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The Stories I’m Not Cribbing

Comments Off on The Stories I’m Not Cribbing

 

I am not cribbing; I am making links and attributions. The Happy Feet Dance ® reasons cited in last week’s blog  have left me with little time for originality this week.  (Ah, white people problems.)

Just sayin.’   [1]

 

*    *    *

Department Of Yet Another Reason To Read The Obituaries…

“Before I turn 67–next March–I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me.”
(Jane Juska, from her personals ad in the New York Times Review of Books, which led to her writing her memoir)

Reading obituaries is something I don’t (usually) do. Yesterday, however, I was grateful for whatever reason caused me to glance at the NY Times obituaries, wherein I encountered what I am nominating for Best Last Line Ever.

 

 

 

 

 

andtheawardjpg

 

 

 

 

The obituary was for Jane Juska, a retired schoolteacher who found literary fame late(r) in life, re her book, A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late Life Adventures in Sex and Romance. The memoir chronicles what happened when Juska decided to reinvent herself in her late sixties and seek sexual pleasure, after realizing she was a self-described “cliché” (long divorced after a loveless marriage; a history of sexual abuse; weight and drug problems; all-encompassing single motherhood….).

Save for the deceased’s literary notoriety, the obit was nothing out of the ordinary, and ended with the customary list of survivors (“…in addition to her son, she is survived by two granddaughters…”). And then, the pièce de résistance:

Her son said in an interview that he had never read A Round-Heeled Woman.
“I tell people,” he said, “ ‘If your mother wrote it, I’d probably read it.’

 

*   *   *

Department Of More Than Just Pissing In The Wind  [2]

When you take on a group or person who has money and power they aren’t just going to roll over. They will fight back. Sometimes viciously. They will use multiple intimidation tactics, including hiring lawyers to make subtle and not so subtle threats to control the narrative.
They will use carrots and sticks to achieve their goals. The sticks scare the crap out of most regular people….. Hiring lawyers and PR fixers to intimidate people is the method used by the rich and powerful. Harassers who don’t have money use other methods to intimidate before and after the fact. It is helpful to be prepared for these actions.
(From Why Didn’t I Read About This Before? How Sexual Harassers Quash Stories
10-26-17, Spocko’s Brain blog )

 

If you are interested in what I call Cognitive Behavior Therapy In The Form Of Rational Activism ® –  i.e., not just identifying and ranting about what’s wrong, but researching how things work and applying effective solutions – then Spocko’s Brain is your man.  [3]

 

 

 

 

 

Spocko’s October 26 post was in part instigated by Clients Turn on ‘Champion for Women’ Lisa Bloom After Her Scorched Earth Crusade for Harvey Weinstein, — an article which, Spocko wrote, makes him “ill.” Nevertheless, he suggests reading it “…because it explains other reasons we didn’t hear many of these harassment stories.”

Read Spocko’s blog. Please. It is written by a man [4] who cares enough to look at the hard facts, including sharing his own experiences and stories in being a Nice Guy On The Right Side Who Still Needs To Learn How To Understand That It’s All Of Us, Not Just Them, as per his coda to this particular blog post:

Men don’t want to be lumped in with harassers.  Some might start bringing up false accusation stories or stories of female harassers they hear. They will say, “Not all men!”  “Sometimes women lie! It’s true! Look at this data!”  They will want to be heard. How do you respond? Let me mansplain my response.
One time, decades ago, I found one mistake a female co-worker had made while keying in 10’s of thousands of numbers. I was excited to find it and point it out because I had been the source of multiple mistakes.  When I brought the printout up to her she acknowledged the error and said,  “My one to your one hundred, Spocko. My one to your one hundred.”
She acknowledged the fact, pointed out the ratio and reminded me again who was the main source of the problem. Me. I was the one who needed to do better, not her.

 

 

 

whatamans

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of It’s All Related, Y’All

A study published in the Harvard Business Review (The 5 Biases Pushing Women Out of STEM, March 24, 2015) indicates that “bias, not pipeline issues  [5] or personal choices, pushes women out of science.” The article highlights the sexism that exists in STEM fields, including what the authors called the Prove It Again Pattern: female scientists surveyed reported having to prove themselves over and over again, with “their successes discounted and their expertise questioned.”

The Hollywood political/workplace sexual assault and harassment scandals brings this predicament to mind: There are other ways of being assaulted, other than the “obvious.”

That statement is in no way intended to mitigate the brutality and malice of physical violence, harassment and intimidation. Rather, I’d like for us all, moiself included, to keep in mind that the subtle assaults upon girls’ and women’s intellects and expectations are more pervasive, and arguably more insidious.

You may remember/have read or heard about a letter, written two years ago, by a young man who both noticed and “got it.” Jared Mauldin, an engineering student at Eastern Washington University, observed that men and women in STEM classes were definitely not “equal.” He wrote a letter to EWU’s student newspaper, addressed to “the women in my engineering classes,” which could have been the beginning of a bitter, sexist troll’s rant, but instead turned out to be a gracious and superbly perceptive dose of reality, from an ally to – well, not to overstate it, but to all humanity, men and women equally, IMHO.

To the women in my engineering classes:
While it is my intention in every other interaction I share with you to treat you as my peer, let me deviate from that to say that you and I are in fact unequal.
Sure, we are in the same school program, and you are quite possibly getting the same GPA as I, but does that make us equal?
I did not, for example, grow up in a world that discouraged me from focusing on hard science.
Nor did I live in a society that told me not to get dirty, or said I was bossy for exhibiting leadership skills.
In grade school I never had to fear being rejected by my peers because of my interests.
I was not bombarded by images and slogans telling me that my true worth was in how I look, and that I should abstain from certain activities because I might be thought too masculine.
I was not overlooked by teachers who assumed that the reason I did not understand a tough math or science concept was, after all, because of my gender.
I have had no difficulty whatsoever with a boys club mentality, and I will not face added scrutiny or remarks of my being the “diversity hire.”
When I experience success the assumption of others will be that I earned it.
So, you and I cannot be equal. You have already conquered far more to be in this field than I will ever face.
Sincerely,
Jared Mauldin
Senior in Mechanical Engineering
The Easterner, Letters to the Editor, 10-5-15)

Besides being a student himself, Mauldin taught STEM classes to grade school and junior high age students, and noticed the obstacles female students encountered in such classes. Even so, he was surprised by all the attention he received for writing the letter. In an interview with The Huffington Post (“Male Engineering Student Pens Letter Explaining Female Classmates Why Aren’t Equals,”), Maudlin noted, “Nothing I said was new, it has all been said a thousand times before. The difference is that I am a man. Maybe by standing up and breaking the silence from the male side, I can help some more men begin to see the issues, and begin to listen to the women who have been speaking about this all along.” 

