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The Culture I’m Not Appropriating

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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. [1]

 

 

angry-spock

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 [2] 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 [3] commented at length about what a “true artist” may create, and at one point actually declared the following:

I will not permit folks like _____ [4] 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.”

 

 

really

 

 

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, [5] 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, [6]

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!?”

 

 

seagull

We were NOT consulted about that book and we’re still pissed off.

 

 

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?  [7]

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.

 

 

snore

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

 

 

Now then. I do not mean to dismiss legitimate concerns with 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.” [8]  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 “scared” 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, [9]  is to attempt to limit, intimidate or censor the imagination and empathy that writers use to create their stories and characters.

 

 

soapbox

 

 

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

 

Since I am no 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.

 

 

medpose

 

 

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.

 

 

bookbonk

*   *   *

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!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] 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.

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

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

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

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

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

[7] Excuse me, did I write ? I mean of course, Sex Worker Supervisor.

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

[9] Unfortunately, not the long-awaited sequel to Guardians Of The Galaxy (LINK)

The Titles I’m Not Choosing

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This week I renewed MH’s and my membership with the Portland Art Museum. On the online renewal form, I decided to check out a category – the one for “title” – I usually skip unless it is mandatory. I was richly rewarded for following that whim.

When I clicked on the box for title, Instead of the usual three to six possibilities (Mr. Mrs. Miss Ms. Dr., etc.), I was offered an awe-inspiring, forty-plus choices of honorifics:  [1]

– Acting Counsel General
– Ambassador
– Baron
– Bishop
– Brother
– Captain
– Chair
– Chairman
– Chief
– Col.
– Commissioner
– Consul General
– Councilor
– Cpt.
– Dr.
– Drs.
– Father
– First Lady
– General (Ret.)
– Governor
– Judge
– Lady
– Lt.
– Madam
– Mayor

 

But you've left out "His Excellency, Supreme Leader, Shining Star of Paektu Mountain, Ever-Victorious, Iron-Willed Commander, Glorious General, Who Descended From Heaven..."

But you’ve left out “His Excellency, Supreme Leader, Shining Star of Paektu Mountain, Ever-Victorious, Iron-Willed Commander, Glorious General, Who Descended From Heaven…”

– M.D.
– Miss
– Miss.
– Monsieur et Madame
– Mr.
– Mr. and Mrs.
– Mrs.
– Ms
– Ms.
– PhD.
– President and Chief Executive Officer
– Prof.
– Rabbi
– Representative
– Rev.
– Rev. Dr.
– Reverend
– Senator
– Sir
– Sister
– The
– The Honorary
– The Rev. Hon.
– The Rev.Honorary

How could I leave the space blank after all that?  I was tempted by several titles (will life offer me any other opportunities to be addressed as Ambassador ?), but settled for one. My choice has, IMHO,  a deceptive simplicity that implies so much more – truly, a title of unlimited possibility. I’m not just (a) Robyn Parnell, I’m The Robyn Parnell.

*   *   *

She Doesn’t Call; She Doesn’t Text; She Doesn’t Write,
She Never Likes My Posts Anymore…

The notice from Facebook reminded me to wish CM a Happy Birthday. Trouble is, CM died over a year ago. And now I’m wondering, who gets to report those things?

I received the notification while standing at the mailing/copy center desk at Office Depot. The Nice Young Woman ® who always helps me mail my care packages to daughter Belle set me up on OD’s shipping entry monitor, then began to assist Another Customer who stood next to me. I checked my phone, and wondered aloud re yet another social media dilemma: did either of them know what to do? I assume there’s a way to alert Facebook (but if so, nobody’s done it yet, re CM), but do you have to be a family member to do so? How can you (or do you even need to) prove [2] that someone has died so that FB can retire the page of the deceased?

Another Customer (thoughtfully furrowing her brow): “Wow, that’s a good question. There’s so much going on…you just don’t think of taking your page down when that happens.”

Moiself: “Well…yeah. When you’re dead, that’s not the first thing on your mind.”

 

tombstone

 

*   *   *

Department Of Stupid Religious Rituals [3]

This week I’ll take a break from pointing out the idiocy of my own ancestors’ holy beliefs and customs and pick on another religious tradition. The pickings are far from slim, lemme tellya.

Well-being (wĕl′bē′ĭng) n. The state of being healthy, happy, or prosperous; welfare.

The following caption accompanied the following picture in Wednesday’s world news section of The Oregonian:

Hindu devotees perform a ritual balancing fire pots on their heads and hands on Sitala Puja, dedicated to the Hindu goddess of pox, in Kolkata, India, on Tuesday. Devotees participate in various rituals during this event to make a wish for the well-being of their families.

 

ritual1

 

Because nothing bodes well for the health, happiness success and of your family like having your mother, draped in flammable garments, hold pots of barely contained fire.

 

*   *   *

 

 

Yes indeed, it’s alive. One of many reasons I love looking at my sourdough culture.

 

sourdough

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Department Of You Know It’s Spring…

 

…at our house, when it is time for that most anticipated of rituals, [4] The Harvesting Of The Asparagus. Which, in the case of our garden, is literally the ( as in, one) asparagus.

 

asp

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Department Of WTF Is Wrong With People

There is a new kind of piercing…oh, no, there isn’t. Rather, there is a body site for piercing that is new to my hitherto unsullied eyes.

An employee has been notified to assist you, read the message on the register screen at the self-checkout stand I was using at the grocery store.  When I heard the footsteps presumably belonging to The Employee Who Had Been Notified To Assist Me approached me, I looked up from unloading items from my cart, and it took all of my composure to stile my intuitive gasp.

 

cheek

 

Where another person might have dimples, The Employee Who Had Been Notified To Assist Me had symmetrical piercings. It looked as if someone had pounded  two flathead nails in her cheeks.

