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The Solutions I’m Not Providing

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Department Of Do You Think They’ll Print This Letter?

Monday afternoon I sent the following letter to the editor of mindful magazine.

Gentle Editors,

In the December 2016 issue of mindful, the article The Mindful Gift Guide contains the advice, “As consumers we have the power to choose gifts that don’t just speak to those we care about, but that have an impact in the world.”  This is certainly true. Thus, as a writer, I cringed to read the article’s suggestion to “Do a Book Swap:”

“If your family are avid readers, skip the gift-shopping and instead do a book swap…. Each of you walks away with a stack of goodies for little-to-no cost….”

Please be mindful of the reality facing authors, whose income has declined 30% over the past seven years, due to the fact that there are so many ways “for the customer to gain access to a book, without a penny going to the writer.” (The Author’s Guild Bulletin, Fall 2015). The little-to-no-cost you mentioned comes at an increasingly great cost to writers, who receive no payment from used copies or book swaps.

It is logical to assume that avid readers might – or should – respect and care about the labor which produces the books readers admire.  The suggestion should read, “If your family are avid readers, buy them books.”

 

 

mindfulmag

“If your family are avid magazine readers and you’d like their favorite magazines to fail, please give away your copies and discourage people from subscribing to or buying copies of the magazines.”

 

*   *   *

Part 2, Possible Solutions

I don’t have any. DAMN!

Remember, a mere week ago, my rant articulate and passionate explication of the need for dialogue between trump voters and everyone else, and my promise that I’d offer solutions this week? Here’s the rub: I don’t know how to dialogue with someone who can’t understand – or worse yes, doesn’t want to understand – reality.

Differing opinions, fine. You can have your own opinions (as to what facts “feel like” to you); you can’t have your own facts.  As friend CC recently despaired, if someone for whatever reasons will not or cannot be convinced of the reality of global warming by the decades of evidence that climate scientists have amassed, what good is it going to do for them to hear the same evidence coming from me?

What common ground can be trod by a natural world denizen such as moiself who thinks that people should be in charge of their own bodies, and people who believe that female bodily integrity is subject to (overwhelmingly male led) legislation and superstitious/supernatural (read: religious) prohibitions?

More diplomatic minds than mine will have to work on these and other issues.  The only advice I can offer is hardly original, but also the only thing that has ever worked:

Keep aware, and get involved.

Have your legislators’ office numbers on your speed dial.  [1] Avoid compassion fatigue – there will be no shortage of worthy and even urgent causes; pick one or two close to your heart and support them with time and money, the best you can. Be wary of spreading out, and thus diluting, your resources. As one nonprofit manager told me, better to donate five hours of your time and/or $200 dollars per month to one organization than 15 minutes/$20 dollars per month to ten.

Here’s a worthy cause for those concerned with the far right’s anti-science agenda:

  • So cool!
  • Relevant to all the subjects that I teach [Physics, Chemistry, and Biology]
  • A great resource for students
  • Really improves student learning
  • (Shows them) the scale of time
  • Generates a good amount of discussion
  • [Helps our teachers] know and understand how to better teach evolution to students
  • Amazing resource
  • An awesome addition to my classroom

Surprise! – those are not comments from Satisfied Customers ® who’ve recently began following my blog (but thank you for jumping to that conclusion). Rather, they are some of the raves expressed by science teachers  regarding a superb teaching resource from The Brights. The Evolution Poster Project‘s poster, “Earth and Life: changes over time,” helps students visualize and learn about the scale of evolution by uniquely depicting the course of biological and geological evolution from 13.7 billion years ago until today.

 

 

 

brightsposter

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of At Least I Have One Thing About Which To Feel Smug

“It’s terrible. I don’t think it sells a single book.  I don’t think social media sells anything.”
(author Ayelet Waldman, in the Writer, on using Twitter as a marketing tool)

A few weeks ago the Twitter universe  [2]  got its collective knickers in a knot  [3] over yet another literary defection from their ranks. Author Chelsea Cain, interviewed on the OPB program Think Out Loud, talked about her decision to deactivate her Twitter account.  [4]

Despite the urging of select publishers and PR people to pursue more social media “exposure,” I long ago made the decision to not expose moiself to the opinions (whether praise or slag) of strangers. Thus, I skipped the first step in what seems to have become almost a literary ritual:

  • join ______ (insert social media site name)
  • amass site followers
  • pen an article/sit for an interview about “Why I am Leaving ____ (social media site).”

 

 

twitter

 

When you’re a writer, the thinking is that you simply must have a social media presence. But is that even true? In the six-plus years I’ve been writing for pay as my exclusive revenue stream, I can’t think of a single time social media got me a job.
I’m also not terribly interested in interacting with my readers, or even knowing they exist. Sorry, guys. The one or two of you that are cool to meet don’t outweigh the legions of semi-literate lunatics still emailing me at least once a month over an article I wrote about hating Pearl Jam four years ago.
(“Why I Left Social Media,” www.manmade.com )

 

By simply not joining Twitter, I never had to worry about how to deal with the distraction, the hate mail, and – special bonus for authors with lady parts! misogyny and death threats.  But, dang, I am thereby disqualified for any future Why I Quit Twitter gigs. Another lucrative career opportunity down the drain.

Still, I treasure the rare opportunity to feel smug. Also, according to computer science professor Cal Newport, you don’t have to be a writer to benefit from stopping the massive time and intellect suck  eschewing the energy drain of social media (my emphases).

Perhaps more important, however, than my specific objections to the idea that social media is a harmless lift to your career, is my general unease with the mind-set this belief fosters. A dedication to cultivating your social media brand is a fundamentally passive approach to professional advancement. It diverts your time and attention away from producing work that matters and toward convincing the world that you matter. The latter activity is seductive, especially for many members of my generation who were raised on this message, but it can be disastrously counterproductive.
…. you’re deluding yourself if you think that Twitter messages, posts and likes are a productive use of your time. If you’re serious about making an impact in the world, power down your smartphone, close your browser tabs, roll up your sleeves and get to work.
(Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend On It, Cal Newport, writing in the NY Times)

 

*   *   *

To those trump supporters who posted links to the I Am. article on Facebook, and a personal appeal to the article’s author:

iampng

I am not racist. I am not homophobic. I am not sexist. I am not a misogynist. I am for free market. I am for stronger foreign policy. I am for small business. I am for my family….I think it is important to clarify something: just because I am Republican does not mean I am heartless.