 

*    *    *

different

 

 

 

 

Blog Department Of Yet Another Reason I’m Glad I’m Not Hard Of Hearing

Dateline: Monday afternoon. I overheard the following bit of dialogue, while I was exiting through the door of a building as a man and a woman were entering the same building.  Man to woman:

“…It was enough to make me wonder why he had to pee again.”

 

beanhuh

*   *   *

May you appreciate/be the kind of man who stands up and breaks the silence;
May you have the fortune to hear/see that which makes you wonder why anyone had to pee again;
May your mother never write a book that you would refuse to read;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] No, I wasn’t the first one to write that, either. But, sometimes, it feels like I could have been….

[2] I hope y’all appreciated the segue.

[3] Or rather, your blog.

[4] Who has been so successful in, for example, getting advertisers to pull spots from radio talk show hosts spouting violent rhetoric that he must remain anonymous, as per threats he receives.

[5] i.e., the theory/myth that women choose to forgo careers in STEM to attain better work-family balance.

The Studio I’m Not Touring

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Obsessive Attentive readers may recall my post last week; specifically, the rant thoughtful reflection about pretentious author interviews. It seems I was just scratching the ass surface of that subject.

Dateline: Last weekend was the annual Open Studios tour, wherein participating artists in our county (Washington) and Portland open their studios to the public. On Saturday afternoon MH and I had gone to four studios, to see a glass artist, a graphics/printing/letterpress artist, a metal smith, a mixed media craftsperson.

On Sunday I had lunch at a local pub with MH.  While we waited for our food to arrive MH read through the open studio event’s brochure, to see if there were more artists/studios we’d like to see that afternoon. The brochure contains a picture of a signature piece from each artist, along with a first person description of the artist’s history and work – basically, whatever and however the artist wishes to present themself to the public.

As I started to work on a crossword puzzle I heard a faint sound, almost a low moan, coming from across the table.

“Uh…you might want to read this artist’s statement.” MH’s expression was that of impudence mixed with nausea.

“You can read it to me,” I suggested.

“I don’t think I can stand to.”  He passed the brochure to me.  I began to read it aloud, but couldn’t finish the third sentence without hooting.

Growing up on three continents, I have been inspired by much of the world. I now live on 30 breath-taking acres in an old historic hunting lodge, capturing the beauty that surround me. My home studio is a destination in itself…

Moiself: ” ‘My whole life is a destination unto itself! How it sucks to be you, in comparison to me and the beauty which doth surround me…. “ And I thought fiction authors were at the top of the pompous pile.  I am nominating her for honorary author status….”

MH: “Read on. It gets worse.”

Moiself:  “Don’t you mean,’ it gets better?’ Because so far, this is fabulous.”

Turns out, we were both right:

 My home studio is a destination in itself, amidst the wine country of Oregon, with 360 degree views of rolling farm land, Mt Hood and surrounding vineyards.

Educated in Apparel & Textile Design, I was L.L. Bean’s first apparel designer in the 80’s, Nike’s first Apparel Innovation Director in the 90’s, and launched Niketown.com during the dot-com boom. I now teach pastel workshops, amd (sic) I am represented by 6 galleries along the west coast. I am a board member and an award winner of the NW Pastel Society and am published nationally.  [1]

 

 

 

yesiam

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things That Make Me Shriek At The Breakfast Table

Specifically, a thing which caused me to shriek My mother’s cousin!!! while reading the NY Times Arts section…which gave MH yet another reason to look across the table at me, his head slightly tilted and eyebrows raised in a quizzical manner.

 

 

confusedspock

Like this, I take it?

 

 

 

Yeah, like that.

I had been reading The NY Times review of the movie, The Snowman,  [2]    and began to explain my shriek to MH…

Remember the story I’ve told you, when I was in grade school, and one night at the dinner table my dad was teasing my mom about her name….

For the benefit of those not related to me or who haven’t heard the story,  [3] a wee bit o’ background info: my mother’s birth surname was Hole. [4]. Yes, Hole.  I sometimes teased her, about why her own mother didn’t keep her surname Moran but instead was willing to take on her husband’s…unique…family name: It really must have been love, or desperation….

Yeah, so, the story.  At the family dinner table, occupied as per usual by my parents and their four children (on this particular night oh-so-many years ago, my older sister, younger sister and I were all in grade school, and our brother was an infant):

After my father’s customary So tell me about your day query, we dove into yet another round of thematic banter. Our family dinner table dialogues tended to focus on one subject, which was never (or rarely) intentional or pre-planned, but rather tangential from something which had happened to one of the Parnell siblings  [5] at school. On that evening, I shared a story about a kid who had been teased on the playground about his name – the combination of his first name and last name made for some tease-worthy rhyme schemes.  [6]

Marion Parnell said she felt sorry for the poor boy. Growing up with her particular last name, she knew exactly how he felt:

“My father was always telling my sisters and I how, in Norway, Hole was a respectable, upper class, landowners’ name. I lost track of how many times he told us we should be proud of our  name. He just couldn’t understand how it was for us, because in America, it was just HOLE.  Oh, I heard it all the time, the jokes: ‘Look, here comes Marion Hole, hole-in-the-ground…don’t fall into a hole!’ “

(I had also lost count of how many times I’d heard about Hole-is-a-proud-Norwegian-name assurances, and had come to think that our maternal grandfather had made that up to make our mother feel better.  I’d never heard of anyone, of any ethnic background, with that name.)

