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The Yoga Pose I’m Not Practicing

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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.

The Baby Sloth Pix I’m Not Posting

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I warned you about this last week.

I am still posting, but there will be little original content in this space during the next two weeks of my self-imposed, self-defined, blog sabbatical.

Off course, it would be a cheap/lazy trick, a pathetic excuse for a post, to take advantage of the human tendency to adore small animals….

 

 

 

pajamasloth

 

 

 

 

And use that to distract readers from this space’s current lack of socially significant and/or politically provocative content…

 

 

 

slothbox

I am so sorry for this.

 

 

 

…or to [1] exploit my readers’ fidelity and patience…

 

 

 

slothpeekaboo

Really, this is the last one.

 

 

 

…by assuming y’all will hang around for the return of the usual snark insightful, witty and erudite commentary…

 

 

belugas

See? No baby sloths here.

 

 

 

…which you have come to expect from this space.  [2]

 

 

 

 

rare bird

A tiny rare bird is not even close to a baby sloth.

 

 

 

Really – this is it for now.

 

 

 

 

 

facepalm

But wait – there’s more….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you never tire of baby sloth pictures;
May baby belugas do in a pinch;
May tiny birds preen the cockles of your heart;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by. 

Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] No footnotes yet. Move along.

[2] Footnotes – you’re also expecting  footnotes.

The Sabbatical I’m Not Taking

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

mourners

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

martha

 

 

 

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

 

 

yeahright

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

eggplant

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

buttocks

Then again….

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Wait Wait I Found One!  [3]

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *   [4]

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

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

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

[3] An eggplant joke, that is.

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

The Neighbors I’m Not Entertaining

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Department Of Can You Hear Yourself When You’re Talking?
Because The Rest Of Us Can

Sometimes, during my early morning walks, I speculate about the entertainment value I provide to my neighbors, should they happen to look out their windows/step off their porches to retrieve their newspapers at the moment when moiself, reflective gloves clutching my walking poles and speaker wires dangling from earbuds to the phone in my jacket pocket, strides past their houses. Do they wonder about the middle-aged woman snorting in derision and/or motioning as if to slap one of her Exerstrider ® poles against her forehead in WTF? astonishment?

I confess to indulging in a wee bit o’ face-palming during last Friday’s walk, when I was listening to a podcast of the radio show Fresh Air, of host Terry Gross‘s recent interview (May 10) with writer/director Jill Soloway.

Soloway is best known for creating the Amazon Original TV series Transparent. The Fresh Air interview was ostensibly about Soloway’s new project, another Amazon series, the mahhhhhvelously titled, I Love Dick[1]

I Love Dick is about a self-identified feminist woman, a maker of independent films, who puzzles over her attraction to Dick, a macho, swaggering, dismissive, self-absorbed artist. However, Soloway seemed determined to scurry past publicizing I Love Dick in order to promote the subject most dear to her heart: I Love Talking Dick About Myself.

Early in the interview, Terry Gross played an excerpt from the show, then questioned Soloway about how the ILD characters unintentionally skewer their own as well as the art world’s pretentious, often nonsensical,semiotics jargon-babble and aesthetic and “cultural theories,” via the dialogue Soloway writes for the show’s characters.

Terry Gross: So…do issues like “does trauma need aesthetic” and language about the materiality of death transferring to the living, does that kind of, like, cultural, aesthetic, semiotic kind of language mean anything to you?

JS…That’s funny to me ’cause I don’t even know what that means, does trauma need an aesthetic. I laugh at that joke because it’s 100 percent nonsense to me. I’m not an academic at all, so we’re just kind of, you know, splashing around in these words.

As the interview went on [2]  it became face-palmingly hilarious to moiself how totally un-self-aware Soloway was regarding her own splashing around in a related set of these words.  Solloway took every opportunity to preach use her own particular jargon-babble, re her recent embrace of a nonbinary gender queer non-femme-presenting status-life – what she described as “my own evolutions.”