 

Blogger Cassie Hewlett wrote the I Am article to “highlight what it felt like to be a Republican college student” after the election:

On November 9th, I went to class and in every single one there was a somber attitude. Pre-lecture discussions were filled with phrases like “I am scared for our future”, “I am scared to be gay”, “How did this happen?”

Ms. Hewlett, I don’t know you, but assume you are around my daughter’s age, and thus am disposed toward viewing you kindly. I will assume you are well-intentioned. And I can’t help but wonder, do you really understand why, post-election, a somber attitude permeated your classrooms?

I am aware that many Republicans did not intend to vote in malicious, fear-mongering, sexist, racist, homophobic ways. I hope you in turn are aware that your party’s candidate campaigned on malicious, fear-mongering, sexist, racist and homophobic platforms and rhetoric, and that this fact is very personal to the majority of us who cast their votes for the other candidates.

You write, I am not racist. I am not homophobic. I am not sexist. Your candidate has:

*  chosen as his Vice President one of the most anti-LGBT rights politicians around.  Pence has been listed as one of the top “villains” on gay and civil rights watch lists for years – this is not mere current election political trash-talking.

* casually admitted to and joked/bragged about committing sexual assault, consistently dismissed and ranked women – including his own daughter – according to their physical attributes, and said he would appoint SCOTUS justices who would overturn my right to make medical decisions about my body.

* told anti-gay conservatives he’d appoint SCOTUS justices who would overturn gay marriage  [5]

* called Mexicans rapists and said that an American judge could not do his job because of his Mexican heritage.

* declared he wants to register all Muslims in the US.

Your candidate has, for crying out loud, been endorsed by the KKK and other white supremacist, Neo-Nazi and secessionist groups.

You are not racist; You are not homophobic; You are not sexist. But Your Candidate has said and done all of these things, and more. Your Candidate‘s blatant and consistent appeal to racist, homophobic and sexist sentiments are not the reasons you voted for him, but his racist, homophobic and sexist appeals did not stop you from voting for him. Thus, the “somber attitude” you detected.

 

 

imnotracist

 

 

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
(variously attributed)

I am for free market. I am for stronger foreign policy. I am for small business. I am for my family.

Sure, Mussolini may have been a fascist dictator who outlawed contraception, raised penalties for abortion, regulated women’s clothing and banned homosexual acts,  used chemical weapons in Africa,  muzzled the free press and imprisoned his political opponents and executed prisoners without trial….but he made the trains run on time.

You personally may not consider yourself racist or bigoted, but you who are willing to overlook – who have the privilege to overlook – a candidate’s bigotries because he supports policies which you’ve decided are of greater/personal good for yourself scares the living feces out of moiself.

Please, Ms. Hewlett (and other self-described non-bigoted trump supporters), remember that talk is cheap. Your words disavowing personal prejudice are cold comfort considering the rise in hate crimes  [6] since the election.  I’m glad you protest that you are not one of the haters; I challenge you to prove your protestation by holding your candidate accountable for the consequences of his rhetoric.

One more thing, Ms. Hewlett: fire your graphic designer.  [7]  Re the GOP elephant-USA flag symbol used to illustrate your article, the stars are [8]  sideways/upside down/backwards (read: just plain wrong). Star points in the USA flag face up, not down.

 

flagstars

Like this.

*   *   *

Department Of It Didn’t Quite Come Out The Way I’d Intended,
But You Know What I Meant To Say

MH was considering whether or not he wanted to make soup for our Thanksgiving potluck dinner we hosted.  He asked for moiself’s advice, as I have been on a soup making kick recently. I went through my notes, trying to find a soup that everyone coming to the dinner would like and, more importantly, that everyone could eat – food preferences and sensitivities among the attendees include severe tree nut, peanut and seed allergies, gluten and dairy sensitivities and “plant-based flexitarian” [9] preferences.

I found just such a soup, a recent culinary experiment of mine that turned out well, if I do say so myself (and I just did).  “Here’s one!” I crowed to MH, pointing to my notes in excitement. “There’s nothing in this soup that anyone could eat!”

 

 

bad-soup

*   *   *

May you dialogue when you can;
May you be mindful of choices which may benefit you yet be costly to others;
May you have (at least) one thing about which to feel smug;
May your soup be suitable for all;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

And a belated but sincere Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Phone calls are more effective than emails or signing on-line petitions.

[2] I know, I know, it’s the “Twitterverse,” but I just can’t bear to use that term.

[3] For a couple of days or so – which is the equivalent of years to many users of the website, who have the attention spans one might expect of people who limit their reflections to 140 characters.

[4] Simply put, for her, the negatives came to outweigh the positives.

[5]I am for my family,” you wrote. What about other people’s families? Overturning gay marriage would dismantle thousands of families, including, to make it personal, that of my daughter’s favorite teacher.

[6] Documented by the FBI, and civil rights groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center.

[7] Or yourself, if that’s the case.

[8] Like the reasoning of trump supporters, IMHO.

[9] Eats certain seafood items, but no meat or dairy products.

The Delicacy I’m Not Sampling

Comments Off on The Delicacy I’m Not Sampling

 

 

Department Of Free At Last, Free At Last….

Five days, and we will be free of this festering dungheap of an election.

I have no illusions about the future. After a brief respite, yet another Turd In The Political Punchbowl of Life ® will bob to the surface. Yet for just one moment, perhaps, we may inhale through our nostrils, exhale through our mouths, and whisper,

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

 

ahhh

*   *   *

 

“If freshness and hygiene is a question, generally it’s tribal situations that are problematic, where the whole tribe, the chief is offering you something that’s what they have. Often they don’t have refrigeration, it’s often old…. Often these dishes are eaten in one large bowl with the whole tribe jamming their fingers in. So yeah, rotten food, food that’s clearly not clean, water that’s clearly not good — those are a challenge.”
(Anthony Bourdain, Fresh Air, 10-27-16)

Intrepid tourists from (that which we call) Western Civilization often  [1] pride themselves on being game to sample the local delicacies. The more obscure the travel destination and more repellent-sounding the delicacy, all the better for their reputation as Culturally Curious/Sensitive Travelers ®. American “bad boy” chef and author Anthony Bourdain demonstrated this proclivity in spades during his recent interview with the radio show Fresh Air, which ruined my breakfast entertained me one morning when I listened to a podcast of the show.