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Still with me? You deserve The Order of the Pretty Purple Toe ® award.

 

 

 

 

My mother took little comfort from me telling her that her peers had been pretty lame in the joke department.  ” ‘Marion Hole-in-the-ground’? I can think of a lot worse things to do with a name like…”

Chester Parnell jumped in, to save me from embarrassing my mother. Or so I thought.

“Well, Robbie Doll, you know what your mom’s middle name is?”

“Yeah, I think so,” I said. “Alberta?”

“That’s right,” Chet nodded enthusiastically. “But you know, she was so beautiful, I never had any second thoughts about marrying an A. Hole.

This produced shrieks of delight from the three Parnell daughters – first from me (my shriek decibel count was boosted by my pride in being the first one to “get it”), followed a few seconds later by my older sister, and then by my younger sister, who probably didn’t get the reference but knew something hilarious must have been said by the way her older sisters and father were reacting.

Mom had that tense/amused, trying-to-be-a-good-sport look on her face.  Dad gazed across the table at her with impish affection – I knew something even better was coming up.

Chester B. Parnell: “Tell them about your cousin.”

Marion A. Hole Parnell (baring her teeth): “I don’t want to tell them about my cousin.”

Chet:  “Tell them about your cousin. What was his name?”

Marion: (muttering) “His name was Harry.”

Chet: “And it wasn’t a nickname – his real name wasn’t Harold? And he didn’t have a middle name – just a first and last name?”

Marion: “That’s right.”

Mom, of course, knew where this was heading. She tried to act as if she were miffed, but I could see the corners of her mouth beginning to twitch.

Chet: “And so his name was…?”

Marion (deep breath): “Harry Hole.”

Professional stand-up comics would kill to get an audience response akin to that which erupted that evening, in the smallest of venues, the Parnell kitchen dining nook.

You’re waiting for the segue, aren’t you?

Back to the present: moiself, reading to MH, from the NY Times review of The Snowman:

There are a couple of mysteries swirling through “The Snowman,” a leaden, clotted, exasperating mess…blah blah blah…Mr. Fassbender plays Harry Hole

 

 

 

CAMEL

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Reasons Why This Blog Is So (Relatively) Brief

There are reasons, but I can’t list them, right now. Suffice to say, they are…good.

 

 

happy sheep dance

 

 

I’ll be out of town most of the week…doing something really wonderful and fun and happy feet dance worthy.

 

 

dancing5

 

 

I may write about it later. 

 

 

 

dancing1

 

 

 

Did I mention that it’s good news?

 

 

dancing4

 

 

*   *   *

May you also be afflicted with Happy Dancing Animal Syndrome ®;
May you always remember, should you be called upon to compose one, that someone, somewhere, is actually reading your author/artist’s statement;
May a pun or naughty innuendo resulting from the combination of your first and/or middle/and or surname(s) cause someone to pee their pants with mirth;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] The artist who seems more than a bit taken with herself does do nice work, according to another artist friend of ours (who was equally amused/repulsed by the bio, but said she did enjoy that artist’s actual art).

[2] Because, having seen a preview of it recently, I had no intention of seeing the movie. I never read reviews of movies I intend to see. Just a thing of mine – I don’t want to be prejudiced, or figure out the spoilers.

[3] The latter group would not include anyone within a twenty mile radius of my dining table.

[4] Which is why, once my feminist worldview began to develop, I told her it was completely understandable that she never even considering retaining her birth name upon marriage

[5] Which translates into, usually moiself. Things were always happening to moiself.

[6] And although I remember with vivid clarity the conversation that ensued from me sharing that story about the kid being teased re his name, to this day I cannot recall what the kid’s name was – something along the lines of Bart Katz, which of course got turned into Barfing Cats or Fart Cats or the like.

The Witch I’m Not Hunting

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Harvey Weinstein.

There; I said wrote it. Why do I feel like I need to douse my keyboard with isopropyl?

 

 

bad smell

 

 

 

None of the details which have so far emerged, from the sordid to the pedestrian, re the decades long, Harvey Weinstein-the-acclaimed-Hollywood-producer-isasexually-predacious-pig-which-was-an-open-secret scandal, came as a surprise to moiself. Yet another reason for a cleansing of some sort.

And then, Of All People ®, Woody Allen weighs in. Did someone stick a microphone in the shape of an uzi in his face and demand his opinion – because why in the name of all that is neurotic would he otherwise feel that the world was interested in his commentary?

And BTW…

 

PSA

 

All You People Out There ® , from the person-on-the-street to y’all hipster celebrities: when someone asks you a question/solicits your opinion on such a sensitive topic – on anything, for that matter, you don’t have to answer. If, for whatever reason, you feel you must speak, you can always say some version of no comment/I am not privy to the situation/I don’t know. You can also – surprise! – simply keep your mouth shut and say nothing at all. Try it.

Thank you. This has been a public service announcement.

Yet again, I digress.

Allen’s witch-hunt remarks and subsequent half-hearted attempts at “clarification” were worth their WTF?!?!?! clueless condescension, if only that they helped prompt a wonderful writer, NY Times columnist Lindy West, to incisively and wittily (witchily?) articulate what a bazillion of us, including the beside-myself moiself, were thinking:  [1]

“…the cultural malfunction that allows Allen to feel comfortable issuing that statement is the same malfunction that gave us Allen and Weinstein in the first place: the smothering, delusional, galactic entitlement of powerful men.
When Allen and other men warn of ‘a witch hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere’ what they mean is an atmosphere in which they’re expected to comport themselves with the care, consideration and fear of consequences that the rest of us call basic professionalism and respect for shared humanity.


(Read the whole article – it’s not long  here:
Yes, This Is a Witch Hunt. I’m a Witch and I’m Hunting You. NY Times, 10-17-17)

 

 

 

more witchesd

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Once Again You Might Want To Pretend
That This Is A Graceful Segue To A Totally Different Topic

 

The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.
(Ralph Waldo Emerson, US essayist & poet (1803 – 1882))

 

Ah, the pitiable, self-important affectations  illuminating moments which comprise the Literary Life ® of the flavor of the month New Local Author ® .