…I think I’ve always had that struggle my whole life of feeling a little bit more gender neutral, feeling more comfortable as a creative person when I’m dressed like a boy – when I’m dressed more masculine.

…So if I’m working, I like to…feel kind of masculine because it makes me really focus on what I’m doing. It puts the work first, which is odd to even say that and even realize that little codes and cues – like, I don’t need to be looked at…I don’t need to be pretty – allow me to be more creative. I mean, just that sentence is totally fascinating. And I’m only realizing it right now.

…I’ve become more queer and more gender-nonconforming and basically gotten rid of everything that one would consider femme-presenting in my life.

…what I was talking about was gender dysphoria or gender fugue or something that’s very common for people who identify as nonbinary.

…So I’ve evolved a lot…. And yeah, I’m so much more comfortable now in my public presentation of myself.  I never dress femme at all… I identify as queer now and nonbinary.

And for me, having met so many nonbinary people, met so many genderqueer people and realizing that another way you can move through the world is to be neither male nor female, has been so inspiring.

 

 

bitchplease

Apologies for the femme-specific/binary snark.

 

 

 

I’m a cradle to grave feminist, appreciative of the reality of nuanced apprehensions of gender and class presentations. That said, I thought I was listening to a freshman student in a Sociology of Gender Studies class. You know the kind: an enthusiastic yet ultimately tone-deaf (despite touting her own “evolution”) intellectual neophyte whose earnest proclamations make you cringe in embarrassment for her as she prattles on without the modicum of introspection it would take for her be embarrassed for herself as she engages in the oratorical equivalent of a six-year-old waving her hand and yelling, Look at me! I’m so special!  [3]

(Soloway) And I think my evolution became not just about being queer and not just about being a lesbian, but really being willing to look at my own gender. And identifying as genderqueer [4]  felt even more like I was getting to something….

 

makeitstop

 

 

Terry Gross, gracious interviewer that she is, jumped on the boat Soloway obviously wanted to float.  When Soloway gave a specific example of one of the dilemmas her evolution/genderqueer identification hath wrought, TG offered to help role play possible responses:

Soloway: …once I start to see myself as nonbinary, if a host at a restaurant says, right this way, ladies, I just, like – I start to get really angry ’cause I’m like, I’m dressed like a man. What is making him say lady? Like, where is the lady that he sees when he’s bringing me to this table?

TG: So do you say anything to the person who’s saying, right this way, ladies? Or do you just get angry to yourself?

Soloway: …I haven’t quite figured out how to do it. Should we practice? Do you want to say – “Right this way, ladies” – and I’ll practice?

During the ensuing role-play I was disappointed that Terry Gross played it safe; i.e., that she did not reply with some version of what an actual restaurant seating host might be thinking…or of what I probably would have said, had I been given the role of the host:

I’m sorry to have inadvertently offended you. I’m just trying to do my job, which is to escort you and your friends to your table so you can have a nice meal. I didn’t know you were going to practice your dissertation on me.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Lest You Think I Did Not Enjoy The Afore-Mentioned Interview

 

I Love Dick. 

 

martha

 

 

Being reminded of the new series’ title brought back a fond memory for me – one of those , Proud Parent Moments, ® shall we say.  [5]

Dateline: circa five or six years ago, when son K was on his high school’s Cross Country team. One day after practice the team’s coaches made an announcement to their runners: Liberty High School’s XC team was going to participate in the local Adopt-a-Road program. Seeing as how the team regularly practiced on the series of gravel roads which traversed the farm country north of the school, it was fitting that they would adopt one of them: Dick Road.

After the coaches made the announcement, K raised his hand and suggested that the XC team have custom tee-shirts made, imprinted with a slogan proclaiming their commitment to the project:

Liberty Cross Country Loves Dick

K told me he also shared his suggestion with one of the school’s track team coaches, who was a personal friend of our family, and that when he did so the coach growled, You are your mother’s son.