The indented skin around each of the clerk’s cheek piercings was reddish, as if infected or inflamed. It . Looked. So. Wrong. And painful. I instinctively/sympathetically clenched my jaw, as if anticipating painful dental work, when I beheld her face.

I can’t figure out how such a piercing would be done, except by going through the upper inside of the mouth. Thus, just looking at her cheeks made me think, festering infection. Which is just what you want running through your mind as you prepare to scan your carton of yogurt.

The average person’s mouth is a bacteria rodeo; the Germy McMouth Germs are fine if they stay put, but if they enter the bloodstream through a cut or wound – which is what a piercing is – yikes. And what would happen if the parotid ducts (the cheek’s saliva glands) were pierced? [5]

Dentists are as a rule opposed to any kind oral piercings, and will happily recite (yes, I asked mine, once) the risks, from deadly serious endocarditis  to the may-not-kill-but-will-seriously-annoy complications including nerve damage and increased saliva/drooling….

Yeah, Old Person Rant Alert© . I am more or less tolerant (even admiring) of certain piercings, depending on where they located. [6]  But this clerk’s self-mutilation choice of body adornment had to be one of the stupidest I’d ever seen.

Ah, but the century is young.

 

 

Yes, please, put me in a position of customer contact and service.

Yes, please, put me in a position of customer contact and service.

*   *   *

Department Of Pretend I Wrote Something Witty About Tax Day

Such as, Am I the only person who wishes she were paying more in taxes, because that would mean I’m actually making money?

Such as, schmuchas. That’s not witty. Just pathetic.

 

cryboy

*   *   *

May you delight in the title of your choice;
May your tax burden be a reminder of economic plenitude;
May your body adornments not induce people to vomit in public;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 


*   *   *

 

[1] Many are, to me, amusingly redundant – are people really picky about having the abbreviation vs. the spelled out title (Captain and Cpt.), or are there some women who want their Miss to have punctuation vs. standing alone?

[2] I assume some kind of proof is needed, else people would be pranking one another other by having their frenemies declared dead.

[3] Pardon the redundancy.

[4] And quite reasonable, when compared with balancing firepots on your head.

[5] Can you say, “You’d be drooling from your dimples holes?” I knew you could, boys and girls.

[6] Ears, yay. Other parts…??? And, apparently, cheek or “dimple piercing” has been around for some time, but is not one of the more common body parts to pierce, for several reasons, including the dangers/side effects (read here for a lovely story on a piercing artist who had to remove her own dimple piercings after they…well…yuck).

The Common Ground I’m Not Seeking

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On Tuesday MH and I were discussing the Hillsboro School Board meeting to be held later that day, during which the board would be taking public input regarding the topic of providing family planning services at school based health centers. We each separately emailed the board members with letters supporting the proposal. [1]

Two of the current school board members work at the same company as MH. I remembered asking MH, when those individuals were first running for their school board seats, what he knew about their respective political beliefs and temperaments. This led to a brief back and forth about the qualities we’d want to see in a decent, effective politician – even one running for a (allegedly) nonpartisan position, ala school board member. The ability to seek common ground or “reach across the aisle” was high on the list.

Many are the times I have considered how I lack a temperament (or even the desire to temper my temperament) which is even marginally suitable (read: electable) for public office, even an office as “small potatoes” as serving on a school board. I occasionally attended several meetings of my school board when I was in high school. What with the issues and tenor of the times,  [2] the meetings could get quite…entertaining…which made me wonder how the relatively sane members of the board managed to sit next to the whackadoodles, let alone have a rational discussion about educational policies.

That memory/idea must have gotten stuck in the space between my ears, because when I awoke the next morning (Wednesday), this was the first thought that came to mind:

I have no desire to seek common ground with morons.

schoolboard

*   *   *

Department of Despair to Come

We’ve a ways to go until the political parties hold their conventions, I know. Still, when I think of the prospects, I get a lump in my throat. I call it the Clump Lump, a mashup of the most likely two choices I do not want to choose.  Clinton, or Trump? Please, my fellow Americans, [3] don’t do this to me. Or to yourselves.

Clump. Clump. Clump. Thump.

 

ckump

 

Of course, there would be no contest re my choice of the Clump. Having not recently had a lobotomy or the intellectual equivalent of a compassion colonoscopy, it’s easy: I know Hillary R. Clinton is up to the task and I would gladly cast my vote for her.

But I wanted something new. Something Else.

Look, I know that much of what I think I may know about Clinton comes from 25 years of Republican slavering attack dog tactics:– “a quarter century of visceral GOP hatred.”

But, here’s the thing. What she said just before Nancy Reagan’s funeral – she did that all by herself.

I get it: you’re getting ready to attend a funeral of a public figure, you have to say something nice about the deceased.  But you don’t lie; you don’t forget or twist history.  I won’t belabor the point and you can look it up here and elsewhere, but Clinton’s WTF statement about Ronald and Nancy Reagan spurring “a national conversation, before anyone would talk about it,” [4]  about AIDS?!?!?!

 

REALLY

 

So. Pathetically. Astonishingly. Not. True.

And I can’t think why HRC would say that…other than staying true to what seems to be a (political) life-long habit of saying what seems to be convenient and/or expedient.

*   *   *

Department Of Parents Are Never Too Old To Go Apeshit
Over Reminders of Childhood Cuteness

It has been a week of many celebrations, both national and personal. Belle is home for Spring Break. Pi day. The Ides of March. That Irish-American Thing. [5]  Many if not all of these festive days call for special feasts. I asked Belle if there was any special dinner she’d like, in honor of…whatever. While she was pondering her options, MH showed me a list Belle had made, quite a long time ago. He found it written on a (unfortunately, undated) notepad he discovered as he was going through old papers in the attic:

 

Sadieundatedmenu

 

I told Belle all she had to do was say the word and we would endeavor to come up with a speshl desert and froot salid…and lots of Yum.