When I was writing for publication, the work itself I (mostly) loved. I was never comfortable – read: loathed –  doing that which authors (are told they) must not only do but crave: the self-promotion, and most specifically, the interview wherein you talk as much (or more) about yourself as your writing.

 

 

 

iamgreat

 

 

 

And many are the times I have praaaaaaaaaaaaaaaised de Lawd [2] for that discomfort, including those rare occasions when I have (almost always unintentionally) spent more than a gnat’s eyeblink’s worth of time reading or listening to a fiction author interview.  I tend to avoid such articles, as they inevitably trigger my pretension gag reflex…for some reason, this recent one in the Sunday Oregonian  [3] caught my eye. [4]

It was an interview with a Portland author – a journalist who recently published her second novel and was (apparently) asked about making the transition from writing nonfiction to fiction. The author described how she had come to look at her journalist self:

“…’brave and opinionated, but also lacking compassion for her subjects. So I went off into the wilderness, so to speak. I left journalism and became a licensed investigator, helping others.’ “

Then, when she started writing fiction, her opinion about herself changed:

“Everything I learned, all the humility…”

 

 

 

facepalm

 

 

Excuse me, I know this is difficult to read, but the quote continues.

“Everything I learned, all the humility, the compassion that was gifted to me by the work, my joy in the poetry of life, came rushing out.”

Uh huh.

One writer to another: you might want to reconsider your usage of that h-word.

 

 

pretensioius

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Don’t be humble. You’re not that great.
(Golda Meir, b. 1898 d. 1978, former Israeli Prime Minister)

 

 

 

 

falsehumility

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you be smart enough to never misuse the witch hunt metaphor;
May you have access to a hygienic toilet facilities should
your joy in the poetry of life come rushing out;
May you enjoy fantasizing about how Golda Meir would have handled
creeps like Harvey Weinstein and Woody Allen;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] But were too angry to express without using an excess of potty language.

[2] Or the atheist equivalent of such.

[3] The print edition, how quaint.

[4] And then just as quickly turned my stomach.

The Yoga Pose I’m Not Practicing

Comments Off on The Yoga Pose I’m Not Practicing

Among the many reasons the short story is my favorite fiction format: it is one wherein questions are raised, but not necessarily answered. Unlike the novel, which may take you through a character’s existence from cradle to grave or present a life survey from A-to-Z , [1] a short story often drops you in the middle, say, in segments M-Q, leaving – or allowing – you to fill in the befores and afters with the clues the writer has presented.

A well-crafted short story leaves you wanting to know more, and even frees your imagination to provide your own details.  I admire the art of lyrical songwriting, in that a song can sometimes be the perfect short story. The first time I heard The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby I was blown away by how a song could be at once so sparse and evocative.  But wait – how did those lonely people get to be so lonely, and where did they come from? I must know.

 

 

 

billie Jo

 

 

 

 

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, someone asked me who my favorite contemporary short fiction writer was, and I answered, “Bobbie Gentry.”

Arguably one of the greatest short stories of the twentieth century was penned and sung by Bobbie Gentry .  Her Southern gothic ballad, Ode to Billie Joe, was released 50 years ago this month, when Gentry was a mere 22 years old.

The song, which never reveals why Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge, has been described as suggestive, haunting, enigmatic, poignant, disturbing, mystifying, etc.  But to the grade school moiself who, after a first listen, had to listen again and again and again, it was then and remains now merely and monumentally…cool

Congratulations on the anniversary, along with a Tallahatchie River’s worth of admiration, to the classy Ms. Gentry, who had always refused to explain “the meaning” of the song.

 

*   *   *

Department Of You Never Know What Fun Awaits While Running Mundane Errands

Dateline: Wednesday, noonish:  I would like to thank the Mystery Person(s) ® who left this pair of  –  guardians?  greeters? mascots? ninja warriors in disguise? on a curb in the grocery store parking lot.

 

 

grocery guardians

 

 

 

After I took that picture I stepped back about thirty feet or so and hung around for awhile, watching the people who walked to and from the store – people seemingly oblivious to the mini public art display at their feet.  The only reason I saw it was that I happened to look down at just the right moment when I was passing by – no doubt it was my karmic reward  [2] for what had just previously transpired outside the store (is this a segue, or what?).

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yes I Do I Blurt Things Out To Total Strangers

As I exited the (previously mentioned) grocery store, two young girls, looking to be about four or five years old, ran past the store’s entry door, each giggling and turning to glance over their respective shoulders. I looked in the direction of their glances: thirty or so feet behind the girls was a rather impatient-looking woman (whom I took to be the girls’ mother), resolutely pushing a shopping cart.

Impatient Mother called out to the girls,

“You are not running away from me!”

Which caused me to smile and say, in what I thought was my best/supportive, I’ve-been-there voice,

Actually, that’s exactly what they’re doing.

Impatient Mother threw me a bit o’ stink eye and then called out again to her daughters, this time using their names.  I got a kick out of the fact that one of the girls has the same (non-blog moniker) name as my daughter.  And there was much rejoicing.

 

 

 

 

 

Was I that easily amused when I was younger?

 

*   *   *

They’re here!

 

 

harpandfuchsia

“All together now: “Harp and fuchsia, ahhhhhhhh.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Life Is One Big Celebration

 

Dateline: Monday My Swenadian [3] friend recently returned to the ‘hood after spending six months in Sweden. I visited her, bringing welcome-back goodies, and we played catch-up with each other’s lives. She, too, has traveled to Ireland and loved it and would like to return someday.  [4]  After telling her about MH’s and my trip to Ireland and the recent arrival of the Harp and Fuchsia pattern [5]  tumblers we’d ordered from Dingle Crystal, I returned home with the sudden urge to take whatever I had in the frig and turn it into a meal an Irish person would enjoy. Plus, there were those mahhhhhvelous gin and tonics we’d had in the town of Dingle, made with Dingle Gin, which would be lovely to serve in the tumblers…but what are the chances of being able to find a Hillsboro Oregon liquor store which stocks a spirit from a small Irish distillery in Oregon?