Bourdain shared stories about how a world traveler in search of “food adventures” has to navigate the tricky waters of being a guest in someone’s home and eating what is offered. This can be especially dicey when visiting poor/tribal peoples, who profess to honor you by offering you the local delicacy   [2]   – usually an obscure (to Western palates) animal parts concoction.  [3]  Which prompted the show’s host  [4] to ask Bourdain if it were true that, while visiting Namibia, Bourdain had been offered an “unwashed warthog rectum.”

 

 

 

warthogbutt

You want me to throw another what on the barbie?

 

 

 

Yep, it was true.

Well…the chief yanks that part out and throws it on the grill and grills it medium rare and splits it with me. And…the whole tribe is watching. He’s offering me what he sees as the best part. That’s a clear take-one-for-the-team situation…. What am I going to do, refuse him, embarrass him in front of his people, look ungrateful?”

When Bourdain was asked what grilled warthog rectum tasted like, he replied (my emphases), “It tasted like exactly what you would expect – a sandy, gritty rectum.”

Boys and girls, repeat after me:  WTF !?!?!?!?!?!?!

 

 

 

Now, that is the part that got me. More than the fact that Bourdain ate…what he ate. It’s how he described how it tasted. Excusez-moi, Monsieur….

To what “you” can Mr. Bourdain possibly be referring – the you who has exact expectations about what a warthog rectum would taste like?

I moiself have never been happier to confess that there is a thing about which I have never held and will never hold any expectations: what grilled warthog rectum tastes like.

 

 

anyquestions

*   *   *

Department Of More Fun With Podcasts

Out for an early morning walk was the perfect venue for listening to a StarTalk radio show podcast titled Calling ET. As I watched the sun rise and gradually break through the veil of gray clouds overhead, I wondered, as per the podcast, who or what might be watching and/or listening to beings like moiself?

StarTalk frequently covers topics relating to the SETI program, including the speculation that if the first extra-terrestrials to discover earth find us due to our own transmissions, whether they be the early  radio and television transmissions which were (unintentionally) transmitted to the cosmos or the new plans to use planetary radar to send focused beams into space. The program invited sci-fi author, scientist and NSAS consultant David Brin to discuss many ideas inherent in the topic how to let extraterrestrial life know that that there is supposedly intelligent life on earth, and “when to say who you are.”

One of the things mentioned that caught my attention: Brin stated that although our technology has much advanced in the past 30 some years, the advent of cable and other non-antenna dependent way of accessing television shows means that we were “louder” (in terms of sending information outward) in the 1980s.

I was grateful to realize one implication of that statement:  Duck Dynasty is less likely to be accessed by potential ET visitors. But it gave me pause to consider what any intelligence sufficiently advanced to receive our broadcast from the 1980s – when most popular TV shows included such intellectually-stimulating fare as Joanie Loves Chachi and  The Love Boat – might think about us. My guess is the ETs might immediately erect the cosmic equivalent of police yellow tape around paths leading to the planet Terra, and warn their fellow galactic travelers to “move along folks, move along folks, there’s nothing here to see.”

 

loveboat

They’re looking for intelligent life? What a coincidence – so are we!

*   *   *

Department Of Peeking At A Writer’s Glamorous Life
Item #1382

The upside of receiving biannual royalty statements for a book which was published eleven years ago and is out of print and thus hasn’t sold any copies in several years: It takes less than thirty seconds to reconcile and file the statement. 

*   *   *

Department Of Om – What She Said

I practiced yoga at home, off and on but mostly on, for ~ 25 years. FAVOR, [5] mostly including a pesky tendinitis-like injury to my left elbow, [6] my mat work in that form of exercise has been sparse-to-non-existent the past five years.

In all those years my practice was self-motivated and solo; I never attended a yoga class, but learned from a wide variety of teachers via videos and DVDs.  The days of when I could (and wanted to) jump back into chaturanga during a vinyasa, (landing in a low pushup with body weight supported only by toes and hands) are likely long gone. Also gone is my desire to do the more vigorous forms, “power” yoga. I’ve got free weight routines for that kind of workout. These days, I’m all about relaxation and stress reduction.

As for the latter, I figured it was time to find a good class/studio/teacher…but I’m selective, and not much of a joiner.  And, as un-yoga as it may be to be so critical, what I was not seeking (and what is too easy to find) is a couple of twenty-something PYTs who took a few yoga classes, liked how they looked in yogatards, [7] forked out $3k for a Yoga Training certificate, rented a space, opened a studio, call themselves Experienced Yoga Teachers and want to fill their classes with bodies like their own and have no idea about the capabilities and concerns of those of us whose joints have 50+ years of mileage.

 

 

yoga

Sorry, lady…maybe the AARP offer something suitable for you?

 

 

After much perusal I think I’ve found a match. The practice space at Yogaomazing is…well…amazing. As was the class I took there, given by a very nice yogini, who maintained her attentive calm and gentle, unflappable spirit and batted not one eyelash when I used the word dildo [8] in her beautiful, light-filled, wall-of-windows studio.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Public Service Announcements

Remember to Celebrate National Cher Day  [9] tomorrow before you go to bed.

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you find a reason to exhale;
May you have the poise to refuse “delicacies” that would knock a buzzard off a shit wagon;
May you, like Cher, remember to turn back time;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] And often mistakenly, IMHO.

[2] A part of me thinks there is no such tradition, and that as soon as the well-meaning (read: patronizing) white guest leaves, the tribe later dishes themselves: “Can you believe we got him to swallow that – what kind of ignoramus thinks we eat hyena pus pie?”

[3] e.g., the ones I’ve heard of include things like monkey brains or slug’s milk cheese or shark’s bladder soup Or other “food items” I’ve read about which should induce immediate vegetarianism in those who would even consider ingesting said items.

[4] Reporter Dave Davies, substituting for host Terry Gross, who must be slapping herself over having missed such a stimulating conversation.

[5] My favorite (no pun intended) acronym, which translates For A Variety Of Reasons.

[6] Not yoga-related…but a good story, which I may relay in these pages one day, with my offspring’s’ permission.

[7] The term for a one-piece stretch garment worn by some yogis – not a pejorative for a spastic person trying to do advanced yoga poses…shame on you for even thinking that.

