need to read this book.

“…since Charles Darwin got it all wrong.”

Pay close attention to that review fragment.

Darwin didn’t get it *all* wrong.  He and his peers,   [4]  whose work led us to the beginning of understanding evolutionary biology, were able to challenge the substantial religious barriers of their time and publish their findings. But when it came to sex and species, they were still men of their times, emphasis on both men and times.  They were unable to shed, nor even recognize, their blinkered, Victorian male mindset when it came to observations of pronouncements about the females of the species they studied – any and all species which used sexual reproduction.   [5]

Except that they mostly *didn’t* study the females of the species.

One of the most encouraging aspects of science is that, being science, it progresses.  Contemporatry scientists add on to the knowledge of the past, and correct the errors.  Still, this progress is often glacial, as science was done and continues to be done by human beings, with their flawed assumptions and hidden (even –  especially – to themselves) biases. Broadening the scope of knowledge and correcting errors can takes many years, and in the case of Victorian male scientists projecting their cultural assumptions and male privilege onto that of their theories and observations (or lack thereof) re females, it has taken tens of decades – approaching two centuries – for the “phallocracy of evolutionary biology” to be challenged in theory and overturned by the evidence.

Closing in on 200 years after Darwin and Wallace began organizing their theories of evolution, the old boys network many contemporary male scientists still hold on to the past.  Even when presented with the DNA analysis confirming what ethologists and biologists observed in the field – that, for example, in the nest of the assumedly monogamous/pair-bonded songbirds, only two of the clutch of the female’s six eggs are actually fathered by the male of the pair – some scientists still cling to the myth that only the males of a species are promiscuous.  The lower their blinders; they protest and bluster and try to explain away the evidence right under their prudish noses.  [6]

 

“Close your eyes and think of England.”

 

“Even the most original and meticulous scientists are not immune to the influence of culture….  The leading academic minds of the Victorian era considered the sexes to be radically different creatures – essentially polar opposites of one another. females were believed to experience  arrested development; they resembled the young of their species by being smaller and less colorful…. Essentially, males were considered to be more evolved than females.

These sentiments were all incorporate by Darwin into The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, which, as the title suggests, used sexual and natural selection to explain human evolution and the sex differences upheld by Victorian society.

‘The chief distinction in the intellectual powers of the two sexes is shewn by man’s attaining to a higher eminence, in whatever he takes up, than can woman – whether requiring deep thought, reason or imagination, or merely the use of the senses and hands,’ explained Darwin. ‘Thus, man has ultimately become superior to woman.’

Darwin’s theory of sexual selection was incubated in misogyny, so it is little wonder that the female animal came out deformed, as marginalized and misunderstood as a Victorian housewife.

….because of (Darwin’s) godlike reputation, biologists who followed in his wake have suffered from a chronic case of confirmation bias.  They looked for evidence in support of the passive female prototype, and saw only what they wanted to see.”
( excerpts iv-xv, Introduction, Bitch: On The Female of the Species )

 

 

Moiself’s   summary/teaser for the book.  In Bitch… you will learn how the sexist scientific research of old

* projected their cultural assumptions and male privilege on to that of their theories and observations

* ignored and/or marginalized the science (and scientists) which contradicted their inherited stereotypes of the active male versus passive female

*used cherry-picked data to conclude females weren’t worth studying, and ultimately defined the females of species in terms of the males   [7]

*drew conclusions from studying male animals’ behaviors – and even anatomies – which they applied to females

These points cannot be emphasized enough.  Thus, I intend to do so, at least 23 times per post, in every blog of mine from here on out.

 

Just kidding.

*   *   *

Department Of Moiself’s Favorite Story From This Book Full of Favorite Stories

From Bitch’s Chapter Four: Fifty Ways to Eat Your Lover: the conundrum of sexual cannibalism.