 

 

Dingle2

 

 

 

My mission was to find something comparable, so I told the clerk at Hillsboro Liquor Store that I was looking for Irish gin (not even thinking to mention the specific distillery, as it is so small) but realized the likelihood of finding it was slim, so did he know if a Scottish or British gin would be analogous? The Friendly and Helpful Clerk ® checked his register computer and said, “What about Ding –” he couldn’t even get the word out of his mouth before I shrieked, gobsmacked with delight, “You have Dingle gin?!?!?”

That night I informed MH that our Irish butter-poached steelhead salmon, cabbage/potatoes/mushroom colcannon and fresh spring peas feast was to celebrate the arrival of our crystal and the memory of our Ireland trip, the return of our beloved Swenadian friends, my acquisition of Dingle gin, and…

I searched my mind for another reason to justify spending $50 on a bottle of gin.

…”and oh yeah, this morning someone farted quite loudly in yoga class” (despite the fact that the class was *not* performing pawanmuktasana, which translates as “wind-relieving pose”).   [6]

 

 

wind

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you continue to wonder why
Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge;
May you, via gin or crystal purchases or berry encounters,
have the opportunity to say, Dingle;
May all of your poses, yoga or other, bring wind relief;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

[2] Plenty of doubt, actually, as I do not believing in karmic or any other/similar of reward.

[3] She is Canadian, her husband is Swedish.

[4] She worked and lived there one summer, during her student days.

[5] A design unique to Dingle Crystal, representing Ireland (Harp) and West Kerry (fuchsia).

[6] Yes, there is such a pose.

The Acceptance Letter I’m Not Sending

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Content warning: writer’s rant. This would be so much better with a few poop jokes dropped (sorry) [1]  here and there.

This post is related to the fact that Native American author/poet  [2]  Sherman Alexie has a new book out and is making the rounds of radio/TV/print news media publicity.  I recently heard a portion of a radio interview with him, and it sparked a memory of the occasion when Mr. Alexie’s name was last (to my knowledge) front and center, having to do with a brouhaha in the literary world.

Listening to writers talk about writing (or reading about writers being interviewed about writing) is perhaps my least favorite arts news format.  I have learned to skip most Fresh Air podcasts when a fiction author is featured, as I find their discourse (yes, even when they are being interviewed by the mahhhhhvelous Terry Gross) cringe-worthily pretentious. The author’s work itself, independent of their yakking about it, is often quite a different matter. For example, whether or not I’ve heard him speak (about himself), I have quite enjoyed most of what I’ve read by Mr. Alexie (and have heard good things about him from several independent bookstore owners).

Back to the pesky brouhaha: There may be a few of you non-literary (read: sane, or at least moderately well-adjusted) folks who cannot recall reading about a publishing “scandal” two years ago, described by the New York Times as, A White Poet borrows a Chinese Name and Sets Off Fireworks.  Lucky you.

A brief summation of the fireworks: Every year the Academy of American Poets chooses a different guest editor to select 75 poems to be published in their “Best American Poetry” anthology. Sherman Alexie was the 2015 BAP editor.  Both Alexie and the anthology received some rather intense criticism (read: political/cultural Ad hominen attacks)  having to do with the hot button, Are we having fun now? literary and artistic topics of artistic freedom, diversity, cultural appropriation, inclusion, entitlement….  All this and more sniping discussion came about because the anthology included a poem which was written by a “white” poet writing under a Chinese pseudonym.

Like all of the poems chosen to be in the anthology, Yi-Fen Chou’s “The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve,” had been previously published.  [3]  After the poem was selected for the anthology, the poet Michael Derrick Hudson revealed (to BAP editor Alexie) that Yi-Fen Chou was his pen name. Alexie did not change his decision to publish the poem in the anthology. He included a note in the anthology’s introduction about Hudson’s pseudonym, and also wrote an essay about the experience and his decision.

Excerpts from the 9-10-15 New York Times article (A White Poet borrows a Chinese Name and Sets Off Fireworks; my emphasis)

In an essay on the Best American Anthology blog on Monday, Mr. Alexie, a Native American, defended his decision, saying he had paid closer attention to the poem because of the author’s name — a kind of “racial nepotism,” he said — but ultimately chose it because he liked it.
When Mr. Hudson revealed his use of a pseudonym, Mr. Alexie wrote, he debated how to deal with this instance of “colonial theft,” but decided that dropping the poem “would have cast doubt on every poem I have chosen” and “implied that I chose poems based only on identity.”
“Never thought I’d see poets using yellowface to get published in 2015 but here we are,” Saeed Jones, a poet and the literary editor of Buzzfeed, said on Twitter. Jezebel ran a post under the headline “If You’re a White Man Who Can’t Get Published Under Your Own Name, Take the Hint.”  [4]
Ken Chen, a poet and executive director of the Asian American Writers Workshop, said Mr. Hudson was guilty of “cynical mischief” in the service of a “reactionary fantasy.”
 “He believes that he’s being cheated, and things will only improve if writers of color are virtualized away,” Mr. Chen said in an interview. “If only they didn’t really exist, and were just white guys with pseudonyms.”

*   *   *

 

I was at once frustrated and not at all surprised by the controversy. I was also pleasantly surprised by Mr. Alexie’s honest admission of a not-so-well-kept suspicion/secret in the Animal Farm world of literary submissions and selections: that all animals’ identities are equal, but some animals’ identities are more equal than others.  [5]

As to the this will get me some press over-the-top outrage expressed by some of Mr. Hudson’s fellow poets, their reeks-of-envy hysteria speaks for itself.  I do have a question for Ken Chen, whose festering turd of vitriol  [6]  is included in the last paragraph of the NY Times article (excerpted above).

He believes that he’s being cheated, and things will only improve if writers of color are virtualized away,”…“If only they didn’t really exist, and were just white guys with pseudonyms.”