 

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Department of They Said It Would Never Work

Content warning, PETA supporters: contains arguable mistreatment of select arthropods.

For the past couple of weeks, every morning I’ve come downstairs to the sight of a black ant – or sometimes two or three – creeping about the kitchen or dining nook. Like the steering wheel around the pirate’s genitals, it’s driving me nuts.

We have no idea how/where the ants are getting in. They find their way to the kitchen counters, where they are summarily and enthusiastically squished by moiself, a paper towel becoming their white shroud of doom. At most it seems as if they’re sending in a few “scouts” at a time. It’s isn’t a horde…but I know they’re out there.

So.

As a warning to its tribe, I made an example of one scout. There was more than a bit of eye rolling skepticism from my family when I set the warning on the counter at night before going upstairs to bed.

The next morning was the first morning in over a week when there were no ants in the kitchen. Not a one.  Vindication was mine. [6]

 

ant

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Pearls From Sand: How Small Encounters Lead To Powerful Life Lessons

pts

 

I recently read (and very much enjoyed)  the above book, written by My New Friend. As the title indicates, it is about how everyday, seemingly mundane conversations and encounters can lead to profound insights that shape how we act toward and think about ourselves and others.

The book’s Chapter 7 is titled Introverted is Something You Are, which got me to thinking [7] about that most common, and perhaps most commonly misunderstood, personality type division: that of Extrovert and Introvert.

It has long been my observation that the world can be divided into two types of people: those who divide the world into two types of people, and those who don’t.

 

 

 

But seriously, Ladies and Germs, y’all know about one of the more popular “personality type” tests, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator ? Chances are you’ve taken the test for fun, or at some point in your working life, when the new/overenthusiastic member of your company’s HR department decided it was a fun tool to use in that most jaw-clenching and tedious of workplace events, the Let’s All Try To Understand Each Other ®  workshop. [8]

 

personality

 

 

The MBTI aims to elicit psychological preferences in how a person perceives the world and makes decisions. It does this through the use of a self-report questionnaire which then ranks your personality type based on your preferences in each of the test’s four dichotomies. Your preference in each dichotomy is also ranked as to its strength; e.g., your answers indicate you tend to be slightly, moderately or distinctively expressed in that categories.  One of the four dichotomies is Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).

I’ve taken the test a few times over the years, [9] noting that, like most people who do so, my scores have varied within each dichotomy. One consistency over the years is that in the E/I dichotomy, I test as an E. This would come as no surprise to friends, family and co-workers, who’ve pegged me as an Extrovert over the years.  If the choice is I or E, she’s definitely an E. What might come as a surprise is that my scores on the MBTI Extraversion scale have been, consistently, only slightly expressed.

Moiself has never claimed the Extrovert label. [10]  I find it interesting that someone who would be (self- or otherwise identified as) an extrovert would chose the life/profession I have chosen, where I am alone for the majority of my day.

While no one enjoys time with friends – whether one-on-one or in group activities – more than I, my activities and interests tend to be solitary, or those which can be done with one or two people (e.g. reading, hiking, kayaking, archery, masturbation, [11]  KenKen and crossword puzzles). I try to avoid meetings/committees of any kind, and would rather trim my nose hairs with a week whacker than  give a reading of my work or do other writing-related professional appearances.

So, how do I think of, or label, moiself? Thanks for asking. I’ve yet to find my dichotomy: I am a Gregarious Loner.

Stick that in your MBTI pipe and smoke it.

 

 

ENTPjpg

*   *   *

May your personality dichotomies by freely expressed;
May you find words to praise the dead without lying your ass off;
May you find pearls in sand but no sand in your sandwich,
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 *   *   *

 

 

[1] We’d planned on attending the meeting, but Life events ©  intervened.

[2] It was the mid 1970s…Patty Hearst could have been hiding anywhere.

[3] I use that term not as an indicator of USA chauvinism – which I’ve been accused of on more than one occasion when doing so. I realize Canadians and Mexicans are (North) Americans, too. But our country has a rather clumsy name, especially when it comes to monikers for its citizens. If you live in Germany you are German; in France, you are French, In the USA you are…USA-ian? United Stateian? I’ve yet to run across a less clumsy descriptor than the one that uses the last part of the US of A.

[4] The Reagan reaction to the HIV/AIDS crisis is what phrases like “deafening silence”  and “turning a blind eye” were invented for. Reagan would not utter the name of the virus until late in his second term, and Nancy even refused to help her friend Rock Hudson get treatment when he was dying of “the gay disease.”

[5] On March 17 real Irish people in Ireland apparently do not affix paper shamrocks on their foreheads, don Kiss Me I’m Irish underpants and drink until they vomit green beer on their faux Leprechaun shoes and call it a celebration of their heritage.

[6] A wonderful feeling, however temporary. But really, the damn thing worked for about 12 hours.

[7] I tried to lie down on the couch; alas, the thinking continued.

[8] This is not another footnote. Move it along, folks – nothing here to see.

[9]  Mostly for fun, and mostly when for some reason it has been mentioned by someone – a friend who’s used it at work, for example. I find any sort of personality test somewhat rigid but think such tests can be useful as a starting point to understanding other people, as well as yourself…as long as you don’t take it as the be-all and end-all of psychological analysis. Many people claim the Myers-Briggs test has helped them become more aware of the differences between people, and to see such differences as just that –  different, not “wrong”…even though I remember reading somewhere that most of not many of the dimensions measured in the test have failed to hold up to consistent  research.

[10] nor have I vehemently denied it, so…yeah. What she said.

[11] Just checking to see if you’re reading, Belle and K. If so, your mother did not write that, okay?