“Most people don’t think of the word flamboyant when describing a spider… (however) the male peacock spider is the Liberace of the arachnid world – an outrageous peformer who just like his avian namesake, employs an estraordinary iridescent tail-fan to win his mate….
When approaching a female…this fuzzy little four millimetre wonder stages an unexpectedly elaborate dance routine by abruptly lifting his furry abdomen into a vertical position and unfurling two shimmering flaps decorated with graphic blues, oranges and reds that could have been designed by Gianni Versace. This peacock arachnid wagles his gaudy butt-fan whilst bobbing his body up and down, stomping his feet and waving a pair of oversize legs in the air. This exhuberant toutine, part Fred Astaire and part Village People, can go on for up to an hour until he’s close enough to make his move.

It is an undeniably charming spectacle, made all the more endearing by the fact that the peacock male is, of course, dancing for his life. Up to three quarters of peacock suitors are terminally dispatched by an unimpressed female.”

 

Betcha I’d be the spider who survived the odds.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Biology and Evolution Edition

Some people don’t believe in evolution.
They’re primate change deniers.

If evolution’s really a thing,
why haven’t hummingbirds learned the words yet?

How do you identify a male bald eagle?
All his feathers are combed over to one side.

 

Oh, honey, don’t be so sensitive.”

 

*   *   *

May we always be willing to question the conventional wisdom;
May we continue to update our knowledge base;
May we enjoy watching footage of the ludicrous sage grouse booty call dance;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] And if I am a woman lion hear me roar as I mate with every male lion I encounter…much to the distress of many male biologists….

[2] Yeah, I’m going to make you read further before I give the title.  Such a tease.

[3] In the running for Best Book Title Ever. ®

[4] In particular, British naturalist Alfred Wallace.

[5] As opposed to asexual reproduction.

[6] “The female songbird must have been raped!”  Cool story, bro, except that, like most birds (97%), male songbirds do not have a penis, and cannot rape their mates.  Both genders have a cloaca and must cooperate to share their genetic material, mating with what ornithologists call a “cloacal kiss.”

[7] Male lions are the default; females are the afterthought, the “-ess”es.

The Tribalism I’m Not Embracing

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What would ushering in the holiday season be without The Dropkick Murphys?

 

 

Speaking of holidays, since 2008 I’ve kept track of how many greedy candy mongers trick-or-treaters have graced our porch.  The numbers range from a low of 25   [1]   to a high of 63, with an average of 45.  This year we had 26.

 

 

 

 

Only twenty-six?  MH and I were speculating about the downswing (last year’s count was 60). Combination of a school night and the (at times heavy) rain?  It couldn’t be the latter…oh, c’mon, kids (and parents), this is Oregon.

Last year we gave out full-sized   [2]  candy bars.  This year (before moiself  knew what would be the lame turnout) I wanted to do something different. I walked up and down supermarket aisles, looking for inspiration.  And found plenty. 

Here are the things I wanted to give out to trick or treaters:  Small jars/cans of pimentos or black olives or cornichons or sweet corn or Liquid Smoke or soy sauce or…Beanee Weenees!  Of course, if word got out that we were distributing the latter, the kiddies would leave skidmarks from our neighbors’ porches to our own.

 

Accept no substitutions.

 

Here are the things we *did* give out to trick or treaters:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Perspective That Could Save Us   [3]

From the podcast Unexplainable, The Gray Area:  “On the first episode of Vox’s new podcast, The Gray Area, host Sean Illing talks with Neil deGrasse Tyson about the limits of both politics and science.”  What caught my attention was NDT’s assertion that taking a “cosmic perspective” is the most rational and helpful– and arguably the only– thing that can solve our myriad of social, political and environmental challenges.  This is an excerpt from their discussion:

NDT:
What’s the most intelligent species there ever was on earth?

SI:
 Oh…you’re setting me up. Um, since you’re asking me, it can’t be people…

NDT:
No, it *is* people; it’s not a trick question.  So now I ask, who declared that humans are the smartest animals there ever were?  Humans did.
Whereas a cosmic perspective would say, imagine a lifeform smarter than we are:  Is there anything we have done in the history of civilization that (this smarter-than-us lifeform) would judge to be clever?