What kind of bullshit declaration is that?  Mr. Chen, you know nothing re what Mr. Hudson “believes.” Where is your evidence that this person you disparage – whom you’ve apparently never met nor even spoken to – has a “reactionary fantasy” (whatever that is) and thinks “things” will improve  [7] “if writers of color are virtualized away”?

Dude…some unsolicited advice?

 

 

 

 

keep calm

 

 

 

*   *   *

My sister-in-law, “Billy,” is Chinese, a native of Canton. She has assumed her husband’s (my brother’s) Irish surname when they married, and not long before they met she began using a (typically male-associated) first name which she chose because it was easier (than her given Cantonese first name) for Americans to pronounce.  I wonder, what masquerade might she be accused of, were she to become a writer? What accusations of gender/ethnic/cultural nepotism might be flung her way, should she submit work under her adopted name and some other chip-on-their-self-righteously-authentic-shoulder writers discovered she was born Choi Cheok-Jin and not Billy O’Malley[8]

I snickered when I first read about the BAP anthology controversy – snickered to think that someone’s naive knickers could be knotted over the fact that yet another writer had successfully used a strategy that writers throughout history have employed. For a variety of reasons – from subverting sexism,  [9]  a longing for privacy and/or anonymity, the desire to escape typecasting (type-writing?) [10] or just wanting to test and tweak editors’ and publishers’ assumptions about the author’s background – many writers have submitted and do submit their work using a pen name or two.

The author we’ve come to know and love as J.K. Rowling agreed to publish her Harry Potter series using gender ambiguous initials rather than her given name ( Joanne Rowling, no middle initial), because her publisher thought Harry Potter’s target audience (young males) might be put off by a book written by a woman.    Did Rowling (and her publisher) commit “gender nepotism”  [11]  by doing so?

 

 

 

hermione

Accio Neptosium!

 

 

 

 

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

Which I am not.  And yet, my story and poems were chosen for publication.

I wonder about journals and publishers which stipulate contributor demographics; specifically, how do they enforce their objectives to publish only writers of a certain background or identity (e.g., age/culture/gender/sexual orientation/ethnicity)? Do they make assumptions based on surnames and/or appearances (and thus, for the latter, require photo IDs)? Do they ask for DNA samples?

 

 

 

submission

“Decoding unknown alien transmission… it reads, ‘please submit your manuscript along with your saliva sample….’ “

 

 

 

Since I was not in the target demographic specified for contributors by those particular journals, I suppose you could argue I “cheated” by submitting my work.  I typically scorn publications which have demographic specifications in their writers guidelines, and do not submit my work to such venues (yeah, that’ll show em!).  But, on those two occasions…well, I guess I was feeling frisky.  I decided to submit my work because I thought it a good fit, and also to remind moiself  about the danger of self-censorship in the face of the write-what-you-know/what-you-are balderbash…and to make my point, even if somewhat anonymously, about the power of literature to both include and transcend identity politics….and also, in my own small, pesky way, to mock the “our only criteria is literary excellence” claim often touted by  touted by literary journals and anthologies and writing contest sponsors.

“Our only criteria is excellence (as long as you fit into our special box). Thank you for your excellent work which we’d like to publish…and what do you mean, you’re outside the box?”

I’d long thought about writing and submitting an essay on this topic, but what publishing outlet wants to admit they’ve been stung? The Literary World ®  is not exactly known for humility and modest egos.

Also, I’d been down that road before. One editor told me the following when I submitted to his journal a humor piece mocking the publication world on a related topic (the ubiquity of literary contests and award-bestowing):  Virtually *every* journal or literary venue has a contest/award of some kind. Your chances of finding an editor who would agree to make fun of their own complicity in what you essentially describe as a scam…Look, you’ve written a fine, witty article that is going to be an orphan. You are not going to find a home for this piece.  [12]

I respect journals’ calls for/specializationin /preference for specific subject matter (thus, e.g. I do not submit my non-murder mystery stories to murder mystery journals).  I have nothing but scorn for journals, editors and publishers who champion a system in which, implicitly or explicitly, a We seek stories about poverty-stricken, disaffected white teenage boy gang members, and we will only consider stories by writers who are themselves poverty-stricken, disaffected Midwestern white teenage boy gang members because only about poverty-stricken, disaffected Midwestern white teenage boy gang members can authentically understand and/or are entitled to write about poverty-stricken, disaffected Midwestern  white teenage boy gang members policy is practiced.  [13]

 

 

 

 

buttocks

It’s high time for a pictorial sanity break. Tomatoes resembling buttocks do wonders for the soul.

*   *   *

 

Although I snorted with derision when I read the afore-mentioned Gen-X journals’ guidelines, I did have select pieces that I thought would be a good thematic fit for them. I also noted that neither journal requested contributor photos nor dates of birth, and thus had no way of confirming an author’s generational affiliation.  Heh Heh heh.

I chose to dishonor the journals’ guidelines by sending them my Gen-X-themed-fiction/poetry-written-by-a-non-Gen-Xer. The editors of the journal which published my story effused in the acceptance letter about how I had captured the particular zeitgeist they sought – about how the tone of my story was “exactly what we are looking for.”

Gee, thanks – oh, and by the way, that’s the point of being a *fiction* writer.  Somehow, miraculously, I was able to get the tone without being the tone. It’s called craft; skill; experience; imagination; empathy. It’s called creative writing for a reason, you ageist, imaginatively constipated twerps.
(excerpt from the acceptance acknowledgement letter I did not send)

*   *   *

Department Of This Post Would Be So Much More Entertaining
If It Had Some Poop Jokes In It.

 

 

 

cpt obvious

Well DUH, Captain Obvious.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Seemingly Inappropriate Segue to A Dead Mother Reference

Had she not died (last Christmas Eve), today would have been my mother’s 89th birthday.
Just thinkin.’

ChristmasEve1983

Chet and Marion Parnell, Christmas Eve 1983

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you take more pictorial sanity breaks than appear in this post;
May you occasionally indulge in cynical mischief when it is called for;
May you find entertaining poop jokes (or whatever floats your boat) somewhere, if not in this space;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Not really.