The Ring I’m Not Wearing

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Last Friday when I started my car this dashboard warning light became illuminated:

 

airbag

 

It was a light I’d never noticed before – one that had never lit up in any of our previous vehicles. Given the graphic representation of the warning light, I figured it was alerting me to one of three possible scenarios:

*  WARNING!  Someone is about to throw a beach ball at your lap!

*  WARNING!  The car’s airbag may be malfunctioning!

*  WARNING!  You have unexpectedly become nine months pregnant!

It turned out to be a loose connection in the passenger airbag wiring – dust it off and tighten the connection. However, almost everything auto-repair wise is electronic these days, and the mechanics had to run their special diagnostics program to discover this simple solution to what could have been a complex problem.

The minimum charge to run the diagnostics program is $120. That’s a grrrrr-worthy charge, but much less than it would have cost to fix a faulty airbag. [1]  I decided to look on the bright side: such an expense is like a Kardashian – totally doable.

 

*   *   *

Department of Simple Pleasures [2]

I made a new friend this week! [3]

 

I’m aware that this kind of announcement is something you’d expect from a five year old reporting the excitement of her first day at kindergarten…or, perhaps, from an adult flustered by unexpected good-fortune.

 

sally

 

 

Guess what? It’s still exciting when it happens to a Person Of A Certain Age and, IMHO, carries even more import.

Observation: By the time you reach your 40s -50s, they’ve (mostly) become established in careers, neighborhoods, and in their family and social lives. If you value your friendships and in turn want to be a valued friend, you spend time cultivating and maintaining those relationships. If you wish to add someone to your buddy circle, your desire to do so doesn’t change certain natural world realities, like the earth’s rotation cycle. That is, there are still only 24 hours to a day, and still only so much time for each and every thing.

 

 

I give that segue a 7 on a scale of 1 to meh.

I give that segue a 7 on a scale of 1 to meh.

 

 

Not to get carried away or over analyze the phenomenon, but I’ve heard others my age bemoan the difficulties of meeting new people and getting to know them past a certain surface level of acquaintance. [4]

Once again, I digress.

The new friendship came about via a letter I wrote to The Oregonian, in response to a letter in that same’s op-ed section written by yet another blithering willfully ignorant religious idiot a sincere but sincerely misinformed man who claimed that our constitutional “freedom to believe what we want to believe” is a “religious idea.”

The Oregonian’s editors ran my letter, which they titled The US Constitution Mentions No God, For Good Reason , in the 2-28-16 print edition, and also online. The next day I received an email from my Soon To Be New Friend, who wondered if I was the same Robyn Parnell who’d written that letter and if so…

I’m writing just to thank you for stating so lucidly and concisely what so many people do not seem to understand regarding what the U.S. Constitution has to say about religion and gods.

Awww, shucks. He had me at lucid and concise,  [5] and also when he went on to mention that I might be interested in the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an organization which works to promote and uphold the constitutional principle of separation of state and church.  STBNF had no way of knowing that the FFRF is an organization I’ve mentioned many times is this blog, and which MH and I are longtime members of.

I responded to STBNF, and we began exchanging emails, discovering other common interests and perspectives.  Besides being an intelligent, witty, perspicacious, charitable and socially responsible freethinker, STBNF is also a writer (whose works, [6] I’d wager, truly merit praise ala lucid and concise). Also like moiself, STBNF has written a self-described “bad” country western-type song…although, unlike moiself, STBNF has actual, demonstrable, musical talent.

STBNF and I met in person this week, for a two hour chat fest lunch. He has offered to possibly help me with a demo of my song, and I have introduced him to the wonderful world of footnotes. [7] I seem to have (so far) gotten the best of this deal.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of BTW

I like Sally Field. I really (sorry) like her.

*   *   *

One afternoon about a year and a half ago, MH told me that, in case I hadn’t noticed, he’d stopped wearing his wedding ring…and in case I had noticed, he wanted to assure me as to why. A combination of The Aging Process © and decades of tapping digits on keyboards had given him arthritis-like symptoms, specifically pain and swelling in his fingers. He removed his ring, hoping that doing so might alleviate the pain, and fearing that if the swelling increased and he left it on, he might have to have the ring cut off.

I hadn’t noticed his wedding band-less finger. After his revelation I decided to commiserate with his situation in the only way that seemed logical to me: by removing my own ring. This has caused just a wee bit o’ eyebrow-raising from people who’ve noticed. I assuage such concerns thusly: my removing my wedding band is not a harbinger of marital discord; rather, it’s a reinforcement of its importance and mutuality.

Up until my marriage I’d never worn rings of any kind – unless you count the Man From Uncle spy decoder ring I had for two weeks in the fifth grade.

 

unclering

 

 

MH and are both married (to each other – how convenient!). I have always refused to be unequally yoked: We chose our wedding rings together; neither of us wore an engagement ring. I would have gently but firmly refused to wear an engagement ring had MH given one to me, [8] unless he had also agreed to don a similar ring.

I’d never understood the practice of a woman wearing an engagement ring while the man’s ring finger remains unencumbered, except as a nod to our culture’s pathetic history of patriarchy. The solo engagement ring tradition is, to me, a vulgar declaration of possession (See the ring? She’s taken; she’s off the market; she’s mine), akin to a dog pissing around a fence post to mark his territory.

Yep, I’m a hopeless romantic, what can I say?

 

taken

 

Look:  you’re both engaged to be married, right? So why the visual representation of the impending change in marital status only for the woman? Which got me wondering: how do gay couples handle this issue? [9]

Speaking of vulgar, despite the stereotype of the ring-coveting female, I’ve yet to have a woman flaunt her engagement ring to me. I have, however, lost track of the number of times I’ve been at a social gathering, been introduced to an engaged couple and had the guy grab his fiance’s left hand, thrust it in my face and demand I admire the huge rock on her finger.