[8] Nothing yoga-related, I assure you, but, believe-it-or-not, apropos to a story I was telling her.

[9] Aka knows as the end of Daylight Savings Time.

The Lunch I’m Not Buying

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For almost twenty years, my Canadian-born neighbor and friend has been itching to give moiself suggestions for the Canadian Trip I Have Yet To Take ® . Tuesday morning I awoke early, excited about the decisions I’d made on Monday re just such a trip. I looked forward to emailing an invitation to her: “I’ll take you out to lunch and you can be my travel agent!”

But first, I decided to go ahead and book my trip.

Long Story Short: I have a significant birthday coming up in few weeks, and have had a significant Act 3 Career & Life Crisis ®  going on for a few…years.  I shared some recent downturns regarding such things with friend SCM who, wise counselor that she is,  [1] offered this wise counsel:

It’s obvious you need a control-alt-delete from life right now….

She advised I take a trip, to…anywhere. Someplace totally random, or “…even if it’s just Quebec or Victoria or someplace on the same continent, you need a break from real life.”

I’d been thinking along similar lines – a meditative kind of vacation, not a trip involving lots of activities, which is what I’d usually want. I need to go alone, to have contemplative opportunity away from distractions, from the familiarity of work, routine, home and family…the kind of trip where you are forced to chill, where my main activity would be a combination of taking it easy, taking stock, and Figuring Things Out ® .

A long train trip would fit the bill. One where the destination is not so important as the process…and with really cool scenery on the way. However, my birthday being when it is (within loogie-hocking distance of Christmas)…what’s available/accessible in December?

After many days of research, I’d found the one that hit the spot with both my head and heart: Vacation By Rail’s Canadian Snow train, which travels across five provinces, from Toronto to Vancouver. I discussed it with MH Monday at dinner, working out which departure dates would be good for him perhaps being able to meet up with me at the end of my solo jaunt and spend a couple of days sightseeing in Vancouver. Later that eve, my fitful sleep was, for once, due to a good cause. I was filled with restless excitement – I was doing whatI usually poke fun at: setting my heart on something.

You know where this is headed, don’t you?

 

 

disappointed

 

 

Here is the email I sent to MH Tuesday morning, after I’d tried to make the reservations.

Subject line – trip: back to square one.

I noticed that no matter what date I put in on the train trip, just trying to see how far I could get in the online scheduling process, I got a message saying I had to call to speak to a booking agent to continue.

 It turns out that I had to call because I was booking for one passenger traveling solo, and they don’t list that price on line. The price listed on Vacation by Rail site’s – $___ for the rate class I sought – is the price per passenger for more than one passenger.  Same trip, same room, for a single passenger is “…uh,…significantly higher,” the very nice (and apologetic and embarrassed-soundin)  booking agent said, after she’d looked it up.  “Significantly higher” turns out to be More. Than. Double.

 Seriously  – over $8k  (I stopped writing the figure down after I heard the “Eight thousand…”)

 I told the booking lady I feel as if I’ve been had.

 I flashed back to a conversation during my Croatia/Slovenia/Bosnia trip, where a bunch of the veteran travelers were talking at dinner about the many reasons they liked Rick Steves tours, including the fact that there was no price discrimination for single/solo travelers.

 I woke up excited this morning (can’t remember the last time that has happened) and now I feel like I’m six years old and someone strangled my hamster.

 I don’t often burst into tears when talking to a stranger on the phone…at least I managed to hold off until I hung up.

 Fuck. To put it mildly.   [2]

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things You Should Know About Me If We’re Going To Be Friends

I like “bugs.” Mammalia and Insecta –  I am appreciative of our respective ecological niches…with notable exceptions  [3] . I particularly respect and admire spiders. If at all possible, any spider found in our house is escorted to the great outdoors (as opposed to squashing it), where she may build her web in peace and harmony.

 

 

spider

We love you too, sweetie.

 

 

Ants, however, can kiss my ass – but Noooo,  blog-reading ants out there, do not take that literally, because I absolutely hate hate hate it when you creepy crawlers get in the house.

Maybe it was that stupid movie I saw as a kid – a movie which held the distinctions of being both the first nuclear-mutated-big-monster movie and the first horror movie I ever saw on TV. I had nightmares for days, until…once again, Science to the rescue! ®   With a little research I discovered that humans could never be attacked by giant mutant ants due to basic laws of physics; that is, physical limitations of the ants’ exoskeletons meant they’d be unable to support a body weight beyond a certain size.

 

 

 

them

 

 

 

Still, I find little comfort in the fact that ants will always remain small. The ants go marching one by one – that’s the part that gets me.

The hive mentality is abhorrent and frightening to me. I am uncomfortable around any creatures which display groupthink and which, voluntarily or otherwise, act as slaves to instinct. From social insects to German soldiers marching in lockstep; from fundamentalist Christians simultaneously raising their hands at a faith healing rally to Mormon missionaries on bicycles to a bazillion Muslims all dressed white and in throwing pebbles at pillars during their hajj…..ICK.

Ants in the house is the worst; I feel like I’m being invaded by The Borg.  And I don’t just want to kill them; I want to frighten them. I want to hire tiny ant IRA operatives to kneecap the invaders so they can return to their colony as a living warning to the others: stay away from this lady; she means business!

Can you guess what tried to occupy our kitchen this week?

 

 

hateants

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Things We Do For Science

Text exchange between daughter Belle, a junior majoring in Biology at the University of Puget Sound, and moiself, yesterday:

Belle: …guess what – I am now the temporary owner of a super cute frog.

Moiself: Temporary? You mean you’re watching it while someone is away? And you know you must prove it is super cute…

And she did:

 

 

sadiefrog

 

 

Moiself: Dude, that looks like a huge toad!

Belle: He’s for my ecology independent research project!

Moiself: What are you researching?

Belle: Me and my partner are looking at how diet nutrient content affects behavior syndromes in crickets after a predator stimulation.

Moiself: So, you’re actually interested in cricket behavior? The frog is just there to be the predator?

Belle: Basically we’re feeding crickets a bunch of different diets, and seeing if that affects how brave they are in the presence of a predator. Yeah, he’s just there to scare some crickets.

Moiself: Are these male crickets? If so, just given them a diet of nothing but beer and they’ll think they’re invincible. I’m serious. You might win a Nobel Prize for this.

Belle: The sex of our crickets is unknown, ha ha.