[2] And the fact that, in this Identity Politik world, Alexie is commonly introduced and/or described in these venues not as an American poet/author but as a Native American poet/author is also related to the subject of this post.

[3] In venues ranging from large-circulation periodicals to obscure literary journals, small press anthologies or a collection of an individual poet’s work ( and in the case of this particular poem, in the literary journal Prairie Schooner).

[4] Despite Jones’ and Jezebel’s hissy fits to the contrary, there is no “hint” for the poet Hudson to take, as poems under Mr. Hudson’s own name have been published in numerous journals.

[5] This covers a variety of identities and interpretations, having to do with an author’s “name” value just as much (or more) than their cultural identity (i.e. a shitty poem by a well-known poet is more likely to get consideration and even publication than a fantastic poem by a newbie or no-name poet).

[6] No personal attacks in this space – it’s against my principles.

[7] What does that bizarre phrase even mean, in this or any other context – things will improve ?

[8] For privacy reasons, these names are similar to, but not actually, either  her real birth name nor her adopted name.

[9] Emily Bronte (aka “Ellis Belle” for Wuthering Heights and Mary Ann Evans (aka “George Elliot” for Middlemarch) and Karen Blixen (aka “Isak Dinensen” for Out of Africa) and the prolific French author Aurore Dupin (aka “George Sand”) and Alice Bradley Shelton (aka sci fi’s “James Tiptree Jr.” for The Girl Who Was Plugged In) are just a few of the numerous women who’ve used male pen names to submit their works without prejudice. Until relatively recently, most publishers would not even look at manuscripts submitted under a female pen name (and prejudice still exists, as per the J.K. Rowling and James Triptree Jr. decisions re their respective genres).

[10] As in writers known for a certain genre who want their non-genre work to be judged for itself, and not on their prior works…see following footnote for one notable example.

[11] Rowling has also published a crime novel series under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

[12] He was right…except that I did find a home for it. My essay, You Can Be (or already are) an Award-Winning Writer! was published (retitled as Author! Author!) in Bear Deluxe magazine.

[13] Imagine the likely antacid addiction of the publisher who, had he adhered to such standards, would have forever been known as the douchebag who refused to consider the manuscript for The Outsiders  (and Rumble Fish  and Tex and That was Then..This is Now, and the other young adult novels of S.E. Hinton ) because of who the author was not.

 

The Woman I’m Not Born As

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Dateline: Tuesday eve, post dinner. Son K is staying with his parental units [1] while recovering from jaw surgery. K and I are watching Bright Lights, a documentary about Carrie Fisher & her mother, Debbie Reynolds, and we came to the following point in the film, a segment which momentarily caused my son a reaction which might have endangered his recovery (he is forbidden from jaw-dropping for several weeks).

Singer/dancer/actor Reynolds, a product of the Warner Brothers and MGM studios star systems, was being interviewed about her passion for film history preservation, a passion which she manifested via her extensive collection of movie studio props, costumes and other memorabilia. She was giving the interviewer a tour of her collection, naming or describing the objects in terms of their connections to cinema (e.g., These are Dorothy’s slippers from “The Wizard of Oz”….):

“And this is Elizabeth Taylor’s stool…” Reynolds paused, makeup stool, from Cleopatra.”

OH THANK GOD, K blurted out.

I nearly dislocated my own jaw with laughter, while K sighed with relief and said that he appreciated Reynolds’s clarification, because “People will buy all kinds of stuff….”

 

 

Elizabeth Taylor 2

Cleopatra sits on a * throne, *not a stool, you barbarian schmucks.

 

 

 

*   *   *

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  )

I’ve written about this issue before (9-16-16’s post, The Culture I’m Not Appropriating), and likely will again in the future, as this cultural appropriation controversy – this boil on the buttocks of arts & literature – keeps recurring.

The controversy resurfaced recently when Hal Niedzviecki, editor of Write (the magazine of the Canadian Writers’ Union), penned an editorial defending the right of white authors to create characters from minority backgrounds. Within days, a social media backlash forced Niedzviecki to resign.

This brouhaha provided the impetus for writer/broadcaster Kenan Malik‘s mahvelous op-ed in the NY Times. Malik cited the circumstances of Niedzviecki ‘s resignation, along with other controversies in the worlds of arts and literature,  [2]  to examine and defend  the concept known as cultural appropriation.

What has always struck me (or perhaps smote me, given the analogy to come) about this topic is that an accusation of cultural appropriation [3] is the intellectual equivalent to Religion’s  [4] defensiveness and protectionism when faced with analysis and critique. And now, I am happy to know that I’m not the only one smote by the similarity, as per Malik’s opinion that The accusation of cultural appropriation is a secular version of the charge of blasphemy.

Malik understands that although racism and inequality shape the ways in which people imagine others, writers and artists have nevertheless, always and necessarily engaged and examined the experiences of The Other. However, this engagement – which he terms messy interaction – does not always occur on a level playing field; thus, Malik acknowledges the resulting, understandable impulse which leads some artists to call for cultures to be walled off and boundaries to be policed,” even as he wonders how creating gated cultures helps promote social justice.  (my emphases):

But who does the policing? Every society has its gatekeepers, whose role is to protect certain institutions, maintain the privileges of particular groups and cordon off some beliefs from challenge. Such gatekeepers protect not the marginalized but the powerful. Racism itself is a form of gatekeeping, a means of denying racialized groups equal rights, access and opportunities.

In minority communities, the gatekeepers are usually self-appointed guardians whose power rests on their ability to define what is acceptable and what is beyond the bounds. They appropriate for themselves the authority to license certain forms of cultural engagement, and in doing so, entrench their power.

The most potent form of gatekeeping is religion. When certain beliefs are deemed sacred, they are put beyond questioning. To challenge such beliefs is to commit blasphemy.

Ok; if this topic interests you, read the article cited. Or my afore-mentioned post. Yes, I am daring to reference moiself. But only because Georgie Boy  [5] recommends it.

 

I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.
(George Bernard Shaw).

 

 

 

shaw

*   *   *

Department Of Get That Woman A Backbone, A Zoloft, A Shotgun, And An Attorney – In That Order.