Uh, yeah, dude, I get it: the size of her ring is inDICKative of the size of your ____ (paycheck; ego; penis).

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I spent many years working in women’s reproductive health care, wherein I encountered several married couples who did not wear wedding rings. The no-ring-thing was sometimes for job-related reasons (rings can be safety hazards for jewelers, mechanics and others who work with their hands), sometimes due to dermatologic allergies, and for women, sometimes due to pregnancy-induced swelling (which occasionally led to a permanent change in ring size).

I’ve met more than one married couple who’ve chosen to have their wedding bands tattooed on their fingers. Belle, my tattoo-loving daughter, thinks MH and I should do likewise, and has volunteered to draw up a design for us, based on our original gold bands.

 

 

She's got the talent – this was Belle's own design, which impressed even the veteran tattooist.

She’s got the talent – this was Belle’s own design for her first tattoo, which impressed even the veteran tattooist.

 

 

I thanked my lovely and talented daughter for her generous offer, even as I reminded her that her father’s twin aversions – tattoos and pain – make such an idea unlikely to translate into a reality.  Perhaps if it were someplace on a less sensitive part of the body….

 

wedding_skulls_tattoo_on_chest

*   *   *

May life’s warning lights be entertaining as well as informative;
May your friendships be ever evolving and your yokes be equal,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi! 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Which is, of course, past warranty.

[2] Which may also include gardening, flower arranging, sitting over the drain in the bathtub when the water runs out….

[3] Yep, I’m talking about you, KW.

[4] The friendly man in your pottery class or the genial woman who volunteers alongside you at the Food Bank.

[5] Two adjectives not frequently applied to descriptions of my prose.

[6] A semi-retired software consultant, his books include the Software Requirements series, the go-to manuals on defining and managing requirements for a software or systems project.

[7] That is, their usage in personal correspondence and blog posts. As a writer of nonfiction and technical manuals, he is already well versed in documentation.

[8] He didn’t, as he knew my feelings on the matter.

[9] Lemme guess: with a lot more panache than us straight folks.

The Sushi Roll I’m Not Ordering

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Department Of Sophomoric Observations

A Japanese restaurant where I have become a weekly lunch regular recently installed a video screen which plays a continuous loop of some truly gorgeous pictures of their various sushi and rolls, combination platters, bento boxes and other menu items. Last week I was enjoying the show as I ate my bowl of edamame, until I almost choked when the picture of a long, brown, slightly curved, specialty roll flashed by on the screen – a roll that someone had unfortunately decided to dub, “The Johnson Roll.”

Slang terms and idioms don’t always travel graciously across cultures. My server gave me a curious look when she caught my mirthful reaction, and I wondered if I should say anything – just pose an innocent question, to see if she “got it.” [1]   I mean, I’d feel like a pervert ordering the thing.

 

If I order the Johnson roll will you be happy to see me?

If I order the Johnson roll will you be happy to see me?

*   *   *

The Electorate I’m Not Analyzing

Because simple ad hominem attacks, the usage of which I am usually (or at least philosophically) opposed to, will suffice:

Are people bloody bonkers?

I refer of course to the great mystery of our time.

 

 

mystery

 

 

No, not that one. The mystery is that the Trumpster is not in the dumpster at this point in the primaries. My theory: there are many short-sighted people who, the more they feel ineffective, unappreciated and threatened, the more they gravitate towards that which they perceive as powerful. And these people apparently equate bombasity with power, and there are enough of them to keep That Man at the top of the festering turd of a heap that is the Republican presidential primary contest.

And yes, bombasity (the condition or quality of being bombastic to the nth power) needed to be a word. [2] Now it is. So let it be written; so let it be done.

 

 

*   *   *

The Constraints I’m Not Protesting

Content warning: Yet another plug for Star Talk, Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s podcast.

This time I’m touting the Science Of Creativity episode, with host NGT interviewing his guest, musician, Talking Heads founder and AARP men’s hair fashion correspondent, David Byrne, about…see the show’s title.

Which (drum roll, please) got me to thinking .

I love it when Someone Smarter Than Moiself ® articulates a concept with which I am in total agreement. [3]  As per the referenced podcast, that concept is this:  constraints, both in art and science, can be liberating, and are in fact what lead to creativity.

Many wannabe (IMHO) artists chafe at the mere mention of restraints or controls or guidelines when it comes to that nebulous concepts creativity. On the other hand [4], mature/experienced artists realize that when there are no boundaries you can just do anything…which often seems like – and sometimes leads to – doing nothing in particular.

Witness the creativity called up by the NASA engineers – the astounding, seat-of-their-pants, imagination and resourcefulness that enabled them to create solutions for the Apollo 13 crew to bring their severely damaged spacecraft home safely. These solutions were arrived at not by using anything/everything at the engineers’ disposal; rather, they had to work within the constraints of what the astronauts actually had within their capsule.

Constraints, even those which might be called “censorship,” can be liberating, in that you can focus on what you can do with the materials/talents/themes/venues at hand, and not ramble within a world of seemingly no limits. The beauty of haiku is in its structure. The insipidness with much of so-called free form or free verse poetry…tennis without a net, anyone?

We’ve all had the experience of listening to/reading/watching/observing a less than magnificent (or not even marginally competent) book/painting/play/movie/recital/concert. Some of us have also been witness to (read: somehow forced to attend a showing of) the “art” of someone who evinces little or no actual artistic talent – someone who lacks the discipline to put in the years and hard work to develop the talent but who is so enamored of the concept of being an artist that they have to come up with another name for…for whatever it is they can do.  [5]

 

I'm artist, dammit, and who are you to limit or define what that is?

I’m artist, dammit, and who are you to limit or define what that is?