 

 

This was a great 1980s, one-woman play (written by Jane Wagner and starring Lily Tomlin), which was being revived in early 2022, starring Cecily Strong.

 

 

NDT:

It’s a simple thought experiment, when we compare ourselves to chimpanzees, our closest genetic relative.  We have 98, 99% identical DNA to a chimp. Now, if you’re really into homo sapiens you say, What a difference that 2% makes! We have philosophy and the Hubble telescope and art and civilization! And all the chimp can do is maybe extract termites from a mound, and the smartest of them will stack boxes to reach hanging bananas from the ceiling.
 But I pose you the question: suppose the intelligence difference between chimps and humans was actually as small as that 2% might indicate.  What would we look like to some other species that’s 2% beyond us in intelligence – just the 2% that we are beyond the chimps?
Continue on that line. The smartest chimps can do what our toddlers can do.  By that analogy, the smartest humans would do what the toddlers of this species can do.
Putting all that in context, all I’m saying is that for you to say we’re pretty clever… another species 2% beyond us, there’s nothing we could do that would impress them.
So, that species visiting earth on the rumor that intelligent life had surfaced, after seeing our rampant irrationalities – the wars we fight against our own species, because you live on a different line in the sand, because resources are unequally distributed on the land and in the ocean, because you worship a different god, because you sleep with different people – and we slaughter each other and enslave people….  Those aliens will run home and say, “There is no sign of intelligent life on earth.”
It’s a cosmic perspective, offered for your consideration.

SI:
This …is (your) central plea…that we take a more cosmic perspective on things…

NDT:
On *everything.*

SI:
 …on everything, and achieve some clarity about what really matters and what doesn’t, and how stupid so many of the things that we *think* are important really are…

NDT:
I wouldn’t say stupid so much as just kind of irrelevant. You think it’s important and it’s actually not. That’s a more significant value of a cosmic perspective: it forces you to rebalance your portfolios of concerns in the world.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Cosmic Perspective Is Definitely Needed Here

The LA Times is one of four (online) newspapers moiself  subscribes to, and I’ve been watching (as in, reading about) the following scandal unfold for…yikes, is it weeks, now?  The machinations of local/Los Angeles politics may be way off most people’s current events radar; however, even those with no interest in such, even those with their heads under the proverbial rock when it comes to west coast politics, by now have likely heard of the LA City Council recording scandal.

The scandal in a nutshell:   [4]   An anonymously leaked recording of a private conversation among LA City Council members and a labor leader making racist and classist remarks and political scheming regarding redistricting has prompted a state investigation, and led to the resignation of the LA City Council president and said labor leader.

“Behind closed doors, Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez made openly racist remarks, derided some of her council colleagues and spoke in unusually crass terms about how the city should be carved up politically….
Martinez and the other Latino leaders present during the taped conversation were seemingly unaware they were being recorded as Martinez said a councilmember handled his young Black son as though he were an “accessory” and described the boy as “Parece changuito,” or “like a monkey.”…
Martinez also mocked Oaxacans, and said “F— that guy … He’s with the Blacks” while speaking about Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón.

( “Racist remarks in leaked audio of L.A. council members spark outrage, disgust,”
LA Times 10-9-22)

 

 

 

 

Moiself  listened to excerpts of the recorded audio tape…as much as I could stand, before switching to reading the key moments of the transcripts.    [5]    In private conversations among three council members and an LA Labor leader – all Latino and all Democrats –  Councilmembers Nury Martinez, Kevin De León and Gil Cedillo scheme with LA county labor dude Ron Herrera re redistricting plans; Martinez disparages Oaxacans as “little short dark people” and “so ugly” and refers to a (white, gay) councilmember’s Black son as a monkey who, in her opinion, needs a “beatdown.” Re LA County Dist. Atty. George Gascón, Martinez said, “Fuck that guy. … He’s with the Blacks.”  None of the others present and participating in the conversation disputed or called out Martinezon her remarks –  which also included crass and bigoted comments about Jews, Armenians, and other groups….