Moiself: Well then, can your research project have more than one hypothesis? Do the beer diet thing, and if it produces what passes for cricket bravado, they are likely male. If it has no effect, except that the crickets seem to be getting a bit heavy in the hip, they are likely female – and you have found a noninvasive way to determine the sex of crickets.

Belle: I don’t think they’ll let us use beer.

Moiself:  Hot pockets?

 

*   *   *

Department Of Going Through The Motions

For reasons that should have been made clear in the opening of this post, I’m not in much of a oh-fa-la-la-la-la-la-here-come-the-holidays mood. [4] Nevertheless, with Halloween just around the bend, it’s time to share what has become my holiday season tradition:

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you be careful what you set your heart on;
May you be free from ant and Borg invasions;
May you find the good in going through the motions;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Literally. Among her many attributes (such as being the Queen of Hats), she is a lawyer.

[2] After several hours of feeling like I got kicked in the gut, I got back in the saddle so to speak, and researched more options…and once again and more than once encountered the obscene solo traveler surcharge. Not gonna be a party to that ripoff.

[3] IMHO, fleas and mosquitoes can suck festering, turd-encrusted donkey dicks and die.

[4] And only four footnotes? Now, that’s a funk.

 The Water I’m Not Standing In

1 Comment

 

 

I want to start a meme. Can I can I can I please please please?

 

 

pick-me

 

 

Thank you. It’s this:

Stand in the water!

It means, show me you care…even if it’s somewhat, or mostly, an act.

This meme inspiration – mimspiration? – comes from watching the various television news crews covering Hurricane Matthew. At some point in the broadcasts a reporter, perhaps even the network’s anchor, would be on the scene at a hurricane affected-area, speaking into a hand-held microphone, and the camera would slowly pan back to reveal the reporter standing in the floodwaters/waves/ocean. Every single newscast I watched did that; I felt as if they were trying to say to me, See, we are here, we are legit reporters and not just armchair journalists, and this is water, and a lot of it wiggling around our ankles and knees means a serious storm, so pay attention to our authenticity.

And then it was “Back to you, Scott,” even as the local authorities were telling people other than the reporter to get the fuck out of there, you dumb schmucks please evacuate to higher ground.

MH did not realize the reporters were doing that water-standing thing until I pointed it out to him. Even then, he failed to grasp my (perhaps just a teensy bit over-the-top) fascination with the phenomena. I began yelling at newscasters [1] who were lurking by a flooded highway – I wanted them to show me that they cared: Stand in the water!

 

 

 

newsjpg

Not good enough, dude – STAND IN THE WATER!

 

 

 

*   *   *

The Abuser I’m Not Castrating…

…only because I lack the materials and expertise to construct a time machine.

Dateline: Sunday morning. I needed an entertainment breather after cleaning up a thinking-outside-the-litter-box accident and then some cat barf, [2]   and opened Facebook on my phone. I read the four sentences from RKK which comprised the first post in my feed. A mere four sentences, which carried a novel’s worth of import. And I had to lie down on the couch.

I was playing 45s in my bff’s bedroom. Her stepfather sat behind me, wrapped his legs around my hips, pressed against me, whispered into my ear what he wanted to do to me, and grabbed my breast. I froze. I was 14.

The post was written under a hashtag started by author Kelly Oxford: # notokay, who’d tweeted: “Women: tweet me your first assaults. They aren’t just stats.” And then Oxford shared her story, using the same vulgar term a certain presidential candidate used in a recently released recording.

Oxford wasn’t sure she’s get more than a few responses, considering the highly personal nature of her request. She received over a million.

I sought and received RKK’s permission to share RKK’s story in this space. I wanted to post it verbatim, as part of the ongoing discussion of sexual assault, a discussion that seems to be the one positive fallout from the recording of the vile musings of He Who Shall Not Be Named.  [3]

I have been trying not to comment about HWSNBN in this space, for a plethora of reasons, including (what is, to me) the DUH-ness of it all: Trump said something/did something outrageous WHAT a surprise! And also because I just feel plain dirty, having the image of his lying, blustering, bullying façade come to my mind for even more than a second.

And then, there is what happened to RKK…and to so many women and girls like her. I wonder, when they read or hear about the loutish HWSNBN bragging about his groping and his aggressive sexual pursuits, if they once again, even if just for an dreadful moment, transported  back to a childhood friend’s room, to a school concert, to a city bus, to a classroom, to a church hallway, to a street, a backyard, where it happened….

Read a roundup of some of the women’s stories here, if you think you can stand do. If you think you can’t, perhaps that’s the more reason you should.

This release of the HWSNBN recording and the responses to it – folks, this is what people are talking about when they talk about rape culture. If you’re put off by that term because you think it’s related to group think and/or political correctness, or for whatever reason, please unclench your jaw, do some breathing exercises, and read on.

It is, simply and profoundly, this: Rape culture is the cultural conditioning of men and boys to feel entitled to treat women as objects. It is a culture that leads all of us – men and boys but also women and girls – to question and second guess and blame females for male sexual harassment and assault. (I would never do such a thing to anyone/ It would never happen to me; she must have done something to provoke him)

Trump’s retort, and his defenders reactions to the tape , are the exemplars of rape culture. The dismissive “it’s just locker room talk” normalizes and justifies the behavior.

Like most women – holy fucking festering pigslop, why is this the case ?!?!? – I’ve my own experience with sexual harassment. I’ll save one such story for later.

*   *   *

Department Of Last Straws

And one more thing, on this subject.

I keep hearing/reading about how more Republican leaders have withdrawn their support [4]  for their party’s candidate. It seems the lewd sex tape was “the last straw.”

Senator McCain, Rep. Ryan, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Senators Murkowski and Collins and Crapo and Portman and Governors Herbert and Bentley and all you other rats scurrying off the GOP sinking ship – really? Finally?  The last straw is…now? There’s been enough straw spewed from Trump’s various orifices to construct a hay bale large enough to feed all the goats in Dumbfuckistan. [5]

 

 

dumbfuck

 

 

Your nominee labeled Mexicans as rapists and murderers and “joked” about his followers shooting Clinton (pass the straw). He incited violence at his primary rallies and mocked a disabled reporter; he insulted a Muslim-American family whose soldier son was killed in service of our country and said that soldiers with PTSD were weak and called for preventing all Muslims from entering the country; he continued to add to his long history of sexist and derogatory comments about women (duck! There’s a straw storm coming in), he trivialized the consequences of workplace sexual harassment and lied repeatedly about issues large and small and committed business fraud after business fraud while passing himself off as a successful business man…

Oh, but now he’s on tape using the p-word. THIS IS THE LAST STRAW.