 

 

Nowadays it seems you can show/describe/sing about just about anything, including people performing personal hygiene rituals, people fucking, people being disemboweled and tortured….  The proponents of this show-it-all-ness call it realism, and fling the censorship! pejorative at those who suggest subtlety or moderation in presentation.

Excuse me, but your story might be more enjoyable if it had complex, three dimensional characters and a more intricate plot, or one which might encourage viewers to imagine and  anticipate and….

(Gasp!)  This is intentional – you would censor/constrain my art?!

The Realism Rah-Rahs seem clueless when it comes to understanding how their in-your-face approach loses the poetry of subterfuge, the beauty of obfuscation, the creativity of concealment.

Without constraints, there is no thrill of sneaking a song like The Kinks’ Lola past the censors. [6]  And the snappy, now-classic cinematic dialogue, the clever artistry of cinematography and staging necessary to impart certain concepts (e.g. a sexual rendezvous) was enabled, and made necessary, by the movie production codes of the day. [7]  The saucy double entendres of Mae West

When I’m good I’m very, very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.

Too much of a good thing can be taxing.

When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.

Why don’t you come up and… see me some time?

­– why write those lines today [8] when you can have your actors openly proposition one another (and then follow through) on camera?

 

maewest

*   *   *

The Certificate I’m Not Showing You [9]

Perhaps you remember (or are desperately trying to forget) my blog post from two weeks ago, wherein profanely ranted about I articulately lamented what I saw as the lack of respect MH received for his 25th anniversary with his company (all together now: Twenty-five years and they gave you a fucking $8.99 Safeway cake?!?!?”)

 

certificate_of_appreciation

 

That’s not all the recognition he received. Tuesday eve MH came home from work bearing a Certificate of Accomplishment, in the form of a white 8 ½ x 11 inch piece of paper that had his name, a Congratulations, 25 years, yay you! message and a couple of color graphics printed on it. The cheap piece of paper certificate had been laminated, and was slightly bent/curled in the middle, as if someone had tried to roll it up or had sat on it.

Perhaps the yeah-isn’t-this-great twinkle in MH’s eyes as he showed the paper to me should’ve reassured me that I didn’t need to suppress my reaction. Still, I waited until the next morning, to see if I felt the same about it. I asked to see the certificate again, and summoned all the enthusiasm such an honor merited:

Moiself: “I’m sorry for snickering at this. I mean, it’s obvious someone went to the trouble to go all the way to Kinko’s to have it laminated.”

MH: “I’m pretty sure it was in-house job. If they’d gone to Kinko’s it wouldn’t be bent.”

I could not let that stand. I made a rare (for me) trip to a local crafts store, got a shiny purple frame and what son K refers to as “bedazzlers,” and I pimped that certificate.

 

bling

*   *   *

May your accomplishments be bedazzled;
May your constraints be creative;
May The Martian win this year’s Best Picture Oscar;
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] I did: “So, what is a Johnson roll made of?” Her straightforward description of the ingredients indicated to me that she’d no idea of the…possible interpretations of the roll’s name.

[2] You’re welcome.

[3] Aka the Yeah, what she said, phenomenon.

[4] …you have other fingers.

[5] Performance Art, anyone?

[6] Certainly, it would have been a different song – or perhaps, not even written – had there been no radio content censorship back then.

[7] Hays Code and Breen code, e.g. 

[8] And, sadly, few screenwriters do.

[9] Because MH refused to let me photograph it.

 

 

The Definition I’m Not Making Up

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Department Of They Gave You A What?

Last week marked MH’s 25 years with The Company That Shall Not Be Named Right Now. Twenty-five years. It’s difficult to wrap my mind around that, until I look in front of me and to my left. Hanging from the walls of our home office are just some of the framed awards for product design and launching, and plaques for the patents MH and fellow various team members hold.[1]  I read the dates…yep…it’s been that long.

When MH had been with TCTSNBNRN for five years, his then-manager took MH’s entire work group out to a Very nice restaurant © for lunch. For this auspicious occasion – a quarter of a century of creativity, loyalty, [2] diligent, sometimes family-life sacrificing or altering work – MH’s now-manager provided cupcakes for the work group, and a cake for MH.

From Safeway.

A single layer, 7 inch diameter, $8.99 cake. [3]

 

No, Martha, it's not.

No, Martha, it’s not.

 

Can you say, appreciation-fail, boys and girls?  I knew you could.

MH stayed up late last Sunday, baking a double batch of his family specialty: kringle, Norwegian pretzel-shaped buttermilk cookies. On Monday he emailed every person in the company (well, those who are still with TCTSNBNRN) with whom he’d worked over the years, thanked them for their help and camaraderie, and invited them to stop by his workstation so that he could thank them personally and share some cookies.

I’m thinking, How sweet that is! How classy is that?  – thoughts I hope will, eventually, push Twenty-five years and they gave you a !#?@% cake?!?! out of my mind.

 

kringle

*   *   *

Department of I Lie Because I Say I Care (But Still, I Lie)

Many centers across the country provide what mainstream medical experts say are misleading accounts of rare abortion complications, and of disproved longer-term effects….. at least one brochure in the facility flatly says that abortion causes “an increased risk of breast, cervical and ovarian cancer.” …. But the National Cancer Institute states that “women who have had an induced abortion have the same risk of breast cancer as other women,” and that abortion has not been linked to other cancers, either.
(from the front page article, Pregnancy Clinics Fight For Right to Deny Abortion Information, NY Times 2-11-16)

CPCs (“crisis pregnancy centers”) have been prevaricating their asses off for as long as they have been in existence. When I worked at Planned Parenthood I was both amused and astonished at the stories I heard from women who had visited a CPC, about what had been presented to them as factual information. [4]

My favorite such story: Rachel [5] was told by a CPC “counselor” that during a physical exam a doctor could tell just by looking at a woman’s cervix if a woman had ever had an abortion (lie #1), and thus, because most doctors are adamantly opposed to abortion (lie #2) if Rachel had an abortion, for the rest of her life doctors could refuse to treat her (lie #3) or, even if Rachel found a doctor who deigned to see her as a patient, that doctor would give Rachel substandard care (lie #4).