I felt a little bit left out at some point.  Martinez insulted just about everyone but middle aged white ex-Californians who moved to Oregon.

When reading about the scandal, I was reminded so much about what I think is a fact being overlooked here.  Nury Martinez was caught acting out one of our collective human traits on steroids:  she was revealing her tribalism.

 

Picture from 4-2-12 Newsweek article by biologist E.O. Wilson,
Why Humans, Like Ants, Need a Tribe.

 

We home sapiens are a tribal species. It’s too bad that the whole concept of race has entered human consciousness, as we are not different “races,” whatever that means. We are not racial – that term is a misnomer invented by European naturalists and anthropologists in the early 18th century.    [6]

“More than 100 years ago, American sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois was concerned that race was being used as a biological explanation for what he understood to be social and cultural differences between different populations of people. He spoke out against the idea of ‘white’ and ‘black’ as discrete groups, claiming that these distinctions ignored the scope of human diversity.
Science would favor Du Bois. Today, the mainstream belief among scientists is that race is a social construct without biological meaning.”
(   Race Is a Social Construct, Scientists Argue,”  Scientific American 2-5-16)

“(The tape’s) comments about Black and Indigenous people displayed a prejudice against darker skin that, while not ubiquitous, still runs deep in the community and is rooted in the colonial eras of Mexico and Central America.
‘This is not just four bad apples,’ said Alejandra Valles, chief of staff of SEIU United Service Workers West.
‘We have to use this opportunity as reflection and honesty about the anti-Blackness, the anti-Indigenous colorism and racism in the Latino community. Because that’s happening.’ ”
(“ L.A. Latinos grapple with familiar colorism against Black and Indigenous people in racist tape,” Rachel Uranga, Los Angeles Times, 10-17-22)

Interesting, to me, that comment about the bad apples. Because that’s it – that’s the dang the thing about “race.” We are all from the same apple tree, and yet we pick at each other.

 

“You want bad apples? I’ll show you bad apples.”

 

Race.  It’s an unfortunate entry in our Lexicon of Life. We are not racial, but we are definitely tribal at our core…maybe I’m just quibbling re semantics.  However we define “we,” we spend our lives scrambling like roaches across the floors of an old San Francisco apartment kitchen, trying to make sure we get (what we perceive to be) our share but wanting to hide our maneuverings when the light comes on.

We have obsessive concerns, so majorly illuminated in the LA Council tapes, of alliances between our various tribes and the tribes within the tribes – woe to anyone naive enough to think that, for example, all White or Latino or Black politicians are a monolithic bloc.  Read the transcripts; listen to the tape and hear the concern over alliances, over who is from where.  Listen as the entrenched Mexican-American politician spews (and thus reveals) the colorism of her ancestral roots as she derides the “short ugly” Oaxacans (who are so irritating as to also want political power    [7] ) and that DA who, although he has a Hispanic surname, “Fuck him, he’s with the Blacks.”

Who is in power; who wants power; who can we trust to share the power?  Who is one of us; who could be one of us, but “us” doesn’t really want “them” included.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of This Needs Repeating

The cosmic perspective flows from fundamental knowledge. But it’s more than just what you know. It’s also about having the wisdom and insight to apply that knowledge to assessing our place in the universe. And its attributes are clear:

* The cosmic perspective comes from the frontiers of science, yet it’s not solely the province of the scientist. The cosmic perspective belongs to everyone.

* The cosmic perspective is humble.

* The cosmic perspective is spiritual—even redemptive—but not religious.

* The cosmic perspective enables us to grasp, in the same thought, the large and the small.

* The cosmic perspective opens our minds to extraordinary ideas but does not leave them so open that our brains spill out, making us susceptible to believing anything we’re told.