 

 

shockcat

“No one grabs my pussy and gets away with it!”

 

 

The number of prominent Republicans disavowing/withdrawing their support for Trump increased after the release of the tape. Among other issues, these pols are concerned with how this will affect them in their own upcoming bids for (re)election.

While it warms the cockles of my heart to hear about anyone changing their mind/seeing the light at the end of their sphincter of the tunnel and withdrawing their support from Trump…how can I put this?

When I invite guests to a potluck dinner – a dinner that has distinct start and end times (as opposed to an open house/drop by any time event), I will gladly open the door for any late arrivers. Whether or not they’ve called ahead to alert me of their tardy ETA, I’m glad they were able to make it.

But if you show up just as the guests are finishing their dessert, don’t be surprised if

(1)  someone asks you What the fuck took you so long?, and
(2)  nobody is interested in sampling the hors d’oeuvre platter you brought.

 

 

heyyou

Hey you – Stand in the water!

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Wednesdays Suck

Hopefully next week’s hump day will be better, but for moiself, this week’s was one to be gotten over. There was too much not-good news, including but not limited to discovering that someone I love has engaged in yet another form of self-expression. [6] And then, I had to go and read the latest Authors Guild Bulletin

 

 

facepalm

Will she never learn?

 

 

…which contained yet another well-written, well-documented article on the financial outlook for writers, ominously but aptly titled, “Where Does All The Money Go?”  The article’s summary: There are an increasing number ways for customers to gain access to a book without a penny going to the writer.

Meanwhile, the Authors Guild and other professional writers organizations continue to fight (and lose) legal battles with Amazon and Google over issues including copyright, royalty and fair usage. And, while the AG and other organizations document and report on how writers incomes are declining the, membership dues for these various professional organizations keep rising.  [7]

 

 

bucketosloths

Next time, I’ll toss the journal and contemplate a bucket o’ sloths instead. ‘Tis better for the spirit.

*   *   *

Department Of How To Frost Your Butt

It’s fairly easy: follow MH’s recommendation like I did, and listen to podcast #728 of Planet Money, “The Wells Fargo Hustle.” Then try to restrain yourself from taking a flamethrower to the nearest WFB ATM.

You can read about the logistics of the WFB scandal in many news sites. The podcast cited deals with the human cost of lower level employees being told by their managers that they must meet astoundingly unrealistic goals by any means necessary or we’ll make your life hell, and then when you lose your job with us we’ll make sure you will not be able to get a job anywhere else.

There are only four reasons I’m not insisting that MH and I close all of our WFB accounts (including, perhaps, some we don’t even know we have  [8]) :

  1. The chance that by doing so my cherished friend LMW, employed at WFB for many years, many in some way be negatively affected;
  2. I’ve little trust in banks in general – are others just as bad, and we don’t know about it?
  3. There is no reason #3.
  4. See reason #1.

 

 

 

atm

*   *   *

Department Of Ending On A Positive Note

National Coming Out Day was 10-11-16, and my nephew did just that. KMV’s articulate, passionate, well-considered post on his FB page ended with a line that made my day:

“Not to confirm stereotypes,
but I guess the obsession with Beyoncé now makes a lot of sense, huh?”

 

 

come-out

*   *   *

May you come out of whatever space needs leaving;
May you be a first responder to the last straw;
May you stand for the good guys when you stand in the water;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Ok, yelling at the TV. Don’t think the reporters heard me.

[2] Thank you, Nova and Crow, for those respective early morning eye-openers.

[3] Whom my daughter Belle refers to as te “spray-tanned version of Lord Voldemort.”

[4] As grudging as it may have been in the first place, it was still support.

[5] The lay term for the country formed by the US states which “re-elected” George W. Bush to the Presidency.

[6] In a format I consider self-harm and/or mutilation.

[7] In part so that they can hire lawyers to fight the losing fights.

[8] Wells Fargo was opening bank accounts (perhaps as many as two million fraudulent accounts) without customers’ permission.

The Coffee I’m Not Fetching

4 Comments

 

Department Of Oh That Explains It

I opened turned to page 2 of The Oregonian and saw the reassuring headline for the Editor’s Notebook column:

We’ve redesigned with our readers in mind.

I guess I’m not one of the readers Those Who Redesigned had in mind, because I couldn’t get beyond the column’s next sentence, [1] which contained this gem of an explanation:

We’ve redesigned The Oregonian to be easier to read.

All these years, I’ve wondered about the decline of print media. Newspapers have seemingly lost their appeal; circulation and subscriber bases have dropped precipitously. Could it be related to competition from internet and other electronic media/online sources, including revenue loss from online advertising sources which made newspaper classified ads dated and/or irrelevant?

Noooooo. It’s just because newspapers have become SO  DIFFICULT  TO  READ.

 

newspaper

“Article continued on A13?” This. Is. So. Hard. For. Me.

*   *   *

Department of Eat, Prey, Write, Gloat With Cynicism

Did I ever tell y’all about the time in 2006 when I was subject to special screening by TSA agents because I was the only woman in the PDX airport  [2] who was not toting a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love in her carry-on bag?

That’s right – I didn’t tell you. Because that never happened. But it felt like it did.

 

 

tsa

Now, turn your head and cough, Ma’am, because if we don’t find a copy of that book you will not be allowed to board your flight.

 

The more EPL was recommended to me [3] the more I resisted jumping on the EPL bandwagon. Besides, after reading interviews with Gilbert, I got the feeling the no-detail-of-my-life-i$-too-private-be-$hared author wasn’t done with exploiting her personal life seeing as how it sold so much better than her fiction sharing her searching-the-world-for-wisdom-so-you-don’t-have-to exploits. I thought I’d bide my time and wait for the box set.

A sequel soon followed, which picked up with the author’s falling in love with/marriage to the Brazilian businessman she met at the end of EPL. The sequel was inaptly titled, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage. “Inaptly,” I daresay write, because the peace the author supposedly made with marriage turned out not to be with her own.