Four whoppers in one sentence – that’s gotta be the record for a non-politician.

I’ve long considered the Right to Life moniker to be a misnomer. The removal of just one consonant would reveal their justification of their zealotry: Right to Life = Right to Lie.

*   *   *

WTF Spock

 

TWENTY FIVE YEARS AND HE GETS A FUCKING CAKE.

 

*   *   *

Yesterday was the seventh anniversary of the death of “Chet-the-Jet,” my beloved father.  Back in September, when we were discussing the passing of MH’s father, my friend SCM remarked about how it was a milestone event for our family: the first time our son K and daughter Belle had to deal with the death of a grandparent.

Uh, actually, I reminded her….

SCM was horrified by her omission (I wasn’t). It was an honest and completely understandable mistake, as per this comment she made when she apologized. I found her observation quite touching:

You speak of him so often, it’s as if he’s still alive.

 

May 1978, Chet Parnell, celebrating his and Marion's 25th wedding anniversary.

May 1978, Chet Parnell, celebrating his and Marion’s 25th wedding anniversary.

 

*   *   *

angryman

 

TWENTY FIVE YEARS AND HE GETS A FUCKING CAKE. AT LEAST YOUR FATHER GOT A TROPHY.

 

 

*   *   *

Happy Year of the Monkey

monkey-year_3551486a

 

I find it suitable that I was born in a Year of the Monkey, as You little monkey! was one of several endearments my father bestowed upon moiself, his second-born child.

At my Qigong class this week, someone posed a question about the lunar zodiac calendar: What does it mean, to be born in the year of the monkey? I told her I could ask my SIL, who is Chinese, who’d likely say, “Nothing; it doesn’t mean a thing. It’s a superstition.”

From what I know of my brother’s delightful wife, she holds no superstitions – not those from her country of birth, nor those of her adopted country. She does, however, honor and acknowledge celebrations of culture. Thus, when I emailed her Gung Hay Fat Choi wishes on Monday, she winkingly told me that wearing red would ensure good luck during the coming year.

On Monday I did indeed wear red. I also visited Uwajimaya, my favorite Asian supermarket, and returned home with the fixings for a Lunar New Year dinner: veggie spring rolls; cucumber peanut salad; hot and sour fish ball soup…and this Indonesian snack, from a company whose marketing department needs a translation lesson.

 

titi

*   *   *

 

TWENTY FIVE YEARS AND HE GETS A FUCKING CAKE.

 

sob

*   *   *

Happy Darwin Day!

Today, February 12, we honor one of the greatest scientists ever, Charles R. Darwin (Feb 12, 1809 – April 18, 1882).

 

Yeah, thanks, but over one hundred and thirty years dead and I don't even get a cake?

Yeah, thanks, but over one hundred and thirty years dead and I don’t even get a cake?

*   *   *

 

The story I’m currently working on involves a character who regularly thumbs through an actual (vs. online) dictionary. Thus, I am doing the same, an activity which brought back a fond memory.

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, MH [6] lived in San Jose and I in Palo Alto. One weekend fairly early on in our dating relationship, MH hosted a game night at his apartment. MH and I and a group of about eight friends were playing a word game called Fictionary. [7]   When it was my turn be to Selector (the player who provides an obscure word for which the other players would have to make up a definition), I opened MH’s dictionary to a random page, and was immediately struck by the top of the page heading – you know, the one in a dictionary which lists the first/last words on the page:

blowjob/bluff

Now, I can’t honestly remember what the second word was, but I’ll never forget that the first word was blowjob. And, of course, I had to share my discovery with the other players – most of whom, as I seem to recall, were from our church’s young adults social group. [8]

 

dictionary

 

MH, who hitherto had no knowledge of that page’s heading, seemed mildly embarrassed that he was in possession of what I subsequently and for all eternity referred to as The Blowjob Dictionary. Or perhaps his embarrassment came from the fact that his girlfriend couldn’t stop pointing this out to anyone who would listen.

Blowjob?!  At the top of the page?! “Blowjob” is at the top of the page and no editor or publisher caught it? You have a BJ dictionary [9] This is amazing…a mild-mannered engineer with a Blowjob dictionary, who knew?!  No, I am so not making this up – look, it’s right here, it says, blowjob….

Reader, he married me.

 

*   *   *

 

TWENTY FIVE YEARS AND HE GETS A FUCKING CAKE.

 

Of course, it could have been worse (or better, depending on your POV). He could have received a package of

 

titi2

*   *   *

May your significant anniversaries and accomplishments receive worthy acknowledgements;
May the calendar and lunar year bring you health and happiness (and interestingly titled snack foods),
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] The framed awards ones having to do with microprocessor design are like works of art.

[2] He has been head-hunted over the years, by other companies.

[3] Yes, the price tag is prominently displayed on the plastic cover

[4] Other equally horrific/entertaining stories came from my fellow PP clinic workers, several of whom had undertaken to do their own “undercover” sessions by going to a CPC and pretending to be pregnant, to experience firsthand what kind of (dis) information they would receive.

[5] Pseudonym.

[6] MH, as regular readers of this blog know, stands for My Husband, who of course was not in fact my husband at the time of this incident, but the privacy acronym stands.