* The cosmic perspective opens our eyes to the universe, not as a benevolent cradle designed to nurture life but as a cold, lonely, hazardous place.

* The cosmic perspective shows Earth to be a mote, but a precious mote and, for the moment, the only home we have.

* The cosmic perspective finds beauty in the images of planets, moons, stars, and nebulae but also celebrates the laws of physics that shape them.

* The cosmic perspective enables us to see beyond our circumstances, allowing us to transcend the primal search for food, shelter, and sex.

* The cosmic perspective reminds us that in space, where there is no air, a flag will not wave—an indication that perhaps flag waving and space exploration do not mix.

* The cosmic perspective not only embraces our genetic kinship with all life on Earth but also values our chemical kinship with any yet-to-be discovered life in the universe, as well as our atomic kinship with the universe itself.

(“The Cosmic Perspective” By Neil deGrasse Tyson
Natural History Magazine, April 2007, The 100th essay in the “Universe” series.)

 

 

*   *   *

  Department Of Regarding Next Week’s Elections,
This, Unfortunately, Says It All   [8]

“Liz Cheney and I are not brave. We are just surrounded by cowards.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger ( R ) Illinois

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Political Tribes Edition

I don’t approve of political jokes; I’ve seen too many of them get elected.

Republicans should build their border walls with Hillary’s emails
because nobody can get over them.

I knew Communism was doomed from the beginning – too many red flags.

What’s the difference between Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green and a flying pig?
The letter F.

What do you call a Russian procrastinator?
Putinoff.

 

I’ll laugh about this later.

 

*   *   *

May a cosmic perspective help you to rebalance your portfolios of concerns in the world;
May you be cognizant of your own tribalisms;
May you value your atomic kinship with the universe itself;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1]  Did not do in 2020.  Hmm, I wonder what was happening then?

[2] Not the “fun” size featured in most stores, as Halloween staples. For kids, since when does fun = smaller?

[3] From…ourselves?

[4] An appropriate container…if nuts were the size of 747s.

[5] As of this writing I think investigators still have no idea who did the recording, and who “released” it.

[6] Marked by the publication of the book Systema naturae in 1735, in which the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus proposed a classification of humankind into four distinct races. (“Race and History: Comments from an Epistemological Point of View” National Library of Medicine, )

[7] Indigenous Oaxacans expressed frustration and anger at Martinez’s comments referring to them as “little short dark people” — a racist stereotype often used to demean Indigenous communities. “I was like, I don’t know where these people are from, I don’t know what village they came [from], how they got here,” Martinez said, before adding “Tan feos” — “They’re ugly.”  (“For Oaxacans in L.A., City Council members’ racist remarks cut deep,” LA Times, 10-11-22)

[8] And I hope, after next week’s election results, we won’t still be saying it.

The Holiday War I’m (Still) Not Declaring

1 Comment

Grab your sleigh bells and gird your garland-wrapped loins: you can practically smell the mistletoe in my annual, here-comes-the-holiday-season blog post:

Department Of Here They Come

Halloween (aka All Hallow’s Eve); Samhain; All Saint’s Day; El Dia de los Muertos; Mischief Night, Diwali

In the USA and in northern hemisphere countries around the world, there are multiple holidays with a relationship to “our” Halloween.  The relationship is as per the time of year and/or the theme, underlying beliefs, customs or origins of the various celebrations.

Many of these holidays originated as dual celebrations, acknowledgments of times of both death and rebirth, as celebrants marked the end of the harvest season and acknowledged the cold, dark winter to come.

And after Halloween, the holiday season really gets going.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Life Is Tough But It’s Even Tougher If You’re Stupid
Chapter 22467 in a (never-ending) series

“The idea of a “War on Christmas” has turned things like holiday greetings and decorations into potentially divisive political statements. People who believe Christmas is under attack point to inclusive phrases like “Happy Holidays” as (liberal) insults to Christianity….