 

 

 

myworkhere

*   *   *

The Astoundingly Negligent SoCal Escrow Company I’m Not Naming

 aka

Department Of You Had One and Only One Job To Do…
And You F***ed It Up

Imagine you are at a grocery store which has a curbside carry-out service. [6]  After paying for your groceries you are given the receipt; the store employee who bagged your groceries is also given a copy of the receipt, and asks you to confirm the make and model and license plate of your car and what parking stall in the grocery pickup area you will drive to. You give this info to Grocery Bag Boy; GBB transfers your bagged groceries to a cart and begins to push the cart out to the pickup area, while you exit the store and go get your car.

When you drive you car into the designated pickup stall, there’s no sign of either Grocery Bag Boy or your groceries. After waiting five minutes you go back into the store to find out why this simple transaction is taking so long. When GBB sees you he sheepishly confesses that he went to the stall as directed, but another person claiming to be you and asking for your groceries was already there, parked in the adjoining grocery pickup stall. Although this person had no receipt for your groceries and was driving a totally different car than the one you described car, GBB loaded the groceries in the other person’s car and waved to them as they drove away.

Now then, boys and girls. How do you think the grocery store would handle the situation?

  1. The store manager profusely and sincerely apologizes to you for the astounding negligence and incompetency of GBB, while other story employees, using your receipt, scurry around the store and stock a cart with the items which had been stolen from you. In addition to replacing your groceries down to the very last item, manager also offers you a store gift card and/or some free-of-charge service as an acknowledge of the inconvenience and loss of your time.
  2. The store manager, upon being apprised of the debacle, cowers in his office and sends the store’s attorney to speak to you. The attorney says, “I am sorry for the loss of your groceries,” and makes no offer to reimburse you in any way.

 

 

 

lawyer

 

 

 

Option B wouldn’t even occur to you, right?

There is no perfect analogy here to convey my family’s shock and frustration. How do you analogize the theft of a family’s home equity with…anything?

The Escrow Company I am Not (Now) Naming  [7]   is in the process of making things right. Or so they claim. A contact inside the company says that they regret their “panic” (such is their excuse), which caused them to hide behind their attorney’s too-bad-it sucks-to-be-you visage and not admit responsibility for their employee’s egregious dereliction of duty.  [8]  And although the escrow company is, of course, bonded and insured, they balked on reimbursing us for the stolen funds, thus forcing us to sue them.

Translation, short version: The escrow officer, despite having received and confirmed specific verbal and written/notarized/signed instructions from our family’s financial representative as to the transfer of funds from the sale of our parents’ house, fell for  [9] an email scam and transferred the funds to an entirely different/sham account of an entirely different financial  institution – this, less than two hours after speaking with our rep, and without even bothering to pick up the phone to confirm the (sham) changes with our rep…without even just reading the email carefully and noting the numerous red flags contained therein, including the fact that the message did not use our rep’s actual email address… [10]

Translation, long version : Names will be named, and all the embarrassing (to the escrow company) details will be provided, if the company does not Do The Right Thing. ®

 

 

 

incompetence

*   *   *

 

 

May you do your job right, no matter how many jobs you have to do;
May you have the opportunity to do a role play scenario with Terry Gross;
May you, too, come to appreciate or even love Dick (Road);
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] The series is based on the 1999 novel of the same name.

[2] I was going to write, “progressed,” but…no.

[3] Read that last sentence aloud without taking a breath. Dare ya.

[4] So now the modifier queer needs a modifier?

[5] And if we didn’t say anything, at least I did.

[6] I’ve been to such stores and used such services a time or two.

[7] But will soon, by moiself this blog and by my family and newspaper business reporters and TV consumer fraud reporters, if they do not own up to their mistake and reimburse us.

[8] They fired the escrow officer who made the fraudulent transfer, which is an admission of guilt.

[9] Or abetted…I am still not convinced of the escrow officer’s innocence – it is easier to believe she could be in collusion than she could be that incompetent.

[10] Including the fact that none of this information had been previously supplied via email, due to our rep’s and the entire financial community’s (except, apparently, for one inept escrow officer) awareness of the prevalence of email fraud.

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