Y’all may recall the radio station I’ve mentioned several times in this space – the station I listen to when I am driving; the station I like because of its eclectic playlist. From well-known to incredibly scarce pop songs, interspersed with bizzarre/long forgotten TV theme songs, commercial advertisements, etc. I find it a font of amusement…and an occasional spewer of WTF?!?!?! culture shock.

The latter is best illustrated by a hitherto unheard (to moiself) song the station played this week, when I was out running errands and had to pull my car over to the side of the road to make sure I was hearing what I thought I was hearing.  [6]

I listened, in watching-a-zombie-train-wreck fascination and repulsion, to what just may be one of the most offensive songs ever written. When I returned home I looked it up: Born a Woman  was recorded in 1966 by a female Uncle Tom (Aunt Thomasina?), named Sandy Posey.  The songwriting was credited to “Martha Sharp,” – who apparently isn’t very, as per her misogynistic/masochistic lyrics:

It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor
Or if you’re smart or dumb
A woman’s place in this old world
Is under some man’s thumb

And if you’re born a woman
You’re born to be hurt
You’re born to be stepped on, lied to, cheated on
And treated like dirt

 

 

REALLY

 

 

 

Really.

The song continues with yet another verse depicting the sorry lot of womankind, and then there is a coda, for which there can be no explanation. Other than drugs. Or maybe a temporal lobe lesion or three. Or perhaps, the Stockholm Syndrome?

And when my man finally comes home
He makes me glad it happened that way
Because to be his woman
No price is too great to pay

 Yes I was born a woman
I’m glad it happened that way
Oh I was born a woman (fade out)

 

Fade out, indeed.

 

 

lobotomy

 

*   *   *

Department Of Fun With Religion Continues

Aka, You Can’t Makeup This Shit

Israeli airline employees cannot ask women to change seats to spare a man from having to sit next to them, a Jerusalem court ruled on Wednesday, handing down a groundbreaking decision in a case brought by a woman in her 80s.

Strictly religious Jewish men who refuse to sit next to women, for fear of even inadvertent contact that could be considered immodest, are a growing phenomenon that has caused disruptions and flight delays around the world and prompted protests and social media campaigns. The pressure to switch seats can be particularly acute on El Al, Israel’s national airline. And the issue has become emblematic of a broader battle in Israel over religion and gender in public spaces.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Renee Rabinowitz, now 83, boarded El Al Flight 028, bound for Tel Aviv from Newark in December 2015. She had settled into her aisle seat in the business-class section when the passenger with the window seat showed up: an Orthodox man who complained about sitting next to a woman. A flight attendant asked her to change seats to accommodate him….

Israeli Woman Who Sued El Al for Sexism Wins Landmark Ruling, NYTimes, 6-22-17)

 

 

 

jew

Calm yourself, Mr. Tuches, we would be happy to accommodate you with your own private seat in the economy cabin lavatory for the remainder of the flight.

*   *   *

May you be glad you were born, but remember you weren’t born that way;
May you do your part to advance cultural appropriation and appreciation;
May you have the opportunity to appreciate or even appropriate a cinematic icon’s stool;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Which would be MH and moiself.

[2] Including the editor of a Canadian writers’ journal being forced to resign after he defended the right of white authors to create characters from indigenous backgrounds; an artist organizing a petition to have another artist’s work not only censored but destroyed (the work in question was a painting of the corpse of Emmett Till ( an African-American boy murdered by white men in 1955).

[3] C.A. is variously defined as the adoption or use of the elements of one culture by members of another culture –  sometimes it is referred to as cultural misappropriation, when the adoption or use of the elements in question is claimed to be damaging to the intellectual and/or artistic rights of the originating culture…and yes, there are a whole lotta terms being used in those definitions which have not (and cannot) be objectively defined.

[4] Capital R, as in, any or anyone’s religion.

[5] Not to be confused with Boy George.

[6] Isn’t it time for a sixth footnote?

The Ethics Code I’m Not Violating

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As you may remember from the last two weeks, I am openly and admittedly violating the Bloggers Code of Ethics ® by posting little current/relevant content while I am taking a blog sabbatical. [1]

 

 

shame

 

 

 

As you may already know, the Bloggers Code of Ethics ® is similar to many other historical charters, from Magna Carta to the Bill of Rights to the Port Huron Statement, it its ground-breaking declaration  [2] of and reflection on human rights…

 

 

 

iknowwhatyoumwan

 

 

 

 

…except that, OH FUDGESICLES, that’s right – there is no Bloggers Code of Ethics ®.  Nothing even close to it exists.

Either that, or I didn’t get the memo.

 

 

memo

That’s so precious – she thinks she is worthy of my memo.

 

 

 

Lest loyal readers think I have shirked my public interest responsibility, I shall bore the knickers off y’all keep you both entertained and informed by posting these reminders of the relevant celebrations unique to this day.

 

 

bored

Please, don’t keep us in suspense.

 

 

 

While you may know that June 9 is the 160th day of the year, you may not be aware that it is celebrated around the world as

* National Heroes Day in Uganda.

*Autonomy Day for the Åland Islands

* National Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day

* National Donald Duck Day [3]

* Coral Triangle Day [4]

* National Earl Day

 

The latter day honors “legends” named Earl, from banjo whiz Earl Scruggs to basketball’s Earl “The Pearl” Monroe to SCOTUS chief Justice Earl Warren. In this every-kid-gets-a-trophy syndrome world it seems acceptable if not fitting that every Earl gets his day…but where could I find a mention of the most infamous Earl of all?

Right here, y’all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you get your trophy if not your day;
May you shamelessly violate nonexistent ethics codes;
May you be patient with this space for just another week;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] First pathetically presented  candidly mentioned in my May 26 post.

[2] This would be a good place for a footnote.

[3] Please don’t let me footnote this reference. Do you really want more information about such a day?

[4] A day to promote and raise awareness of the ocean conservation and protection, particularly that of “The Coral Triangle – aka the tropical marine waters of the Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands areas.

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