Christmas is a federal holiday celebrated widely by the country’s Christian majority. So where did the idea that it is threatened come from?

The most organized attack on Christmas came from the Puritans, who banned celebrations of the holiday in the 17th century because it did not accord with their interpretation of the Bible….”

(“How the ‘War on Christmas’ Controversy Was Created,” NY Times, 12-19-16)

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of If Something Seems Familiar, That’s Because It’s Time For
My Annual Holiday Traditions Explained ® Post

What do we vegetarians, vegans, non-meat and/or plant-based eaters
do on Thanksgiving?
( Other than, according to your Aunt Erva, RUIN  IT  FOR  EVERYONE  ELSE.   [1]  )

The above question is an existential dilemma worthy of Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, who wrote eloquent discourses on the subjective and objective truths one must juggle when choosing between a cinnamon roll and a chocolate swirl.   [2]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I’ll Take Those Segues Where I Can Find Them

Four weeks from today will be the day after feasting, for many of us. Then, just when you’re recovering from the last leftover turkey sandwich/quiche/casserole/enchilada-induced salmonella crisis and really, really need to get outside for some fresh air, here comes the Yule season. You dare not even venture to the mall, lest your eardrums be assaulted from all sides by Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, Feliz Navidad, ad nauseum.

This observation provides a convenient segue to my annual, sincere, family-friendly,  [3]

Heathens Declare War On Christmas © post.

 

 

As to those Henny Penny/Chicken Little hysterics proclaiming a so-called “war” on Christmas, a rational person can only assume that they are not LGBTQ, or Jewish or a member of another minority religion, or an ethnic minority – in other words, they’ve never experienced actual bigotry (or actual combat). If they had, it’s likely they would not have trivialized discrimination (or war) with their whining.

The usage of “Happy Holidays” as an “attack on Christianity” is an invention of right-wing radio talk show hosts.  Happy Holidays is nothing more nor less than an encompassing shorthand greeting – an acknowledgement of the incredible number of celebratory days, religious and otherwise, which in the U.S. is considered to start in October with Halloween, moving on to November with Thanksgiving (although our Canadian neighbors and friends celebrate their Thanksgiving in October) and extends into and through January, with the various New Year’s celebrations.

It is worthwhile to note that while many if not most Americans, Christian or not, celebrate Christmas, there are also some Christians who, on their own or as part of their denomination’s practice or decree (e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Worldwide Church of God), do not celebrate Christmas     [4]   (nor did our much-ballyhooed forebears, the Pilgrims).  Also, the various Orthodox Christians use calendars which differ from most Protestant and Catholic calendars (a biggie for them at this time of the year is the Nativity of Christ, which occurs on or around January 7).

Happy Holidays — it’s plural, and for good reason.  It denotes the many celebrations that happen during these months.  People in the northern hemisphere countries, from South Americans and Egyptians to the Celts and Norskis, have marked the Winter Solstice for thousands of years, and many still do.  And some Americans, including our friends, neighbors and co-workers, celebrate holidays that although unconnected with the winter solstice occur near it, such as Ramadan, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

 

In 2023 the Chinese (lunar) New Year begins on Jan 22.

 

Most folks are familiar with the “biggies”- Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day. But don’t forget the following holidays, many of which we’ve learned about (or celebrated with) via our children’s teachers and fellow students, and our neighbors and co-workers.

* The Birth of the Prophet (Nov. 12) and Day of the Covenant (Nov. 26) are both Baha’i holy days  (our family has had Baha’i teachers, childcare providers, and neighbors).

* St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6)

* Bodhi Day.  Our Buddhist friends and neighbors celebrate Bodhi Day on December 8 (or on the Sunday immediately preceding).

* Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec 12)

* St. Lucia Day (Dec. 13) Our Swedish neighbors and friends celebrate St. Lucia Day, as did one of Belle’s and K’s schools, when they were in grade school (Belle, as the oldest 3rd grade girl, got to play St. Lucia).