In June, Gilbert announced she’d ended her 12 year old marriage (emphases mine):

“Our split is very amicable. Our reasons are very personal. At this time of transition, I hope you will respect our privacy. In my heart, I know that you will do so, because I trust that you understand how this is a story that I am living—not a story that I am telling.”

Privacy?  Oh yeah – that thing defined as the right to keep one’s personal matters and relationships secret. It’s that thing practiced by other people, not Gilbert, who despite her protestations has been telling the story she has been living for the past 12 years.

Sure, I snorted when I read her press release, She wants privacy, I can (continue to) give her privacy. I can also, from experience,  [4]  give her or any privacy-requester a smidgen of advice: if you want your request for privacy to be taken seriously you can start by not giving interviews/press statements/making a living from writing about your private life.

With a publicist’s masterful timing (never reveal everything at once if there’s a chance people will pay for a sequel!), three months after her divorce announcement Gilbert made another spotlight-grabbing broadcast: she’d ended her marriage because she’d fallen in love with a (terminally ill) female friend.

Do I smell another self-serving revelation soon-to-become another LET-ME-TELL-YOU-ABOUT-MY-AMAZING-LIFE-JOURNEY memoir?  [5]  It needs a catchy title:

Eat, Pray, Love, Regurgitate Triumphs And Heartaches, Write, Marry, Regurgitate Some More, Write, Divorce, Ask For Privacy – Holy Misguided Solitude, There’s No Money Or Attention In Discretion! – Write, Discover Gender Fluid Sexuality – Now I’ve Really Got Something To Write About….

 

 

eat_pray_love

Didn’t see the movie, either.

*   *   *

Department Of Wednesday Digressions

The Worst Types Of Workplace Sexists—And How To Fight Them

I cannot recall where I came across the article referenced above, but I am grateful for the memories it brought back.

 

really

 

I’ll try to explain.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I worked in the women’s reproductive health care field. Stints with Planned Parenthood clinics bookended six years at a dual practitioner (an M.D. and a N.P. [Nurse Practitioner]) [6] OB-GYN practice near Stanford hospital.

Before y’all get the wrong idea, there were no sexists working at that practice. Both of my bosses were wonderful people, as were (most of) the office staff. But as for some of our dealings with other “professionals”…. Let the story hijinks ensue.

Although Dr. B’s office was open Monday-Friday, with rare exceptions neither he nor the NP saw patients on Wednesdays. The day was plenty busy: the practice hosted a new parent support group which met in the waiting room every Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, “backstage” there was catching up on charting and non-emergency callbacks, exam room cleaning/stocking/organizing and preparation for the upcoming week’s patients…and on many Wednesday mornings and/or afternoons, Dr. B would consult, on the phone or in person, with attorneys.

Dr. B had a lucrative “side job” serving as a consultant/reviewer and expert witness  [7] for medical malpractice cases. He loved the work, and not just because of the money. He had a keen, forensically detailed intellect; he found reviewing and analyzing the case files fascinating, and had a knack for explaining complex medical issues to laypersons. The only thing he didn’t like about such consulting was having to deal with lawyers.

Q: What’s the difference between a vacuum cleaner and a lawyer on a motorcycle?
A: The vacuum cleaner has the dirt bag on the inside.

 

 

shark

 

The attorneys I met during those six years were poster children for every lawyer gag you’ve ever heard. They were, with one exception I can recall, all male, and without exception the boy lawyers were sexist, arrogant, self-aggrandizing, windbag asshats. I tried to have as little to do with them as possible, and was mostly successful in that endeavor. Our office manager’s duties included lawyer-wrangling; patient care/education/advocacy was my gig. But there were certain Wednesdays when there was no avoiding the bastard barristers. Like a pair of cheap underpants, they crept up on you.

Dr. B would meet with lawyers in his private office. More often than not, he’d leave his office door open during these meetings. [8]   It’s not that the doc was indiscreet; I figured he just couldn’t stand to be alone with a conniving weasel lawyer (and, much to my surprise, Dr. B confirmed this when I told him my theory about the open door).  [9]

I picked up on Dr. B’s lawyer loathing. On those (mercifully few) occasions when there was no avoiding them, I took petty pleasure in tormenting the malpractice attorneys [10]  in the most passive-aggressive ways possible.

Anecdote the First
Sitting at the front desk with a pile of patient charts and pap smear lab reports, I reluctantly answered the phone (the office manager was taking a potty break). The caller cut short my standard work greeting, “Dr. B’s office, this is Rob…”

Car Phone Lawyer: “Yes, I’m calling from my car phone….”

It was the attorney who was scheduled to meet with Dr. B that morning for a malpractice case consult. The attorney informed me that he was calling from his car phone, and that the purpose of his call was to let us know that he was going to be late for his appointment. He was quite determined that I know he was calling from his car phone – he stated this twice in his opening remarks, mentioned it two more times in what should have been a brief, sorry-I’ve-been-detained-I’ll-get-there-as-soon-as-I-can apology, and ended the call with this fascinating bit of information.

As I mentioned, I’m calling from my car phone….

This was way back in pre cell phone days when, apparently, for Certain Kind$ of People ® there wa$ a certain amount of pre$tige a$$ociated with anyone who had a car phone. Moiself didn’t give a flying fuck if he was calling from a Maxwell Smart shoe phone. Had I asked from where or with what he was calling, and what did it have to do with…anything?

 

 

shoephone

 

 

“So, you’re going to be late…” I wrote a note for Dr. B, who was standing right behind me, his eyes almost audibly rolling toward the ceiling as he drew his index finger across his throat – his sign for I do not want to talk to this asshole until he gets here. Stifling my laughter, I waited for the Car Phone Lawyer to add something relevant, such as his ETA, or perhaps even a brief apology/explanation for his tardiness.

 “Yes,” CPL repeated. “As you know, I’m calling from my car phone…”

“Oh,” I pitched my voice to approximate the oral equivalent of a Sweet Young Thing’s ® smile. “That must be why it sounds like you’re talking into a tin can tied to a string.”

Anecdote #2
Dr. B was in his office, consulting with a malpractice attorney. I walked down the hallway, on my way to inventory amniocentesis kits in the supply closet and prep the ultrasound exam room for the procedure scheduled for the following morning. The office’s ever-brewing coffee pot was on the counter in the lab area, directly opposite Dr. B’s office and clearly visible to anyone sitting in the chair beside Dr. B’s desk…like, say, that attorney.