[7]  Fictionary is a game in which players guess the definition of an obscure word. One player selects and announces a word from a dictionary. After the other players confirm that they indeed are not familiar with the word, they each make up a fake definition for it, while the Selector writes down the dictionary definition. The Selector collects the fake definitions, reads all definitions aloud, and players vote on which definition they believe to be correct. Points are awarded for correct guesses, for having a fake definition guessed by another player.

[8] Yes, happy heathens MH and I met at a Lutheran church. Now, there’s  a story for another time.

[9] Actually, I think it may have been American heritage?  I wish I could remember the name and the edition…I’d pay good money for that one…which for some reason never made it the the marital assets, when we combined households.

The Snake Handlers I’m Not Electing

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My daughter celebrates her twentieth birthday tomorrow. Happy Birthday to you, Belle, from me…and this, from eight year old Emily, who does an amazing “drum cover” of the Beatles’ Birthday:

 

 

*   *   *

And Now We Pause For A Primal Scream Moment

KHAN

 

Words are not adequate to describe the living hell – for those of us who don’t even believe in a hell but who do believe in being an informed citizen and thus try to pay attention to things – that the next ten months of political rhetoric will bring. [1]

Listening to the Republican candidates pander speak to the religious right in the days preceding the Iowa caucus was truly retch-inspiring, and caused many an Iowa Atheist to check their GPS systems to confirm that, yes, they were in fact at a political meeting in Des Moines and had not been somehow transported to a convention of hillbilly snake handlers in Kentucky, THANK YOU JAAAAAAYSUS .

I eagerly await the videos of rally attendees foaming at the mouth and proclaiming Ted Cruz has cured their anal hyperhidrosis.

And BTW, Republi-Cons: are any of you seriously running for Preacher-in-Chief, or President of our secular democracy? [2]

Flying Spaghetti Monster, give me strength.

 

 

You'll get your turn Jeb, after Ted and Mario have a swing at it.

You’ll get your turn Jeb, after Ted and Mario have a swing at it.

*   *   *

 

On a related note: striking a blow for equality of absurdity, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has been recognized as a religion in The Netherlands.

And the faithful Pastafarians cried out, “Ramen!”

 

FSM

*   *   *

Department Of Figuring It Out

Detractors…say the degree is responsible for so-called program fiction — homogenized, over-worskshopped writing void of literary tradition and overly influenced by the mostly upper-middle-class values and experiences of its students. Others describe an inherently unfair system….a self-generating track to the literary establishment, on which the most fortunate jump to fellowships, writing colonies, agents, publishing deals and professorships, where they are indoctrinated into the status quo.
(Why Writers Love to Hate the M.F.A., NY Times, April 9, 2016)

When I begin reading a book I get straight to the manuscript itself. I skip reading the cover quotes, as well as any that may appear on the inside pages. You know the ones – the remarks from other authors and/or Important People Whose Names The Publisher Hopes You Recognize, ®  people who have the same publisher/owe the book’s author money who provide alternately pithy and gushing, This is really worth whatever you paid for it recommendations. I bought the book; I’m going to read it. I’ve no interest in people I don’t know telling me why I should read it or what it’s going to mean to me. Pesky contrarian that I am, I like to figure these things out for myself.

I also don’t read the author’s bio notes (which, in the case of fiction, are typically found in the book’s final pages or back cover) before I read the book. It’s the work itself that interests me. I realize this makes me an outlier in this world of Celebrity Everything © , but I don’t give a flying fart about the author’s life story. [3]

 

REALLY

 

Yes, really.

I may peek at the bio notes after wards…but usually only if I’ve found the book somewhat disappointing and want to know, Who was responsible for this? As per that sentiment….

I recently finished reading two collections of short fiction. With each book, as I was turning to the About the Author page, I found myself mumbling, I’d bet good money this was the product of a M.F.A. program.

Can you make big $$ by winning a bet with yourself? [4]

 

SOAPBOX

 

I have come to think that the word Creative is a misnomer when applied to M.F.A. in Creative Writing. [5]  This is not to say I didn’t like any of the stories in the books. However, there was a certain…sameness…to the supposedly disparate stories, a so-what?-ness I have encountered so, so so soooooooooooooooo very many times in contemporary literature, I can practically smell it.

Bonus dis: I’ve figured out the alternate definition of the degree. A M.F.A., or Master of Fine Arts, in Literature/Creative Writing also translates as a degree in Mediocre Fucking Acts.  In my humble experience and opinion, if a work of fiction is connected to a M.F.A. program the book is guaranteed to include several/obligatory sex scenes – scenes which will be presented/narrated in a self-consciously self-important, trying-so-hard-to-be-blasé style, which proclaims, I-am-so-not-a-romance-writer-and-whatever-sex-means-to-you-it-is-not-love-making-in-these-pages. These cynical physical interludes are described with all the passion, affection, humor and significance one might use to portray a dental flossing session.

Also: the sex will be referred to, by the story’s narrator and/or protagonists, as fucking.

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Department Of: That Might Be… No

I can’t figure out if this joke that sprang to my mind the other day is funny ha-ha, or just funny…you know:

Did you hear that Caitlyn Jenner wants to try her luck in the theatre?
She’s peddling her idea to Broadway producers about remaking the classic musical about Wild West sharpshooter Annie Oakley.
The play’s working title: Trannie Get Your Gun.

trannie

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May all of your jokes be wildly, thigh-slappingly, milk-squirting-out-of-your-nose funny and yet manage to offend no one;
May you have a (pain-free) lobotomy if you think the former is possible or even desirable;
May the Flying Spaghetti monster touch you with his Noodly Appendage,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] I know, I know, stop reading/listening to the crap….

[2] And stop asking questions when you already know the answer.

[3] Unless, of course, there’s some really icky stuff worth giggling over.

[4] One M.F.A. student and two M.F.A. professors.

[5] There are, of course, exceptions to the M.F.A.-works-smell-read-similar. Somewhere.

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