* Bill of Rights Day (Dec 15)

* Pancha Ganapati Festival (one of the most important Hindu festivals, Dec. 21st through the 25th,  celebrated by many of MH’s coworkers)

* The Winter Solstice (varies, Dec.  21 or 22 this year on the 21st )

* Little Christmas Eve (Dec.  23) Celebrated by my family, LCE was a custom of the small Norwegian village of my paternal grandfather’s ancestors.

* Boxing Day (Dec. 26), celebrated by our Canadian-American and British-American neighbors and friends.

*Ramadan and/or Eid, the Islamic New Year (as Islam uses a lunar calendar the dates of their holidays varies, but these holidays are usually November-December)

* The Chinese New Year.  I always look forward to wishing my sister-in-law, a naturalized American citizen who is Cantonese by birth, a Gung Hay Fat Choy.  (The Chinese Lunar calendar is the longest chronological record in history, dating from 2600 BCE.  The New Year is celebrated on second new moon after the winter solstice, and so can occur in January or February).

This is not a complete list. See why it’s easier to say, “Happy Holidays?”

The USA is one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world.  To insist on using the term “Merry Christmas” as the all-encompassing seasonal greeting could be seen as an attack on the religious beliefs of all of the Americans who celebrate the other holiday and festivals.  At the least, it denotes the users’ ignorance of their fellow citizens’ beliefs and practices.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Did You Know…

…that the Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that, “the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.”   [5]

…that because of its known pagan origins, Christmas was banned by the Puritans, and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts until 1681.   [6]

 

 

“Do you celebrate Christmas?”

We Heretics/apostates non-Christians Happy Heathens often hear this question at this time of year.  The inquiry is sometimes presented in ways that imply our celebration (or even acknowledgement) of Christmas is hypocritical.  This implication is the epitome of cheek, when you consider the fact that it is the early Christians who stole a festival from our humanist (pagan) forebears, and not the other way around.

Who doesn’t like a party, for any reason? And we who are religion-free don’t mind sharing seasonal celebrations with religious folk – sans the superstition and government/church mumbo-jumbo –  as long as they accept the fact that the ways we all celebrate this “festive season” predate Christianity by hundreds of years.

 

 

Early Roman Catholic missionaries tried to convert northern Europeans to the RC brand of Christianity, and part of the conversion process was to alter existing religious festivals. The indigenous folk, whom the RC church labeled “barbarians,” quickly discovered that when it came to dealing with missionaries, resistance is futile. The pagans intuitively grasped the concept of natural selection and converted to Christianity to avoid the price (persecution, torture, execution) of staying true to their original beliefs.  But they refused to totally relinquish their traditional celebrations, and so the church, eventually and effectively, simply renamed most of them.    [7]

Pagan practices were given a Christian meaning to wipe out “heathen” revelry.  This was made official church policy in 601 A.D., when Pope Gregory the First issued the now infamous edict to his missionaries regarding the traditions of the peoples they wanted to convert. Rather than try to banish native customs and beliefs, missionaries were directed to assimilate them. You find a group of people decorating and/or worshiping a tree? Don’t chop it down or burn it; rather, bless it in the name of the Church.  Allow its continued worship, only tell the people that, instead of celebrating the return of the sun-god in the spring, they are now worshiping the rising from the dead of the Son of God.

( Easter is the one/odd exception, where a pagan celebration was adapted by Christians without a name change. Easter is a word found nowhere in the Bible. It comes from the many variants (Eostra, Ester, Eastra, Eastur….) of a Roman deity, goddess of the dawn “Eos” or “Easter,” whose festival was in the Spring.)

The fir boughs and wreaths, the Yule log, plum pudding, gift exchanges, the feasting, the holly and the ivy and the evergreen tree….It is hard to think of a “Christmas” tradition that does not originate from Teutonic (German), Viking, Celtic and Druid paganism.   [8]   A celebration in the depths of winter – at the time when, to those living in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun appears to stop its southerly descent before gradually ascending north – is a natural instinct. For thousands of years our Northern Hemisphere ancestors greeted the “reason for the season” – the winter solstice – with festivals of light and gift exchanges and parties.  The Winter Solstice was noted and celebrated long before the Roman Jesus groupies pinched the party.