As I passed by Dr. B’s open door the attorney called out to me. He snapped his fingers – yes, he snapped his fingers – as he did so. “Hey,” (snap snap),”how about a cup of coffee?”

“Oh, no thank you,” I cheerfully replied, without breaking my stride.  [11]

We didn’t know about mic drops back then, so I’ll ask the Notorious RBG to give a belated Bam! on my behalf.

 

 

rbg

*   *   *

Department of Life’s Simple Pleasures

Dateline: 7:50 am-ish, [12] near the tail end of my morning walk, I exit a neighborhood park via a pathway that leads through a cul-de-sac. I am at a nexus in the neighborhood space-time continuum: parents are walking their children to the elementary school one block south, preteens are schlumping toward the junior high two blocks northwest, and high school students are either heading for their bus stop or getting into cars with their parents.

I walk down the middle of the street and approach a house on the left just as a boy and his (presumed) mother exit the house and head for a car parked at the curb. The boy is tall, refreshingly skinny, with skateboard-sized feet which indicate much gangliness in his future. His childlike face belies his height – he looks all of 12 or 13 to me, yet he’s dangling car keys from his right hand. He heads to the passenger’s door, hesitates for a moment, then circles around to the driver’s door, his expression equal parts fear and anticipation.

I smile as I stride past the car, and chuckle to myself: Ah, driver’s permit. First week.

 

 

student-driver

*   *   *

May you have patience with student drivers;
May you appreciate how truly easy it is to read a newspaper;
May you savor life’s mic drop moments;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Read: I was overcome by a snort/laugh attack.

[2] Consistently rated one of American’s best airports. Not that we want you to come here all that much….

[3] including by More Than One Well-Read And Intelligent Friend Who Said The Author’s Writing Style Reminded Them Of Me ©

[4] Admittedly, not the kind that get$ paid a$ well a$ writing about Gilbert’s private life.

[5] To be followed by seminars and workshops advising mere mortal women on how they can do the same.

[6] who were also husband and wife (although not all of their patients knew this).

[7] The vast majority of malpractice cases settled out of court.

[8] something that would never happen these days, what with HIPAA and other privacy concerns and regulations.

[9] Was the good doctor joking or not? I may never know.

[10] Which had the bonus of thoroughly entertaining my bosses, both the doc and the NP.

[11] By doing so, I had won Dr. B’s eternal respect. I swear, after that Wednesday morning, the good doctor looked for ways to finagle attorneys into asking me that question. And it happened more than once. The attorneys would never ask directly/politely for anything, as in, “May I kindly trouble you for a cup of coffee?”

[12] As in morning-ish, not as in Amish..ish.

The Culture I’m Not Appropriating

Comments Off on The Culture I’m Not Appropriating

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

Golly gosh gee willikers, how I love learning new things: it seems that, like intestinal gas after a vegan-chili-eating contest, that misbegotten maxim keeps resurfacing. It has morphed, and rises anew in the form of the term, cultural appropriation. [1]

 

 

angry-spock

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

 

 

 

American journalist/novelist Lionel Shriver, who was invited to be the keynote speaker at the recent  Brisbane Writers Festival, knotted the knickers of the festival organizers when, as reported in this NY Times article, she [2] disparaged the movement against cultural appropriation.

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

Seven years ago I wrote a letter to the editor of Poets & Writers magazine, in response to a Very Long Screed letter from a woman who passionately pronounced that writers must write about only those characters and backgrounds from whence they came; that is, you must write about what you know, and what you know is what you are. Screed Woman [3] commented at length about what a “true artist” may create, and at one point actually declared the following:

I will not permit folks like _____ [4] to write of my folk, or Mexican folk, or Asian folk, or Native American folk, of folk of color as though they have a right to.”

 

 

really

 

 

Yes, really.

Screed Writer, without having been asked by other writers, “By the way, what do you think I should write about?” and without having been elected to the Board of Literary Permissions, [5] not only felt entitled to speak for all of her “folk,” but also for the folk of which she is not-folk – an incredibly diverse and numerous collection of humanity, whose varying and wide-ranging opinions on the issue at hand she discounted, IMHO, by presuming to speak for all folk-of-color.

As I wrote in my reply letter, [6]

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

 

 

seagull

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

 

 

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

John Steinbeck, born into middle-class comfort in California and educated at Stanford – what could he know of the struggles and dreams of the destitute Oklahoma migrant farmers he depicted in The Grapes of Wrath? And that Cathy Ames character, the initially charming but ultimately evil and pitiful wife/mother in East of Eden – how could a 1950s, upright male citizen like Steinbeck take the liberty to deduce the machinations of a turn of the century whorehouse madam?  [7]

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

snore

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

 

 

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

I moiself have, in this space and others, ranted commented on the pervasive sexism in the publishing and literary reviewing worlds, wherein, for example, “books about women written by men receive critical acclaim, while books written by women on similar themes and in a similar style are tawdry domestic dramas.” [8]  And a slew of minds more incisive than mine have long noted the disparate praise heaped upon (usually white) men vis-à-vis women and minorities writing on the same subject.

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

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

Look: you may like a story’s plot and/or characters, or loathe the same – it’s up to each reader. What is not up to any reader, nor the self-blinder-donning, self-appointed Guardians Of Cultural Appropriation, [9]  is to attempt to limit, intimidate or censor the imagination and empathy that writers use to create their stories and characters.

 

 

soapbox

 

 

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

 

Since I am no one to ignore the example of GB Shaw, I shall end this communique with the end of my afore-mentioned response to the afore-mentioned Screed Writer:

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

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

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

 

*   *   *

Department Of Taking A Break

 

There; that’s better.

 

 

medpose

 

 

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

 

 

bookbonk

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Titles I’m Not Choosing

Comments Off on The Titles I’m Not Choosing

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

 

tombstone

 

*   *   *

Department Of Stupid Religious Rituals [3]

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

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

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

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

 

ritual1

 

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

 

*   *   *

 

 

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

 

sourdough

*   *   *

Department Of You Know It’s Spring…

 

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

 

asp

*   *   *

Department Of WTF Is Wrong With People

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

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

 

cheek

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah, but the century is young.

 

 

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

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

*   *   *

Department Of Pretend I Wrote Something Witty About Tax Day

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

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

 

cryboy

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 


*   *   *

 

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

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

[3] Pardon the redundancy.

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

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

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

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