But, isn’t “Jesus is the reason for the season”?

The reason for the season?  Cool story, bro.  Since you asked; actually, axial tilt is the reason for the season.  For *all* seasons.

 

 

And Woden is the reason the middle of the week is named Wednesday.   [9]   My calling Wednesday “Wednesday” doesn’t mean I celebrate, worship, or “believe in” Woden.  I don’t insist on renaming either Christmas, or Wednesday.

 

“Now, go fetch me the brazen little sheisskopfs who took the Woden out of Woden’s Day!”

 

The Winter Solstice is the day with the shortest amount of sunlight, and the longest night. In the northern hemisphere it falls on what we now mark as December 21 or 22.  However, it took place on December 25th at the time when the Julian calendar was used.  [10]   The early Romans celebrated the Saturnalia on the Solstice, holding days of feasting and gift exchanges in honor of their god Saturn. (Other major deities whose birthdays were celebrated on or about the week of December 25   [11]   included Horis, Huitzilopochtli, Isis, Mithras, Marduk, Osiris, Serapis and Sol.)  The Celebration of the Saturnalia was too popular with the Roman pagans for the new Christian church to outlaw it, so the new church renamed the day and reassigned meanings to the traditions.    [12]

In other words, why are some folk concerned with “keeping the Christ in Christmas”  [13]  when we should be keeping the Saturn in Saturnalia?

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
The Approaching Holiday Season Edition

What is a jack-o’-lantern’s favorite literature genre?
Pulp fiction.

My family told me to stop telling Thanksgiving jokes right now,
but I said I couldn’t quit cold turkey.

My cousin is terrified by all of the St. Nicholas displays at the shopping mall.
You might say she’s Claustrophobic

I told you not to encourage her.

*   *   *

Whatever your favorite seasonal celebrations may be, moiself  wishes you all the best.

May you have the occasion to (with good humor) “ruin it for everyone else;”
May you find it within yourself to ignore the Black Friday mindset;
May you remember to keep the Saturn in Saturnalia;
…and may the fruitcake-free hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] You have an Aunt Erva, somewhere.  We all do.

[2] Damn right I’m proud of that one.

[3] Well, yeah, as compared to the usual shit I write.

[4] And a grade school friend of mine, whose family was Jehovah’s Witnesses, considered being told, “Merry Christmas” to be an attack on *her* beliefs.

[5]Increase Mather, A Testimony against Several Prophane and Superstitious Customs, Now Practiced by Some in New England” (London, 1687).  See also Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday,” New York: Vintage Books, 1997.

[6] Stephen Nissenbaum, “The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday.”

[7]Paganism in Christianity.”

[8]  “Learn not the way of the heathen…their customs are vain, for one cuts a tree out of the forest…they deck it with silver and gold…” Jeremiah 10:2-5

[9] Wednesday comes from the Old English Wōdnesdæg, the day of the Germanic god Wodan (aka Odin, highest god in Norse mythology and a big cheese god of the Anglo-Saxons until the seventh century.)

[10] The Julian calendar, adopted by Julius Caesar ~ 46 B.C.E., was off by 11 min/year, and when the Gregorian calendar was established by Pope – wait for it – Gregory,  the solstice was established on 12/22.

[11] The Winter Solstice and the Origins of Christmas, Lee Carter.

[12] In 601 A.D., Pope Gregory I issued a now famous edict to his missionaries regarding wooing potential converts: don’t banish peoples’ customs, incorporate them. If the locals venerate a tree, don’t cut it down; rather, consecrate the tree to JC and allow its continued worship.

[13] And nothing in the various conflicting biblical references to the birth of JC has the nativity occurring in wintertime.

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